A bit of political gender-bending on this morning's Today, as ostensibly conservative radio talk show host Michael Smerconish called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq while the normally hyper-partisan James Carville did anything but ride to the defense of his fellow Democrat, Congressman William Jefferson, apparently caught with his hand in a $100G cookie jar.
The pair were Katie Couric's guests largely for purposes of discussing the investigation into the possibility that Marines killed numerous Iraqi civilians in cold blood in the city of Haditha. Carville sought to exploit the subject for all its political worth, coming close to excusing the Marines who were directly involved for purposes of condemning those higher up the chain of command.
Carville: "These Marines obviously snapped and did something wrong. Whether it's combat stress, we need to look at things going on as a result of this. This won't be good. Was there a cover up? What are the responsibilities for higher-ups? Don't blame it on a lance corporal."
And later:"Basically we just hate it that our soldiers and our Marines are placed in a situation where there's three tours of combat duty. You're taking obviously good, well-motivated, patriotic kids who joined the Marine Corps, as I did a long time ago, for the right reasons -- mine I was going to be drafted -- but these kids joined for the real right reasons and this happens. We need to find out. I think that we have people like Colonel Murtha that are going to dig into this. We have to find out real answers here."
It was when Couric asked how hard the Haditha story made it for the Bush administration to stay the course in Iraq that Smerconish made it clear that, if he was ever on it so far as Iraq is concerned, he had left the administration reservation:
Smerconish: "I think the failure on the part of the administration has been not to articulate an end game. James just makes reference to no light being evident at the end of the tunnel. I think that's a real political problem here at home. We turn on the television and see the news relative to the Marines and also read about the journalists. We wonder when's it going to end? How is it going to end? The White House's failure has been in articulating how it all comes to a close."
Smerconish wouldn't reach for the lifeline that Katie surprisingly extended: "But do you understand why they have not wanted to stick to a time table? There's some danger to doing that too."
Smerconish: "I understand it. And theoretically I'm supposed to be one of the Kool-Aid drinkers but I never bought into this. They have to articulate the end game and establish some guidelines for getting out."
Whether it was the result of true outrage, or of a political calculation that congressional Dems are hurting themselves, Carville was unequivocal in his condemnation of congressional criticism of the FBI's search of the offices of Rep. William Jefferson [D-LA], under investigation in connection with a bribery scandal.
"I think it's the nuttiest thing I've ever heard. He had 90 grand in his freezer, he had a 60 day subpoena that he hadn't responded to, The warrant was signed off by a judge from another branch of government and they are in an outrage? It's nutty - can you hide a dead body in your congressional office? This was not a close call. Somebody pleaded guilty to bribing him. This is beyond me. Barney Frank, bless Barney, went to the floor and basically said the same thing. Now deaths in Iraq, they are going to have hearings on this [the Jefferson search]? There are plenty of things wrong with this country. An investigation into a congressman for taking a bribe is not one of them I can promise you."