Saturday, October 02, 2004
But onstage the president ran out of talking points. Unable to explain the logic for his policies, or think on his feet, he was thrown back on the raw elements of his personality and leadership style.
Every time he was confronted with ambivalence, his impulse was to sweep it aside. He claimed he must be followed because he is the leader. Fate, in the form of September 11, had placed authority in his hands as a man of destiny. Scepticism, pragmatism and empiricism are enemies. Absolute faith prevails over open-ended reason, subjectivity over fact. Belief in belief is the ultimate sacrament of his political legitimacy.
In the split TV screen, how Bush felt was written all over his face. His grimaces exposed his irritation and anger at being challenged. Lacking intellectual stamina and repeating points as though on a feedback loop, he tried to close argument by assertion. With no one interrupting him, he protested, "Let me finish" - a phrase he occasionally deploys to great effect before the cowed White House press corps.
John Kerry was set up beforehand as Bush's foil: long-winded, dour, dull. But the Kerry who showed up was crisp, nimble and formidable. His thrusts brought out Bush's rigidity and stubbornness. The more Bush pleaded his own decisiveness, the more he appeared reactive.
I watched the debate with a 10-year-old girl who said "Bush looks like a little kid!" From the mouths of babes...
Event security was tight, and those in attendance passed through metal detectors and were forbidden from bringing signs, flags and bottled drinks into the rally. Two sharpshooters atop a LANTA bus continually scanned the crowd through high-powered binoculars.
Inside the rally, members of the press were forbidden from mingling through the crowd and contained to one central location. Reporters spoke to Bush supporters who stood near the metal barricades.
The crowd often interacted with Bush such as chanting "flip-flop" when the president spoke of Kerry's stance on the Iraqi war. Supporters yelled "You!" when Bush asked which candidate can fight the war on terrorism.
And when the president called deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein a threat, one member of the crowd yelled, "No doubt about it!"
Bush elicited rousing cheers with statements like "I will never relent in defending America" and "It's not the president's job to take an international poll. It's to defend." He even employed a bit of self-deprecating humor, using the word transformational and calling it "generally a longer word than I use."
Barbara Arangio-DiLeo of Allentown called Bush "an honest, sincere man" and she supported his decisions on war. He's been consistent and dedicated to the American people, she said.
"He's driven by God and you can't forget that," Arangio-DiLeo said. "People maybe make fun of him for that, but there's nothing wrong with praying."
This description of a recent Bush campaign appearance in Pennsylvania makes it sound like a rather paranoid revival meeting, complete with chants and rituals. How ill-informed these people are. Bush is an "honest, sincere man"? Come on.
I'm writing this article because I, as an international traveler and a representative of the United States of America, am being affected by the comments and harsh opinions of the international community regarding American politics and its leaders.
Throughout the world, Americans are being labeled according to the image of the U.S. politicians and their behaviors in the White House. It doesn't matter that we are Republicans or Democrats, many foreigners consider America untrustworthy and a developing dictatorship because of the war in Iraq, violations of international war ethics and now the new heightened security that mandates foreign visitors to be fingerprinted and their eye retinas scanned.
While many foreigners still support the land of opportunity, many more are verbalizing their opinions about the George Bush administration and the way international affairs are being handled. An American living abroad said, "I hope and pray that George Bush doesn't get re-elected. I am ashamed and afraid of calling myself an American."
Sadly, a few weeks ago while traveling abroad, I was hesitant to admit that I was an American for fear of being judged. In the past I've always been confident to acknowledge myself as an American citizen, but recently, due to the opposing opinions toward the Bush administration, I'm no longer as vocal about being from the land of the stars and stripes.
How can we even consider "re-electing" a worthless "leader" who has caused such damage to America's reputation abroad that our own citizens are afraid to admit where they're from? Anyone who cares about America should be outraged at the travesty that is this administration.
Friday, October 01, 2004
[Democratic Underground, 10/1/04]
No further comment is required. You saw it.
In a sharp rebuke to President Bush's air pollution program, the Environmental Protection Agency's internal auditor yesterday issued a report saying the administration has "seriously hampered" the EPA's ability to force dirty, coal-fired power plants to install pollution controls.
Nikki L. Tinsley, inspector general of the EPA, said that the Bush administration should reconsider the "dramatic" changes it proposed to requirements for old power plants last October and return to the vigorous enforcement of the Clean Air Act pursued by the Clinton administration.
"It is important that ... enforcement against coal-fired electric utilities continue in the same manner and to the same extent as before the 2003 rule was issued," the report states.
Environmentalists praised the report, saying it shows the Bush administration weakened clean air laws and undermined EPA enforcement efforts to save money for power companies. The Sun on Monday reported how Bush's changes helped one of his campaign donors, a subsidiary of the Mirant Corp. of Atlanta, which owns three power plants in Maryland with histories as chronic polluters.
"This should be extraordinarily embarrassing to the Bush administration," said Angela Ledford, director of Clear The Air, an environmental advocacy group, in a news release. "It's not often a president is decidedly rebuked from within his own EPA."
But Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the EPA, said agency administrator Michael O. Leavitt plans to ignore the report's recommendations because he thinks they are wrong. Leavitt, a former Republican governor of Utah, was appointed by Bush last year.
George Bush has been a complete disaster for the environment. In this as in other matters, Bush routinely allows political considerations to replace thought and wisdom. I wouldn't count on this new report being "extraordinarily embarrassing", though. These folks don't embarrass easily.
Bush and his people consistently claim to be results-oriented. That the American people and the press accept this statement is irrational. The facts and results suggest that Bush has repeatedly and sometimes perversely failed the American people.
He claimed to be a uniter, not a divider, but Republicans and Democrats are more divided than ever. He asserted ad nauseam that Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction were an imminent danger to America. But time has shown these assertions to be untrue. Never mind the absence of weapons, he now says, because Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaeda and was an architect of terror. And although Hussein was very bad, with 1,048 Americans dead, 20,000 Iraqis dead, 27,000 Americans wounded, and Iraq a center of insurgency, there's more terror emanating from Iraq now than before our invasion.
Bush said he was not interested in nation-building, but now we're begging the international community to help us build a new Iraq. He said he was a fiscal conservative but has racked up record budget deficits.
Still, despite the facts and, yes, flip-flops, we follow him. We still approve his performance. In this regard, we're being irrational in the massive and self-deceptive way characteristic only of humans.
The abuser never admits mistakes, never truly apologizes and never shows weakness. The abuser, despite his inconsistent and capricious decisions, insists he has not changed his philosophy. He is determined and resolute. The abuser manipulates us with fear.
Unfortunately, the abuser does not have our best interests at heart. He's interested in oil, money and power. He's interested in control and domination. He will act like he's concerned and compassionate, but when he has regained control, he will turn away from the poor, the weak, the hungry, the women and the children.
[John Sommers-Flanagan is a clinical psychologist and author on the faculty of the Counselor Education Department of the University of Montana in Missoula.]
Thursday, September 30, 2004
The Bush administration, battling negative perceptions of the Iraq war, is sending Iraqi Americans to deliver what the Pentagon calls "good news" about Iraq to U.S. military bases, and has curtailed distribution of reports showing increasing violence in that country.
The unusual public-relations effort by the Pentagon and the U.S. Agency for International Development comes as details have emerged showing the U.S. government and a representative of President Bush's reelection campaign had been heavily involved in drafting the speech given to Congress last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Combined, they indicate that the federal government is working assiduously to improve Americans' opinions about the Iraq conflict - a key element of Bush's reelection message.
USAID said this week that it will restrict distribution of reports by contractor Kroll Security International showing that the number of daily attacks by insurgents in Iraq has increased. On Monday, a day after The Washington Post published a front-page story saying that "the Kroll reports suggest a broad and intensifying campaign of insurgent violence," a USAID official sent an e-mail to congressional aides stating: "This is the last Kroll report to come in. After the Post story, they shut it down in order to regroup. I'll let you know when it restarts."
How interesting it is to actually live through the process by which a dictatorship gradually takes power. This one will be in the history books, folks.
While President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others have delivered optimistic public appraisals, officials who fight the Iraqi insurgency and study it at the CIA and the State Department and within the Army officer corps believe the rebellion is deeper and more widespread than is being publicly acknowledged, officials say.
People at the CIA "are mad at the policy in Iraq because it's a disaster, and they're digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper," said one former intelligence officer who maintains contact with CIA officials. "There's no obvious way to fix it. The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments."
"Things are definitely not improving," said one U.S. government official who reads the intelligence analyses on Iraq.
"It is getting worse," agreed an Army staff officer who served in Iraq and stays in touch with comrades in Baghdad through e-mail. "It just seems there is a lot of pessimism flowing out of theater now. There are things going on that are unbelievable to me. They have infiltrators conducting attacks in the Green Zone. That was not the case a year ago."
Just wait till a year from now.
No not that L word. Kerry must make the case that George W. Bush is a liar. An NPR report I heard Monday said that historically Republican's attack character while Democrats attack policy. This is true this year as well. Bush is running on his character. The facts are that his character is sadly lacking and the best point of attack on Bush's character is trustworthiness. Perhaps Kerry cannot use the L word but he can walk right up to it and say "The president has not been truthful," or "When I am president you can count on me to tell the truth." Kerry's surrogates do not need to be so circumspect and must start associating Bush with his lies.
Republicans will react strongly but Democrats must not back down. Republicans do not back down when called on something. A mini firestorm erupts in blogland over Arnold Schwarzenegger saying "girly men" and he goes on to say it on national television at the Republican convention. It is pointed out that both Bush and Cheney have used the word "sensitive" to describe American conduct in war but Cheney goes on to attack Kerry's use of the word in his convention speech.
The American people don't like to be lied to. In the next 5 weeks we must wake them up to Bush's lies.
I agree with everything said here. The trouble is, people who support Bush are cult members who cannot be swayed by logic or facts. They don't care that he lies. They don't care that he's incompetent. As long as that's true, this race is all but lost.
Of the many cultural grenades being tossed [on October 5], though, the one must-see is "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," a DVD that is being specifically marketed in "head to head" partisan opposition to "Fahrenheit 9/11." This documentary first surfaced at the Republican convention in New York, where it was previewed in tandem with an invitation-only, no-press-allowed "Family, Faith and Freedom Rally," a Ralph Reed-Sam Brownback jamboree thrown by the Bush campaign for Christian conservatives. Though you can buy the DVD for $14.95, its makers told the right-wing news service WorldNetDaily.com that they plan to distribute 300,000 copies to America's churches. And no wonder. This movie aspires to be "The Passion of the Bush," and it succeeds.
"Will George W. Bush be allowed to finish the battle against the forces of evil that threaten our very existence?" Such is the portentous question posed at the film's conclusion by its narrator, the religious broadcaster Janet Parshall, beloved by some for her ecumenical generosity in inviting Jews for Jesus onto her radio show during the High Holidays. Anyone who stands in the way of Mr. Bush completing his godly battle, of course, is a heretic. Facts on the ground in Iraq don't matter. Rational arguments mustered in presidential debates don't matter. Logic of any kind is a nonstarter.
The president - who after 9/11 called the war on terrorism a "crusade," until protests forced the White House to backpedal - is divine. He may not hear "voices" instructing him on policy, testifies Stephen Mansfield, the author of one of the movie's source texts, The Faith of George W. Bush, but he does act on "promptings" from God. "I think we went into Iraq not so much because there were weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Mansfield has explained elsewhere, "but because Bush had concluded that Saddam Hussein was an evildoer" in the battle "between good and evil." So why didn't we go into those other countries in the axis of evil, North Korea or Iran? Never mind. To ask such questions is to be against God and "with the terrorists."
Am I the only one that finds this Bush-is-God business a little, well, scary? It makes it seem as though a substantial percentage of our citizens have, quite literally, lost their minds.
The day after the debate, Bush told Fox News that Gore had a "record, you know, of sometimes exaggerating to make a point." Karen Hughes said Gore's debate performance was part of a "disturbing pattern of the vice president simply making things up."
How "disturbed" would Hughes have been if Gore had told a whopper about something of substance - say, as Bush did this week. At a campaign rally in Missouri Monday, Bush claimed that, because of U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, the "Taliban no longer is in existence." The president's pronouncement must have come as news to the troops currently fighting Taliban and al-Qaida members in Afghanistan, and it's directly contradicted by statements made just last week by Republican members of Congress and a Defense Department official familiar with operations in Afghanistan.
And yet Karen, who seems to have a whopper of a crush on Georgie, accused Gore of "simply making things up". Are these people actually psychotic? Or just in deep, deep denial? It's fascinating to observe how little effect reality has on their "thinking".
The Houston Republican is trying to brush off any attempt to link him to a scandal unfolding in Texas with a PAC he set up, and on whose advisory board he served, by insisting it "isn't about me." Besides, said the tough-talking Texan, "this is 41 days before the election. You do the political math. People see this for what it is."
That they do, which is why the criminal investigation under way in Texas on the conduct of the fund-raising network formed by Mr. DeLay bears urgent examination by the House Ethics Committee.
A Texas grand jury indicted three close Delay associates running his Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, and eight out-of-state companies, on 32 felony charges of illegally funneling corporate money to Republican Texas House candidates.
So it stretches credulity to maintain, as Mr. Delay does, that even though he was actively involved in raising money for his Texas group, making fund-raising appearances, and discussing its strategy and effectiveness in supporting Texas races, he was largely in the dark about its day-to-day operations.
Gosh, isn't that what Ken Lay said about Enron? Sorry, Tom, we've got you this time. What a slimy specimen. Let's exterminate him!
President Bush, accused by Democrats of shirking his duty in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, wrote that he had "inadequate time" to meet future reserve commitments in his November 1974 letter of resignation, which was released Wednesday.
The letter was released by the White House on the eve of the first presidential debate, in Miami on Thursday, between Bush and his Democratic challenger, John F. Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran.
In the one-page "Tender of Resignation," Bush hand-wrote the following reason for resigning: "Inadequate time to fullfill possible future commitments."
The document does not address the controversy over gaps in his service in the Air National Guard in the 1970s.
Democrats have accused Bush of using family connections to get into the Guard while many of his peers were drafted to fight in Vietnam.
And it looks like he's going to get away with it. Why does nothing stick to this guy? Here we have a demonstrably incompetent, unqualified president, and the Bush cult doesn't seem to know or care. Oh, people know and care in other countries, but unfortunately only Americans can vote in our election. And even our votes don't all count!
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
In 1999, George W. Bush said we needed to cut taxes because the economy was doing so well that the U.S. Treasury was taking in too much money, and we could afford to give some back to the people who earned it. In 2001, Bush said we needed the same tax cuts because the economy was doing poorly, and we had to return the money so that people would spend and invest it.
Bush's arguments made the wisdom of cutting taxes unfalsifiable. In good times, tax cuts were affordable. In bad times, they were necessary. Whatever happened proved that tax cuts were good policy. When Congress approved the tax cuts, Bush said they would revive the economy. You'd know that the tax cuts had worked, because more people would be working. Three years later, more people aren't working. But in Bush's view, that, too, proves he was right. If more people aren't working, we just need more tax cuts.
Now Bush is playing the same game in postwar Iraq. When violence there was subsiding, he said it proved he was on the right track. Now violence is increasing, and Bush says this, too, proves he's on the right track.
I am comforted.
Like most of us, I was taught that being stubborn was a fault. When I was stubborn as a child, my parents scolded me. When I was stubborn as a student, my teachers chided me. "Don't be stubborn," they all said. "You've got to see the other side, too."
But when it comes to the presidential election, stubbornness is suddenly an American virtue.
It may even determine the winner.
President Bush excels at being stubborn. Say what you will about the commander in chief: He doesn't change his mind. Not a day goes by that he doesn't tell voters "a leader must be firm in his decisions."
And so, even during a week when hostages have their heads cut off, we are told that things in Iraq are improving, that the future is bright.
And despite endless proof to the contrary from committees and investigations - even those under his control - Bush insists that Sept. 11, 2001, and the invasion of Iraq are inexorably connected.
And if a bad jobs report comes out, or the budget deficit is projected into the stratosphere, Bush insists the economy is good and growing.
And despite howling from the education community, he insists his No Child Left Behind idea is working.
He says these things over and over. He clings to the same line he gave yesterday, the day before and the month before. And amazingly, many Americans see this as strength.
Think of how far bad leaders could go by refusing to budge on their rhetoric - especially if it makes them popular! There's a famous quote from Winston Churchill that says: "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject."
An examination of more than 150 of Bush's speeches, radio addresses and responses to reporters' questions reveal a steady progression of language, mostly to reflect changing circumstances such as the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction, the lack of ties between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network and the growing violence of Iraqi insurgents.
On March 6, 2003, for example, Bush insisted during a prime-time news conference that he would offer a resolution before the United Nations calling for the use of force against Iraq even if other nations threatened to veto it.
"No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote," Bush said.
A few days later, after it became apparent that the measure would not only be vetoed but might fail to win a majority of the Security Council, the Bush administration dropped its demand for a vote.
The president also said last month on NBC's "Today Show" that "I don't think you can win" the war on terrorism, explaining instead that the nation could greatly minimize the likelihood of terrorist attacks. The comment came after months of asserting the United States was winning, and would ultimately triumph, in its war on terror. The statement appeared to be little more than an inelegant way of adding nuance to his explanation, and the president quickly retreated from the words the following day.
I wish he'd quickly retreat from the White House.
The newspaper in President Bush's adopted hometown of Crawford threw its support behind Bush's Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry. The weekly Lone Star Iconoclast on Tuesday criticized Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and for turning budget surpluses into record deficits. The editorial also criticized Bush's proposals on Social Security and Medicare.
"The publishers of The Iconoclast endorsed Bush four years ago, based on the things he promised, not on this smoke-screened agenda," the newspaper said in its editorial. "Today, we are endorsing his opponent, John Kerry."
It urged "Texans not to rate the candidate by his hometown or even his political party, but instead by where he intends to take the country."
Bush spends many of his weekends and holidays at his Crawford, Texas, ranch.
Weekends and holidays!
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
If one of my patients frequently said one thing and did another, I would want to know why. If I found that he often used words that hid their true meaning and affected a persona that obscured the nature of his actions, I would grow more concerned. If he presented an inflexible worldview characterized by an oversimplified distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, allies and enemies, I would question his ability to grasp reality. And if his actions revealed an unacknowledged - even sadistic - indifference to human suffering, wrapped in pious claims of compassion, I would worry about the safety of the people whose lives he touched.
For the past three years, I have observed with increasing alarm the inconsistencies and denials of such an individual. But he is not one of my patients. He is our president.
George W. Bush is a case study in contradiction. All of us have witnessed the affable good humor with which he charms both supporters and detractors; even those of us who disagree with his policies may find him personally likeable. As time goes on, however, the gulf between his personality and those policies -- and the style with which they are executed -- grows ever wider, raising serious questions about his behavior:
* How can someone so friendly and playful be the same person who cuts funds from government programs aiding the poor and hungry?
* How is it that our deeply religious president feels free to bomb Iraq -- and then celebrate the results with open expressions of joy?
* How can a president send American soldiers into combat under false pretenses and then proceed to joke about the deception, finding humor in the absence of weapons of mass destruction under his Oval Office desk?
* How can someone promise to protect the environment on the one hand and allow increased arsenic in the public water supply on the other? And why does he feel he can call his plan to lift logging restrictions in national forests the "Healthy" Forest Initiative?
* If the president's interpersonal skills are strong enough to earn him the reputation of being a "people person," why is he so unwilling and even unable to talk to world leaders, such as Jacques Chirac or Gerhard Schroeder, who disagree with him?
* How can the president sound so confused and yet act so decisively? And given the regularity with which he confuses fact with fantasy, how can he justify decisions based largely on his own personal suspicions with such unwavering certainty?
As a citizen, I worry about what these contradictions and inconsistencies say about the president's ability to govern; as a psychoanalyst, I'm troubled by their implications for the president's current and long-term mental health, particularly in light of certain information we know about his past. Naturally, the occasional misstatement or discrepancy between word and deed may be dismissed as politics as usual. But when the most powerful man on the planet consistently exhibits an array of multiple, serious, and untreated symptoms -- any one of which I've seen patients need years to work through -- it's certainly cause for further investigation, if not for outright alarm.
[This excerpt is from the Introduction to Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President by Justin A. Frank, M.D.]
President George W. Bush is the master of the Texas Two-Step when it comes to answering questions put to him. George W. Bush has been caught in so many misrepresentations, or if you prefer, lies. President Bush refuses to answer any "real" questions put to him. Is this the strategy being implemented to keep George W. Bush from being caught in any more lies?
A majority of the questions President Bush answers these days appear to be questions that the Bush Administration has scripted for him to answer. Whenever George W. Bush hears a question he doesn’t know the answer to, or wants to avoid answering. He either acts as if he didn’t hear it and keeps walking, or tells the person making the inquiry to ask someone else that question. Why has John Kerry held open rallies where anyone can attend and openly voice their opinion? While at the same time George W. Bush holds rallies where a mother protesting a war where she lost her son is arrested for speaking her mind? Why is George W. Bush so afraid to answer her questions? Don't all the families who lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers or fathers deserve answers?
If George W. Bush wants to continue as President of the United States he owes America some answers. With the first of three debates coming up on Thursday the American people deserve some straight answers from President Bush before these debates even take place. George W. Bush has left this country with more questions than answers since he took office. President Bush doesn’t just owe America some answers; he owes America some honest answers. If he won’t tell the truth and answer the questions, then Bush supporters need to seriously consider voting for John Kerry.
Most of them won't, though. They've already drunk the Kool-Aid.
When Vladimir Putin used illegal tactics to engineer the election of his hand-picked subordinate Ahmad Kadyrov as president of Chechnya last October, Western pundits were quick to condemn the election as a farce. Yet the same media talking heads have expressed little outrage the series of equally farcical "elections" organized by the Bush administration in the name of exporting democracy, be it to Afghanistan or Iraq.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani recently expressed his unhappiness at the plans of the main U.S.-affiliated political parties to negotiate a "consensus slate" of candidates for the upcoming U.N. Security Council-mandated elections in Iraq.
In some countries, with a well-established parliamentary system and a history of active political parties and an inclusive public discourse, alliances between political parties are not necessarily a problem. In India, for example, such electoral alliances may be necessary to get smaller parties some degree of parliamentary representation. In Iraq, however, the effect may be extremely damaging.
According to a recent New York Times editorial, such a "consensus" slate could create "essentially a one-party election unless Iraq's fragmented independents manage to organize themselves into an effective new political force." Without adequate safeguards, wrote the Times, in an uncharacteristically direct manner, "Iraq's first free election may look uncomfortably like the plebiscites choreographed to produce 98 percent majorities for Saddam Hussein."
Not to mention the November elections here in America. Single-party rule, anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
Democratic Presidential Contender John Kerry has never wavered from his support for giving President George W. Bush authority to use force in Iraq, nor has he changed his position that he, as President, would not have gone to war without greater international support. But a Bush ad released Sept. 27 takes many of Kerry's words out of context to make him appear to be alternately praising the war and condemning it.
Here we present this highly misleading ad, along with what Kerry actually said, in full context.
This ad is the most egregious example so far in the 2004 campaign of using edited quotes in a way that changes their meaning and misleads voters.
Check out this article before you see the commercial. You'll enjoy it more.
Sound presidential decision-making structures do not guarantee a successful policy. But the worse the decision process, the greater the danger that the policy devised will fail and wreak havoc on the nation when it is a major initiative. President Bush's decision to launch a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq is as good an example as I've seen of a severely flawed decision-making process producing an ill-thought-through decision that quickly became a nightmare as that misbegotten policy was put in place. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies called the National Security Council where the decision was made "the weakest and most ineffective National Security Council in post-war American history."
Ideologically driven incompetence as usual dominated. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other top Defense Department officials - all civilians, not the generals and admirals they commanded - pressed the neoconservative conviction that Iraq had become the center of worldwide terrorism.
To do so, Cheney led what O'Neill labeled "a praetorian guard" that encircled Bush. Suskind underscored the fatal flaw in the Bush administration war council:
"The president was caught in an echo chamber of his own making, cut off from everyone other than [a small circle of advisers that] keeps him away from the one thing he needs most: honest, disinterested perspectives about what's real and what the hell he might do about it."
It was a horrendous decision that defied everything we know about good policy-making.
Four more years! Four more years!
Monday, September 27, 2004
Despite the best efforts of the media, the public is gaining insight into their president as the facts leak out and as Kitty Kelley's The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty, tops the sales chart. Laying aside Bush's raucous drinking, the cocaine charges and his lifelong exploitation of his "legacy," his formative years are instructive indeed about the president who started a needless war to beat his chest as a "war president." His background explains as well the president who is unimaginably ignorant of the history, culture and aspirations of the 191 nations that he addressed the other day at the General Assembly.
It was, however, Bush's towering lack of intellect that defined him. "That (Bush) coasted on his family name was understandable," said Yale frat brother Tom Wilner. "Lots of guys do that. But Georgie, as we called him then, has absolutely no intellectual curiosity about anything. He wasn't interested in ideas or books or causes. He didn't travel; he didn't read the newspapers; he didn't watch the news ... How he got out of Yale without developing some interest in the world besides booze and sports stuns me."
I am deeply ashamed of our country for allowing this worthless churl to "lead" us. And now they want to reward him with "four more years". Unbelievable.
One of the great mysteries of this election is the inability of John Kerry to challenge George W. Bush on his national-security credentials and to hold his administration accountable for its monumental failure in Iraq. These two issues remain the soft underbelly of the Bush campaign. That the Kerry campaign hasn't effectively exploited them is disheartening. That he's allowed Bush to actually spin them into strengths is mind-boggling. Since the American people seem to be buying the GOP's reality-TV version of events in Iraq, let's take a hard look at the military realities.
From a purely military standpoint, the war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster. This administration failed to make even a cursory effort at adequately defining the political end state they sought to achieve by removing Saddam Hussein, making it impossible to precisely define long-term military success. That, in turn, makes it impossible to lay out a rational exit strategy for U.S. troops. Like Vietnam, the military is again being asked to clean up the detritus of a failed foreign policy. We are nose-deep in a protracted insurgency, an occupying Christian power in an oil-rich, Arab country. That country is not now and has never been a single nation. A single, unified, democratic Iraq comprised of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis is a willfully ignorant illusion at best.
George W. Bush poses as a "war president" who will vanquish our enemies in the war against terrorism. Yet, this self-styled war president has been bull-headed, stubborn and wrong about how and where to fight terrorism. He undermined the effectiveness of our armed forces as a weapon against terrorism.
The president's solipsistic, rigid insistence that we attack Iraq instead of focusing U.S. military assets to track down and eliminate Osama bin Laden — the real mastermind of 9-11 — is a mistake we will lament for decades. The doors of Iraq have been flung open wide; a welcome mat has been laid down for bloodthirsty terrorists from all over the Middle East, including al-Qaida, whose agents have begun to set up camp in Iraq. Meanwhile, bin Laden has escaped.
Until we devote our undivided attention to destroying the real perpetrators of 9-11, we can only guess where they are, what they are up to or what they are plotting right now. George Bush said bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive." Now he has simply stopped talking about bin Laden. Bush can ignore bin Laden, but that does not mean bin Laden is taking a vacation.
President Bush received a briefing memo one month before Sept. 11, 2001, warning him in blunt terms that al-Qaida was planning to strike America. Yet this "war president" did nothing, to respond to the threat.
Although politicians tend to talk about "the environment" as if it were a single, easily defined topic, environmental issues range quite widely, from climate change to nuclear waste disposal to forest management. Nevertheless, it is possible to speak of environmental philosophies, and the two presidential candidates have, over long careers, shown that theirs are very different.
Certainly there is no doubt about President Bush's belief in the need to reduce environmental regulation in order to ease the constraints on industries most affected by it. Although the administration has made few dramatic changes, it has rewritten an extraordinary number of rules, for example, to allow older utilities to upgrade their facilities without adding pollution control equipment; to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, the most important source of "greenhouse gases"; to loosen the regulation of mercury emissions; to limit the amount of land that can be formally declared "wilderness"; to make logging easier in old-growth forests. The president himself has flip-flopped, as his campaign would put it, on the question of the urgency of climate change, first expressing interest in the issue, then walking away from it, then delaying discussion by proposing "further studies."
The White House argues that its measures are merely corrective, an attempt to reverse extreme actions taken in the past. On clean air issues, for example, officials say their goal is to create more reliable, predictable controls using market incentives, and to limit unpredictable lawsuits. But their enthusiasm both for markets and for simplification - which we share - has not been matched by an equivalent enthusiasm for making sure the air continues to get cleaner. That is why it has been so hard to take seriously their rhetoric about "clear skies."
Or about anything else.
Most of the flip-flop rhetoric from Bush aimed at Kerry has been related to the invasion of Iraq. Ironically, he has been flopping around on this issue like a fish out of water since the day he misled the United States into war. Perhaps his memoirs will tell the American people why he chose to invade Iraq, because his statements do not paint a clear picture.
On Sept. 25, 2002, Bush asserted, "You can't distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." On Sept. 17, he changed his mind, stating, "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11 (attacks)." As far as weapons of mass destruction, the president's main selling point for the invasion of Iraq, Bush could not have been any clearer on their existence, telling the American people two days before the invasion that he had "no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." In January, the administration finally admitted what many suspected: There were no weapons of mass destruction. Bush's weapons inspector David Kay told the public, "It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment. And that is most disturbing."
The instances stated above are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the president and flip-flops. In April, Bush touted that the war on terror is winnable. He changed his mind in August, telling Matt Lauer that the war cannot be won and, after receiving flack for the switch, returned to his original belief that the war is winnable. After 9/11, Bush opposed the idea of an independent 9/11 Commission until September of the same year, when the idea became popular among the public. Widespread support for the Department of Homeland Security swayed his opinion to support its creation, as he openly denounced such an institution in March 2002.
He pushed No Child Left Behind through Congress and has failed to fully fund the program.
Remember Bush stating he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive?" It must have slipped his mind in a press conference in early 2003, when he professed, "I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him...I truly am not that concerned about him." All this without a 20-year Senate record.
If Bush wants to talk about flip-flops from the past, let the discussion begin. However, it may be more beneficial to the American people, and his reelection bid, if he spends more time on the campaign trail explaining the two core issues of this campaign - dealing with a floundering economy and rescuing Iraq from ensuing chaos.
Sorry, but Bush does not normally do things that are "beneficial to the American people". He does things that are beneficial to Bush.
As a candidate, Bush said he would cut off some aid to Russia if abuses in Chechnya continued. "The Russian government will discover that it cannot build a stable and unified nation on the ruins of human rights," he said in a Nov 19, 1999, speech.
"When the Russian government attacks civilians, killing women and children, leaving orphans and refugees, it can no longer expect aid from international lending institutions," Bush declared.
His approach changed after he met Putin in June 2001 and described him as straightforward and trustworthy. "I was able to get a sense of his soul," Bush said.
That praise produced some short-term dividends, said Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Putin did not try to block the expansion of NATO or Bush's missile defense plans.
But Bush's comments also signaled to Putin that "I'm not going to be concerned about what you do domestically," McFaul said. "I think that has been Bush's policy ever since."
Many would question that description. Putin has cracked down on independent media and political opponents. After the Beslan massacre, he ordered an overhaul of Russia's political system that included ending the direct election of governors and district races for parliament.
Bush responded by expressing concern about decisions "that could undermine democracy in Russia."
Flippity, floppity. Flippity.
Bush used the visit last week by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to make the case that "steady progress" is being made in Iraq to counter warnings by his Democratic presidential rival, Senator John Kerry, that the situation in reality is deteriorating.
Bush touted preparations for national elections in January, saying Iraq's electoral commission is up and running and told Americans on Saturday that "United Nations electoral advisers are on the ground in Iraq."
He said nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are already at work, and that would rise to 125,000 by the end of this year.
And he promised more than $9 billion (five billion pounds) will be spent on reconstruction contracts in Iraq over the next several months.
But many of these assertions have met with scepticism from key lawmakers, congressional aides and experts, and Pentagon documents, given to lawmakers and obtained by Reuters, paint a more complicated picture.
Ah. Well, you see, our president doesn't believe in "complicated pictures". He likes things nice and simple.
Pentagon documents and Democratic congressional sources dispute President Bush's claim, made Saturday, that nearly 100,000 "fully trained and equipped" Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel are at work, Reuters said yesterday.
The Pentagon documents show that of the nearly 90,000 people now in the police force, only 8,169 have had the full eight-week academy training. Another 46,176 are listed as "untrained," and it will be July 2006 before the administration reaches its goal of a 135,000-strong, fully trained police force.
Six Army battalions have had "initial training," while 57 National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, are still being recruited or "awaiting equipment." Just eight Guard battalions have reached "initial (operating) capability," according to the documents.
Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel have received enough training to make them "minimally effective at their tasks."
"Let me tell you exactly what the story is. They're saying they're trying to train them, yet they have not trained," Sen. Joseph Biden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday on CNN.
The White House defended its figures, and a senior administration official defined "fully trained" as having gone through "initial basic operations training."
Gee, by that standard, Bush was "fully trained" when he took over the White House.
Sunday, September 26, 2004