Dog N Pony

The nice thing about having two full days of Dog N Pony show is that you can keep it on in the background, like Muzak, and still feel like you participated. I’ve seen some–but not all–of today’s testimony.

The weird thing about the Dog N Pony is the way the upcoming elections really challenge the message discipline of the Republicans. Susan Collins sounded almost sane. John Cornyn sounded like he’s gonna get beat by Rick Noriega. And Joe Lieberman–safe from any upcoming challenge–sounded like the biggest Republican. John McCain even sounded stern and concerned and managed to avoid mentioning his 100 year plan. Republicans and Democrats alike rightly asked why, with $105/barrel oil, we’re still funding Iraq’s redevlopment–a question Petraeus and Crocker were unable to answer satisfactorily.

Kudos to Hillary for promoting herself to honorary co-Chair in order to give (as Thomas Ricks dubs it) the third opening statement of the hearing; presumably Obama will do the same this afternoon.

The other thing about these hearings (and the Iraq war generally) is you never know who will really shine. I liked Claire McCaskill’s line of questioning (she was incredulous when Petraeus declared Maliki the victor in his recent debacle in Basra), but I would have liked to see her press Petraeus some more. My prize for the best questioner–at least for the morning–is a tie going to Evan Bayh (whom I saw) and Jim Webb (whom I missed, but whose questioning Spencer Ackerman captured nicely). Both pointed out that Petraeus’ take on the overall value of staying in Iraq really didn’t account for our commitments elsewhere, most importantly on the border of Paksitan, where the guys who hit us on 9/11 still run free. Here’s Spencer’s description of Webb’s question:

Webb’s concerned about overstretch and the strain of the war’s required deployments on military readiness. He was incredulous: there’ll be 10,000 more troops in Iraq after the surge than there were there before? Quickly he moved to the wages of decreased readiness, noting that Al Qaeda continues to rebuild itself in Pakistan, implying that we won’t be able to meet needed challenges there. "The concern I have with keeping that level force in iraq, looking at these other situations, particularly Afghanistan… I’m curious at the level of agreement in [your] plan [comes from] the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?"

Petraeus didn’t want to touch that. All he said was that Admiral Fallon, the former head of Central Command, and Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were "fully informed." Webb and Petraeus gave each other what looked to me like thousand-yard stares. Webb promised that next week he’d ask Mullen that question.

Other than that, I’d like to highly recommend the liveblog of Thomas Ricks, my favorite "real" journalist to pick up the art of liveblogging. Ricks caught the thick tension between Joementum and the Democrats:

I don’t know if it is visible on television, but it looked liked there was a lot of teeth-gritting going on just now among the five Democrats sitting on the left side of the hearings as their erstwhile colleague (and vice presidential nominee)–Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) –lectured them on how much better the war in Iraq is going. Why wouldn’t they just be "honest," he asked?


I’m not a political reporter, but I had to think that part of [Hillary’s statement on the irresponsibility of not considering withdrawal] was aimed at Sen. Joe Lieberman. Didn’t the Clintons help him in his recent re-election effort? I forget.

I suspect Sen. Clinton just hates being called irresponsible. If she got elected president, that might replace "inappropriate" as Washington’s favorite word.

And he has what (thus far, though it’s still early) the most astute observation of the day:

Also, where does a senator from Mississippi [Roger Wicker] get off invoking President Lincoln’s perseverance in the Civil War?

I guess Wicker isn’t as deftly thinking of his November election as Susan Collins.

108 replies
  1. bmaz says:

    Markets don’t seem to be impressed with the Petraeus God:
    Dow industrials
    -64.08 at 12548.35
    -22.27 at 2342.56
    S&P 500
    -9.82 at 1362.72

    I know we already have a war czar, but maybe Bush can appoint a “Surge Czar” to coordinate, you know, all the success we don’t seem to be feeling.

  2. DeadLast says:

    I liked the juxtaposition of the parts where Petraeus said the U.S.-trained Iraqis were not yet able to fight by themselves, and later (in response to Lieberman?) when he said that most of the Shiite militia capabilities were coming from the Iranians, in particular the ability to accurately target 170mm missiles (”only the Iranians have the capabilitiy to fire missiles that accurately” or something to that effect).

    My takeaway: Petraeus believes the Iraqis themselves are inherently incompetent as a fighters/warriors without external help on either side.

    So is this a proxy war?

    • emptywheel says:

      Yes, this is a proxy war. Pity no one asked him that this morning. But this PM offers more hopes for some fireworks: Dodd, Kerry, Feingold, and Boxer, as well as Obama.

      Plus, there are two genuinely sane Republicans: Lugar and Hagel. And we get to see if Smiling Norm is as concerned about re-election as Susan Colllins.

  3. darclay says:

    Hate I missed the D&P show, work sue does interfere with politics. Thanks EW for the blog ur great to do this. Hope u get to see Obama’s turn. I’m interested in see what he has to say.

    • brendanx says:

      I have butterflies about this, as the media (and Clinton) will want to paint him as wet behind those big ears, especially in this marquee confrontation with pool boy Petraeus. He hasn’t disappointed thus far, though.

  4. SparklestheIguana says:

    The “Weekly Security Incidents” (nice euphemism) excel chart Ricks shows there looks a lot like my diversified portfolio.

  5. DeadLast says:

    Petraeus also said (to Lieberman?) that if Al Qaida in Iraq fails in Baghdad, then they are out of the picture. So if we are fighting Al Qaida (I think it was some branch/franchise of that organization that we are at war with) then why don’t we facilitate their expulsion from Baghdad? Then our mission would be over, n’est pas?

  6. skdadl says:

    I don’t mean to be rude or insensitive or anything, but your Ambassador Crocker is one of the most boring people I have ever listened to. I feel very sorry for your senators, trying to stay awake through this.

    Are these guys ever going to grasp that this frame is totally outdated, does not work any more, and that no one believes them?

    • MadDog says:

      Are these guys ever going to grasp that this frame is totally outdated, does not work any more, and that no one believes them?

      Nope. It is a requirement of the Village that one must always maintain the Potemkin Village illusion (Note: Original copyright by Catherine “The Great”. Further copyrighted by Walt Disney and now of course, licensed to the Repug Party).

      Regardless of reality, regardless of consequences, regardless of even appearances, one must “endeavour to persevere”.

  7. TexBetsy says:

    i am doing cspan radio. seems to work, except that most of the talk sounds like BS, but that’s neither the firewall’s nor cspan’s fault.

      • skdadl says:

        I hope you don’t mind if I use that in future. I shall credit you.

        If George Orwell were still alive, this would kill him all over again.

        • emptywheel says:

          I was just reflecting on whatever happened with the use of the word “escalation.” So I’m going to do my part–and I welcome you to do your part too–to bring it back into common usage.

    • brendanx says:

      The “Pause” is an effort to forestall the “Climax” a “Surge” might prematurely induce. Bush explains:

      My attitude is, if he didn’t want to continue the drawdown, that’s fine with me,’ Bush said before television cameras later, with Petraeus standing by his side. ‘I said to the general: “If you want to slow her down, fine; it’s up to you.

  8. emptywheel says:

    More scintiallating liveblogging from Ricks:

    Obama remains silent, waiting his turn, but that doesn’t stop reporters from staying on the case. The reporter next to me here points out that Sen. Obama appears to be chewing gum. Perhaps Nicorette or some other smoking cessation aid?

  9. skdadl says:

    I should say something nice here, as a bit of an illegal camper. You guys have some good senators. I admire what they do. Have I missed Feingold, who I admire especially? (Why isn’t he running for prezzie?)

  10. emptywheel says:

    Feingold comes second person after Kerry, if they go in order.

    And the reason Feingold is not running for prezzy is because he’s a hardass and therefore not well loved in the caucus.

    See also, failed but noble prezzy campaign of Chris Dodd.

  11. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    A bit OT, but I think Tom Ricks owes EW some flowers. I wouldn’t have looked at his blog if not for the link here, and must say that if I were a teevee station, what WaPo has done with the video links from Ricks’ liveblog would scare the sh*t out of me.

    Nice for me – I don’t have time to see it all, but I’m really glad to be able to just watch Levin, and Webb, and a few of the others. (BTW: Is it just me, or are Crocker and Petraeus aging rapidly…? Maybe they’re eating whatever it is that GWBush is eating…. ick!!)

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Pardon the intrusion, but didn’t Webb question this a.m.? I thought he’d be at the WaPo site, but don’t find a clip there. Was he questioning this a.m.?

  12. JamesJoyce says:

    We need to get out and let the “Iraqis” solve their problems. One problem… we need their oil!

  13. emptywheel says:

    Hey I just realized something. Diaper Dave is on SFRC, too. Suppose he’ll be a little more focused than he or his driver was yesterday?

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:


      Damn. Russ Feingold is operating at the Genius Level of Senatorial Bullshit Calling; given the financial bailouts on Wall Street, one might wonder about the ‘patriotism’ of the Bear Stearns execs, given their assistance to (Osama Bin Laden’s hopes of) bankrupting the U.S.

  14. skdadl says:

    I’d vote for Russ (no one will let me do that, of course). He spoke to the regional war, whose centre is in Pakistan. Predictably, he got no answer at all from Crocker and absurdity from Petraeus. But that was well done.

    • emptywheel says:

      Obama MAY be next up after the next Republican. It’s Bill Nelson’s turn. But since he already had a turn this morning, he may not use his this round.

  15. SparklestheIguana says:

    Boxer reminds me of my mother when I was 15. “After everything I’ve done for you!”

  16. JTMinIA says:

    Why are they letting them get away with claiming that (a) al Maliki “won” and/or al Sadr asked for the ceasefire, and (b) that the recent fighting was against Iranian-backed militias?

    • emptywheel says:

      Jeebus, Voiny just said Obama may be next POTUS.

      He sounds like a dirty fucking hippie, and is basically advocating for phased withdrawal.

      • emptywheel says:

        Voiny occasionally can be quite sane. Remember, he was the one who sunk the BOlton nomination.

        I think Crocker just realized he has failed to accomplish what Bush asked him to. He has failed to even keep the Republicans aboard.

        • skdadl says:

          I thought that Voinovich was very close to tears, which I approve of, for sure, and I think it’s important that someone should finally confront utter bores and time-servers like Crocker and Petraeus with human tears, especially effective if it’s a male Republican senator who does it.

          Very nice to watch Obama being polite and civilized, but what I will remember is Voinovich.

  17. maryo2 says:

    Go Voinovich – (sort of like this) “Do you realize that that is where we are today? We are bankrupt and the gravy train to Iraq is coming to an end. Is anyone over there telling the Iraqis this?”

      • emptywheel says:

        I don’t think the purpose is the kind of gotcha qusetions. It’s actually pinning them down. Not a good sound bite, but I believe it will become useful going forward.

        In other words, he’s doing his job, not running for President.

            • emptywheel says:

              Yeah, but he’s undercutting BushCo’s witnesses–trying to get them to commit to some endpoint. He’s got Bill Nelson nodding. And they’re genuinely puzzled.

              It makes for shitty teevee. But it is really really important to do.

              • bmaz says:

                You see that; others could easily see something else. With excerpts of a cold transcript, or video snippets, the entire Obama time allotment could be played any way you want to frame it, including supporting Crocker and Petraeus. I don’t disagree with your overall take on it in the least; I just wish it had been less open ended and rambling on the questions and permitted answers. More direct, critical and pointed so as to really make a clear case. Like the Biden snippets where he backed them in a corner of no escape.

        • JTMinIA says:

          I wasn’t looking for gotchas. I was merely hoping for prefaces to questions that don’t grant so many pro-war talking points as given.

  18. bmaz says:

    If I am interpreting jive correctly today, The Man Called Petraeus just claimed that what it will take for success is for us to knock off some more Number 3’s of AQ. I am impressed, but wonder exactly how many he has in mind….

        • skdadl says:

          Well, I’m a naïve alien, but I was very moved by V’s frustration, and I was glad he did that.

          I am a lot more uncomfortable with the more sophisticated questions coming from supposedly more liberal senators. However liberal they are, they obviously feel that they have to prove themselves tough on the national-security front, and as a naïve alien, I gotta tell you, that never makes me feel good.

          I would rather see someone having a good cry, since that’s what I do, and I assume it’s what most other people are doing if they aren’t members of the Bush administration.

  19. randiego says:

    I just zipped thru you guys’ commentary in about 5 minutes. I have a big grin on my face and here’s my takeaway:

    Voinovich is a weeper. Norm Coleman is from Brooklyn. Hagel is running for VP on the Demo ticket. Biden doesn’t like the cheering for Obama, who isn’t running for President today. Diaper Dave hasn’t spoken yet.

    Oh yeah, and if Orwell was alive we’d kill him again and the term “decelerated escalation” is about to make a comeback.

  20. SparklestheIguana says:

    The problem with this “taking our hand off the bicycle seat” analogy is that the bike rider is now an adolescent and has been trying to learn to ride for 5 years…..if you’re this kid’s parent you just say, “Fuck it, this kid ain’t never gonna learn” and push him down the hill.

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