BUSH vs. CLINTON/GORE
Clintonomics vs. Reaganomics/Bushonomics
Brownstein (Los Angeles Times) (via Corrente)
takes a look at a parts of Clinton's legacy which many so-called
conservatives love to ignore:
publication of Bill Clinton's memoirs, a chorus of conservatives is
reprising the right's familiar charge that his presidency was an
eight-year exercise in trivial pursuits.
"Clinton … knew — and accomplished — small things,"
writes Charles Krauthammer, the neoconservative columnist. Fellow
neocon Max Boot says Clinton was "a status quo president"
who "presided over a bunch of micro-reforms engineered by"
pollster Dick Morris.
Especially around the end of his first term, Clinton certainly
pursued his share of small-bore initiatives, like promoting school
uniforms. But to portray these as the core of his presidency is to
willfully miss the forest for the shrubs.
Clinton modernized the Democratic Party's agenda and restored its
attenuated ability to compete for the presidency. His domestic
program helped to produce the most widely shared economic boom since
And though Clinton's scorecard on foreign affairs is more mixed, he
moved the Democrats away from their post- Vietnam aversion to force,
and sharpened the government's focus on terrorism — even if
history will likely conclude that he, like Congress, the media and
President George W. Bush before Sept. 11, 2001, didn't meet the full
measure of the threat.
To conservative critics, the Clinton era was "a time of
domesticity, triviality and self-absorption," as Krauthammer
wrote last week. Maybe it looked that way from the penthouse. But
the Clinton years produced extraordinary gains in the communities
that needed help most.
The benefits of the Clinton boom were dispersed far more broadly
than the gains under Ronald Reagan, in part because Clinton
systematically implemented policies that encouraged and rewarded
work for those on the economy's bottom rungs.
Consider the scorecard. During Clinton's two terms, the median
income for American families increased by a solid 15% after
inflation, according to Census Bureau figures. But it rose even
faster for African Americans (33%) and Hispanics (24%) than it did
for whites (14%).
The growth was so widely shared that from 1993 through 1999,
families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution saw their
incomes increase faster than those in the top 5%. By
comparison, under President Reagan in the 1980s, those in the top 5%
increased their income more than five times faster than the bottom
Likewise, the poverty rate under Clinton fell 25%, the biggest
eight-year decline since the 1960s. It fell even faster for
particularly vulnerable groups like blacks, Hispanics and children.
Again the contrast with Reagan is striking. During Reagan's two
terms, the number of Americans in poverty fell by just 77,000.
During Clinton's two terms, the number of Americans in poverty
plummeted by 8.1 million. The number of children in poverty fell by
50,000 under Reagan. Under Clinton the number was 4.1 million.
That's a ratio of 80 to 1.
Leave aside the question of how much Clinton's drive to eliminate
the federal deficit contributed to the economic boom that powered
most of these gains. He also developed a comprehensive set of
initiatives to spread the benefits of prosperity to more families by
demanding and honoring work.
Welfare reform pushed more low-income families into the job market,
where they could benefit from the rising tide. Then Clinton made
work more rewarding with increases in the minimum wage and the
earned-income tax credit, the creation of the Children's Health
Insurance Program (to cover the children of working-poor families),
and expanded funding for day care. He eliminated the deficit while
cutting taxes for average families.
And while delivering all these benefits for traditionally Democratic
constituencies, Clinton extended the party's appeal up the income
ladder. By marrying government activism to fiscal discipline and
demanding personal responsibility in social policy, he triggered a
realignment of socially moderate Northern suburbs toward the
Democrats, a change that remains central to his party's hopes in
Clinton is more vulnerable to second-guessing on foreign policy.
Reports by the staff of the independent commission investigating the
Sept. 11 attacks suggest the panel is likely to conclude that
Clinton (as well as Bush in early 2001) didn't do enough to meet the
emerging threat of Al Qaeda.
In particular, the reports show that Clinton blinked at some of the
riskiest military options during the late 1990s, such as arming the
anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.
But the commission reports and the memoir of Richard A. Clarke,
former White House counterterrorism chief for Clinton and Bush, also
make it clear that on almost every front, from diplomacy to homeland
security, Washington was doing much more to combat terrorism when
Clinton left than it was when he arrived. And at the same time,
Clinton was exhaustively pursuing an Israeli-Palestinian peace
agreement that might have reshaped America's image in the Arab
Those, like Krauthammer, who insist Clinton "ignored" the
terrorism threat must themselves ignore all this evidence — and
Clinton's report, in his memoir, that he warned Bush after the 2000
election that Al Qaeda would be his top national security challenge.
Clinton's weaknesses often trumped his strengths. His lack of
political discipline produced a leftward drift during his first two
years that helped the GOP seize Congress in 1994. His lack of
personal discipline in the Monica S. Lewinsky scandal contributed to
Al Gore's defeat in 2000. But he restored the Democrats' ability to
compete for the presidency, advanced domestic policies that tangibly
improved life for millions of Americans, and, after initial
uncertainty, pursued a foreign policy that affirmed the value of
American leadership and international cooperation.
It's reasonable to debate whether elements of this approach were
wrongheaded or ineffective or insufficient. But to dismiss it as
trivial says more about the critics than about Clinton.
brief break into straw-man land
A recent article by Dana Milbank, which I forgot to post earlier.
Out of Straw Men
By Dana Milbank
For President Bush, this is the season of the straw man.
It is an
ancient debating technique: Caricature your opponent's argument,
then knock down the straw man you created. In the 2004 campaign,
Bush has been knocking down such phantoms on subjects from Iraq to
In a speech on May 21 mentioning the importance of integrity in
government, business and the military, Bush veered into a challenge
to unidentified "people" who practice moral relativism.
"It may seem generous and open-minded to say that everybody, on
every moral issue, is equally right," Bush said, at Louisiana
State University. "But that attitude can also be an excuse for
sidestepping life's most important questions."
No doubt. But who's made such arguments? Hannibal Lecter? The White
House declined to name names.
On May 19, Bush was asked about a plan by his Democratic opponent,
Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), to halt shipments that are replenishing
emergency petroleum reserves. Bush replied by saying we should not
empty the reserves -- something nobody in a responsible position has
proposed. "The idea of emptying the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
would put America in a dangerous position in the war on
terror," Bush said. "We're at war."
The president has used a similar technique on the stump, when
explaining his decision to go to war in Iraq in light of the
subsequent failure to find stockpiles of forbidden weapons. In the
typical speech, Bush explains the prewar intelligence indicating
Saddam Hussein had such weapons, and then presents in inarguable
conclusion: "So I had a choice to make: either trust the word
of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend
America every time."
Missing from that equation is the actual choice Bush confronted:
support continued U.N. weapons inspections, or go to war.
On May 4, Bush was discussing the war on terrorism, when he said:
"Some say, 'Well, this is just a matter of law enforcement and
intelligence.' No, that's not what it is." On May 10, he
posited: "The natural tendency for people is to say, oh, let's
lay down our arms. But you can't negotiate with these people. . . .
Therapy won't work."
It is not clear who makes such arguments, however. All but a few
lawmakers in both parties support military action against al Qaeda,
and Kerry certainly has not proposed opening talks with Osama bin
Laden or putting him on the couch.
Bush is obviously not the first politician to paint his opponents'
positions in absurd terms. "Honorable people could disagree
about the real choice between tax giveaways to the wealthiest
Americans and health care and education for America's
families," Kerry has said. "I'm ready for that honest
But Bush has been more active than most in creating phantom
opponents: During the 2000 campaign, Bush fought against those who
say "it's racist to test" students -- even though his
opponent, Al Gore, was saying no such thing.
Recently, though, even some ideological allies have called Bush on
his use of straw men. On April 30, for example, Bush was discussing
Iraq when he said: "There's a lot of people in the world who
don't believe that people whose skin color may not be the same as
ours can be free and self-govern. I reject that. I reject that
strongly. I believe that people who practice the Muslim faith can
self-govern. I believe that people whose skins . . . are a different
color than white can self-govern."
The columnist George Will asked who Bush was talking about, then
warned of the "swamp one wanders into when trying to deflect
doubts about policy by caricaturing and discrediting the
doubters." There are some, including in the State Department,
who are skeptical about the ability of the United States to spread
democracy in the Arab world, but that is a far less sweeping
argument than the one Bush knocked down.
In some cases, Bush's straw men are only slight exaggerations of his
opponents' policies. "Some say that the federal government
ought to run the health care system. I strongly disagree," he
said on April 5. Although mainstream Democrats are not proposing a
government-run health care system, they do support considerably more
federal involvement than Bush does.
On trade, similarly, Bush has said those who disagree with him are
isolationists. "There is a temptation in Washington to say the
solution to jobs uncertainty is to isolate America from the
world," he said on March 25. "It's called economic
isolationism, a sense that says, 'Well, we're too pessimistic, we
don't want to compete -- as opposed to opening up markets, let's
close markets, starting with our own.' " Some lawmakers do
favor more trade restrictions than Bush does, but only a few could
be called isolationists. There seems to be no end to the crazy
positions the straw men take. Indeed, some have argued in favor of
deeper recessions. "Some say, 'Well, maybe the recession should
have been deeper,' " Bush said last summer. "That bothers
me when people say that. You see, a deeper recession would have
meant more families would have been out of work."
Now who could argue with that?
Bush flip-flops, broken promises, waffling
With the Bush campaign, laughably, accusing Senator Kerry of being a
flip-flopper, it is only appropriate that we examine Bush's record.
So, we did - and we are continuing to do so. So far there are 120
instances of Bush flip-flopping or waffling or breaking a promise (a
promise made is a promise (un) kept). Take
Bush Jr. and Republicans/GOP = Anti-States-Rights (and we mean *real*
Not that this is a big surprise, but Bush is not
"States-Rights" President, nor is the Republican party. We
suggest you read the whole article by Jim Abrams of AP, but here is a
condensed version offered as a sidebar in the story.
The article gives additional examples:
The National Association of
Attorneys General, in a letter to the Office of the Comptroller of
the Currency, said the OCC’s proposed rule that might exempt
national banks from state consumer protection laws was “a radical
restructuring of federal-state relationships in the area of
Bush also signed a bill that, while increasing protections for
people’s financial information, was criticized by consumer groups
for pre-empting tougher state privacy laws.
Congress has used federal controls over highway money to compel
states to adopt a national standard for drunken driving. The
interstate commerce clause also was the basis of a new law
restricting private ownership of lions and tigers.
Fourteen states have filed suit to stop the Environmental Protection
Agency from implementing new rules allowing coal-burning electric
plants to make upgrades without installing more pollution controls.
Republicans also have extended the federal reach in areas important
to social conservatives: Bush in 2001 restricted federal funding for
embryonic stem cell research and this year signed a bill that for
the first time makes it a federal crime to perform a certain type of
abortion. Federal officials are also taking legal action against
medical marijuana laws in California and Oregon’s assisted suicide
Cato’s Boaz said the next big fight will be over GOP attempts to
stop state moves to sanction gay marriages. “Some conservatives
are saying we need one national policy, but that would be an
unprecedented federal intrusion into marriage law that has always
been controlled by the states,” he said.
Neil Bush, China, etc.
This is a topic on which I have not been posting at all, but Josh
Marshall (Talking Points Memo) thinks something is
But of course
... more from the Neil Bush Files. This time a
quick 800 grand on a sweetheart stock deal. And, yes, there is
more to come on the Chen-Neil Bush 'summit' and how it came about.
The People's Republic of China: Strategic Competitor, Strategic
Partner, or Family Business Partner? An issue for 2004.
More on this soon too ....
Guess Neil Bush is just "lucky" that his
name is not Roger Clinton.
Happy New Year and welcome to Phase II of Treasongate
Via Atrios (here
we learn of a few outrages re: the Valerie Plame expose scandal.
Remember? This is the scandal in which the Bush White House
treasonously exposed an undercover CIA officer in violation of the law
passed by Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr.
Firstly, as Josh
Marshall points out (bold text is my emphasis):
Mike Allen, who wrote
several of the best articles about the Plame case, has a new article
in the Post...
The point of Allen's article is that the perps in the Plame
case may not have committed a crime because they may not have known
that Plame was undercover. They may only have known she was CIA.
And who's the expert who pushes this angle?
Allen calls Toensing a "legal expert" and "the chief
counsel of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence when Congress
passed the law protecting the identities of undercover agents."
But that's a rather incomplete description, now isn't it?
Toensing, of course, is not only a pricey DC defense lawyer.
She's also a professional Republican, one tightly connected to the
DC GOP power structure, and someone you could find at pretty much
any point in the late nineties as an anti-Clinton "legal
expert" on every chat show under the sun.
Using Toensing as the legal expert on this question is like bringing
Bruce Lindsey in as your commentator to discuss Lewinsky.
Now for the substance of what Toensing said.
Toensing says this may not have been a crime because the perps may
not have known Plame was undercover.
But this isn't really a reason why this wasn't a crime. It's more
properly termed the logical defense at trial or perhaps in a plea
negotiation. It may well be impossible to prove the perps'
knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt. But it's very hard to
believe, for a number of reasons, they didn't know exactly
what she did.
Here's just one of the many reasons why.
Allen writes ...
The July column by Robert D. Novak
that touched off the investigation did not specify that Valerie
Plame was working undercover, but said she was "an agency
operative on weapons of mass destruction." That raises the
possibility that the senior administration officials he quoted did
not know Plame's status.
This rather misses the point.
In the intelligence community, the word 'operative' is a term of
art. And it means someone who is undercover. It doesn't refer to an
analyst. And as I showed in this post
from October 9th a review of all of Novak's columns in the Nexis
database shows that he always use the term in this way...
And one other point.
Back on October
9th and 10th I told you that Scott McClellan's denials that
Rove, Libby and Abrams were the perps wasn't nearly as air-tight as
they seemed, that it was basically a non-denial denial. But no one
seemed to catch on.
Now they're coming clean. Again, from Mike Allen's piece in the Post
When White House press secretary
Scott McClellan was being barraged with questions about the case
this fall, he said repeatedly that he knew of no Bush aides who
had "leaked classified information." McClellan would not
answer questions about the ethics or propriety of encouraging
reporters to write about Plame.
"The subject of this
investigation is whether someone leaked classified
information," McClellan said. Another time, he said,
"The issue here is whether or not someone leaked classified
information." McClellan left open the possibility that White
House aides had discussed Plame with the media. "You all talk
about what's in the news, I talk about what's in the news, people
always talk about what's in the news," he said.
A senior administration
official said Bush's aides did not intend to mount a legalistic
defense, but two GOP legal sources who have discussed the case
with the White House said the careful, consistent wording of
McClellan's statements was no accident.
"If they could have made a
broader denial, they would have," said a lawyer who is close
to the White House. "But they seem to be confident they
didn't step over the legal line."
So let's stop the charade.
They're guilty as sin. It's now crystal clear that from the very
beginning the folks at the White House have known who did it. And
pretty clearly the president didn't see anything wrong with it, or
didn't care, because he didn't try to do anything about it.
More on Toensing from David
This defense has a decidedly familiar
ring. From the same source: Victoria Toensing, aka the "better
half" of the
Republican tag team of [Joseph] diGenova and Toensing.
For those keeping score, diGenova was the "independent
counsel" appointed to investigate former President George H.W.
Bush and Co. for their illegal handling of Bill Clinton's passport
files. For some reason, diGenova was conveniently appointed to the
investigation just a couple of years before the U.S. District Court
of Appeals ruled that the
counsels' most important attribute was independence from the
administration under investigation.
Here's how diGenova's absurdly partisan dismissal
of the charges was reasoned in 1995:
Hey, it worked the first time, didn't
- As independent counsel, I have
just wrapped up a three-year inquiry into the State Department's
search of Bill Clinton's passport file when he was a
Presidential candidate. The investigation found no
criminality, just political stupidity, in the Bush
Incidentally, as Robert Parry has
reported at The Consortium, diGenova's whitewash covered up more
than just the passport files affair -- it also papered over the
possible enlistment of the Czechoslovakian secret police to dig up
dirt on Clinton. Nonetheless:
another, more detailed, account of the matter by Parry.
- Despite the phone records and
the public declarations by Czech intelligence veterans, diGenova
said he "found no evidence linking the publication of the
 Czech press stories to either Czechoslovak intelligence
or the Bush-Quayle campaign." Similarly, diGenova announced
that he found nothing wrong with the Bush administration's
search of Clinton's personal passport files or its leaking of
the confidential criminal referral about those files a month
before the 1992 election.
The report aimed its harshest criticism at State Department
Inspector General Sherman Funk for suspecting that a crime had
been committed in the first place. DiGenova's report mocked the
IG for "a woefully inadequate understanding of the
Stung by the criticism, John Duncan, a senior lawyer in the IG's
office, expressed disbelief at diGenova's findings. Duncan
protested in writing that he could not understand how diGenova
"reached the conclusion that none of the parties involved
in the Clinton passport search violated any federal criminal
statute. Astoundingly, [diGenova] has also concluded that no
senior-level party to the search did anything improper whatever.
This conclusion is so ludicrous that simply stating it
demonstrates its frailty."
Duncan saw, too, a dangerous precedent that diGenova's
see-no-evil report was accepting. "The Independent Counsel
has provided his personal absolution to individuals who we found
had attempted to use their U.S. Government positions to
manipulate the election of a President of the United
States," Duncan wrote.
And just for posterity's sake ... Here are some previous posts on
Not to mention, Liberal Oasis points
out what readers may have missed in the description of the Special
Counsel that the Bush administration has appointed:
The new special counsel in charge
of the PlameGate investigation is US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.
What’s the insiders’ take on him, as summed up by
the NY Times?
Fitzgerald's former opponents in the courtroom say [he is] dogged,
dispassionate and endlessly prepared…
…said George Santangelo, who represented John Gambino, identified
by the authorities as a crime family captain, in a case prosecuted
by Mr. Fitzgerald. "…If John Ashcroft wanted any favors on
this one, he went to the wrong guy. This guy is tough."…
…David N. Kelley, a former colleague of Mr. Fitzgerald…said [he]
always seemed to view himself as "an independent
prosecutor" of any case he approached — whatever the
politics, whatever the players.
Nothing to worry about
then, right? The case is in professional, diligent, apolitical
Not so fast.
Go back to August 6,
1994, when the NY Times ("A Prosecutor Overnight")
profiled brand new special prosecutor Ken Starr:
Few Democrats or
Republicans who have worked with Kenneth W. Starr expressed any
doubt today that he would be a fair and thoughtful prosecutor in the
…A respected Washington insider and several times a contender for
a nomination to the Supreme Court under Republican Presidents, Mr.
Starr carries a reputation as a soft-spoken, even-tempered
professional whose work is marked by thoroughness…
…Supporters of Mr. Starr, and they are many, say the former
Solicitor General and Federal appeals court judge will be able to
rise above both politics and his own inexperience to cast a balanced
eye on a difficult inquiry…
…"He will be extremely thorough," said Alan Slobodin,
the president of the legal studies division of the Washington Legal
Foundation, a law and public policy group of which Mr. Starr is a
member. "But it is not going to be a witch hunt."
Consistently described as judicious, balanced and fair-minded, Mr.
Starr won accolades today from those who have worked both with and
"If I was going to be a subject of an investigation, I would
rather have him investigate me than almost anyone I can think
of," said Arthur B. Spitzer, the legal director of the American
Civil Liberty Union's [sic] Washington office.
"I don't have the feeling that he is a fervid prosecutor in the
sense that he thinks that anyone accused of something must be
Though he has won a reputation as concertedly conservative, he wins
the kind of praise rarely accorded those of pronounced ideology.
"There's a really small cast of people who have accumulated the
kind of credentials he has," said Lincoln Caplan, author of
"The 10th Justice,"...a book focusing on the office of
"Such people prove their reliability to the culture by
transcending rank partisanship. He managed to be consistently
conservative without being sharp-edged."…
Oops. Just a wee bit
Reagan's liberal legacy
Joshua Green of the Washington Monthly has a very compelling
overview of former President Ronald Reagan's liberal legacy and how it
is conveniently ignored by most conservative/right-wing
commentators. I reproduce major sections of the article here, but it
worth reading in full.
...The last few months have
brought an avalanche of Reagan biographies, from John Harmer's Reagan:
Man of Principle to Peter Schweizer's Reagan's War to
Peter Wallison's Ronald Reagan: The Power of Conviction and the
Success of His Presidency. They join such recent fare as William
F. Buckley Jr.'s Ronald Reagan: An American Hero, Peggy
Noonan's When Character Was King, and Dinesh D'Souza's Ronald
Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader,
themselves just a fraction of the 427 listings on Amazon.com, many
of them gauzy tributes, each striving to bestow an encomium more
noble and gallant than the last. Indeed, what is so striking about
these books--besides their sheer number--is their collective
determination to exalt Reagan as the heroic embodiment of American
This is no accident. In fact, there is an active campaign to nail
into place a canonical version of Reagan's life and career...Many of
these hagiographies are written by noted conservative authors
(Buckley, Noonan, D'Souza) or former Reagan staffers (Wallison,
Martin Anderson, Michael Deaver), under the auspices of conservative
think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute (Wallison),
the Hoover Institution (Anderson and Schweizer), and the Heritage
Foundation (Stephen F. Hayward's The Age of Reagan, the first
of two volumes)...
One would have to go back to FDR to find a comparable example of a
president portrayed in such consistently glowing terms--and the
swashbuckling triumphs depicted in these books mythologize Reagan to
a degree which exceeds even that. As one might expect, most gloss
over or completely avoid mentioning the many embarrassing and
outright alarming aspects of his presidency: from consulting
astrologers to his fixation with biblical doom to the tortured
rationalizations that enabled him to believe that he never traded
arms for hostages. But they also do something else. Most of his
conservative biographers espouse a Manichaean worldview in which
Reagan's constancy in the face of liberal evils is the key to his
greatness. But to sustain such an argument requires more than simply
touting (and often exaggerating) his achievements, considerable
though some of them were. The effort to gild Reagan's legacy also
seems to demand that any accomplishment that didn't explicitly
advance conservative goals be ex-punged from his record. And so they
...Reagan is, to be sure, one of the most conservative presidents in
U.S. history and will certainly be remembered as such. His record on
the environment, defense, and economic policy is very much in line
with its portrayal. But he entered office as an ideologue who
promised a conservative revolution, vowing to slash the size of
government, radically scale back entitlements, and deploy the powers
of the presidency in pursuit of socially and culturally conservative
goals. That he essentially failed in this mission hasn't stopped
partisan biographers from pretending otherwise. (Noonan writes of
his 1980 campaign pledges: "Done, done, done, done, done, done,
and done. Every bit of it.")...
...At the outset of his first term, Reagan's revolution appeared to
have unstoppable momentum. His administration passed an historic tax
cut based on dramatic cuts in marginal tax rates and began a massive
defense buildup. To help compensate for the tax cut, his first
budget called for slashing $41.4 billion from 83 federal programs,
only the first round in a planned series of cuts. And Reagan himself
made known his desire to eliminate the departments of Energy and
Education, and to scale back what his first budget director David
Stockman called the "closet socialism" of Social Security
But after his initial victories on tax cuts and defense, the
revolution effectively stalled. Deficits started to balloon, the
recession soon deepened, his party lost ground in the 1982 midterms,
and thereafter Reagan never seriously tried to enact the radical
domestic agenda he'd campaigned on. Rather than abolish the
departments of Energy and Education, as he had promised to do if
elected president, Reagan added a new cabinet-level department--one
of the largest federal agencies--the Department of Veterans
...Though in speeches Reagan continued to repeat his bold pledge to
"get government out of the way of the people," government
stayed pretty much where it was.
This hasn't stopped recent contemporary conservative biographers
from claiming otherwise. "He said he would cut the budget, and
he did," declares Peggy Noonan in When Character Was King.
In fact, the budget grew significantly under Reagan. All he managed
to do was moderately slow its rate of growth. What's more, the
number of workers on the federal payroll rose by 61,000 under
Reagan. (By comparison, under Clinton, the number fell by 373,000.)
Reagan also vastly expanded one of the largest federal domestic
programs, Social Security. Before becoming president, he had often
openly mused, much to the alarm of his politically sensitive staff,
about restructuring Social Security to allow individuals to opt out
of the system--an antecedent of today's privatization plans. At the
start of his administration, with Social Security teetering on the
brink of insolvency, Reagan attempted to push through immediate
draconian cuts to the program. But the Senate unanimously rebuked
his plan, and the GOP lost 26 House seats in the 1982 midterm
elections, largely as a result of this overreach.
The following year, Reagan made one of the greatest ideological
about-faces in the history of the presidency, agreeing to a $165
billion bailout of Social Security. In almost every way, the bailout
flew in the face of conservative ideology. It dramatically increased
payroll taxes on employees and employers, brought a whole new class
of recipients--new federal workers--into the system, and, for the
first time, taxed Social Security benefits, and did so in the most
liberal way: only those of upper-income recipients. (As an added
affront to conservatives, the tax wasn't indexed to inflation,
meaning that more and more people have gradually had to pay it over
By expanding rather than scaling back entitlements, Reagan--and Newt
Gingrich after him--demonstrated that conservatives could not and
would not launch a frontal assault on Social Security, effectively
conceding that these cherished New Deal programs were central
features of the American polity...
...It's conservative lore that Reagan the icon cut taxes, while
George H.W. Bush the renegade raised them. As Stockman recalls,
"No one was authorized to talk about tax increases on Ronald
Reagan's watch, no matter what kind of tax, no matter how
justified it was." Yet raising taxes is exactly what Reagan
did. He did not always instigate those hikes or agree to them
willingly--but he signed off on them. One year after his massive tax
cut, Reagan agreed to a tax increase to reduce the deficit that
restored fully one-third of the previous year's reduction. (In a
bizarre bit of self-deception, Reagan, who never came to terms with
this episode of ideological apostasy, persuaded himself that the
three-year, $100 billion tax hike--the largest since World War
II--was actually "tax reform" that closed loopholes in his
earlier cut and therefore didn't count as raising taxes.)
Faced with looming deficits, Reagan raised taxes again in 1983 with
a gasoline tax and once more in 1984, this time by $50 billion over
three years, mainly through closing tax loopholes for business.
Despite the fact that such increases were anathema to
conservatives--and probably cost Reagan's successor, George H.W.
Bush, reelection--Reagan raised taxes a grand total of four times
just between 1982-84...
...The historic Tax Reform Act of 1986, though it achieved the
supply side goal of lowering individual income tax rates, was a
startlingly progressive reform. The plan imposed the largest
corporate tax increase in history--an act utterly unimaginable for
any conservative to support today. Just two years after declaring,
"there is no justification" for taxing corporate income,
Reagan raised corporate taxes by $120 billion over five years and
closed corporate tax loopholes worth about $300 billion over that
same period. In addition to broadening the tax base, the plan
increased standard deductions and personal exemptions to the point
that no family with an income below the poverty line would have to
pay federal income tax. Even at the time, conservatives within
Reagan's administration were aghast...
...In 1975, the Democratic senator from Louisiana had passed into
law the earned income tax credit (EITC), essentially a wage subsidy
for the working poor. Long's measure was tiny to begin with and had
dwindled to insignificance by the time Reagan agreed to expand it in
1986 as part of the tax reform act. Despite years of opposing social
insurance programs, Reagan's support of the EITC gave rise to what
has become one of the most effective antipoverty measures the
federal government has ever devised--by the late 1990s, the EITC was
lifting 4.3 million people out of poverty every year. Reagan's
decision to expand it was "the most important anti-poverty
measure enacted over the past decade," wrote The Wall Street
Journal's Al Hunt. The exemption of millions of low-wage earners
from income taxes through the EITC and other reforms in 1986 added a
significant measure of progressivity to the tax code. As evidence of
its popularity with liberals, Clinton dramatically expanded the EITC
...the vexing problem for conservatives, then and now, was that
Reagan's bellicosity, which they liked, obscured an equally strong
belief that nuclear weapons could and should be abolished, a
conviction found mainly on the liberal left...But no one shared, or
even understood until late in the game, Reagan's desire for total
disarmament. "My dream," he later wrote in his memoirs,
"became a world free of nuclear weapons."...
...Reagan was similarly helpful in advancing another great liberal
cause, one in which his overall record is deeply tarnished: human
rights. The idea of pressuring despotic governments to better treat
their citizens had long appealed to the left and rankled the right.
Like other conservatives, Reagan criticized the Helsinki Accords
when Gerald Ford signed them in 1976, and disparaged Jimmy Carter
during his 1980 campaign for what he considered a soft refusal to
engage with the bitter realities of communism. Reagan's indifference
to human rights abuses committed by the United States' erstwhile
allies in Central America is an especially ugly stain on his
presidency. Yet, as time progressed, there was one place where he
did apply the logic of bringing human rights into public policy: the
Soviet Union. Through the latter part of his presidency, Reagan
spoke forcefully and openly about human rights in speeches and in
meetings with Gorbachev, presenting lists of thousands of persecuted
Soviet Jews and dissidents, many of whom were ultimately allowed to
emigrate. "Human rights became for Reagan the final shame that
he could bring to bear on that aspect of the Communist empire,"
says Sean Wilentz, director of the American Studies program at
Reagan's human rights policy may have been inconsistent and
hypocritical. But the very fact that he had one transformed the
politics of human rights. With dissidents from Andrei Sakarov to
Vaclav Havel testifying to the power of his words in sustaining
their movements, it became impossible for conservatives to deny the
usefulness of such commitments as a component of American foreign
policy. Today, there are almost as many human rights proponents on
the right side of the aisle in Congress as on the left....
...When conservatives mythologize the Reagan presidency as the
golden era of conservatism, it's not Reagan that they're
mythologizing, but conservatism.
The great success of Reagan's 1980 campaign was that it united the
disparate strands of the conservative movement: supply-siders,
libertarians, religious conservatives, foreign policy hawks, and big
business. The fact that Reagan's presidency didn't accomplish
anything approaching its seismic promise--the size of government
grew, abortion remained legal, and entitlements still abounded--is
one that his partisan biographers elide by focusing on what Reagan
believed and said rather than on what he actually did....
Texas "education" "miracle"
Since one of the factors that propelled George W. Bush forward in the
2000 election was his education policy in Texas, it's appropriate to
highlight the "miracle" that was(n't). Michael Winerip lays
out some facts in this New York Times piece.
Some snippets (bold text is our emphasis):
KIMBALL, an assistant principal at Sharpstown High School, sat
smack in the middle of the "Texas miracle." His
poor, mostly minority high school of 1,650 students had a
freshman class of 1,000 that dwindled to fewer than 300
students by senior year. And yet — and this is the miracle
— not one dropout to report!
Nor was zero an unusual dropout rate in this school district
that both President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige
have held up as the national showcase for accountability and
the model for the federal No Child Left Behind law. Westside
High here had 2,308 students and no reported dropouts;
Wheatley High 731 students, no dropouts. A dozen of the city's
poorest schools reported dropout rates under 1 percent.
Now, Dr. Kimball has witnessed many amazing things in his 58
years. Before he was an educator, he spent 24 years in the
Army, fighting in Vietnam, rising to the rank of lieutenant
colonel and touring the world. But never had he seen an urban
high school with no dropouts. "Impossible," he said.
"Someone will get pregnant, go to jail, get killed."
Elsewhere in the nation, urban high schools report dropout
rates of 20 percent to 40 percent.
A miracle? "A fantasy land," said Dr. Kimball.
"They want the data to look wonderful and exciting. They
don't tell you how to do it; they just say, 'Do it.' " In
February, with the help of Dr. Kimball, the local television
station KHOU broke the news that Sharpstown High had falsified
its dropout data. That led to a state audit of 16 Houston
schools, which found that of 5,500 teenagers surveyed who had
left school, 3,000 should have been counted as dropouts but
were not. Last week, the state appointed a monitor to oversee
the district's data collection and downgraded 14 audited
schools to the state's lowest rating.
Not very miraculous sounding, but here is the intriguing
question: How did it get to the point that veteran principals
felt they could actually claim zero dropouts? "You
need to understand the atmosphere in Houston," Dr.
Kimball said. "People are afraid. The superintendent has
frequent meetings with principals. Before they go in, the
principals are really, really scared. Panicky. They have to
make their numbers."
Pressure? Some compare it to working under the old Soviet
system of five-year plans. In January, just before the
scandal broke, Abelardo Saavedra, deputy superintendent,
unveiled Houston's latest mandates for the new year. "The
districtwide student attendance rate will increase from 94.6
percent to 95 percent," he wrote. "The districtwide
annual dropout rate will decrease from 1.5 percent to 1.3
A shortage of resources to track departing students? No
"unknowns" allowed? What to do? "Make it
up," Dr. Kimball said. "The principals who survive
are the yes men."
As for those who fail to make their numbers, it is
termination time, one of many innovations championed by Dr.
Paige as superintendent here from 1994 to 2001. He got rid of
tenure for principals and mandated that they sign one-year
contracts that allowed dismissal "without cause" and
without a hearing.
On the other hand, for principals who make their numbers, it
is bonus time. Principals can earn a $5,000 bonus,
district administrators up to $20,000. At Sharpstown High
alone, Dr. Kimball said, $75,000 in bonus money was issued
last year, before the fictitious numbers were exposed.
Dr. Paige's spokesman, Dan Langan, referred dropout
questions to Houston officials, but said that the secretary
was proud of the accountability system he established here,
that it got results and that principals freely signed those
To skeptics like Dr. Kimball, the parallels to No Child Left
Behind are depressing. The federal law mandates that every
child in America pass reading and math proficiency tests by
2014 — a goal many educators believe is as impossible as
zero dropouts. And like Houston's dropout program,
President Bush's education budget has been criticized as an
underfinanced mandate, proposing $12 billion this year for
Title 1, $6 billion below what the No Child Left Behind law
permits. "This isn't about educating children," Dr.
Kimball said. "It's about public relations."
If Houston officials were interested in accountability, he
said, they would assign him to a high school to monitor the
dropout data that he has come to understand so well. Instead,
after he blew the whistle on Sharpstown High, he was
reassigned, for four months, to sit in a windowless room with
no work to do.
reminder that most Presidents lie at some time or the other
Don Williams writes in Knox News, thusly: "...They
were shocked! Shocked they had
me to know way back in February when I wrote the obvious - that
governments lie in order to rally people to war - and so we shouldn't
be duped by all the noise coming out of Washington. Some readers let
me know how unpatriotic I was to suggest such a thing. Others saw it
Whatever you think about our unfinished business in Iraq, it's pretty
clear our leaders lied by trumpeting faulty or fabricated intelligence
to convince the world Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was
marching lockstep with al-Qaida.
I don't know why expressing my doubts should have been so disturbing.
Governments lie all the time. President Clinton lied about Monica
Lewinsky. Bush the Elder lied about "No New Taxes."
The Reagan/Bush administrations lied about Iran-Contra. Nixon lied
about Watergate and, earlier, his secret plan for peace in Vietnam.
Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin, which hastened our tragic foray
into Southeast Asia. Kennedy and Eisenhower both lied about the Bay of
Pigs, at least before the fact.
Don't be naive, don't be cynical, but do maintain a healthy
skepticism. We're a great country, but that doesn't mean our leaders
won't lie to us. They're in a tough game, and they want to be top dog,
so they tell lies to get what they want. But telling lies to start
wars is heinous, and it's up to us in the media, the pulpits, living
rooms and chat rooms to point that out..."
What is happening in the United States today under the Bush
administration? Some of our favorite "spokesmen" provide
their perspectives and we provide the text of their comments/articles
Capitalism's 'Deal' Falls Apart
Kinsley (Washington Post)
|The fall of
communism 14 years ago was not the end of history, despite
Francis Fukuyama's famous prediction. It was, though, pretty
much the end of the argument, in most of the world, about the
best way to organize society. The answer (despite quibbles over
the details and a surprisingly resilient minority preference for
theocracy) is democratic capitalism.
But this intellectual victory for the dynamic
duo didn't resolve the tension between them. Democracy presumes
and enshrines equality. Capitalism not only presumes but
requires and produces inequality. How can you have a society
based on equality and inequality at the same time? The classic
answer is that democracy and capitalism should reign in their
own separate "spheres" (philosopher Michael Walzer's
term). As citizens, we are all equal. As players in the economy,
we enjoy differing rewards depending on our efforts, talents or
But how do you prevent power in one from
leaching into the other? In various ways, we try to police the
border. Capitalism is protected from democracy, to some extent,
by provisions of the Constitution that guard individuals against
tyranny of the majority -- for example, by forbidding the
government to take your property without due process of law.
Protecting democracy from capitalism is the noble intention, at
least, of campaign finance laws that get enacted every couple of
Separation of the spheres also depends on an
unspoken deal, a nonaggression pact, between democracy's
political majority and capitalism's affluent minority. The
majority acknowledges that capitalism benefits all of us, even
if some benefit a lot more than others. The majority also takes
comfort in the belief that everyone has at least a shot at
scoring big. The affluent minority, meanwhile, acknowledges that
its good fortune is at least in part the luck of the draw. It
recognizes that domestic tranquility, protection from foreign
enemies and other government functions are worth more to people
with more at stake. And it retains a tiny yet prudent fear of
what beast might be awakened if the fortunate folks get too
greedy about protecting and enlarging their good fortune.
That was the deal. Under George W. Bush,
though, the deal is breaking down.
With Republicans in control of the White House
and both houses of Congress, the winners of the economic sphere
are ratting on their side of the bargain and colonizing the
sphere next door. Campaign contributions are only the crudest
way power is transferred from the economic sphere to the
political one. In addition, there are well-financed lobbying
organizations, including some masquerading as research
institutes. There is the inherent complexity and boredom of tax
and regulatory issues, which repel people who don't have a major
financial stake. There is the social milieu of the president and
most members of Congress. They may not all come from the worlds
of posh aristocracy or self-satisfied business success (Bush
remarkably straddles both), but these are the worlds they are
plunged into as they rise to congressional leadership. And, in
the back of their minds, these are the worlds they may hope to
find a place in when they lay down the weary burdens of power.
The recently enacted tax bill is such a
shocking and brazen gift to the wealthy that it is hard to
describe in anything short of these cartoon-Marxist terms. After
two Bush tax cuts, consider how we now burden people at the
bottom and at the top of the economic ladder.
A minimum-wage worker today must pay the FICA
payroll tax of 15 percent (if you include the employer's share,
as economists agree you should) on the very first dollar she
earns. If she has children, she may qualify for an earned income
tax credit, but she may not. If she works hard and moves up the
income scale, she'll soon be paying another 15 percent in income
tax. You might call this "double taxation," but
President Bush doesn't.
Our minimum-wage worker most likely falls into
one of the unadvertised holes in the Bush something-for-everyone
tax cut. There is nothing in it for her. This gap around the
minimum wage was supposedly inadvertent, and Republicans on
Capitol Hill were eager to correct it. But Republican
congressional straw boss Tom DeLay said incredibly that he would
allow the alleged correction only as part of yet another big tax
cut with more goodies for the serious income brackets.
Now look at the fellow who has a few million
or billion. He probably has paid no income tax on most of that
pile, because investment profits are taxed only when they are
"realized" -- i.e., cashed in. Any investment profits
that he hasn't cashed in when he cashes in himself escape the
income tax forever. If he can hold on for a few years, under
current plans, the estate tax will die before he does. His
investment income also is exempt from the 15 percent FICA tax
that hits the minimum-wage worker at dollar number one.
And now the tax rate on both dividends and
capital gains is capped at 15 percent. This is supposed to
alleviate the unfairness of having both a corporate income tax
and a tax on the profits individuals earn on their investments
in corporations. This is the one Bush does call "double
taxation," and he rails against its injustice. In 2002 the
total burden of the corporate income tax was barely one-fifth of
the burden of payroll taxes, but it apparently strikes a more
sensitive group of people.
So under the American tax system, as designed
by the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, the
most a person of vast wealth is expected to contribute to the
commonweal from his or her last dollar of investment profits is
the same 15 cents or so that a minimum-wage worker is expected
to pay on his or her first dollar. This does not mean that we
have a flat tax. We have a tax system of vast complexity, with
wildly different tax burdens on different people. But we have a
tax system that, on balance, knows who's in charge.
Duped and Betrayed
Krugman (New York Times)
|According to The New Republic,
Senator Zell Miller — one of a dwindling band of Democrats who
still think they can make deals with the Bush administration and
its allies — got shafted in the recent tax bill. He supported
the bill in part because it contained his personal contribution:
a measure requiring chief executives to take personal
responsibility for corporate tax declarations. But when the bill
emerged from conference, his measure had been stripped out.
Will "moderates" — the people
formerly known as "conservatives" — ever learn?
Today's "conservatives" — the people formerly known
as the "radical right" — don't think of a deal as a
deal; they think of it as an opportunity to pull yet another
bait and switch.
Let's look at the betrayals involved in this
latest tax cut.
Most media attention has focused on the child
tax credit that wasn't. As in 2001, the administration softened
the profile of a tax cut mainly aimed at the wealthy by
including a credit for families with children. But at the last
minute, a change in wording deprived 12 million children of some
or all of that tax credit. "There are a lot of things that
are more important than that," declared Tom DeLay, the
House majority leader. (Maybe he was thinking of the
"Hummer deduction," which stayed in the bill: business
owners may now deduct up to $100,000 for the cost of a vehicle,
as long as it weighs at least 6,000 pounds.)
Less attention has been paid to fine print
that reveals the supposed rationale for the dividend tax cut as
a smoke screen. The problem, we were told, is that profits are
taxed twice: once when they are earned, a second time when they
are paid out as dividends. But as any tax expert will tell you,
the corporate tax law is full of loopholes; many profitable
corporations pay little or no taxes.
The original Bush plan ensured that dividends
from such companies would not get a tax break. But those
safeguards vanished from the final bill: dividends will get
special treatment regardless of how much tax is paid by the
company that issues them.
This little change has two big consequences.
First, as Glenn Hubbard, the former chairman of the president's
Council of Economic Advisers and the author of the original
plan, delicately puts it, "It's hard to get a lot of
progressivity at the top."
Translation: wealthy individuals who get most
of their income from dividends and capital gains will often end
up paying lower tax rates than ordinary Americans who work for a
Second, the tax cut — originally billed as a
way to reduce abuses — may well usher in a golden age of tax
evasion. We can be sure that lawyers and accountants are already
figuring out how to disguise income that should be taxed at a 35
percent rate as dividends that are taxed at only 15 percent.
Since there's no need to show that tax was ever paid on profits,
tax shelters should be easy to construct.
Of course, the big betrayal was George W.
Bush's decision to push this tax cut in the first place. There
is no longer any doubt that the man who ran as a moderate in the
2000 election is actually a radical who wants to undo much of
the Great Society and the New Deal.
Look at it this way: as the Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities points out, this latest tax cut reduces
federal revenue as a share of G.D.P. to its lowest level since
1959. That is, federal taxes are now back to what they were in
an era when Medicare and Medicaid didn't exist, and Social
Security was still a minor expense. How can we maintain these
programs, which have become essential to scores of millions of
Americans, at today's tax rates? We can't.
Grover Norquist, the right-wing ideologue who
has become one of the most powerful men in Washington, once
declared: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply
want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the
bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Mr. Bush has made a
pretty good start on that plan.
Which brings us back to Senator Miller, and
all those politicians and pundits who still imagine that there
is room for compromise, that they can find some bipartisan
middle ground. Mr. Norquist was recently quoted in The Denver
Post with the answer to that: "Bipartisanship is another
name for date rape."
Standard Operating Procedure
Krugman (New York Times)
|The mystery of Iraq's missing
weapons of mass destruction has become a lot less mysterious.
Recent reports in major British newspapers and three major
American news magazines, based on leaks from angry intelligence
officials, back up the sources who told my colleague Nicholas
Kristof that the Bush administration "grossly manipulated
intelligence" about W.M.D.'s.
And anyone who talks about an
"intelligence failure" is missing the point. The
problem lay not with intelligence professionals, but with the
Bush and Blair administrations. They wanted a war, so they
demanded reports supporting their case, while dismissing
In Britain, the news media have not been shy
about drawing the obvious implications, and the outrage has not
been limited to war opponents. The Times of London was ardently
pro-war; nonetheless, it ran an analysis under the headline
"Lie Another Day." The paper drew parallels between
the selling of the war and other misleading claims: "The
government is seen as having `spun' the threat from Saddam's
weapons just as it spins everything else."
Yet few have made the same argument in this
country, even though "spin" is far too mild a word for
what the Bush administration does, all the time. Suggestions
that the public was manipulated into supporting an Iraq war gain
credibility from the fact that misrepresentation and deception
are standard operating procedure for this administration, which
— to an extent never before seen in U.S. history —
systematically and brazenly distorts the facts.
Am I exaggerating? Even as George Bush stunned
reporters by declaring that we have "found the weapons of
mass destruction," the Republican National Committee
declared that the latest tax cut benefits "everyone who
pays taxes." That is simply a lie. You've heard about those
eight million children denied any tax break by a last-minute
switcheroo. In total, 50 million American households —
including a majority of those with members over 65 — get
nothing; another 20 million receive less than $100 each. And a
great majority of those left behind do pay taxes.
And the bald-faced misrepresentation of an
elitist tax cut offering little or nothing to most Americans is
only the latest in a long string of blatant misstatements.
Misleading the public has been a consistent strategy for the
Bush team on issues ranging from tax policy and Social Security
reform to energy and the environment. So why should we give the
administration the benefit of the doubt on foreign policy?
It's long past time for this administration to
be held accountable. Over the last two years we've become
accustomed to the pattern. Each time the administration comes up
with another whopper, partisan supporters — a group that
includes a large segment of the news media — obediently insist
that black is white and up is down. Meanwhile the
"liberal" media report only that some people say that
black is black and up is up. And some Democratic politicians
offer the administration invaluable cover by making excuses and
playing down the extent of the lies.
If this same lack of accountability extends to
matters of war and peace, we're in very deep trouble. The
British seem to understand this: Max Hastings, the veteran war
correspondent — who supported Britain's participation in the
war — writes that "the prime minister committed British
troops and sacrificed British lives on the basis of a deceit,
and it stinks."
It's no answer to say that Saddam was a
murderous tyrant. I could point out that many of the
neoconservatives who fomented this war were nonchalant, or
worse, about mass murders by Central American death squads in
the 1980's. But the important point is that this isn't about
Saddam: it's about us. The public was told that Saddam posed an
imminent threat. If that claim was fraudulent, the selling of
the war is arguably the worst scandal in American political
history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra.
Indeed, the idea that we were deceived into war makes many
commentators so uncomfortable that they refuse to admit the
But here's the thought that should make those
commentators really uncomfortable. Suppose that this
administration did con us into war. And suppose that it is not
held accountable for its deceptions, so Mr. Bush can fight what
Mr. Hastings calls a "khaki election" next year. In
that case, our political system has become utterly, and perhaps
George Soros returning to U.S. - and as Calpundit
"...OPEN SOCIETY....Billionaire George Soros is leaving
Russia because there's
someplace else that needs his help more:
After 15 years and $1 billion in charity,
international financier and philanthropist George Soros bid an
emotional farewell to Russia on Thursday, saying it was time to focus
his efforts on a nation more in need of help -- America.
"I was led to come to Russia because of my concern for a
prospering open society," Soros told students and journalists at
the Higher School of Economics, which was created with his funding.
"But now I have to concentrate on what goes on in America. The
fight for an open society now has to be fought there," he said...."
ranked third best President behind Lincoln and Kennedy, and George W.
Bush ties him for 3rd place
DeWayne Wickham, who clearly can't hide his love for
Clinton, points out that Clinton's rating bounced back. Personally, I
don't give any credence to this kind of polling but it is amusing
enough that I thought I'd add this tidbit to this page - not to
mention how this has happened in spite of the mainstream media's relative
worship of the current chief executive.
"...Bill Clinton now ranks
as this nation's third best chief executive, according to a recent
CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. Only
Abraham Lincoln (chosen by 15%) and John F. Kennedy (13%) finished
ahead of Clinton (11%) in the April poll, which asked Americans who
was "the greatest" president. George W. Bush managed to tie
Clinton for third place. Ronald
Reagan, a conservative icon, garnered 10% of the vote, followed by
Franklin Roosevelt, George Washington, Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter.
Bush's father, the 41st president, was chosen by just 2% of the
respondents, tying with Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Jefferson...the
number of people who view Clinton as the best president has more than
doubled in the past two years — and why Bush managed only to tie
Clinton in this ranking...Clinton was considered the best president by
29% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Only 10% of that group picked Bush..."
We are on a hiatus, sort of.
the meantime, Paul Krugman has something to say.
Paths of Glory
By PAUL KRUGMAN
central dogma of American politics right now is that George W.
Bush, whatever his other failings, has been an effective leader
in the fight against terrorism. But the more you know about the
state of the world, the less you believe that dogma. The Iraq
war, in particular, did nothing to make America safer — in
fact, it did the terrorists a favor.
How is the war on terror going? You know about
the Riyadh bombings. But something else happened this week: The
International Institute for Strategic Studies, a respected
British think tank with no discernible anti-Bush animus,
declared that Al Qaeda is "more insidious and just as
dangerous" as it was before Sept. 11. So much for claims
that we had terrorists on the run.
Still, isn't the Bush administration doing its
best to fight terrorism? No.
The administration's antiterror campaign makes
me think of the way television studios really look. The fancy
set usually sits in the middle of a shabby room, full of
cardboard and duct tape. Networks take great care with what
viewers see on their TV screens; they spend as little as
possible on anything off camera.
And so it has been with the campaign against
terrorism. Mr. Bush strikes heroic poses on TV, but his
administration neglects anything that isn't photogenic.
I've written before about the Bush
administration's amazing refusal to pay for even minimal
measures to protect the nation against future attacks —
measures that would secure ports, chemical plants, nuclear
facilities and so on. (But the Department of Homeland Security
isn't completely ineffectual: this week it helped Texas
Republicans track down their Democratic colleagues, who had
staged a walkout.)
The neglect of homeland security is mirrored
by the Bush administration's failure to follow through on
overseas efforts once the TV-friendly part of the operation has
come to an end. The overthrow of the Taliban was a real victory
— arguably our only important victory against terrorism. But
as soon as Kabul fell, the administration lost interest. Now
most of Afghanistan is under the control of warlords, the Karzai
government is barely hanging on, and the Taliban are making a
Senator Bob Graham has made an even stronger
charge: that Al Qaeda was "on the ropes" a year ago,
but was able to recover because the administration diverted
military and intelligence resources to Iraq. As former chairman
of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he's in a position to
know. And before you dismiss him as a partisan Democrat, bear in
mind that when he began raising this alarm last fall his
Republican colleagues supported him: "He's absolutely right
to be concerned," said Senator Richard Shelby, who has seen
the same information.
Senator Graham also claims that a classified
Congressional report reveals that "the lessons of Sept. 11
are not being applied today," and accuses the
administration of a cover-up.
Still, we defeated Saddam. Doesn't that make
us safer? Well, no.
Saddam wasn't a threat to America — he had
no important links to terrorism, and the main U.S. team
searching for weapons of mass destruction has packed up and gone
home. Meanwhile, true to form, the Bush team lost focus as soon
as the TV coverage slackened off. The first result was an orgy
of looting — including looting of nuclear waste dumps that,
incredibly, we failed to secure. Dirty bombs, anyone? Now,
according to an article in The New Republic, armed Iraqi
factions are preparing for civil war.
That leaves us facing exactly the dilemma war
skeptics feared. If we leave Iraq quickly it may well turn into
a bigger, more dangerous version of Afghanistan. But if we stay
for an extended period we risk becoming, as one commentator put
it, "an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land"
— just the recruiting tool Al Qaeda needs. Who said that?
President George H. W. Bush, explaining his decision not to go
on to Baghdad back in 1991.
Massoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, isn't
afraid to use the "Q" word, worrying that because of
America's failure to follow up, "this wonderful victory we
have achieved will turn into a quagmire."
The truth is that the
pursuit of televised glory — which led the Bush administration
to turn its attention away from Al Qaeda, and to pick a fight
with a regime that, however nasty, posed no threat — has made
us much less safe than we should be.
scripted Press Conference and (mostly) lapdog media
It has become clear that the President's second formal Press
Conference of his entire Presidency has not left too many journalists
thrilled. At a time when Bush
administration officials like Richard Perle threaten reputed
journalists by calling them terrorists and denigrate
France as having "aligned itself" with Saddam, a few journalists are
speaking out after the "press conference" - not just against
the administration, but also the mainstream media and press corps.
Crowley, New York Observer:
reporters on-site were alternately flabbergasted, flailing and
embarrassed by the experience. None seemed to have the legs to get
into the game. Mr. Bush ran out the clock on his hour of prime time,
using it with the focus of Jimmy Dean selling sausage, snubbing tough
reporters while calling on buddies, issuing one-size-fits-all talking
points to all comers, giving the answers he wanted to the questions he
didn’t. He even openly taunted one correspondent, CNN’s John King,
for daring to ask a multi-part question. "I
don’t think he was sufficiently challenged," said ABC News
White House correspondent Terry Moran. He said Mr. Bush’s
hyper-management left the press corps "looking like
zombies."...Mr. Bush worked from a podium-pasted
pre-determined list of acceptable reporters to call upon. USA
Today’s Larry McQuillan, on the White House beat since Jimmy
Carter, said Mr. Bush’s homeroom-proctor sheet of preferred
questioners managed to insult those didn’t appear on it—and make
those who did seem like Karl Rove’s brown-nosers, the camp kids who
got the best desserts. "The process in some ways demeaned the
reporters who were called on as much as those who weren’t," Mr.
McQuillan said. "They completely played us," added a
correspondent for a major daily newspaper. "What’s the point of
having a press conference if you’re not going to answer questions?
It was calculated on so many different levels."...
But to what extent where the reporters themselves to blame?
Although some asked reasonably pointed questions, most did with a tone
of extreme deference—"Mr. President, sir …. Thank you,
sir …. Mr. President, good evening"—that suggested a
skittishness, to which they will admit, about being seen as
unpatriotic or disrespectful of a commander in chief on the eve of
war. Few made any effort to follow up their questions after Mr.
Bush’s recitation of arguments that were more speech-like than
extemporaneous: Saddam Hussein is a threat to America, Iraq has
not disarmed, Sept. 11 must never happen again.
It was a missed opportunity. From the media’s perspective,
the purpose of a press conference is to hold a President accountable,
to see him work on his feet, to understand his priorities, to give
viewers insight into his character, to make a little news, or to allow
the President to speak to the people in a responsive and human voice
that a formal address doesn’t allow. That
didn’t happen. On Thursday night, Mr. Bush reinforced an image of a
scripted man on a tightrope who followed his handlers’ cue cards...
When the time came, reporters were escorted into the East Room in
pairs, apparently to ensure they adhered to a careful seating chart.
During his appearance, Mr. Bush answered what he wanted, no matter
what the questions were, and there were no follow-ups...In
fact, the event’s only moment of candor may have come when Mr. Bush
admitted during the conference that he was calling on reporters
according to his pre-arranged list of names, which his press
secretary, Ari Fleischer, later copped to preparing. "This is
scripted," Mr. Bush joked. Strangely, many reporters laughed at
this remarkable joke, which had the additional benefit of being true...
They then buckled in for a happy hour of snubs. Correspondents there
were particularly startled by two. Mr. Bush failed to call on Washington
Post White House correspondent Mike Allen in the front row. Given
that it was the second straight news conference in which the hometown
paper of record—both Mr.Allen and the other Post White House
correspondent, Dana Milbank, have particularly irritated the West
Wing—was chilled and chopped, it was hard not to see it as punitive.
Mr. Bush also passed over Helen Thomas,
the 82-year-old Hearst News writer who has customarily asked the
opening question at White House press briefings since John F. Kennedy
was President. It is true that Ms. Thomas has become something of a
crank in recent years...Nevertheless, plenty of people—including Mr.
Donaldson—considered this a particularly gratuitous break with
tradition. "If I’m the President and I can’t handle
reporters’ questions, I don’t have any business being in the
office," he said...
It should also be noted that no one asked Mr. Bush about anything
besides Iraq and North Korea—crucial topics both, but a question
about the struggling economy might have taken Mr. Bush at least
temporarily off-message. A lack
of follow-ups was also problematic. "In that room, one of the
things a questioner has to do is create a moment, a confrontation with
the President," said Mr. Moran, who got in a question about world
opinion—but now regrets not following up more forcefully. "Not
to showboat, not to draw attention to yourself, but to bring the
President back down to what he is: a citizen President who needs to be
engaged in a normal, ordinary conversation about these issues...But
it’s not as if a leader on the eve of war can’t risk departing
from his script. Just look at how British Prime Minister Tony Blair
does it across the Atlantic. At a Downing Street presser in January,
Mr. Blair took one blunt question after another, including this
killer: What he would say to a mother who has just waved her young son
goodbye, knowing he may never return from Iraq? Yet rather than
retreat into dogma, the Prime Minister spoke like a real—yet
intelligent—person. "I understand, of course, my people think
it’s a very remote threat, and it’s far away, and why does it
bother us…. Now I simply say to you, it is a matter of time, unless
we act and take a stand, before terrorism and weapons of mass
destruction come together. And I regard them as two sides of the same
coin." Mr. Blair was so intellectually honest that he even raised
the complicating question of North Korea unprompted. Mr. Bush probably
would have insulted the reporter..."
Others are also taking the media to task on their
general failure to act as an independent fourth estate. Matt Talibi
flays the Press in his article in NYPress titled
the Pool - The White House Press Corps politely grabs its
ankles." He says, "...After
watching George W. Bush’s press conference last Thursday
night, I’m more convinced than ever: The entire White House press
corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of
30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North
Atlantic...The Bush press conference to me was like a mini-Alamo for
American journalism, a final announcement that the press no longer
performs anything akin to a real function...Reporters
argue that they have no choice. They’ll say they can’t protest or
boycott the staged format, because they risk being stripped of their
seat in the press pool. For the same reason, they say they can’t
write anything too negative. They can’t write, for instance,
"President Bush, looking like a demented retard on the eve of
war…" That leaves them with the sole option of "working
within the system" and, as they like to say, "trying to take
our shots when we can." But the White House press corps’ idea
of "taking a shot" is David Sanger asking Bush what he
thinks of British foreign minister Jack Straw saying that regime
change was not necessarily a war goal. And then meekly sitting his ass
back down when Bush ignores the question. They can’t write what
they think, and can’t ask real questions. What the hell are
they doing there? If the answer is "their jobs," it’s
about time we started wondering what that means."
Want more? James Goldborough
in the San Diego Union-Tribune says,
"News media abdicate role in Iraq war". Peter Johnson in
USA Today says, "Bush
has media walking a fine line". Antonia Zerbisias says in The
Toronto Star that "Bush-league
script enraging Press". A Washington Post Economics Reporter confesses
in a letter to Poynter.org, that "...In the wake of Seymour
Hersh's open statements about the way the White House treats the
press, I feel compelled to relate a personal story that illustrates
how both the White House and the press have allowed manipulation of
the printed word in Washington to get out of hand...(read
more)". Bruce Morton gingerly
steps around the topic of how the U.S. news media allowed the
President to make a false case for a Saddam-9/11-Al Qaeda
Jill Nelson on MSNBC/Slate
says "Presidential lust: Clinton's was carnal, Bush's is for
war". She goes on to say, "...WHATEVER
YOU THOUGHT of Bill Clinton, it was nearly impossible not to feel
disgusted and saddened by his sexual misadventures. Here was the
leader of the free world apparently so obsessed with a
twenty-something intern that he couldn’t keep his pants zipped long
enough to comprehend the foolishness of his actions. Yet in the end,
the scandal factor and efforts to impeach him aside, Clinton’s lust,
mean as it was, was his alone. Not so George W. Bush, whose lust for
war has, before the first bomb is dropped, already shredded
decades-long international alliances and polarized the United Nations,
the American people, and nations and citizens across the globe...We
are captives of a president who cannot be trusted to tell the truth,
as demonstrated by his repeated efforts to link the 9/11 attacks to
Iraq. It is a lie that Saddam Hussein has threatened to attack the
United States; he had not. It is a lie that this war is not about oil
but democracy, when already the spoils of a war that has not yet
commenced are being divided up. Is anyone surprised that Halliburton,
Vice President Dick Cheney’s former place of employment, has already
received a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to fight
possible oil fires in Iraq and is bidding to become lead contractor on
rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, the one the coming war will
destroy?...In the face of Bush’s lust for war and global hegemony,
Clinton’s private lust for sex becomes, if not exactly endearing,
laughable. Clinton did not drag the people of the world into the Oval
Office and demand that we all collude in his lustful fantasies. Bush,
with his seeming determination to use American military might to
remove the leadership of any nation he doesn’t approve of, is
forcing not only reluctant Americans but the rest of the world to
participate in his fantasies of money, ego, and world domination.
It’s enough to make you yearn for Clinton, who just wanted a secret
piece on the side..."
Unconvinced on Iraq
President Bush's "press conference" on Thursday night has
generally been received negatively in the press. First, let's take a
look at some obvious comments that were made.
Here is Maureen
Dowd in the New York Times: "...But
the Xanax cowboy made it clear that Saddam is going to pay for 9/11.
Even if the fiendish Iraqi dictator was not involved with Al Qaeda, he
has supported "Al Qaeda-type organizations," as the
president fudged, or "Al Qaeda types" or "a terrorist
network like Al Qaeda."...It
still confuses many Americans that, in a world full of vicious
slimeballs, we're about to bomb one that didn't attack us on 9/11
(like Osama); that isn't intercepting our planes (like North Korea);
that isn't financing Al Qaeda (like Saudi Arabia); that isn't home to
Osama and his lieutenants (like Pakistan); that isn't a host body for
terrorists (like Iran, Lebanon and Syria)....I think the president is
genuinely obsessed with protecting Americans and believes that smoking
Saddam will reduce the chances of Islamic terrorists' snatching
catastrophic weapons. That is why no cost — shattering the U.N.,
NATO, the European alliance, Tony Blair's career and the U.S. budget
— is too high...But citing 9/11 eight times in his news conference
was exploitative, given that the administration concedes there is no
evidence tying Iraq to the 9/11 plot. By stressing that totem, Mr.
Bush tried to alchemize American anger at Al Qaeda into support for
Tom Friedman, the generally hawkish writer in the New York Times had
this to say (finally): "...I went
to President Bush's White House news conference on Thursday to see how
he was wrestling with the momentous issue of Iraq. One line he uttered
captured all the things that are troubling me about his approach. It
was when he said: "When it comes to our security, we really don't
need anybody's permission." The
first thing that bothered me was the phrase, "When it comes to
our security . . ." Fact: The invasion of Iraq today is not vital
to American security. Saddam Hussein has neither the intention nor the
capability to threaten America, and is easily deterrable if he did.
This is not a war of necessity. That
was Afghanistan. Iraq is a war of choice — a legitimate choice to
preserve the credibility of the U.N., which Saddam has defied for 12
years, and to destroy his tyranny and replace it with a decent regime
that could drive reform in the Arab/Muslim world. That's the real
case. The problem that Mr. Bush
is having with the legitimate critics of this war stems from his
consistent exaggeration on this point. When Mr. Bush takes a war of
choice and turns it into a war of necessity, people naturally ask,
"Hey, what's going on here? We're being hustled. The real reason
must be his father, or oil, or some right-wing ideology."
And that brings us to the second phrase: "We really don't need
anybody's permission." Again, for a war of no choice against the
9/11 terrorists in Kabul, we didn't need anyone's permission. But for
a war of choice in Iraq, we need the world's permission — because of
what it would take to rebuild Iraq. Mr.
Bush talks only about why it's right to dismantle the bad Iraq, not
what it will take to rebuild a decent Iraq — a distant land, the
size of California, divided like Yugoslavia. I believe we can help
build a decent Iraq, but not alone. If we're alone, it will turn into
a U.S. occupation and make us the target for everyone's frustration.
And alone, Americans will not have the patience, manpower and energy
for nation-building, which is not a sprint but a marathon..."
Jonathan Alter writes "Totally Unconvincing" in Newsweek:
"...It’s one thing
for France or Russia to veto a Security Council resolution. That has
happened before. But Bush seems determined to go ahead even if the
U.S. is actually outvoted on the Council. He wants his opponents there
to be on the record opposing the war. Why? To rub their faces in it
after a big victory on the ground? Smart diplomacy is about preventing
other countries from embarrassment, not causing it. Bush’s
satisfaction in being the principled loser in the Council is
outweighing his long-term interest in repairing relations with our
..The second big problem with the Bush sales job is one of simple
logic. Bush was lucky that no reporter asked him about his
administration’s most recent budget request for rebuilding
Afghanistan—a big fat zero. (Congress added a couple of hundred
million). He seems to think we can play 52-card pickup and then simply
leave the room. The same logical inconsistency applies to North Korea,
which he described as a “regional problem.” Let’s get this
straight: Saddam’s potential development of nuclear weapons five or
10 years from now constitutes an imminent threat to the United States,
but North Korea’s possession of them five to 10 weeks from
now does not? I personally favor taking out Saddam now so that he’s
not Kim Jong Il in a few years. But it seems extremely unwise to
ignore the threat of North Korea just because we have our heart set on
hitting someone else. The president’s deeper logical problem relates
to the way he uses the bully pulpit to make an argument. His
habit—on display again Thursday night—is to simply assert, assert,
assert until the message sinks in. It’s as if war supporters believe
that if they repeat the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection enough, people will
eventually believe it..."
Regardless of the content, it is interesting that
some articles are doing the rounds on the Internet that suggest the
possibility that Bush's "press conference" was scripted,
with reporters having been told what they can ask. See CalPundit
for more on this. Incidentally, Kevin (at CalPundit) and others have
finally come around to the camp that believes that a unilateral
invasion of Iraq is not the right solution to get Saddam out. We have argued
this using all the detailed pros and cons, for some time now.
About time guys!
Milbank on Karl Rove perjury re: tort reform, plus most recent Bush
fabrication on the economy
"...In an interview for a book published
this week, Rove claimed responsibility for talking Bush into the
subject of "tort reform" when he was packaging Bush for the
1994 Texas gubernatorial race...As
part of his work for the tobacco company, Rove in 1996 provided advice
on a "push poll" to see how best to damage then-Texas
Attorney General Dan Morales, who was threatening to sue the tobacco
industry. Rove presented a copy of the findings to Bush's office.
Rove's claim of responsibility for the tort reform issue is somewhat
at odds with a deposition he gave during the tobacco lawsuit. Asked
whether he discussed overhauling civil liability law with then-Gov.
Bush, he replied: "I can't say that I did. But I can't say that I
didn't. I do not recall. I know that tort reform was a significant
part of his legislative agenda but it was not my area." Slater
and Moore write that while tort reform is standard Republican fare,
"Rove wanted that issue elevated because he knew that its most
ardent advocates in Texas could provide millions of dollars in
campaign contributions needed to unseat [former Texas governor Ann]
White House has had a difficult time staying "on message"
with Bush's proposed $670 billion tax cut. The president's own
economists have contradicted his and other aides' assertions that the
cut would pay for itself and that deficits do not increase interest
rates. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has raised doubts. And now, a
survey of private economists has accused Bush of misrepresentation.
On Thursday, Bush implied that the
private economists who participate in the "Blue Chip"
forecast had based their estimates on his tax plan, saying his
proposal "makes sense when analyzed by the economists behind the
Blue Chip forecasts." The survey's editor, Randell Moore, called
the White House to complain that Bush "made it sound as if Blue
Chip economic forecasters had endorsed his plan." The economists
had assumed only that some generic stimulus would pass..."
"...When Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar
visited the president's ranch Saturday, Bush heaped praise on the
Spaniard for his stand against Iraq. He spoke of Aznar's "courage
and moral clarity," adding: "I thank you for your
Aznar shouldn't let his head swell: Last week, Bush said Turkey has
"no better friend" than America. A month earlier, he told
Poland's leader "I've got no better friend in Europe."
Israel's Ariel Sharon "has got no better friend than the United
States," which, in turn, has "no better friend in the world
than Great Britain." Even the Philippines has earned "no
better friend" status. Two countries notably absent from Bush's
current friendship list are France and Germany, both obstacles to his
Iraq policy. Has Bush concluded he does not need them? "Au
contraire," said press secretary Ari Fleischer..."
Krugman says, "Threats, Promises, Lies"
"...Despite his decline in the polls, Mr.
Bush hasn't fully exhausted his reservoir of trust in this country.
People still remember the stirring image of the president standing
amid the rubble of the World Trade Center, his arm around a fireman's
shoulders — and our ever-deferential, protective media haven't said
much about the broken promises that followed. But the rest of the
world simply doesn't trust Mr. Bush either to honor his promises or to
tell the truth..."
columnists at WorldNet Daily and National Review, along with
mainstream newspapers point out President Bush's connections to terror
suspect Sami Al-Arian
the meantime, Washington Post says "Bush faces increasingly poor
compassionate conservative lies used by Mr. Bush for
"selling" his tax cut
Gergen on Bush: he's "just the opposite" of Reagan (via MWO)
Remember David Gergen - the guy
who worked for Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton and who now is the
Editor-at-large for U.S. News and World Report? Here's a part of what
he had to say about Bush Jr. in a CNBC panel discussion on 2/10/03
(bold text is our emphasis).
Well, I think one of the--one of the things that's different in a
sense is that when Johnson put forth his Great Society program, his
domestic program, it was at that time a very popular program. And he
had huge majorities in the Congress, and so that it passed the civil
rights acts, Medicare, you know, Great Society, aid to education. And
it was a tragedy for the nation that that extraordinary domestic
policy program was cut short by the war. But he at least had a couple
of years of success before that happened. The interesting thing with
President Bush, it seems to me, is he learned two lessons from his
father's defeat. One, as David said earlier, was don't appear that you
don't care about domestic politics, but the other was don't alienate
your base. And I think since he's been president, he's been much more
conservative than anyone imagined when he ran. And I'm not sure the
country is where he is at, ideologically, in conservative terms. So
even if he puts his attention to the economy, I'm not sure it's where
the country wants him to go....
Prof. GERGEN: I--I
want to follow up. I think Doris is absolutely right on that second
point. And a--and--and it's one of the big surprises, I think, of
the--of the Bush presidency. And it--it brings back echoes to me
of--of--of the Reagan presidency. It's often said, you know, that
George W. Bush is the true son of--of Reagan, the true heir to the
Reagan rev--presidency. But, you know, there was a thing about
Reagan--Reagan, on domestic policy, tended to talk right, but tended
to govern more toward the center. And--and George W. Bush is just the
opposite. He--his conversation, his--his dialogue, his language is the
language more of the center. But his act--his policies, his actual
Prof. GERGEN: ...is far--much farther to the right of Reagan.
It's--it--there--there's a radical conservatism that runs through much
of the Bush policy, whether it's tax cuts or affirmative action or the
environment or education or dismantling The Great Society. It's--I
think it's been a major surprise.
MATHISEN: Doris, do you agree with that?
GOODWIN: Oh, absolutely, I agree. I mean, I think part of the reason
he won the election, to the extent that he did win the election, was
that people thought that he was moderate, and most of the country is
of moderate persuasions. But the stances he's taken on this tax cut,
still insisting on it in the midst of this war when the resources are
needed even for the war, much less for the economy and
speaking--David's right. He spoke in the--in good terms about the
environment in his State of the Union, but the reality was that having
some hydrogen car 20 years from now is not going to help as much as
putting some--some restrictions on the SUVs that are out there right
Bush's approval ratings slide
In spite of the media blitz in favor of Colin Powell and the
administration, Mr. Bush's ratings which started to go back up, appear
to have come back down to pre-9/11 levels. USA Today also reports that
(bold text is our emphasis):
"...The number of people who think the
economy is in bad shape is at the highest level in a decade in the
new CBS-New York Times poll. The poll
indicated that six in 10 Americans believe the economy is in bad
condition. Only 38% approve of the president's handling of the
economy, while 53% disapprove. That's the lowest rating on the economy
the president has gotten in this poll during his presidency..."
Bush tells us how business can be brought back to the U.S. - from
China (or something like that)
alert explains this well. As ABC News states:
White House, long known for its catchy, attention-grabbing backdrops,
designed a gigantic banner made to look like stacked boxes stamped
with "MADE IN U.S.A." To
television viewers around the country, the banner was
indistinguishable from a real wall of boxes made in the good old U.S.
of A., which were perfectly lined up on either side of the banner.
For an event meant to draw attention to the president's plan to help
small businesses hurt by the sagging economy, it appeared to be
another hit designed by the White House advance staff, known for their
eye-catching "made for TV" backgrounds. The pitch was to
deliver the president, concerned about the economy, taking time out of
his busy schedule to visit a mom-and-pop company he says would save
thousands of dollars under his tax-relief plan. The problem was
that the real boxes surrounding the president at the scene of his
speech — a small shipping and receiving plant, JS Logistics —
should have read: "NOT Made in U.S.A."...Next to the
banner and stacked around his podium were hundreds of boxes labeled
"Made in China" — and Taiwan and Hong Kong. Someone
apparently became aware of the mixed message, for white stickers and
brown packing tape were mysteriously taped over the true origin of the
real boxes that travel through the trucking and warehouse business
How the GOP floods newspapers with form
letters expressing support for Mr. Bush
It turns out that the GOP on its GOP Team Leader website has been
asking supporters to email form letters to major news media around the
country expressing support for President Bush. FailureIsImpossible
shows this is nothing new, considering how this was used for the
2000 election. Atrios
has been covering this topic as well. Some examples he has cited
recently include the following:
President Bush is "taking a courageous stand against Saddam"
Bob Hammersley also points
this out. See what you get when you type
in that phrase in Google.
"When it comes to the economy, President Bush is demonstrating
genuine leadership" letters
Try this one in
Google. Atrios points to the large number of newspapers that
form letter. The notes on the Inquirer's webpage:
Party blank-emailed newspaper editors -- which includes a screen
shot of the template letter used. IF
YOU DO A SEARCH on the truly marvellous Google on the phrase Bush
"demonstrating genuine leadership", like the Three Bears
song goes, you're in for a big surprise. The search engine reveals
three pages of results which list letters to the editors of august
publications including the Boston Globe, the Star Press,
the Suburban Chicago Courier News, and many many more. They
all have a similar form, starting: "WHEN IT COMES to the economy,
President Bush is demonstrating genuine leadership. The growth package
he has proposed takes us in the right direction by accelerating
the...." Not so surprising.
You might think one letter writer has got a bee in his bonnet and has
decided to post off his or her thoughts to every paper in the US.
Except for one thing. They're all written by different people...We
learn that a similar letter has crossed the pond and been published in
our very own Financial Times and the Paris based International
Herald Tribune. And we also learn the Republican Party can
automate letter writing, with this unique spam engine, here.
blog, under the title Dittoheads Write Letters, indicates the same
letter was published in even more newspapers..."
screenshot of this letter in the GOP Team Leader website, posted
Unblinking.com (through CalPundit), is doing
detailed research on this. Do check out his
President Bush benefited from Affirmative Action
Michael Kinsley's article is one of several that appeared in the past
few days. For more detailed coverage of the anti-Affirmative Action
speech and position of Mr. Bush, go to our Civil
Jonathan Turley writes for the Los Angeles Times on the nepotism in
the current administration.
Cheney - a profile
Joshua Micah Marshall writes: "Dick Cheney is a man of principles.
former President Clinton's approval ratings during his so-called
scandals to President Bush's, and see what the media does not want to
Thanks to Interesting Times.
Bush on budget deficits
In addition to his review of the all-politics,
no-policy White House, Jonathan Chait examines the rhetoric and
shifting stories regarding budget deficits, from Mr. Bush and his
folks. For instance, he says (bold text is our emphasis), "...Perhaps
the hardest part of criticizing the Bush administration's economic
logic is simply keeping track of it from week to week. Consider President
Bush's view of deficits. His initial position, while
peddling his tax cut on the campaign trail and in the first months of
his presidency, was that a return to deficits was inconceivable. 'We
can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if
the economy softens,' he said in March 2001. 'The projections for the
surplus in my budget are cautious and conservative.' When, in the
late summer and early fall of that year, budget forecasts first showed
deficits on the horizon, he dismissed them as 'speculative' and
'guesswork.' When finally forced to acknowledge the
inevitability of deficits last spring, he insisted they would be
'small and temporary.' Meanwhile, he'd begun laying the
groundwork to shift the blame away from his tax cut and onto such
factors as the September 11 attacks, the recession, and big-spending
Democrats. But, with the recession and the terrorist attacks
now receding into the past and unified control of the government in
GOP hands, deficits are still projected to remain a large and
permanent feature of the Bush presidency. And so it has become
necessary for the administration to retreat to yet another new line of
defense: Deficits don't matter. The
turnabout is fairly remarkable. Last spring, Bush said, "I'm
mindful of what overspending can mean to interest rates or
expectations of interest rates." As recently as September, he
argued, "For the sake of fiscal sanity, the United States Senate
must ... get us to head towards a balanced budget." But, since
Republicans took the Senate in November, the White House has begun
arguing that it makes no macroeconomic difference whether the budget
is balanced or not. The point man for this argument is R. Glenn
Hubbard, the chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers...."
trumps policy at Bush White House
Clearly what DiIulio said wasn't enough, and
along with Dana Milbank and others, Jonathan
Chait in the New Republic has a more detailed take on what's really
going on in the Bush administration and offers some comparisons to the
Clinton administration. Here are some snippets (bold text is our
"...'There is no precedent in any modern
White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a
policy apparatus,' DiIulio told Suskind. 'What you've got
is everything--and I mean everything--being run by the political arm.'
Lest anybody doubt DiIulio's analysis, a column on National
Review Online by Republican economist Bruce Bartlett affirmed it.
'[O]ne cannot dispute [DiIulio's] characterization because it
clearly is true. Since the beginning of the Bush administration,
insiders have complained to me that the policymaking process was
not working,' Bartlett wrote. 'This vacuum in terms of policy
analysis has tended to be filled by those in the White House who look
at issues solely in terms of their political implications.'..."
"...Whereas the Clinton administration was regularly forced to
weigh policy demands from competing interests within the Democratic
coalition, the Bush administration's presumptive allegiance in
virtually every case is to corporate America. It is simply
unnecessary for the White House to generate its own policies because
that role has been filled by business lobbyists...Indeed, the simple
rule for understanding Bush's economic policy is that in virtually
every instance, whether tacking right or left, the president sides
with whatever interest group has the strongest stake in the issue at
hand. The result is an administration whose domestic actions
persistently, almost uniformly, fail to uphold the broader public good..."
should be noted that the Democratic Party as a whole draws from a
variety of economic interests, individual Democratic politicians do
not. In the Senate, for instance, New York Democrat Charles Schumer is
essentially a tool of the financial industry; Louisiana's John Breaux,
the oil and gas industry; Michigan's Carl Levin, the auto industry;
and so on. But the diversity of, and lack of agreement between, these
interests generally allows a Democratic administration to transcend
this sort of parochialism. Conservatives attack the Democrats as
beholden to unions and other left-wing special interests. Meanwhile,
leftists like Ralph Nader attack it as having sold out its union and
liberal allies for the embrace of business. They're both half right:
Being beholden to everybody means being beholden to nobody.
This can be seen in the behavior of the Clinton
administration. At the time, the president's dogged pursuit of
soft money was seen both by liberals and conservatives as the apex of
political sleaze. But, in fact, the breadth of Bill Clinton's
fund-raising is precisely what insulated his decision-making from
undue influence. In 1993, Clinton infuriated his labor allies, but
pleased his business backers, by lobbying for and signing NAFTA.
In 1995, he delighted trial lawyers, but angered lobbyists for
business (especially in the Democrat-friendly technology industry), by
vetoing a GOP-backed bill making it more difficult for investors to
sue based on misleading financial reports. As surpluses emerged in the
last few years of his term, Clinton stymied both the tax-cutting urges
of his business allies and the spending urges of his labor allies by
insisting on debt reduction. The point is not that Clinton got every
policy decision right but that the discordant nature of his support
put him in a position where, on most issues, it was at least possible
for him to make a detached judgment on the merits. That is
precisely what Bush cannot do...."
"...In fact, if you look at the major economic issues of the
Bush presidency, in every instance Bush's position has been identical
to that of whichever interest group applied the heaviest political
pressure. On behalf of the accounting industry he fought
tooth-and-nail against audit reform, until a 99 to zero Senate
vote overwhelmed his opposition. (And, after the heat was off, Bush
weakened the new auditing oversight board and reneged on his promise
to boost the Securities and Exchange Commission's budget.) His
energy bill was written in consultation with energy producers and
reflected their desires almost perfectly. In signing legislation
to overturn workplace ergonomic standards and supporting tougher
bankruptcy standards on consumers, he fulfilled longtime corporate
demands by using a broad-based corporate coalition. He fought
campaign finance reform until opposition grew politically
untenable, and even now his appointees to the Federal Election
Commission are helping gut it. His telecommunications position
preserved the monopoly status of local cable providers. His positions
on prescription drugs and a patients' bill of rights were the
positions of the drug industry and HMOs, respectively. He supported
the oil companies in their quest to drill in Alaska and the auto
companies in their disdain for higher fuel-efficiency standards.
When, after the September 11 attacks, private airline security
firms enlisted a massive lobbying effort to keep their contracts, Bush
supported them (until that, too, became politically
unsupportable). In none of these cases did organizations representing
those affected by these policies--labor, environment, or consumer
organizations--receive any meaningful hearing..."
Mr. Bush's Compassionate
Conservatism : Rhetoric v. Reality
Not surprisingly, the media has continued to underplay the gap between
rhetoric and reality that has pervaded the Bush Administration's (and
the GOP's) agenda from its inception. As much as conservatives and the
media revile Bill Clinton, Mr. Clinton addressed this very topic
accurately in a previous speech to the British Labor Party, when he
said (see Salon.com),
"...I understand now that your Tories are
calling themselves 'compassionate conservatives.' (Laughter). I admire
a good phrase. (Laughter). I respect as a matter of professional art
adroit rhetoric, and I know that all politics is a combination of
rhetoric and reality. Here is what I want you to know. The rhetoric is
compassionate, the conservative is the reality. (Applause)..."
Now, occasionally a rare few in the mainstream media in the U.S. seem
willing to tell us what is really happening. Here is an example from Dana
Milbank in the WP:
has always been rhetorically on the right side of the issue,"
said Harvard University's Robert Putnam, who has been consulted often
by Bush aides. "They have not yet done nearly enough in practical
terms to match the rhetoric." Putnam said right-wing
conservatives trumped compassion-minded aides. "The
compassionates win a lot of rhetorical battles," he said,
"but when you look where the budget is, it shows hardly a hint of
the compassionate." Marvin
Olasky, a conservative academic whose writings helped Bush form his
views, said the president has expertly used his appearances to stir
public compassion, but without victory in Congress. "I give them
an 'A' in terms of President Bush's personal effort in setting the
message, and an 'F' in terms of legislation at this point," he
said, adding that he gives Bush top marks for regulatory
changes....Undoubtedly, congressional gridlock has made Bush's job
more difficult. Still, the president demonstrated -- on everything
from tax cuts to homeland security -- that Congress would bend to his
will. And Bush, busy with economic and anti-terrorism policy, did not
put much of his compassion agenda at the top of the legislative
Our own compilation of the GOP's race record is
On the economic side of compassion, the Star Tribune
Mr. Bush to task, asking who's really playing class warfare. A
similar note from the Chicago
Sun-Times. Frank Rich has his own take in "Joe Millionaire
for President" in the
New York Times. Tim Noah asks if Mr. Bush's faith-based directives
amount to subsidizing
for secrecy, among other things
P. L. A. documents in detail some of the evidence showing the secrecy
seeking nature of the Bush administration. More recently Adam Clymer
has examined this in the New
P.L.A. also highlights
how the WH does not keep its commitments even to Republicans like
Sen. McCain. He also asks some pointed
questions on other topics. Another recent case of a broken promise is with
In the meantime, David Greenberg tells
us about the (not so terribly nice) past of the WH's recent
nominees for offices, while the New York Times politely covers
another. Here's how another appointee plays for big business - the
chief legal counsel for the FDA (a former Pfizer counsel) fights
against the FDA and for Pfizer, among others. How refreshing that
he can simply continue his old job while being paid for by our
says this WH puts politics above policy consistently
We quote the NY Times article here: "...John
J. DiIulio Jr., a domestic affairs expert and professor at the
University of Pennsylvania, was appointed by President Bush to lead
the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives in the
second week of the new administration. He quit in August 2001 amid
struggles with Congress and Christian conservatives over the direction
of the president's plan to give more federal money to religious
charities. In an
interview with Esquire magazine, Mr. DiIulio said: 'There is no
precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one:
a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything,
and I mean everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign
of the Mayberry Machiavellis."..."
Although, apparently due to criticism
from the WH/Ari Fleischer, Mr. DiIulio issued
a partial apology. That doesn't take away the fact that his words
are so on the record, as shown in this
strong letter he wrote to Ron Suskind, featured by Esquire and
piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, that no one in their right
mind will believe the apology. We quote, for
instance, "...In my view,
President Bush is a highly admirable person of enormous personal
decency. He is a godly man and a moral leader. He is much, much
smarter than some people—including some of his own supporters and
advisers—seem to suppose....But
the contrast with Clinton is two-sided. As Joe Klein has so strongly
captured him, Clinton was "the natural," a leader with a
genuine interest in the policy process who encouraged information-rich
decision-making. Clinton was the policy-wonk-in-chief. The Clinton
administration drowned in policy intellectuals and teemed with
knowledgeable people interested in making government work. Every
domestic issue drew multiple policy analyses that certainly weighted
politics, media messages, legislative strategy, et cetera, but also
strongly weighted policy-relevant information, stimulated substantive
policy debate, and put a premium on policy knowledge. That is simply
not Bush's style. It fits not at all with his personal cum
presidential character. The Bush West Wing is very nearly at the other
end of this Clinton policy-making continuum. Besides
the tax cut, which was cut-and-dried during the campaign, and the
education bill, which was really a Ted Kennedy bill, the
administration has not done much, either in absolute terms or in
comparison to previous administrations at this stage, on domestic
policy. There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy
accomplishments that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as
the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism..."
We encourage you to read the full letter.
(Updated 12/8/02 after I reviewed
myths about Gore)
Gore on the comeback
trail? Good for him.
Looks like the former veep is on book-signing tours and on the
interview circuit these days, as he decides whether he will run again
in 2004. I absolutely believe he should run and here's some of the
1. Personality: As much as I can siphon from his recent
positive interviews with Time
and the Washington
Post Magazine, Mr. Gore appears to be a different man today than
he was back in the Fall of 2000. It is clear the loss, and the
heartache that followed, has left an indelible impression on him. But
the way he seems to have come out of it, with his sense of humor in
place (and frequently displayed, especially well in his recent Dave
Letterman appearance - according to one of my friends) suggests he has
gained in confidence and perspective in the last two years.
2. Acknowledgement(s) of what he did wrong: It is pleasing to
see the honesty in his admissions that he made
mistakes that led to the 2000 neck-and-neck finale. For instance, in
the WP interview, "...'I
take full responsibility for not being able to get more votes than I
did,' he says, with conviction. 'I give full credit to the people who
helped me in the campaign . . . I think the people helping me out did
a great job, and I'll take the responsibility for not getting enough
to put it beyond controversy.' Is that a serenity that has come with
time? 'Yes,' he acknowledges, laughing. And
early on, did he seek to blame others? Clinton? His own staff? The
Supreme Court? He laughs again. 'Winston Churchill said, 'Americans
generally do the right thing, after first exhausting all the available
alternatives.' I think there was probably a little of that in me,
too.'...". From the Time interview: "...But,
as he now comprehends, those qualities were not on display in his
presidential campaign. It was a frenzy of photo ops and criss-crossing
messages, driven by the news cycle and the demands of interest groups.
He pandered to South Florida by backing a bill to make Elian Gonzalez
a permanent U.S. resident, and he quit talking about the environment
when pollsters and consultants told him it could hurt him. Each week
seemed to bring a new policy pronouncement, another gimmick to
jump-start the campaign, which is why even his evolving wardrobe
became a metaphor for a man who had no idea what he stood for. 'I
sometimes made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on tactics,'
Gore says. 'As I look back on the campaign, I remember too many times
when I was in a car or an airplane on the way to a series of events
that were symbolic and crafted with a technical objective in mind. I
should have been spending much more of that time communicating clearly
and directly about the major issues.'..."
At the same time, let's not forget that he did not really lose the
popular vote. One Supreme Court vote made the difference between
receiving severe criticisms for a bad campaign versus accolades for a
victory. In the end, I believe the experience in 2000 has made him a
3. "Arrogance": I've never subscribed to the
criticism that he lost because of his "arrogance", and a recent
review of facts make me more convinced. Reminder:
he won the popular vote. Arrogance is a characteristic we can all live
without, but when I see the critics who spun that his arrogance cost
him votes, I would only remark that if arrogance is a disliked
"virtue", people like Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, et al.
would not exactly be "popular" in conservative-leaning
circles. Indeed, at least post 9/11, nothing says more than the 60%
approval ratings for President Bush who has made no bones about being
proud of his belligerence. That said, I believe arrogance does not
befit statesman and visionaries of the nature of Mr. Gore. The more
humble he is, the more he communicates his objectives
and rationale for his positions in clear terms (understandable
to lay people), the more successful he is likely
to be in 2004.
4. The "liar" tag: Nothing was more egregious than
the hateful and false media bias (see here)
Mr. Gore encountered, in comparison to Mr. Bush, back in 2000. As much
as I still find it hard to understand why he was subject to so much
hate and bias, Mr. Gore is unlikely to be as disadvantaged on this
particular issue this time around thanks to President Bush's various
campaign-promise violations, compromising positions, misleading
or factually inaccurate statements, and the Harken issue (among
other things). If he sticks true to his word in the recent interviews,
I expect Mr. Gore to be more strategic and forceful in
disrupting the right-wing and
mainstream media obfuscations and lies.
5. His position on the environment: As long as Mr. Gore does
not compromise his dedication to protect the environment, I think he
can significantly use this issue to his benefit in 2004. For example,
although I am pro-choice, I would seriously advice Mr. Gore to use the
growing evidence of the deleterious impact of environmental pollution
on fetuses (e.g., see the most
recent article in Time - I'll have more on this later) to
put the pro-life crowd in a tough spot (in terms of their supporting
the GOP) and pull independents closer. I believe he should also
rally the faith-based community using the recent campaigns by
different religious groups asking the nation's business and political
leaders to significantly improve environmental laws and protections.
Examples include the groups covered in this
NYT article, which are linked to the "What
Would Jesus Drive?" campaign to promote environmental
responsibility and freedom from Middle-Eastern oil, and the amazing U.S.
National Council of Churches.
6. His position on national security and foreign policy:
Although some liberals seem to think Mr. Gore is anti-war and many
conservatives love labeling him an anti-war appeaser, I think he has
the best chance of putting forth a pragmatic national security and
foreign policy amongst most of the Democratic Party candidates today.
speech did not call for the appeasement of Saddam (see my
comments), but rather a greater focus on national security, Al
Qaeda and Afghanistan, while using a multilateral force to disarm
Saddam under the auspices of the U.N. I happen to believe that merely
talking about the need for peace without paying attention to the
geopolitical developments around the globe since the end of the Cold
War, is a weak foreign policy that will have severe long-term
repercussions not just for the U.S. and for human rights. (I have
explained this here).
is needed is a multilateralist policy that makes unilateralism an
exception rather than the rule, combined with support for empowering
the U.N. and the development of democracies in places like
Afghanistan. I think Mr. Gore, based on his expansive capability to
understand the world and its complexities, is appropriate for the job
of President of the U.S.
7. His position on economic policy: Being a thinker and a
strong force behind the popularization of the Internet, I think Mr.
Gore is again the best person to understand the
fact that the long-term strength of the United States rests on
stimulating innovation rather than cutting taxes preferentially for
the rich. As smart as he is, Mr. Gore seems to be moving towards a
repeal of the rich-friendly 2001 tax cuts and passing a revised tax cut focusing on
the middle class (per the Time interview). This is clearly the right
direction, as long as the lowest income groups also benefit, and as
long as he follows through on his vision to ensure that we try to get
closer to a balanced budget and that innovation gets top billing - economically,
legally, and socially. (Indeed, as
I have highlighted in another portion of this website, Democratic
Presidents in general are associated with much better economies).
One recent position of Mr. Gore's that I would like to study more
carefully is that on the single-payer healthcare policy. While there are alternatives
which may become available once legal
reform in the pharmaceutical and biotech sector is put in place (much like how energy prices dived once
the robber barons of that industry were revealed), it is also true
that the insurance industry has been calling for something of this
Spin and other stuff: The most recent
CNN/Time poll shows 40% of the country would
elect Mr. Gore as President today, compared to 57% who
would re-elect President Bush. I think that is remarkable for
someone who had virtually disappeared from the political scene for
nearly 2 years and who still has numerous people in the Democratic
elite who don't particularly like him. (The AP's
spin on the poll is, "...just over a
third of Americans think there is a Democrat who can defeat President
Bush in 2004, and half think there is not...") Clearly,
Mr. Gore has his work cut out for him to win back the
majority in the DNC who do not support his nomination today,
but I think as his public ratings go up, the DNC ratings will align
accordingly. This time around, Mr. Gore should demolish the
spin and lies that significantly impacted his success in 2000.
In summary, Mr. Gore should
run in 2004. Period.
The Washington Post reports that Bush sold Harken shares shortly after
Harken's lawyers cautioned against doing so. Apparently, the SEC closed its
"investigation" of Bush and Harken before knowing about
A question of personal integrity
For a President who campaigned on
personal integrity and honesty, Mr. Bush seems to be having a hard
time living up to those promises.
* Washington Post's Dana Milbank (who we recall was scorned once by some Bush
critics for writing favorably about Bush - comparing him to his
mother), points out euphemistically that
Bush likes stretching
the truth - pointing out the distortions and sometimes 'incorrect facts' the
President has been stating.
has a longer list that adds to Mr. Milbank's list, and this one on
Iraq story. One famous line
"trifecta" one (also, courtesy, the WP's Dana Milbank). A
more detailed one comparing the media's portrayals of Bush v. Gore is
to the list in the New York Times, while Richard Cohen does
so in the Washington Post.
* One more from this
Washington Post Editorial - on Bush's pushing myths in
Colorado regarding the impact to landowners in that state due to the
* Eleanor Clift in Newsweek,
takes Mr. Bush to task for his "crass duplicity".
* Eric Alterman has a piece in The
News points how Mr. Bush was a proponent of something he and
GOPers deny today - Social Security Privatization.
Boy, tough to keep up with this Mr. Bush! Slow down! At this rate we
might begin to forget that
Al Gore was the
Mr. Bush uses Government (and employees) for extensive GOP campaigning
This story was in quite a few media outlets today. Evidently, Harvard
University helped President Bush back when he was at Harken, and his fellow Board members at Harken,
to move millions in losses to an off-the-books partnership, similar to
what Enron did. See reports from the Wall
Street Journal, the Boston
Eric Alterman has another take on Gore
(UPDATE: 12-8-02 - A detailed survey done by us is
Again, as shown by others previously, Eric does speak to the
persistent, unjust hate and media bias against Gore.
Jeb Bush appears
to enjoy voter disenfranchisement in Florida, this time over Janet
We quote the Governor: "What is it with Democrats having a hard
time voting -- I don't know". Governor, it's no joke.
on *THAT* Dec 2000 election
Greg Palast's report on the false elimination of tens of thousands of
votes in Florida.
Revisiting the myths and lies about Gore's
(UPDATE: 12-8-02 - A detailed survey done by us is
We believe the time is ripe to revisit the baloney and intentional lies
propagated by so-called "journalists" in the months leading up
to the 2000 presidential election about Gore. We expect to feature
more on this subject over the next few months. For now, Robert
Parry's year 2000 piece in the Washington Monthly, and in Consortium
News, and Phil
Agre's piece should be good for starters. Others added since are here
Thanks to Brendan Nyhan
for the above links.
A new Algebra
Paul Krugman highlights the Bush administration's math and logic.
Some of President Bush's numbers
In the backdrop of President Bush's high approval ratings, the Washington Post is reporting
Mark Knoller's numbers on President Bush's vacations days, press
conferences and fundraising. We believe it is appropriate to feature
here given the administration's various electoral promises including
their aim to be business-like (and in our world that means few, if
any, vacations) and their sharp criticisms of fund-raising excesses by
Democrats such as Clinton and Gore. We quote: "Bush has spent a whopping total of 250 days
of his presidency at Camp David (123 days), Kennebunkport (12) and his
Texas ranch (115). That means Bush has spent 42 percent of his term so
far at one of his three leisure destinations. To
date, the president has devoted far more time to golf (15 rounds) than
to solo news conferences (six). The numbers also show that Bush, after
holding three news conferences in his first four months, has had only
three more in the last 15 months -- not counting the 37 Q&A
sessions he has had with foreign leaders during his term. Bush
has raised $114.8 million this year at 48 GOP events, surpassing
Clinton's record of $105 million in 2000 from 203 events. The Bush
White House has challenged his tally only once, and Knoller countered
with voluminous evidence. 'The judge's
decision is final,' he says."