Saturday, March 13, 2004
The nation's top Medicare analyst confirmed Friday that his former boss, Thomas Scully, ordered him to withhold his estimates because they exceeded what Congress seemed willing to accept by more than $100 billion.
Richard Foster, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Friday night that he received a handwritten note from Scully, then the centers' administrator, in early June ordering him to ignore information requests from members of Congress who were drafting the drug bill.
The note was Scully's first threat in writing, Foster said, and came after at least three less formal threats. They ''came in different forms,'' he said. 'Sometimes he would make a comment that 'I think I need another chief actuary,' or 'If you want to work for the Ways and Means Committee [which was drafting the bill] I can arrange it.' It was that sort of thing.''
Efforts to reach Scully at his office and home on Friday were unsuccessful. In a recent interview, he denied closing off Foster's lines of communication with Congress. On only one occasion, Scully said, did he block Foster's contact with lawmakers, in this case Democrats, saying their motives were purely political.
Foster said Scully insisted upon a pattern of withholding of information.
''Estimates that were supportive of the legislation were generally released and estimates that could be used to criticize the legislation were generally not released,'' Foster said.
And where have we seen that pattern before?
Without using his name, President Bush accused Democratic presidential rival John Kerry and other critics on Saturday of wanting to punish American families and workers with old, ineffective economic policies.
In his weekly radio address, the Republican president sought to minimize the politically sensitive issue of sluggish job growth by describing a rosy national economy characterized by buoyant growth as well as low inflation, interest rates and unemployment.
"Yet some industries and some parts of the country are still lagging behind," said Bush, noting worker fears about job security and health benefits in states such as Ohio, which have been hit hard by job losses.
"Some politicians in Washington see this new challenge and they want to respond in old, ineffective ways. They want to increase federal taxes. Yet, punishing families and small businesses is not a job-creation strategy," he said.
Let's think about this for a moment. Is the idea that John Kerry gets up in the morning and thinks "OK! What can I do to punish American families today?" What an odd accusation: "My opponent wants to punish American families." Amazing. Especially coming from a man who has been doing exactly that for over three years.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Saturday the Bush administration has a "widening credibility gap" between what it tells the American people and the facts.
In the weekly Democratic radio address, Kennedy said the administration's assurances on the economy, education, health care and the war in Iraq don't match the truth.
During Bush's three years in office, "we have seen a widening credibility gap between what the administration says and what it does," said Kennedy, D-Mass.
"Facts don't lie," he said. "The Bush administration and the Republican Congress are giving schools only two-thirds of the funds they were promised" by the No Child Left Behind Act."
There was no immediate threat or nuclear weapons, he said. "No president who takes our country to war like that deserves to be re-elected," he said.
Kennedy also took Bush to task for failing to come through with the economic revival and new jobs he promised when he pushed through his tax cuts.
America lost 400,000 jobs in 2003, rather than gaining 1.7 million new jobs as the president predicted, Kennedy said.
"Families across America know better," Kennedy said. "Job creation in America is in the basement."
Friday, March 12, 2004
President Bush, in his first major assault on Sen. John F. Kerry's legislative record, said this week that his Democratic opponent proposed a $1.5 billion cut in the intelligence budget, a proposal that would "gut the intelligence services," and one that had no co-sponsors because it was "deeply irresponsible."
In terms of accuracy, the parry by the president is about half right. Bush is correct that Kerry on Sept. 29, 1995, proposed a five-year, $1.5 billion cut to the intelligence budget. But Bush appears to be wrong when he said the proposed Kerry cut -- about 1 percent of the overall intelligence budget for those years -- would have "gutted" intelligence. In fact, the Republican-led Congress that year approved legislation that resulted in $3.8 billion being cut over five years from the budget of the National Reconnaissance Office -- the same program Kerry said he was targeting.
The $1.5 billion cut Kerry proposed represented about the same amount Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), then chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told the Senate that same day he wanted cut from the intelligence spending bill based on unspent, secret funds that had been accumulated by one intelligence agency "without informing the Pentagon, CIA or Congress." The NRO, which designs, builds and operates spy satellites, had accumulated that amount of excess funds.
Bush's charge that Kerry's broader defense spending reduction bill had no co-sponsors is true, but not because it was seen as irresponsible, as the president suggested. Although Kerry's measure was never taken up, Specter's plan to reduce the NRO's funds, which Kerry co-sponsored with Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), did become law as part of a House-Senate package endorsed by the GOP leadership.
These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group I've ever seen.
I was a contingent supporter of this war. I believed we had to deal permanently with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, and that we had to be willing to threaten war and if need be go to war to do it.
That's why after the White House had made a sufficient hash of the international diplomatic situation and after the inspections made it clear that Saddam really didn't have any serious nuclear weapons program, that I withdrew my support for any invasion.
So, again, I don't find this rationale problematic because it is a) my rationale and b) I think a good rationale.
But Kerry's critics -- on both the right and the left -- say, well, fine but it was clear in late 2002 that President Bush was going to war no matter what. And those critics have a very good point. I don't think it quite obviates the first argument. And I wrestle with this myself. But it's a very good point.
The problem is that this is an argument the president and his partisans really just can't make. Because what it amounts to is saying is that Kerry's position doesn't hold up because the president is a liar.
Right? Isn't that the idea?
The behind-the-scenes intrigues surrounding the passage of the controversial Medicare prescription-drug bill last fall continue to mount. First, congressional leaders violated House rules in extending the voting period on the bill up to three hours after the initial vote count came up short. Then Rep. Nick Smith (R- MI) confessed – and later recanted – that he switched his vote in favor of the bill after threats and bribery attempts including promises of $100,000 from business interests for his son's campaign.
Next, the White House unveiled a multi-million dollar ad campaign – using taxpayer funds – to defend the faulty legislation. The GAO released a report this week stating the ads misrepresented the prescription drug benefits and included "notable omissions and other weaknesses." And just yesterday, Knight-Ridder reported the Bush administration threatened to fire the government's top expert on Medicare costs if he told lawmakers about the real price tag for the bill prior to the voting.
How does Bush expect to get re-selected with news like this coming out? This proves once again that the only way you can get in trouble in the Bush White House is by telling the truth. Other than that, anything goes.
BuzzFlash: When you look at the administration's policies, it's difficult to come to terms with what's going on in their heads. Is it that these people truly, sincerely believe in their policies? Or is this a simply what they see as a winning political strategy? Is it both?
Eric Alterman: I don't think you can generalize about all of them. I wouldn't be surprised if Paul Wolfowitz believes everything he says. I would, however, be very surprised if Richard Perle did. I would also be very surprised if Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney did.
If there is a more complicated matter or policy, it's hard to know what, if anything, Bush knows about it in order for him to believe it. I don't think Bush is stupid. I think it's a big mistake when the left tries to treat him like he's dumb. But he is incredibly intellectually incurious, and lazy, and ill-informed.
The war in Iraq was a very risky political move. He didn't have to do it. It wasn't the kind of thing you do if all you care about is re-election. So you must have some strong beliefs to pull it off. And it's been a big bad move in political terms. His approval rating is much lower than it would be without the war. And it's the level of trust of the country, which is something that I don't think you can get back if you lose it -- it is now way down below 40 percent.
I'm willing to grant Bush that he has his own genuine commitment to his ideology. I just think it's an ideology that's not shared by the rest of the country, and, therefore, he tries to mask it with these various operations, the most obvious using 9/11 to justify invading Iraq.
I want to make this clear. I'm not an expert on domestic policy. I wrote the foreign policy sections of [The Book On Bush]. And when I read the domestic sections and edited them, I was amazed that the distortions about Iraq's assistance in the 9/11 attacks and the total exaggeration of WMD's to promote the war in Iraq was not limited to foreign policy matters, but domestic policy as well. That's just the way they do things in this administration: malign the facts and deceive. This is the most ideological administration with the least concern for facts or evidence of any administration I've ever heard of, and I have a Ph.D. in American History.
The outcry over the first series of political commercials for President George W. Bush was swift and heartfelt. Using images of victims of the 9/11 attacks and firefighters responding to the emergency at the World Trade Center, the ads trumpeted President Bush’s “steady” leadership. Families of the victims and representatives of the firefighters charged that the White House is using 9/11 to advance a political agenda. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to deflect this criticism by emphasizing that Bush’s leadership has been steady. But the commercials themselves beg the question: What did President Bush do on 9/11?
[The article goes on to describe the president's actions on that day.]
Three days after the attacks President Bush finally went to New York. This sorry record is not one of steady leadership, nor does it show a decisive president willing to override poor advice.
The official record of Presidents of the United States, the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, which would have to have recorded Bush’s statements of the morning and afternoon of 9/11, never appeared for the week of September 11, 2001. The remarks appeared only much later on the White House website. President Bush also went to extraordinary lengths to shield from public scrutiny his inaction on the terrorist threat before 9/11, including denial of documents to congressional investigators and a public commission, the use of secrecy rules to suppress embarrassing information and the manipulation of the scope of inquiry and its deadline to ensure investigators had minimal time in which to review the key issue of Bush’s leadership on terrorism.
In contrast to this disturbing performance, George Bush went on to take every opportunity to harness 9/11 in service of his political agenda, contrary to his own promises of 2002. A carefully orchestrated World Trade Center speech on the first anniversary of the attacks, the use of the Statue of Liberty as backdrop for a 9/11 commemoration a year later, now the Bush political ads. This is leadership of a different kind.
[John Prados is an analyst with the National Security Archive in Washington, DC, and author, most recently, of The White House Tapes; Eavesdropping on the President.]
Under sharp questioning from Democratic senators troubled by soaring costs and a shortage of realistic testing so far, Thomas Christie said the [president's anti-missile] system is not yet sufficiently developed to validate Pentagon computer models showing it would be effective.
"So at this time, we cannot be sure that the actual system would work against a real North Korean missile threat?" asked Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.
"I would say that's true," replied Christie, the Pentagon's director of Operational Test and Evaluation.
Nonetheless, Adm. James Ellis, who heads U.S. Strategic Command, which will control the system, said he was "comfortable" with the test data he has seen and declared the system would have definite -- if rudimentary -- military usefulness.
The disparate assessments at a contentious hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee underscored the extent to which the Bush administration is departing from traditional procedures for developing new weapons to get some kind of anti-missile system in place.
Normally, a new weapon would undergo extensive operational testing before being fielded. Instead, the Pentagon plans to start deploying interceptor missiles in Alaska and California this summer, declare the system operational by September, and progress toward increasingly realistic flight tests.
Ready, Fire, Aim!
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Six months after promising to create an office to help the nation's struggling manufacturers, President Bush settled on someone to head it, but the nomination was being reconsidered last night after Democrats revealed that his candidate had opened a factory in China.
Several officials said the nomination may be scrapped because of the political risk but said that had not been decided. Bush's opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), has made job losses his chief point of attack, and some administration officials feared the nomination could hand him fresh ammunition.
In late afternoon, the administration announced that the new assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services would be named at a ceremony this morning. Industry officials were told that the job would go to Anthony F. Raimondo, chairman and chief executive of a Nebraska company that makes metal buildings and grain silos.
But Kerry's campaign, tipped off about the impending nomination several hours earlier, hastened to distribute news reports that Raimondo's firm, Behlen Manufacturing Co. of Columbus, Neb., had laid off 75 U.S. workers in 2002, four months after announcing plans for a $3 million factory in northwest Beijing.
"Scheduling conflicts"? C'mon. It's another Bush flip-flop. These guys are turning into the Keystone Kops.
Pressed to estimate the cost of future operations in Iraq, the Pentagon has repeatedly said it's just too hard to do. Now the ranks of disbelievers are growing - in Congress and among private defense analysts. Some say the Bush administration's refusal to estimate costs could erode American support for the Iraq campaign, as well as the credibility of the White House and lawmakers.
"It is crucial that we have every bit of information so we can level with the taxpayer," Democratic Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin fumed recently at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "We don't have that information now."
"The White House plays hide and seek with the costs of the war," said Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va.
The object of their ire is President Bush's proposed defense spending for the budget year beginning Oct. 1 - a $402 billion request that didn't include money for the major military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Zakheim denied last month that the administration was waiting until January so Iraqi expenses wouldn't figure into Bush's re-election bid.
That hasn't convinced everyone.
I doubt that it's convinced anyone.
The president's re-election committee spent $4.5 million on advertising last week - and George W. Bush went down in the polls.
That "negative bump" suggests that the president will have a rocky road from here to November. And the biggest stumbling block might be what Bush thought would be his best selling point: 9/11.
The Republicans had a perfect right to run images of World Trade Center destruction in their TV spots, but had they been smarter, they would have seen the counter-attack coming. The Hotline, a daily online political digest, declared Bush's opponents to be the winner in the exchange: "Observers should be impressed with the Dem Party's ability to undermine the launch of the Bush-Cheney campaign's first TV ads."
In fact, were it not for the gravity of the event itself, the latest 9/11 spat would seem comic in its pettiness. The White House insisted that Bush would testify before the commission only for a single hour. Finally, on Tuesday, his lawyers OKd a longer session; yet they still cling to the position that only two of the 9/11 commissioners can question the president. Does that look like full and free disclosure?
Paul himself warned about the dangers of religious figures proclaiming their own piety for self-serving ends. In one of his famous letters to Corinth, he railed against those who followed false interpretations of Jesus' teachings. "It is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends. Such boasters are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor. 10:18, 11:13-15).
The parallel to today's society is evident. Leaders such as President George W. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Senator Rick Santorum, and Senator Trent Lott live in a world of privilege, using Christianity as justification for their actions, and as a rallying cry for their constituency. Yet they preach not from the teachings of Christ, caring not for the poor, the unfortunate, or the outcast. Instead, they feed upon America's racism, sexism, and homophobia, scapegoating minority groups and victimizing Christians in order to cement their power.
Their worst act, however, is their monopolization of Christian doctrine. They act as though their interpretation is the only correct one in order to render their authority unassailable, because any Christian who opposes them is a heretic. Yet there is nothing more anathema to the deeds, words, and intentions of Jesus than this hateful disfiguration of them.
I have often been struck by the disparity between this administration's values and those of Bush's favorite philosopher, especially since Bush's religiosity is mentioned so frequently.
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
You can see that this is already shaping up as a campaign where the media observe Kerry under a microscope (has he switched to earth-tones yet?) and neglect to point out the obvious facts about Bush's record. Kerry, say the Republicans solemnly, is given to flip-flopping. Kerry is?
Let's just start counting off the top of our heads: George W. Bush was opposed to a commission to investigate how and why 9-11 occurred, but then he changed his mind and backed it. (Political pressure.) He was certainly opposed to a commission to investigate the intelligence failures on Iraq, but then he changed his mind and backed it. (Political pressure.) He now brags, "I went to the U.N. (before invading Iraq)"? Who recalls why he changed his mind about doing that? He originally said he not only did not need to consult the United Nations, he said he did not even have to consult the U.S. Congress.
Anyone remember how Bush, the corporate ethicist of Harken Energy, opposed the Sarbanes-Oxley bill? Sarbanes-Oxley was a mildly reformist piece of legislation deemed slightly necessary in the wake of the staggering accounting scandals that caused the collapse of Enron, Tyco and WorldCom. There seemed to be a new record-bankruptcy every week, but our president didn't think we needed any new laws to prevent such things, my no. When did he change his mind and decide to sign it? After it passed the House of Representatives with one vote against it.
Remember when we weren't gong to negotiate with North Korea? Then we weren't gong to negotiate with North Korea again, but we would "talk" to North Korea, but only in multilateral "talking," until Bush changed his mind yet again and now we're in multilateral negotiations.
Remember when the United Nations was "unnecessary" and "irrelevant," and boy was Bush ever ready to tell them to go jump in the lake? We now think the United Nations is so useful and necessary, we call on it not just for Iraq, but Haiti and other trouble spots, as well.
Remember when we didn't need any civilian or international advice about how to pacify and reconstruct Iraq, our military could do it just fine, thank you?
Remember when "nation-building" was a dirty word?
Boy, that John Kerry, he just flip-flops all the time, doesn't he?
Bush was also opposed to creating a Homeland Security Department but then changed his mind and backed it under political pressure. On the other hand, Bush's economic plan in times of plenty was tax cuts for the rich. His plan during bad times? Tax cuts for the rich! His foreign policy plan before 9/11 was to attack Iraq. His plan after 9/11? Attack Iraq! No flip-flopping there.
In his testimony [before a Senate committee], Mr. Tenet hinted at private disputes with policy makers. He disclosed that he had not learned until last week about a highly unusual briefing given in August 2002 by colleagues of Mr. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, to senior aides of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush. The briefing outlined evidence of ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda, contradicting the C.I.A.'s view that such links could not be verified.
According to government officials who have seen copies of the briefing documents, the information was presented to Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser, and I. Lewis Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff, and included slides that were strongly disparaging of C.I.A. analyses.
The other two instances in which Mr. Tenet said he had acted to correct administration statements involved the State of the Union address in January 2002, when he objected after the fact to Mr. Bush's inclusion of disputed intelligence about Iraq's seeking to obtain uranium from Africa, and a Jan. 22 radio interview in which Mr. Cheney portrayed trailers found in Iraq as being for biological weapons, and thus "conclusive evidence" that Iraq "did in fact have programs for weapons of mass destruction."
That was the conclusion initially reached by American intelligence agencies last spring, and it is still on the C.I.A.'s Web site. But it has been disputed since last summer within intelligence agencies, and Mr. Tenet said he had told Mr. Cheney there was "no consensus" among American analysts, with those at the Defense Intelligence Agency in particular arguing that the trailers were for producing hydrogen.
A spokesman for Mr. Cheney, Kevin Kellems, declined to characterize the content of the conversation between Mr. Tenet and Mr. Cheney about the Jan. 22 interview. "It was a private conversation," he said.
Tuesday, March 09, 2004
Never before in our national history has such a major event been so unexamined by the government while being so effectively hyped for political advantage. The obfuscation has been deliberate and executed with a passion that suggests Bush may have some dreadful truth to hide. Why else would he initially oppose the formation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the origins and lessons of 9/11?
Bush allowed the commission to form only after enormous public pressure led by the families of victims, who demanded an accounting of what led to the loss of their loved ones. Bush then sought to undermine an honest investigation by appointing Henry Kissinger, international grand master of mendacity, to be chairman. That gambit failed when Kissinger refused to make public his murky financial entanglements with the very regimes most likely to have links to the 9/11 terrorists.
After a more independent commission finally was allowed to form, Bush set about to systematically undermine its work by refusing to turn over documents essential to the investigation or to permit the full committee to interview the top officials in his administration, from himself on down.
This is a president whose immediate response to 9/11 was to protect the Al Qaeda terrorists' known sponsors in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan while planning a sideshow war against Bin Laden's sworn enemy in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. In the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster, a Saudi plane was allowed to land in the United States and whisk Bin Laden relatives and certain Saudis out of the country before intelligence agencies could fully question them, despite the fact that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals who had been allowed to enter the U.S. under suspicious circumstances, suggesting the connivance of the Saudi government.
Imagine the cries of "Traitor!" from the right had President Clinton done these things.
The Massachusetts Democrat contends that President Bush acted unconstitutionally in naming Judge William H. Pryor Jr. to the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, because the nomination was made last month without Senate approval during a brief recess.
The Constitution allows what are known as "recess appointments," according to Kennedy, only at the end of a congressional session, not during a holiday break. Bush gave Pryor the appointment after the Senate had failed to stop a Democratic filibuster of his nomination.
The Senate has never cast a final vote on Pryor's judgeship. Kennedy and some Democratic lawmakers contend that Pryor's record against abortion and other social issues makes him unfit to be a federal judge.
Mark McClellan, President Bush's choice to run Medicare, said yesterday he won't answer senators' questions about his opposition to importing prescription drugs from Canada before he takes over the government health program.
Republican leaders in the Senate want to vote to confirm McClellan by the end of the week, to spur an effort by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to put in place the Medicare overhaul that Bush signed last year.
However, McClellan's rejection of the request from Republican John McCain of Arizona and Democrats Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan sets up the prospect that they will use Senate procedures to drag out the confirmation.
McClellan, at a hearing on his nomination at the Senate Finance Committee, said he would answer the senators' questions "as soon as this confirmation process is concluded."
The senators want him to appear before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which McCain leads and where the nominee could expect more aggressive questioning than he received yesterday.
Told of McClellan's comments, Dorgan spokesman Barry Piatt said: "That's an absurd response that borders on the arrogant. He doesn't get to choose which senators can ask him questions."
Republicans may have all the answers, but they sure don't like questions.
Monday, March 08, 2004
If history is any guide, George W. Bush will not seek to undo the regulations that help shroud so many financial transactions from view. After all, his presidency has been characterized by a zeal for secrecy, an unrelenting push to stem the free flow of information.
[The author gives numerous salient examples at this point.]
These incidents were part of a much larger pattern. For example, in November 2001, President Bush signed an order decreeing that suspected terrorists may be tried in military tribunals instead of regular courts—a policy that kept secret the identities of more than seven hundred detainees. (In June 2003, a federal appeals court sided with the Justice Department and ruled that the government did not have to disclose the names of the detainees.) One month later, Bush invoked executive privilege to block a congressional subpoena related to the FBI's use of informants in Boston-area criminal investigations—an action that so enraged Republican Representative Dan Burton, chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, that he labeled Bush a "dictatorial president" at a congressional hearing exploring the matter.
In March 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr. instructed government agencies to safeguard "sensitive but unclassified information," an overly vague directive that led to untold thousands of documents being pulled from government Web sites and library shelves. In September 2002, a General Accounting Office report revealed that backlogs of pending FOIA requests were rising at many executive branch agencies, despite the fact that FOIA requests were decreasing. When Vice President Dick Cheney repeatedly refused to provide the General Accounting Office with records related to his national energy task force, including the names of lobbyists and corporate executives with whom he met, the GAO took the unprecedented step of filing suit to get the records.
As the Supreme Court was weighing a landmark gay rights case last year, Justice Antonin Scalia gave a keynote dinner speech in Philadelphia for an advocacy group waging a legal battle against gay rights.
Scalia addressed the $150-a-plate dinner hosted by the Urban Family Council two months after hearing oral arguments in a challenge to a Texas law that made sex between gays a crime. A month after the dinner, he sharply dissented from the high court's decision overturning the Texas law.
Some specialists in legal ethics said they saw no problem in Scalia's appearance before the group. But others say he should not have accepted the invitation because it calls into question his impartiality on an issue that looms increasingly large on the nation's legal agenda.
Scalia declined to comment on his appearance before the group.
Scalia's activities outside the court in two other instances -- both involving hunting trips -- have also drawn criticism for suggesting partiality on cases before his court. But the Philadelphia dinner May 20, unlike the other cases, shows him appearing to support partisan advocates on a hotly disputed issue.
This shameless creature is an embarrassment to the Court, and to the country. I can't believe he is allowed to get away with this stuff. And remember, Scalia is one of the president's "two favorite Justices" (the other being the emetic Clarence Thomas).
Now [Bush] shows a commercial with dead bodies, or body parts, covered with an American flag being taken through the smoke and flames of the world trade center attack. It caused people who had lost family members in the attack to complain about using the dead or parts thereof being used for a politician's gain.
"Bush is afraid to let us see the dead being brought back from Iraq," one fire fighter said yesterday.
The ad is nothing more than another George W. Bush fraud. First, arriving at the trade center, he was led by a flunkey to a retired fire fighter, Bob Beckwith, who had come down three days after the attack to take a look. Bush's flacks had Beckwith stand on a destroyed fire engine and Bush came up next to him and Bush put an arm around him and, two heroes, Bush called out "we're tough" to the television cameras.
He had all he wanted out of the place. A picture.
You all saw Bush play dress-up and land on the aircraft carrier and stand there, the helmet under his arm just like an Ace from the top of a bloody sky. The aircraft carrier had to be turned around so the skyline of San Diego wouldn't be seen.
Now he has his world trade center commercial out there and a lot of decent people regard it as an insult.
All of them, actually.
Democratic legislators in Oklahoma were so unhappy with President Bush's No Child Left Behind school improvement law that they drafted a resolution calling on Congress to overhaul it. But at the last minute one of the state's most conservative Republicans, State Representative Bill Graves, stepped up with his own suggestion: Tell Congress to repeal it entirely.
The resolution passed, and Mr. Graves got a standing ovation.
"Some of my Republican colleagues grumbled because they don't like to see the Democrats jumping on President Bush," Mr. Graves said. "But I've always thought Bush was wrong to push that law."
There is little chance that Congress will amend, much less repeal, the law in an election year, experts said, but the unusual alliance in the Oklahoma Legislature reflected the widespread outcry that the president's signature education initiative has provoked. Like similar measures being debated in legislatures across the country, the Oklahoma resolution brought together liberal Democrats and states' rights Republicans, angry over what they see as a cumbersome federal intrusion on local schools.
Legislation or resolutions that call on Congress to amend or repeal the law, prohibit spending state money to carry it out, or otherwise criticize the law have been passed by one or both legislative chambers in at least 12 states. And the actions reflect broader public discontent.
Yet the outpouring of objections from state legislatures has forced the White House and Department of Education officials to travel the country, putting out brush fires.
Sounds like more than "brush fires" to me.
The Bush administration deserves credit for its long-term commitment to democracy in the Middle East. But even a good idea can be spoiled by clumsy execution. Worse still, the idea can backfire — particularly if people come to suspect that ulterior motives are at work.
This is precisely what is happening with President Bush's "Greater Middle East initiative," which outlines steps the United States and its partners in the Group of 8 industrialized nations can take to promote political freedom, equality for women, access to education and greater openness in the Middle East. Elements of the proposal include the creation of free trade zones in the region, new financing for small businesses and help overseeing elections.
After a draft of the initiative was published last month in Al Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper, Arab leaders responded swiftly — and unhappily — at what they perceived to be American efforts to impose change. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt went so far as to call the proposal "delusional."
The notion that America, with Europe's support and Israel's endorsement, will teach the Arab world how to become modern and democratic elicits, at the very least, ambivalent reactions. (This, after all, is a region where memory of French and British control is still fresh.) Though the program is meant to be voluntary, some fear that compulsion is not far behind.
[Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser in the Carter administration, is the author of The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership.]
Sunday, March 07, 2004
President Bush's new campaign ads are on the air and generating unintended consequences.
Nov. 2, of course, will tell us if these ads were effective. We do not need to wait until November to know, however, that these ads are some of the most cynical, tasteless, deceptive and exploitative the nation has ever seen.
And anyone in the White House at this time would have sent the U.S. military into Afghanistan to topple the Taliban. Americans would have demanded as much.
A smart person in the White House would not have raced into Iraq, however. Bush did. And by doing so, he has increased terrorist threats in places where they did not exist with such ferocity. Only Republican ideologues claim that the world, including the United States, is safer now. Given the number of their flights that have been canceled, we would be hard pressed to find many officials of British Airways who believe the world is safer.
Such a state of affairs does not reflect steady leadership.
From the beginning, I have failed to see what people mean about Bush's "heroic leadership" following 9/11. Setting aside his initial reactions (continuing to read to schoolchildren upon hearing the news, then skittering around the country like a scared rabbit), what is it that he actually did that was so heroic? He stood on a pile of rubble and shouted through a bullhorn, and his job approval rating immediately shot up to almost 90%. What's with that? And does that firefighter he put his arm around realize that Bush has been cutting funding for firefighters from the moment he took office, and that his latest budget continues to cut this vital funding? Where's the heroism? I don't see it.
Not long after the 9-11 tragedy, Bush promised to not exploit the event for political purposes. But, as usual, he lied, just like he lied about the reasons for invading Iraq and about having proof of a connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Bush is a man with no shame, no compassion and no sensitivity for the feelings of others. Nothing is allowed to stand in the way of his desire to hold on to the Presidency and he doesn’t give a damn who gets hurt as long as he keeps the job.
Bush’s minions claim the ads showcase his leadership.
What leadership? An economy in the crapper? Millions of Americans out of work? Hundreds of Americans dead in a war waged under false pretenses? Billions wasted in a war against Iraq while Osama bin Laden, the man behind the death of more than 3,000 Americans remains at large?
How else can we explain George Bush's statement today that in November voters have a clear choice: they can choose "lower taxes to stimulate growth or higher taxes that will stunt job creation" than as a deficit of short-term memory? Has he forgotten already that the economy was booming before his tax cuts? Has he forgotten that the jobless rate was much lower before he cut taxes? Has he forgotten that all three of his tax cuts have failed to stimulate either the economy or job creation?
There is another answer of course: Bush has not forgotten that his policies have failed; he simply wants to create an alternate reality so he won't have to own up to his theft of middle-class taxes that were given to the rich. As Paul Krugman pointed out this week in the New York Times, payroll taxes have effectively finance a major portion of Bush's giveaway to the wealthy. And now Greenspan -- no doubt in cooperation with Bush -- suggests that we will have to cut benefits in the future.
Memory loss is not George Bush's only mental problem. Cognitively, he seems unable to see the world as anything but a dichotomy. You're either with us or against us. You support us, or you support the terrorists. And now, Bush says we have a clear choice. We can vote for him and keep those tax cuts, or we can vote for Kerry and raise taxes.
Bush seems incapable of imagining a middle ground (as Kerry and others have proposed) of rollbacks for the highest income Americans. If Bush were capable of such thinking, he would see that the rich would still be rich, the middle class would have more money to spend, Social Security could be saved, and the economy would be stimulated to create new jobs. This is neither a radical idea nor one beyond the mental capacity of most Americans. It is simply a compromise, a middle road that avoids the sharp divisions we have come to expect from Bush.
His two afflictions -- short-term memory loss and either-or thinking -- mark George Bush not as a man deserving of the presidency, but as a man in need of help, which we hope he seeks in November rather than our votes.
Jeff Jacoby's criticism of John Kerry's character verged on the surreal, given the failings of the president Kerry is running against ("Kerry's lack of political courage," op-ed, Feb. 29). Jacoby should turn off Fox News for a few moments and consider the world outside of the misleading rhetoric of the right-wing media. Many of Kerry's alleged flip-flops are not really flip-flops at all.
Yes, in 1992 Kerry insisted that Bill Clinton's draft avoidance shouldn't be a political issue, and now he is criticizing George W. Bush's military record. To argue, as Jacoby does, that this constitutes a flip-flop lies somewhere between disingenuous and ridiculous.
George W. Bush is running as a war president. His military record, or lack thereof, becomes a political issue. He also criticizes Kerry for having taken money from paid lobbyists. Again, one is tempted to laugh at the sheer audacity of the conservative attempt to brand Kerry as a special-interest pawn. This is an administration that has given billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to Halliburton. This is a president who is little more than a fund-raiser in chief who has raised more money while in the Oval Office than any other American president.
I appreciate that Kerry's nuanced policy positions might be difficult to report on, in contrast to our current president's affinity for black-and-white, good-and-bad, us-against-them politics. But that's no excuse not to try.