May 13, 2004

Bush Poll Numbers: Yup, Still Dropping

Professor Pollkatz still hasn't updated his very interesting Bush approval ratings graph, so I've updated my own version based the latest numbers from's Bush job ratings page (click on the graph for a larger version):

The pattern I've discussed several times previously (see The silk-purse president, Bush descending, and Bush's poll problem) continues. Except for those upticks corresponding to 9/11, the "Mission Accomplished" photo op, and the capture of Saddam, Bush's support has always eroded. Which makes sense, given that his actual job performance by every objective measure has been abysmal.

Anyway, we're now getting down in the range where his election in November becomes increasingly doubtful. If Rove & Co. didn't already have some sort of October surprise in the works to try to fluff him up just in time to squeak into a second term, they're certainly working on one now. What will it be?

The obvious choice would be the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden. Or if that doesn't pan out, I guess they might try an attack on Syria.

It's like being a kid again. What will Daddy give us for Christmas? Will it be a bicycle? Or a BB gun?

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May 11, 2004

Bush vs. King Canute

Here's an interesting item from someone named Scott Christianson, who has a brand-new weblog named Pin-hole Camera: Turning points. It compares Bush with King Canute the Great. Bush does not come off too favorably in the comparison.

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May 09, 2004

Weisberg on Bush's Non-Native Stupidity

I neglected to link to this last week when it came out, but it's very much up my alley, so here you go: from Jacob Weisberg: The misunderestimated man.

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May 04, 2004

Marshall, Will on Incurious George

And the fun continues, with more from Joshua Micah Marshall on Bush's apparent ignorance of a key report on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses: Shaken, but apparently not stirred. Definitely worth reading the whole thing. Marhsall's analysis is dead on. This is the rotten heart of the Bush presidency. From Marshall's conclusion:

There's an echo here of his [Bush's] response to the pre-9/11 warnings streaming up through the government bureaucracy. It hasn't landed on his desk yet, with an action plan, so what is he supposed to do? He talked to Rumsfeld who says he's on top of it. So what more can be done?

This isn't a matter of the aesthetics of leadership. It is another example of how this president is a passive commander-in-chief, how he demands no accountability and, because of that, allows problems to fester and grow. Though this may not be a direct example of it, he also creates a climate tolerant of rule-breaking that seeps down into the ranks of his subordinates, mixing with and reinforcing those other shortcomings.

The disasters now facing the country in Iraq -- some in slow motion, others by quick violence -- aren't just happening on the president's watch. They are happening in a real sense, really in the deepest sense, because of him -- because of his attention to the simulacra of leadership rather than the real thing, which is more difficult and demanding, both personally and morally.

What's that, you say? This is just typical election-year partisanship from the Bush haters of the far left? Um, no, not really. For proof of that, I give you none other than George F. Will, in an op-ed piece that appeared in the Washington Post yesterday, Time for Bush to see the realities of Iraq.

This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how "all people yearn to live in freedom" (McClellan). And about how it is "cultural condescension" to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a "myth" that "our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture" because "ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit" (Tony Blair).

[Several paragraphs of erudite Will-isms snipped.]

Being steadfast in defense of carefully considered convictions is a virtue. Being blankly incapable of distinguishing cherished hopes from disappointing facts, or of reassessing comforting doctrines in face of contrary evidence, is a crippling political vice.

When pundits from both ends of the political spectrum are saying essentially the same thing about your guy, it's hard to argue away their criticisms as being the result of an anti-your-guy bias. No, at this point I think it would be simpler for Bush supporters to just admit the obvious: the man has no business being president.

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Marshall: The Absurdity of Bush's "Stay the Course" Strategy for Iraq

Lots of interesting stuff lately about Iraq, mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison, and doubts about the wisdom of turning over the pacification of Fallujah to Fallujans. But the usual suspects (see the blogroll for starting points) have all that well-covered.

In the meantime, I was struck by this piece from Joshua Micah Marshall: One of the things I've found difficult...

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April 25, 2004

Photo Mosaic of Bush

Joe at American Leftist created this interesting photo mosaic of Bush, using only the faces of American soldiers killed in Iraq. He calls the image "War President":

War President

It's mirrored here, and is also available in larger sizes that let you see each face in the mosaic more clearly.

Note that there are more than 1400 faces depicted in the image, while so far only about half that many US soldiers have actually died in Iraq. Some of the faces are duplicated in the image, a fact that its creator makes clear up front.

(Which reminds me that I'd meant to link to that other photo mosaic of Ashcroft's face made with pornographic images. So I've done that now.)

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April 23, 2004

Bartlett: Deep Misgivings on Iraq, Bush's Decision-Making

Bruce Bartlett isn't the kind of guy I read every day, but maybe I should. The self-described political conservative has some choice words about how things are going in Iraq, and about the problems he sees with Bush's decision-making process: My misgivings.

I realize I make my own arguments fairly easy for Bush-supporters to dismiss, what with the one-sided snarkery I engage in. So ignore me. What about Bartlett, though? He's not some raving leftist. He's a sober, intelligent, thoughtful conservative. And he's got concerns. Maybe you conservatives who visit from time to time (both of you) might want to check out his remarks.

For my other nine readers, who presumably fall somewhat closer to my own position on things, notice something here: the guy is a political conservative, yet he's thoughtful, honest, and willing to speak his own mind. Interesting, huh?

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April 21, 2004

Bush: Our Enemies Have No Souls

During his recent campaign speech calling for renewal of the Patriot Act, Bush mentioned "souls" five times, leading up to this final, extremely curious (from a theological standpoint) mention:

And there's only one path to safety and that's the path of action. Congress must act with the Patriot Act. We must continue to stay on the offense when it comes to chasing these killers down and bringing them to justice -- and we will. We've got to be strong and resolute and determined. We will never show weakness in the face of these people who have no soul, who have no conscience, who care less about the life of a man or a woman or a child. We've got to do everything we can here at home. And there's no doubt in my mind that, with the Almighty's blessings and hard work, that we will succeed in our mission.

The discussion of this at Corrente is pretty interesting (see this item: How can Bush say that his enemies have no souls?, as well as the item's comments). It includes a link to an earlier Corrente posting (POTL -- short for "People of the Lie") that I also really liked.

The asssertion by Bush that our enemies have no souls raises some questions. Obviously, it doesn't comport with the teachings of any mainstream Chrisitian religion. So, given Bush's frequent allusion to his being, in fact, a born-again Christian, what does it reveal about him?

To me, it reveals that his religious faith is, to him, very much like every other aspect of his character. Fundamental questions (like whether evildoers have souls, or whether a unilateral pre-emptive invasion of Iraq will help or hurt US interests) hold essentially zero interest for him. He's not an analyzer. He's a gut-checker. He knows the truth, knows what's right, and feels no particular need to examine the world to see if it matches up with his a priori beliefs.

I don't think anyone's going to bother correcting Bush on this theological point; people realize that the distinction really just isn't important to him. Souls, shmouls, who cares? The important thing is that they're our enemies, they're sub-human, and we needn't be concerned about moral complexities if we decide to hunt them down and exterminate them like vermin. Oh, and likewise submerged in the clutter of unimportant details: what one has to do to qualify for such morally-neutral extermination. Commit acts of terror? Sure. Be a Muslim living in a Middle Eastern country that lacks a pro-US foreign policy? Okay, you're in, too. Oppose the president's policies at home? Yup, you're also soulless. Line 'em up for the gas chamber, boys. We're making a better world.

What's that? You think I'm being unfair? I don't think so. It's completely consistent with how Bush operates. I honestly believe that the only thing holding him back at this point is his desire to win the upcoming election. If Bush wins a second term, such that that last restraint on his behavior is removed, I can't imagine how far he'd go in pursuing his personal version of reality, both at home and abroad. I really don't want to find out.

When you get right down to it, it's just awfully convenient to grant onesself the power to imagine a world that matches all one's preconceptions, and then to ignore the world's real nature in one's interactions with it. It's what very young children do, as a rule. Among grownups, though, it's considerably more rare. In a person who wields the power of the US presidency, it's downright scary.

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April 20, 2004

Corn on Woodward on Bush

I haven't being paying a whole lot of attention to the fuss surrounding Bob Woodward's new book, in part because Woodward kinda gives me the creeps. But I read David Corn's recent piece on Woodward in The Nation, and it struck me as interesting enough to warrant posting here. So there: I have officially done the coverage of Woodward's new book: Woodward on Bush.

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April 19, 2004

How to Get Bush to Debate Kerry

Kerry keeps talking about wanting to debate Bush early and often. Bush keeps ducking the challenge, for obvious reasons. But Lead Balloons over at Bad Attitudes suggests that Kerry might be able to get Bush to go for it if he says Bush can bring Cheney with him; i.e., Kerry will debate both of them at once.

Balloons actually suggested that a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it then. He also suggests, more recently, an alternative approach Kerry can take: offering to debate Cheney instead of Bush. That one works, too, though in a different way.

If he did it jokingly, during a Letterman appearance, say, he could get it out there without having to look like he's beating up on Bush. That assumes Kerry has a sense of humor and can tell a joke, something I'm not sure I've seen him do, so maybe he can't or won't. But it's a cute idea, at least.

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April 18, 2004

Forbes on the Air Force One Lie

Interesting (to me, at least) item from Scott Forbes about how the lie from the Bushies about Air Force One being targetted on 9/11 revealed to him the extent of their dishonesty: Moment of truth.

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April 16, 2004

Jerome Doolittle on Bush's Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes runs some excerpts from an academic piece on Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), noting the point-by-point matchup with George Bush: And you thought guys like that were just assholes!

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April 15, 2004

Lizza on the White House Press Corps' Thirst for Vengeance

From The New Republic's Ryan Lizza comes this really fun and insightful piece on the relationship between Bush and his media entourage, and the back story to Tuesday's press conference: Stuck.

You probably won't be surprised to learn that poll-obsessed me found this part especially interesting:

Before the press conference, some in the media believed that Bush's performance could tip the president's popularity one way or the other. But, instead of changing Bush's political momentum, Tuesday's performance just reinforced the public's opinion about what his most dominant trait is. It's not leadership or stupidity, the two characteristics most often ascribed to the president by his allies and foes. It's that he refuses to change his mind.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center recently asked 1,800 people to rate Bush and John Kerry on a scale of one to ten for 17 different characteristics. On many issues, the scores revealed no advantage for either candidate. Voters rated them equally on whether they "care about people like me," "share my values," are "inspiring," "trustworthy," or have the "right kind of experience to be president." But the most extreme score was recorded when voters were asked how well the word "stubborn" applies to Bush. And the more important voters are to deciding the general election, the higher the score rose. Respondents from the 18 swing states thought Bush was even more stubborn than the rest of the country did. And, within the swing states, the so-called "persuadable" voters, a narrow band of Americans (about 11 percent of the electorate) undecided about the contest, found Bush even more stubborn. Interestingly, the impression that Bush is obstinate is far more ingrained than the impression that Kerry is a flip-flopper. Voters say the phrase "changes his mind for political reasons" applies about equally to both men. The coveted persuadables actually say it is a slightly better description of Bush. So, while the president may have spent $40 million on advertising to convince swing voters that Kerry changes his mind too much, they apparently are more concerned that Bush changes his too little.

Gotta love those persuadables. Flexible willow wands themselves, trimming their sails to whatever political wind is currently blowing, they apparently are even more likely than lefties like me to take notice of Bush's stubborn streak.

I also really liked this part:

It's common for a president faced with a sudden decline in popularity to think that, if he could only get his message out more effectively, his problems would be solved. Bush has always leaned heavily on the crutch of the big speech or bold press conference to turn things around. But he doesn't have a message problem; he has a reality problem. "The administration is like a person who talks more loudly and slowly to people who don't understand English," says a Senate Democratic aide.

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Help Bush Identify His Biggest non-9/11 Mistake

Hm. This is arguably another press conference item, which means I lied. Dammit!

Anyway, be sure to check out the following from the Center for American Progress: Vote in our poll: President Bush needs your help.

It's an online poll that lets you pick from five possible answers Bush could have given to the "other than 9/11, what's the biggest mistake you've made?" press conference question that he honestly couldn't think of an answer for. The choices:

  • Invading Iraq without a plan for the aftermath.

  • Telling the American people that Iraq definitely possessed WMD.
  • Failing to send U.S. troops into Tora Bora to capture Osama bin Laden in November 2001.

  • Disparaging Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki when he said more troops would be needed in Iraq.

  • Focusing on missile defense while ignoring repeated warnings of an imminent al Qaeda attack before 9/11.

The last one is arguably not a valid response to the question he was actually asked, but even with it excluded, that's a pretty good list of candidates. Reading them actually gave me a new appreciation of the difficulty Bush faced during the press conference: I had a really hard time picking one, too.

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criticalviewer's Press Conference Summary

Okay; last link re: Bush's recent press conference, I promise. From criticalviewer: A busy person's guide to the Bush press conference. The scary thing is, this summary is pretty much what he actually said. Funny how stripping away the rhetorical embellishment can turn a plain-talkin' Texan's answers into psychotic incoherence, isn't it?

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April 14, 2004

Saletan: Bush's Credibility Gap

So, I've obviously got this thing about watching Bush and marvelling at how his mind works. And others have a similar thing, including Slate's William Saletan, who has written one of the best pieces I've seen lately about Bush's recurring problem with this whole notion of "credibility": Trust, don't verify.

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Aday: Press Conference Summarized

Here's an actually-extremely-accurate summary of last night's press conference, from Fly Traps' Sean Aday: Bush's presser: The Reader's Digest version.

Seriously, if you didn't watch it, and want the gist in the shortest possible version, this is it. If you did watch it, and want a chuckle, you're likewise in luck.

Posted by jbc at 04:52 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)'s PDB


Bush's personal copy of the Aug. 6 PDB

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Juan Cole Debunks Bush's Press Conference Statements

Middle east expert and weblogger Juan Cole started to go point-by-point through some of the more questionable assertions Bush made during yesterday's press conference, but apparently lost heart for the exercise fairly early on. Still, the comments he did make are interesting: Arguing with Bush.

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Press Conference Post-Mortem

So, Bush's prime-time press conference last night came off mostly as predicted, though there were a few interesting developments, especially late in the proceedings when he called on some reporters who don't normally get to put questions to him.

His pre-rehearsed stuff on "staying the course" in the cause of Iraqi freedom was sufficient, I'm sure, to make the most enthusiastic of his supporters happy. But overall, I think the argument he presented was weak. Beyond asserting (and reasserting, and reasserting) that he (Bush) feels personally confident that he is doing the right thing in Iraq, and that the course we are on will magically lead to a peaceful, democratic government there, and thence to the magical spread of those values throughout the region, there really wasn't any substance. Bush's argument basically comes down to, "trust me." And as a response to polls showing that a growing majority of people specifically don't trust him, at least on Iraq, that seems like a less-than-adequate response.

It's clear, though, why Bush dislikes the press conference format: it makes him look bad. Or, from a less-forgiving point of view, it makes his essential badness harder to conceal.

There were some questions that he clearly flubbed. Like this one:

Q. Mr. President, Why are you and the vice president insisting on appearing together before the 9/11 commission? And Mr. President, who will you be handing the Iraqi government over to on June 30?

A. We'll find that out soon. That's what Mr. Brahimi is doing. He's figuring out the nature of the entity we'll be handing sovereignty over. And secondly, because the the 9/11 commission wants to ask us questions. That's why we're meeting, and I look forward to meeting with them and answering their questions.

Q. Mr. President, I was asking why you're appearing together rather than separately, which was their request.

A. [Accompanied by steely glare at the impertinent questioner.] Because it's a good chance for both of us to answer questions that the 9/11 commission is looking forward to asking us, and I'm looking forward to answering them.

Let's see. Hold on for a minute. Oh -- I've got some must calls, I'm sorry.

After which he went to the reporter from the Washington Times for a softball question to get his footing back.

There was also this one, which led to one of those heart-stopping "oh my God" moments as Bush floundered for a long time without answering what honestly should have been an easy one:

Q. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say? And what lessons have you learned from it?

A. Hmmm. I wish you'd have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it. I'm sure historians will look back and say, Gosh, he could have done it better this way or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.

I would have gone into Afghanistan the way we went into Afghanistan. Even though what I know today about the stockpiles of weapons, I still would have called upon the world to deal with Saddam Hussein. See, I happen to believe we'll find out the truth on the weapons. That's why we sent up the independent commission. I look forward to hearing the truth as -- exactly where they are. They could still be there. They could be hidden, like, the 50 tons of mustard gas in a turkey farm.

One of the things that Charlie Duelfer talked about was that he was surprised at the level of intimidation he found amongst people who should know about weapons and their fear of talking about them, because they don't want to be killed. You know, there's this kind of, there's this terror still in the soul of some of the people in Iraq. They're worried about getting killed. And therefore, they're not going to talk. And it'll all settle out. We'll find out the truth about the weapons at some point in time.

However, the fact that he had the capacity to make them bothers me today just like it would have bothered me then. He's a dangerous man. He's a man who actually not only had weapons of mass destruction -- and the reason I can say that with certainty is because he used them. And I have no doubt in my mind that he would like to have inflicted harm or paid people to inflict harm or trained people to inflict harm on America because he hated us.

You know, I hope I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here and maybe I'm not quick, as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.

That one led to the following harsh assessment from Reuters: Bush remembers no specific mistakes since 9/11.

Now, I realize that on one level, this is just a game of political gotcha, and in that context, Bush is well within his rights not to play along by offering a sound bite in which he acknowledges error. But honestly, I think this goes beyond that. I'm increasingly convinced that Bush really does have what can only be described as a deep-rooted personality disorder that makes it impossible for him to acknowledge error. It's not just that he's unwilling to admit being wrong to a roomful of reporters. He's unwilling to admit it to himself. And that's a problem.

The final oh-my-God moment, for me, came at the very end of the session, when he called on Don Gonyea, NPR's White House correspondent. Maybe Bush was feeling the finish line, and decided he could afford to throw one to a more-critical questioner. But it was a mistake, and he compounded it when he got into a conversational back and forth with Gonyea during which the presidential stature he works so hard to build up crumbled visibly:

[A.] Let's see, last question. Hold on for a second. Those who yell will not be asked.

Q. Following on both Judy and John's questions, and it comes out of what you just said in some ways, with public support for your policies in Iraq falling off the way they have quite significantly over the past couple of months, I guess I'd like to know if you feel in any way that you've failed as a communicator on this topic?

A. Gosh, I don't know.

Q. Well, you deliver a lot of speeches. And a lot of them contain similar phrases and they vary very little from one to the next. And they often include a pretty upbeat assessment of how things are going with the exception of --

A. I didn't think --

Q. -- pretty somber assessment this evening.

A. Pretty somber assessment today, Don.

Q. I guess I just wonder if you feel that you have failed in any way? You don't have many of these press conferences where you engage in this kind of exchange. Have you failed in any way to make the case to the American public?

A. I guess if you put it into a political context, that's the kind of thing the voters will decide next November. That's what elections are about. They'll take a look at me and my opponent and say let's see which one of them can better win the war on terror. Who best can see to it that Iraq emerges as a free society. And Don, you know if I tried to fine tune my messages based upon polls I think I'd be pretty ineffective. I know I would be disappointed in myself.

I hope today you've got a sense of my conviction about what we're doing. If you don't, maybe I need to learn to communicate better. I feel strongly about what we're doing. I feel strongly that the course this administration is taking will make America more secure and the world more free. And therefore, the world more peaceful. It's a conviction that's deep in my soul. And I will say it as best as I can possibly can to the American people. I look forward to the debate and the campaign. I look forward to helping, for the American people to hear, you know, what is the proper use of American power. Do we have an obligation to lead or should we shirk responsibility?

That's how I view this debate. And I look forward to making it. I'll do it the best I possibly can. I'll give it the best shot. I'll speak as plainly as I can. One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned this, when I say something I mean it. And the credibility of the United States is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.

Thank you all very much.

That last exchange shows both the best and the worst of Bush's performance. I think he was being honest in that moment about the conviction he feels, "deep in his soul," that he's the best person for the job of president. And for him, that personal conviction trumps any evidence to the contrary. You can see him thrusting it back at the electorate, almost daring them to disagree with him.

That approach obviously resonates with a certain chunk of voters. But over time, in the face of accumulating evidence that it's not just admirable self-confidence from someone who hit a triple, but is rather the self-serving bravado of someone born on third base who's willing to ignore his own failures, that exchange could end up being Bush's political epitaph.

Because it is essential that the president be credible in order to lead effectively, both at home and abroad, and that credibility has taken a huge hit under Bush. When you get right down to it, his shirking of responsibility -- for 9/11, for the missing WMDs, for the lack of a realistic exit strategy and the ongoing carnage in Iraq -- is the hallmark of the Bush presidency. Increasingly, voters are raising questions about that.

And Bush doesn't have an answer.

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April 13, 2004

What Will Bush Say at the "Press Conference"?

So, for the first time since March of 2003, and only the third time in his entire presidency, Bush is going to do a press conference in primetime. Well, except that if he follows the pattern he's established with previous events, he will only call on a small group of reporters chosen for their willingness to throw softballs and eschew tough followups.

Still, officials have indicated that Bush will deign to answer questions on Iraq and the recent 9/11 commission hearings:

"The president believes this is a good time to provide the American people with an update," [White House press secretary Scott] McClellan said, adding that he expects the president also will address the recent violence in Iraq. "This is an opportunity when we can reach many Americans."

White House communications director Dan Bartlett said Monday that the president also is prepared to address questions about a memo, titled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.," that he received on Aug. 6, 2001, as part of the President's Daily Brief.

So, what will he say? I'm guessing it's going to be large amounts of "we're making progress in Iraq," "we need to stay the course and demonstrate the manly, upright firmness of our resolve," and "our opponents over there are few, weak, scattered, and desperate." Expect something touching and down-home, also, about the sacrifices "our brave young men and women of the armed forces" are making.

On the President's Daily Brief, expect more of what he's been floating over the last few days, slipping nimbly away from accusations that he paid insufficient attention to the warnings, taking refuge in claims that there was nothing "actionable" in them, and claiming (paradoxically) that besides, he was already doing everything appropriate anyway.

The overall subtext I'm expecting to see is: look at how somber I am. Look how hard I'm working on this Iraq thing. I'm a serious, serious president, looking very, very presidential.

So go watch him do that. But while you're watching, keep in mind this latest in the long series of hilarious photographs revealing the fun side of our Class Clown in Chief (courtesy of Wonkette; image stolen shamelessly from Jason Reed of Reuters):

Bush blows kisses with Barney

Good Lord. This man is the president.

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April 11, 2004

Bush AWOL (Again)

I'd been meaning to mention that WaPo article everyone else has been linking to, the one that lists the record amounts of vacation time Bush has been awarding himself as president. Significantly, he sticks to his vacation schedule even during presidential-attention-worthy events like that pre-9/11 spike in domestic terrorism warnings, and the current spontaneous combustion of his "plan" for achieving a stable, democratic Iraq.

But reader Alex Mauldin has done a better write-up than I would have done, complete with comparisons to the vacation-taking habits of other recent presidents: Bush's spring break.

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April 03, 2004

Clift: The Man Behind the Curtain

Eleanor Clift of Newsweek offers the following: The Wizard of Oz letter:

This was the week the curtain got pulled back on the Bush presidency. In exchange for allowing Condoleezza Rice to testify under oath, President Bush gets to bring along his vice president when he appears  privately before the commission.

A top Republican strategist dubbed the legal document striking the unusual deal "the Wizard of Oz letter" because it strips away the myth that Bush is in charge.

There's lots more, all of it good.

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April 01, 2004

Something to Ask Dr. Rice About

The Washington Post reports that Condoleeza Rice was set to give a speech on 9/11 on national security, including terrorism, that included no mention of Osama or al Qaeda; the focus seems to have been on missile defense and the like. This should make Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission next week a bit more interesting. The Bush camp is already counterspinning that it's not what they were going to say, it's what they were doing behind the scenes that nobody, including Richard Clarke, knew about. Ahem.

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March 31, 2004

Dean: I Know Creepy. And These Guys Are Creepy.

Watergate stool pigeon John Dean has a new book out. It's titled Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, and over at Salon David Talbot has an interview with the author: Creepier than Nixon (subscription, or watch-the-commercial one-day pass, required).

Thanks to Yian for the heads up.

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March 26, 2004

Rock Against Bush

I really love the whole concept of HyperText.

As a member of the Sum41 Fan Club, I got an email the other day letting me know about Rock Against Bush Vol .1. It sounds like it will be a sweet rock/punk CD, packed full of some great songs you know, and a ton of new tracks written by bands who (as Canadian Sum41 put it in their newsletter) feel they "just can't sit quietly and watch that idiot fuck up your country and the rest of the world."

So why do I love HyperText?

While preparing this little blurb, I noticed the link to, where I discovered:

God bless the Internet, and God bless America Burma

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March 25, 2004

Daschle on the Bush Mafia

I feel like my country is being run by an organized crime syndicate. Here's what Tom Daschle has to say about it: Floor Statement of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle on the Administration Attacking Good People for Telling the Truth.

You know what Daschle's enumeration of grievances against Bush reminded me of? It reminded me of that central part of the Declaration of Independence when they're griping about all the crap George III had been pulling.

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March 23, 2004

March 22: Bullshit Day

I think we should henceforth enshrine March 22 as "Bullshit Day", the day on which members of the Bush administration fanned out across the media landscape, saying anything and everything they could think of to try to blunt the impact of Richard Clarke's charges that Bush ignored the threat of terrorism in the months leading up to 9/11, and was obsessed with constructing false-to-fact links to Saddam Hussein after the attacks.

There's a nice roundup of yesterday's hijinks in the Washington Post: White House counters ex-aide. And insightful analysis is available from Kevin Drum (Bush's secret plan and Panic mode) and from Joshua Micah Marshall (A request... and Alright, I promise...). And if you prefer your bulllshit straight, no chaser, you can go right to the source of some of the best of it: Cheney to Rush: Clarke "not in the loop".

The interesting thing here isn't that the Bush people are hitting back hard; that was predictable. The interesting thing is the nature of the response. They're trying to slam Clarke as an unreliable partisan. They're claiming this is just politics as usual. They're hoping they can get Joe Sixpack disgusted enough from campaign-season name-calling to tune the whole thing out; affter all, that worked pretty well on the Valerie Plame thing.

They're not actually refuting Clarke's charges. Because they can't. They're too well-documented, too consistent with other things we already know. The few attempts to undercut them have been laughable. So they're left with trying to smear the messenger.

And note that it isn't just angry lefties like me who see their response this way. The other side essentially acknowledges that this is what they are doing. From the Washington Post article I linked to above:

Clarke's allegations come after two weeks in which Kerry (D-Mass.) struggled for footing and the Bush campaign enjoyed what his aides believed was their best run of the year. But by Friday, a Republican official said the campaign was bracing for a tidal wave of negative publicity from Clarke's book. The campaign's defense strategy was that although Clarke could not be roundly refuted on the facts, enough doubt about the issue could be raised by portraying him as reckless and partisan.

You catch that? We can't dispute the facts (that Bush ignored repeated warnings about al Qaeda in the months before 9/11, and sought to tie Saddam Hussein to the attacks afterward, even when all the experts insisted to him that where was absolutely no connection between the two), because, well, unfortunately, those facts happen to be true. So instead we're going to take a guy who is pretty much the definition of non-partisan sobriety, who served under four presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, and whose pre-9/11 warnings and proposals for dealing with the threat of al Qaeda make him look like the most prescient person since Nostradamus; we're going to take that guy, and make him out to be an unreliable party hack, disgruntled over having been turned down for a promotion, who as a result is trying to hurt Bush with hateful lies.

Bullshit Day! Hooray!

Update: See the great Tom Coles cartoon about this (link courtesy of Talking Points Memo).

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March 20, 2004

Marshall on Clarke, Zelikow

Joshua Micah Marshall writes more about the significance of the Clarke revelations (that Bush's people wanted to bomb Iraq immediately after 9/11, and had to be talked out of it by the terrorism experts who pointed out that Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks). There's also some good stuff about Philip D. Zelikow, who was a member of the Bush transition team, and sat in on the anti-terrorism briefings at which the outgoing Clinton people begged the Bush team to pay more attention to al Qaeda. And, surprise, surprise, he's now executive director of the 9/11 commission. Can you say "conflict of interest"? What do you think the chances are that Zelikow will probe deeply into the question of whether he made a horrible mistake in ignoring the warnings of the Clinton folk? Anyway: Richard A. Clarke said in a television interview...

This is the big one. This is the granddaddy of Bush's accountability problems: The way he ignored the threat of al Qaeda in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. Marshall writes:

It is fair to say that anyone who has seriously reported on this issue, or has read a lot of the good reporting on it, already knows this: namely, that the incoming Bush administration downgraded the attention given to terrorism and al Qaida specifically in the last years of the Clinton administration, and this after being warned by out-going members of the Clinton team that combatting al Qaida should be at the top of their agenda.

In short, they pushed al Qaida and a lot of resources aimed at fighting al Qaida to the backburner until the whole thing blew up in their faces on 9/11.

Their focus, as we've noted before, was on the centrality of states rather than shadowy transnational terrorist groups -- thus their preoccuption with issues like national missile defense.

In any case, as I say, we've basically known this.

But it's another thing to have the person who was there at the center of the action as NSC counter-terrorism czar -- both under Clinton and Bush -- saying on camera that the president ignored terrorism and al Qaida right up until the day of the attacks. Clarke was there. In fact, to the extent that Bush and Rice and Cheney and the rest of the team were ignoring the issue, it would have been Clarke's urgent warnings they were ignoring -- since he was the head of counter-terrorism on the NSC staff.

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Clarke on the Immediate Response to 9/11

I've noted before how with the passage of time, the disagreements and confusions of the present get clarified. So with the Bush people's immediate reaction to the 9/11 attacks. If you folllow the angry yapping lefties, as I (obviously) do, the following isn't really news. But the interview with Richard Clarke, former top White House terrorism advisor, that CBS is running tomorrow on 60 Minutes, will probably raise a few eyebrows among those who either haven't given the question much thought until now, or who have been giving Bush & Co. the benefit of the doubt so far.

Anyway, as submitted by reader Barry Ritholtz: Sept. 11: Before and after.

Some choice quotations:

Clarke was surprised that the attention of administration officials was turning toward Iraq when he expected the focus to be on al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

"They were talking about Iraq on 9/11. They were talking about it on 9/12," says Clarke.

The top counter-terrorism advisor, Clarke was briefing the highest government officials, including President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

"Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq....We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.' I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with [the September 11 attacks].'"

And there's this one:

"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism," says Clarke in Sunday's interview. "He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We’ll never know."

Righties will be quick to smear Clarke. I'm guessing they'll try to link him with Clinton, or will focus on the fact that he's trying to drum up sales for his new book. They can't dispute his facts, so raising a smokescreen of irrelevancies is all they have. But Clarke is a top terrorism expert, advisor to four presidents, who was there, in the room with Bush and his staff, as the response to the 9/11 attacks was put together. He's rock-solid credible. And the picture he's painting isn't pretty.

Attention Bush supporters: You have a problem.

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March 19, 2004

Krugman: The Illegitimacy of Criticism

Nice piece from Paul Krugman: Taken for a ride. The conclusion:

This week the Bush campaign unveiled an ad accusing John Kerry of, among other things, opposing increases in combat pay because he voted against an $87 billion appropriation for Iraq. Those who have followed this issue were astonished at the ad's sheer up-is-down-ism.

In fact, the Bush administration has done the very thing it falsely accuses Mr. Kerry of doing: it has tried repeatedly to slash combat pay and military benefits, provoking angry articles in The Army Times with headlines like "An Act of `Betrayal.' " Oh, and Mr. Kerry wasn't trying to block funds for Iraq -- he was trying to force the administration, which had concealed the cost of the occupation until its tax cut was passed, to roll back part of the tax cut to cover the expense.

But the bigger point is this: in the Bush vision, it was never legitimate to challenge any piece of the administration's policy on Iraq. Before the war, it was your patriotic duty to trust the president's assertions about the case for war. Once we went in and those assertions proved utterly false, it became your patriotic duty to support the troops -- a phrase that, to the administration, always means supporting the president. At no point has it been legitimate to hold Mr. Bush accountable. And that's the way he wants it.

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Marshall on Bush's Anti-Accountability Causality Loop

As long as I'm pointing to Joshua Micah Marshall, I have to mention this item, which really sums things up nicely: Again and again I read...

Again and again I read -- or hear directly from administration supporters -- this excuse that any questioning of the administration's record in foreign affairs, or Iraq, or even on other matters is just a deplorable focusing on the past, a distraction, when the nation faces grave challenges which we need to focus on solving.

This is more than just simple buck-passing. It is a sort of through-the-looking-glass version of how problem-solving and accountability are supposed to work. It also has the perverse benefit of allowing the scope of the administration's failures to become reasons for not discussing those failures -- a sort of self-reinforcing anti-accountability causality loop, with all manner of moral hazards built in.

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Marshall on the Very Bad Bush Ad

Joshua Micah Marshall really doesn't like the latest ad from Fearless Leader: As you know, it's now been revealed..., and Let me follow up on last night's post.... The thing that's driving him nuts is the brazen way Bush is not only trying to make it seem as if Kerry voted on a line-item basis against flak jackets and higher combat pay and whatnot (which Kerry didn't do), but is actually accusing Kerry of the same things the Bush administration was caught red-handed trying to pull themselves just a few months ago.

Which really is pretty brazen, after all.

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March 15, 2004

Klein: What the Commission Should Ask Bush About 9/11

From Time's Joe Klein comes this excellent set of questions that Bush should be required to answer about 9/11: Bush and 9/11: What we need to know.

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March 12, 2004

The Poor Man's Bush Campaign Ad

I like this a lot. But that's the kind of sick bastard I am. Anyway: New Bush ad. And don't miss the old ad, either.

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Meyer: Welcome to Bushworld

On the subject of mainstream media realizing that "balance" doesn't preclude calling a lie a lie, here's a powerful editorial piece from Dick Meyer of Welcome to Bushworld. Does a really nice job of connecting the dots. The picture that emerges isn't anything really new, but again, it makes me happy to see mainstream voices willing to talk about this.

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March 09, 2004

Bush's 9/11-Investigation Testimony

You may (or may not) have been following some of the ruckus surrounding Bush's foot-dragging with respect to being questioned by the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks; see this fun transcript of the morning White House press gaggle from Joshua Micah Marshall if the sound of one press secretary flapping is the sort of thing that brings you enlightenment: "Full cooperation" is a many-colored thing.

But for a more imaginative reaction to all this, try the following, from Ted Barlow of Crooked Timber: DC 5/11: Day of Inconvenience.

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February 23, 2004

Racicot: Bush Volunteered for 'Nam

Wow. From the same team that brought you "outsourcing jobs to foreign countries is good for America," we now have yet another choice election-year sound bite, and yet another reason to keep talking about Bush's spotty attendance in the Texas Air National Guard: Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot's statement to Juan Williams during an NPR interview that Bush's Vietnam-era service "compares very favorably" with that of John Kerry, and that in fact, Bush "volunteered to go to Vietnam. He wasn’t selected to go, but nonetheless served his country very well..."

As with Clinton and Monica, it's not the act itself that's such a problem. It's the lying about it after the fact. I don't have any problem with the way Bush pulled strings to avoid going to Vietnam. But I have a big problem with his attempting to claim that his military service is in any way comparable to John Kerry's. Because it just isn't. And for him to claim otherwise is dishonest, and an insult to the electorate's intelligence.

Joshua Micah Marshall has more: Just when you start debating...

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February 22, 2004

Bush's Poll Problem

I noticed that Professor Pollkatz hadn't updated his very interesting Bush approval ratings graph in a while, and since I'd been reading that Bush was dropping in the polls again, I wanted to get a graphic representation of things. So I went to's Bush job ratings page, and whipped up the following (click on the graph for a larger version):

(Update: As of 13 May 2004, I've updated the polling data in the graph to reflect the latest figures.)

As you can see, the pattern I discussed previously (in The silk-purse president and Bush descending) continues. Bush's poll numbers, in the absence of a big event like 9/11, the premature celebration of the not-quite-end of the Iraq war, or the capture of Saddam Hussein, trend only in one direction: down. Without a national crisis to rally us around the flag, or a dramatic success story with good visuals, people tend to move in only one direction in terms of Bush approval: away from him.

I'm sure this isn't a secret to Karl Rove. Without some big event to bolster Bush's approval at just the right time, he's toast in November.

There's a rumour among tinfoil-hat liberals that Bush actually has Osama bin Laden on ice, either breathing or not, and is just waiting for the right moment to announce his capture and/or killing. I don't know that I buy into that, since the conspiracy necessary to pull off something like that would be tricky, and risky. But if Osama suddenly does appear, just in time to save Bush's second term, say around September or October, I'd be awfully suspicious that there was hanky-panky involved.

Anyway, that's a conspiracy for another day.

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Mark Green on Bush's Reality

The Bush supporters in my readership (both of them!) having been driven away by my heavy-handed election year partisanship, I'm now free to link unto the following bit of unrepentant lefty snark from Mark Green: W's reality gap.

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February 19, 2004

RFK Jr. on Bush's Bad Science

Here's a really good article by Robert Kennedy Jr. that contains more detail on the Bush administration's war on science: The junk science of George W. Bush.

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McClellan: Sorry, No, I Disagree

Also via Joshua Micah Marshall, you really must read this exchange with everyone's favorite White House press secretary: Press briefing by Scott McClellan. At issue is how the White House is already backing away from the prediction it made a week and a half ago that 26 million new jobs would be created this year. An excerpt from late in the exchange, after McClellan has already sidestepped the question several times:

Q Why -- if you're suggesting that people will debate the numbers, that's kind of a backhanded way to say, oh, who cares about the numbers. Well, apparently, the President's top economic advisors do, because that's why they wrote a very large report and sent it to Congress. So why was the prediction made in the first place, if the President and you and his Treasury Secretary were going to just back away from it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one, I disagree with the premise of the way you stated that. This is the annual Economic Report of the President and the economic modeling is done this way every year. It's been done this way for 20-some years.

Q So why not -- why aren't you standing behind it?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think what the President stands behind is the policies that he is implementing, the policies that he is advocating. That's what's important.

Q That's not in dispute. The number is the question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, but the President's concern is on the number of jobs being created --

Q My question is, why was the prediction made --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and the President's focus is on making sure that people who are hurting because they cannot find work have a job. That's where the President's focus is.

Q Then why predict a number? Why was the number predicted? Why was the number predicted? You can't get away with not -- just answer the question. Why was that number predicted?

MR. McCLELLAN: I've been asked this, and I've asked -- I've been asked, and I've answered.

Q No, you have not answered. And everybody watching knows you haven't answered.

MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree.

I like that because it reminded me of a great piece that ran in The Onion back in March of last year: Point-counterpoint: The war on Iraq.

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Marshall: Blowing Up the WMD Buck

Joshua Micah Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo makes a good point on the way Bush is trying to deal with the WMD "intelligence failure" these days:

Knocked on his heels by increasing evidence that he willfully deceived the American public, President Bush is off to a new strategy of spreading around the blame. Let's call it the anti-buck gambit. Don't pass the buck. Just get an M-80, light it, put it over in the corner with the buck on top of it. Then no more buck, no more problem.

Marshall goes on to cite some of the blatant revisionism in Bush's current attempts to say that hey, we were wrong, the CIA was wrong, the Congress was wrong, the UN was wrong; everybody was wrong. So what are you picking on me for? Anyway, here's the whole thing: Back to the tangled web files...

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Bush National Guard Woes Post-Mortem(?)

Righties are tiptoeing very, very quietly away from the issue of Bush's National Guard service, in hopes that the story has really been done away with. And the shock troops of the right are already hard at work smearing Kerry, anyway (the best defense is a good offense, and all that). But in the meantime, a few more-thoughtful types have some final words on the subject.

Kevin Drum at Calpundit has a great roundup of what we know, what we think we know, and what we know we don't know: National Guard finale? And he has an interesting followup to the Calhoun assertions (from the guy who claims Bush did his Alabama Guard service sitting in his office reading airplane magazines): More from the Memphis Flyer.

Meanwhile, Bill Maher makes some excellent observations about the way Bush is trying to equate his own service, such as it was, with the perils faced by Guardsman today: Bush draftdodger.

Posted by jbc at 10:39 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Science Bites: Film at 11:00

So, a group formed of many of the top scientists in the country, including 20 Nobel prize winners, are making a stink about the Bush administration's systematic and wide-ranging undercutting of the scientific process in cases where the findings of science are in conflict with Bush's political agenda: Scientists: Bush distorts science.

This is pretty much the heart of the case against Bush. His administration is all about twisting facts to fit a priori conclusions, rather than basing conclusions on the available facts. Which is why I think he's toast in November: Because the more successful he is at making the case that this is a dangerous world, with scary people out to get us, the more obvious it is that someone who ignores inconvenient data, refuses to acknowledge and correct for his own failures, and strenuously pretends that ideologically preordained policy positions are the perfect answer to every problem, regardless of that problem's specifics, is not a particularly good choice for president.

Posted by jbc at 08:54 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

February 18, 2004

Klein: Being a 'War President' Is Complicated

Joe Klein has a column in the latest Time magazine that points straight at a significant problem that I, and I suspect a great many other people, have with Bush's "I am a war president" routine: Why the 'war president' is under fire.

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February 11, 2004

Sullivan (!) on Bush's MTP Performance

Yes, I'm linking to Andrew Sullivan. What can I say? He makes a good point about Bush's weak performance on domestic issues during the second half of his Meet the Press appearance. Anyway: Attention deficit.

Posted by jbc at 07:03 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

McClellan Under Fire on Bush's Guard Duty

I've been following the coverage of the Bush-AWOL story at CalPundit and Talking Points Memo, so this information wasn't really new to me. But it's still pretty wild reading the transcript of yesterday's White House press briefing, in which presidential spokesperson Scott McClellan was taking fire from all sides, and responded to all of it with a broken-record "nothing to see here, move along": Press briefing by Scott McClellan.

Thanks to reader Steve D. for the link.

Posted by jbc at 03:30 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

February 09, 2004

Drum Goes Down the National Guard Rabbit Hole

If you haven't been following Kevin Drum (of Calpundit) as he tries to get to the bottom of just what it was that young fighter pilot George W. Bush was up to in 1972-73, it's pretty interesting stuff. Check out this latest item, in particular: Arf!

Thanks to reader Barry for reminding me that I hadn't mentioned this here.

Posted by jbc at 09:58 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saletan on Bush's Platonic Relationship with Reality

Slate's William Saletan has an interesting commentary on Bush's performance on Meet the Press: You can make it with Plato.

Thanks to Yian for the link.

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February 07, 2004

Bush, the Guard, and Drug Testing

From Salon's Eric Boehlert (via Hiro): Did Bush drop out of the National Guard to avoid drug testing? (One-day pass commercial, or Salon Premium subscription, required to view the whole story.)

A very good question. There certainly is a lot of secrecy about Bush's days in the Guard. Apparently no other president with any sort of military record in the past 50 years has attempted to keep that military record secret, as Bush has. What's he hiding? The evidence is circumstantial, but especially when you take into account the specifics of just what Bush has denied, and how he has denied it, the desire to keep a cocaine habit under wraps seems pretty darn plausible:

During the early stages of his 2000 campaign for president, Bush was dogged by questions of whether he ever used cocaine or any other illegal substance when he was younger. Bush refused to fully answer the question, but in 1999 he did issue a blanket denial insisting he had not used any illegal drugs during the previous 25 years, or since 1974. Bush refused to specify what "mistakes" he had made before 1974.

Perhaps realizing that explanation pointed reporters toward possible drug use during his time as a guardsman, Bush insisted he hadn't taken any drugs while serving in the Texas Air National Guard, between 1968 and 1974. "I never would have done anything to jeopardize myself. I got airborne and I got on the ground very successfully," he told reporters on Aug. 19, 1999. But today we know that for his last 18 months in the Guard, from April '72 to late '73, Bush didn't have to get airborne, because he simply quit flying.

Apropos that, see this juicy speculation, from Bad Attitudes' Lead Balloons: Yes, Barbara and Jenna, there is a snuffleupagus. Basically, he wonders if, by virtue of having been a Skull and Bones man at Yale just a few years behind Bush, John Kerry might have some dirt on just what was involved in the Underachiever-in-Chief's hard-partying days in college. (Or, a few years ahead of Bush, actually, per Tim Russert in the MTP interview.)

Posted by jbc at 08:01 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Bush Zeitgeist

I've been thinking back some more to the Superbowl broadcast (no! anything but that!), and it occurs to me that it may point the way to the story we are eventually going to be telling ourselves about the Bush years.

What prompted the reflection was a conversation I had with my 12-year-old daughter while driving her to school. I forget how it started, but it ended up with my giving a capsule summary of each of the presidencies I'd experienced personally. In my case that meant from Nixon on, since I don't really remember Johnson, who left office when I was six. (It's kind of a long drive, so we had time.)

So I talked about Nixon, and Ford, and how the first was eventually revealed to be a shockingly foul-mouthed and generally Very Bad Man indeed. And Ford's apparent quid pro quo of the pardon pretty much doomed him, and how we then elected the most honest, sincere, humble, and virtuous man we could find, Jimmy Carter, only to realize afterward that maybe we really didn't want the most honest, sincere, humble, and virtuous man we could find as our president.

So then we had Reagan. And I think you righties would actually have been pleased with the treatment I gave him. Yeah, I talked about secret negotiations with the Ayatollah during the campaign, arms-for-hostages, funding the Contras, James Watt, and stuff like that. But I also talked about winning the Cold War and the general perception that overall, Reagan was actually pretty effective as President, at least in the eyes of non-ideologues. "Morning in America," and all that.

And then I talked about Bush the First, and Clinton, with the latter's presidency being basically the mirror image of Reagan's: hated by opponents, revered by supporters, and effective enough to deliver the middle and win a landslide re-election.

Which brings us to the current Bush, and my glimpse of the underlying zeitgeist of his presidency in last weekend's Superbowl broadcast. And if Reagan's time in office was "morning in America," Bush's is more like 1:00 a.m. at the frat house, with the fifth or sixth kegger having been tapped and things well into the ugly stage.

You couldn't miss it. The way the profit-is-everything types at CBS ran all those teenage-male-oriented Bud Light commercials (after refusing to air MoveOn's "Child's Pay" issue ad because it was "too controversial"). The way the halftime opened with that video montage of various pop-culture icons urging viewers to exercise their freedom of choice, to choose, choose, choose... segueing into Jessica Simpson on stage, completing the sentence for us: " party!!!" The way CBS used its mega-media-conglomerate MTV lackeys to produce the ensuing halftime show, which ended up as a monument to lip sync, raunch, and the spectacular failure of an ill-conceived plan.

The more I think about it, the more appropriate a symbol of Bush's last year that Justin/Janet fiasco was. The decision to have Justin rip off Janet's leather top at the end of the song was made without consulting older, wiser heads, professionals who would doubtless have expressed grave doubts about it. Yeah, you think it's going to turn out great, but you aren't exactly known for your deep thinking, are you? What if something goes wrong? That's why you have professionals to plan these things. You're the performer. You're not the brains of the outfit.

So it was with Bush, choosing to invade Iraq, arrogantly confident, ignoring the cautions of his dad, the intelligence community, the French. He invades, and rips off Saddam's leather top, live, on camera, for all the world to see the red bustier of his vast stockpiles of WMD. Except, just like Justin, his reach exceeds his grasp, or rather the other way around: his grasp exceeds his reach, the reach of his foresight, and he gets more than he bargained for, or rather less, and now he stands on stage with the leather and red fabric clutched in his hand, a colossal fuckup, all eyes on him.


Yeah. It's party time in America. But the fun part's over, and we're well on our way to the hangover that follows.

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February 02, 2004

Vitello: Where's the Outrage at Presidential Lying Now?

Newsday columnist Paul Vitello has a great opinion piece running: New president, new lie. Does a good job of summing up the double-standard that many in the "Clinton must be impeached!" crowd are displaying toward Bush's Iraq WMD lies.

Thanks to reader Immy2g for the link.

Posted by jbc at 01:26 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

January 28, 2004

Why Bush Will Lose

Forget, for the moment, the people like me, who basically hate Bush. Forget, too, the people who listen to right-wing talk radio and believe what it says. Neither of us is ever going to determine the outcome of a presidential election in this country.

Focus on the middle, the undecided, the independents. These are the people who, when it comes time to vote for president, vote for the candidate, not the party. These are the folks who are going to decide things in November.

I think these folks are going to send Bush back to Crawford. Why? Because his appeal is based largely on smoke and mirrors, and his failures as president are getting harder and harder to obscure. Also, many of those failures are in the area of national security, which, in case you haven't noticed, is a key concern these days.

As of now, Bush has presided over two of the worst national security-related intelligence failures in the history of the country. That's pretty sad for just three years in office. His supporters persist in trying to blame 9/11 on Clinton, but for non-partisans that's a non-starter. With the two commissions investigating things coming out with their results, it's increasingly clear that lots of mistakes were made. Bush can take responsibility, in which case he's (rightly) toast; or he can claim ignorance and incompetence, in which case he's (rightly) toast. Take your pick.

Meanwhile, we have Iraq, the war that savaged our country's credibility throughout the world, the pre-emptive invasion of a sovereign nation for which we couldn't get either UN or NATO support, or even a simple majority on the Security Council, but which Bush pushed through anyway, confident the post-war search would turn up smoking-gun WMD stockpiles that would earn grudging apologies from his detractors both abroad and at home. Except it didn't. The search found the opposite: the detractors were right, he was wrong.

From today's extremely Web-challenged LA Times: Bush defends Iraq war, intelligence agencies. I'm going to quote fairly extensively, since they like to change URLs:

Days after the top U.S. arms inspector, David Kay, said he did not believe that Iraq had stockpiled chemical or biological weapons or had a substantial nuclear weapons program, Bush did not answer directly when reporters asked about his own earlier claims.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others. That's what we know," Bush said. "We know that he was a dangerous man in a dangerous part of the world."

Bush said he wants to wait until the Iraq Survey Group, which Kay headed until he resigned Friday, completes its work "so we can find out the facts and compare the facts to what was thought"...

Bush's remarks immediately reverberated on Capitol Hill and among the Democrats competing to run against him in the autumn.

In a meeting later in the day between Bush and congressional leaders about this year's legislative agenda, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) confronted Bush with the questions raised by Kay about the justification for the Iraq war, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

Daschle complained that lawmakers had based their votes on the war on erroneous information about weapons of mass destruction. Bush interrupted to defend the war as "a worthy effort."

Daschle said he was not questioning the worth of the war but insisted that the government needed to get to the bottom of the intelligence failure. A senior Republican at the meeting, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), reportedly backed Daschle on that point...

"Clearly, the intelligence that we went to war on was inaccurate, wrong," Kay told NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw in an interview aired Monday evening, one of several he has given in recent days. Kay also said the intelligence community owed Bush an apology.

But the president Tuesday expressed "great confidence" in the intelligence apparatus.

"These are unbelievably hard-working, dedicated people who are doing a great job for America," he told reporters.

As with 9/11, Bush is on the horns of a dilemma. Either he played an active role in perverting the intelligence, lying to the world and his own people about the threat represented by Saddam, which would make him a very bad man, unworthy of the presidency. Or he is presiding over a spectacularly flawed intelligence process that leaves him unable to distinguish real threats from illusions, but he still believes the intelligence folks are doing a fabulous job, which would make him a doofus, and again, unworthy of the presidency.

He's doing his best to avoid either horn by obfuscating ("weapons of mass destruction-related program activities," anyone?) and changing the subject (steroids! we've got to do something about steroids!), but with Dean having given a backbone transfusion to the previously timid field of Democratic hopefuls, criticism of Bush's national security failures is going to be a central theme of the debate between now and the election.

Unlike last time, Bush has a record. And it sucks. He can't run on it, and he can't run away from it. What's left?

Hmm. Maybe this Onion article points the way: Bush 2004 campaign promises to restore honor and dignity to White House.

Update: Adam takes a contrarian view.

Posted by jbc at 08:39 AM | view/comment (31) | TrackBack (0)

January 27, 2004

Chait, Moore on Bush's AWOL Incident

Here are a few more followups to the story about Michael Moore calling Bush a "deserter" for his time spent AWOL while in the National Guard. First up, Moore's take on the story: You say deserter, I say more dessert. And from Jonathon Chait, senior editor at The New Republic, this piece, which focuses on the very focus-worthy issue of the double standard that some in the media are employing: Standard issue.

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January 26, 2004

George Bush: AWOL

Orcinus has a nice discussion of the ongoing flap regarding Michael Moore's having called Bush a "deserter," and Peter Jennings (and other media types) then pushing Wesley Clark to repudiate the statement. More specifically, Orcinus focuses on the too-hasty effort by Bush supporters (like Donald Sensing) to sweep under the rug the question of just what Bush might actually be guilty of, assuming that a strict reading of the Uniform Code of Military Justice exonerates him from a charge of desertion: AWOL Bush: Debunked? Hardly!

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January 22, 2004

SOTU of Mass Deception-Related Blogging Activities

Atrios points out that the artless phrase "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" wasn't original, but actually appeared last October in an OpEd piece written by Republican congressman Peter Hoekstra of Michigan. Actually, the lifted quotation goes farther than that; both speech and article talk about "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations." No, really.

Winston Smith of Philosoraptor doesn't think much of the phrase.

Kevin Drum of CalPundit (whose post provided three of the four items mentioned here - plagiarism runs wild!) has this nifty timeline:

March 2003: Weapons of mass destruction.
June 2003: Weapons of mass destruction programs.
October 2003: Weapons of mass destruction-related programs.
January 2004: Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.

Finally, USA Today offers some actually-really-good contextualizing of Bush's statements in the speech.

Posted by jbc at 06:50 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

January 21, 2004

Why Does This Make Me Laugh?

On the subject of hilarious things connected with last night's State of the Union address, check out this little ditty from Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes: Fashion and grooming, state of. I don't know why it's so funny. Maybe it's just me.

Posted by jbc at 02:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

"For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible. And no one can now doubt the word of America."

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January 15, 2004

Philosoraptor on Bush's Lysenkoism

Speaking of Philosoraptor, here's a really fantastic piece where he (that is to say, "Winston Smith") goes into depth on the ways in which the Bush folks pervert data to match their ideological preconceptions, on everything from global warming to Iraqi WMD evidence: Bush's Lysenkoism and the distortion of intelligence.

Philosoraptor at its best.

(Update: See also the version of the story at Blogcritics, which has nifty followup discussion with responses by Winston Smith. That guy rules.)

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January 11, 2004

Pitt: Bush Knew

Nice summing up by William Rivers Pitt of Truthout: Two loud words. An excerpt from his conclusion:

George W. Bush is going to run in 2004 on the idea that his administration is the only one capable of protecting us from another attack like the ones which took place on September 11. Yet the record to date is clear. Not only did they fail in spectacular fashion to deal with those first threats, not only has their reaction caused us to be less safe, not only have they failed to sufficiently bolster our defenses, but they used the aftermath of the attacks to ram through policies they couldn't have dreamed of achieving on September 10. It is one of the most remarkable turnabouts in American political history: Never before has an administration used so grisly a personal failure to such excellent effect.

Posted by jbc at 04:53 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

December 06, 2003

Corn: Is Bush a Pathological Liar?

David Corn offers an interesting commentary, based on the conservative radio talk show circuit he's been doing to promote his book: Is the president a pathological liar?

Posted by jbc at 09:36 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

December 04, 2003

Baghdad Turkey Was for Show

In some ways it's a ridiculous thing to even be talking about, but then again, the fact that such ridiculous things keep coming up is significant in and of itself. Anyway, from the Washington Post: The bird was perfect but not for dinner. It turns out that the most-widely-circulated image from Bush's Baghdad airport photo op, in which he holds a big turkey on a platter, was staged, in the sense that he wasn't actually serving anyone the turkey. It was a centerpiece meant to adorn the chow line, rather than being for eating; he just grabbed it for a few seconds while a pool photographer snapped the photo.

So, chalk up another one for the image-over-substance team: Bush in front of the extravagantly-illuminated Statue of Liberty. Bush framed just so against the faces on Mount Rushmore. Bush's (augmented?) private parts hiked up and delineated by his flight-suit harness. And now Bush the selfless server of Thanksgiving cheer for our brave young men and women in harm's way.

White House officials do not deny that they craft elaborate events to showcase Bush, but they maintain that these events are designed to accurately dramatize his policies and to convey qualities about him that are real.

Yeah, whatever. I find myself longing, though, for a leader who doesn't have to be so carefully dramatized and showcased in order for his "real" qualities to come through. One whose actual statements and actions and policies could do that sort of thing for him.

Posted by jbc at 10:01 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

December 03, 2003

The Shape of Bush's Legacy

I didn't notice it at first, but when I took a second look at the latest graph of US fatalities in Iraq I noticed an odd thing about its shape. This led me to prepare the following visual companion to the Bush presidency (click the image for a larger version).

[Snotty pre-emptive comeback to anticipated patriot-baiting removed.]

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December 02, 2003

Doolittle on Bush's Desperation Not To Go To Baghdad

Jerome Doolittle, who was a press officer during the Carter administration, has an interesting take on Bush's recent Baghdad-airport photo op: A chickenhawk's Thanksgiving. An excerpt:

By the time President Bush finally left his house in Crawford for the airport -- behind the limousine's tinted glass and disguised by a baseball cap pulled down over his face -- he had shopped his concerns to his chief of staff, his pilot, the secret service, his military commanders, his wife, and his two daughters.

But nobody had given him the answer he was looking for.

Posted by jbc at 06:38 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 24, 2003

Bush's Love/Hate Legacy

Interesting cover story from Time concerning the fallout of Bush's divider-not-a-uniter approach to governing: The love him, hate him president.

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Tom the Dancing Bug on Bush's Revisionism

Great cartoon from Tom the Dancing Bug: Presidential revisionist comics.

Posted by jbc at 12:59 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

November 15, 2003

Kinsley: Did Bush Mean *Any* of the Speech About Democracy?

Michael Kinsley at his best: The limits of eloquence. A sample:

George W. Bush's powers of persuasion are apparently so spectacular, at least to some, that almost all the pro-Bush voices in Washington and the media have remained pro-Bush even when "pro-Bush" means the opposite of what it did five minutes ago.
Posted by jbc at 01:13 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

November 13, 2003

Hey Big Spender...

Attention fiscal conservatives: You've been had.

True, Bush has been really, really good at cutting taxes for the wealthy (less-so for the middle class, where the cuts have been smaller, designed to single out particular narrow voting demographics as fodder for political talking points). But what about that spending side of the equation?

Double Trouble at Bad Attitudes discusses it: Real men spend. He links to the following interesting article from the Washington Post: Government outgrows cap set by president, which points out that even when you factor out spending for the War on Terra and Homeland Security, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have been going hog-wild on spending. With those big-ticket items factored in, of course, it's off the charts; they've been acting like teenagers in the mall with dad's credit card -- though I guess a more apt analogy would go the other way, since the people running up debt like there's no tomorrow are the grown-ups, at least ostensibly, while it is the kids of today who will end up having to pay for it all.

Posted by jbc at 06:11 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

November 04, 2003

Dying for Bush's Vanity

Here's an opinion piece that ran last week in the San Diego Union Tribune. By James O. Goldsborough, it's about the similarities between Bush and Lyndon Johnson, as each man finds himself hemmed in by past decisions, unable to alter course because doing so would amount to an embarrassing admission of error: World conflict and presidential vanity.

Posted by jbc at 08:15 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 03, 2003

Mission Not Quite Accomplished

I keep thinking about that silly "Mission Accomplished" banner. Judith Bushmiller, the New York Times reporter who asked the question in last week's press conference that led to Bush asserting that it was the sailors' idea to fly the banner, has an interesting followup story: Two words on a banner that no author wants to claim. She paints an ever-so-slightly-clearer picture of who did what as the White House advance team and the PR officers on the Abraham Lincoln worked out the specifics of Bush's flightsuit photo op.

I realize the story is completely trivial. But it's like a loose tooth; I can't stop fiddling with it.

I'm willing to accept that the idea for the banner was originally floated by someone from the ship, as a variation on the innocent practice of flying self-congratulatory banners at the end of a deployment. But for Bush to assert that it wasn't latched onto by his visuals-obsessed image people as a symbolic backdrop that spoke of his success in winning the war in Iraq (excuse me, "successfully concluding major combat operations in the Iraq battle of the War on Terra") is simply horseshit on the face of it.

I tried to talk ymatt into photoshopping the Reuters image from Bushmiller's article to crop in on Bush's head and the word "ACCOMPLISHED," changing the word to read "ACCOMPLICE," since I think that would be really funny. Alas, he remains unconvinced that that would be worth the effort involved. In the meantime, though, he was kind enough to create the following slightly different (and significantly easier) visual gag:

Posted by jbc at 03:56 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Jay Bookman on Bush's Info-Phobia

An excellent opinion piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman finds a common thread running through several recent news stories: Bush team's info-phobia hurts us, them.

Posted by jbc at 10:27 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

November 01, 2003

Bush: Mission Accomplished (Or Not)

Some interesting commentary continues to appear about Bush's attempt to deny responsibility for the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the Abraham Lincoln. From David Sarasohn, writing in the Oregonian: Six months later, carefully editing a two-word banner. Sarasohn points out how the ease of searching old news items on the net makes it trivial to expose a lie like this.

And from Dave Lindorff, writing in CounterPunch: Big lies and little lies. Lindorff makes the interesting observation that, paradoxically, it is the smallness of this lie, the pettiness of it, that makes it so significant. He writes:

As the guerrilla war heats up in Iraq, and the numbers of American dead mount, he "mission accomplished" line, like the "Bring 'em on" line, is returning to haunt him. But this time, instead of just showing him to be out of touch, we see the real character of the man. Caught in an embarrassing situation, he'd prefer to lie his way out than face up to his responsibility.

So, who is it who still thinks Bush has the judgement, maturity, and emotional stability required to lead the most powerful nation on earth? And for those of you who do, how do you account for this "Mission Accomplished" lie? Again, I'm not arguing that the lie itself was some kind of earth-shaking crime. It was trivial. But what it shows about Bush's character is, I think, pretty significant.

Posted by jbc at 08:32 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 29, 2003

Bush on the Mission Accomplished Banner

Adam at Words Mean Things weighs in on Bush's it-would-be-funny-if-it-weren't-sad claim that he had nothing to do with the "Mission Accomplished" banner that the sailors on the Abraham Lincoln chose to run over the president's head, positioned just so to fill the frame along with the sober presidential brow and the determined presidential jaw and the twinkly yet steely presidential eyes: Press conference update.

Also via Adam, some additional links on the subject: From Joe Conason, The entitled and the enlisted (one-day pass required). And from Buzzflash reader Rosamond: Mission accomplished: The Lie.

Posted by jbc at 07:21 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (0)

October 27, 2003

Kevin Drum: If This Is Progress, I'd Hate to See What Failure Looks Like

Kevin Drum at CalPundit makes an apt observation about the latest spin from Bush (in which he said that events in Iraq over the last few days were a sign of "progress," because the sharp uptick in violence showed that the bad guys are getting desparate): Progress? Drum points out that it wasn't so much the bad economy that did in Bush's dad's presidency, but rather it was the public perception that the president was so out of touch that he didn't realize, or at least wouldn't acknowledge, that there was even a problem that needed fixing.

Like father, like son.

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George W. Bush: The Top Ten Lies

In response to his publisher's marketing folks telling him to do so, David Corn has put up a fun page that summarizes Bush's top 10 lies. As Corn explains, he chose the examples to represent the full breadth of Bush lying covered in his book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception, but if he had been choosing lies based on their seriousness, he might well have restricted himself to those relating to making the case for war in Iraq.

Anyway, you should definitely check out the full list, which offers more detail for each item, at the link above. Or just get the book, which by all accounts is excellent (though I haven't read it yet myself). But in the meantime, here's a condensed version of the list as currently given on Corn's page:

10. "I have been very candid about my past."

9. "I'm a uniter not a divider."

8. "My plan unlocks the door to the middle class of millions of hard-working Americans."

7. "This allows us to explore the promise and potential of stem cell research."

6. "We must uncover every detail and learn every lesson of September the 11th."

5. "[We are] taking every possible step to protect our country from danger."

4. "I first got to know Ken [Lay in 1994]."

3. "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." And, "[Saddam Hussein is] a threat because he is dealing with al Qaeda."

2. "We found the weapons of mass destruction."

1. "It's time to restore honor and dignity to the White House."

Posted by jbc at 08:21 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (1)

October 26, 2003

George Bush: The National Security Record

Back in March Bush held a press conference (remember those?) at which he repeatedly emphasized that for him, protecting the American people was Job #1. Now, I previously pointed out how such an attitude is actually problematic, in that a president's sworn duty is to preserve and defend the Constitution. That means a president must sometimes weigh the protection of individual liberties and the democratic system of government against the need for enhanced security. Otherwise, the logical thing for Bush to do would just be to suspend the Constitution and declare martial law, thereby dramatically improving the efficiency with which he can defend the people against physical threats.

Bush would be scary enough if that were the only danger he represented. But of course, it's worse than that. It's not just that he's willing to jeopardize our democracy in order to defend national security. It's that he's willing to jeopardize our democracy, and our national security, merely to avoid acknowledging his mistakes.

Those rooting for a Bush (re-)election in 2004 like to say that "Republicans have more credibility on the issue of national security than Democrats do." Maybe that's true of Republicans generally, but among the sane, I think Bush's reputation for being able to defend our national security is rapidly -- and justifiably -- eroding.

Consider the evidence: Violence in Iraq is increasing, rather than decreasing. Despite the administration storyline that things are going just great over there, with progress as far as the eye can see and the "dead enders" disorganized and on the run, actual events indicate otherwise. Apparently our enemies in Iraq are getting more organized, more dangerous; now they appear to have the ability to mount multiple, coordinated attacks aimed at killing visiting administration officials. True, those attacks failed in this case, at least in terms of killing Wolfowitz, but as our own experience shows, trying to take out specific enemy leaders is a difficult task. The fact that Iraqi insurgents even have the ability to mount an operation like this raises grave questions about what's really going on over there, and where it is leading.

Or look at this story, from today's Washington Post: Search in Iraq fails to find nuclear threat. It makes it increasingly clear that the administration is just spinning when it tries to claim anything other than a horrible failure, or outright deception, on the question of the pre-war claims about the Iraqi nuclear program. The Bush people can try to pin the failure on the CIA, but besides being contradicted by lots of other evidence, that kind of whining and finger-pointing really doesn't make much of a case for administration competence on national security.

Or look at this story from today's New York Times: 9/11 commission could subpoena Oval Office files. It's one thing for the Democrats on the 9/11 commission to charge that the White House is impeding the investigation. It's something very different for the chairman, the Republican ex-governor of New Jersey, to make those charges. What is the White House hiding? Their foot-dragging looks bad enough; whatever it is they are trying to conceal must make them look absolutely horrible. (Presumably, Bush received one or more specific briefings about al Qaeda flying airliners into buildings in the weeks before 9/11, and didn't do anything about it.)

Or look at the continuing investigation into the Plame outing. Let's all say this together one more time, shall we? The White House political operation was willing to compromise an undercover CIA agent working on WMD proliferation merely to undercut the credibility of an administration critic (a critic whose charges, let us remember, have been thoroughly vindicated).

Personally, I think Bush has revealed himself to be the worst president of my lifetime (a lifetime that includes people like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon). But that doesn't matter; I was never going to vote for him anyway. And there are those on the right who still love him, and will vote for him regardless. Which, again, doesn't matter.

What matters is what swing voters think.

All politicians lie, and cheat, and steal. Both major parties (and all the minor ones, too, probably) are corrupt. Any politician with enough power to mount a credible bid for the presidency, and enough ego to actually want the job, is almost certainly going to be, on some level, an amoral scumbag you wouldn't trust to hold a box of Girl Scout cookies for you.

With that said, though, there still are degrees of badness among them. And I think that from the hypothetical swing voter's perspective, someone like Howard Dean is starting to look like a much better risk than Bush, even on national security issues.

Posted by jbc at 08:52 AM | view/comment (4) | TrackBack (1)

October 25, 2003

John Dean Reviews Corn's 'The Lies of George W. Bush'

John Dean kind of gives me the creeps. I think it's the photograph they run on his page over at FindLaw. I can't really explain it, but something about the earnest, lofty-toned way he writes on these things, without acknowledging the seamier side of his own history of involvement in presidential politics, when combined with that photograph, just makes me go "eesh".

Anyway, with that caveat, I actually really like his latest piece, in which he reviews David Corn's new book, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception: Has George W. Bush met his own Ken Starr?

Besides effusively praising Corn's book, Dean goes into a long discussion of Bush's lies, evaluating them based on the criteria laid out by political scientist James Pfiffner in an essay titled "Presidential Lies" that appeared in the December, 1999 issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly. From Dean's conclusion:

...applying Pfiffner's hierarchy of Presidential lies to the collection of falsehoods Corn chronicles in his narrative is alarming indeed. It shows that Bush's lies are almost never justifiable. And it also shows that they are typically of the most serious kind -- lies that misinform the public in such a way as to disrupt the proper functioning of the democratic process.
Posted by jbc at 05:40 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (1)

October 19, 2003

Kinsley on Bush's News Filtering

Michael Kinsley has a piece in Slate that makes some pointed observations on George Bush's approach to the news: Filter tips.

Posted by jbc at 08:37 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 16, 2003

Bush: The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!

From Glen and Pilar, my hands-down favorite link suggesters of all time: Bush orders officials to stop leaks. The money quote:

Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he "didn't want to see any stories"
quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if
he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official
who asked that his name not be used.

The Onionization of reality is complete.

Aside from the obvious comic value, the article is actually pretty interesting. It sounds like Bush is really starting to come unhinged. Which is either very good or very scary news, depending on how you view it.

Posted by jbc at 11:10 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (1)

Bush's Hear No Evil, See No Evil Presidency

Here are three stories that do a good job of highlighting the core failing of the Bush presidency: the way it is all about politics, style, and ideological filtering of reality, with everything else (like sound government policy, free speech, and even national security) subordinated to that end.

First up, from Helen Thomas: No wonder Bush doesn't connect with the rest of the country. It's about the disturbing fact (not joke, but fact) that Bush doesn't read the newspapers, but instead just relies on his advisors to summarize for him whatever it is they think he needs to know. Because, you see, Bush thinks the information he gets that way is more objective.

Next, from Salon (requires viewing the commercial to get the free one-day pass, but it's worth it): Keeping dissent invisible. This one's about how the Secret Service works with local police to systematically remove protesters from the site of presidential and vice-presidential appearances, caging them up in out-of-camera-range "free speech zones," and arresting those who refuse. As one arrestee so-aptly put it, "Isn't the whole country supposed to be a free speech zone?"

Finally, from Wired: Spies attack White House secrecy. It's about how the Bush administration's over-the-top enthusiasm for classifying information is actually making us less, rather than more, secure.

In one way or another, all these stories are about the same thing. The Bush presidency rests upon a single extremely childish, but extremely dangerous, idea: that if we all squeeze our eyes tightly shut and wish very, very hard, we can make our problems go away.

Didn't work when you were five. Isn't going to work today. It's time to let grownups run things for a change.

Thanks to Hiro, by the way, for links two and three.

Posted by jbc at 10:28 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Drezner Referees the Great "Imminent Threat" Debate

I have a deep and abiding fascination with the proposition that two arguments can be both compelling and mutually exclusive. A really nice example of that is the following sequence of posts, currently running on Daniel Drezner's weblog: The post-war debate about the pre-war rhetoric: Part I, Part II, and Part III.

The posts in question have actually been authored by two frequent commentators on Kevin Drum's CalPundit site, one of whom generally supports Bush's Iraq policies, the other of whom generally opposes them. Each is arguing for or against the following assertion: "It is a complete fabrication that the Bush administration argued in the runup to the war that there was an imminent threat from Iraq."

Drezner's role in all this is that of a referee, chosen because both sides, apparently, acknowledge his essential intelligence and fairness (well, at least until he renders judgement, at which point one or the other of them will probably decide that they were mistaken in that regard).

It's all pretty darn interesting. I confess to being really curious what the final judgement is going to be.

Posted by jbc at 05:41 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

October 11, 2003

Josh Marshall on McClellan's Plame Game

Apparently the link I'd been using for Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Point Memo site was semi-broken, in that I was linking to, which wasn't updating with new material, rather than to plain old, which was. Oops. (Update: Problem solved. The site changed IP addresses recently, and I had an old lookup cached in my browser for the 'www' version of the hostname. I restarted, and everything is great now. Funny: I never had that problem before I switched to OS X. Under Windows it was rare to go a day without crashing, or at least needing to restart my browser. But I'd been running the same instance of Camino for a week or so. Heh.)

The silver lining to this cloud is that last night I found a big batch of Marshall's commentary that I'd previously missed, including lots on the outing of formerly covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

One particularly interesting aspect of Marshall's commentary is the interpretation he's offered of presidential spokesperson Scott McClellan's statements on the matter at the twice-daily White House press briefings. See Marshall's comments here, here, and here.

Marshall notices that McClellan's "denials" of involvement by key White House players are being delivered as if by parrot: the individuals in question (Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, and Elliot Abrams) were not involved in "leaking classified information." The action is always referred to in that precise way; regardless of how the question is framed. The reporters keep asking for something clearer, and McClellan keeps answering-while-not-quite-answering, issuing the same "non-denial denial." Lately it's been getting pretty funny:

QUESTION: Scott, earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?

MCCLELLAN: Those individuals -- I talked -- I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands.

QUESTION: So none of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?

MCCLELLAN: They assured me that they were not involved in this.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

QUESTION: They were not involved in what?

MCCLELLAN: The leaking of classified information.

Marshall speculates that this may mean that the White House has carved out what they think is a legally defensible position that the leaking of Plame's name might not have constituted a leaking of "classified information." By couching the denials in this precise way, they thereby preserve a legal refuge if/when it can be demonstrated that one or more of the Rove/Libby/Abrams trio actually did leak Plame's name.

It seems to me that a less-sinister (or at least, a differently sinister) explanation would be that this is part of the White House's ongoing effort to portray this as no big deal. Everyone in Washington leaks classified information from time to time. To the extent this act can be cast in those general terms, it helps make this into the non-story that Bush & Co. would obviously much prefer it to be. Donald Sensing does his part to push the administration line on this in response to a comment of mine on his weblog, where he describes this whole affair as quite typical.

But it's not. It's a big deal. It's a big deal because it appears very likely that there was a coordinated effort on the part of the White House political operation to punish a whistle-blower by going after his wife, in the process significantly compromising CIA efforts to fight the proliferation of WMD. And what that reveals about the quality of the decision-making in this White House, about their sense of proportion, is really, really disturbing.

It adds one more item, and a big one, to the growing pile of evidence that the Bush administration is out of control. It's the Mayberry Machiavellis, the kids on Big Wheels, running roughshod over anyone who gets in their way. It's not about governing. It's not about solving problems, fixing the economy, or protecting the American people from terrorism. It's not about leading the world's sole superpower in a responsible manner.

It's only about one thing: getting your guy elected. And when you pursue that goal to the exclusion of everything else, you're prone to disasterous screwups like this one. And guess what? The fact that they're spinning as hard as they can to pretend it didn't happen means nothing is going to change.

Posted by jbc at 09:49 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

October 10, 2003

Bush on Manhunts: Osama, Saddam, and the Plame Leaker

My sister-in-law Mary forwarded me a fun item from Buzzflash's David Sirota: Bush swears he'll hunt down Osama and Saddam, but says he can't find a treasonous betrayer in his own administration because it's too big. Cartoonist Jack Ohman of the Oregonian, as pointed to by CalPundit's Kevin Drum, makes more or less the same observation in graphic form.

Do I feel a 30-second TV spot for next year's Democratic challenger coming on? Yeah, I think I do. Sweet.

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October 08, 2003

Eric Boehlert on Bush's Poll Numbers

Here's a really interesting piece that discusses the fact that Bush's poll numbers, far from being bolstered by his taking time out to push the "things are going great in Iraq" story with a live presidential address last month, actually accelerated their dive for the basement: Bush's sinking feeling (reading the full version requires getting the free one-day Salon registration, but I think this one's worth it).

An excerpt:

What's so unusual about the impact the speech has had is that neither Democrats nor the press jumped on Bush immediately following the address. In real time, on the night of Sept. 7, TV pundits generally gave a wobbly thumbs-up -- nothing unusually harsh -- while assembled politicians gave their predictable, partisan assessments. (Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told CNN, "it was a terrific speech.")

Instead, over the next few days there seemed to be a collective "holy shit" moment for an awful lot of Americans contemplating the cost of the war and the occupation's duration. From Erie, Pa., to Berkeley County, W. Va., and other key swing voting districts, the reviews were in, and Bush got panned.

"It was the moment when White House spin collided with the public's appreciation [of] reality," says Joseph Cirincione, author or "Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction." "It tipped the scale and made people realize we were in Iraq too deep. Nothing the president said gave public hope we'd soon get out of this."

I don't think there's any way out of this for Bush. He's run up against that old "can't fool all of the people all of the time" thing. The middle has figured out what he's up to, and they're just not buying anymore.

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October 07, 2003

What If You Made A Point, And Nobody Cared?

If the United Nations is often viewed as misguided and irrelevant in world politics, then Liberal-minded bloggers and media members may be their equivalent! Why? Because their stubborn, obsessive pursuit of ghosts and moot arguments when it comes to the Bush Administration has long since registered a collective shrug from the arena of public opinion, and they are too blinded by their hatred of "Dubya" to see it!

From the "Bush lied about Saddam" camp, to the lost souls still barking about how Bush's presidency is illegitimate, these electronic town criers continue to push "revelations" that carry no more weight with the general public than your local street corner prophet. But what really is the goal of those making these accusations? Is it simply to seek acknowledgement from those of the opposing ideology that there is truth to their arguments, or do they wish to build momentum toward an uneasiness with, and distrust of, Bush by the voting public so that sweeping changes can occur next fall, with the ushering in of a Democratic presidency?

I'll go out on a short limb here and assume it is the latter choice.

If so, then why don't those in the Liberal blogosphere focus on matters that actually resonate with those whom they wish to influence? After months of daily hashing and rehashing of statements, quotes, reports, allegations, and investigations from political figures and organizations, what do we really know about how the ramp up to war came to pass? Despite what the most impassioned anti-Bush bloggers want to push as "facts", the worst that can definitely be pinned on him is that his Administration took a collective assessment of intelligence information that would, at best, indicate a plausible likelihood that Iraq still had some active weapons programs and/or unaccounted-for WMD, and then stated this "likelihood" as a certainty to the rest of the world, to bolster the "WMD broker/user" rationale for quicker action in removing Saddam from power.

The problem is, that regardless of whether some people want to argue that this was an outright lie, an immoral distortion, a calculated assumption based upon inconclusive data, or an overstatement of the facts, this issue isn't, and hasn't been, of any real importance with the general US public for some time now! Even I thought that if Bush can't prove at least a dormant network of weapon development existed, that he would feel the wrath of public anger. But now I know he won't (at least, for that reason).

Most polls still have shown a fairly consistent majority (around 60%) of the public typically feels that the war itself was justified, if simply to remove Saddam's regime from power. Where the Bush Administration is actually getting eroding support is on the question of how much continued military and monetary commitment the US should make in Iraq. The more Bush's opponents chase the "pre-war justification" ghosts endlessly, the more they help Bush deflect attention from the post-war challenges with which he is struggling. And, although it’s a less sexy topic, the current jobless recovery that is happening under Bush's watch is a key negative influencer on the voting public that the anti-Bush crowd seems uninterested in emphasizing. Nothing gets feet moving into voting booths faster than issues of the wallet. Bush will be at his most vulnerable if the public blames him for the money drain going outside the Country and for the economic lethargy within it.

But the light in the tunnel for Bush and the Republican Party is that public opinion is still not being effectively galvanized to those weaknesses, either by Liberal opinion-makers or by any truly viable, dynamic, consensus-building Democratic candidate. So, go ahead Bush haters. Keep chasing the fruitless “Bush lied” stories. The only thing that will topple him is the political Perfect Storm next summer of a lack of significant progress in Iraq, a stalled economic recovery, and the emergence of a Democratic candidate who isn’t too scary for the moderate swing voters to embrace.

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Plame-Outing Investigation Gets Serious. Or Not.

So, the intelligent talk on the Plame-outing scandal continues to outstrip the blather. From Kevin Drum at CalPundit: Bush gets serious. But of course Bush isn't really serious. Or rather, he's serious, but not about defending the nation from the risks of an out-of-control political operation that would jeopardize national security just to win some votes. No, he's serious about minimizing the political damage of someone on his staff having committed a crime. In other words, Bush's reaction is symptomatic of a larger problem, which is that his White House is willing to risk national security for such self-serving ends, and the reaction to the Plame scandal is making that more clear with each passing day.

More good commentary, as linked to by Drum: From Mark A. R. Kleinman: Betrayed, and, shortly thereafter: Game over: Bush admits Plame revelation was a crime. Bush admitting it's a crime is a big deal, I suppose, in that it takes the wind out of the sails of those who have been trying to assert that there was nothing other than "politics" going on here. But as Kleinman speculates, the president's admission has a sinister side. It could be (almost certainly is, to my way of thinking) a clever ploy to dominate the news cycle with an admission of something that everyone (well, everyone who's being honest about the evidence) already knew. Meanwhile, the more sinister story is pushed off the TV news and into the back pages of the newspapers: that the president's lawyer is going to sift through the statements of the White House staff for two weeks before handing them over to the Justice Department. All in the name of national security, of course.

Continuing to follow the trail of weblog bread crumbs, Kleinman links to Digby of Hullabaloo, who has a nifty theory about who the Deep Throat is who gave the all-important interview to the Washington Post: Who's the good guy? The question he's looking at is, who was the unidentified source for this article, which said that "two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife." That confirmation was really important, because it helped give the story more horsepower in the early going, when people like Bob Novak were busy spinning their wheels in reverse, trying to make it go away.

So who is this Deep Throat? You can bet Bush wants to know. When you hear those clench-jawed comments from the White House about tracking down "leaks," you have to know that this is the guy they want to nail. Digby's theory is that it could be Andrew Card. Which would be wild, but would also make a certain amount of sense. Digby links to an excellent profile of Karl Rove, which I hadn't seen before, by Mark Suskind: Why are these men laughing?:

...last spring, when I spoke to White House chief of staff Andrew Card, he sounded an alarm about the unfettered rise of Rove in the wake of senior adviser Karen Hughes's resignation: "I'll need designees, people trusted by the president that I can elevate for various needs to balance against Karl. . . . They are going to have to really step up, but it won't be easy. Karl is a formidable adversary."

One senior White House official told me that he'd be summarily fired if it were known we were talking. "But many of us feel it's our duty -- our obligation as Americans -- to get the word out that, certainly in domestic policy, there has been almost no meaningful consideration of any real issues. It's just kids on Big Wheels who talk politics and know nothing. It's depressing. Domestic Policy Council meetings are a farce. This leaves shoot-from-the-hip political calculations -- mostly from Karl’s shop -- to triumph by default. No one balances Karl. Forget it. That was Andy's cry for help."

I know I tend to paint with a broad brush when I criticize Bush and the people around him. But the fact is, there are lots of grown-up Republicans in this country, people who disagree with me on most of the lefty causes I rant about, but who nevertheless are appalled at what Bush is doing. Some of those people are inside the White House.

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October 05, 2003

Kevin Drum Counterspins for Wilson

Kevin Drum of Calpundit has a great piece on the current effort by Bush's supporters to hijack the public discussion about the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife: The real scandal.

I caught Wilson's appearance on Meet the Press today, along with Bob Novak's (yay for having Tivo again!), and boy, if that wasn't ever a contrast. Wilson came off as sharp, principled, and deadly serious about this stuff. Novak, on the other hand, came off as a total sleaze. He reminded me, more than anything else, of Max Mercy, the sportwriter character Robert Duvall plays in The Natural.

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October 03, 2003

Krugman on the Plame Outing

Paul Krugman, as usual, gets right to the heart of the issue. Don't expect to find any of Bush's defenders actually addressing the argument he makes in his latest column, because they can't. Instead, they'll pass lies about his character and say his words should simply be ignored by anyone sensible.

Don't believe them. Read the column: Slime and defend.

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Scott Forbes' Essay on Bush, Saddam, and 9/11

I was working on an entry of my own for Donald Sensing's contest to present a case demonstrating that Bush intentionally misled people into linking Saddam Hussein with 9/11, but I ran out of time. But that turns out to be no big deal, since I would have lost anyway, to the really excellent winning entry from expat-American-in-Oz Scott Forbes: The Contest.

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October 01, 2003

Righteous Righties Wrestle with Plame Investigation Implications

The whole Plame-outing story continues to generate vast quantities of weblogging, with lots of good coverage from CalPundit and Talking Points Memo, among others.

Even more interesting to me, though, is the meta-issue of how right-leaning webloggers are dealing with the story. For us Angry Lefties the story isn't earth-shaking; we're happy to see some of the Bush spin coming unspun, but our worldview hasn't been turned upside down or anything. But for those who admire Bush & Co. as patriots, and who accept the word of right-wing journalists like Robert Novak as gospel, this whole thing is really problematic.

Some, predictably, are bending over backwards to come up with innocent explanations for their guys, while finding ways to argue that a) it isn't a big deal, anyway, and b) if it is, it will turn out to be Clinton's fault. Others, though, are betraying a heart-tugging degree of intellectual honesty as they struggle to make sense of the discordant data.

Like poli sci professor Daniel W. Drezner, who came out strong a few days ago: What could cause me to switch parties, and has since backtracked a little, but is still sounding very unsatisfied with any of the curves he's been able to draw to fit the known facts. Similarly, I was impressed by the way Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping commented early on, though in his case the reality-distortion field seems to have re-established itself pretty firmly, at least for now.

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September 29, 2003

Cheney's Fixation with the Atta-Prague Story

The Washington Post has an interesting article today about Dick Cheney's obsession with linking Saddam Hussein with 9/11, specifically by pushing the doubtful story about 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta meeting a senior Iraqi security official in Prague: Iraq, 9/11 still linked by Cheney.

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September 24, 2003

The President's Crotch

Completely ridiculous and content-free discussion from BuzzFlash regarding Rove & Co's alleged attempts to make Bush's Johnson the center of the (re-)election effort: George W. Kowalski?

I know it only helps his prospects to bring it up, but I can't resist. I'm pathetic.

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September 22, 2003

Bush Descending

So, Bush continues to fall. Here's the latest graph from Professor Pollkatz, combining results from 13 different polls asking, "do you approve of President Bush's job performance?" (Click on the graph for a larger version.)

With Bush's visible weakness, criticism is getting both more widespread and more pointed. For example, Clarence Page has a column on the latest vortex of doubletalk: Blurring the line between Hussein and 9/11.

There's also a lot of interest in just what Bush intends to say to the world in his UN address tomorrow, and how the world is likely to respond. As Jay Bookman points out in an opinion piece in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it's not like Bush has a lot of time to play with: Deadlines in Iraq can't be ignored. Simon Tisdale in The Guardian gives a pretty clear idea of the tough crowd Bush is likely to face: How the world can aid Iraq without helping Bush. And Josh Micah Marshall has an excellent Talking Points Memo entry where he talks about the way Bush & Co. seem stuck in a self-defeating cycle: Denial, anger, bargaining.

In a certain sense, I think this is Bush's last chance. The polls show that solid majorities still approve of him personally (if not of his job performance), and think he's essentially honest. It's just that they (as ever) disapprove of his actual policies, and increasingly believe that he's just not competent. Which leaves him a last opportunity: He could take advantage of that personal liking to apologize, both to the American people and to the world, and humbly ask for another chance. Maybe something like this:

I come before you today to make a painful admission: I have made mistakes. I mistakenly believed that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. I mistakenly allowed the American people to be misled about the nature of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks. And I mistakenly spurned the United Nations, insisting that the US could go it alone, if necessary, in overthrowing the dictatorship in Iraq and erecting a stable democracy in its place.

In all these actions, I must now admit to having been wrong. So I come to you humbly, contritely, acknowledging my error and asking you to give me another chance. I am a changed man. I promise that you won't be disappointed.

Of course, there's no way Bush would say something like that. Instead, we'll get more bluster, more bravado, more little-kid taunting. It's just his nature. Maybe Rove will still be able to pull an October Surprise (a real, live nucular crisis in Iran or North Korea? bin Laden's head on a plate?), but I'm kinda doubting it. No, the most-likely scenario at this point, at least as I see it, is a continued lame-duck descent, with Bush raging against the dying of the light all the way down.

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September 19, 2003

LA Times Editorial Critical of Administration Spin

I realize that it's an article of faith for those who live inside the right-wing echo chamber that any article or editorial that says something disagreeable is merely a manifestation of the media's liberal bias. Yeah, well, whatever. The fact is, the LA Times editorial writers come off as more conservative than not, at least from where I sit. Less so now than when they were into union busting, maybe, but still, it was pretty shocking to me to see their lead editorial today: So which story is it?

It takes Bush to task for administration deceptions on Iraq, in particular recent statements by Dick Cheney linking Hussein with 9/11, as well as Cheney's pouring more salt into the wound that is US/European relations at a time when we desperately need more international help for the Iraq reconstruction. They also chime in on the side of Republicans in Congress who say that the reconstruction should be taken out of the hands of Rumsfeld and given to Colin Powell.

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Warblogging on Bush's Failure to Protect the Constitution

Back on March 10 I posted an item about Bush's March 6 press conference. I'm going to repeat something I said there, and amplify it a bit.

George Paine at has an excellent rant on how Bush has failed in his promise to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution: The presidential oath. (Nice use of the 'sieg heil' photo, btw.)

Anyway, one of the commenters there said this:

Yes, Bush has violated his Oath of Office. Because of poor education, you know the average American does not care.

I think that's true. And what's more, I think George Bush himself falls into the category of people so ill-educated that they don't realize he's violating his oath of office.

If you go back and watch the March 6 press conference, when he was laying out his reasons for going to war, he made some very revealing comments about what he thinks his job is. At one point, he said:

My job is to protect the American people. It used to be that we could think that you could contain a person like Saddam Hussein, that oceans would protect us from his type of terror. September the 11th should say to the American people that we're now a battlefield, that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist organization could be deployed here at home.

So, therefore, I think the threat is real. And so do a lot of other people in my government. And since I believe the threat is real, and since my most important job is to protect the security of the American people, that's precisely what we'll do.

Later, he said:

My job is to protect America, and that is exactly what I'm going to do. People can ascribe all kinds of intentions. I swore to protect and defend the Constitution; that's what I swore to do. I put my hand on the Bible and took that oath, and that's exactly what I am going to do.

Especially if you watch the video, or listen to the audio, you get a really powerful sense that in Bush's mind, those two things (protecting the American people, and protecting the Constitution) are absolutely synonymous. He makes no distincation between them whatsoever. He has no conception that on some level the two goals might be in conflict with each other.

But in some cases they clearly are. Presidents are required to make difficult judgements between enhancing security on the one hand, and preserving Constitutional liberties on the other. But with Bush, no judgement is required. In his mind, "protecting the Constitution" (what he actually swore to do) just means "protecting the American people" (as in, protecting them from physical harm). So the Constitution gets shredded on his watch, but he sees absolutely nothing wrong with that. Sweet!

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September 18, 2003

Funny Sieg Heil Bush Photo

I saw this a few days ago, but was too caught up in various other stuff to post it. But the Jason who is really called Jason told me I should put it up, and he's right, I really should.


Bush Sieg Heil

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Bush Joins the Chorus

So, the circle is complete. George Bush now echoes the statements made by Rumsfeld and Rice in the last few days, that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the events of 9/11.

(But see, it's all still part of the war on terror. Iraq is the geographic center of the region from which these threats came. By which I guess they mean that it's located approximately midway between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two countries that, despite being ruled by antidemocratic regimes friendly to the Bush administration, have far more substantial involvement with al Qaeda than Saddam's Iraq ever did.)

Anyway. From the Toronto Star: No proof Iraq tied to 9/11: Bush. And from the Chicago Tribune: Bush: No Iraqi link to Sept. 11.

Look at them blinking innocently into the TV lights. "Us? Try to mislead people into thinking that Saddam was involved with 9/11? Never! Why, the 70% of the country that currently believes in that just got the idea on their own. We certainly had nothing to do with it!"

It's fascinating to see the degree of coordination on the spin coming out of the White House. Say what you will about their near-total lack of honesty, morality, and patriotism, the members of the Bush administration do know how to read from the same script. It's almost like ballet, the deft way they all pivot and leap into the air together. When the lie has served its purpose, they do away with it, like a retreating army blowing up bridges behind it. Jerome Doolittle comments on this in his Badattitudes Journal: Why keep old lies around?

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September 10, 2003

How Bush Could Get (Re-)Elected

This is the moment. This is the point in time when Bush either wins or loses the next presidential election. If he waits much longer than this to put his strategy in motion, it won't matter; he won't have time to move enough voters into his column. And big strategies take time to implement. If Karl Rove thinks an October, 2004, invasion of Syria, say, is what it will take to get swing voters to vote for Bush, then the preparation for that needs to start now.

Given that fact, I keep coming back to Sunday's speech, and what it says about Bush's overall strategy. Say what you will about Rove, you can't accuse him of thinking small. Everyone's interpreting the shift in rationale ("Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror") as a defensive move, a ploy to shore up eroding support in the face of the missing Iraqi WMDs. But maybe it's actually an offensive move, the first step in expanding the "war on terror" beyond Iraq.

Gwynne Dyer talked about this back in early August, in a piece I linked to then, but which has since disappeared (with a new, unrelated item appearing in its place, thanks to the extremely Web-challenged information architects behind the Jordan Times' site). Anyway, the piece is still available, thanks to those clueful folks at al-Jazeerah: Welcome to Iraq-Nam. Here's a key passage:

It [the guerilla war in Iraq] will escalate, and by this time next year the Bush reelection bid will be in serious trouble -- so serious only another brief and victorious war against alleged 'terrorists' may be able to save it. Washington is already blaming 'foreign terrorists' for the non-Baathist resistance in Iraq, and Syria and Iran are going to find themselves filling the same rhetorical role that the Ho Chi Minh trail did in the earlier war. Since Syria is a much softer target than Iran, it is quite likely to be invaded and occupied by American forces before November, 2004 . If there is another major terrorist attack on American soil, that likelihood becomes a near certainty.

That last part is interesting. As things stand today, I don't think Bush could credibly invade Syria; it would be too transparent a ploy to secure his (re-)election. If you look at the latest update of Pollkatz's Bush-approval graph, you can see that that steep decline in his post-flight-suit numbers has continued unabated. That's the thing about people; they just won't stay fooled. Not enough of them, anyway. And each time you fool them, they get un-fooled faster.

There's an interesting new poll from ABC News: Was It Worth It? Poll: More Americans Think Iraq War Raises Risk of Anti-U.S. Terror. If you look at those numbers, you get a picture of people getting wise to the reality of Bush's maneuvers. Republicans by-and-large still think he's doing great in Iraq, Democrats by-and-large think he's failing, but it's those Independents who tell the story. They're the ones who decide presidential elections, and they're shifting steadily into the anti-Bush column.

Besides the transparency of the ploy, there's also that pesky issue of funding. Between the big tax cuts for the rich (and the modest ones for us middle-classers with kids), and his penchant for playing with life-sized army men, Bush has pretty much maxed out his credit cards.

So taken together, this means he'd have a really hard time successfully mounting an election-securing invasion of Syria. At least, he would if he tried to do it today.

But that's the beauty of it. He doesn't have to do it today. Today, in fact, would be much too early. He has a whole year to prepare.

So; what form might those preparations take? Well, as Dyer mentioned, another terrorist attack on US soil would do nicely. Would Bush intentionally allow such a thing to happen, to help his own political fortunes? Hopefully not. But I'd certainly believe him capable of engineering a reasonable facsimile without the high body count; a near-miss, maybe, dramatic enough to be really scary in its implications.

Or not; again, the transparency of his motivations in creating such a Reichstag fire would make it risky. If too many of his fingerprints were on it, it could end up being counter-productive.

There are other actors in this drama, though, who might be willing to help out. Ariel Sharon, for example. Sharon has a very powerful interest in helping Bush get elected, and he might well be able to create enough mischief (invading Lebanon? a bombing campaign in Syria?) to give Bush a pretext for an invasion somewhere.

And then there's Osama bin Laden. I realize this is going to make right-wingers start talking about tin-foil hats, but I think the leader of al Qaeda might very well decide that the best thing for continuing his plans to foment an all-encompassing war between Islam and the West would be to return George Bush to office. So far, Bush has been a perfect accomplice. Throughout the Islamic world, anti-American sentiment is up, recruiting is up, and the hated secular regime in Iraq has been overthrown, paving the way for a rise of Islamic fundamentalism there.

Which brings me back to Sunday's speech. Maybe the shift in rationale goes beyond trying to float a new justification for the war. Maybe the president's latest taunting ("We've taken the fight to the enemy! Our cities are safe because the people being blown to little bloody bits are on their turf, not ours!") is intended, on some level, to encourage another attack on the US. Maybe Bush is intentionally baiting bin Laden and his followers, as with his earlier "Bring 'em on!" statement. Maybe the whole thing is part of a grand design for electoral victory.

I don't know. Bush is a mean-spirited man, with a hard, twisted little heart, and Karl Rove is famously willing to do anything in pursuit of victory. But still. I guess if you strapped me down in a Guantanamo interrogation facility and injected me with truth serum I'd have to admit that I doubt Bush is pursuing such a strategy consciously. But then again, Bush doesn't have to be conscious of the strategy in order for it to work. Maybe Bush is just "being himself," talking tough without any clear idea of the response he might provoke, consulting his gut rather than his head, doing what feels right to his perpetually chip-on-the-shoulder inner child. Bush is absurdly unsubtle, completely lacking in insight into his own motivations. He's oblivious to the fact that he's engaged in a dance of ever-escalating violence with a partner who is equally focused on achieving an apocalyptic outcome, each side convinced that "his" God will see to it that, in the end, his own side prevails. Emotionally, Bush wants this fight, and is incapable of backing away from it.

But Rove is a different story. As much as anyone in the Bush administration, Rove is a pragmatist. He knows what the strategy is, with all its emotional baggage stripped away. It would be really interesting to get Karl Rove in that interrogation chamber for a few hours and see what emerged of his unfiltered thinking. Scary, but interesting.

Posted by jbc at 08:48 AM | view/comment (8) | TrackBack (2)

September 09, 2003

Rumsfeld, Kurtz: It's Your Fault, Critics

Those paying close attention will notice that I erred in predicting that Bush would claim during Sunday's speech that his critics were aiding the terrorists. Apparently that was deemed incompatible with the leader-of-the-free-world stature they were trying to convey. But Bush's people couldn't resist making the point anyway; they just had Donald Rumsfeld do it the next day.

Josh Micah Marshall has a nice write-up at Talking Points Memo that looks at Rumsfeld's statement, as well as a piece by Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online that makes much the same case: Another postcard from the 'responsibility era'.

Basically, say Rumsfeld and Kurtz, the president's policies are fine. The problem is all those people who keep criticizing him. Rumsfeld doesn't complete the thought out loud, but the obvious conclusion of his argument is that the US would be much better off if such criticism were not allowed.

Ironic, isn't it? According to Rumsfeld and Kurtz, the only way we will be able to create a free, democratic society in Iraq is if we first replace the system of freedom and democracy we have in this country with something that looks a lot more like... dictatorship.

Posted by jbc at 09:48 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on Bush's Iraq Bait-and-Switch

The more I think about the speech Sunday, the more outraged I get at the way Bush is now using the 'flypaper' argument to say the war is protecting US cities from terrorism. See, the Iraqi people had nothing to do with 9/11. So why is it that they're suddenly nominated as the people in whose neighborhoods this war will be fought?


Anyway, Paul Krugman has a column that, while it doesn't focus on that particular point, does do a great job of showing how the speech ties in nicely with Bush's history of deflecting blame and making others cover for his failures: Other people's sacrifice.

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September 07, 2003

Fearless Leader to Address Nation

So, why has Bush suddenly chosen to address the nation? And what is he going to say? For the professionals' take on these questions, here are a couple of decent articles: From the Washington Post: In speech, Bush to ask Americans and allies for teamwork on Iraq. And from the Chicago Tribune, via Bush responds to pressure from his own party.

So much for professionals. On to my own amateur assessment.

The why is easy: because his poll numbers suck. Bush's approval ratings are now flirting with the low numbers he was recording just before the 9/11 attacks. They've continued the steep drop I talked about earlier (see "The silk purse president") that has been going on since the "Mission Accomplished" photo op on the Abraham Lincoln.

On what he's going to say, that's pretty clear, too, based on the inherent politics of the situation, and the hints his people have been dropping. He's going to tell us we need an additional $80 billion for the next year's reconstruction effort. He's going to assert that we need more international assistance in order to succeed in that effort. (Wasn't that exactly what the president's opponents were saying prior to the war, only to be smeared as spineless girly-men incapable of standing tall, Texas-style?)

Most of all, he's going to assert that what is happening in Iraq is a key part of his administration's ongoing progress in fighting the War on Terra. My guess is that tonight will mark the official shifting of the war's primary justification to what has come to be called the "flypaper" theory: that we're taking the fight to the terrorists, on their turf, so we won't be fighting the battle in US cities.

For a couple of interesting takes on that, let's have a little point/counterpoint. From scary conservative David Horowitz, writing in the Washington Times: How to look at the war on terror. And from Bush to address nation.

Since I probably will watch the address, despite knowing that it will make me nauseous, I'm going to make some specific predictions. I'm lousy at crystal-ball gazing, but at least this way I'll have something fun to do while watching. I'm not much of a drinker, so I won't be downing a shot for each of these that comes true (or that fails to come true?), but feel free to use the following ten predictions as inspiration for your own Presidential Address to the Nation Drinking Game:

  1. Bush will allude directly to the events of 9/11 at least twice.
  2. Bush will say "terror" (well, "terra") at least 6 times.
  3. Bush will not say the words "Osama bin Laden".
  4. Bush will not say the words "Saddam Hussein".
  5. Bush will not refer to weapons of mass destruction, or the ongoing hunt for same.
  6. Bush will refer to the ongoing effort to build "a democratic and stable Iraq," but only in the context of assuring listeners that the slow pace of the current "steady" (read, "non-") progress in achieving that result is nothing he hadn't anticipated.
  7. Bush will explicitly assert that the ongoing conflict in Iraq is serving to protect US cities from terrorist attack.
  8. Bush will explicitly state that critics of his Iraq policies are undercutting the men and women of the armed forces currently deployed there, referring to those men and women as "brave".
  9. Bush will not explicitly mention the resignation of Mahmud Abbas, or the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
  10. Bush will not mention the domestic economy, tax cuts, or evidence of economic recovery.
Posted by jbc at 09:01 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

September 05, 2003

WaPo on Bush's Going Back to the UN for Help

There's a really interesting article running at the Washington Post that goes into lots of detail about Bush's going hat-in-hand back to the UN for help in post-war Iraq: Powell and joint chiefs nudged Bush toward UN.

I'm not sure how much faith to put in the account of who did what when in the continuing battle over the president's tiny little mind; the information is still coming from the same administration insiders, with their same ongoing interest in spinning things one way or another. But it's interesting to me to see the details emerging after the fact, having witnessed the events being described from the outside over the last couple of months. Now we're getting the inside story (or at least one version of it), according to which the post-war debacle we're currently seeing in Iraq has diminished Rumsfeld's standing, with much of his mojo flowing to Colin Powell and the career-military rational types.

I dunno; it wouldn't shock me to have this turn out to just be another case of sending Colin out into the international community to try to get what he can, without actually empowering him to make any concessions. Time will tell, I guess.

Posted by jbc at 12:44 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Josh Micah Marshall on Bush's Lies

Here's a long, but exceptionally good, article on everyone's favorite Bullshit-Artist-in-Chief: The post-modern president. It's by Josh Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

Posted by jbc at 12:21 PM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

September 02, 2003

Oliver James Psychoanalyzes Bush

From psychologist Oliver James, as printed in the Guardian, comes this fun piece of psychoanalysis: So, George, how do you feel about your mom and dad? It isn't anything new, but it's nice to see it mentioned again.

It's interesting to me that this story is more or less completely absent from TV. If you get your information from there, you'll never hear about George Bush as the screwed-up, emotionally stunted eldest child of a neglectful, overachieving dad and a vindictive, abusive mom. But it is precisely that fact (that Bush's failings are essentially invisible when your only source of information is television) that allowed him to "win" the election and assume office.

There's a symmetry to it. Bush is the first president in the history of this country to have been raised almost exclusively on television, to the point of being functionally illiterate. Which, as long as you were raised on TV yourself, is no big deal. If anything, his inability to speak in complete sentences is comforting. He sounds like one of us. True, he doesn't actually say anything coherent once you rise above the level of the scripted sound bite, but if you've never read much yourself, that doesn't come off as a failing. You don't even notice.

But it matters. What it means is that on a fundamental level, the man is incapable of critical thought. He cannot effectively analyze complex issues. He can't understand subtle interactions. As I've written before, that doesn't make him a bad president all by itself, but it's a huge handicap. And combined with his other failings, it's really, really bad.

Posted by jbc at 07:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 28, 2003

Bush's War Giveth, Bush's War Taketh Away...

Nice piece from the Washington Post: Halliburton's deals greater than thought. It's nice to see that the president's economic stimulus plan is working for someone, at least.

Meanwhile, of course, most of us are taking it in the collective shorts, with the true cost of the Underachiever-in-Chief's discretionary military spending only slowly, grudgingly, coming to light, as this piece from Mother Jones describes: Blood and treasure.

Posted by jbc at 05:14 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 26, 2003

Krugman Cries Foul on NYC Health Risk Assessment

A sad, more-of-the-same commentary on what passes for leadership in the current White House: Dust and deception. Paul Krugman connects the dots on the Bush team's downplaying of the health risks associated with lower Manhattan suddenly becoming an asbestos- and dioxin-coated hazardous waste site a couple of years back.

Posted by jbc at 11:47 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 22, 2003

Dubya Doll

I keep forgeting to post this: a $40 George W. Bush action figure in Naval Flight suit will go on sale September 15th. The Doll is made by a Hong Kong company, based on his U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln appearence three months ago, and has many people guessing what's next.

For me, the funniest part of this story was some of the other links I found while searching for this, such as this letter asking for a refund, and a different doll, also coming soon:

Posted by hossman at 09:27 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 19, 2003

Patrick Coy: We Need a WMD Investigation

Patrick G. Coy sums up the high points of the WMD scandal, and calls for open hearings: The truth about intelligence on Iraq: "Bring it on". The Republicans in Congress may be able to block hearings for now, but if voters are too bamboozled to make Bush a zero-termer in 2004, my money's on a Democrat-controlled Congress and hearings before the end of 2005.

Posted by jbc at 08:08 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 16, 2003

Bush Lies About His Track-Record on Grid Upgrades

Nice piece from Buzzflash on how Bush's statement yesterday ("We'll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does, and have said so all along.") flies in the face of his actual actions since taking office: If Bush really wants to investigate the cause of the largest blackout in American history, he should start with the vice-president, Tom DeLay and himself.

People who think Bush is a shoe-in for (re-)election overlook that he has an actual track-record this time. And it sucks. With someone like Dean running against him, Bush is going to have people pointing out his failures, and demanding explanations. Bush isn't particularly good at dealing with criticism. True, he's got more money than God, and can run TV commercials of himself striding across the deck of the Abraham Lincoln until the cows come home, and maybe that will be enough.

But maybe it won't.

Posted by jbc at 12:01 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

August 12, 2003

Washington Post-Mortem on WMD Lies

Here's a nice, detailed account of just who lied about what during the run-up to war: Depiction of threat outgrew supporting evidence.

Hm. Interesting syncronicity with the previously posted item. Maybe the Bush administration should convert whatever it is they've been ingesting into pill form, and sell it to all those guys who want their Johnsons to be just a skosh larger. With the revenue from sales of Dubya's Own WMD-Threat Englargement Pills, we could probably save Social Security, pay down the national debt, and still have plenty left over for additional tax cuts.

Posted by jbc at 10:01 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

August 08, 2003

Bush As Sociopath

I've never actually read Mark Crispin Miller's The Bush Dyslexicon; I guess I just assumed it was another one of those "Bushisms" books that pokes fun at our adorable C-student-in-chief's struggles with expressing himself verbally. But it turns out that Miller goes beyond that. In cataloging Bush's funny misstatements, he discovered something remarkable: Bush has no problem expressing himself when he's using the language of anger, and retribution, and hostility. It's only when he tries to express things like compassion, contrition, and self-effacement that he starts tripping over his tongue. Miller's conclusion? Bush is a Very Bad Man. In fact, a sociopath, akin to Richard Nixon.

Anyway, here are a couple of interviews with Miller that go into that: one from the Toronto Star, and one from Hustler (yeah, I know).

Thanks to Glen & Pilar for the link suggestion.

Update: Some excellent commentary from Miller on the anti-intellectual online reaction to his book: Brain drain. And some more on the book: Alternet interview, BuzzFlash interview, and stopsleeping's Mark Crispin Miller page.

Posted by jbc at 09:31 AM | view/comment (11) | TrackBack (0)

August 02, 2003

Bush the Phony

As long as you have that one-day pass to Salon, check out Jeremy Heimans' and Tim Dixon's take on how to beat Bush in the 2004 election: The poseur in chief. Arguing against Bush on the issues won't be enough, they say. In order to succeed, the Democratic nominee will have to convince voters that Bush is a phony.

Posted by jbc at 05:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Silk-Purse President

As you may have figured out by now, I'm big on the subjective nature of reality. But in spite of that, or maybe because of that, I'm a sucker for objective data. Like those graphs of presidential polling data from Professor Pollkatz that have been making the rounds lately; I love those things.

Here's one of them (you can click on it to view the full-sized version):

This plots Bush's approval rating over the course of his presidency so far, as recorded by 13 different public opinion polls. He starts off between 50% and 60% approval, and over the next nine months holds pretty steady, or perhaps suffers a very gradual decline. Then, on 9/11, an extraordinary thing happens: overnight, he gets a 35% boost in his approval rating.

Think what this means: In a single day, 100 million people changed their minds about Bush's performance as president. Before 9/11, they didn't approve of him. After it, they did. But Bush himself hadn't actually done anything. It was all about our shifted frame of reference. As we closed ranks in response to the outside threat, we needed symbols to rally around: the flag, the president. He was our man, and we supported him. We needed him to succeed, so we adjusted the curve to make sure he got a passing grade.

Immediately, though, a steady decline in his approval set in. Absent a unifying event like 9/11, each day brought a steady erosion of Bush's support, as more and more people decided that no, he actually wasn't doing that good a job after all. Only now the decline was faster than it had been during the first nine months; the downward slope of the graph was steeper.

Then, recently, there was another uptick: The end of major hostilities in Iraq, and the Top Gun photo op on the Abraham Lincoln. But again, in the wake of that, the downward trend has reasserted itself, and again, the downward slope has steepened.

(Note, though, that Bush's initial base of support remains intact. Even with the long slide since 9/11 and the steeper slide since the carrier landing, he still hasn't dropped below 50%.)

Now check out another Pollkatz graph. It keeps Bush's Gallup-poll results, drops the other 12 polls, and adds Gallup polls for four other recent presidents, aligned to let you compare each president's approval at similar points during his time in office:

Bush is the row of magenta dots; his dad is the nearly parallel row of steeply-declining yellowish dots during his own post-war period; like father like son. Carter is the dark blue; you can see how he and the elder Bush joined up with each other down around 30% approval as they closed out their one-term presidencies.

One thing I found fascinating about this graph is the eery parallel in the plots for Clinton and Reagan. Clinton is the light blue; Reagan is the yellow (unfortunately hard to distinguish from Bush I at this scale, though in the larger version it's clearer). Each had declines early on (Clinton with an early downward spike during his healthcare and gays-in-the-military missteps), but then got on track and had a remarkably similar march through gradually increasing approval up to year six. Then they diverge somewhat; Reagan's Iran-Contra revelations and Reykjavik-summit stumbles cost him somewhat more than Clinton's problems with his penis, but both finished their terms back alongside each other.

Here's one more graph:

This one compares Bush with a slightly different set of post-WWII presidents; we've dropped Bush I and Carter, and added Ike, JFK, LBJ, and Nixon. The most dramatic thing here is the flameout of Nixon in the year before his resignation; he's that row of yellow dots that dangles down in the middle of the graph before abruptly terminating at year 5.5. Even at the end, though, a quarter of the country still supported him: for them, at least, it was my president, right or wrong.

One other interesting comparison struck me when looking at this graph. Under normal circumstances, the only direction Bush's support has ever gone is down. Clinton, Reagan, Eisenhower, and the pre-Watergate Nixon were all able to put together steady runs spanning at least a few years during which their support gradually built over time. So far, Bush has been unable to do that. In that respect, he looks a lot like Lyndon Johnson, represented here by the string of blue-gray dots that starts off with 80% support at year 3.0, then gradually sinks through the rest of his presidency.

With Johnson, as with Bush after 9/11, approval was bestowed rather than earned; the gift of a grieving nation rallying behind the president in a time of crisis. The public made do with what it had, turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. But in each case, the man's day-to-day performance could not sustain that popularity.

Posted by jbc at 03:37 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 31, 2003

James Woods Interview in Salon

It's kind of hard to categorize this one. It's an interview with actor James Woods by Salon writer Amy Reiter, and it's definitely worth watching the MCI commercial (or whatever) to get the one-day pass for it: Woods on fire. He's promoting his new movie, Northfork, so it should probably go in the "Movies" category, but the interview actually ends up being about lots of other things, like whether or not George Bush is a moron and why people on the left-wing can't admit that it was a bad thing for Bill Clinton to put a cigar in Monica Lewinsky's vagina and whether it's important that WMD have not been found in Iraq and so on. On balance, I think the thing the interview is "about," more than anything else, is the nature of celebrity and the larger context of people like Woods doing interviews like this, so that's the category I chose for it.

I certainly don't agree with all the conclusions Woods comes to. But I certainly do agree with some of them. And his comments about the frustration of dealing with people whose minds are already made up on every political issue struck a chord with me, given the kind of ranting I've been doing on this site lately.

Posted by jbc at 07:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 30, 2003

Perry: Bush's Top 40 Lies

Steve Perry has this interesting round-up: Bring 'em on: The Bush administration's top 40 lies about war and terrorism.

It's a one-sided account, to be sure. Perry withholds the benefit of the doubt from Bush and his people at every turn, while extending it to any critical-of-Bush claim quoted in a major news outlet.

For myself, I'm satisfied that most, if not all, of these "top 40 lies" are, in fact, cases where Bush and his handlers were intentionally misleading people. But in counterspinning the Bush team's own spin, Perry actually ends up losing me.

The truth is out there, but it's delicate. It's a snowflake; breathe on it and it melts. It's a butterfly; catch it in a net, and its fragile body is torn apart. It's a reflection in a still pool; lean too close and you break the surface, shattering the image with ripples.

Once you start applying your own spin, you can pretty much forget about knowing reality. True, the resulting illusions will be your illusions, and there's a definite comfort in that, especially for those sick of having illusions fed to them by others.

And the alternative is, frankly, terrifying. How many people are willing to face up to how little they really know? Reality is a scary thing. What if the world actually makes no sense whatsoever? What if Bush is neither the capable, forthright leader, nor the bumbling, mean-spirited, serial failure? What if he's just some guy, surrounded by a bunch of other guys, doing their honest best, but hampered by their own human failings and by a world that no one, really, can control?

Welcome to reality.

Posted by jbc at 08:20 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 28, 2003

Spinsanity on the Iraqi Uranium Story

The folks at Spinsanity have an interesting summary of who's been lying about what with respect to Bush's State of the Union allegations about Saddam's efforts to obtain uranium from Africa: Lies, spin and truth in the controversy over Iraq's alleged pursuit of uranium. They do a good job of cataloging the major falsehoods we've heard on this from the Bush administration; they also have a long list of media folks who they believe have gone too far in painting Bush as having intentionally made a false statement in the State of Union address.

Interestingly, my own reaction to this story these days is mainly one of low-level nausea. I'm disgusted with those who persist in extending the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt, but I'm also beginning to have a toxic reaction to my own ongoing bitching about it.

You know what? If you really want to believe in Bush's essential honesty at this point, and possess sufficient credulity to maintain that belief, more power to you. I'm done arguing. And while I'm unable to share it, I envy you your faith.

Posted by jbc at 10:27 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 25, 2003

Couple of Funny Bush Photos

I'm still not sure if it's going to happen on January 20, 2005, or sometime later, but whenever it happens, I am really going to miss the steady infusion of memorable news photos President Bush has given us. Like this one: No, really. My budget plan is about JOBS. That's right; JOBS! And especially this one, in which Bush experiences yet another of the nasty surprises he never expected were going to be part of this gig: Getting up close and personal with limp-wristed pianists.

Posted by jbc at 01:40 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 23, 2003

White House Story on Niger Allegation Changes Yet Again

Good lord. How many times does Bush need to change his story before even his supporters admit the obvious: He's being dishonest about the process that led to his making allegations about Saddam trying to buy uranium from Niger in the State of the Union address.

Anyway. Here's the latest from the Washington Post: Bush aides disclose warnings from CIA. An excerpt:

The new information amounted to an on-the-record mea culpa for a White House that had pointed fingers at the CIA for vetting the speech, prompting an earlier acceptance of responsibility by Tenet. But that abruptly changed yesterday after the CIA furnished evidence that it had fought the inclusion of the charge.

The disclosures punctured claims made by Rice and others in the past two weeks. Rice and other officials had asserted that nobody in the White House knew of CIA objections, and that the CIA supported the Africa accusation generally, making only technical objections about location and quantity. On Friday, a White House official mischaracterized the CIA's objections, saying repeatedly that Tenet opposed the inclusion in Bush's Oct. 7 speech "because it was single source, not because it was flawed."

It's certainly reminiscent of Watergate, where the initial wrongdoing ended up being eclipsed by the ensuing coverup.

As long as I'm slinging yellowcake stories around, here's another good piece that sums up the growing disgust with Bush's attempts to avoid taking responsibility for his own words: Bush needs a 12-step program.

Posted by jbc at 04:10 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 22, 2003

Kucinich: 10 Questions for Cheney

Check out the text of this letter sent by Dennis Kucinich (along with two other members of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations) to Dick Cheney, asking him to explain his role in the investigation of claims about Saddam's alleged nuke-reconstitution program: Ten questions for Cheney.

Digression: Those of you trying to paint Dean as a wacko leftist nutjob, by the way, are confused. Dean is into balanced budgets, preserving the death penalty, and letting states decide for themselves about gun control. His healthcare reform plans are about as mainstream and common-sense as you can get (which isn't very surprising, given his background).

It's Kucinich who's the unelectable nutjob. Which saddens me, since I basically believe in every single thing he's advocating. I just don't think this country is ready for his particular flavor of sanity.

But that's okay. It's something to have someone out there willing to call for things like the establishment of a Department of Peace. And send nasty letters on Congressional letterhead to Dick Cheney.

Posted by jbc at 11:44 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 21, 2003

Blaustein on Bush's Economic Policies

UC Berkeley prof Arthur I. Blaustein doesn't think much of what Team Bush is doing to the economy: Leave no millionaire behind.

Posted by jbc at 12:06 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Pitt on the WMD Scandal

Here's a really good summing up from William Rivers Pitt of the case against Bush with respect to the use of false and misleading information to build support for the invasion of Iraq: The crime and the cover-up.

Posted by jbc at 12:02 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 20, 2003

NYT Sums Up WMD Story So Far

A really good summary, I think, of what's gone on so far, is this article from the New York Times: In sketchy data, White House sought clues to gauge threat.

One of the things I think this article does well is to honestly present the events as they've happened, without skewing the data to promote a certain side's case. I value that in a media outlet (or a politician).

Posted by jbc at 06:49 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Other 4019 Words

The good people (person?) at Sadly, No! has the following nice summary of the problems in the rest of the 2003 State of the Union address: Only 16 words you say?

Thanks to Adam for the link, via Barney Gumble.

As long as we're playing games with counting words, go see SpudArt's word-frequency analysis of the 2003 SOTU, and his ranting about it.

Posted by jbc at 03:59 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 19, 2003

Alterman on the Impending Fall of Bush

Eric Alterman tells it like it is on the recent downturn in Bush's reputation and polling numbers: Lyndon B. Bush?

Posted by jbc at 04:13 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 18, 2003

Three Views of Bush

Here's a trio of pieces, each of them looking at Bush from a different angle.

First, Paul Krugman wants to talk about a different falsehood that was in the State of the Union: Passing it along. It's about the economy, Krugman's main area of expertise, and surprise! Bush's statements there don't hold together any better than the Iraqi war justification.

Next, from Geov Parrish: Romper room. It's a fun, but merciless, attack on Bush and his team, with the organizing metaphor being that where Clinton was a sex-crazed adolescent, Bush and his team aren't even that developed, being instead a bunch of spoiled 7-year-olds, lacking empathy, prone to tantrums, and insisting that it's someone else's responsibility to pick up after their messes.

Finally, Glen sent in a link to the transcript from yesterday's White House press briefing: Transcript for July 17. Some of it's pretty bad; Scott McClellen is doing his best to stay on-message, but when the message is basically, "Hey; the president really wishes you'd just forget everything he ever said, and let him start over from scratch" it's hard to keep the reporters from acting uppity.

Here's an interesting tidbit:

Q Scott, when I asked you about the Cincinnati speech, I asked you if the President knew that the line had been taken out at the direction of the CIA, and you didn't answer the question. It's a simple "yes" or "no." Did the President know?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think that -- again, I can tell you what I know. And I know that we've got two different speeches we're talking about here and two pieces of information that were based on some -- well, one that was based on a specific source and a specific amount of information, and it was removed from that speech -- another that was based on broader sourcing. And the President learned after the State of the Union address about these forged documents and the other information --

Q But I didn't ask that.

MR. McCLELLAN: I know, Jeanne. I'm telling you what I know.

Q I'm asking specifically, did the President know, back in October, that at CIA direction that this information had been removed from his speech?

MR. McCLELLAN: And I've addressed it based on what I know and the President has stated, when he learned about it.

Q No, I am asking -- it's a "yes" or "no" question, or an "I don't know." It's a direct question. Do you not know?

MR. McCLELLAN: I told you what I do know.

Oh, and there was this really fun exchange, too. Apparently the White House reporters read MediaWhoresOnline:

Q The White House web site has a picture on it of the President going over the State of the Union address and it says he's examining it line by line and word by word. Did he in fact go over it line by line and word by word? Are you going to keep this picture on the web site in light of the controversy? And if he went over it line by line and word by word, why isn't it proper for the President to take more responsibility for his own words?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you know, again, it goes back to exactly what I was talking about, I believe, with David, when we were going through how the vetting process works. There are a lot of people involved in that that have input into it and the bottom line is, the speech was cleared. But we learned some more information later we should not have included it in there. But I haven't seen the specific picture.

Posted by jbc at 06:41 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 17, 2003

Conason on Rice's Dishonest Loyalty

Joe Conason has a nice column on how Condoleeza Rice has been made to sacrifice her reputation in service to Bush: To show loyalty, Rice lies for Bush.

Posted by jbc at 07:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 16, 2003

A Question of Focus

If the Democratic Leadership and the members of the liberal press and blogosphere ever got together to play in a dart tournament, it would never have an ending. They would be too obsessed with chasing all the numbers to ever pay attention to the bullseye.

This "Yellowcake" fiasco is just another smoking gun mirage that has Bush's opposition more distracted than a dog in a mailman convention. Try as they might, their outrage regarding this "lie" is generally being met with a collective yawn by the moderate and Republican voting public, as well as the mainstream world press. This kind of "gotcha" game involving the mysterious world of intelligence-gathering is just too shadowy for most people to feel they are on solid ground in contradicting an Administration's information. It won't take much counter-evidence to firmly sway public opinion back into the "give him the benefit of the doubt" camp. The danger in this scandal-chase regarding the "was this one example in his speech truthful" angle, is that the voting public may smell a greater whiff of desperation than of outrage from Bush's opponents.

So what's the right answer? I and numerous other Conservatives have said several times that the issue which will resonate loudest with us (and, I would suggest, the bulk of public opinion) will still be the establishment of proof of a significant WMD program, either available for immediate use, or in a dormant, ready-to-activate form. That is the "bullseye" that the Liberals should be keeping a steady drumbeat on.

Why? Well, some spinmeisters have been basing their arguments against this Yellowcake Affair by stating that it was only part of many reasons Bush gave for attacking Iraq. True enough. But what is NOT being said is that the MAIN reason given for confronting Saddam IMMEDIATELY rather than on a UN-preferred elongated time frame was the imminent threat to both US and world security that Iraq's cache of chemical and biological weapons posed. This is the basic "was there or wasn't there" outcome that the public will remember and respond to.

But hey, don't mind me. After all, a Conservative might just be trying to throw all the truth-seekers off the trail of that slam-dunk Uranium bombshell which will break the back of the evil Bush regime once and for all!

Posted by Craig at 10:07 PM | view/comment (7) | TrackBack (0)

Morford Goes Off

Here's another fun rant on the current state of the presidency. Maybe it's just because I've been lulled into a false sense of complacency by all the mainstream media types with their measured responses to what's going on, but SFGate columnist Mark Morford's over-the-top-ness caught me by (grateful) surprise.

Bush supporters need not apply (since they won't enjoy it anyway). Others, read on: Nothing left to lie about.

Posted by jbc at 04:38 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

MediaWhoresOnline on SOTU-Drafting Photos

Just one more, please? From MediaWhoresOnline, a really amusing page that leads off with copies of publicity photos, including captions, from the official Whitehouse web site: Photos show Bush rewriting, revising speech (hm. and now that's broken. you can try the current version of the White House page: Behind the Scenes: State of the Union Preparation).

See, it's funny because of the way the White House spin machine at the time had an interest in playing up Bush's personal involvement in crafting the speech, poring over every word to make sure it bore the stamp of his incisive intelllect and hands-on management style. Heh.

The page continues with lots more good, clean, partisan japery on the subject of the State of the Union address. Whee!

Posted by jbc at 10:07 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

CalPundit on the Big Picture

Let's see; it's been, what, 30 whole minutes since my last item on the State of the Union uranium allegation? Whoa; we're overdue.

So here you go. From CalPundit, a really nice piece called Why the uranium matters. Because it does, you know.

(On the bright side, I can feel my obsession fading. It's an odd feeling, subtle, but unmistakable. I had a similar reaction, a really powerful one, the day Winona Ryder was sentenced, and I couldn't muster even a passing interest in what she was wearing. I guess the depth/length of the obsession is proportional to the intensity of the eventual reaction, or something. Anyway, it shouldn't be long now. Hang in there.)

Posted by jbc at 12:52 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Washington Post on the Eroding Case for War Against Iraq

This is an interesting story, mainly because it serves to counter the contention by Bush's people lately that the infamous "16 words" in the State of the Union address weren't important, since the war was justified by lots of other evidence. Well, not really, says the article, at least if you're talking about the Iraqi nuclear program in particular. Since in the days leading up to the speech pretty much every other piece of evidence purpotedly showing that Iraq was actively seeking to restart its nuclear weapons program had been discredited: Bush faced dwindling data on Iraq nuclear bid.

It helps to fill in the gaps on just why the administration would have fought so hard to include such shaky evidence: because they really, really wanted that mushroom cloud image in the State of the Union address. Without it, see, us silly little Americans might have balked at the idea of pre-emptively invading another country. We might have paused and said, hey, wait; this whole UN-inspection thing actually seems to be working.

That would have been a disaster, right? Thank God we avoided that.

Posted by jbc at 12:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 15, 2003

Allbritton on Bush's Weird 'Wouldn't Let Them In' Comment

Partly to annoy Janus/onan and Hiro/Aaron, who agree that my webloggy name-dropping has gotten out of control, but also because it's a really good piece, I wanted to link unto Christopher Allbritton (of Back in Iraq 2.0)'s comments today about Bush's really strange ad-lib yesterday, where he (Bush) said that Saddam wasn't letting weapons inspectors into his country, so that's why we invaded his ass: There is no spoon.

Sigh. First day of the post-Ari era (yet another Janus/onan/Hiro/Aaron annoyance, via the unexpanded reference). I really wish I could have read Ari's explanation of that. Even if it had been the exact same explanation given by newly arisen presidential press secretary Scott McClellan, it would have been more fun coming from Ari.

Posted by jbc at 04:28 PM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (1)

Kinsley: Who Lied?

Oops; late arrival. Courtesy of Adam at Words Mean Things, check out Michael Kinsley's excellent observations on the head-scratching over who actually lied when Bush said untrue things in the State of the Union address: Who is buried in Bush's speech?

Posted by jbc at 12:38 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

16 Words, 9 Questions

Here's today's load of articles on Bush's SOTU yellowcake lie. Where do you want it?

From the Boston Globe: Bush trusts CIA after uranium claim. From the New York Times' David E. Sanger: A shifting spotlight on uranium sales. And from ABC News, this really handy timeline of what happened when: Timeline of the Iraq uranium allegations.

Supporters of Bush, understandably, are trying to minimize the significance of this. "It's just 16 words, for cryin' out loud. Give the guy a break." Rush Limbaugh, for one: They never should've caved on Africa line. (Actually, Rush goes farther. In his view, the SOTU statement was "100% true." Heh.)

But see, it's not just 16 words. Those 16 words raise a number of additional questions. Follow the link below, or scroll down, for my take on what some of those additional questions are.


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July 14, 2003

Paine's Summary of Yellowcakegate

George Paine at has a really nice summary of the events in the Nigerian yellowcake scandal: What did Bush know, and when?

An important point that some Bush supporters are missing in their faux outrage over the ruckus being kicked up over a "mere 16 words" is that this isn't the only lie the Bush administration has used in its efforts to build and maintain support for the war. Lying about the nature of the threat Saddam posed to the US has been continuous over the last year or more. This lie just happens to have been one that was particularly bald, with an obvious paper trail implicating the liars.

It's not significant because it was some kind of radical departure. Just the opposite. It's an example of the kind of thing that has become routine in the Bush administration. And it sucks.

Posted by jbc at 04:28 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

July 13, 2003

Tenet's October Speech-Laundering

So, today's headline, following logically on yesterday's, is that Tenet, who wants to take the blame for having failed to tell Bush about the problems with the Nigerian yellowcake allegations in time to take those infamous "16 words" out of the State of the Union address, actually successfully intervened with the White House to get similar allegations removed from a speech Bush made three months earlier. Oops.

From the Boston Globe: CIA chief sought to block talk of Iraq arms, aides say.

Every day the story stays in the headlines Bush drops in the polls. Cool. Hm. Who's scheduled to appear on Meet the Press today? Rumsfeld and Bob Graham? So that sounds like we'll get quagmire and the 9/11 cover-up, rather than Nigergate, but that should still be good for another point or two on the "Do you support the president?" question.

Posted by jbc at 09:11 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush's OTHER Big SOTU Lie

From Adam at Words Mean Things comes word of this excellent article on that other big whopper Bush told in his last State of the Union address: Ex-officials dispute Iraq tie to al-Qaida.

Of course, it's not really a different lie; it's the other half of the first one. Taken together, the two assertions (Saddam is actively trying to build nuclear weapons, and is perhaps just months away from having them; Saddam is working directly with al Qaeda) were the slam-dunk that cemented the support of the US public and Congressional Democrats for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Because, you know, we get that whole mushroom-cloud-over-US-cities image in our minds, and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that's guaranteed to get a powerful reaction.

Even as debunked by things like Tenet's mea culpa and the article linked to above, the idea still has traction with lots, maybe even most, of the people in this country. The way the reasoning goes is something like this: Okay, Saddam wasn't actively trying to get Nigerian uranium. But he could very well decide to get some from somewhere else at some point in the future, and if the UN eases up on him he might eventually manage to join the likes of Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea in actually having nuclear weapons. And maybe he was only having "episodic, not continuous" dealings with al Qaeda. He was still having dealings with them. He could still decide at some point in the future to get together with them and give them some of those as-yet-hypothetical nukes.

The less we actually know, the more our conclusions are based on that murky process whereby we flesh out the unseen details using whatever it is we do know (or think we know). For someone who has never travelled, never read much of anything, and never mingled much with people outside his own narrow social sphere, it's easy to lump outsiders into the category of "people who don't deserve the same considerations we (that is, members of our own immediate group) do." Throw in a little fear, and that process goes into overdrive. So even if the case against Saddam is sketchy to the point of fantasy (at least in terms of his giving nukes to al Qaeda), that fantasy is good enough for us. The worst thing that happens if we're wrong is that a bunch of Iraqis get maimed and killed, their country's infrastructure gets blown up, and their society is plunged into a state of perpetual violent chaos. But they're just Iraqis, so our fears trump their concerns.

Lashing out violently at everyone around you in response to fear is an understandable reaction. It has real survival value in certain contexts. Unfortunately, I don't think this is one of them. In this case, I think we're being manipulated by people who have their own, largely unstated, motivations for driving us in this particular direction.

So where does Bush fall in all of this? Interestingly, I think he falls more into the category of those being manipulated, rather than those doing the manipulating. It makes him less a villain and more a victim. But either way, the man has no business being president.

Posted by jbc at 08:49 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

July 12, 2003

Blame It on George

So, here's the final act in the song-and-dance Bush's team has been doing all week: CIA director George Tenet has issued a statement taking the blame for the Nigerian-uranium lie in the SOTU. Now Bush graciously grants Tenet his benediction (AP story: Bush expresses confidence in Tenet), Ari declares that "the president has moved on," and the story's over, right?

It's impressive in terms of the choreography, if for nothing else. If safeguarding America, fixing the economy, and successfully invading and rebuilidng other countires were things you could accomplish using only well-coordinated self-serving spin, we'd be in great shape right now. Unfortunately, those things require other abilities, too, and Bush's team comes up short in pretty much every other area.

But let's focus on the current flap. I see two major holes in the administration storyline. First is the way Condoleeza Rice wants to have it both ways. Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest has a good write-up: This changes everything. Earlier this week Rice said that the SOTU statements on Niger were revised to reflect CIA concerns (changing the wording to put the focus on British claims, rather than baldly asserting those claims as true). But on Meet the Press on June 8 she said, "We did not know at the time - no one knew at the time, in our circles - maybe someone knew down in the bowels of the agency, but no one in our circles knew that there were doubts and suspicions that this might be a forgery."

No amount of spin can reconcile those two statements; they directly contradict each other. One of them, at least, has to be a lie. And once you've accepted that Rice is lying about this, the whole thing falls apart. There's no way to confine the damage to Tenet, or Rice, or even Cheney (who spent all that time at the CIA "reviewing" intelligence in the run-up to war); they're all working from the same script. The deception runs seamlessly from top to bottom.

As Nick writes at (CIA takes the fall for Bush), it's ludicrous for Tenet to try to take the blame for "allowing" the President to include the bogus Niger information in the speech. How was he supposed to stop him? Who's in charge here, anyway?

The notion of presidential authority -- and responsibility -- in this White House is thoroughly broken. Yes, it's been obvious since the 2000 campaign that Bush was unqualified to be president. Our collective need to believe in his competence in the wake of 9/11 didn't change that; it just made it easier for his team to maintain the illusion. But it's a tight-rope act. His image must be constantly burnished with flattering camera angles and carefully chosen backdrops, his lines must be carefully crafted, the occasional painful ad-libs denied, spun, or ignored until public attention has mercifully moved on.

I'd like to think it's starting to come apart. A new ABC poll shows that support for Bush has fallen to the lowest level since before 9/11, which I think is a significant threshhold. More and more people are asserting that the emperor has no clothes; check out this excellent piece from Eleanor Clift in Newsweek, for example: No mistakes were made.

My naive side and my cynical side continue to battle with each other. Will Bush win in a landslide in the next election? Or will he be run out of town on a rail? Or will we have another photo finish? When you get right down to it, I honestly have no idea.

Posted by jbc at 08:36 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 11, 2003

WMDgate Locomotive Chugging Along

Bush & Co. appear to be struggling really hard to shift the coverage away from the Niger yellowcake comments in the SOTU, but so far they've had only marginal success. Lots of stories this morning.

First up, from CBS News, which is doing a pretty good Washington-Post-on-watergate impression, two stories, one from yesterday and one from today: Bush knew Iraq info was dubious and Furor over CIA role in WMD claim.

There's some nice commentary from Kos (Bush knew Iraq info was false) and from Steve Gilliard (Have you no sense of decency, sir? and Let the fingerpointing begin).

There's also an interesting rant from Justin Raimondo (Mosaic of lies), who seems quite convinced that the original source of the forged Niger documents was none other than Ariel Sharon, whom he charges with running his own off-the-books intellegence operation to bypass those integrity-tainted professionals in Mossad and feed bogus data to Rumsfeld's and Wolfowitz's boys in the Office of Special Plans. I'm not that paranoid yet, myself, but I wouldn't be shocked if turned out to be true; they certainly had motive and opportunity.

So, what does it all mean? It boils down to this: As with Clinton and Monica, where the defense ultimately centered around the assertion that standing immobile while someone gives you a blowjob does not constitute "touching" that person, Bush is seeking cover from the following assertion: Saying "Saddam tried to buy uranium from Niger" when your own intelligence service had told you the story was probably untrue would be a lie. But saying "the British government has learned that Saddam tried to buy uranium from Niger" would be true, because you weren't saying Saddam had actually tried to do that; you were just saying that Tony Blair believed Saddam had tried to do that.

It doesn't work for me. Bush didn't actually say, "the British government believes..." He said "the British government has learned that..." The clear implication is that the British government has learned something that is true. For Bush to say that about information the CIA had already told him was false still lands squarely in the category of "lie", in my book.

Rice asserts that the change in language was made to soften the assertion from a bald lie to a truthful statement about our (unfortunately misguided) friends the British. As delivered, though, the statement doesn't come off that way at all. It doesn't sound like Bush is saying, "Well, the British believe so and so; we can't confirm it from our end, so take it with a grain of salt." What it sounds like is, "Hey; it's not just us talking this way. Even the British know he's doing this."

And now they've been caught. Those damn spooks at the CIA have too much documentation about the doubts they expressed and when and to whom they expressed them. So make the admission in the form of a written statement from Ari's office as the president is already winging his way to Africa, then do your best to get the story done and over while filling as many headline inches as you can with jolly stuff about Bush and Laura and daughter Barbara blushing at the sight of mating elephants.

That's my dubya.

Posted by jbc at 08:51 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 10, 2003

Thielmann, Nameless Spook, Ari, Rumsfeld, Bush on WMDgate

Lots of spin on what-Bush-knew-and-when-he-knew-it with respect to the false claims used to justify the war. First up, from the Guardian, the story of former State Department spy guy Gregory Thielmann: White House 'lied about Saddam threat'. Next, from the BBC, an unnamed CIA source who says the White House knew all about the discrediting of the Nigerian yellowcake documents 10 months before the State of the Union Address: White House 'warned over Iraq claim'. Finally, from the Boston Globe's John Donnelly comes this fun wrap-up of the statements made in the past few days by Ari, Rumsfeld, and Bush: Bush unbowed on Iraq.

There's lots more good stuff out there. The spin is too obvious to let it lie; even US reporters are asking some good questions.

Posted by jbc at 11:09 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

July 08, 2003

Carroll on Bush's Stunted Self-Knowledge

Here's an op-ed piece by James Carroll that goes right to the heart of what disturbs me about Bush: Bush's war against evil. It sounds kind of odd to pull it out of context, but the observation that Bush's main failing is a lack of imagination is dead on.

Posted by jbc at 01:45 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 06, 2003

Neiwart on Bush's Lies

Oh, no! Not another Bush-lied piece on Iraqi WMDs.

Well, no. This one is actually more wide-ranging than that. From freelance journalist David Neiwert, writing in his weblog Orcinus: Bush the liar. It's a scrupulously thorough exploration of the subject of Bush's lies in general. Yes, the WMD lies get a special place in the coverage due to their serious and ongoing impact, but the overall picture is much bigger than that. It isn't just that Bush lied in that particular case. It's that he lies routinely and shamelessly as part of the daily business of selling himself to the electorate.

Anyway, if you despise Bush, as I do, you'll like it. If you support him, and think he's basically an okay guy, and at least as honest as most politicians, you should probably think about reading it, and trying to reconcile your views with the information it contains. Go ahead; do your best. It's fully sourced; the information is all there.

Or just go on believing what you want to believe. That's certainly going to be less work, at least.

Posted by jbc at 11:39 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

July 03, 2003

The 'Bring Them On' Thing

Daily Kos has a pointer to this Reuters story on the aftermath of Bush's Roosevelt Room quip about how badass our troops are: Bush taking heat for 'bring them on' remark.

The most interesting part of the story, for me, was this:

University of Texas political scientist Bruce Buchanan, a longtime Bush watcher, said Bush uses such language when under strain, and that he is likely feeling the heat of criticism about the lagging post-war effort in Iraq.

He called the remark an unfortunate choice of words because it sounded belligerent.

"I think that when he feels up against it, as he did at the time of the 9/11 attacks, or when he does when coming under criticism now, he has a tendency to strike back verbally, and I think that's what you're seeing there. He's not choosing his words diplomatically at those moments because he's not feeling particularly diplomatic," Buchanan said.

I'm sure Buchanan is right about that; we're getting unmediated dubya here. He's pissed at people having the gall to criticize him, so he makes these out-there statements.

Lefties like me are (obviously) appalled at this new indication of how thoroughly unsuited for the presidency he is. On the other side, I'm sure there are people cheering his Texan straight-shooting.

Neither of those reactions matters at all, though. What matters is how this plays with moderate swing voters. Are they still scared enough by September 11 to vote for someone who talks like Rambo? Or are they ready to give the irrational-lashing-out strategy a rest, and try someone who's actually remotely qualified to lead the country? I guess we'll know soon enough.

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July 02, 2003

Onion: Bush's War on Criticism

A fun piece in the latest Onion: Bush asks Congress for $30 billion to help fight war on criticism. Ah, the Onion.

Thanks to ymatt for the pointer.

Posted by jbc at 07:35 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 24, 2003

Spinning Bush's Lies

Interesting crop of stories this morning, most of them pointed to by The Smirking Chimp, about Bush's lies on Iraqi weapons. They cover an interesting spectrum.

On the one hand is Geov Parrish's column at Working for Change: Eying lies. Parrish cuts Bush and his supporters no slack, which won't surprise anyone who's read his columns in the past. The lies themselves aren't at issue for Parrish; the more interesting question is the possible motivations of those driven to actually believe them.

On the other hand is David E. Rosenbaum, writing in the New York Times Week in Review: Bush may have exaggerated, but did he lie? I doubt that Rosenbaum is one of those who actually believes Bush; unlike those Parrish writes about who take the president's statements at face value, Rosenbaum obviously has a more discerning judgement. It's an interesting irony: in order for Rosenbaum to be someone who can present the best possible case for Bush's truthfulness, he pretty much has to be informed and clever enough to recognize those statements' essential falsity.

Which may be unfair, but that's the nature of such Catch-22s. Anyway, in his audacity, his willingness to employ every trick in the book to obscure the underlying reality, Rosenbaum reminds me of Bill Clinton in some of his post-blue-dress statements on Monica Lewinsky, when he could both acknowledge his previous lies and at the same time minimize their significance, building clouds of confusion in the minds of uncritical listeners before slipping artfully away.

Timothy Noah in Slate is one who isn't confused by Rosenbaum, ripping the piece in his Chatterbox column: Can Bush be both ignorant and a liar? Noah answers that question with an emphatic yes, observing that it really doesn't matter if Bush is ignorant enough to actually believe some of the false statements he's made on Iraqi WMDs; if those statements were the result of ignorance, then it's a willful ignorance that offers no excuse from the charge of lying, unless one is willing to descend to the sort of sophistry exemplified by Clinton's own "it depends on what the definitiion of 'is' is" arguments.

On the most fundamental level, all the above pieces are partisan arguments directed at the opposing side. Paul Krugman's latest New York Times opinion piece, though, rises to a higher level, talking in a more general sense about the significance of Bush's lies, and peoples' willingness to make excuses about them: Denial and deception. Krugman's conclusion:

But even people who aren't partisan Republicans shy away from confronting the administration's dishonest case for war, because they don't want to face the implications.

After all, suppose that a politician -- or a journalist -- admits to himself that Mr. Bush bamboozled the nation into war. Well, launching a war on false pretenses is, to say the least, a breach of trust. So if you admit to yourself that such a thing happened, you have a moral obligation to demand accountability -- and to do so in the face not only of a powerful, ruthless political machine but in the face of a country not yet ready to believe that its leaders have exploited 9/11 for political gain. It's a scary prospect.

Yet if we can't find people willing to take the risk -- to face the truth and act on it -- what will happen to our democracy?

Posted by jbc at 08:52 AM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

June 23, 2003

Balkwill on Bush's Cowardice

Jack Balkwill went to Vietnam -- in his view, in place of George W. Bush -- and he's got his own take on what it is that disqualifies Bush as president: Bush is a coward.

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June 21, 2003

New Republic Details the Administration's Pre-War WMD Deceptions

The New Republic is running a good article by John P. Judis and Spencer Ackerman on the Bush administration's pre-war sales job on Iraqi WMDs: The first casualty. There are no big revelations, but a certain amount of fleshing out via new details, and overall just a really good presentation of what happened when.

I just don't see any way to avoid the conclusion that Bush & Co. lied intentionally to sell the war, especially on the key points of the Iraq/al Qaeda connection and the Iraqi nuclear program. And that ends up being really problematic.

The authors of the article point out that the openness required by democracy and the secrecy required by the national security apparatus are always going to be in conflict. It's a delicate area, where the need to protect the country from external threats must be balanced against the need to protect it from unscrupulous leaders here at home.

We the people just don't get to see classified intelligence reports; we're dependent on our elected leaders to make an honest, unbiased assessment of the information they contain, and use that information to keep us safe. We have to just trust them on that. But if they're willing to distort that information in pursuit of a particular political agenda, emphasizing some parts and suppressing others, then they have violated that trust, and if we catch them at it, we have to hold them accountable. If we fail to do so, it's all downhill from there. They absolutely will not police themselves on our behalf.

Posted by jbc at 04:40 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cote on the WMD Fallacy

Owen R. Cote, Jr., associate director of MIT’s Security Studies Program and a coeditor of the journal International Security, has written a powerful indictment of the Bush administration's approach to dealing with WMDs: Weapons of mass confusion. He points out that nuclear weapons on the one hand, and chemical/biological weapons on the other hand, are distinctly different problems. By pursuing policies that treat them as one and the same, Bush & Co. are hampering their own effectiveness and exposing us to horrible dangers.

Cote's arguments sound solid to me. See, this is why we have experts. Because to really smart people who have specialized knowledge and lots of experience in particular fields, thorny problems are significantly easier to break down into their component parts and solve. Listening to experts doesn't always mean the resulting policies will succeed, but routinely ignoring them is a pretty sure prescription for failure.

Which is what we have with George Bush. He doesn't trust experts. He trusts his gut. As a result, decisions on matters ranging from defense against terrorists to invasion of other countries to dealing with global climate change are being made by a man who is notoriously uninterested in critical thinking, and who instead substitutes the dimly understood urgings of his own psyche and the advice of a tight circle of ideologues and political tacticians.

So, do you feel safer?

Thanks to Janus/onan for the link.

Posted by jbc at 10:14 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 20, 2003

Whitman's Not-So-Comprehensive Environmental Report

Much ruckus being kicked up regarding the New York Times' article, yesterday, that blew the whistle on the White House having so watered down the section on global warming in the EPA's upcoming big-ass report on the state of the environment that it was eventually decided to just remove that section altogether: Report by the EPA leaves out data on climate change. Editorial/opinion pages are pretty universally taking up the call against such politicization of scientific findings. From Derrick Z. Jackson in the Boston Globe: Bush fries climate change. SunSpot: More revisionist history. And the NYT itself: Censorship on global warming.

It's part of the same pattern that gave us sexed-up evidence of Iraqi WMDs. Bush & Co. have little use for expert opinion that doesn't square with their political agenda. Yeah, I realize all politicians do the same thing to some degree, but with Bush it's off the charts. And since simply pretending very, very hard that things are true that really aren't, or aren't true that really are, has a poor track-record in terms of actually changing reality, this becomes pretty scary for anyone who has to live with the consequences of the resulting decision-making.

Posted by jbc at 09:55 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

June 19, 2003

9/11 Survivors Pissed at Bush

Here's an article from Salon that's worth enduring the click-through ad for the one-day pass: Bush's 9/11 coverup? It goes over some things I've harped on here before, with some additional details.

I'm really pretty outraged about this one, and more, about the apparent willingness of large chunks of the country to turn a blind eye to it. All that righteous anger that was on display in the wake of 9/11; where'd it go? You remember? "Never forget?"

Posted by jbc at 12:49 PM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

Berlow on Bush Lawyer Alberto Gonzales

Here's an interesting article from Alan Berlow in The Atlantic on the legal briefs prepared by Alberto Gonzales, then-legal counsel to Governor Bush of Texas, concerning upcoming executions: The Texas clemency memos.

I guess the tendency of Bush to lean towards simplistic, slanted portrayals of potentially complex issues, even in the face of severe consquences for wrong decisions, isn't anything new. And the picture gains additional relevance in that Gonzales is apparently the most-frequently-cited prospect for a Bush nomination to the presumed upcoming vacancies on the US Supreme Court.

Oh, joy. Another Clarence Thomas.

Posted by jbc at 12:40 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 17, 2003

Laughing at Ari Some More

Fun White House press conferences today: Transcript: White House Daily Briefing, June 17, 2003. I especially like this exchange:

Q: Ari, a quick two-part question. You said there will come a time
when the President engages in political activities. How will we know
when that happens? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: You're not trying to lead me somewhere with that type
of question, are you?

Q: Never, Ari.

MR. FLEISCHER: Very judicious of you.

Q: Will you be landing somewhere? (Laughter.)

MR. FLEISCHER: I hope you enjoyed it. (Laughter.) Your network surely

As I've said before, I really am going to miss Ari. There's lots of other good stuff in the transcript, including hammering on Ari about WMDs, about which the president is sticking to his guns, at least as far as Ari is concerned. And his (the president's) supporters continue to do their best to shore him up; witness the following editorial from today's Washington Times: What credibility gap?

Posted by jbc at 02:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman on Bush's Domestic-Security Failings

Paul Krugman's latest New York Times column is dead on, focusing on what I seriously believe could be the issue that defeats Bush at the polls next year: Dereliction of duty. He points at the Washington Post piece on Rand Beers that I mentioned yesterday, and goes on to talk about some of the ways Bush is failing to deal with the terrorist threat effectively.

Posted by jbc at 01:13 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 16, 2003

Conyers: Bush Deceit an Attack on Democracy

Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) gave a speech in the House of Representatives a week ago that The Smirking Chimp has reprinted in full: Bush administration deceptions about Iraq threaten democracy.

This is where the Republican victories in the 2002 elections come back to haunt us. We could really use a little checking and balancing right now, but with Republicans in control of pretty much the entire federal government, it just isn't happening.

Posted by jbc at 08:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Cleland: Immoral, Unjust, and Unacceptable

Speaking to a Democratic gathering in Atlanta recently, former Senator Max Cleland took the gloves off in attacking Bush's record in the "War on Terror." The full text of his remarks is given in the following column at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Max returns, with fire in his eyes.

Cleland, an ex-military man, sounds fairly pissed about all this. He points out that none of the leading lights of the Bush administration (with the exception of Colin Powell) has ever faced combat. He emphasizes the similarities between Iraq and Vietnam. He embraces the president's assertions that we're in a war against terrorism, then lays out how the president is failing to fight that war effectively.

Some of his suggestions for improvement leave me cold (revive the draft?), but I think it's significant that it's not just left-leaning peaceniks like me who are upset about the way things are going. We emphasize different aspects of the Bush train wreck, but we agree that that's what it is.

Posted by jbc at 08:33 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 15, 2003

Marshall of TPM on Kagan on the WMD Debate

So, Adam pointed out the following piece by Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo: I must confess. It's a fairly detailed picking-apart of the fairly thoroughly dishonest op-ed piece by Robert Kagan of the Washington Post from last week (A plot to deceive?).

Yes, there have always been self-serving op-ed pieces that obscure truth in their attempts to shore up a particular position. There have always been lies in the public sphere.

What is new is that the tide of such sludge seems to have risen to the point where it is drowning out honest discussion. Blame whomever you want: talk radio, vast right-wing conspiracies, astroturf campaigns, kids raised by TV shows instead of responsible adults; I don't know. Blame the "liberal media" and rampant political correctness, if those evils bother you more.

It doesn't matter how our civil society got broken. We need to fix it. And we need to start now. I'm not just saying that because my team seems to have been "losing" the "debate" lately. I really don't even care about that, so much. If we'd been having an honest debate, I wouldn't mind if the majority of my fellow citizens ended up deciding that no, my views did not represent the best course of action.

But we haven't even been having a debate. And in the absence of such a debate (by which I mean, people openly discussing the issues in an honest effort to arrive at an appropriate public policy), we've got nothing. No democracy. No freedom. Nothing.

Posted by jbc at 11:20 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 13, 2003

Dubya takes a spill

Looks like the "Monkey-in-Chief" was trying to be on the cutting edge of technology, and took a spill while trying to navigate a Segway personal transporter.

I love seeing our tax dollars at work, with Dubya buying some new toys to try out the latest in technology, and almost busting his grape in the process.

Posted by jaybird at 01:48 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rall: Impeach Bush Now

Let's check in with Ted Rall: They impeach murderers, don't they? As usual, Rall pulls no punches.

Posted by jbc at 08:32 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Beeman: Bush Is in Trouble

Via This Girl Thinks comes word of this Alternet reposting of William O. Beeman: Barbershop wisdom says Bush is in trouble. It's a thoughtful piece, and makes some interesting points about American attitudes toward war and how Bush may be on very thin ice as the sales job he did starts to unravel.

I think Beeman might be a bit too ready to pull this particular tea leaf out of the pile and divine the future from it, but it's a future I'd like to believe in, too, so here's hoping.

Posted by jbc at 06:55 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

June 11, 2003

Waxman: Knowing Deception or Unfathomable Incompetence?

I think this is probably one of the strongest statements I've seen yet regarding Bush's lies on Iraqi WMDs. It's the full text of a letter sent by Henry Waxman to Condoleeza Rice yesterday, demanding an explanation for why Bush made WMD claims in the State of the Union address that were based on obviously forged documents: Waxman: 'Explain why you cited forged evidence'.

Some additional congressional maneuvering is discussed in this USA Today story: McCain: Don't delay Iraq hearings.

Granted, with both houses of Congress in Republican control, the deck will be stacked against those trying to use hearings as a forum for presenting the truth on this stuff. But the lies were so blatant, I just can't see how they can successfully sugarcoat it.

Posted by jbc at 03:42 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

WMD Redux

Time for the morning batch of Smirking Chimp-derived articles about the administration's WMD problem. From Jules Witcover: Not buying revisionist sales job on Iraqi weapons. Richard Gwyn: Bush's weapons of mass deception. John Prados: Hoodwinked. Rupert Cornwell: Accountability missing in Bushland.

And a bonus link: From Salon: Can Bush be toppled? It's a collection of Democratic pols weighing in on Bush's beatability next year. The article itself is only borderline worth enduring the lame Microsoft ad to get the "one-day pass", but the illustration of a Bush statue being pulled down before cheering crowds is definitely worth a look. Heh. Kudos to Bob Watts, Salon's art director.

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June 10, 2003

Latest WMD Developments

It's interesting to watch the process play out. Isolated bitching is turning into a steady chorus: Bush and the members of his team lied shamelessly to exaggerate the Iraqi WMD threat in the months before the war. Those making these claims don't just have a "smoking gun," they have a whole smoking arsenal.

Bush, on the other hand, has bupkis, and has begun the process of backtracking. Answering questions during one of those Reagan-esque not-quite-a-press-conference exchanges that allows him to pick and choose a question or two to answer, then feign deafness to follow-ups, Bush said yesterday he remains "absolutely convinced" that we will uncover evidence that Iraq had a "weapons program." Not weapons, mind you, but a weapons program. He used the phrase three times in one brief response. From the LA Times: Bush tempers talk of weapons.

Right. But see, that wasn't what you said, repeatedly, emphatically, and without qualification, in selling the war.

Checking in with the columnists: From Robert Scheer: Bad Iraq data from start to finish. From Paul Krugman: Who's accountable? And from Geov Parrish: The impeachable offense.

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June 09, 2003

Scary Neocons 101

Jay Bookman has a piece at Information Clearing House (again, suggested by Glen & Pilar), that does a really good job of laying out the background of the PNAC folks, and explaining just why Bush might have chosen to invade Iraq: The president's real goal in Iraq.

It's not as easy to reduce to a picket sign as those "blood for oil" and "he tried to kill my daddy" explanations, but it has the benefit of actually accounting for the available evidence (or, in the case of the WMD justification, the available non-evidence).

Again, this particular piece won't give any shocking revelations to anyone who has been paying attention, but it does a really nice job of "connecting the dots." (Heh. We can use that expression, too.)

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June 08, 2003

Kagan on WMD 'Lies'

Robert Kagan has a column in the Washington Post that makes fun of the notion that Bush lied about Iraqi WMDs: A plot to deceive? It's clever, and entertaining, but I think it's basically an example of the straw man fallacy. Those claiming Bush lied are not arguing that Saddam never had any weapons of mass destruction. They're saying that Bush misrepresented ambiguous evidence as being much more certain than it actually was, in order to build support for an immediate invasion, as opposed to the slower approach represented by things like sanctions and continued UN weapons inspections. Which, as far as I can see, is a legitimate criticism. True, it's not as bad as if Bush had invented the idea of an imminent Iraqi WMD threat out of thin air, but it's still dishonest, and needs to be looked at carefully by anyone being asked to believe what Bush says in the future.

Posted by jbc at 08:49 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

Gilliard on Bush's WMD (non-)Lies

Here's a provocative piece from Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos: Is Bush lying? Interestingly, and, I think, insightfully, Gilliard thinks the answer is no. In Gilliard's attempts to make sense of Bush's actions with respect to Iraqi WMDs, he comes to the conclusion that rather than being a liar, it is far more likely that Bush (and Rumsfeld) have simply been played for marks by adept conman Ahmad Chalabi.

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June 06, 2003

Gilliard, Dean on the Consequences of Missing WMDs

Can't throw a rock in the air without hitting an opinion piece on the significance of missing Iraqi WMDs. Here are two particularly interesting ones.

First, from Steve Gilliard at Daily Kos: Why the snipe hunt matters. I really like Gilliard (in case you hadn't noticed). He has his opinions, sure, which you may or may not agree with, but he doesn't beat you over the head with them. He just lays out what he thinks, and backs it up with his reasons for thinking so, and leaves it up to you to agree or not.

Second is this piece that really got me, from John Dean: Missing weapons of mass destruction: Is lying about the reason for war an impeachable offense? Dean answers in the affirmative, and his argument seems pretty solid, at least to me, though there are a few factors that would tend to lessen his credibility. For one, he apparently takes the original Guardian story about Wolfowitz's "swimming in oil" comment at face value. Second, well, he's John Dean. Is there anybody in the world willing to trust John Dean?

As I wrote the first time I saw someone mentioning impeachment in the context of the fraudulent war justification, I think impeachment talk is an energy-suck without much (any?) potential payoff, except maybe that it helps hammer home the message that what Bush has done is far, far worse than anything Clinton did with Monica. If that pisses you off enough for you to want to punish him, fine; punish him by making sure he ends up a one-termer, just like his dad.

Anyway, enjoy.

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Pitt: I Told You So

William Rivers Pitt of Truthout has a nice summing up of the WMD thing, and the price he believes Bush should be required to pay: We used to impeach liars.

It's no secret that I'm basically with Pitt on this one. I don't think the WMD evidence was ever credible, so I don't see anything particularly shocking in the non-results coming out of the post-war WMD hunt.

If you bought the WMD evidence initially, you're in a more difficult position. You can continue to believe Bush, and argue, like that guy debating the smooth-moon theory with Galileo, that Iraq is covered with vast stockpiles of invisible chemical and biological weapons (with a few invisible nukes thrown in for good measure, if you're a bigtime Believer).

Or you could argue that, like you, Bush and Co. were the victims of a major "intelligence failure." It wasn't their (or your) fault you were mistaken; it's those darn mid-level managers who fed you unreliable data. We'll call this the Challenger-disaster approach.

Or I suppose you could just face the reality that the emperor has no clothes. But unlike the fairy tale, the emperor in this story will never acknowledge his nakedness. He'll continue to strut and pose as if he's fully dressed, and a significant fraction of the townsfolk will, by virtue of their having long ago given up any pretense of objectivity, continue to nod approvingly and dismiss the criticisms of their opponents.

Posted by jbc at 07:43 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 05, 2003

The No-Fault President

The problem I have these days isn't finding articles that talk about high-profile lying; it's wading through the vast sea of such articles to find the most interesting ones. Anyway, here are a couple from today's crop at The Smirking Chimp that deal with Bush: First up, from David Corn in The Nation: Where's the outrage? And from Marie Cocco in Newsday: Bush presents US with no-fault presidency.

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June 04, 2003

Is Bush Serious?

After looking more like a fratboy at a kegger than a sober statesman in most of the images to come out of the European stops on his current trip, Bush apparently got serious upon arriving in the Middle East. He reportedly met with five Arab leaders with only translaters (and no handlers!) present, and was so caught up in this whole "leader of the free world" thing (or is it religious fervor?) that he persisted in speaking his own words even when Egyptian TV cameras were rolling (though apparently that was an accident). Anyway, interesting stuff. From the NYT: On camera but unaware, Bush displays his fervor.

Posted by jbc at 07:19 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

June 03, 2003

Krugman on Bush's War on Facts, Perry on Terror Alerts

Paul Krugman raises the level of concern in his personal Homeland Security Alert system, citing the way that the systematic and brazen distortion of the facts by the Bush administration has reached a level "never before seen in US history": Standard operating procedure.

In a somewhat-thematically-related piece, Steve Perry writes about how the real terror-alert system is a heads-I-win,-tails-you-lose proposition for Karl Rove's (re-)election schemes: Who's your daddy?

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June 02, 2003

Lindorff on Impeachment

Dave Lindorff, writing in Counterpunch, argues that even if Bush isn't defeated at the polls next year, a Democratic majority in congress could lead to high-profile fun of the impeachment variety: It was the lying, right?

Posted by jbc at 09:04 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 29, 2003

New TV Movie To Portray Bush As Decisive Leader on 9/11

Not content with blocking the release of the 9/11 investigation that reveals Bush as having been more deer-in-the-headlights than macho top gun on that awful day, the administration is apparently working closely with Republican point man in Hollywood Lionel Chetwynd to rewrite history via a made-for-TV movie, to be aired next September: White House insider cleans up Bush's image on film.

According to the movie's script, Bush wasn't the inept, whiny afterthought on 9/11 that previous accounts have painted him as. No, he was a firm, forthright Commander in Chief, cutting off his Secret Service advisors and demanding they take him back to the White House, pronto. "If some tinhorn terrorist wants me, tell him to come and get me! I'll be at home! Waiting for the bastard!"

Man, who wouldn't want to vote for that guy?

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Billmon's Timeline of WMD Statements

Here's a nice collection of quotations by Bush & Co. on those elusive Iraqi WMDs: What a tangled web we weave.

Posted by jbc at 11:06 AM | view/comment (9) | TrackBack (0)

May 28, 2003

Bush Inside and Out

Here are a pair of stories about President Bush. The first, by John Chuckman, is specifically for Craig, whose eyes I can see rolling even as I speak, in that it's a look at ways in which Bush is similar, personality-wise, to Adolf Hitler: Through a glass darkly: An interpretation of Bush's character. The second, by Michael Katz, is a nice roundup of the ways in which the spinmeisters are burnishing Bush's image: Image makers obscure president's policy failures. Thanks to the Smirking Chimp, as usual, for the links.

Posted by jbc at 09:18 PM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 26, 2003

Margolis on Bush's Iraq Lies

Following up on the excellent link Craig posted, here's a less-sympathetic treatment of the same issues from the Toronto Sun's Eric Margolis: Oh, what a tangled web Bush weaves. Ties things together well.

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May 23, 2003

More Criticism of 9/11 Cover-Up

Another day, another round of criticism of the way the Bush administration is covering up the intelligence and decision-making failures that contributed to 9/11. From the Boston Globe: Bush criticized over 9/11 probe. And from Andrew Greeley, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times: Bush answers on 9/11 overdue.

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May 22, 2003

The Meaning of Missing WMDs

Still yet again even more commentary on the missing Iraq WMDs, and what their absence means: First up, an op/ed piece from Melvin A. Goodman: Weapons failure. Next, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman: Trust in leaders is lost if WMD are not found. Finally, from someone who (yes, I know) supported the Ku Klux Klan in his early politicking in West Virginia 50 years ago, but today is apparently the only person in the Senate to care so little (or so much?) about his future that he's willing to take a moral stand: The truth will emerge.

Thanks to for all three links, and for hosting the text of Byrd's speech.

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May 21, 2003

Goodman on Bush the Showman

Howard Goodman, a columnist based in Palm Beach, FL, comments on how the Bush image-crafting team goes showman-extraordinaire Ronald Reagan one better: For Bush, as with the Gipper, it's on with the show. It's mostly a recapitulation of that New York Times article from the other day, but I liked the Reagan story in the lead enough to post it.

Posted by jbc at 07:09 AM | view/comment (2) | TrackBack (0)

May 19, 2003

Bush on 9/11: Up Close and Personal

Here's something really special: An interesting day: President Bush's movements and actions on 9/11. Using published sources, the authors go into detail on what Bush knew and what he did when on that awful day.

Since we're apparently not going to be allowed to see the results of the government investigation into the events of that day, I guess we citizens will have to piece it together on our own.

Posted by jbc at 06:45 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rosenberg on Bush the Believer

Here's an interesting commentary on a New York Times piece that just barely didn't reach my personal postability threshhold, but which, with the addition of Scott Rosenberg's criticism, now qualifies. The original piece was Bill Keller's God and George W. Bush; the followup critique is Bush and God, church and state.

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May 17, 2003

Lights, Camera, Presidency!

From the New York Times comes this really interesting story about the team of people who make sure Bush looks good on TV: Keepers of Bush image lift stagecraft to new heights. I'm not sure how you counter this. Maybe you don't.

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May 16, 2003

Public, Dems Don't Care about Missing WMDs

According to this analysis from the Washington Post, most of the US population, and virtually all the Democrats in Congress, have decided that the Iraq war was a great success, even if it turns out Bush lied shamelessly about the Iraqi WMD threat: No weapons, no problem for Bush.

I wonder how many of the people who believe the war was justified even without Iraqi WMDs also believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks.

Posted by jbc at 09:50 PM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

May 15, 2003

Inconvenient Questions Persist in the War on Terra

We seem to be in the thick of a news cycle centering on Bush's dishonesty with respect to the pursuit of Evil-Doers and Terra-ists. Here are three pieces pointed to this morning by The Smirking Chimp, all of them dealing with this issue in one way or another. First, and most substantially, is this piece from The Guardian: Bush feels the heat after Riyadh bombings. The idea here is that by focusing on the overthrow of those alleged Osama-collaborators in Iraq, Bush let the real al Qaeda off the hook, allowing them to prepare a new round of attacks. A similar, but more-humorously-presented, argument is that advanced by John McFerrin in the Charleston Gazette: Hillbilly in the White House: Bush attack on Iraq 'handy'.

Finally, from Alan Bisbort in the Hartford Advocate: The dead want the truth. Bisbort argues that we owe those who died in the 9/11 attacks a full disclosure of the intelligence failures that led to those events, and that White House efforts to limit the investigation and classify its results are way hypocritical in the context of the no-holds-barred effort they put into exposing Clinton's philandering.

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May 13, 2003

Dionne on Bush's Lies

Here's a nice little commentary comparing Bush with Clinton/Gore on the subject of lying: Bush will say anything -- no lie. It's from E.J. Dionne, Jr., as printed in and pointed to by The Smirking Chimp.

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May 08, 2003

Chandler: Bush's Big Lie

From Dave Chandler comes this fun rabble rousing: Bush's big lie. Basically, Chandler makes a case that Bush should be tried for war crimes. I'm not holding my breath, but those of you who think dubya walks on water might want to give it a glance and see what you think of Chandler's argument.

Posted by jbc at 08:08 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

May 07, 2003

Krugman on the Carrier Photo Op

Another great, thoughtful piece from the New York Times' Paul Krugman: Man on horseback (cypherpunk98/cypherpunk login works). Krugman talks about Bush's carrier-landing photo opportunity, and puts it in the appropriate context. A nice summing up of the issue.

Posted by jbc at 06:57 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 04, 2003

Fireman: Current Status of the War Justification

Okay; I lied. I really wasn't going to post about it anymore, but then I read this really nice wrap-up from Ken Fireman at Newsday: Hunt goes on for war's motives. It covers the whole issue really well, even mentioning the "Remember the Maine" and the Gulf of Tonkin incidents. The difference between this case and those earlier two is that in those cases, it took years, even decades, for the truth to be widely recognized. This time, I think the truth is obvious just a few months later. (Well, I think the truth was obvious before the war even started, but now, with the post-war weapons hunt playing out the way it has, it has become really obvious, to the point where those who support the president are reduced to acknowledging the lie, but claiming it didn't matter.)

Posted by jbc at 12:34 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Digby on the Bush Loyalty Oath

From Digby of Digby's Blog, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this really fabulous piece: Loyalty oath. Among the other wonderful things about it is that I now feel there is no longer any need for me to talk about this, since Digby has said it better than I ever could. So there's something we can all celebrate. :-)

Posted by jbc at 11:42 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 02, 2003

George Bush, Warrior

Lots of coverage today of Fearless Leader's grand aircraft carrier event. From the Washington Post, an article describing this as Bush's opening salvo in the 2004 [re-]election campaign: For Bush, the military is the message for '04. We liberal whiners continue to point out that Bush actually pulled strings to stay out of the fighting back when it was his butt on the line, and then went AWOL for a year or so, apparently, when even his cushy National Guard posting became too onerous; see this piece from David Corn in The Nation, for example: Bush's Top Gun photo op. But I don't think we can put too much faith in that particular criticism come election day. Bush did, in point of fact, fly planes during the Vietnam War, even if he never left the US, and that's probably going to be good enough to pass muster with those willing to credit him with having made the world a safer place by killing lots of Afghanis and Iraqis.

The deeper question, for me, at least, is whether we really want a president who so clearly gets off on going to war, and is willing to indulge that desire without thinking too hard about the long-term consequences. Because we, and our children, are going to be living with those consquences for a very long time.

Posted by jbc at 10:30 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

May 01, 2003

12 SARS Patients Report Relapses

Hello. This is my 1st post, so if there are any errors, please forgive me.

Definitly a year in history that will be remembered for a long time: a President of the USA who promotes peace by causing war(?), recession (but finds millions and billions to fight a war), and now SARS (an illness which, with all our technology, is still a myserty to us). In my travels through the world wide web, I came across intresting infomation about SARS, and how people who seem to have defeated the illness are being "re-infected." Could this be the black plague of the 21st century? Only time will tell...

An article from New York Times: 12 SARS Patients Report Relapses. And here is an interesting article from Newsday: HIV/Aids Infected people resistent to SARS?

Here are a few more on other topics:

US Marine investigated for war crimes after newspaper interview

U.S. Tells Iraq Oil Ministers Not to Act Without Its O.K.

Coca-Cola promotes drink with 'swastika' robots

Lawyer: FBI agent's job in jeopardy because she blew the whistle

The Secrets of September 11: The White House is battling to keep a report on the terror attacks secret. Does the 2004 election have anything to do with it?
(I am just glad the terrorists are the only ones who hate our freedom.)

Only on the net you find an article like this one... I won't claim it as fact, but it still is an intresting article: Bush's "Christian" Blood Cult, Concerns Raised by the Vatican

Well I hope it's not too much infomation; if it is, please let me know and I will limit the amount of articles I post.

-- best way to lie, is by knowing the truth

How fortunate for leaders, that the masses do not think.

-- Adolph Hitler

Where the People fear the Government - you have tyranny; Where the Government fears the People - you have rights.

-- Thomas Jefferson

It must never be unpatriotic to support your country against your government. It must always be unpatriotic to support your government against your country.

-- Stephen T. Byingt

It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.

-- Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering

Posted by immy2g at 01:01 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 29, 2003

More Bitching About WMD Lies

Ho, hum. Another day, another round of criticism of Bush's willingness to justify the Iraq invasion with lies. First, from the normally-quite-staid LA Times editorial writers: Tell the truth on weapons (login required, cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works).

"We were not lying," one administration official told ABC News on Friday. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." No, it wasn't. Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction is central to the legitimacy of the war.

If it turns out that the administration did mislead the world, the only way to mitigate long-term damage to U.S. credibility is to come clean. Fast.

Next up, Robert Scheer's latest column: Are we numb or dumb?
It is expected that despots can force the blind allegiance of their people to falsehoods. But it is frightening in the extreme when lying matters not at all to a free people. The only plausible explanation is that the tragedy of Sept. 11 so traumatized us that we are no longer capable of the outrage expected of a patently deceived citizenry. The case for connecting Saddam Hussein with that tragedy is increasingly revealed as false, but it seems to matter not to a populace numbed by incessant government propaganda.
Finally, let's give the floor to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, writing in his latest piece, Matters of emphasis:
One wonders whether most of the public will ever learn that the original case for war has turned out to be false. In fact, my guess is that most Americans believe that we have found W.M.D.'s. Each potential find gets blaring coverage on TV; how many people catch the later announcement -- if it is ever announced -- that it was a false alarm? It's a pattern of misinformation that recapitulates the way the war was sold in the first place. Each administration charge against Iraq received prominent coverage; the subsequent debunking did not.

Did the news media feel that it was unpatriotic to question the administration's credibility? Some strange things certainly happened. For example, in September Mr. Bush cited an International Atomic Energy Agency report that he said showed that Saddam was only months from having nuclear weapons. "I don't know what more evidence we need," he said. In fact, the report said no such thing -- and for a few hours the lead story on MSNBC's Web site bore the headline "White House: Bush Misstated Report on Iraq." Then the story vanished -- not just from the top of the page, but from the site.

Thanks to this pattern of loud assertions and muted or suppressed retractions, the American public probably believes that we went to war to avert an immediate threat -- just as it believes that Saddam had something to do with Sept. 11.

Now it's true that the war removed an evil tyrant. But a democracy's decisions, right or wrong, are supposed to take place with the informed consent of its citizens. That didn't happen this time. And we are a democracy -- aren't we?

I guess that has become an empirical question. If we are a democracy, a healthy one, with the kind of well-developed immune system that can successfully fight off an infection by anti-democratic forces, then events between now and November of next year will demonstrate that.

Posted by jbc at 07:07 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 28, 2003

Campbell: Holding Bush Accountable

From The Smirking Chimp comes word of this opinion piece by Don Campbell: Pause the postwar glee to ask: Were supporters misled? It's yet another example of the "Hey, did Bush lie to us about Iraqi WMDs to justify the war?" talk going around, and I find it especially significant because Campbell describes himself as previously having supported the war based mainly on the WMD assertions. This is your prototypical swing voter talking here, from the pages of the can't-get-more-mainstream USA Today:

If the weapons are found and their authenticity confirmed, Bush will have the I-told-you-so moment of his presidency. He'll deserve to be rewarded politically for staring down the Nervous Nellies and defending the nation against weapons controlled by a mad man.

If the weapons are not found, the most charitable explanation is that they were moved out of Iraq while we were bombing our way to Baghdad -- or that we had rotten intelligence to begin with. Either illustrates incompetence.

The more ominous conclusion is that Bush deliberately misled Americans to gather support for the Iraqi invasion -- or unwittingly was misled himself by gung-ho advisers, none of whom wear uniforms. I don't know which of the two is worse, but either should carry a heavy political price.

Posted by jbc at 07:26 AM | view/comment (6) | TrackBack (0)

April 27, 2003

Things I Like About George W. Bush

Obviously, I'm not much of a fan of George W. Bush. But that doesn't mean I think he's all bad. After catching some flak in the comments for having portrayed him as stupid, I feel that I should go on record with some of my thoughts on dubya, minus the sarcasm.

The man has focus, and determination. See this interesting article from the Washginton Post's On Politics, for example: Close look at a focused president. Bush goes his own way, even in the face of criticism. Setting aside for the moment the question of whether that way is a way I think the country should be headed, you have to give the guy credit for sticking to his guns.

Also, I give Bush high marks for personal honesty. I know that sounds crazy, given that I also think he has led a sustained effort to lie to the world and to the American people about his justification for going to war with Iraq. In terms of the severity of its consequences, that's a pretty serious lie. As I've mentioned before, it's much worse in that sense than the lies Clinton told about Lewinsky.

But in a way, what Bush is doing with this Iraq war justification isn't really lying. Clinton's Monica lies were just outright whoppers, pure and simple. With Bush, the lies are fuzzier. They're down there in the clutter of details that he simply doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to. Clinton, I'm sure, had no illusions about whether he was lying or not when he waggled his finger at the camera and asserted that he'd never had sexual relations with "that woman, Miss Lewinsky." Bush, though, with his west-Texas anti-intellectualism, views "facts" with suspicion. Facts are things that propeller-headed Poindexters worry about. A real man like him pays more attention to his gut. His gut told him that Saddam was a bad man, and that "taking him out" was an appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks. Once he'd arrived at that decision, the hooey he fed the public was a secondary issue. He was acting on the basis of Truth with a big "T", and he wasn't going to let truth with a little "t" get in his way.

Bush really is like those country fans singing along with Darryl Worley and Toby Keith. He just doesn't discriminate that finely. From his perspective, the differences between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are much less important than the things they have in common. They both come from a part of the world he'd never paid much attention to before being not-quite-elected president. They both speak Arabic, are at least nominally Islamic, and don't like the United States. And that's good enough for him.

It's not that he's stupid, as much as ignorant, and (especially) possessed of bad judgement in his refusal to look carefully at the consequences he's committing us all to before deciding to follow his gut. Here's how I put it in responding to a user's comment on the Dare to be (not) stupid piece the other day:

I don't think George Bush is all that stupid. I don't think he's all that smart, either, but I don't think that disqualifies him for the presidency. What I think disqualifies him for the presidency is his poor judgement.

A stupid person could be a decent president, I think, as long as he was aware of his limitations, had a solid emotional foundation, and used good judgement in evaluating the advice he received from those around him. He'd have to be able to make his decisions based on the right reasons, rather than letting his emotions and the darker side of his personality push him to do stupid things that "felt" right at the time, but really weren't.

That's what I think Bush is doing, in particular with his reaction to 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. I don't blame him for being out of his depth; I think any president, no matter how intelligent, would have been out of his depth faced with the events of 9/11. I blame him for picking the wrong people to listen to in deciding what to do about it, for letting himself be manipulated, and for letting his emotions lead him into taking the country down a path that will only make the problem worse in the long run.

If someone injures you, but doesn't stick around to let you hit back at them, you're going to feel a lot of bottled up aggression. You're going to want to use that aggression on somebody. Whether or not you indulge that desire by beating up on a bunch of people who have no connection with the person who initially injured you has more to do with personality and judgement, I think, than raw intelligence.

There's a level on which George Bush is more honest, more trustworthy, than someone like Clinton. Clinton would tell you black was white, and be completely convincing about it, if he thought it would help him politically. With Bush, what you see is what you get. As frightening as he is to me, as bad a president as I think he is, I have to give him credit for that.

Posted by jbc at 08:26 AM | view/comment (3) | TrackBack (0)

April 25, 2003

Kuttner: Will the Right Sink GOP's Election Hopes?

Columnist Robert Kuttner writes in the Boston Globe on the various ways in which the far right may be letting the victory in Iraq go to its head: Far right greases skids for GOP fall. Personally, I think it's kind of early to start celebrating, but it's a nice thought. Kuttner talks about Newt's attack on Colin Powell, invokes the shade of Jim Jeffords in discussing the pressure the administration is putting on moderate Republicans over the tax cut, and then mentions Santorum's anti-gay crusade. He concludes:

To win elections, you need swing voters. The hard-core, partisan Republican vote is around 40 percent of the electorate; and the government-bashing, Bible-thumping, nuke-'em far-right electorate is substantially less than that.

In the past, moderate Republicans saved this radical administration from itself - on tax and budget issues, on military adventures, and on tolerance issues. Now, the radicals want nothing less than total victory. They are inviting electoral defeat.

Posted by jbc at 12:53 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kos on Bush's Iraq Lies

So, the time has come to rewrite the why-we-needed-to-invade-Iraq storyline once again. With Bush having all but admitted yesterday that the WMDs were a smokescreen, Administration officials are busy pencilling in a new, ex post facto justification: We wanted to make an object lesson of Iraq, because we believed it would serve to magically ward off future 9/11 attacks.

Conveniently, I don't have to rant about this, because Kos has already done so: Liars.

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April 22, 2003

Scheer: Did Bush Lie to Us On Purpose?

Robert Scheer's latest column isn't the best work I've ever read from him, but it seemed like the kind of thing people would keep suggesting to me if I didn't post it, so here you go: Did Bush deceive us in his rush to war? Nothing really new here, but a decent summing up. Here's the money quote from the end of the piece:

Did our president knowingly deceive us in his rush to war?

If he did, and we are truly concerned about our own democracy, we would have to acknowledge that such an egregious abuse of power rises to the status of an impeachable offense.

I think impeachment talk is a distraction at this point. Yeah, on some level I'd agree that launching a war under false pretenses really ought to be considered a vastly more serious offense than, say, lying under oath about whether you got a blowjob from an intern in the Oval Office.

But precisely because it's so much more serious an offense, I think we need to stay focused in terms of our response. We shouldn't waste our time, energy, and credibility pushing for an impeachment that, realistically, is never going to happen. Instead, we need to be talking about how we're going to defeat Bush in the 2004 election.

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April 18, 2003

Dean, Krugman on Bush's Isolationism

Here are a pair of pieces looking at the fences our uniter-not-a-divider president is building between the US and the rest of the world. From the New York Times' Paul Krugman: Rejecting the world. And from Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean: Bush: It's not just his doctrine that's wrong.

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April 17, 2003

Missing WMDs and the 2004 Election

Nice piece in the Boston Globe summing up the current state of the search for those "vast stockpiles" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction: Pressure to find weapons mounts. (Update: And don't miss the Onion's new infographic.)

My wife and I had a long discussion last night about the 2004 election, and the chances that Bush would be able to get away with the exceedingly lame lies he used to justify the war. She was feeling depressed, and inclined toward the view that he would succeed. But I don't know. Bush's approval ratings shot up after the quick victory, it's true, but not to the 90%+ levels that his dad enjoyed after Gulf War I; currently I think he's hovering in the 60's or 70's. And even with his dad, those stratospheric approval ratings proved short-lived once a compelling case was made that he was ignoring people's pain on the economy. The current Bush is obviously way vulnerable in that area, too.

Anyway, I'm beginning to think Lincoln was right: you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but eventually a significant number of swing voters are going to call you on your bullshit. Flag-waving yellow-ribbon campaigns aside, I think most Americans have a real problem with the neocons' plans to remake the Middle East via the US military. Bush gets to play the 9/11 fear card only so many times. Eventually, he has to be able to produce some positive results, and uniting the rest of the world (and the rest of the global economy) in opposition to US interests seems like a really poor way to achieve that.

I think dubya's gonna be a one-termer. I hope so, at least, and I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and see what I can do to help make that prediction a reality. I think a lot of other people feel the same way, and that more will be coming around to that point of view in the months ahead.

This election is going to be interesting. For one thing, it seems like it might actually be about something. Cool.

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April 16, 2003

Lind's Neocon Primer

Some strange radio-show host I've never heard of named Jeff Rense has apparently stolen and posted for public consumption an article that appeared recently in New Statesman, a progressive British publication that seems curiously non-progressive when it comes to unleashing its content on the Web, since you have to pay and log in to read that content.

But none of that's important. What is important is the article, by Michael Lind: The weird men behind George W. Bush's war. It's great stuff on just why it is that the US is suddenly going berserk, foreign-policy wise. Lind mentions, and dismisses, explanations that focus on political economics ("it's the oil, right?") and the essentially warlike US nature. Neither of these explanations is correct, he says.

Both the economic-determinist theory and the clash-of-cultures theory are reassuring: they assume that the recent revolution in US foreign policy is the result of obscure but understandable forces in an orderly world. The truth is more alarming. As a result of several bizarre and unforeseeable contingencies - such as the selection rather than election of George W Bush, and 11 September - the foreign policy of the world's only global power is being made by a small clique that is unrepresentative of either the US population or the mainstream foreign policy establishment.
Lind goes on to describe just who these people are. And boy, is it scary.

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Good Politics, Bad Science

From the Guardian comes this lengthy, but really informative, piece about how the Bush administration in particular, and the US religious right in general, has been making headway against those evil scientists who want to do unChristian things like teach children the theory of evolution, promote condom-use to fight AIDS, and find ways to use cloned embryonic stem cells to cure disease: The battle for American science. The latest technique, apparently, is to use stealth campaigns like the "Intelligent Design" movement, in which fringe science is portrayed as a viable contender against the more-established (but less popular with fundamentalists) theories favored by actual scientists.

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April 15, 2003

Review of Rove Biographies

From the New York Review of Books comes this interesting review of a pair of biographies about someone I've never bothered to pay much attention to: Karl Rove. The review is by Elizabeth Drew: The enforcer. Fun, albeit scary, stuff. I guess the kumbaya/give peace a chance/can't we all just get along approach isn't necessarily going to solve this particular problem, at least not anytime soon, with someone as furiously competitive and dirty-tricks-prone as that standing behind the throne.

Oh well.

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April 14, 2003

Bush's Playing-Soldiers Salute

Bush salutes

Something I'd noticed myself wincing at lately, but hadn't seen mentioned as bothersome by anyone else, is the jaunty little salute Bush likes to give the uniformed military folk when getting on and off his helicopter. Well, it turns out it does bother someone else. Specifically, it bothers Hungarian-born historian John Lukacs, who has the following op/ed piece running in today's New York Times: A senseless salute.

Lukacs compares Bush with previous wartime presidents, including former generals who made a point of losing the trappings of their wartime service when performing the (nominally higher, in the constitution's view of things) civilian role of president. Apparently that changed with Ronald Reagan; beginning with him, all our presidents have gone in for the snappy salute delivered back to men and women in uniform (a salute that is, according to military etiquette, thoroughly wrong, since salutes even by people officially part of the military are to be delivered only when in uniform). Lukacs speculates about the motivations underlying this more visible tying of the civilian presidency to its military role, and concludes :

When the Roman republic gave way to empire, the new supreme ruler, Augustus chose to name himself not "rex," king, but "imperator," from which our words emperor and empire derive, even though its original meaning was more like commander in chief. Thereafter Roman emperors came to depend increasingly on their military. Will our future presidents? Let us doubt it. And yet . . .

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April 11, 2003

Krugman on Bush's Short Attention Span

A really nice editorial from the New York Times' Paul Krugman today: Conquest and neglect. A sample:

One has to admit that the Bush people are very good at conquest, military and political. They focus all their attention on an issue; they pull out all the stops; they don't worry about breaking the rules. This technique brought them victory in the Florida recount battle, the passage of the 2001 tax cut, the fall of Kabul, victory in the midterm elections, and the fall of Baghdad.

But after the triumph, when it comes time to take care of what they've won, their attention wanders, and things go to pot.

The piece goes on to tie together the Bush record on foreign adventures with his record on fixing the economy at home, and finds an identical pattern. Krugman's conclusion:

The scary thing is that this slash-and-burn approach to governing may continue to work for Mr. Bush's people because the initial triumphs get all the headlines. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has to live in the wreckage they leave behind.

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April 08, 2003

Parry: Darth Bush

A really nice summing up of the march to war is this piece from Robert Parry: Bush's Alderaan. The best part is his comparison of Bush to Darth Vader:

Once Bush had chosen the site, there was virtually nothing the Iraqi government could do to avoid war, short of total capitulation. As a demonstration of both America's military might and his own itchy trigger finger, Bush had decided to make Iraq his Alderaan, the hapless planet in the original Star Wars movie that was picked to show off the power of the Death Star.

The piece contains nothing that will be news to anyone who's been paying attention, but again, it does a good job of assembling the pieces into a coherent (if scary) whole.

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April 07, 2003

Dubya's War Obsession: Is He Or Isn't He?

From the Philidelphia Inquirer's Dick Polman comes this interesting look at Bush's obsession (or non-obsession) with the war: Bush spin doctors flip between hands-on and hands-off image. There's no smoking gun here; just lots of examples of Ari saying one thing and someone else saying something completely different, as Bush's handlers struggle to portray him in the best possible light.

Posted by jbc at 03:16 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

McGovern: Bush's Symphony of Falsehood

From George McGovern, via The Nation, via The Smirking Chimp, comes this nice roundup of ways in which the Bush presidency sucks: The Reason Why.

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March 31, 2003

The Coulter Doctrine

I still remember, amid my shock and revulsion at the 9/11 attacks, the additional layer of shock and revulsion I felt when I read Ann Coulter's "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" National Review column. Not only had we been confronted with racial and religious hate raised to the level of mass murder from outside our borders, but now we were facing the same thing from inside as well, since people like this thoroughly vile woman were willing to promote themselves through appeals to the worst in all of us.

Now, Counterspin Central has a link to the following story from Newhouse News: Plans under way for Christianizing the enemy.

So, with the help of a president who doesn't believe in thinking too hard about these sorts of things, Ann Coulter's prescription for our national response to 9/11 has become, quite literally, the actual policy we are pursuing.

It's a nightmare. And I can't wake up.

Posted by jbc at 08:17 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Bush Advisers Split on War

A really interesting piece from the Washington Post talks about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that has been going on at the White House in an effort to influence Bush's war policy: Advisers Split as War Unfolds. It focuses on Colin Powell's role, which naturally caught my attention. Lots of palace intrigue.

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March 30, 2003

Marines Asked to Pray for President

I saw this story on The Agonist: US soldiers in Iraq asked to pray for Bush. It's really just too weird. According to an embedded journalist, marines have been given a prayer book from a group called In Touch Ministries; the book contains a form to be torn out and mailed to the White House, indicating that the marine in question has indeed been praying for the president. The book provides helpful suggestions on what sort of prayer for the president would be suitable on any given day; today's suggestion, for example, is: "Pray that the President and his advisers will seek God and his wisdom daily and not rely on their own understanding."

Hm. That particular prayer actually makes a lot of sense to me. But I confess that the whole idea is confusing. Aren't the marines already giving enough, what with that whole thing about sacrificing their freedom, their health, and in many cases, their lives? Now they're supposed to pray for the president, too?

I'm obviously missing something here.

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Bush Obsessing About War

According to an article in today's New York Times, Bush is giving the Iraq war his full attention: President keeps the battlefield close at hand. I liked the following story:

George W. Bush was standing three feet from his television screen in his cabin at Camp David last weekend, absorbed in every detail of the news from Iraq, when a correspondent came on to report that the president of the United States, according to White House officials, was not glued to the TV.

Mr. Bush started laughing, said his close friend Roland Betts, who was with the president at the time.

"He is just totally immersed," Mr. Betts said in an interview.

Like his daddy before him, the famously disengaged president who nonetheless was visibly vibrating with excitement when he announced that "the liberation of Kuwait has begun," the current Bush really seems to get off on going to war (or, to be more precise, sending others to war -- though see this recent Onion piece for a delicious alternate reality: Bush bravely leads 3rd Infantry into battle).

Digging deeper into the relationship between the two presidents' penchant for waging war on Iraq, Kevin Phillips has an interesting piece in today's LA Times: A family's path to war. It talks about something biographers have noticed about Dubya: a deep-rooted psychological need he seems to have to follow in his father's footsteps, to prove himself, or something. The article talks about the eery parallels in the timelines leading up to the two presidents' wars (initially floated in the second year of office, then launched in the spring of the third, helping to distract the country from naggingly persistent troubles with the domestic economy). Phillips continues:

Yet, these parallels would not count for much if they did not reflect a larger pattern that has fascinated Bush biographers -- the way in which the 43rd president, from the time he was a schoolboy, has tried to imitate his father's mannerisms and follow his career path. He went to his father's schools, Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale University; played his father's sport (baseball); and joined his father's secret society (Skull and Bones) at Yale. Thereafter, he became a military flier like his father and then went into the oil business in Midland, Texas, where he set up his little company in the same office building where his father had his business.

Two biographers, Elizabeth Mitchell and Bill Minutaglio, note that, like his father, George W. wanted to get married, while at Yale, to a girl who had attended his mother's college. The fiancee, however, broke off the engagement in part because she worried about the psychologies driving the footsteps pattern.

To be sure, the career paths of No. 41 and No. 43 have not been exactly parallel: George W. had no experience as a diplomat and his father none as governor of Texas. However, since the United States is again at war in the Persian Gulf, the footsteps enigma that has fascinated biographers should interest a larger audience, as well.

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March 29, 2003

Powell: War Is the Scourge of God

Excerpted from Colin Powell's US Forces: The Challenges Ahead, Foreign Affairs, Winter 1992:

Military men and women recognize more than most people that not every situation will be crystal clear. We can and do operate in murky, unpredictable circumstances. But we also recognize that military force is not always the right answer. If force is used imprecisely or out of frustration rather than clear analysis, the situation can be made worse.

Decisive means and results are always to be preferred, even if they are not always possible. We should always be skeptical when so-called experts suggest that all a particular crisis calls for is a little surgical bombing or a limited attack. When the "surgery" is over and the desired result is not obtained, a new set of experts then comes forward with talk of just a little escalation--more bombs, more men and women, more force. History has not been kind to this approach to war-making. In fact this approach has been tragic -- both for the men and women who are called upon to implement it and for the nation. This is not to argue that the use of force is restricted to only those occasions where the victory of American arms will be resounding, swift and overwhelming. It is simply to argue that the use of force should be restricted to occasions where it can do some good and where the good will outweigh the loss of lives and other costs that will surely ensue. Wars kill people. That is what makes them different from all other forms of human enterprise.

When President Lincoln gave his second inaugural address he compared the Civil War to the scourge of God, visited upon the nation to compensate for what the nation had visited upon its slaves. Lincoln perceived war correctly. It is the scourge of God. We should be very careful how we use it. When we do use it, we should not be equivocal: we should win and win decisively. If our objective is something short of winning--as in our air strikes into Libya in 1986--we should see our objective clearly, then achieve it swiftly and efficiently.

I am preaching to the choir. Every reasonable American deplores the resort to war. We wish it would never come again. If we felt differently, we could lay no claim whatsoever to being the last, best hope of earth. At the same time I believe every American realizes that in the challenging days ahead, our wishes are not likely to be fulfilled. In those circumstances where we must use military force, we have to be ready, willing and able. Where we should not use force we have to be wise enough to exercise restraint. I have finite faith in the American people's ability to sense when and where we should draw the line.

Update: More on the application of this article to the current situation can be found in Nicholas Johnson's War in Iraq: The military objections. Johnson observes that military commanders frequently are more rational about the use of military force than are their civilian overseers. That certainly seems to be the case here. A quotation:

By the time an officer reaches the top of today's U.S. military you can bet that he or she is bright, extremely well educated in the liberal arts as well as military history and other matters, and possessed of a good analytical mind.

As you know, a central principle of American government is what we call "civilian control of the military." Of course, I support that principle. Few would deliberately choose life under a military dictatorship.

But when I compare the approach to war of some civilian politicians with that of the military's leadership I have occasionally commented that what we really need is "military control of the civilians" - at least the civilians' decisions about war.

When evaluating a sophisticated issue involving politics, foreign relations, and the global economy, it is usually the politicians, not the military officers, who are the first to forgo thoughtful analysis for expressions like "send in the Marines," "let's kick some butt," and "nuke 'em."

It is the military that modestly suggests the need for prior application of rational thought.

I love that quote about macho politician-speak for going to war. Especially in light of the recent Time article revealing that the course for war upon Iraq was laid in March of 2002, when Bush told a group of Senators, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." It doesn't really square with the President of the United States' job description to be quoted using the F-word, especially when the President in question likes to claim moral authority as a born-again Christian, but I suppose the White House thinks it's the kind of thing that will actually boost his popularity. But regardless of how it plays with the electorate in terms of making the commander in chief seem like an ordinary guy, the willingness to talk that way about going to war, and what's more, to actually follow through on it without carefully considering the costs and benefits beforehand, reveals a profound unsuitability for the task of wielding US military power.

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Apple: Increasing Risk for Bush

Here's one more link from the Saturday New York Times. R. W. Apple, Jr., has an analysis of some of the potential worst-case scenarios for the Iraq war, and their likely impact on Bush's political fortunes: Bush's peril: Shifting sand and fickle opinion.

There's nothing really new in the story, but it ties things together in a good way. Choice quote:

"Saddam won't win," said Richard C. Holbrooke, the former United States representative at the United Nations. "Unlike L.B.J. in Vietnam, Bush won't quit. He's a different kind of Texan. He'll escalate and keep escalating. In the end his military strategy will probably succeed in destroying Saddam.

"But it may result in a Muslim jihad against us and our friends. Achieving our narrow objective of regime change may take so long and trigger so many consequences that it's no victory at all. Our ultimate goal, which is promoting stability in the Middle East, may well prove elusive."

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Robb on the Bush Doctrine

John Robb has a no-bull analysis of Bush's strategy for safeguarding the US from terrorists wielding nuclear weapons: Is the Bush doctrine the right doctrine? He actually posted the piece before the outset of the war, but it still seems relevant. Unfortunately.

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March 28, 2003

The Short-War Bait-and-Switch

The Washington Post is running a nice analysis that looks at the Bush administration's nimble now-you-see-it, now-you-don't behavior on the short, easy Iraq war.

Posted by jbc at 09:11 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2003

Dowling: Is This the Real Dubya?

As long as we're looking at The Guardian, we can't overlook the following droll knavery from Tim Dowling: Will the real George Bush please stand down.

Yesterday President George Bush made his first public appearance since the start of the war, speaking to service personnel at the MacDill airforce base in Tampa in an obvious bid to reassure Americans and boost the morale of the armed forces. But how do we know this is the real George Bush?

Later in the day a man who looked and sounded like Mr Bush appeared alongside Tony Blair at Camp David, leaving intelligence experts to ponder whether a lookalike had been used, and whether the same lookalike had been deployed on both occasions.

It has long been suspected that Mr Bush employs a string of lookalikes for difficult or dangerous speaking engagements, some of whom may have had their ears specially enlarged for the task...

It continues from there. Great stuff.

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March 24, 2003

Brownstein Contrasts Bush, Blair, McCain

A really nice analysis that makes it worthwhile to endure the suck that is Ronald Brownstein's Bush displays tenacity and obstinacy. Points out that Dubya's greatest strength (his single-minded focus) is also his greatest weakness (since it blinds/deafens him to valid criticism, and to the cautions of those whose more-nuanced perception allow them to see farther down the road he is travelling than he does himself).

Posted by jbc at 08:24 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 22, 2003

Dear Mr. President, Parts 2-4

I previously linked to McSweeney's Dear Mr. President letters, a collection of really hilarious (actual) missives collected by Gabe Hudson as a publicity stunt connected with his (fictional) book, Dear Mr. President. Now it seems we have more installments, and they're all very much worth your time: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. Favorite quote from the most-recent batch: "Dear Mr. President, I am the submissions editor at the Texas International Law Journal. I help choose which articles we publish. Recently, authors have been saying to me things like, 'Texas International Law Journal? I thought Texans didn't believe in international law!' They think it's funny, but it's really bad for business. Sincerely, Brannon Andrews."

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March 21, 2003

Comparing Bush to Hitler reader immy2g forwarded this link, from Jimmy Breslin, as printed in Newsday: Familiar, haunting words. It's a transcript, mostly, of the speech Hitler gave the Reichstag on September 1, 1939, justifying the invasion of Poland that ushered in World War II. Paul Craig Roberts has a column running in the Washington Times that makes much the same case: That Bush, in using lies to present an aggressive invasion of another country as self-defense, is very much following in Hitler's footsteps. By the rules of Internet debate, of course, the side that first plays the Hitler card automatically loses. But in this case, I can't see any way to ignore the parallels. Yes, Bush has not yet gone as far as Hitler. But the people pulling his strings have a long list, and Iraq is just the beginning of it. The neocon chickenhawks who are currently running this country think war is a great thing (at least for the victors), and that even the rest of the world united against us can't stand in the face of our supremely powerful industrial war machine. Where have we heard that before? As I write this, CNN is showing Baghdad under heavy bombardment, and running the celebratory infographic, "Shock & Awe Under Way." God, this is awful. Bush is Hitler.

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Kinsley: Bush As Dictator of the World

Slate's Michael Kinsley posted an excellent piece yesterday: The Bush Doctrine: War without anyone's permission. It's a succinct summary of the ways in which Bush's current actions, and his justification for those actions, betray the principles on which this country was founded. At this rate, we'll be lucky if Bush even allows us to have elections next year.

Posted by jbc at 07:04 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 20, 2003

Michael Moore's Letter to Dubya

I missed this when it first appeared, but it's too fun to pass up: A Letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush on the Eve of War.

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Zunes Critique of Bush's March 17 War Speech

I realize it constitutes beating a dead horse after it's left the barn, but it's worth reading anyway: Stephen Zunes' point-by-point refutation of the arguments Bush advanced in his speech on March 17, in which he did his best to make a case for war.

Posted by jbc at 02:03 PM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

Krugman: Things to Come

Another nice piece from the NYT. This one is an opinion piece from Paul Krugman: Things to Come. Yeah, this is pretty much what scares me the most, too.

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NYT: War in the Ruins

Did you miss me? My power was out for about 55 hours (not that anyone was counting), but the juice seems to be flowing again. Here's a nice editorial from the New York Times to get back into the swing of things: War in the ruins of diplomacy.

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March 17, 2003

Krugman: Pundits Abandoning Dubya's Sinking-Ship Foreign Policy

Interesting piece from the NYT's Paul Krugman: George W. Queeg (user-hostile login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works for now). In that I recently watched The Caine Mutiny again, I found the comparison of Bush to Bogie's paranoid, vindictive captain a pretty apt one. I'm not sure if Krugman meant for me to take it this far, but I think the movie's message, as delivered by Jose Ferrar's character after the court martial, is pretty apt, too: that Queeq was more victim than villain, someone who was well-intentioned, but was simply unable to rise to the challenges fate placed before him, and was let down by those around him.

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March 15, 2003

Meyerson on the Neocon/Xenophobe War

Here's a story that ties together all my recent obsessions, making it hard to classify. From the LA Weekly's Harold Meyerson, On the Brink: The neocon-xenophobe war. It's about the real reasons we're going to war, and the weakness of the publicly stated ones; the larger context in terms of why the rest of the world is so uniformly opposed to what we're doing; and the unpleasant truths about where Dubya is coming from, psychologically. Much thanks to Janus for the link.

Posted by jbc at 11:05 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 14, 2003

Is Bush Smart Enough to Be President?

It's interesting to me to see stories that question Bush's intellectual qualifications starting to resurface. Like this one, from Andrew Greeley: War is not the smart option. We heard a lot about how unintelligent dubya was during the campaign, and during the first year of his presidency, but after 9/11 people really backed off on that. The country was freaked out, and no one wanted to say, or even think, that the person directing our national response to those events was otnay ootay ightbray. Now, though, people are coming out of that initial shock, and realizing that the 9/11 attacks didn't make Bush any smarter.

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March 13, 2003

Coelho: Thank You, President Bush

Novelist Paul Coelho has a really nice piece at Thank you, President Bush.

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March 11, 2003

Bush's Prepared List

One last item about Friday's press conference, lest it get overlooked: the way Bush called only on a pre-selected list of reporters who had been chosen by Ari because they had a history of being team players. Which I guess really shouldn't be a surprise at this point, but again, it emphasizes the difference between previous presidents, who at least paid lip service to the notion that the chief executive should be answerable to the people, and this one, who sees nothing wrong with going through a scripted charade designed to present the illusion of access with none of that pesky actually-having-to-answer-tough-questions stuff. Thanks to Hiro for the link.

Posted by jbc at 01:03 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

Koopersmith Pans Dubya's Press Conference Performance

Another (actually fairly vicious, if more or less accurate) piece that slams Bush's recent performance: Humiliation and Defeat. I know this sort of piling on is standard fare in political circles, and we can expect plenty more where this is coming from in the next couple of years, but man, I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the guy. Or would, if he weren't hell-bent on destroying the world that I'd just as soon have still be habitable when I pass it on to my children.

Posted by jbc at 12:19 AM | view/comment (1) | TrackBack (0)

March 10, 2003

Bush the "Dry Drunk"

Here's a series of articles, stretching back to September of last year, that I've somehow overlooked until now. Taken together, they paint a chilling portrait of President Bush as an addictive personality who is working through unresolved issues stemming from his history of alcoholism and a sense of inferiority in comparison with his academically gifted, war-hero father. Bush supporters will no doubt dismiss it as a liberal smear campaign, but I don't know; read it and decide for yourself. First, Alan Bisbort writes: Dry Drunk: Is Bush Making a Cry for Help?. Next comes "Dry Drunk" Syndrome and George W. Bush, by Katherine van Wormer. Finally, two pieces from Michael O'McCarthy: George W. and Alcoholism and Is Bush a "Dry Drunk"?

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GYWO #21 Does the Dubya Press Conference

The fine people at Get Your War On have a new entry, in which they marvel at the way Bush kept saying "September 11" in response to every question at his recent press conference, no matter what the question was actually about. Good stuff. And having watched that conference, I keep thinking back to the weird way Bush kept talking about the oath he swore. He apparently meant the presdential oath of office, since he quoted it at one point, but it's really odd to me that he doesn't see any distinction between swearing to "protect, preserve, and defend the Constitution" (which is what the oath actually says), and swearing to "protect the American people" (which is what he repeatedly misquoted the oath as saying). Bush thinks the two things are identical, but they aren't. In Bush's view, he is the nation's father, and his judgement trumps that of us willfull children. But that runs directly counter to the ideas embodied in the Constitution, in which the executive branch has a specific set of responsibilities and carefully circumscribed powers, to be exercised in a fashion that protects the people not only from foreign dangers, but also from the very real risk of tyranny at the hands of a power-hungry executive here at home. In the Constitution's view of things, the people are perfectly capable of looking out for their own interests. They are the ultimate source of presidential authority, and they don't need some self-styled Daddy-in-Chief to ignore their wishes because he knows what's best for them.

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Bush the Former to Bush the Lesser: Don't Go It Alone

Interesting piece from the London Times reporting on a speech given at Tufts University by former president Bush. The elder Bush used the opportunity to encourage his son not to go to war without international support, and to resist his inate tendency to bear grudges against those who disagree with him. Thanks to Bravo for the link.

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March 08, 2003

Dubya: Theologian in Chief

From Business Week, via Yahoo, via Janus, comes this story about the way Bush's fundamentalist Christian views are causing secular leaders in Europe some concern as they contemplate the possibility that he's pursuing war in the Middle East because he thinks he can thereby hasten the triumpant return of Christ. That's my dubya.

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March 05, 2003

Onion: Bush Offers Taxpayers Another $300 If We Go to War

It's almost worth having a dim-witted, arrogant, wannabe dictator for a President, just so we can have The Onion making fun of him. Almost.

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March 04, 2003

Scheer on Dubya's 'Big Lie'

From Robert Scheer, a nice summing up of the 'Big Lie' approach that Dubya has brought to the White House. Dubya, you see, doesn't lie about little things like getting blow jobs from interns in the Oval Office; he lies about big things, like whether or not Iraq is linked to Osama bin Laden, whether Iraq represents an imminent threat to the security of the United States, and whether or not the invasion of Iraq will help to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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February 20, 2003

Silly Dubya/Blair Lip Synch

From Norway, via Bravo, comes this fun, if frivolous, music video snippet featuring Bush and Tony Blair mouthing sweet nothings to each other (requires QuickTime)., serving your presidential information needs for more than 7/10 of a decade!

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February 19, 2003

Dubya Dismisses Anti-War Protests

It's obvious why his handlers keep him as far as possible from reporters' questions and live microphones; as soon as Dubya starts extemporizing, the level of fear, both at home and abroad, ratchets sharply upward. His latest comments, in which he dismissed anti-war protestors as something he needn't concern himself with, provided a nice example. It's interesting to me how a presidency turns from hope and promises to whatever derisive epithet a jaded public chooses to file it under. Nixon: crook. Ford: bumbling. Carter: malaise. Reagan: Actually, I don't know. I guess we never came to a consensus on that one. Befuddled, maybe? Bush the Elder: out-of-touch ( that's one word, right?). Clinton: philanderer. And with dubya, I don't think there can be any doubt at this point: arrogant. Check out this nice image, for example, courtesy of Bravo. The president likes to characterize himself as "respectful" towards those he disagrees with, but that's bullshit. He consistently displays a dismissive arrogance toward dissenting views that is the exact opposite of respect. You can gloss it over if you want, call it "honesty" or "conviction," say that the president is just being a Texan straight-shooter and calling it like he sees it, but there's something darker there. There's an undercurrent of anger, a score he wants to settle, and not just with Saddam Hussein.

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February 13, 2003

Anti-Bush Agitprop from

In the interest of maintaining the current high levels of interest being shown in this site by those of the Love Your Country, Right or Wrong persuasion, here's a nice bit of anti-Bush (both flavors) mockery: George Bush Is No Nazi (Flash required). Thanks to Madison for the link.

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February 11, 2003

Scheer on Dubya's Failure to Make the Case for War

Once more I link unto the lameosity that is the L.A. Times web site, again for a Robert Scheer column. This one is titled House of Cards, on how dubya's ongoing attempts to justify war with Iraq have turned into a joke. My favorite quote is at the end: Depressing as it is to acknowledge, it now seems clear we are witnessing the tantrum of a woefully untutored and inexperienced president whose willfulness rises in direct proportion to his inability to comprehend a world too complex for his grasp. Ouch.

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February 06, 2003

Silly Dubya Audio

From, via, via ymatt, comes a slightly doctored version of the State of the Union. Enjoy.

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January 31, 2003

Arianna's State of the Union

Last SOTU-related item, I promise. This one is Arianna Huffington's excellent little write-up from Monday of what she was wishing to hear: the President calling on America to actually do something about our foreign-oil addiction. No such luck, of course.

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Kinsley on Dubya's Moral Unseriousness

Michael Kinsley offers up his own analysis of dubya's state of the union address, charging that it is morally unserious to offer up sincere-sounding arguments that fall apart upon close inspection.

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January 30, 2003

Dionne on Dubya's Go-For-Broke Presidency

E.J. Dionne, Jr., has a nice column that ran Monday, before the State of the Union Address, talking about Bush's having hardened the lines of partisanship dividing him from Democrats, and questioning whether he would be able to pull off his increasingly ambitious foreign and domestic agendas over the next two years. Food for thought.

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January 29, 2003

Dubya Talks Purdy

So I didn't play the Official State of the Union Address Drinking Game last night. In fact, I didn't even bother Tivo-ing the thing so I could watch the commercials. But I did catch some soundbites on NPR this morning, including a nice example of him saying "nucular." And in reading through the full text I was struck by a few key phrases that, to my mind, cut both ways. Like this one: "Throughout the 20th century, small groups of men seized control of great nations, built armies and arsenals, and set out to dominate the weak and intimidate the world." Yeah, and in the 21st century a certain cadre of western oilmen has done the same thing. Also this part: "International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape... If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning." And what of the folks using these exact same techniques in places like Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan, to whom we've taken to turning over our prisoners, along with lists of questions we'd like answered? The world is a simple place for dubya, and that works in his favor when delivering speeches intended for the similarly simple-minded. But there remains that subtext of arrogance, the slap in the face for those who would question his authoritah. All in all, though, I have to give dubya credit: It was a well-done (which is to say, a frightening) performance. The Washington Post has a nice roundup of other views. Update: Foreign Policy in Focus has a really nice point-by-point clarification of the reality underlying many of dubya's State of the Union statements.

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January 27, 2003

The State of the Union Address Drinking Game

In honor of our current Role Model in Chief's time at Yale, we bring you the 2003 edition of the State of the Union Address Drinking Game. Thanks to Janus for the link.

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January 25, 2003

Reeves: Dubya Takes It Personally

I missed this story the other day, but then saw a mention of it in the letters to the editor of my local paper: Richard Reeves talking about how dubya has personal issues with Kim Jong Il and Saddam Hussein. For me, this really is the scariest thing about our current not-quite-elected leader: the way he comes off as not-quite-whole, embittered by the lack of respect he receives, both abroad and at home, from people who see him as nothing more than the simpleton tool of corrupt manipulators, unable to understand, much less control, the forces around him.

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January 23, 2003

Made In The Fake Backdrop Country

It's getting too damn easy... Bush gave an "economic stimulus" speech in the warehouse of a giant shipping company, surrounded by boxes, which you couldn't see on TV, because of a giant canvas backdrop painted to look like stacks of boxes with "Made in he USA" stamped on them. Only a few actual boxes from the warehouse were visible, posed in front of the podium, with small splotches of brown tape used to cover the words "Made in China".

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January 06, 2003

Layoffs? What layoffs?

George II's administration appears to have decided that the public doesn't really have sufficient need-to-know about layoff statistics.

By fascinating coincidence, George I made precisely the same decision of non-necessity when accused of economy-buggery. It was only that pesky Clinton who reinstated the publication in the meantime.

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December 16, 2002

Salon on Dubya's California Vendetta

Salon has a nice piece outlining some of the high points in Bush's ongoing war on California: Bush to California: Choke on This. My favorite part is where they point out that dubya's claim to support states' rights at the expense of federal encroachment only applies when the state in question is pursuing an agenda favorable to the oil industry. In California's case, where the state is leaning the other way, Bush has no problem at all with the federal government jumping in with all the authority it can bring to bear.

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December 13, 2002

Rall: Dubya Has Declared Himself God

It really makes my day when Ted Rall writes something. Like George W. Bush, Warlord. Go read this now.

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December 12, 2002

Arianna Does Dubya

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, unless it's a former conservative standard bearer disillusioned and radicalized after finding herself the unwitting dupe of a bunch of stupid white men. Anyway, Arianna Huffington must surely scare the pants off dubya these days, and not just because she knows how to use big words like "admonition." The latest example of her dissatisfaction with the ongoing abuse of power that is the Bush administration is this piece: White House Chutzpah. Enjoy!

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November 24, 2002

Letters to Dubya

McSweeney's (one of the weirder sites on the net, and one I'm pretty sure I would never have seen had it not been for the steady drip of pro-McSweeney propaganda supplied by Janus/onan), has a really interesting page up called Dear Mr. President Letters. Inspired by Gabe Hudson's book Dear Mr. President, the page features reader-submitted letters to dubya. Enjoy.

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November 16, 2002

Rice Tapdances on Administration's 'War on Terra' Focus

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had a tough outing with reporters yesterday. In the course of a press conference touting the administration's progress in the War on Terra, she was put on the defensive (stupid L.A. Times login required; cypherpunk98/cypherpunk works) by repeated questions about whether the President isn't just a bit too preoccupied with occupying the Iraqi oil fields, especially in light of the reappearance of Osama bin Laden and new warnings about resurgent al Qaeda activity. Among the silly and/or mutually contradictory assertions made by Rice: the President starts his day focused on anti-terra activity, and only switches to Iraq after he's had his coffee; the U.S. is making great strides in combatting al Qaeda, although the level of risk we face is essentially unchanged since Sep. 11, 2001; and there really are substantial links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that no one outside the administration even pretends to believe that these days.

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November 06, 2002

Dubya Kicks Demo Butt

Soundly trouncing his detractors in the Democratic party, Bush carried his chosen senators and governors to victory last night, re-establishing GOP control of the Senate, and paving the way for two years of serious political ass-whuppin', Texas style. Sigh. Elections suck.

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October 25, 2002

Buy Bush a Playstation

As I sat pondering the President's motives one day, it suddenly dawned on me that it is entirely likely our Commander in Chief has never played a single video game in his life. "Of course!" I exclaimed, startling my girlfriend, who was driving at the time. "Without the catharsis that video games provide, Bush has no way of fulfilling his militaristic fantasies other than actually fighting wars."

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October 19, 2002

Dubya on the Campaign Trail

The C-Student-in-Chief is on a whirlwind tour of tight Senate races, looking to turn that pesky 1-seat Republican minority into a majority. One key matchup is Missouri, where the GOP would love to erase the stigma of John Ashcroft's defeat by a dead man two years ago. Another is Minnesota, where Republican challenger Norm Coleman is trying to make a name for himself as something more than the person who was defeated in the governor's race by a professional wrestler. Mindful of his domestic baggage, Bush used today's radio address to sympathize with the common man ("the economy is not as good as we'd like it to be") while promising vigorous new steps to protect workers' 401(k) savings, just as soon as he gets a Senate he can work with.

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October 17, 2002

Bushes Face Trouble in Florida

Our current ruling dynasty is having a rough week of it down in Florida. Governor Jeb's re-election campaign is struggling, with a new poll showing him in a stastical dead heat with little-known Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Mindful of the importance of keeping Florida's notoriously malleable electoral college votes under Republican control, big brother is flying down today to give a whip-'em-up campaign speech on education, but he'll be competing for column inches with First Niece Noelle, who was sentenced today to 10 days in jail for impersonating a crack ho.

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October 11, 2002

Dubya the Poet

from the yeah,-he-really-said-it dept.

The good folks over at Guardian Unlimited are running a poem compiled from actual dubya quotations. Fun stuff. Thanks to Janus, as usual, for making my day less crushingly depressing than it otherwise would have been. Well, differently crushingly depressing.

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October 05, 2002

Best Dubya Photo?

from the goofball-images-legacy dept.

From Reuters, via Yahoo, comes the latest in a continuing series of photographs showing the U.S. President at his finest.

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October 03, 2002

Onion: Bush Seeks U.N. Support for Whatever U.S. Wants

from the thank-god-for-the-onion dept.

Janus took time out from his busy day to proclaim this the best Onion article ever: Bush Seeks U.N. Support for 'U.S. Does Whatever It Wants' Plan. While I think I still prefer the God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule piece in their classic 9/11 issue, this latest one certainly ranks right up there.

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September 04, 2002

Rall: dubya as Big Brother

from the historic-parallels dept.

I've always liked Ted Rall, even when it was just his cartoons that I was liking, but I like him even more now that he writes prose, too. Case in point: his op-ed piece comparing George W. Bush with 1984's Big Brother.

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July 16, 2002

Anti-terror strategy

from the the-empire-strikes-back dept.

President Bush on Tuesday proposed a strategy to protect America from terrorism that includes using the U.S. military to enforce quarantines during a biological attack and "red teams" of agents thinking like terrorists to pinpoint weaknesses.
"Protecting Americans from attack is our most urgent national priority and we must act on the priority," Bush said.

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July 11, 2002

Reaction to Dubya's Business-Ethics Speech

from the what-is-the-sound-of-one-hand-clapping? dept.

The Independent has one of the more scathing summaries of the lukewarm response to dubya's let's-get-tough-on-CEOs speech, as part of a story about Cheney's being sued over his own Halliburton shenanigans. Methinks the chickens may well be coming home to roost on this one come the midterms.

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July 09, 2002

Dubya: Business Accounting Rules Not Always Black and White

from the moral-clarity dept.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, dubya evoked memories of his predecessor in office with evasive responses regarding his history of shady business dealings. At one point reporters actually laughed out loud when Bush said, "In the corporate world, sometimes things
aren't exactly black and white when it comes to accounting procedures." The leader of the free world reportedly responded with an icy glare. Sweet. More on the story, as part of the run-up to dubya's big Wall Street speech today: Robert A. George, Robert Scheer (L.A. Times cypherpunk/cypherpunk login required), and a really funny whistling-past-the-graveyard editorial from the National Review's Larry Kudlow.

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June 07, 2002

White House: Brazilian President's Story of Dubya Gaffe 'Total Crap'

from the can-they-say-that? dept.

So, did the White House actually say that Brazilian President Cardoso's account of a really clueless dubya comment (betraying ignorance of the fact that yes, Brazil has a large black population) was "total crap"? So says the Washington Post, quotation marks and everything. Which means, what, it was an Ari Fleischer statement? Anyone have anything more on the story?

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Dubya Grabs Headlines with Proposal for Homeland Security Department

from the getting-in-front-of-the-parade dept.

Along with all the coverage of dubya's proposal for a Cabinet-level department to handle the domestic side of the War on Terra, there are some interesting articles that discuss his real motivation in reversing his earlier stand against such a department. From the Chicago Tribune, Proposal diverts attention from intelligence failing, and from The Globe and Mail, Bush plan an effort to silence chorus of what-ifs. Dubya continues to insist (most recently, in his speech last night) that no one could have prevented the events of 9/11. Proposing a new cabinet-level department is one way to drive those arguing the opposite off the front page. But what does he do for an encore? Invade Iraq?

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June 05, 2002

Air Force Colonel Suspended for Ridiculing Dubya

from the but-what-if-the-president-really-IS-a-joke? dept.

Lt. Colonel Steve Butler was planning to retire from the Air Force in a few weeks. In a case of really bad timing, though, he didn't wait until then to send a letter to the editor of the local newspaper ripping dubya for being an ineffectual wuss: "He did nothing to warn the American people because he needed this war on terrorism... This guy is a joke." Oops. Turns out that one of those things you sign away when you join the military is the right to criticize the commander-in-chief. Butler has now been suspended pending investigation into his violation of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which prohibits commissioned officers from using "contemptuous words" against the president and other political leaders. Maximum penalty: dismissal, forfeiture of all pay, and confinement for a year.

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Dubya: 9/11 Could Not Have Been Prevented

from the doth-protest-too-much? dept.

In a speech delivered at the National Security Administration's headquarters yesterday, President Bush acknowledged that the CIA and FBI had failed to share important intelligence about terrorist activities prior to 9/11. He continued, though, "I've seen no evidence today that said this country could have prevented the attack." Guess he wants to leave himself some wiggle room, in case more evidence surfaces tomorrow. In the meantime, it sure seems like he's handing his political opponents a big stick. "The President says global warming will cause great hardship, but gosh, there's just nothing that can be done to stop it. He says terrorist attacks will cost thousands of innocent Americans their lives, but gee, there's nothing we can do to prevent it. To that I can only say, perhaps it's time we put another team on the field, one that is willing to fight on behalf of the American people, rather than conceding defeat before the contest has even been decided."

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June 04, 2002

Dubya: Global Warming Caused By Humans

from the but-we-still-should-keep-burning-fossil-fuels dept.

Acknowledging what it had hitherto denied (or at least swept under the needs-more-study rug), the Bush administration has issued a report that admits that global warming is real, and is the result of human activities. The report goes on, however, to say that continued global warming as a result of those activities is inevitable, so we (meaning the citizens of the world) will just have to learn to live with it, while we (meaning the citizens of the U.S.) continue to burn fossil fuel like there's no tomorrow.

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June 03, 2002

Splitting With Dubya Over Conservation

from the conservationist-conservatives dept.

There's a nice article in the (registration required, cypherpunk/cypherpunk works) L.A. Times on how a number of senior career officials in the various environmental agencies are quitting, rather than comply with dubya's pro-development philosophy.

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May 19, 2002

Carter Exposes Bush Administration Lie on Cuba

from the last-honest-President dept.

Geov Parrish, writing for the Working for Change web site, has a nice piece on the contradictions between what dubya's undersecretary of state for arms control, John Bolton, said in a recent speech to the Heritage Foundation, and what ex-President Jimmy Carter said he'd been told by the Administration in briefings prior to his Cuba visit. Specifically, Bolton said "the United States believes that Cuba has at least a limited offensive biological-warfare, research-and-development effort," and that Cuba was selling biological weapons to Iran, among others. Carter, on the other hand, said he had been told by dubya's terrorism experts in the State Department and the White House that there was no evidence Cuba was exporting terrorism. The piece goes on to put the flap in the larger context of the U.S. government's history of lies on Latin America.

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May 17, 2002

Dubya Goes On Defensive Over 9/11 Foreknowledge

from the blood-in-the-water dept.

Lordy, what a mess. Like sharks that smell blood in the water, Democrats, the media, and yes, even some Republicans are getting uppity with dubya over his revelation that he was warned of possible al Queda hijackings prior to 9/11. What did he know, when did he know it, yadda, yadda. The L.A. Times: Bush Team on Defensive in Threat Inquiry. Washington Post: An Image of Invincibility Is Shaken by Disclosures. Guardian Unlimited: First Lady Defends President Bush. Finally, ABC News: It's a Guaranteed Four-Day Story. Whew.

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May 06, 2002

Dubya Clowns at the Correspondents Dinner

from the anti-gravitas-presidency dept.

This past weekend the White House Correspondents Association held its annual dinner bash, at which Presidents are encouraged to drink and act silly in front of their Fourth Estate adversaries. Say what you will about dubya, he's never been one to back away from a challenge like that. Anyway, Reuters has some details of the edgy hilarity that ensued, including a slide show during which dubya displayed a photograph of Dick Cheney peeing on the door to the Oval Office. That's my dubya.

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May 04, 2002

Funny Dubya Images

from the say-cheesecake dept.

I started off thinking it was funny, in a startling kind of way, but as I went through the images, looking at the way they'd married a particular memorable dubya expression with a particular model's body, I found it even funnier, if disturbing. I didn't RFLMAO, but I did LOL. The images actually come from a different site, as per the original creators' overlaid URL.

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April 24, 2002

Dubya's Earth Day Imagery

from the day-late-and-a-dollar-short dept.

I realize Earth Day is so two days ago, but I can't stop turning over the images in my head: dubya with an axe, dubya with a hammer, and wondering: is that really the message he wanted to send? I mean, most politicians try to plant a tree on Earth Day, not chop one down and turn it into tract housing. Yes, I realize that's not what dubya was actually doing during the photo op; he was "building a trail" and "repairing a bridge," but still, that's the image he conveyed: Earth Day = dubya wielding an axe and hammer. And after mulling those images over for a while, I'm convinced that yup, that's exactly the message he wanted to send. He was making a statement, aimed directly at Al Gore and his tree-hugging friends: conserve this, conservationists. So, while I disagree with the message, definite style points for dubya.

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April 22, 2002

Brownstein on Dubya's Heart/Mind Battle

from the I-think-the-mind-is-outgunned dept.

Ronald Brownstein has a nice piece in today's L.A. Times that focuses on the ongoing struggle between dubya's heart (which wants to listen to hawks like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and just start blowing shit up in Iraq), and his head (which wants to listen to folks like Colin Powell, who says we need to work for a diplomatic solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict first).

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April 19, 2002

Dubya's Lying in Context

from the they-don't-tell-'em-like-they-used-to dept.

Michael Kinsley has a column in the Washington Post today that talks about the various lying styles of our past three Presidents. The sad conclusion is that, for the most part, dubya so far has failed to live up to the standard of his predecessors in this all-important area of national leadership. He just trots out Ari Fleischer and has him mouth, deadpan, some ridiculous assertion that no one could possibly believe. Where's the fun in that? Where's the sense of style that gave us "read my lips: no new taxes" and "that woman, Miss Lewinsky"? Sigh. Those were the days.

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April 18, 2002

Powell Fails, World Notices

from the downhill-from-here dept.

So, Colin Powell has come, seen, and fled, prompting a chorus of bitching from just about everyone. As reported in, Arab news accounts are being way scathing, painting the U.S. as an accomplice to massacre, and saying the Administration's only purpose in sending Powell was to give Sharon political cover in order to sew up the Jewish vote in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. In Britain's Guardian Unlimited, Simon Tisdall says Sharon knew full well that Powell lacked his boss's backing, and therefore could ignore him with impunity. Meanwhile, the Boston Globe pursues the "what next?" angle, anticipating a fierce debate as dubya's handlers try to herd his tiny mind in one direction or another.

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April 16, 2002

Corn: Neocons Pressure Bush on Saddam

from the grinding-ideological-axes dept.

David Corn has an opinion piece at in which he discusses neoconservatives' growing impatience with dubya on the get-Saddam issue. Leading luminaries of the Right are reportedly growing concerned over the increasing murkiness of the President's thinking on this whole War on Terra thing. The failure to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Sharon in the pursuit of a Palestinian Final Solution sounded the warning bell, and a go-it-alone invasion of Iraq is now emerging as the litmus test, apparently, for whether the hawks will give dubya their support in the next election.

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April 15, 2002

Applebaum: Dubya's Mideast Initiative in Tatters

from the statement-of-desire-does-not-a-policy-make dept.

Slate's Anne Applebaum has written an opinion piece that points out the obvious about emperor dubya's new Middle East clothes: he isn't wearing any. More specifically, the President's demand that Sharon withdraw from the West Bank immediately, followed by Sharon's casual ignoring of same, has left U.S. prestige in the region at a new low. "If rhetoric could have solved his conflict, it would have been over a long time ago. But in order to create a genuinely new policy, Bush would have to take sides, one way or another, and put his money, or his military, where his mouth is." So far, no sign of either from dubya; it's all mouth so far.

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April 14, 2002

Wallerstein on Dubya's Looming Iraq-War Disaster

from the geopolitical-incompetence dept.

The L.A. Times has a fairly scathing op-ed piece from Immanual Wallerstein, in which the Yale University scholar says Bush has painted himself into a corner on Iraq, and now has little choice but to pursue a war with Saddam Hussein that will be a "disaster" for the United States.

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April 10, 2002

Dubya's Turnaround on the Middle East

from the up-close-and-personal dept.

From CNN (or AllPolitics, or Time, or something; I guess it doesn't make much difference these days) comes this insider's look at dubya's recent change of heart about the need to pay attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict. I find it pretty interesting, but I realize that for some it will fall squarely into the category of the sort of sausage-making that is better left unexamined. Like a train wreck, though, it's hard not to watch the President's mind at work, the wheels slowly turning as he listens to the miniature devils and angels on his shoulders, the Rumsfelds and Cheneys and Powells with their "nuke 'em! nuke 'em all!" or, conversely, "be a statesman! make peace!" exhortations.

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April 08, 2002

Sharon to Dubya: Make Me

from the fratboy-diplomacy dept.

The Financial Times (among others) has the story of Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's ongoing rejection of dubya's call for an end to the Israeli military campaign in the West Bank. Speaking to the Knesset, Sharon vowed to continue the operation "for as long as it takes." In previous phone conversations with Bush, Sharon explained that he has been hampered in his efforts to wrap things up quickly by his concern over the large number of Palestinian civilians in the area. "They keep moving," Sharon reportedly told Bush, "which makes shooting them much more difficult and time-consuming."

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April 07, 2002

Dubya to Sharon: Now Means Now

from the nobody's-listening-to-me,-dammit dept.

The Washington Post is one of many outlets carrying the story of dubya's increasing frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over the latter's ongoing West Bank incursion. In any given war of words Bush is obviously going to be outgunned, but it's not clear to me that this is going to remain a standard-issue Mideast-peace nuance-fest. The President's "moral clarity" (read: near-total ignorance of the issues, combined with a post-9/11 sense of urgency) make him something of a wildcard, one that might play out in any number of interesting ways once he realizes (as everyone else already has) that he's out of his depth here.

Posted by jbc at 02:36 AM | view/comment (0) | TrackBack (0)

March 27, 2002

dubya's reversals on free trade

from the promises-made-while-my-lips-are-moving-don't-count dept.

box writes to point out some of dubya's previous statements on free trade, and contrasts them with his more recent stands on tariffs for steel and
lumber. box continues, "Shortsightedness for the sake of the US timber lobbyists, for the sake of next year's election in Ohio and Indiana [steel industry..], and for a slap in the face of the environmentalists who are part of the Democratic National Coalition. But fuck our timber and steel industries in the long run, right? They don't need to stay competitive, we'll just tariff anyone who builds up a more efficient infrastructure." Easy, big fella.

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March 26, 2002

White House Withholds Energy Documents

from the pay-no-attention-to-that-man-behind-the-curtain dept.

Faced with a court-imposed deadline, the administration has released thousands of pages of documents describing meetings of the President's energy task force - but withheld thousands of pages more. As an article in the LA Times describes, the Energy Department yesterday released about 11,000 pages of (heavily edited) documents, while withholding about 15,000 pages. An article in the Boston Globe refers to Vice President Dick Cheney's insistence that the White House be allowed to conduct its business in private, "in order to let outside experts speak freely and anonymously." Right. And in order to let him and his industry cronies determine our energy future without input from anyone else, while claiming to be conducting a balanced policy review.

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