He’s being touted as a VP for Kerry. (See Kaus, for example.) Zinni’s out promoting his book, and criticizing Bush. (“They’ve screwed up.”) “In the lead-up to the Iraq War and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence, and irresponsibility, at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption.” (Here.) (LGF has hard words about Zinni.)

I think he’ll get the veep.

Oh yeah. I told you so.

14 thoughts on “Zinni”

  1. Unfortunately for Bush Iraq is becoming a clear political detriment, to the point where his opponent does not even have to have a plan, much less a better plan, he just has to be not-Bush. I hope Americans don’t start looking for this generation’s Jimmy Carter. The American electorate generally gets what it wants in presidential elections (whether they actually realize what they want or not). In 1976 Jimmy Carter was what America wanted: A nice, honest guy who wouldn’t frighten anyone and who who at his core mirrored what America’s perception of itself was at the time: America the trouble maker who was a problem in the world, not a solution. After 4 years of reality continually cracking America’s nose, it realized that that isn’t really what it wanted, it wanted a strong leader that believed in America and it’s unique place in the world. An America who would confront it’s enemies not try to compromise with them. Again, America got what it wanted.

    Again in 2000, I think America got what it wanted: a president who wasn’t a slick spin-meister who thought he could charm people into doubting the exact meaning of the fundamental verb in the English language (is). Again, they got what they wanted.

    The biggest problem the Bush administration has had since day one is that they are the worst politicians I have ever seen at explaining what they are attempting to do and why. Of course, I am going on the premise that there ARE fundamental reasons, otherwise I’m not sure they should be in charge.

    Their inept attempt at selling tax cuts is a perfect example, but Iraq is the center-piece. I was originally very gung-ho about ousting Hussein, and I still think it was the right thing to do. But I never bought the WMD arguments when Clinton made them. Not whether he had them, everybody knows he did, but WHY it was a problem. In my mind the problem wasn’t the fact that he had WMD, but the fact that he was an enemy of the US and would use them if given the chance. That’s a much better argument than the mere existence of WMD, which many countries have. The argument sort of smacks of gun control on a much larger scale, and equally as bankrupt.

    The bottom line is that the Bush administration is so inept at explaining it’s reasoning that it has allowed enormous opportunities for it’s political enemies and critics, like Zinni for instance, to entirely define their position. After watching this repeatedly happen, I just don’t see how it’s going to change with a bunch of million dollar TV ads.

    I know of a lot of good reasons why getting Saddam Hussein out of Iraq was the right thing to do, but I’ve never heard one of them from the lips of a Bush administration official. I have also soured on the idea of rebuilding a hostile country with absolutely no historical precedent for any sort of democracy. I’m not sure every society is ready for democracy. Hell, most of the democracies of the world are not very democratic even after the system has been in place for decades. Look at Russia.

    The occupation has been a PR disaster regardless of whether it is a success or not.

    Just a side question: Has Zinni ever held a public office in his life? Is this another Commander Stockdale?

  2. What’s that old saying? You’re only as good as your last performance?

    Zinni failed in his last mission in negotiating a settlement between the Pals and Israel. He didn’t even get any incremental consessions. Had he had any success, his opinions would have more weight. Otherwise, 60 Minutes did another infomercial for Viacom’s Simon and Schuster products.

  3. DSpears, that was mostly way off point from this rather small and narrowly focused post.

    Mishu, you are talking substance. I’m talking politics. Having a general get up and say Bush’s military planning was a disaster and that the leadership that went along with it are akin to the Vietnam era generals will be a very powerful and effective critique. I don’t think any voter will hold it against Zinni that he didn’t get the Pals to do something. No one can get the Pals to do anything.

    This is a move that could materially improve Kerry’s chances of winning.

  4. Actually, what I remember is that Bush had very high words of praise for Zinni, said that if it could be done, Zinni could do it, etc. Of course he failed miserably almost immediately (though Lex is right that no one could have succeeded).

    I was impressed by Bush’s apparent faith in Zinni, though I thought it unwise of Bush to build him up so much on a mission on which so many had given so much to so little effect. Maybe that wascally W was setting him up for a public fall.

    From where I sit, Zinni has stabbed Bush in the back, after being given such fulsome public praise. But perhaps the average voter won’t remember the good things Bush said about Zinni.

  5. Politically, I don’t know. Zinni came across as inept and gullible in his dealings with Israel and the Palestinians. Now of course, with his book, he stands to gain by stirring up controversy. I think Bush’s surrogates might successfully frame him as a self-promoter like Clarke. He certainly looks like one.

    The Democrats would be foolish to think they can gain credibility on defense merely by putting an ex-military guy on ticket. That’s the kind of cynical marketing bullshit that a lot of voters don’t like anymore. Neither Zinni nor Kerry have explained convincingly how they would have handled things better than Bush has. It will be difficult for them to get elected without doing so.

  6. Lex, you have a point about the difficulty of the task. Let me just qualify my point by saying this.

    Clinton failed in getting a deal between the Pals and Israel yet he made incredible progress in the negotiations. He was damn close in getting a deal. It was one of the few things I admired about Clinton. If Zinni had made, say, one-third the progress Clinton did, then I’d think he has something to say. As far as the political angle goes, I hope the Bush campaign would poke at Zinni’s vulnerabilites such as I mentioned.

    And Scott, ouch.

  7. I don’t think a deal was doable between Israel and the Palestinians. Clinton didn’t seem to care (except WRT domestic political ramifications), his advisors, notably Berger and Albright, were out of their depth and Barak was functioning in an alternate universe. Barak’s final offer was ridiculously favorable to the PA yet the PA rejected it. I assume that any deal would have broken down as soon as it was convenient for the PA to break it. IOW, more negotiating skill on our part, or more concessions by Israel, would likely not have affected the final outcome. The PA simply didn’t want a workable deal and was using negotiations as a tactic to gain military and political advantage.

    Bush & Co. apparently didn’t understand what was going on until they themselves had their nose rubbed in the PA’s obstructionism on multiple occasions. But at least they learned eventually. Maybe Zinni doesn’t deserve all of the blame for his doomed mission, but you have to ask whether he learned anything. He seemed at the time, at least in his public statements, to be generally ignorant of the history and dynamics of the conflict he was sent to mediate. By criticizing Bush on this subject, he leaves himself wide open. The press won’t take the initiative, but if Kerry picks Zinni I think we’ll start to see carefully planted stories about Zinni’s cluelessness — the “he’s another Stockdale” meme.

  8. Zinni would be a momentary eye-catcher as Veep candidate, but I think it is just too outre a play.

    Two Catholics at the top of the Dem ticket? Neither with executive experience, one with no experience at all of electoral politics? I haven’t heard Zinni on abortion, homosexual marriage/civil unions, euthanasia, the death penalty, etc. but I suspect his views conflict with Kerry’s and that he’d have too much integrity to compromise them, especially with the hierarchy now making an issue of this or that.

    However, Zinni is from Pennsylvannia, a state Kerry can’t afford to lose. He is 4 or so points ahead in current polling there. A Zinni endorsement is something the Dems should strive for.

    Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm might have been a profitable pick, but she is ineligible to become President because she was not born in the USA.

    The sensible Veep pick strikes me as someone from the midwest, as upper as possible– Gephardt or possibly Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. Right now, shockinly, Michigan, Wisconsin, even Minnesota are in play. Iowa was a near loss for the Dems in 2000. The Dems should nail down their base. They must not lose a big midwestern state. They need organized labor to work hard and turn out big.

    It all adds up to Gephardt, really, except for the fact that no man without eyebrows has ever been elected to national office. He is not charismatic, but charisma in a Veep candidate is overrated.

    Gephardt’s been anti-Nafta, but I think he could, as they say, “grow”, if “growth” meant the Veep place on the ticket. (Gephardt began his career as Pro life, but easily shed all his convictions once he sensed the direction of the Democrat wind.) Kerry has been saying that Nafta is not a problem, but he has also been creating wiggle room about “managing it better.” These two could work it out.

    Similarly, Gephardt has been pro war and pro Patriot Act, but I doubt anyone thinks he’s locked into either of those positions in the way he has been.

    A Kerry/Gephardt ticket might not be a soporific warm bath. Gephardt can play very dirty. My memory is that about 10 years ago he likened his opponents in a vote on a highway appropriations bill to Hitler.

    At the time I recall everyone laughing that the rhetorical impact of “H” card had been forever diminished.

  9. I’m not sure what Zinni would bring to the table that Clark would not, and Clark at least NOW has a grasp of the rough and tumble of campainging and politics.

    Let’s see which generals we have elected. George Washington (won the revolution, gave us our country), Andy Jackson (beat the British in 1812), U.S. Grant (after a long string of losing Union gerals, he won the civil war, gave us our country… back), Dwight Eisenhower (conquered Europe).

    All run-of-the-mill accomplishements, I grant you ;-).

    Face it, it’s one thing to say “America has voted for generals”, but look at what those guys did. What do Clark and Zinni have in comparison. Clark, an Army General “won” Kosovo… an air-war? And Zinni… talented guy, I’m sure, possibly much smarter than Eisenhower, but c’mon.

    I think a Zinni pick would follow the Clark pattern. Lot’s of glow and good numbers for about a month, and then he’s gonna have to tell us about affirmitive action, gay rights, the Federal Reserve, Supreme Court picks, the Patriot Act, etc…. and he will, at best, be just as good a pick as, say, Gephart.

    And it terror raises it’s ugly head, whole new game. But, really, what’s he and Kerry gonna do different in that case? STRONGER Patriot Act? Act overseas…. um…. pre-emptively?

    Generals make mediocre politicians. They gotta accomplish something major to be in the running.

  10. Wait, he’s going to go on a book tour and also the compaign trail for vice president? Is that a program of “Read him and veep?”

  11. From an interview given by Gen. Anthony Zinni to Washington Post reporter Tom Ricks, Dec. 23, 2003: ” But Zinni vows that he has learned a lesson. Reminded that he endorsed Bush in 2000, he says, “I’m not going to do anything political again — ever. I made that mistake one time.”

    So it may not even be possible to get another endorsement out of him, much less something more.

    He is a thoroughly decent man and quite normal. It is hard to imagine him ever cozying up to a guy who tossed his medals/ ribbons away disdainfully and who accused American GIs in Vietnam of routinely committing all manner of atrocities.

    Kerry’s purple hearts would create a point of mutual embarrassment. Zinni almost died from 3 bullet wounds and spent many months recovering in a hospital.

  12. “DSpears, that was mostly way off point from this rather small and narrowly focused post. ”

    I thought this post was about election year politics? I guess not.

    My admitedly long winded point was that the stage is set for an “anti” candidate, like Carter. The candidate himself doesn’t have to have to have substance on the issues, just criticism of the current office holder, who the election will be a referendum for. Bush critics, espeically ones who worked for him and are military in background (Zinni), play into that perfectly. I don’t think he will be VP but the fact that a military leader who has never heald any sort of public office nor has even given a hint of his position on the numerous other issues would even be considered for a milli-second is proof of my point.

    The ’76 election was a referendum on the Nixon administration and Vietnam. A peanut farmer with few distinctive positions on the issues and no foreign policy experience won because he was the anti-Nixon in almost every way. This election could play out the same way. Kerry’s strategy of taking no distinctive position on any issues except being against Bush may prove to a smart move. Kerry is playing himself as the anti-Bush.

    The American people usually get what they want in Presidential elections. We’ll find out waht they really want in a few months.

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