Below the Bottom of the Barrel

When I was still just a young political punk pup in the 70s, managing programs for a community action agency in Massachusetts, I had the displeasure of several encounters with now-former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card and now-former USAID Director Andy Natsios (The Andy and Andy Show).

The latter was a Mass. state rep in one of my catchment area's districts. Massachusetts has always had a rich history of producing die-hard GOP hacks loyalists and Natsios is a champ, working his ass off in the government and public sectors in-state (culminating in his "management" of the notorious "Big Dig", one of the worst public works scandals ever in a state known for them) until tapped as USAID head in 2001. He's now The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang's Special Envoy to Darfur, after serving also as Special Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sudan. God help those folks!

Card was also a Mass. state rep around the time Natsios was. He got trashed in a race for the state Republican gubernatorial nomination in '82. He was then rewarded, however, with positions in Reagan's regime, Bush I's rule, and, finally, as a driving wheel in The Gang's junta. He was also a VHT (Very Heavy Hitter) with GM for awhile, as well as John Volpe memorial Secretary of Transportation under Bush I. Until March of this year, when he quit, he had served several years as Doubleduh's Chief of Staff.

Apparently, as recently revealed in Woodward's new book, Card resigned in frustration after twice tring to get Rummy fired. He's now on the Union Pacific Railroad's BOD.

Although Natsios is still working for The Gang, he was not a happy camper when he left USAID, according to this Michael Hirsh Newsweek piece in March of this year. Slices:
Andrew Natsios has taken a lot of flak over his role in Iraq. The longtime director of America's foreign-aid program has been pilloried for his April 2003 remark, in an ABC News interview, that the U.S. government would spend no more than $1.7 billion to rebuild Iraq. In the ensuing three years, Natsios, a lifelong Republican, has played the loyal soldier for the administration. He regularly defended the U.S. reconstruction effort in Iraq even as he was lumped with other errant prognosticators like Paul Wolfowitz (That's “wildly off the mark") and Dick Cheney ("We will be greeted as liberators"). After Natsios resigned in January to take a teaching post at Georgetown University, he maintained his silence about Iraq . . .

In an interview with NEWSWEEK . . ., he harshly criticized the Coalition Provisional Authority led by L. Paul Bremer III for botching the reconstruction effort and allowing ill-qualified or corrupt contractors to dominate it. "They didn't have [monitoring] systems set up. They were very dismissive of these processes," he said. His U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was marginalized despite its expertise, and the CPA "didn't hire the best people," he said. "We were just watching it unfold. They [the CPA] were constantly hitting at our people, screaming at them. They were abusive."

Natsios's low-cost estimate from April 2003, he made clear, was not based on the kind of chaotic, top-heavy occupation that he says Bremer eventually installed in Iraq but on the more traditional, streamlined U.S. aid effort that Natsios had urged.

Dan Senor, former spokesman for Bremer’s CPA, dismissed Natsios’s criticisms, saying the insurgency in Iraq made ordinary contracting procedures impossible. "I'm not familiar with the traditional USAID program that was recommended,” Senor told NEWSWEEK. “If it was traditional and conventional, it may have made sense for the reconstruction of Switzerland. But it sounds like it was completely irrelevant to the facts and conditions on the ground that we found in Iraq.” Senor added that the CPA had "recruited some of the top career Foreign Service officers from the State Department to serve in the CPA's management roles. We would have welcomed suggestions—from Andrew or anyone else—of who would have been better experienced.”

Natsios, who served as USAID director for nearly five years and was considered one of the top development and aid experts in Washington, says that his advice was largely ignored. Other administration officials, usually speaking anonymously, have backed Natsios's dim view of the CPA's competence level. The conventional wisdom today is that while most CPA officials were enthusiastic and brave, too many were inexperienced and second-rate . . .

And there is much more to come, especially on the little-noticed issue of contracting in Iraq, which the watchdog group Transparency International last year warned could become “the biggest corruption scandal in history." The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is expected to issue a harshly critical report in May concluding that the CPA did not have disciplined contracting procedures in place, according to several people involved in drafting the report. If the Democrats manage to get control of the House later this year, it's all going to come in an avalanche of subpoenas and new investigations. Not that the Republicans have been entirely sitting on their hands. When Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, agreed to subpoena records of funds transmitted to Iraq, his House Government Reform Subcommittee learned that nearly $12 billion in U.S. currency was shipped to Iraq from the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, much of it with little accountability . . .

There some scary aspects and implications here:

  1. the fact that Natsios is still with The Gang, but Card is gone, raises some interesting questions about who's really on first vis-a-vis loyalty and influence. If Card is no longer useful, why is Natsios still around? My take is that if Natsios were cut loose he might be fairer game for those who really want to push some serious grief upon the folks responsible for robbing both the American and Iraqi people in the name of Iraqi dereconstruction.

    One thing I can tell you from personal experience with these two guys: Andy Natsios is one very smart guy; I mean truly smart. He was a thoughtful and formidable opponent, sincerely committed to traditional conservative ideals, and not one to put up with partisan bullshit from any side, including his own. On the other hand, although Card has some unmistakeable talent, he advanced through pure self-centered ambition and inveterate ass-kissing. His relentless opposition to Rummy finally constituted a mortal sin

  2. it's unclear whether a glance at these guys' successors sheds any light over what the final(?) two lame-ducky years will hold. Natsios' replacement, Randall Tobias, has a long career in the private sector before entering government as the first US Ambassador/Coordinator of our Global AIDS effort. He's not an intellectual like Natsios and he seems to have less qualifications for the job he now holds. I've got a feeling, however, that he will be unswervingly loyal to The Gang's agenda. He reports directly to Condi. 'Nuff sed.

    Josh Bolten, who succeeded Card, is a 100% government professional. The son of a spook, he's a Princeton and Stanford Law School grad, and most recently was in charge of OMB, where he served quietly and staunchly neoconservative. Interestingly enough, Tod Gitlin's March TPM Café piece is entitled "Josh Bolten, Loyalist". There's that word again.

My conclusion is that The Doubleduh-Cheney Gang has abandoned the Republican Party. It becomes very clear that The Gang itself is loyal only to the agenda of its global sponsors. The goals they want to achieve have nothing to do with competence, since those goals include only destruction and chaos, which they hope will make the planet one big resource circus. In this context, loyalty, and only that, is the Key to the Kingdom.

Card's, Bolten's, and Tobias' outcomes make complete sense in the context. Natsios' doesn't - unless we imagine that he was told to put away his brain and serve with total fealty to the Empire. For Andy to think that he's now responsible for the systematic accomplishments in Sudan/Darfur that he hoped for in Iraq runs contrary to his innate intelligence.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for most of the information contained in this post.)

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