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Who's the President, and How's He Doing?

112 posts in this topic

Who's the President, and How's He Doing? -- Whether it's Dick Cheney or George W. Bush, someone's in charge of the White House. Who do you think it is, and how do you rate his performance so far?

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During Ronald Reagan's reign, Morton Kondracke wrote that no matter whom we elect president, we always get Gerald Ford. His point was that politics and the demands of the office inevitably drive its occupants to the political center, where they can appeal to the most voters.

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.

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George magazine, in its farewell issue this month, addresses this question. It ranks Dubya the fourth most powerful person in Washington D.C., behind Alan Greenspan, President Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

It's not enough to hold the office. It's necessary actually to use it before one can be considered president.

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CheneyBush has co-opted the middle, is triangulating like Isosceles, and can't be beat in 2004. Congress, too, will stay GOP, even if not in name. (I heard an oxymoronic reference the other day to "a Georgia Democrat.") Within a few years, it will be painfully clear, " . . . for the times, they have a change - ed . . . "

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Last night on Crossfire, I heard the following:

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.

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All of the efforts of George W. follow a pattern -- be they environmental concerns, hate crime legislation, or the justice system.

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.

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The Internet joke photo that showed Dubya reading 'The Presidency for Dummies' made me wonder what Al Gore might be reading. I found a story about his appearance on Oprah, when she asked him to name his favorite book.

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."

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( In reply to Michael Millican )

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.

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Yes, I voted for Al Gore. And yes, I'm convinced George W. Bush's handlers stole the presidency from the rightful winner. But I'm having a hard time keeping a mad on about it.

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.

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( In reply to Joe McQuade )

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.

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It's Still the Economy, Stupid.

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.

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( In reply to Jim Hamilton's latest )

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?

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( In reply to Jim Chionsini )

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.

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A compilation of insights from sages of the day...

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

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Leadership, like beauty, must be in the eye of the beholder.

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.

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Now that we are encouraged to go about our lives normally, fly planes, attend public events and spend lots of money, why is Cheney still in hiding?

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( In reply to Kaye Mitchell )

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.

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( In reply to Joe McQuade on 1/14/02 )

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.

Kaye Mitchell

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( In reply to Kaye Mitchell's latest )

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.

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( Joe McQuade Wed 01/23/02 07:47:17 AM ) That's President Towelsnapper to you buddy! and don't forget it!

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.

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Random thoughts on the State of the Union address...

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.

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( In reply to Joe McQuade )

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.

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( In reply to Joe McQuade on 1/31/02 ) The answer to your first question is obvious -- your contempt is preventing you from seeing the truth. Hell man, W is even starting to sound like a member of the other party and I would think you would be eating that up. I believe even the liberal press gave his State of the Union address high marks.

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( In reply to Ed Uthman, Stan Rash )

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?

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Just a quick update on what our enlightened U.S. Presidential Conglomerate, CheneyBush, Inc., is up to these days:

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.

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