Friday the 13th

Bush Administration, Republican Party

President Bush doesn’t scare me any more.

Oh, I realize he’s still capable of considerable mischief, like launching a global thermonuclear war. But these days there’s something so pathetic about him it’s hard to take him seriously.

Yesterday Dan Froomkin described Bush’s Wednesday press conference:

On North Korea, rather than coming off as an assertive leader, Bush spoke meekly about what has so far been a failed and listless diplomatic effort. On Iraq, his rhetoric was familiar and unlikely to stanch the loss of public support for the war. Even his formerly dependable warnings about threats to the nation’s security lacked authority amid the growing doubts about whether his approach to the war on terror is working.

Froomkin quotes Dana Milbank:

Pressed to defend his foreign policy, Bush instead cited the “stakes” involved in the Middle East and North Korea — 13 times.

“I understand the stakes,” Bush announced. “I’m going to repeat them one more time. As a matter of fact, I’m going to spend a lot of time repeating the stakes.”

He made good on that promise. Five times he said “the stakes are high,” occasionally adding that “the stakes are really high” and even that, “as a matter of fact, they couldn’t be higher.”

“I know this sounds [as if] I’m just saying it over and over again,” Bush admitted. But repetition is crucial to learning; to that end, Bush also said four times that the enemy is trying to establish a “caliphate.”

There’s been considerable hoo-hawing about Bush’s use of the word caliphate, btw, and some speculate it will replace Islamofascist as the preferred term for Our Enemy. But Bush’s larger problem is that he’s out of red herrings. His Administration is such a disaster that there’s no issue he can use to distract attention from another; it’s all bad out there. He’s been reduced to comments on reporters’ wardrobes.

I wrote yesterday about how the White House is leaking to cover Bush’s butt on North Korea. Today Helen Thomas describes how long-time Bush family consigliere James Baker is maneuvering to get Junior off the hook about Iraq, too. Pathetic, I say.

It’s not just that Bush’s approval ratings are drifting south again. These days, what ground Bush has left to stand on is pretty shaky. Not only are some Republican candidates distancing themselves from their own party, but even white religious voters and suburbanites are backing away from the GOP. And the GOP itself seems to be in self-destruct mode.

But hold the celebration. First, elections have a way of, um, surprising us these days, and Bush will keep his butt covered and retain operational capabilities as long as Republicans control Congress. And what Digby says scares the stuffing out of me:

If and when we manage to take back one or both houses of congress get prepared to relive those glory days of the 90’s, when the Republicans acted like raving lunatics and braindead losers like Chris Matthews blamed it all on the Democrats.

It is going to be as if the Bush years never happened. All this unpleasantness will be disappeared and we will begin anew with a horrible fiscal situation, a terrible global situation, a hopeless military situation which will be laid squarely at the feet of the “lefties” by “smart, grown-up Republicans,” the shrieking rightwing harpies and their close relatives the robotic codpiece-worshipping pundits. Oy.

Folks, taking Congress away from the GOP (assuming we do) is just the beginning of the fight. Although Bush is still a concern, never forget that the real danger to democracy comes from the VRWC, not Bush. And they’ll still be around when Bush is gone.

Update: See Jeffrey Smith in today’s WaPo:

President Bush finds the world around him increasingly “unacceptable.”

In speeches, statements and news conferences this year, the president has repeatedly declared a range of problems “unacceptable,” including rising health costs, immigrants who live outside the law, North Korea’s claimed nuclear test, genocide in Sudan and Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Bush’s decision to lay down blunt new markers about the things he deems intolerable comes at an odd time, a phase of his presidency in which all manner of circumstances are not bending to his will: national security setbacks in North Korea and Iraq, a Congress that has shrugged its shoulders at his top domestic initiatives, a favorability rating mired below 40 percent.

But a survey of transcripts from Bush’s public remarks over the past seven years shows the president’s worsening political predicament has actually stoked, rather than diminished, his desire to proclaim what he cannot abide. Some presidential scholars and psychologists describe the trend as a signpost of Bush’s rising frustration with his declining influence.

Get used to it, Sweetums.

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27 Comments

  1. Tom Hilton  •  Oct 13, 2006 @11:47 am

    “On Iraq, his rhetoric was familiar…”

    No kidding.

    And Digby’s right…although to the perils she enumerates, I would add that of fragging our own–a temptation we liberals, progressives, Democrats, or whatever can rarely resist.

  2. merciless  •  Oct 13, 2006 @12:00 pm

    It’s already started. Both Paul Greenberg and Broder have written articles reminding us that it is the Democrats’ duty to raise the level of public discourse and avoid partisanship.

    Jeebus. They have got to be kidding.

    But it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. America has been listening to this jibberish for years now, and it’s gotten very old; blaming every ill of the nation on the Clenis isn’t going to work any more.

    On the other hand, George Bush will still be president after the elections, and he needs attention and validation desperately. Who knows what he might do. He’s a dangerous man.

  3. Swami  •  Oct 13, 2006 @12:21 pm

    I shall not invade foreign countries.
    I shall not invade foreign countries.
    I shall not invade foreign countries.
    I shall not invade foreign countries.
    I shall not invade foreign countries.
    I shall not invade foreign countries.

  4. Bonnie  •  Oct 13, 2006 @12:37 pm

    We cannot afford to invade foreign countries.
    We cannot afford to invade foreign countries.
    We cannot afford to invade foreign countries.
    We cannot afford to invade foreign countries.

    Not after the disasterous fiscal management of the Republicans. The left will just have to drown out the VRWC, which I think is possible now.

  5. B. Enlightened  •  Oct 13, 2006 @1:01 pm

    I truly hope that when the Ds get back in charge that they keep reminding the public that the troubles we’re facing are ALL BUSH’S FAULT and Never_Let_Up.

  6. Publicus  •  Oct 13, 2006 @1:06 pm

    VRWC? Does that stand for “Vicious Republican War Criminals?”

  7. Swami  •  Oct 13, 2006 @1:10 pm

    Let’s hope he gets his attention and validation through an impeachment trial.

  8. maha  •  Oct 13, 2006 @1:50 pm

    Does that stand for “Vicious Republican War Criminals?”

    I was thinking Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, but your version works, too.

  9. k  •  Oct 13, 2006 @2:08 pm

    James A Baker was on NPR this am and actually said a little more than the previous interviews I have seen and heard. He stated he has never read anything about or by the PNAC and therefore cannot comment on it( although the name of everyone he knows is signed at the bottom of their work), he claimed the US had never used nukes, yea right jamesy, and he claimed the North Korea policy of Bush II is just the same policy of Bush I and that Clinton’s North Korea policy was a failure. That’s alot of denial of facts James. Obviously his job is to blow alot of smoke and reassure the R voters that the adults are coming to the rescue and all those pesky facts you’ve been hearing are nothing to worry about. Don’t worry be happy, ignore Jr’s mumblings and ramblings at the press.

  10. Seattle Man  •  Oct 13, 2006 @3:07 pm

    Let’s not forget that there are real and serious threats from Islamofascism and that one of the most telling critiques of GW Bush (and his party) is that his policies were/are ineffective, counterproductive and stupid. He has not been a good war leader, to put it mildly.

    I am concerned that a great many people/Democrats — in their revulsion for Bush — will deny that there is any problem.

  11. maha  •  Oct 13, 2006 @3:27 pm

    I am concerned that a great many people/Democrats — in their revulsion for Bush — will deny that there is any problem.

    Seattle Man — Democrats in New York City do not deny there is a problem. I can’t speak for Seattle.

  12. merciless  •  Oct 13, 2006 @3:29 pm

    Seattle Man, of course there is a problem. That’s why democrats are horrified at the state of our own national defense, port security, dismantling of our armed forces, lack of emergency management policy, etc.

    We’re not the ones in denial.

  13. Swami  •  Oct 13, 2006 @3:41 pm

    Seattle Man…It’s the recognition of the problems that creates the revulsion for Bush. Bush is just the Frankenstiein monster.

  14. moonbat  •  Oct 13, 2006 @4:23 pm

    Get used to it, Sweetums.

    After what we nobodies in the blogosphere and after what Democratic public officials have been through these last six years, I think we’re all fairly hip to what the VRWC is capable of. It’s great that you, Digby, and others are sounding the alarm nonetheless.

    I remember the euphoria in 1992 when bright, young, Bill Clinton took over from 12 years of Republican rule. While we have yet to take the presidency, just wresting control of the government from six years of Bush/Cheney’s 1984 nightmare will trigger at least as much occasion for joy as did the end of Reagan/Bush.

    But this time, I think we know what we’re up against. I am less sanguine however about many in Congress, the Vichy-crats. We still have a lot of housecleaning to do.

    Assuming we take the House, we will definitely have the ball, and should be prepared to run with it, and run hard. All these scandals are a huge windfall, plus with Democratic Congresspeople in a position to subpoena and investigate – the Ds will have everything they need to play hard offense and keep the VWRC off balance. This is kind of their big moment, to show what they’re made of, and I feel it’s up to us in the blogosphere to do our part to keep the heat on.

  15. felicity smith  •  Oct 13, 2006 @6:52 pm

    Probably off point, but there is a wonderful photograph that’s been floating in cyberspace and just made it to my computer. George Bush, just off Air Force I and flanked by two military- looking men surveying all he commands via a pair of binoculars. He looks presidential, pursed lips and all except the binoculars have their len’s covers on. Doesn’t look doctored, but who knows. My psychiatrist brother says he either sees nothing or he’s hallucinating. Which should we prefer?

  16. erinyes  •  Oct 13, 2006 @7:35 pm

    Beware of cornered rats!

  17. lafrance  •  Oct 13, 2006 @9:43 pm

    I am not a religious person but, repeating the Stakes are High thing may be code.
    Actually, I think it’d be a service to all if someone would do an article on what the codespeak is. This would help us figure out what the heck the unstable one is saying.

  18. moonbat  •  Oct 13, 2006 @10:39 pm

    …repeating the Stakes are High may be code…..it’d be a service to all if someone would do an article on what the codespeak is.

    IMO, Billmon has it figured out.

  19. Seattle Man  •  Oct 13, 2006 @10:46 pm

    To #11, 12, 13.

    No, if you listen to liberals in Seattle, you’ll find an awful lot think that it’s ALL a plot by Bush and that dangers from terrorism are overblown, a plot by Israel, a result of Western Imperialism etc etc

    Honest.

  20. Seattle Man  •  Oct 13, 2006 @10:56 pm

    Addendum:

    As an illustration of how stupidly naive Seattle liberals are they titter with delight at Bush = Hitler jokes and think they are oh-so-clever & daring to offer them.

    (Yes I know that such generalizations catch-up a lot of pretty astute people, but by-and-large I think offer an accurate flavor.)

  21. maha  •  Oct 13, 2006 @10:58 pm

    Seattle — the phenomenon you describe may be unique to Seattle. I don’t run into it except from the “inside job” whackjobs.

  22. moonbat  •  Oct 14, 2006 @12:26 am

    As an illustration of how stupidly naive Seattle liberals are they titter with delight at Bush = Hitler jokes and think they are oh-so-clever & daring to offer them.

    There are characteristics the two men and their regimes share, but in other ways they’re different. The comparison doesn’t make me laugh at all, it scares me (suitable for this Friday the 13th, no?) because of their similarities and especially because of the horror Hitler created and the even greater horror I sense that Bush and his people are capable of, and in fact are sowing the seeds for.

  23. pawo  •  Oct 14, 2006 @6:49 am

    Maybe the man from Texas ain’t talking about “stakes” at all. Maybe it’s all about “steaks”. Steaks on dope, then? You never know.

  24. Swami  •  Oct 14, 2006 @10:30 am

    Gee, what happened to the high testosterone Bush who was issuing get out of Dodge orders to Saddam? Now he’s seeking shelter in the words of James Baker’s rhetoric of alternatives between alternatives to get out of Dodge himself.. It’s kinda like that place between light and shadow known as the twilight zone.

    The stakes aren’t high for me. It might appear un-American or even treasonous to voice it, but I’m glad Bush is getting his ass kicked in Iraq..simply because I don’t want to see arrogance and deceit rewarded.

  25. erinyes  •  Oct 14, 2006 @10:40 am

    Of course, “higher steaks”!
    It surely fits, that if the “steaks” are higher, we can “make the pie higher” and “put more food on our families”, that way we can “focus on the family” and get faith based people behind uswith their votes and money while we call them F*#@’n crazies and nut balls.
    RE; Rod Serling’s “Monsters on Elm Street”.

    There has got to be an “O. Henry” ending to this chapter in the American nightmare.

  26. Swami  •  Oct 14, 2006 @10:54 am

    Maybe the steaks are high in Iraq, but you can get a decent rice pilaf with scalions for a reasonable price at Omar’s Roadhouse in Baghdad.

  27. el kanuckistani  •  Oct 14, 2006 @3:17 pm

    Why the fuss about the Hitler-bush comparison. Tracing things back to the WWII era, grampa bush (Preston) was providing funding to Hitlers party. They had to pass laws in the U.S. to stop him (I think he was prosecuted). Obviousley he approved of the Nazi party line. After the war I understand that many of Hitlers spy types were brought to the U.S. and were tied in with the CIA in it’s early days. Following that would be Bush 1 heading up the CIA and installing bush II in the presidency. Why is the comparison at all hard to believe?

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