Bloggers examine developments in the Iraqi constitution, wonder whether a "civil war" is shaking the White House, and take a look at The Republican War on Science.
A Sunni solution?In a move widely viewed as an olive branch to disillusioned Iraqi Sunnis, Shiite and Kurd leaders announced yesterday that a newly created panel in the next parliament can propose amendments to the constitution. "In effect, it could give the Sunnis - who were largely shut out of the constitution-writing process - a new chance to help redraft the document after elections in December," the New York Times reports. The decision of several prominent Sunni groups to publicly support the constitution produced immediate optimism about the Saturday referendum—optimism later tempered by a deadly suicide attack on an army recruiting center near Tal Afar.
Bush doctrinist Publius Pundit Robert Mayer cheers the developments and notes that "the constant dropping of opposition to the constitution is actually becoming a trend. Shia groups like Muqtada al-Sadr's militia and…the largest Sunni group, the Iraqi Islamic Party, have dropped their campaign to defeat the constitution and will instead be focusing completely on the December elections. As will everybody else," he predicts. "The Iraqis have come up with a good constitution that, despite some disagreements, can certainly be fixed up once all groups are fully represented in parliament."
Others think celebration is premature. "Somebody really needs to explain what the Sunnis think they're getting here," writes liberal Washington MonthlyPolitical Animal Kevin Drum. "It sounds like nothing more than a vague brush off to me. Just vote for the constitution now and we promise to seriously consider your objections at a later day," he scoffs. "I'm all in favor of anything that makes a peaceful transition in Iraq more likely, but I've read half a dozen stories about this agreement and every one of them makes it sound like at least some Sunnis are ecstatic over this deal. Conversely, none of them mention that it's essentially meaningless. What am I missing?"
Not much, says skeptical Middle East scholar Juan Cole at Informed Comment. "This whole episode strikes me as bizarre, since Iraqis are now voting on a constitution that may be subsequently changed at will! As with the Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, in which they had no idea for whom they were voting for the most part, so in the referendum they will have no idea for what they are voting. … If the constitution is not ready to be voted on, they should have taken the 6-month extension and worked on it some more."
Plenty of others, however, express cautious optimism. "It's a messy, fraught and unsatisfying compromise, which is to say it's politics," says conservative contrarian Andrew Sullivan. Claiming that Iraq hasn't had real politics for the last 30 years, he insists, "Now we actually have negotiation, brinksmanship, and the astonishingly resolute refusal of the Shiite leadership to be drawn into civil war by Zarqawi's brutal slaying of Shiite Muslims. … None of this, of course, guarantees ultimate success. But the whole point of this war was to transform a region ruled by fear into a region ruled by consent."
Read more about the Iraqi constitution.
War on Pennsylvania Avenue?: Newsweek political correspondent Howard Fineman told Chris Matthews on Monday that he believed the Bush White House is in a state of civil war. By his reckoning, a series of recent controversies—including the nomination of Harriet Miers, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and, chiefly, the political fallout from the Iraq—have pitted Chief of Staff Andrew Card against Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. Fineman affirmed Matthews' characterization of an administration divided between Rove and his supporters, who are believed to be headed for indictment in the CIA-leak case, and those who seem poised to survive them. Liberal bloggers are positively salivating at the prospect of conflict, while conservatives are generally biting their tongues.
"Get your popcorn," writes giddy progressive John Aravosis of AMERICAblog. Leading liberal Joshua Micah Marshall believes the CIA-leak investigation threatens all those who he says cooked the books on Iraq. "If Fitzgerald has lassoed this operation into a criminal conspiracy, the veil of protective secrecy in which the whole operation is still shrouded will be pulled back," he writes at Talking Points Memo. "Depositions and sworn statements in on-going investigations have a way of doing that. Ask Bill Clinton. Every key person in the White House will be touched by it. And all sorts of ugly tales could spill out."
Others wonder whether the Rove/Card split is the full story. "Fineman may have it right, [but] he may be a victim of some sort of Rovian spin racket," cautions liberal firebrand Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos. At Attytood, liberal journalist William Bunch suggests similar turf war might be underway between the president and the vice president. "What does it all mean?" he asks. "Well, the good news that the information monolith that is the White House may fall apart as the different factions duke it out. Remember, Valerie Plame isn't the only secret this administration holds, and it isn't the biggest one, either."
Taking on the War on Science: This week, liberal salon TPMCafe hosts a book-club discussion of Chris Mooney's much-ballyhooedThe Republican War on Science, which depicts conservative positions on issues such as stem-cell research and climate change as part of a larger ideological struggle against independent scientific inquiry. Generally, participants give the book cautious praise.
Mathew Yglesias of the American Prospect, who praises the book as a "rigorous account of a crucial subject," wonders whether the struggle against science is truly a unified "war," as Mooney has it, or the simultaneous assault of two distinct, and not necessarily coordinated, campaigns. There are, he suggests, corporate hooligans who fight regulations by disputing the science that necessitates them; and then there are faith-based crusaders, operating in good faith, who believe the fight against Darwin is a noble one. Prominent physicist Lawrence Krauss writes that distrust of science doesn't besmirch the entire GOP coalition—only the Bush administration. Krauss contrasts what he takes as the president's pick-and-choose approach to science with the principled commitment of George H.W. Bush to "freedom of inquiry" and "objectivity."
Though he regrets what he calls the "misuse of science," meteorologist Roger Pielke believes the manipulation of statistics and data for political purposes knows no party boundaries and worries TheRepublican War on Science will be an easy sell to liberal scientists eager to point fingers. "And the politicization of science by scientists is something that we should really be concerned about," he says.
Read more about The Republican War on Science.