2003: War Is PR By Other Means

Two years of mismanagement did not convince the nation of what the world already knew.  And thus Bush had a free hand to do whatever he wanted.  And he did. 

A partial-birth abortion bill passed.  So did a prescription drug coverage bill.  The tax cut theology was followed in the three preceding years, but with this new entitlement, the die was irrevocably cast in favor of back-breaking deficits for the duration.  And this was the year of the worst Sixteen Words since “behind the bag, it gets through Buckner; here comes Knight and the Mets win it!”  If only it were mere words that offended.

A personal story, and rumblings of a growing hope, may be found after the jump.

In rural Wisconsin one day, after a job interview, I stopped in a bar, and the news came that Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed in an ambush.  A young girl behind the bar asked, “what happened, Mommy?”  And the mom said, “your world became a little bit safer.”  I shook my head lightly and sipped my beer.  This was about three months after we (supposedly) won.  Things were not going to plan (partly because there really wasn’t one).  The WMD lie was being slowly and devastatingly exposed (as was, to lesser effect, the Jessica Lynch hero story).  And here was this woman who thought that the death of these two twits made a damn bit of difference.  Our discovery of their pop in a hole in Tikrit brought similar shouts of joy that the evidence did not really support.

For all of the bullshit, though, it seemed that change and true opposition was coming.  The 2004 election had something to do with this.  Howard Dean, of course, started to press the buttons that Democrats had feared to push, and others — including Al Gore, whose bland campaign permitted Dubya to exist, and a former sportscaster named Keith Olbermann, who would rise in the coming years to prophet-like status — began to take note and speak out.  There was hope — a faint one, to be sure — that the Dems would start to come out of their corner and fight.


There was hope…the Dems would start to come out of their corner and fight.

This is a fantasy, like “Lord of the Rings” right?

Prommie: You are playing with my psychic trauma. Stop it.

Tommmcatt Yet Again: You have to remember how fresh Howard Dean was in 2003. We’ve had a decade of Democrats trying to be Republicans. Bubba, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, welfare reform, Al Gore pre-2000, Joe Lieberman, the DLC. Howard was not going to hide in a corner. I remember going to rallies of his, and he had this thing of grabbing the flag at his rallies and saying something to the effect of “I am not going to let the Republican Party own this flag; it belongs to all of us” — and the universal reaction was: finally.

This was rare. The only Democrats who were saying anything with any amount of guts and fortitude were (a) Democrats in the House that had absolutely zero clout given their minority status, (b) progressives like Russ Feingold (mavericky tendencies notwithstanding) and Paul Wellstone (God bless him), (c) old lions like Byrd and Kennedy, and (d) small-time bit players like Vermonters at town meetings, a handful of college-town mayors and legislators, and Barbara Boxer. But Howard was playing with a different deck, and fueled, for the first time, with significant assistance from the Internets.

It was proto-Hopey, as Black Eagle might acknowledge himself. Of course, this was crushed by the relative safety of John Kerry. But that’s in tomorrow’s installment.

@chicago bureau:

I kid. I still maintain that our Democratic leadership is a bunch of handwringing yellowtails, but I do remember Howard Dean..who, I must admit, has finally been vindicated in his strategy by the black eagle. But comeon’, most of the past eight years has been a steady diet of capitulation and mewling from the Dems, individual firebrands notwithstanding. All evil requires to prevail is that good men stand aside and do nothing, and all that, right? Chimpy didn’t do this to us all by himself.

OH, and don’t get me started on ol’ horse face. What kind of a pick was that? “I know, let’s run a Massachusetts liberal intellectual, that’ll show ’em!” What were we thinking?

@Tommmcatt Yet Again: … a Massachusetts liberal, wind-surfing, intellectual…


@Tommmcatt Yet Again: Chimpy didn’t do this to us all by himself.

Nope. And that is why his presser yesterday inspired alternating bouts of fury and glory. We finally watched him nearly unravel a la Nixon at the podium, until that punk-ass frat boy/dry drunk aggro side of him took hold and he gave us all the virtual finger. They’ve known all along that you don’t do “short term history”, and that’s been their strategy! It’s all been staged for the current viewers, to hell with the long arc of history, let’s get ours while the gettin’s good. And the lapdog media played along except for that brief moment when Stephen Colbert stood in front of them and made them feel uncomfortable for an hour.

@chicago bureau: Let’s give Al Gore his proper due. Bore-Loserman was a halting travesty, but he brought it in 2002.

I think that it was pretty much the darkest as in evil year in US America history.

I got into a couple of loud angry arguments about Iraq. My then RW friend at the time and I were recreating the scene from ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT where the “old” men were arguing what the Germans, er, US America could do. He kept saying Cons know war and Libs are useless. Turns out that it was just mere projection.

Sad fact, I’ve said it before about my then friend who was kicked out of the reserves and hated by his superiors and troops: “The first casualty of war won’t be truth. It would be (NAME-REDACTED).”

I was glad that the little guy from Shawanigan, Jean Cretien, told W to fuck off and our what few troops of Canada City stayed away.

Tommmcatt Yet Again: most of the past eight years has been a steady diet of capitulation and mewling from the Dems….

Agreed, except for the reference to capitulation in the past tense. Exhibit A: Harry Reid letting Joementum off of a hook that Joe himself forged, galvanized and polished to a shine before jumping on. Bipartisanship has a certain je ne sais quoi. And by je ne sais quoi, I mean total lack of balls.

If you’re looking for zeniths, 2003 was it. As goes Saddam’s Statue, so goes America.

@ManchuCandidate: Chretien (who still had a better grasp of English, however mangled, than G-dubs) would be replaced soon by Mr. Dithers thanks to something about golf balls to Quebeckistan (I simplify), who would soon be replaced by Fattycheeks, ergo the current crisis. However, well played, Jean.

@mellbell: I’m not letting Al off the hook, even if his movie was powered by two G5s running Keynote. He blew the 2000 election long before Florida, because he somehow got it in his mind to run away from a popular president. Al’s not to blame for what followed, but he contributed to the conditions that allowed it to happen.

I was in Paris when we invaded Iraq, but despite the marchers on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, I encountered no hostility against me personally. In fact, a number of Parisians I encountered were most sympathetic, asking if I’d had any problems. London was another story entirely. People there were so openly hostile that I was completely unnerved. My hotel was beside Hyde Park, where ~250K people showed up to protest just hours before I arrived. The TV was showing the terrified young soldiers who’d been captured by the Iraqis, and no Brit would give me a civil answer to simple request for information, like which train platform I needed. In tears, I made a half-hour transatlantic call to my brother so he could talk me down before I had a Kevin-Kline-in-Fish-Called-Wanda “if it weren’t for the good ol’ US of A” meltdown.


Don’t you mean “looking for the nadir“?

@Tommmcatt Yet Again: I would have, but “zenith” came up in the Religious Right conversation a day or two back.

But really, I was looking for “Philco”.

DEVELOPING: Per CNN: “He will deliver the 15-minute [farewell] speech [on Thursday] in the East Room of the White House in front of a live audience of ‘courageous Americans.'”

Lord, give me strength. And whiskey.

@chicago bureau: And a Farewell open thread, which I’m prepping for Thursday. Given the updated detail, I’m feeling pretty good about the graphic.

nojo: If you intend to use the Rod Blagojevich with Sympathetic Old People Press Conference photo, I will respectfully dissent. Bush has better hair, and the sympathetic people will not be old, but youngish. And with war wounds.

nojo: Now what could the picture poss — oh!


@nojo: GI Joes in green, yellow and red Star Trek outfits? Terry Schiavo? Coffins?

What time is kickoff “My fellow ‘murricans”?

@Mistress Cynica: I was in Havana when the U.S. invaded Iraq. Talk about surreal. More like Fellini-esque.

@nabisco: I said obvious, not clever.

Looks like Shrub’s on for 8 p.m. Thursday, so we’ll be firing up the open grill at 7:45. He’s only yammering for ten or fifteen minutes, but we can’t let the moment pass without a final opportunity to shout ourselves hoarse.

Ah 2003. Or as I like to say, The Worst Year Of My Life. I was actually in Florida getting a little R&R when we invaded. I remember going down for breakfast (at a gay hotel) and Fox News was on, and all of the hosts were so giddy with excitement it made me physically ill. Some stupid queen was watching, and when I asked if I could turn he was very rude.

The reason I really needed a little R&R was because my mother was dying of cancer. Little did I know she would be dead in less than 6 weeks. It was such a horrible thing to have something this atrocious going on in the world, and something so atrocious going in in my life. The evening of the day my mother died was the broadcast of the interview Diane Sawyer did with the Dixie Chicks (remember that shit?). Talk about wanting to kill your teevee. One of my dad’s conservative friends was over that night drinking with us, and I just remember going ballistic on him. And then just 3 or so weeks later was ‘Mission Accomplished’. My lord what a time.

This year was the 5 year anniversary of the war that was also the 5 year anniversary of my mom’s death. I tried to write a whole post about how difficult it is to have these two events intertwined, but I just couldn’t get it right and keep it under 100 pages.


Even so, that sounds like it needs to be written…I’d read it, serialized, if need be….

@homofascist: I would love to read that, even if it’s 100 pages. I think hyper-aware people like us have a hard time separating the personal from the political in any event, but to have trauma writ large on the screen and trauma much closer to home is something that takes a long time to unpack and process.

Your mom was lucky to have a son like you. Seriously.

I think my Dad may have died in 2003, but I am amazed I cannot remember, no, it was 2002, I did not recall it. He’s still out there, you see, to me, he’s still alive, just far away. But in my mind I hear him.

He died in the same hospital my son was born in just two years before, just down the hall.

And yes, all that shit was going on. It was just before the 2002 elections, two days later, with no notice, I was asked to go to a debate and stand in for Rush, who had a vote in DC, I debated his opponents as a surrogate, strangest days of my life.

Rush voted against the authorization, against the wishes of most of the cynical campaign staff. I was thrilled.

@homofascist: While this can in no way compare to the poignancy of your story, my beloved grandmother died on Superbowl weekend. The game was in Atlanta, and Dallas was playing. The only “compassion fare” ticket I could get flew from OKC to SC via Dallas and Atlanta. I was stuck on a plane with 100 drunken, screaming Dallas fans who kept telling me to smile. I remember there being a person dressed as a giant Coke bottle handing out some kind of coupons or something at the Atlanta airport. It was only the beginning of a very Fellini-esque, surreal week. So that’s what I think of every Super Bowl Sunday. And it’s another reason why I hate Dallas.
Sometimes I try to flash back to happier times, like when my asshole ex-husband got a kidney stone on Super Sunday, just weeks before we filed for divorce, and even the morphine drip didn’t help his pain. Good times.

@Mistress Cynica: Kidney stone on Super Sunday for the asshole soon-to-be-ex? As if we needed more proof, there’s your proof that God is a pissed off woman.

@Tommmcatt Yet Again: @SanFranLefty: We will see. I guess I was trying to write insightful and reflective, and my attempts were more stuck on maudlin, which was not my intent at all. But considering we will be in Iraq for 25 more years I can only imagine that each March-May I will have a constant reminder. This is one of the things that truly sucks. I guess one of these years I will get the tone right.

And hyper-aware? ME? More like hyper-sensitive. This Israel/Gaza bullshit would have me in knots were I paying closer attention. Israel/Lebanon made a wreck. Hell, that thing from the slain Sri Lankan journalist had me in tears.

@Mistress Cynica: How horrible. It sounds like flying to Mexico during Spring Break as a grown up who is beyond such things (which I have done). And having had kidney stones before, I automatically sympathize with anyone who has had them, even assholes.

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