Kudlow’s Money Politics

Where’s Harry Truman?

The Republican Congress will be blamed for the widening corruption problems endemic to the Iraq War. It could be another nail in the GOP’s election year coffin.

Today’s WSJ story by Yochi J. Dreazen “Audit of Iraq Reconstruction Finds Corruption Worsening” is a very tough story that suggests a breakdown of Congressional oversight. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen’s latest quarterly audit estimates $4 billion per year corruption costs in Iraq. The story goes on to report that “the Bush administration continues to wind down its ambitious Iraq reconstruction program, which has spent ten of billions of dollars on rebuilding efforts that have largely failed to restore basic services such as water or electricity to pre-war levels.”

Oil smuggling continues to siphon off revenues. U.S. Comptroller General David Walker says 10 percent of Iraq’s refined fuels and 30 percent of its imported fuels were being stolen. Additionally, Mr. Bowen concludes that “the Bush administration’s overall handling of Iraq contracting — from relying on no-bid contracts even when major fighting had ended, to failing to standardize contracting regulations to help prevent fraud — was deeply flawed.” He goes on to say that the U.S. has not provided proper contracting and procurement support necessary to manage reconstruction efforts begun three years ago. And he also sites widespread mismanagement among competing U.S. government agencies.

Again, reports like this will damage Republican Congressional management and oversight of the Iraq war. Poll after poll shows that American voters are not happy about Iraq for any number of reasons. Most of the media commentary focuses on the White House and the Pentagon, but Congress plays a key role through its oversight functions. If more stories like this circulate in the media, Congress will be blamed.

When Harry Truman was an unknown senator from Missouri during WWII, he chaired hearings that rooted out corruption in various war-related contracts among defense suppliers. Truman made a real name for himself doing this. This is a key reason why FDR put him on the ticket in 1944.

Where is today’s Harry Truman in Congress?

I say all this as a war hawk and a war supporter. I want to win this war. I do not want to cut and run. I agree with President Bush’s basic mission of spreading democracy and freedom to the Middle East.

But after three democratic elections in Iraq, it does not seem that we are winning this war. And if we are not winning it, then one has to worry about the possibility that we may lose it. And that would be a very bad thing.