Friday, February 04, 2005
Sickening. Watching George W. Bush take the podium Wednesday night can be described as nothing else. Nevertheless, I stomached the entire State of the Union address and observed something I already knew: W can’t go five seconds without contradicting himself or just plain lying. Here are a few excerpts from his speech:
“We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing.”
Reality: England, France and Germany are negotiating with Iran over these issues. Yet, despite the European Union’s urgings, the administration is steering clear of these discussions altogether. If the United States does not step in as Bush claims we have, Iran will become a nuclear power.
“We are working closely with governments in Asia to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.”
Again, this is false. The six-party talks involving the United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea and North Korea are in suspension. Bush has rejected diplomacy in this instance, saying it would “reward bad behavior.” North Korea resumed reprocessing two years ago and most likely has built a couple nukes since.
“There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction - but no longer without attention and without consequence.”
That’s a strange thing to say when we apparently are ignoring both Iran and North Korea. It’s funny Bush was so concerned about WMDs a couple of years ago, but now most of our military is committed to the one “Axis of Evil” country without any.
In sharp contrast to his previous post-9/11 appearances before Congress, Bush talked [in his State Of the Union address] about the war on terror as if victory was close at hand. He spoke of the defensive efforts undertaken at home, and the success of his policies in countering terrorism abroad. A new department had been created, and many al Qaeda leaders had been killed and rounded up. In Iraq, which Bush once again depicted as the central front in the war, America and its allies were fighting terrorists and winning, "so we do not have to face them here at home."
But while there have been successes in the war on terror, much remains to be done. Spending on homeland security remains dangerously inadequate – leaving our ports, chemical facilities, transportation systems, and critical infrastructure needlessly vulnerable to attack. Reform of the intelligence community remains a fact only on paper – more than two months have gone by without the president appointing the new intelligence czar everyone knows will be critical to that task. The Department of Homeland Security is such a dysfunctional agency that the entire top layer of management has resigned, giving a sense of all the smart people abandoning a sinking ship. As for confronting terrorists in Iraq, that effort is failing: despite killing or capturing 15,000 insurgents in 2004, the number of fighters increased from 5,000 to 20,000 over the same period.
A similar disjunction characterized Bush's remarks on Iraq. The president talked about Iraq as if there, too, victory was around the corner. The large turnout of Kurdish and Shiite Iraqis in last Sunday's election was proof that the Iraqi people wanted their country to be democratic. The only thing left was to train Iraqi security forces – and once that task was accomplished we would leave a prosperous, democratic, and peaceful country behind.
Would that it were so easy.
President Bush pressured skeptical lawmakers Thursday to back the most dramatic Social Security changes in the program's 70-year history, targeting politically vulnerable Democratic senators to rally support for his plan.
One day after he used his State of the Union address to promote his plan to carve personal accounts out of the public retirement system, Bush emphasized the financial benefits of allowing Americans younger than 55 to invest a portion of their payroll taxes into personal retirement accounts.
"It's your money," Bush told thousands of supporters at the University of North Dakota. It's money you can decide to leave to whomever you want. It's money the government can never take away."
In his campaign-style appearances, Bush did not address the costs and risks associated with his proposal.
Bush told the mostly partisan North Dakota crowd that he would never "play politics with the issue."
He is campaigning, election-style, for the new accounts this week in the back yards of three Senate Democrats the GOP is targeting for defeat in 2006: Kent Conrad in North Dakota, Ben Nelson in Nebraska and Bill Nelson in Florida.
Well, it is nice to hear he's not playing politics with the issue.
As a "moral values" president, George W. Bush has some explaining to do about bearing false witness.
Perhaps the president is not lying, which implies conscious intent. Perhaps he simply does not recognize what he's doing. But conscious or not, his modus operandi - fixate on a policy goal first, then manufacture a problem it purports to solve, regardless of the truth of the matter - has things backward. Policy should arise in response to real problems in need of repair, not adopted and then justified by problems spun out of thin air.
The latest example, stressed in Bush's State of the Union speech Wednesday night, is "privatizing" Social Security. It is needed, the president said, to save a program otherwise headed toward bankruptcy.
But the program isn't headed for bankruptcy. No less a conservative eminence than columnist George Will has noted that a case against Social Security cannot be made on fiscal grounds.
Social Security is hardly the first example of the Bush modus operandi.
As a presidential candidate in 2000, Bush cited then-robust economic growth and the federal budget's then-surpluses to justify tax cuts. After his election, he cited the economic slowdown and federal deficits to justify tax cuts.
Then, of course, there's Iraq. Whatever the merits of the U.S. invasion and occupation, and however it ultimately turns out, the operation was sold by Bush on the specious grounds that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The man doesn't have an honest bone in his body. But his disciples can't see it, and in fact see the opposite.
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Otherwise, in the few minutes he devoted [in the State Of the Union speech] to foreign and military policy, President Bush stood on shakier ground. The most startling moment occurred when he encouraged a popular insurrection in Iran. At least that's how I read this crisply enunciated sentence: "And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you." In his inaugural address last month, he pledged to support democratic movements everywhere, but the statement was so broad, it could be shrugged off as rhetoric. This call tonight, though, was specific. Is he telling the Iranian mullahs he's got them in his crosshairs? If not, what is he telling them? And if the rebels of Tehran did rise up tomorrow, what is President Bush prepared to do for them? It's dangerous to engage in this sort of talk without having a real plan. Ask the Hungarians who rose up after our urgings and got plowed down in 1956, or the Shiite Iraqis who did the same in 1991.
Some of the president's statements on national security were simply puzzling. Again on Iran, he said, "We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium-enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing." This is just false. The three major powers of the European Union—Britain, France, and Germany—are negotiating with Iran over these issues. It's uncertain whether these talks will succeed. It's absolutely certain that they won't succeed without U.S. participation. Yet, despite the EU's urgings, the Bush administration is resolutely staying away from the discussions. It wants to change the regime (see above), not deal with it, even if that means Iran ends up a nuclear power.
One solution for every problem.
Social Security privatization really is like tax cuts, or the Iraq war: The administration keeps on coming up with new rationales, but the plan remains the same. President Bush's claim that we must privatize Social Security to avert an imminent crisis has evidently fallen flat. So now he's playing the race card.
This week, in a closed meeting with African-Americans, Bush asserted that Social Security was a bad deal for their race, repeating his earlier claim that "African-American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people." In other words, blacks don't live long enough to collect their fair share of benefits.
This isn't a new argument; privatizers have been making it for years. But the claim that blacks get a bad deal from Social Security is false. And Bush's use of that false argument is doubly shameful, because he's exploiting the tragedy of high black mortality for political gain instead of treating it as a problem we should solve.
Bush? Use a tragedy for political gain? Come on.
As a former newspaper writer myself, I know it's hard to call the president a liar in print. But that's no excuse for not calling President Bush on his assertion on the future of Social Security: "If we do nothing . . . the system is broke, bust" ("Bush repeats call on Social Security," Jan. 14).
That is a flat-out lie. The worst that will happen if we do nothing is that in 40 or 50 years, benefits may have to be reduced. If we don't want that to happen, there are adjustments in rates and caps that will take care of the problem.
The system is not going bankrupt. If Bush wants to argue for privatization, he can do that, but he can't base his argument on the impending bankruptcy of the existing system
Is it me, or people seem to be getting the message? Won't get fooled again?
Like a man shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, like a charlatan trying to create a run on a bank, the president is trying to create a panicky run from Social Security among younger people with this new WMD-like campaign of lies.
Social Security, the New Deal program that has provided a basic level of economic support for the nation's elderly, disabled and orphaned for 70 years, is in grave danger--not from Baby Boomers, but from a campaign of lies and fear-mongering, led by the president.
The truth? There is no Social Security crisis. None whatsoever.
Yet, in his State of the Union address Wednesday night, President Bush put the campaign to destroy Social Security and its promise of old-age and disability security front and center in his second-term agenda, claiming that the system founded in 1935 is headed for "bankruptcy" in 2042.
Like the mythical weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, this was a flat-out, deliberate lie. First of all, even if the date were correct, all that would happen in 2042 would be that the trust fund used to pay out benefits to workers would be exhausted, but even then current workers taxes would continue to cover 73 percent of promised benefits to retirees. More importantly, that 2042 projection by the increasingly politicized Social Security Administration was just a conservative projection made a few years ago based upon unrealistically low estimates of future economic growth. It has already been pushed back by several years’ good economic performance, and in fact, the Congressional Budget Office and most independent economists say that the trust fund should enable the system to cover all benefits through at least 2052 and perhaps on out through 2080 and beyond.
This is a little different from the WMD lies. Now Bush is lying about matters that, as this piece and others make clear, are a matter of public record and mathematical calculation. If Limbaugh and Hannity (and Williams, etc.) can convince their sheep that these lies are true - well, those poor people will just believe anything. They're so lost.
The president did not offer specific legislation to address the long-term solvency issues of Social Security. Instead he called for an "open, candid review" of the system and touted personal savings accounts that aides admit will not stave off the day when Social Security is paying out more in benefits than it collects in taxes.
Bush's proposal would allow workers born after 1950 to put up to 4 percent of their wages into individual investment accounts rather than pay it into the Social Security trust fund. Those born before 1950 would not be allowed to participate, but their Social Security benefits under current law would be protected from cutbacks.
But even as he warned of Social Security's impending doom, Democrats in Congress groaned in disagreement with his assessment of the severity of the problem. Afterward, Democrats said the president is creating or exaggerating the problem that exists with Social Security.
"The president did worse than create an artificial crisis. He actually plainly lied to the American people when he stated that Social Security would be bankrupt," said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton. "The only thing that could bankrupt Social Security is the president's proposal itself."
But Republicans praised Bush's call for action, saying that waiting to address the issue is not an option.
Waiting to attack Iraq wasn't an option either.