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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The protector:

About Bush's Monday speech defending the Iraq War, Digby remarks:
He has said that his job is "to protect you" about 50 times. Does anyone find this paternalistic "I will protect you" stuff as creepy as I do?
Wrong, Digby! Bush only mentioned protect (and its variants) sixteen times - and of those, a mere eight times in reference to the terrorists/Iraq (bold below):

  • ... coalition and Iraqi forces [are] coming to protect [the citizens of Tal Afar]
  • ... the operation accomplished all this while protecting innocent civilians and inflicting minimal damage on the city.
  • I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people.
  • ... I also understand my most important job, the most important job of any President today, and I predict down the road, is to protect America.
  • Foreign policy used to be dictated by the fact we had two oceans protecting us.
  • My most important job is to protect you, is to protect the American people.
  • ... we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel ...
  • ... how do we deal with threats before they fully materialize; what do we do to protect us from harm? That's my job.
  • ... I think about my job of protecting you every day -- every single day of the presidency ...
  • [my] job ... is to protect the American people
  • [Sunnis wonder] whether or not they'd be protected.
  • ... when you grow your economy, like we're growing our economy, there is an opportunity to not only protect ourselves [from economic threats]
  • ... my most important job, which is to protect you.
  • ... one good way to do so, and to protect the environment at the same time, is to encourage the use of safe nuclear power.
  • [referring to the NSA] ... after September the 11th, I spoke to a variety of folks on the front line of protecting us ...
  • ... How do we protect our borders ...?
This from a guy who, when alerted that Bin Laden was determined to strike the U.S., ignored the warning and took a month-long vacation.

[BTW, Bush's 'protector act' worked to some degree. Here is what one questioner said at the occasion: "Mr. President, I just finished Ambassador Paul Bremer's book, and one of the things I just wanted to say to you and to Ambassador Bremer is thank you for protecting us."]


Bush holds surprise press conference:

What a brave, brave thing to do. Wouldn't you like to, say, set the time and place of your job interview? Just show up unannounced; the employer has to scramble and grab whatever staff can be had at the moment to evaluate you.

It's as if Bush can't schedule a potential hostile confrontation. Only on a given morning, when he's up for it at that moment, will he have the strength to face the press. That is so like a depressed, wasted alcoholic.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fear Factor:

[INTRO: We generally disagree with Andrew Sullivan, except when he's deploring torture, but this week his blog seems to be where the interesting material is found.]

Bruce Bartlett, author of the conservative anti-Bush book Impostor : How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, has written to Andrew Sullivan about Bush being "loyal". Excerpts:
I disagree with your characterization of Bush as being famously loyal — a view so widely stated that you can be excused for repeating it. Bush is loyal ONLY to toadies, suck-ups and sycophants. Anyone who shows an ounce of independence — or loyalty to the country above loyalty to him — is punished or dispensed with ...

... loyalty with Bush is strictly a one-way street: total loyalty is demanded, but none is ever really offered in return.
[Kevin Drum has said that several times, going back as far as 2003. A B C D]

... I have never understood why so many people — both inside and outside the administration — continue to give Bush so much loyalty. I can only conclude that it is borne more from fear than agreement with his policies. I think there is genuine fear of crossing the president ...
Remember, Bush was his dad's political enforcer (and learned under the vicious Lee Atwater). Sullivan counters with the absurd:
Part of this may be due to the fact that Bush is personally a nice guy.
That aside, what Bartlett wrote (read the whole thing, it's not much) goes a long way towards explaining why the Republican controlled Congress has been so spineless.


Feingold censure resolution - maybe the right thing to do:

Last week, this blog came out not endorsing the Feingold censure motion. It didn't seem like it would be good politics. Sure, if all the Democrats were on board, that would be nice. But since that wasn't the initial reaction, what Feingold did seemed to be counter-productive in terms of the overriding goal: Have the Democrats control at least one house of Congress.

Also, to some degree, what Neil the Ethical Werewolf said over at Ezra Klein was persuasive. That the Democratic leadership wasn't hopeless, that it scored a victory over Bush with Social Security, and, frustrating though it may be at times, perhaps they do know what they are doing. And by extension, Feingold action was a disruptive, counter-productive event.

But that initial, seat-of-the-pants assessment may have been wrong. As a writer to Andrew Sullivan (yes, him again) put it, citing Bill Kristol on the likely political effect, raising censure may have a long term impact that in the end, hurts Bush more than it energizes Republicans.


A remarkable standard-issue AP report:

Not billed as opinion, but merely by an Associated Press Writer, is this: Bush Using Straw-Man Arguments in Speeches

It neatly summarizes the many instances where Bush attributes an outlandish opinion to "some people", which Bush 'sensibly' opposes. One excerpt:
When the president starts a sentence with "some say" or offers up what "some in Washington" believe, as he is doing more often these days, a rhetorical retort almost assuredly follows.

The device usually is code for Democrats or other White House opponents. In describing what they advocate, Bush often omits an important nuance or substitutes an extreme stance that bears little resemblance to their actual position.

He typically then says he "strongly disagrees" — conveniently knocking down a straw man of his own making.

Bush routinely is criticized for dressing up events with a too-rosy glow. But experts in political speech say the straw man device, in which the president makes himself appear entirely reasonable by contrast to supposed "critics," is just as problematic.

Because the "some" often go unnamed, Bush can argue that his statements are true in an era of blogs and talk radio. Even so, "'some' suggests a number much larger than is actually out there," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

A specialist in presidential rhetoric, Wayne Fields of Washington University in St. Louis, views it as "a bizarre kind of double talk" that abuses the rules of legitimate discussion.

"It's such a phenomenal hole in the national debate that you can have arguments with nonexistent people," Fields said. "All politicians try to get away with this to a certain extent. What's striking here is how much this administration rests on a foundation of this kind of stuff."
Of course, another term for "using a straw-man" in speeches is to call it "lying".

UPDATE: Best post in the associated Yahoo message board:
Some Say - Sex With KIds Is OK...

...but I say vote the Republicans out this November!


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Some folks aren't so keen on the US winning in Iraq:

Andrew Sullivan (yes, we know) posts an interesting e-mail from somebody who worries about the consequences of success in Iraq. That they may not bode well for the U.S. in the long run.

Worth reading.


This is absolutely insane: (emp add)
PRESIDENT BUSH reaffirmed yesterday his policy of pre-emptive strikes against terrorists, rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and hostile regimes perceived to threaten the United States.

In the first review of national security strategy since the invasion of Iraq three years ago, the Administration — undaunted by the political and military damage that it has since sustained - asserted that the strike-first policy remained the same. The President said: "If necessary . . . under long-standing principles of self-defence, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur — even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack."
This is so far from the stability that's achieved by not striking until attacked (e.g. Mutual Assured Destruction) that it can be seen as nothing more than a policy designed to encourage war.

That must be what they want. There is no other way to look at it.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Feingold censure resolution - probably the wrong thing to do:

There has been much discussion about the merits of Russ Feingold's censure resolution. Was it the right thing to do? What about the timing? Shouldn't the other Democratic senators join him? Etc.

At this blog, we have one and only one standard for behavior in this election year:
Will it increase the chance that Democrats gain control of one of the chambers of Congress?
That's it. Nothing else matters. If anti-abortion Bob Casey becomes the senator from Pennsylvania, fine. If Feingold's censure motion diminishes whatever political standing the Democrats have, then that's not fine.

This blog is inclined to support the position of Kevin Drum. Of interest are two posts on this subject by Digby and Glenn Greenwald. Note that in their defense of Feingold's action, neither makes the case that it will help the Democrats in the upcoming election.

Digby and Grenwald don't say it explicitly, but they are arguing to a substantial degree about what Democrats should do. That's not convincing. It's what the Democrats will do this year that matters. If they shun Feingold, that's the reality. Saying Democrats should be united against Bush via censure won't make them so.

Would this blog like to see the Democrats united with Feingold? Yes. But they aren't. Is this blog defending those Democrats who are running from the issue? No.

On principle, Feingold is correct. The president should be censured (at a minimum). But so what? The issue here is power and who wields it. This is not the time for moral judgements. Those judgements have already been made. On Abu Ghraib, Schiavo, WMD claims, corruption, meddling in science, war of agression, cutbacks for the poor, ripping the safety net. And so on. Everybody knows what Bush is about. Now is the time to win elections. If the Democrats appear to be united - by the absence of a wedge issue like censure - that's great, even if it's an illusion. Whatever it takes to win in 2006.

If Feingold's motion would result in improved chances for Democrats, then by all means it should be embraced. Will it? It's a judgement call. This blog takes the position that it will not improve chances. If Digby or Greenwald or others think censure will help, that's a legitimate argument, even if it's an intuitive gut-feel. But it's not one we've read.

Finally, this post will end with a remark guaranteed to stir up trouble, but one that has to be said. After watching what happened in 2000 with Nader voters, do we really have to go through another exercise of people failing to support a flawed party (Democrats) in order to learn that pursuit of progressive purity is exactly what the Republicans would like to see?

UPDATE: Instead of pointing the blowtorch solely at Nader and the Greens, let's go back to 2002. Remember that election year? Remember how it was considered important to unseat Jeb Bush? Remember how Terry McAuliffe spent precious money in Florida? That money might have been able to make the difference in senate races. Races that could have allowed the Democrats to maintain a toe-hold in the Senate?

But no, the moral certainty crowd wanted blood and didn't consider the welfare of the nation as a whole, which would have been best served by ignoring Jeb and focusing on the national governance.

If the Democrats had some power in the Senate after the 2002 election, just imagine how different things would have been. Real investigations into Bush's intelligence claims. Real investigations into torture allegations. And a better prospect for whoever would run in 2004.

UPDATE 2: Recall Peter Daou's "The Dynamic of a Bush Scandal"? His essential point was that over time, Bush and his allies manage to defuse a scandal. In general, with each passing week, the saliency of a Bush outrage diminishes. With that in mind, Feingold should have considered a motion to censure much earlier. Before the White House and Frist and Sen. Roberts had time to work on "moderate" wavering Republicans. Before, say, the State of the Union address. But instead, Feingold makes his move after much of Bush's defensive fortifications are in place. And in a way that subtracts from the recent Democratic advantage over the Dubai port affair.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

No need to drill in the ANWR:

From Wikipedia on Arctic Refuge drilling congroversy:
There have been conflicting reports as to the amount of oil in ANWR. A 1998 USGS study indicated at least 5.7 billion (95% probability) and possibly as much as 16.0 billion (5% probability) barrels (0.9 to 2.5 km³) exists in ANWR, with a mean value of 10.4 billion barrels (1.7 km³). Technically recoverable oil within the ANWR 1002 area (excluding State and Native areas) is estimated to be at least 4.3 billion (95%) and as much as 11.8 billion (5%) barrels (0.7 to 1.9 km³), with a mean value of 7.7 billion barrels (1.2 km³).
From today's news item, Fox Announces Major Mexico Oil Find
VERACRUZ, Mexico - President Vicente Fox climbed aboard a drilling platform in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday to formally announce a new deep-water oil discovery he said could eventually yield 10 billion barrels of crude oil.

An exploratory well dubbed Noxal 1 was drilled at a depth of 3,070 feet below the water, and is seeking a depth of 13,125 feet.
Okay, discovering oil somewhere else doesn't mean arguments about ANWR drilling (pro or con) are nugatory. But it's striking that the reserve estimates are the same.


Another empty claim:

From Bush's speech on Monday:
Some of the most powerful IEDs we're seeing in Iraq today includes components that came from Iran. Our Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, told the Congress, "Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devises" in Iraq. Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran.
Via AMERICAblog (a Reuters story)
The top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday the United States does not have proof that Iran's government is responsible for Iranians smuggling weapons and military personnel into Iraq.

President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq.

Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran's government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, "I do not, sir."

"Unless you physically see it in a government-sponsored vehicle or with government-sponsored troops, you can't know it," Rumsfeld said at the same briefing. "All you know is that you find equipment, weapons, explosives, whatever, in a country that came from the neighboring country."

"With respect to people, it's very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran," Rumsfeld added.
How much longer will this charade go on?


Bush still hiding behind friendly audiences:

Remember last summer, when Bush would only speak to military audiences? That was pathetic. But now, if you aren't paying close attention, you might think that Bush is doing the manly thing, and speaking boldly to a mixed (or even hostile) audience. Here's how Monday's speech was reported:
  • San Francisco Chronicle: ... a speech to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.     ... In his speech at George Washington University
  • Boston Globe: Speaking at George Washington University before an audience assembled by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative foreign policy group ...
  • AP (Nedra Pickler): The president, speaking to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies at George Washington University ...
  • Los Angeles Times: The speech - delivered at George Washington University to an audience assembled by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which describes itself as an institute established to fight "the ideologies that drive terrorism"
If you don't know what the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is, you're left with the impression that Bush, speaking at George Washington University, was perhaps, speaking to a general audience. At least that was our impression at first. Are you familiar with FFTDOD?

Here's a rough outline:
  • President: Clifford May (check out his profile at Right Web)
  • They approvingly link to John Gibson of the Fox News Channel.
  • Their Board of Advisors includes: Gary Bauer, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Zell Miller, and Richard Perle (and regrettably, also, Donna Brazile and Charles Schumer)
  • "Distinguished Advisors" include Newt Gingrich, Joe Lieberman, and James Woolsey
  • From their Success Stories page: Training Campus Anti-Terrorism Advocates
    At a time when college campuses are under the sway of apologists for terrorism, FDD has trained hundreds of professors and students as pro-democracy, anti-terrorism advocates and activists.
So it's pretty hard-core right wing.

That's the kind of audience Bush only seems to want to talk to.


A fascinating chart:

The always interesting Professor Pollkatz has a new graph up. The Flush Bush. Check it out (but first by going to his main page for the hitcount and consider the Tip Jar while you're there).


Monday, March 13, 2006

Want to kill the liberal impulse? Start a war.

This interesting tidbit from the USATODAY story, Conflict will define Bush's role in history:
"War kills reform," says Robert Dallek, an LBJ biographer and author of Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents. "It consumes the energy of the administration, the public, the press. This is what the focus is on."

The Spanish-American War curtailed a populist wave. The Progressive Movement ended when World War I began. When the United States entered World War II, FDR told Americans that "Dr. New Deal" had been replaced by "Dr. Win-the-War." The Korean War stalled Truman's Fair Deal. Vietnam overshadowed the Great Society.


Sunday, March 12, 2006

Democrats, your prayers have been answered!

Daschle Considering '08 Presidential Bid

About time.