Joe the Plumber and GOP ‘authenticity’

The conservative movement made its name battling moral relativists on campus, bellowing for a “strict construction” of our nation’s founding documents, and pandering to people who believe that the Book of Genesis literally records the origins of human existence.

And yet here are the words of Ronald Reagan’s pollster, Richard Wirthlin, as recorded in one of the main Reagan strategy documents from 1980: “People act on the basis of their perception of reality; there is, in fact, no political reality beyond what is perceived by the voters.”

The context of Wirthlin’s reality-denial, according to the historian Kim Phillips-Fein, who unearths his statement in her forthcoming book, “Invisible Hands,” was the larger Republican plan to woo blue-collar voters.

The mission was a success. It worked because Republicans wholeheartedly adopted Wirthlin’s dictum. Reality is a terrible impediment when you’re reaching out to workers while simultaneously cracking down on unions and scheming to privatize Social Security. Leave that reality to the “reality-based community,” to use the put-down coined by an aide to George W. Bush. [continued…]

The worst of the worst?

When a federal judge ordered the release of 17 Guantánamo Bay detainees earlier this month, it was the first real chance in the seven-year history of the prison camp that any of the prisoners might be transferred to the United States. In making his ruling, the judge categorically rejected the Bush administration’s claim that any of the released prisoners, who are all Chinese Muslims, were “enemy combatants” or posed a risk to U.S. security. The decision was temporarily suspended by the appeals court, but the judge was on solid ground.

Controversy over the Bush administration’s policy to detain enemy combatants at Guantánamo has raged since the facility opened in 2002—fueled primarily by the lack of legal protections afforded the detainees and allegations of their mistreatment. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that most of these detainees have never posed any real risk to America, for the simple reason that the vast majority of them were never “enemy combatants” in the first place. Indeed, striking new data we have obtained show that, if anything, the 17 innocent Chinese men are far from exceptional.

Before we get to the new statistics corroborating this startling fact, a quick review of how the detainees got to Guantánamo in the first place is helpful. Given the fog of propaganda surrounding the Guantánamo prisoners—whom former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once famously described as “the worst of the worst”—you might be surprised to learn that, according to the Pentagon itself, only 5 percent of detainees at the prison were ever apprehended by U.S. forces to begin with. And only another 4 percent were ever alleged to have actually been fighting at all.

Why is that? Almost all of the detainees were turned over to U.S. forces by foreigners, either with an ax to grind or, more often, for a hefty bounty or reward. After U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan in late 2001, they doled out rewards of about $5,000 or more to Pakistanis and Afghans for each detainee turned over. Contrary to standard law enforcement practice, the U.S. military accepted the uncorroborated allegations of the award claimants with little independent investigation. [continued…]

Iraq’s cabinet rejects current draft of U.S. troop accord

Shiite Muslim government ministers raised objections Tuesday to a “final draft” of an agreement to authorize U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, and after a four-and-a-half-hour cabinet meeting Iraq’s government spokesman said that the agreement wouldn’t be finalized in its current form.

The clock is ticking: The United Nations mandate under which U.S. troops are in Iraq expires on Dec. 31.

The agreement, which has been the subject of negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq for more than seven months, sets the end of 2011 as when U.S. troops are to be gone from Iraq.

However, Humam Hamoudi, the Shiite lawmaker who chairs the parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said that Shiite representatives found the wording on the U.S. troop departure too vague and subject to unacceptable conditions. Lawmakers also want to strike a clause that would give the Iraqi government the right to extend the agreement without parliamentary approval if it felt that was advisable. [continued…]

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