Frank Rich: "Bring Back The Politics of Personal Destruction"

Eh? Can't say I miss that - and with the Bushies and the severe right wingnuts practicing destructive hate speech on a second-by-second basis, I doubt we have to worry about not getting our fill of it (like a GOP Congressman from Texas saying Dems' failure to support Bush's endless failures caused the stock market to tank earlier this week).

But here, without further delay, is the March 4th Frank Rich column in The New York Times, of which I give you a heaping sniplet or you can read in full at Rozius Unbound:

If you had to put a date on when the Iraq war did in the Bush administration, it would be late summer 2005. That's when the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina re-enacted the White House bungling of the war, this time with Americans as the principal victims. The stuff happening on Brownie's watch in New Orleans was recognizably the same stuff that had happened on Donald Rumsfeld's watch in Baghdad. Television viewers connected the dots and the president's poll numbers fell into the 30s. There they have largely remained - at least until Friday, when the latest New York Times-CBS News Poll put him at 29.

Now this pattern is repeating itself: a searing re-enactment of the Iraq war's lethal mismanagement is playing out on the home front, again with potentially grave political consequences. The Washington Post's exposé of the squalor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center - where some of our most grievously wounded troops were treated less like patients than detainees - has kicked off the same spiral of high-level lying and blame-shifting that followed FEMA's Katrina disasters.

Just as the debacle on the gulf was a call to arms for NBC's Brian Williams and CNN's Anderson Cooper, so the former ABC anchor Bob Woodruff has returned from his own near-death experience in Iraq to champion wounded troops let down by their government. And not just at Walter Reed. His powerful ABC News special last week unearthed both a systemic national breakdown in veterans' medical care and a cover-up. The Veterans Affairs Department keeps "two sets of books" - one telling the public that the official count of nonfatal battlefield casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan stands at 23,000, the other showing an actual patient count of 205,000. Why the discrepancy? A new Brownie - Jim Nicholson, the former Republican National Committee hack whom President Bush installed as veterans affairs secretary - tells Mr. Woodruff "a lot of them come in for dental problems."

Yet 2007 is not 2005, and little more damage can be inflicted on the lame-duck Bush White House. The long-running Iraq catastrophe is now poised to mow down a second generation of political prey: presidential hopefuls who might have strongly challenged Bush war policy when it counted and didn't. That list starts with the candidates long regarded as their parties' 2008 favorites, John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

Senator McCain, who, unlike Senator Clinton, fervently supports the war and the surge, is morbidly aware of his predicament. This once-ebullient politician has been off his game since a conspicuously listless January "Meet the Press" appearance; on Thursday, he had to publicly apologize after telling David Letterman, in an unguarded moment of genuine straight talk, that American lives were being "wasted" in Iraq. (Barack Obama had already spoken the same truth and given the same pro forma apology.) Last week a Washington Post-ABC News Poll confirmed Mr. McCain's worst political fears. Rudy Giuliani now leads him two to one among Republicans, a tripling of Mr. Giuliani's lead in a single month.

Mr. Giuliani is also a war supporter and even contributed a Brownie of his own to the fiasco, the now disgraced Bernard Kerik, who helped botch the training of the Iraqi police. But, unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Giuliani isn't dogged by questions about Iraq. To voters, his war history begins and ends with the war against the enemy that actually attacked America on 9/11. He wasn't a cheerleader for the subsequent detour into Iraq, wasn't in office once the war started, and actively avoids speaking about it in any detail.

What makes Mr. Giuliani's rise particularly startling is that his liberal views and messy personal history are thought to make him a nonstarter with his own party faithful. These handicaps haven't kicked in, the Beltway explanation has it, because benighted Republican voters don't yet really know that "America's mayor" once married a cousin or that he describes himself as "pro-choice." But perhaps these voters aren't as ignorant as Washington thinks. After the flameouts of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, Ralph Reed and other Bible-thumping politicos who threw themselves on the altars of Terri Schiavo or Jack Abramoff, maybe most Republicans could use a rest from the moral brigade. Maybe these voters, too, care more about the right to life of troops thrust into an Iraqi civil war than that of discarded embryos used in stem-cell research.
Get the rest here.