Who's the President, and How's He Doing?
Posted 28 February 2001 - 07:56 AM
Posted 28 February 2001 - 08:49 AM
When Ford came to office in 1974, he was regarded as a rock-ribbed midwestern conservative. He immediately began making overtures to Vietnam-era draft dodgers and emphasising that he was pro-choice and supported the Equal Rights Amendment for women. His moderation sparked a Reagan-led rebellion in the GOP's right wing in 1976. Ford survived, but he had to tack rightward to do it.
That softened him up for Jimmy Carter and his promise of Democratic reform. But to party liberals, Carter's moderate policies smelled too much like Ford's, so Ted Kennedy led a crippling challenge in 1980. With a Democrat like this, the libs cried, we might as well have a Republican president.
They got their wish with Reagan. His popularity, tax cuts and Cold War bombast nailed down his right wing and prevented an intra-party challenge in 1984. But (and this is widely forgotten now) deficit hawks, pro-lifers and other conservative stalwarts groused throughout his presidency that Reagan paid them too little heed.
Things have changed since Kondracke surveyed the scene. The political center has shifted a bit to the left in the past 15 years. Now it makes more sense to say that no matter whom we elect president, we always get Lloyd Bentsen.
The distinguished Texas senator was the consumate pro-business, social-safety-net moderate. He was an icon of the Democratic Leadership Council, formed after the Walter Mondale debacle in 1984 to drag the party back to the center.
Consider George Bush the Elder, who urged a "kinder, gentler" nation after the Reagan years. But was nominally pro-life, but neither side of that debate took him very seriously when he said so. His chief domestic legacies are the "thousand points of light" mushiness and the tax hike he negotiated with the Democratic Congress in 1990.
(Incidentally that tax hike, coupled with Clinton's in '93, deserves much of the credit for lowering the budget deficit as well as interest rates, which promoted investment and helped spark the economic boom and budget surpluses of the '90s.)
Bush's centrism enraged Pat Buchanan and the GOP right wing, which damaged Bush sufficiently to give us Bill Clinton, former chairman of the DLC. After a series of undisciplined lurches to the left in his early years, Clinton finally found his stride in the center after the '94 election debacle. Despite Rush Limbaugh's tirades to the contrary, Clinton's policies in his last six years had a lot more in common with Bentsen than Kennedy.
In 2000, Al Gore strangely chose to assert his independence by ceding much of Clinton's hard-won New Democratic turf to the GOP. Education reform, entitlement reform, and faith-based charities (all of them longstanding DLC ideas!) suddenly became Republican issues, while Gore sounded like Woodie Guthrie trying to rouse a nation of shanty-town hobos.
Dick Cheney and George W. Bush were the closest things to New Democrats in the race. They managed to draw close enough to Clinton's heir that they were able to purloin the Electoral College in Florida. And Cheney has governed more like Bentsen than Buchanan ever since.
With two significant exceptions (the soak-the-poor tax cuts and the full-speed-ahead approach to missile defense) President Cheney is behaving very much as a President Gore would have, and he's enjoying a honeymoon that the press and the GOP never would have bestowed upon Gore.
While my guy "lost" the election, I'm still getting about 70 percent of what I voted for. And to a New Democrat who finds himself saddled with a Republican president, that's not bad at all.
Posted 05 March 2001 - 06:15 AM
It's not enough to hold the office. It's necessary actually to use it before one can be considered president.
Posted 07 March 2001 - 05:33 AM
Posted 08 March 2001 - 04:58 PM
Cheney is the Prime Minister and Bush is the Queen of England!
So what (unless, of course Cheney kicks!)! Bush has a good team and we haven't heard any of the sleaze associated with the last crew. A year ago, given a choice between Cheney and Bush I would have chosen Cheney but his health and his more conservative approach would have made him unelectable. In any event, I'm pleased with end result.
Posted 04 April 2001 - 04:42 PM
In every case so far he has pushed the agenda of conservative thought. He is far more conservative than his campaign let on.
He has little respect for human life, as he took the lead in executions in the country. His refusal to even consider that some of those 157 people executed may have been innocent shows his rigid and limited ability to truly think and feel.
He will, though, help usher in some dramatic changes, so in that sense I hope he continues with his agenda of business first, people second.
Posted 21 May 2001 - 11:55 AM
Gore said: "In addition to the Bible -- everybody has to say that -- maybe 'The Red and the Black,' written in 1830 by French novelist Henri Stendhal, considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century."
I found a lecture about the book. Below is an excerpt which seems to explain why Al might have found the book so interesting:
"In that sense 'Red and Black' is a very modern novel, and Julien Sorel is a very modern hero, one who desires above all else to live an authentic life but who,lacking any firm sense of what an authentic life might mean and sufficient intelligent self-confidence and emotional strength to create one (so that his inner sense of himself is plagued with constant doubts) and existing in a society from which all notions of heroic conduct have long disappeared, except as nostalgic memories of the Middle Ages, is incapable of constructing what he most desires."
Posted 21 May 2001 - 11:59 AM
Your Gore personality research is really interesting. Thanks for passing it along. Of course, the insight you provide into Gore's character reveals a lot in comparison to the character of his victor, George W. Bush.
The really interesting thing about the research you did is the notion of Gore as a "modern" man. I think this notion of "modernity" is beautifully stated in the lecture you cite. However, even if it's right, I don't think that it's necessarily a flaw in Gore's character or in the character of any other "modern" human being. Why so? Because cultural, social, and personal relationships -- in other words, life -- on most levels is very complicated, and amazingly nuanced.
"Modern" sensibilities reflect this reality, and in my opinion, the Clinton/Gore administration reflected the same reality. (If you don't believe me, compare the past and the current administrations' respective work habits: Clinton routinely worked 12 to 15 hours a day, while Bush's schedule wouldn't even exhaust a banker.)
I can't resist a specific example. The Balkans is surely one of the most complex cultural and geographic regions of the globe. After the fall of communist Yugoslavia, the area exploded with cultural and ethnic mayhem during the Clinton/Gore administration. From the very beginning until the very end, the Clinton/Gore team worked the problems, worked the problems, and worked the problems, found a solution every single time, and did so at a virtual-zero cost of American life and materiel.
Was it simple? Hell no, it was unbelievably complicated. But that doesn't mean it wasn't heroic. The Clinton/Gore administration's handling of the 1990s crises in the Balkans was a phenomenal foreign policy victory (actually, it was a series of phenomenal victories), but I doubt Clinton and Gore will ever get their due credit for it.
Can anyone dispute that George W. Bush is a man who is painfully more simple than a man like Al Gore? The facts are that Bush partied and womanized on his family's money until long after his youth ran out, then found Jesus and cleaned up his life just enough and just in time to bust through the glass ceiling to join his dad and pals.
Now his message is, "Being rich is great. And if the rest of you want a chance to also be rich, join me in scouring the land for more oil and in building sports stadiums at taxpayer expense. It'll be good for all of us."
Is there any more to Bush's character or policies? I admit I despise him, but can anyone defensibly flesh him out and make him more sympathetic than the picture I paint above? What more is there to him? Any damn fool can spend easy money, wrap himself in the flag, and crow about Jesus. How could we possibly have elected this man? (Of course, we really didn't. We elected Cheney and the nouveau-rural, Sunbelt libertarians who are now firmly in control of the GOP).
The point is, a man like Gore understands inherently that on most issues, especially those dealing with public policy, the world is a very complicated place. A man like Bush is just the opposite. He likes to keep things simple, because he IS simple. (U.S. News and World Report recently wrote that Bush becomes embarrassed when drawn into public policy discussions and tries to turn the conversation to sports).
Is simplicity a virtue in a father, in a husband, or in a pastor? Sure, in lots of ways. But should we have elected a President on the basis of it? America is not only longing for simplicity -- we're simpletons.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 12:08 PM
Why? Because we wound up with President Dick Cheney, who's better than both of them.
It's not a case of forgive and forget. I don't forgive James Baker or Antonin Scalia or Katherine Harris or the hosts of others (including Cheney) who spat on our democracy and the rule of law. And just as I haven't forgotten the sophist defenders of Richard Nixon 30 years ago, I'll never let another election pass without remembering which Republicans lied through their teeth in defense of the Florida outrage.
Yet I saw enough of Gore and Bush during the election and its aftermath to conclude either one of them would have made a lousy president. It's our good fortune that we're stuck with neither and that Cheney is in charge.
Let's begin with Dubya. In my contempt for this man, I stand second to no one -- except perhaps the Vietnam vet who fought in his place, or the Texans incarcerated during his governorship over the same drug he played with during his party days. In the year leading up to the election, I argued dozens of times in these pages that Bush was laughably unfit for our highest office.
Since the election I've been fairly quiet on the subject, but that doesn't mean my opinion is changed. In fact, it has been handsomely vindicated. All my silence indicates -- and I thank the gods I can say this -- is that Bush has never assumed the presidency.
Dubya's laziness and disinterest in public affairs surpass even my most shrill descriptions. He has handed the presidency lock, stock and Condoleeza to Cheney, while contenting himself to wave harmlessly at crowds and enjoy the White House gymnasium. I'm not outraged, mind you. I'm delighted. Deputy Deke has completely shirked his responsibilities, and we are all the better for it.
Oh, there was a dicey moment. Soon after he took office, Dubya hosted the Kennedy clan for a viewing of Kevin Costner's "Thirteen Days." I feared the Dekester would be wowed by how cool JFK and RFK looked during the Cuban Missile Crisis, barking orders and making big decisions on their own, often against the advice of their top staff.
My concern that Bush would abruptly seize the reins from President Cheney and his other handlers was soon eased. When that poor, demented gunman started blasting away at the White House late one morning, we learned Cheney was briefed on the situation while Deputy Deke was hard at work on the Nautilus. What a relief!
Sure, the Dekester steps on his thick tongue from time to time, saying something brainless about Taiwan or North Korea or the negotiations for a spy-plane crew. But the White House apparatus has been so quick to contradict him that foreign leaders now ignore his trite and ungrammatical blatherings and wait until formal, Cheney-approved positions are released.
So unless and until Cheney eats one Polish sausage too many, or Dubya begins to act like a grownup, we're gonna be fine. The ship of state is safe, steered at last by firm and steady hands.
That wouldn't be true, I now reluctantly concede, if Gore had ascended. He is the perfectly symmetrical opposite of Bush. Where Dubya cares too little, Gore cares too much. Where Dubya is ignorant, Gore is immobilized by data. Where Dubya coasts, Gore works himself into a frenzy. Where Dubya is lucky, Gore is comically doomed.
Does anyone doubt Gore would have been denied the gentle honeymoon now enjoyed by President Cheney? The modern right wing is too vitriolic and the press too resentful of his smugness to have allowed that. And his television visage is so charmless that by now most Americans would be groaning every time he appeared on screen.
Gore is a man of many gifts, but political aptitude and leadership skills are not among them. Those are fatal shortcomings in a president. His would have been a disastrous one-term failure that would have set back the cause of centrist progressivism for years.
Instead we're blessed with President Cheney, an executive of exquisite experience, skill and temperament. Is he too conservative for most Americans? Certainly, but many of his positions are political antes, starting points for negotiating purposes. The closely divided Congress provides an adequate check against runaway conservative looniness.
Best of all, there's the promise of a bright future. We don't have to fear the potentially dangerous beneficiary of an anti-Gore backlash in the next election. And because Cheney is saddled with Deputy Deke, he will be vulnerable to a competent Democratic challenger in 2004. If the Demos nominate another stiff, a second Cheney term won't kill us.
All in all, given the sickening campaign and the disgusting machinations that followed it, America couldn't have asked for a better outcome.
Posted 24 May 2001 - 04:00 PM
I think this may be the best piece of all time. This is an opinion shared by many Americans, but no one has articulated it. It needs to be read.
As someone who early on (with your urging) realized McCain was the real deal and that neither Gore nor Bush were completely right for the job, Cheney clearly is a pleasant surprise. He is a leader at a time when the country needs leadership.
Posted 13 July 2001 - 02:48 AM
Before the conservatives and their libertarian compatriots walk through the looking glass and begin blaming dark-skinned welfare mothers for all our economic woes, I want to point out exactly why I will now not be able to retire early.
In 1993, the Clinton administration raised taxes for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, began the process of balancing the budget (i.e., the Deficit Reduction Act of that year), and invested public funds in health care, child care, and education for the poor and the middle class. For seven years thereafter, the United States enjoyed the greatest economic expansion in history.
In 2001, CheneyBush, Inc. has cut taxes for the wealthiest two percent of Americans, effectively raised taxes on the poor and the middle class while cutting investment for these citizens, and put us within 12 to 18 months of deficit spending. To boot, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has asked for the biggest boost in military spending since Ronald Reagan's Cold War extravaganza.
In 2004, when the economy is still mired in recession, I want all of you CheneyBush, Inc. voters to try something that will surely be painful: Looking in the mirror.
Posted 17 July 2001 - 10:15 PM
Have you ever thought that the reason you can't retire is that you didn't adequately prepare for your future instead of counting on someone else?
Posted 18 July 2001 - 09:07 AM
Ahh, so my retirement woes are a result of my lack of "personal responsibility" and "family values." Man, I knew that conservatives like to keep their politics simple, but this is hysterical.
Actually, Jim, I'm only 39, so my comment about not being able to retire early was just a tongue-in-cheek introduction to my topic.
Which is: CheneyBush, Inc. is a kleptocracy.
When giants of the people like Lloyd Bentsen and Robert Rubin were in charge (under another giant of the people, William Jefferson Clinton), the government was exercising fiscal responsibility (call it, if you like, "governmental personal responsibility"). Simply put, Bentsen and Rubin balanced the "family" budget, and Wall Street liked it very much.
Now along comes Cheney and his leg-breakers. Having heard that the Clinton administration was able to put some money in the bank for a rainy day, CheneyBush, Inc. took its election "victory" as a mandate to raid the savings account.
Read (again, READ*) over the next several years about how the people and their elected representatives want to fund public programs for the good of the country, but now cannot do so because the funds aren't available. Read about how the economy is still mired in recession because the books aren't balanced and American consumers are worried about their future. When you read about these things (and you will), remember that your president, Dick Cheney, is responsible.
In fact, he's personally responsible.
* Conservatives are hereby prohibited from watching any more television (unless it's PBS). This will force them to read more and help them learn to deal with complexities.
Posted 30 August 2001 - 11:58 AM
Jokes compiled by Jim Hamilton
President Bush admitted today that he is a friend of the electrical industry. He said, "I owe them a lot and if it wasn't for the
electrical college, I wouldn't be president." -- Jay Leno
"Last week the Senate passed a bill to overhaul our nation's educational system. President Bush is expected to sign this interesting bill. The new system is designed to prevent marginal kids from slipping through the cracks and becoming President of the United States." -- Jay Leno
"I don't want to sound like I'm making fun of the handicapped, but clearly Bush has got dyslexia, the poor man. People think that because
Bush cannot speak English, he must be better in Spanish. He is not. As I like to say, the man is not bilingual. He is bi-ignorant." -- Molly Ivins
"Karl Rove is in hot water over a meeting he had with Intel executives, a company he owns $100,000 worth of stock in. Democrats say he could face ethics charges, but Rove says the meeting was good for the nation. Apparently, Intel is working on a new chip that would allow President Bush to process information faster." -- The Long Point's Jay Jaroc
"President George W. Bush acted just like an adult today as he arrived in Brussels and addressed a conference of NATO officials on the
validity of a proposed missile shield. The pitch was met with serious skepticism, since it is well known that Bush can't even prevent his own daughters from getting bombed." -- Craig Kilborn
"President Bush is in Europe and, as a matter of fact, today he gave his stirring 'Ich bin ein Incompetent' speech." -- David Letterman
"Actually, Bush says being in Europe isn't much of an adjustment for him. In a lot of these countries they drink a lot and drive on the other
side of the road, just like he used to do." -- Jay Leno
"Hundreds of protestors participated in rallies outside the NATO meeting yesterday. The majority of the people were against Bush. It doesn't bother him though. The last time the majority of the people were against Bush, he was elected president." -- Jay Leno
"People say Al Gore didn't deserve the presidency because he couldn't carry his home state. Hell, George Bush couldn't carry his home country." -- James Carville
Posted 06 December 2001 - 11:15 AM
Former journalist Howard Fineman, in Newsweek's latest dewey-eyed homage to Dubya, included a curious anecdote told by Condoleeza Rice. The national security advisor recalled speaking with her boss after the crucial Sept. 15 Camp David meetings in which Bush decisively and authoritatively delegated the war's prosecution to his staff.
"You know, Mr. President," Condi told him. "This is going to be like calling an audible on every play. And he said, 'Yeah, am I the quarterback?' And I said, "I think you're the coach.'" Rice went on to explain to the commander-in-chief that the quarterback was, in fact, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
(Script note to Will Ferrell: Cast a distracted gaze about the room before blurting, "Oh, yeah. The coach. Cool!")
No one in the administration is more fiercely loyal to Dubya than Condi. So we must conclude she found in this exchange a reassuring display of presidential greatness.
To my eye, this is fresh, reassuring evidence that Dubya remains a harmless accouterment in the White House. But, just to be sure, I'm going to light another candle tonight for Dick Cheney's pacemaker.
Posted 04 January 2002 - 09:15 AM
Posted 14 January 2002 - 04:10 PM
Newsweek reported White House Pillsbury Doughboy Karl Rove was displeased by Cheney's commanding performance on Tim Russert the Sunday after 9/11. There was too much candid talk about the quick decisions made with precious little notification of, much less input from, Deputy Deke. Big Dick has been scarce ever since.
Make no mistake. President Cheney still has his paws on the tiller, though for PR purposes he's crouched like Frank Morgan behind Oz' curtain. Don't take my word for it. Here's a recent blurb on Cheney's wife, from the Houston Chronicle:
"Don't worry about how Dick Cheney's heart is taking wartime stress, the vice president's (sic) wife says -- the busier it gets, the more serene he is. Lynne Cheney, in rare public comments on her husband's health, said this week that her husband is happy, he's calm, and he's happiest when he is in control. 'Dick is doing something he's spent his whole life preparing to do," Lynne Cheney said on CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports.'"
The more serene Dick is, the better off we all are.
Posted 17 January 2002 - 09:22 AM
I think there is more to the smoke and mirrors of Cheney's being in a secure, undisclosed location than our government's fear of his losing his life to terrorists. That is what we are being told told, isn't it? This bizarre depth of security for the vice president is going on while our "president" is showing up front and center at the opening of an envelope.
For the first few weeks, I thought that his being in hiding was to fool the public about his failing health and now I think he is hiding from the Enron scandal. I mean, even when someone is kidnapped we get to see a piece of ear. And I don't buy the idea that he is being hidden because he doesn't know how to shut up.
Posted 23 January 2002 - 07:47 AM
Kaye Mitchell wrote, "I think (Dick Cheney) is hiding from the Enron scandal...I don't buy the idea that he is being hidden because he doesn't know how to shut up."
The problem isn't that President Cheney shows up Dubya by talking too much. It's that he shows him up by simply showing up.
Cheney is palpably, reassuringly THERE, in a way his callow minion never can be. Cheney's intelligence, his depth, his grasp, his calm, his clipped, articulate authority...it is all so utterly absent in Deke that the typical American who thinks Bush is president can't help but make the comparison and be discomfited by it. The result is a kind of cognitive dissonance, a free-floating anxiety that goes away when Cheney recedes and Bush comes forward to wrestle with the daily sound bite.
The problem with your Enron theory is that there seems to be nothing to hide. When the shit hit the fan, Cheney basically told Ken Lay to have a nice day, as he certainly should have. Before the crash, Cheney even scuttled the Kyoto global warming treaty that would have been a boon to the natural gas-trading colossus.
In fact, the only administration figure tarnished so far by the Enron pub is the Towelsnapper himself, for foolishly and gratuitously lying about his friendship with Kenny Boy.
Posted 25 January 2002 - 08:09 PM
I agree that Dubya's claim that Lay supported Ann Richards was lame and given what appears to stellar decision making by the rest of the Administration on this issue, the President pales a bit by comparison. I almost fell off my chair when I heard some "talking head" on CNN call Bush's comments "Clintonesque"
The bottom line here is that not only did the President's crew do the right thing by doing nothing, Enron's propensity to spread it around regardless of political party is bringing us campaign finance reform. Even Hillary got $$$ from Enron and my other senator (Schumer) was the number one Enron beneficiary amongst Democrats !!!.
McCain supporters should be pleased!
I hope something can be done for the retirees. I'm not suggesting a government bailout but a form of court directed restitution might be the way to go. Rough justice seems to be that money should be transferred from those who illegally profitted to those who lost everything but couldn't do anything about it.
It's usually never that simple unfortunately but somehow, I think this President might be more inclined than any thinks to see this type of justice done.
Posted 31 January 2002 - 06:09 AM
Does my contempt for Dubya cloud my judgment, or have this man's already crippled speaking skills regressed?
After the post-9/11 speech in which his performance soared to below average, he seems once again to confuse the TelePrompTer with guns aimed at his empty pate. He cocks an eyebrow when he says something tough, as if he's doing a Will Ferrell impression. He winks and giggles and gloats after reading applause lines with which he is only vaguely familiar.
Is it just me, or are all of his most worrisome character flaws on full display in these settings? Is so imperious in private that no aide has the guts to tell him not to say "nuke-u-lar" before a waiting world? Why else would no handler tell the Dekester it's unbecoming for a president to lard his speeches with so many "I's" "me's" and "my's?"
You'll search the speeches of Churchill, FDR, JFK and Reagan in vain for this kind of first-person puffery. President Towelsnapper, if you feel the need to repeatedly point out you're the man in charge, that only proves you're not.
Following the speech, MSNBC's Brian Williams and Howard Fineman discussed the man and the address in hushed, reverential tones. (How do conservative soreheads reconcile Dubya's kid-glove media treatment with their beloved liberal media conspiracy?) Oh, for the day when a national media figure sets aside his condescending "voice of a nation" pretentions and shouts the painful but undeniable truth: Our man-child emperor isn't wearing a stitch of clothes.
Posted 01 February 2002 - 09:35 AM
Joe McQuade wrote, "Is it just me, or are all of his most worrisome character flaws on full display in these settings? Is he so imperious in private that no aide has the guts to tell him not to say "nuke-u-lar" before a waiting world?"
The "nu-kyoo-lar" thing drives me crazy, too, Joe, but I would point out that even JFK said it that way. Why is it that when Republican politicians make spelling and pronunciation gaffes, it becomes an international story, but when Dean Rusk said "nu-kyoo-lar" and JFK said "Cuber," they got a free pass?
I recently saw a clip of the very first "Today" show in 1952, and the venerable, beatified Dave Garroway clearly said "between you and I." I'll bet that if Nixon had said "between you and I" in his Checkers speech, the media would still be chortling about it today.
Some people seem upset that the US president is not some academic giant, but in response I would submit the names of three presidents who (in my opinion anyway) were the only true academic intellectuals to have held office.
Of course, no one can take issue with the greatness of Thomas Jefferson, but his main political contribution came long before his lackluster tenure as president, which was distinguished only by his having the Louisiana Purchase fall into his lap. The other two intellectuals were James Garfield, who published a novel proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, and Herbert Hoover, who (with his wife, Lou) provided the first English translation of the landmark medieval metallurgical text, Agricola's "De Re Metallica."
So, intellectuals? God bless 'em, but politician material they ain't.
Posted 01 February 2002 - 02:48 PM
Posted 06 February 2002 - 11:23 AM
Ed Uthman wrote, "Why is it that when Republican politicians make spelling and pronunciation gaffes, it becomes an international story. But when (JFK and) Dean Rusk said 'nu-kyoo-lar' and JFK said "Cuber," they got a free pass?"
Actually, "Cuber" is a quirk of regional diction, not syntax. And on the larger point, you've got things exactly backward. The amazing thing isn't that Rusk's and Kennedy's (or Nixon's or Reagan's) rare grammatical lapses were largely overlooked. After all, their ability to form and articulate their positions was displayed so consistently as to be beyond question.
No, the amazing thing is that a man who constantly demonstrates an abject inability to reason or speak -- indeed, a man who exhibits open contempt for those skills -- has ascended to such heights.
Everyone who has played Little League baseball remembers the awkward kid who couldn't run, hit, throw or catch -- but who made the team and played ahead of more talented boys because his dad was the league commissioner or a coach.
Similarly, the Oval Office is now occupied by a stumblebum who was placed there for reasons having nothing to do with his credentials or worthiness. And that's why his smirking vanity really galls.
Ed asserts the tepid performances of intellectual presidents through history show erudition is a contra-indicator of success in office. Well, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson (and Winston Churchill) hardly embarrassed themselves in the political arena. And if we follow Ed's point to its logical conclusion, both parties should now be scouring schools for the mentally retarded for our next commander-in-chief.
My point is not that Nobel laureates are the only people qualified to be president. But there should be a not-so-daunting bar of intellectual fitness, knowledge and curiosity a candidate must scale to deserve consideration for the top job in the land.
As long as Deke continues to cede the power of the office to his gifted and worthy assistants, we'll all be fine, though it'll be more difficult to convince our children they must study hard and play by the rules. But if Dubya's hubris ever moves him suddenly to grab the reins, we'll all be sorry so many Americans ignored his dangerous shortcomings when they should have demanded more.
Stan Rash says my harsh assessment of the State of the Union address must be off, because "even the liberal press" praised it. Conservatives have always been able to hold contradictory ideas without too much discomfort, but this tendency is really getting out of control now.
On one hand we have Deke, a conservative president who by any objective standard is more vulnerable to fitness-for-office questions than any in perhaps 120 years. On the other hand, we have a simpering, compliant press that airbrushes his obvious shortcomings.
There are only two possibilities, the first of which is absurd on its face. Deke Towelsnapper is either a towering giant of a statesman, or the press is not the cabal of hardened pinkos that conservatives crack it up to be.
Come clean, conservatives. Great president, or liberal press: Which canard is more important to you?
Posted 13 June 2002 - 12:19 PM
More of the same! Black gold. Texas tea.
Those of you with good memories (two percent?) might recall that I railed in the late 1990's against then-Governor Bush's coddling of power plants in Texas. Under Texas's 1971 Clean Air Act, which was modeled on the federal act of the same name, new (future) power plants were to clean up and reduce their emissions but old power plants were "grandfathered" and didn't have to comply with the Act's air scrubber and reduced-emissions requirements.
Naturally the virtuous job-creating titans of Texas's power industry did the logical thing. Rather than build new plants, they just kept using the old, dirty ones. Then they sought exemptions from the Act's requirements for expanding or updating the old plants. Gov. Bush's response? "Got money? Give money? Then have at it."
Now the anti-Christ KKKarl Rove and his CheneyBush, Inc. machine are doing the same thing on a federal level. They figure if the dumbasses in Texas fell for it, so would American dumbasses as a group. The EPA announced this week that it is easing Clean Air Act restrictions on updated power plants. In other words, just as in Texas a few years ago, "Got money? Give money? Then have at it."
Now, on a national level, to circumvent the Act all the Ken Lays of the U.S. have to do is expand an old plant rather than build a new one.
I'm going to pick on Houstonians now, because they deserve it and voted 10 to 1 for Bush. As you collapse and choke up lung butter in your fetid, sulfuric city, think of me rhetorically leaning over to ask you, "Now, who did you vote for?"
I know you'll spit at me (because that's your way) and respond, "at least I didn't vote for that sex maniac Al Gore." And I'll smile, because you will have proved by your own admission that you are too feeble-brained to make even simple distinctions.
Posted 13 August 2002 - 08:07 AM
"...Republicans were thrilled to hear the vice president (sic) tell a worshipful crowd of white, wealthy people at the Commonwealth Club...that he would be willing to run with the president (sic) in 2004...Republicans had been worrying about the health factor -- not that Cheney's was getting worse, but that Bush's was getting better...
"Even Republicans have begun privately admitting what Democrats have been whispering: Cheney is running the country. He can't get off the ticket, because Bush won't get off the treadmill...
"Republicans are most grateful to Cheney. With the time he saved by not explaining administration policy to the president and the country, and the time he saved refusing to answer reporters' nitpicking questions about his past business schemes, he has been able to fly around raising more than $12 million for Republican candidates.
"Today he'll...preside over the president's Waco economic forum, which is designed to present Bush as a leader who is engaged with the country's economic fears...(But) like a buoyant Dr. Evil holding a napping Bush Mini-Me in a Snugli, Cheney seems to relish running the world alone...
"Only one question remains: Will the vice keep the president?"
Posted 03 October 2002 - 12:54 PM
"Many readers defend this administration because there is so much brainpower in the Cabinet. The thing that worries me is that history tells us many boy kings grow up to be appalling leaders who often eliminate their advisors."
This danger was by far the strongest argument for voting against Deke Towelsnapper in 2000. Republicans were irresponsible for ignoring it, and Democrats were remiss for not emphasizing it more.
So far, Dubya's intellectual sloth continues to serve the nation well, as he has ceded virtually all presidential policy-making to President Cheney and other top officials. We should be grateful for that, but there are troubling signs as well.
Consider the punk factor. Deputy Deke sometimes exhibits the spoiled rich kid's tendency to pop off, to take on a macho, bullying posture without fearing the consequences. It's too much to expect him to think before he speaks, because that would render him mute. But undisciplined and uninformed chest thumping is dangerous in a "president."
Remember when Bush initially labeled the war against terror a crusade? That's not how to recruit Arab allies to the cause, Deke. All this smirking "dead or alive" stuff might play well among American beer drinkers, but it sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard to rest of the world.
What makes this even more worrisome is that it seems borne of a tendency toward self-aggrandizement. Previous presidents had the grace to couch their ideas and proposals more modestly, saying things like "The American people want X," instead of, "I want X," or the like. Dubya uses the first person more than any president in our lifetimes.
(Imagine how Deke would have delivered Ronald Reagan's classic line in Berlin: "Mr. Gorbachev, I want you to tear down this wall for me!")
If this is just an attempt to gin up the self-esteem that actual engagement in the presidency might otherwise provide, then we've got a manageable problem. But if it hints at growing ambition, we could be in for serious trouble.
It is possible to argue Bush's hubris has already done significant damage. The administration's single biggest mistake in the post-9/11 environment has been (at least until recently) its persistent unilateral emphasis in remarks about Saddam Hussein. This alienated friend and foe alike from the cause.
Is this miscalculation the fault of President Cheney, who helped Bush the Elder build a 30-nation coalition and U.N. support for Desert Storm? Or does it bear the greasy fingerprints of a swell-headed boy king?
Steven Conant made these related points in the same thread:
"To question the intellect of a public figure based on media exposure surely is an intellectual flaw itself. Presidents are ultimately judged by their cabinets and advisors."
On the first point, if Steve hasn't seen enough evidence to draw fair conclusions about Bush's intellect, I despair of convincing him the sun will rise tomorrow.
Regarding the second, most folks agree Abraham Lincoln was our greatest president. Without reaching for a book, can Steve name three of his advisors?
Posted 04 October 2002 - 06:09 AM
* Upon further reflection I've concluded the buck stops with President Cheney. After all, he heads the apparatus that routinely clarifies Deke's extemporaneous public utterances. That apparatus did nothing to correct the administration's unilateralist theme until late August/early September.
Why did Cheney move from multi-lateral coalition-builder during Bush I to imperious unilateralist during Bush II? Perhaps power has gone to his head, too.
Posted 17 October 2002 - 01:02 PM
"Cheney is Fulcrum of Foreign Policy"
By Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin
(Oct. 13) "...inside the White House, Cheney and his small but powerful staff have emerged as the fulcrum of Bush's foreign policy, according to extensive interviews with officials in and outside the White House, as well as diplomats who deal with the administration...
"It is a measure of Cheney's influence that, by some accounts, he is viewed as responsible for the pace of the administration's campaign against Iraq -- slowing it down when he sides with Powell, a skeptic on a war with Iraq, and speeding it up when he backs the more hawkish Rumsfeld. It is a portrait that White House insiders say is inaccurate, since it ignores the central role of the president, but it is a view prevalent in the bureaucracy...
"Foreign officials, including 17 presidents or prime ministers this year, have learned they must schedule a visit with Cheney as they make their rounds in Washington...
"By early summer, the administration decided to roll out its Iraq policy in the autumn. But as the administration debated the best way to challenge Iraq, Senate hearings and a torrent of critical op-ed articles by foreign policy experts, some from previous Republican administrations, threatened to weaken the case for action against Iraq...
"Cheney concluded that the administration couldn't wait. He mentioned to Bush that he planned to give a speech on Iraq, and the president contributed a few suggestions, officials recounted. Then, the day before the speech, Cheney laconically mentioned that the speech would be 'pretty tough.'
"'Tough?' Bush asked.
"'Yep,' Cheney said.
"'Okay,' Bush replied."
Still to come in this groundbreaking series:
"Bush Logs 10 Hours of Sleep Each Day"
"White House Staff Impressed by Bush's Hands-Off Management Style"
"Bush Achieves Yet Another Personal Best in Mile"
"President Inspires New Trend in Business Schools: Disengagement Theory"
"Bush Reports More 'Strong Discussions' With Advisors"
"Behind the Presidential Smirk: Not a Whole Hell of a Lot"
Posted 02 December 2002 - 10:32 AM
This is indeed worrisome. Though it goes without saying, I'll say anyway that Woodward wears a reportorial jockstrap I am not worthy even to sniff, much less carry. In American journalism he is the unquestioned Man. The Babe Ruth. The Tiger Woods. And I will read his book with all due reverence.
In the meantime, I'm relying on some common-sense assumptions to keep the old cognitive dissonance at bay. As good and as credible as Woodward is, his most valuable sources always seem to radiate an air of sainthood in his omniscient narratives. I gather Bush, Colin Powell and Condi Rice come off as the Voices of Reason in his latest, while Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld are the Princes of Darkness. I think I've got a good handle on which of these fed Woody the juiciest stuff.
Colin and Condi are no fools. And they're too loyal, savvy and reticent to attempt Al Haig-like grabs for glory. Of course they're going to perpetuate a portrait of Dubya as Douglas MacArthur. Who would expect anything else?
President Cheney and Bush's chief political handler, Karl Rove, have a slightly different mission in this because they, unlike Powell and Rice, are widely seen as the powers behind the throne. It's easy to understand why they would keep Woodward at arm's length and instead give him hours of private face time with the Towelsnapper.
Like Tony Soprano leaving the false impression that his foolish Uncle Junior is the boss, Rove and Cheney assume low profiles that are bogus and utterly self-serving. How, you might wonder, can such modesty be self-serving?
Well, that's how it works when you've got a man-child who wants to delegate away the presidency, yet still be seen as the Big Kahuna. Cheney (and to a lesser extent, Rove) get to be POTUS, and the other handlers get the ride of their professional lives, just as long as they preserve the fiction that Dubya's calling all the shots.
I also wonder if Woodward has assumed the Voice of The Nation mantle once worn by the likes of Hugh Sidey and other inner circle reporters who were so caught up in the grandeur of the presidency, particularly in wartime, that they felt a patriotic obeisance to whoever held the office. Even if he's not intoxicated with the notion that he's a Guardian of the National Mission, Woodward isn't immune to the worst hazard of insider journalism: All that access, particularly if you want to keep it, has a price.
Alright, that's all I'll say about a book I haven't read yet. But it is fair to react to a Bush quote from the book, excerpted in a recent Helen Thomas column:
"Bush talks about his job as 'the strategic thinker' of his administration who makes provocative comments to prod his staff. Woodward then asked if Bush ever explained 'what he was doing.'
"'Of course not,' (Bush) said. 'I'm the commander - see, I don't need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they (sic) say something, but I don't feel like (sic) I owe anybody an explanation.'"
First, try to imagine any other president in the last century or so saying such a thing, particularly in public. Then look past the idiocy, egotism and skewered syntax in those sentences. Set aside the anti-democratic imperiousness and the rank Jimmy Cagney indignity of it all. Instead, for now, just consider the monumental, life-threatening danger contained in that brief passage.
President Cheney, you'd better watch your back. That goes for the rest of us, too.
Posted 05 December 2002 - 05:16 AM
John J. DiIulio is the Ivy League professor who resigned as head of the administration's faith-based services initiative when it became clear the program would be little more than a pep rally talking point and a patronage siphon for evangelicals. Now he has gone public with his beefs.
"There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm (read: Karl Rove). It's the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis...
"There is a virtual absence as yet of any policy accomplishment that might, to a fair-minded non-partisan, count as the flesh on the bones of so-called compassionate conservatism. (In its place is) "on-the-fly policy-making by speechmaking."
During the 2000 campaign, apologists for Dubya said there was no danger in electing an empty-headed president if he surrounded himself with capable staff. This begged several disturbing questions, the most obvious of which was, How do you trust an empty-headed person to choose capable staff?
The answer came in the spring of 2000, when Dubya held a photo op surrounded by Powell, Rumsfeld and a host of other GOP gray eminences. Deke was going to send Poppy's foreign policy lineup back onto the field! The problem was Poppy didn't really give two shits about domestic policy, either. We didn't need Cleo the Psychic to predict the situation DiIulio now describes.
The comfort in all this for Democrats is that Poppy pulled off a far more stunning and decisive military success than President Cheney is likely to achieve next year - and he still lost re-election with 38 percent of the vote. When the shooting stops, once again it will be domestic policy, stupid. (And if the shooting in Baghdad doesn't stop for two years, even Janet Reno could kick Dubya's butt at the ballot box.)
In a surreal post-script, DiIulio issued a press release quibbling over two quotes in his Esquire profile that were unkind to specific staffers. Then, after White House flack Ari Fleischer described DiIulio's analysis as "groundless and baseless," DiIulio issued a second release describing his analysis as "groundless and baseless."
DiIulio obviously needs a couple of aspirins and a nap. But there's no way he can put this toothpaste back in the tube.
Posted 05 December 2002 - 07:00 AM
Joe McQuade evidently has a lot more respect for reporters than I do, so I'll leave the Woodward book report up to him.
I spent much of my life in a little West Texas town where the newspaper was a weekly and sometimes a semi-monthly. The star reporter, whose name may have been Festus, ran the press, did the janitor work and was a part-time delivery boy for the local grocery store.
He was a nice guy and wrote some interesting social recaps and obits, but he wouldn't be considered a role model for anyone and he could never be elected to any public office.
I mention this because Woodward is famous for bringing down a sitting president. Although what he wrote may be more significant than small town obits, I still look at him as the kind of guy who should have a second job, and I am not saying this in defense of Nixon the crook.
Our political system is full of people who are, or soon will be, crooks and I suppose there is a place for investigative reporters to ride herd on these criminals. There are thousands of reporters who write stories that lead to indictments of various people, including politicians, and most of them do not become national icons. Bringing down a sitting president puts one in a different category.
Do you remember the names of the reporters who tried to crucify Clinton? But then he wasn't a crook. He was just a good ol' boy who liked blow jobs from young girls. Woodward could have written about Clinton and perhaps caused his resignation, because Woodward is an icon.
Walter Cronkite was a legend in his own time and he gave a report about the Vietnam War that brought on the worst military defeat in America's history. This is not a defense of our actions in Vietnam but a question: Should a reporter have the power to dictate national policy?
Dictate may be too harsh a word; maybe it should be influence. When Cronkite made that pronouncement he might not have been speaking as a reporter but as the voice of our national morality. And that's O.K.
News reporters who become so incredibly famous have a tremendous obligation to realize their every word can have a world-changing effect. It takes a very wise man to know if that change is for the better. Leaving Vietnam with our tail between our legs is something we will have to live with, forever.
Being in the national spotlight doesn't create intelligence, nor does being famous cause one to become an expert on foreign affairs or even political affairs. There are a lot of movie and television stars and even musicians who are often interviewed on news stories and seem to be deemed experts, but at what? The American public, more or less, ignores their outbursts. A reporter, on the other hand, may have acquired some smarts along the way just trying to make the obits read better.
As for Woodward, I rate him a step or two down from Dave Barry, and not nearly as interesting. (Just kidding, but McQuade can sniff either of their jockstraps).
Posted 06 December 2002 - 03:49 AM
Joe McQuade wrote, "John J. DiIulio is the Ivy League professor who resigned as head of the administration's faith-based services initiative when it became clear the program would be little more than a pep rally talking point and a patronage siphon for evangelicals. Now he has gone public with his beefs."
I'm sure that being the lone intellectual in the Bush White House presents ample frustration for a brainiac like DiIulio, but I would question the fundamental judgment of anyone of similar accomplishment accepting any job in a political office. Seeking the lowest common denominator is the coin of the realm in any business that relies on the good grace of the American voter. Work in a Republican shop and you'll be patronizing ignorant whites; work in a Democrat shop and you'll be patronizing ignorant blacks. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. You'll be disgusted with yourself either way.
That said, I must admit that I greatly enjoyed reading DiIulio's letter, which from top to bottom was expertly penned and gooey with insight, even if the content did nothing more than confirm what you and I have known all along. It makes me want to read more of his stuff. If he writes a book, I'll buy it.
Posted 06 December 2002 - 04:02 AM
Typical of Jack Davis' columns, his latest elicits many reactions in me, some of them on point, some of them tangents...
Jack's right that I have more respect for journalists than he does. His West Texas Festus character, the grocery delivery boy who also ran the local rag, strikes me as a kind of hero. Like 99 percent of his fellow journalists, he clearly was not in it for the money. His writing career, again like those of virtually all his peers, was motivated by altruism.
Incidentally, that's one reason reporters tend to be liberals.* They are generally smart and talented people who agree to work for relative pittances in all but the rarest cases. They're too cynical to make a big deal of this, but it's true: They are drawn to journalism not by pecuniary self-interest, but by a rough kind of public-spirited idealism. Let's face it: Most smart and talented conservatives are unashamedly focused on padding their banks accounts. It's an integral part of their ethos.
This doesn't mean journalists are better than everyone else. But in my book it places their profession somewhere among the noble, underpaid, self-sacrificing callings like military service, education, public safety, and yes, when it's done right, politics.
Just in case your teeth aren't on edge yet, let me add that journalists carry their loads with a fair amount of grace. How many times have you heard an attorney whine about lawyer jokes? Are you impressed when police desk sergeants and army quartermasters grouse that their heroic sacrifices are unappreciated? By contrast journalists, who with lawyers and politicians form the Triumvirate of Most Reviled Professions, typically feel invigorated when ridicule comes their way.
Jack's animus toward Bob Woodward in particular is curious. He faults Woody for "bringing down a president," when all he did was help reveal the crimes that caused Congress and the American people to give Richard Nixon the heave-ho.
Then Jack implies Woodward and the press went soft on Clinton. That makes me wonder if he forgot to pick up a newspaper during the 1990s, when front pages were splattered every day with Clinton "scandals," most of which eventually proved bogus or inconsequential. (Yes, his crimes in the Lewinsky case were serious, but it's laughable to say the press soft-pedaled them, despite overwhelming public sentiment that it should have done so.)
It is beyond curious for Jack to claim Walter Cronkite's reporting on the Vietnam War "brought on the worst defeat in America's history" or to allege that Uncle Walter "dictate(d)" or unduly "influenced" national policy. If America's war policy couldn't stand up to public scrutiny, that was the policy's fault, not Cronkite's. And if he had "dictated" national policy, we would have been out of Vietnam after the Tet offensive in January, 1968, when Cronkite first publicly concluded the war was a mistake. Instead, our direct involvement ended some five disastrous years and 25,000 American lives later.
"Leaving Vietnam with our tail between our legs," Jack writes, "is something we will have to live with forever." Actually, it's worse than that. Our willingness to kill half a million people for a doomed, misguided and immoral cause was our most important legacy in Vietnam. It feeds much of the world's suspicion of us to this day.
* It is a canard that liberalism among reporters inevitably produces liberal bias in their stories. The vast majority of American news accounts follow a simple formula: Source A says X, and Source B says Not X. As a result, most bias in most journalism is in the eye of the beholder.
The primary bias in the national press, and we should all be grateful for this, is its propensity to question the status quo. That's why the press goes after a Nixon and a Clinton with roughly equivalent gusto. There are curious exceptions, e.g. the kid-glove treatment of George W. Bush and the relentless savaging of Al Gore, but the maxim generally holds.
Posted 18 December 2002 - 04:54 AM
Joe McQuade wrote, “Incidentally, that's one reason reporters tend to be liberals. They are generally smart and talented people who agree to work for relative pittances in all but the rarest cases. They're too cynical to make a big deal of this, but it's true: They are drawn to journalism not by pecuniary self-interest, but by a rough kind of public-spirited idealism.”
Perhaps that is the initial attraction for some, but I would propose that for most it boils down to ego -- the great rush one gets when bringing down the mighty. Just remember, as 9/11 showed us, it's easy to destroy something. Building something, on the other hand, is very difficult, and the boring, tedious process of building is an area that few journalists show interest in.
Posted 18 December 2002 - 04:54 AM
My, that’s a mighty big brush you’ve got there. That most journalists are egomaniacs will come as a surprise to the 99 percent of them who toil in obscurity covering mundane stories. As to the tiny fraction who are investigative journalists, well, it’s hardly damning to note they aren’t carpenters.
Do we blame prosecutors for tearing down the lives of criminals? Do we fault FBI agents for dwelling on the illicit behavior of those they investigate? Are building inspectors just too negative about what goes on at construction sites?
There are many essential jobs that require skepticism and vigilance. Bonhomie has its place, but it doesn’t keep the streets safe or public officials honest. Reread “All the President’s Men” and see how easy it was for Woodstein to destroy THAT something – a something that damn well needed destroying.
Jeez, I’m getting a Bill O’Reilly head rush. Stop me before I preen again!
Posted 18 December 2002 - 04:55 AM
I think I insulted reporter McQuade unintentionally. The point I was trying to make is that reporters (including Mr. Woody) have as much right to express their opinions as Sean Penn, or any other celeb.
My Cronkite comment referred to what LBJ said: that we lost the war when Cronkite made his statements during the Tet offensive, not five years later.
Posted 18 December 2002 - 04:56 AM
Of course there’s no offense taken here, Tet or otherwise.
You’re right about what LBJ said, and it’s one reason many people consider him a pig. He knew, long before Cronkite did, that the war could not be won. Yet he tossed thousands of lives in the fire anyway.
Subsequently, uber-pigs Nixon and Kissinger won a razor-thin election with a self-described secret peace plan. Then they pressed the violence for four more years, settling finally for peace terms they could and should have taken on their first day in office.
Posted 18 December 2002 - 05:39 AM
My first answer overlooked a couple of things that put LBJ in an even worse light. First, he never said Chronkite’s defection lost the war for us. What he said after Cronkite’s Tet report was (paraphrasing here), “Well, if I’ve lost Cronkite, then I’ve lost middle America.” Actually, as Michael Beschloss’ books on the LBJ tapes reveal, Johnson believed the war was lost before he even entered it. Yet he pressed on.
Posted 19 December 2002 - 05:59 AM
Joe McQuade wrote, “(Reporters are) too cynical to make a big deal of this, but it's true: They are drawn to journalism not by pecuniary self-interest, but by a rough kind of public-spirited idealism."
Perhaps they are reporters because of their cynical nature as much as their public-spirited idealism. The 99 percent who muck in the mire of society for very little pay or recognition -- why do they do it? Perhaps all they see on the job, and it can be incredibly ugly, reinforces their cynicism and gives them the satisfaction of being right with the world. Idealism rarely survives when confronted with the reality of life as seen from the editor's desk.
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