Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, October 31st, 2006.


Things That Go Bump in the Night

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Bush Administration, Democratic Party, elections, Republican Party

Today’s phony controversy being used to distract voters from real issues, from the New York Times:

Mr. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate who is believed to be considering another run for the White House in 2008, set the stage for bitter back-and-forth as he addressed a gathering at Pasadena City College in California.

The senator, who was campaigning for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Phil Angelides, opened with several one-liners, joking at one point that President Bush had lived in Texas but now “lives in a state of denial.”

Then, Mr. Kerry said: “You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

The usual herd of sheep — I’m not going to link; you know who they are — bought the GOP line that Kerry was insulting the troops. Remarkably, at the beginning of today’s Hardball both Chris Matthews and Republican former Senator Congressman Richard Armey admitted that Kerry was referring to George W. Bush getting stuck in Iraq, not the troops.

Oliver Willis has John Kerry’s full response. Here is a press release from John Kerry’s web site. See also Taylor Marsh.

And on a day nearly every rightie blogger is thumping his/her chest over who loves the troops more — Republican staffers of Virginia Senator George Allen assault a Marine vet.

Kerry is not a candidate for anything right now, but that isn’t stopping the Bushies from bubbling over in fake outrage to fire up the base against the evil Democrats. Because, you know, if one Democrat says something (that he didn’t actually say), all Democrats must think exactly the same way.

It’s nasty out there, people. E.J. Dionne writes,

Whatever else it will be remembered for, this year’s campaign will mark the moment when Republican leaders who govern in the name of conservatism turned definitively away from hope and waged one of the most trivial and ugly campaigns in our country’s history. …

… this year Republican campaigners and their advocates in the conservative media have crossed line after line in sheer meanness, triviality and tastelessness. Conservative optimism and its promise of morning in America have curdled into the gloom of a Halloween midnight horror show.

It was always obvious to me that the “morning in America” promise was only for rich and heterosexual white people. And when walking vegetables like David Brooks or George Will write about how conservatives are so much more optimistic and lighthearted than Dems, I never bought that, either. What conservatives are is more out of touch with their own emotions. They’re miserable, hateful little buggers most of the time. That’s what makes them conservatives.

And, frankly, this campaign doesn’t seem all that much different from the last several campaigns to me. The righties have been pelting us with feces for the past several elections cycles.

Eric Alterman writes,

I saw a Daily Show montage this morning in which every Republican candidate shouted some version of the argument that Democrats would “raise taxes” and “lose the war” in Iraq. Bush said the same thing yesterday. I get pretty depressed by the state of the world when I see this kind of thing because of how stupid these people assume voters must be. Who started this war that we are now losing and will continue losing until we’ve finally admitted we lost? Who destroyed the fiscal balance they inherited from the Clinton administration and helped cause the single worst reversal of fiscal fortune in the country’s history? And just how would a Democratic House or Senate “raise taxes” without Bush’s signature on a bill? Does anyone think they are about to assume a “veto-proof” majority? In other words, the Republicans are running a campaign on what is, whatever you happen to believe politically, pure nonsense. And not only do they expect it to work, none of the smart-guy pundits think to call them on it. Sad, sad, sad, particularly when you think about how many hundreds of thousands of people must die in Iraq and elsewhere, for this idiocy.

Bush is campaigning his desperate little ass off — if only he’d put that much energy into, you know, governing. He’s flat-out saying that if the Dems take back Congress, the terrorists will win. And then — get this — when Sean Hannity asked Bush about criticism of him from Democrats, Bush said — “It’s sad that we can’t have a civil discourse in the midst of historic times.”

I think I’ll blow that up a bit.

“It’s sad that we can’t have a civil discourse in the midst of historic times.” — George W. Bush

I’ve got to admit — the boy’s got some cojones.

Update: I had to laugh at this, from John Cole at Balloon Juice:

A general rule of thumb regarding controversies like this is to count how many posts Michelle Malkin has about the issue, and to note that there is a positive correlation to how trivial the matter is and how many posts she has about it. At my last count, she had four on her site, two on her spin-off site Hot Air (who I still think ripped their name off from me). That would tell me that this issue would be somewhere between Cindy Sheehan and crescent-shaped 9/11 memorials and Terri Schaivo in importance, but the possibility is there for a new record.

See Balloon Juice for links, and also to see how Lying Lulu distorted Kerry’s quote.

Update update: See also Josh Marshall and Shakespeare’s Sister.

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Long-Legged Beasties

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Bush Administration

Alan Wolfe gets a clue.

… what made this meeting important is contained in the following report from one of the attendees, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal. “The burden of war,” he wrote, “has not sapped Mr Bush physically as it did Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.” For Henninger, this is a sign of Bush’s strength, his determination to do what is right as he sees it, no matter how many Americans think otherwise. How do you stay so normal? Henninger asked Mr. Bush. “Prayer and exercise,” was the response.

I’ve always suspected that Mr Bush was not – how to put it – the most reality-based of individuals. Much has been made of how presidents of all dispositions and partisan affiliations find themselves in a “bubble,” told so often by sycophants how great they are that they lose any sense of themselves as real people. This does not apply in Mr Bush’s case. Any bubble in which he finds himself is entirely chosen by him. He could, after all, invite people to disagree with him in for a talk, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did, but he clearly wants to talk only to those who will not challenge him.

This is why I have always believed that George Bush is a remarkably weak man, lacking in self-confidence and hiding his sense of inferiority behind tough talk. What I did not quite realise until I read Henninger’s account of this meeting is how George Bush not only lacks confidence, but also lacks the most ordinary sympathy for human beings and the lives they lead.

I agree with Wolfe that Bush is a remarkably weak man, but the question of his self-confidence is not so simple to answer. It seems to me that Bush’s lack of self-doubt is one of his most prominent pathologies. Indeed, Bush acts as if he has supernatural powers. If he orders something done, then (in his mind) it is done, and reports to the contrary are mere niggling details. If he wishes to believe something is true, then it must be true. Reality itself dare not defy His Insouciance.

The invasion of Iraq could stand as a case study in magical thinking. To have blithely believed only what intelligence he wanted to believe (if, indeed, he considered the intelligence at all and didn’t simply leave the detail stuff to Dick); to have ordered an invasion with less planning for occupation than is generally required for a child’s birthday party — these are not the acts of a strong leader. They aren’t the acts a rational leader, for that matter. Or any kind of leader at all.

Granted, the President is far from the only one in his administration whose behavior defies rational analysis. This bring us to another of Bush’s little quirks — a dependence on parental figures. We’ve all suspected from the beginning that it’s Daddy Dick who makes the real decisions, or at least presents to the President the decisions Dick thinks George should make. Meanwhile, the President surrounds himself with Mommies — Karen Hughes, Condi Rice, Harriet Miers.

But, conversely again, George Bush doesn’t like to be supervised. He really, really, doesn’t like to be supervised, or even to compromise, or to make his decisions vulnerable to public and congressional scrutiny. “The Bush White House has had no relationship with Congress,” said a Bush ally. Instead of working with Congress to govern the nation, Bush goes behind their backs and attaches signing statements to the laws he signs, declaring what he will and will not do.

He acts like a teenager who is afraid to ask Dad for the car keys, so he waits until Dad is asleep and takes them without asking.

Emotionally, George Bush appears to be a man who never quite made it through adolescence. And I’m not just talking about fart jokes. An adolescent is torn between wanting the guidance and approval of parents and rebelling against the authority of parents. This conflict is usually resolved when the adolescent grows up and establishes his own identity as an adult that is separate from his parents. But George W. Bush often acts as if he never made that separation. He went through most of his adult life identified as his father’s son, and whatever success he had in business or politics he achieved only by clinging to his Dad’s coattails. Bush began his first term by surrounding himself with people who used to work for his old man — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, etc. Yet as President, “43” keeps a careful distance from “41.” It’s as if the younger Bush still fears his power and identity might be eclipsed by his father. (For more on Bush’s unresolved oedipal issues, click here.)

Bush’s leadership “style” amounts to promising something or even starting something (like a war) and then failing to follow through. One suspects that as a child he learned to blunt the wrath of his parents by promising better behavior, but was not held to account when the promises were broken. After the Jackson Square speech of September 2005 some pundits raved about Bush’s promises. By then many people outside the beltway had figured out the promises meant nothing. Following up the Jackson Square speech a few weeks later, Ross Chanin called Bush’s failure to follow through on his promises “a profile in cowardice.” After a year, the speech didn’t even rise to the level of “joke.” Yet Bush went back to New Orleans and (through the magic of well-planned staging) still pretended he was a great and successful leader. His failures and broken promises seemed not to bother him a bit.

Today many wonder how the President can seem so confident we are “winning” in Iraq. Is he truly delusional, or is he just trying to happy-face his way out of trouble? All I know is that he cares passionately about Iraq. You can argue about the purity of his motives but not, I think, about the intensity of his concern. No other subject gets him more worked up at a podium. Last week he made a point of defending his Iraq policy, even as the Republican Party would rather the public not be reminded.

Yet, at the same time, all along he has been weirdly disinterested in details. He has yet to demonstrate he understands the nature of the sectarian violence there, for example. Last week I quoted Peter W. Galbraith in the New York Review of Books (March 9, 2006):

Much of the Iraq fiasco can be directly attributed to Bush’s shortcomings as a leader. Having decided to invade Iraq, he failed to make sure there was adequate planning for the postwar period. He never settled bitter policy disputes among his principal aides over how postwar Iraq would be governed; and he allowed competing elements of his administration to pursue diametrically opposed policies at nearly the same time. He used jobs in the Coalition Provisional Authority to reward political loyalists who lacked professional competence, regional expertise, language skills, and, in some cases, common sense. Most serious of all, he conducted his Iraq policy with an arrogance not matched by political will or military power.

Reviewing Paul Bremer’s book My Year in Iraq, Galbraith wrote,

Bremer says that Bush “was as vigorous and decisive in person as he appeared on television.” But in fact he gives an account of a superficial and weak leader. He had lunch with the President before leaving for Baghdad —a meeting joined by the Vice President and the national security team—but no decision seems to have been made on any of the major issues concerning Iraq’s future. Instead, Bremer got a blanket grant of authority that he clearly enjoyed exercising. The President’s directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as “we’re not going to fail” and “pace yourself, Jerry.” In Bremer’s account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. But there is no evidence that he cared about the specific questions that counted: Would the new prime minister have a broad base of support? Would he be able to bridge Iraq’s ethnic divisions? What political values should he have? Instead, Bush had only one demand: “It’s important to have someone who’s willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.”

And while he strikes a pose as the Great War Leader whose personal strength of character and mighty resolve will lead the nation to victory, whenever he is criticized for what actually is happening in Iraq he falls back on explaining that the generals are the ones actually running things. He calls himself The Decider, yet at times he doesn’t seem to have grasped that he is, in fact, the guy in charge.

Which brings us back to the question of Bush’s self-confidence — too much? or not enough?

Alan Wolfe calls Bush “the most un-Lincolnesque man ever to hold this office” of President. Lincoln’s approach to war was Bush’s mirror opposite. Lincoln was famously humble and self-deprecating. Lincoln took a keen interest in the details of the war, to the point of micromanagement; he would step in and countermand a general who was being an idiot, as many of them were. And Lincoln was visibly worn down by the responsibilities of his office. Wolfe writes,

Lincoln aged beyond his years before his assassination; his stooped body communicated to his people the toll the civil war had taken on him. Imagine Lincoln going to work out on a cross-trainer to burn off any stress from a day of ordering troops into battle. For that matter, image him praying to Jesus, not to forgive him for the pain he was causing, but to congratulate him for the determination he was showing.

Lincoln had father issues, also, but he appears to have resolved them long before he became President. Lincoln grew up. Bush, however, remains an emotional child. And for all the many layers of bravado Bush has built up over the years, on the inside he’s a frightened little boy who still expects Mommy and Daddy to clean up his messes and bail him out.

Update: Lance Mannion is a nicer person than I am.

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Ghoulies and Ghosties

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Bush Administration

At Salon, Will Evans has details of a new Bush scandal.

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

Here is the full report in PDF format.

Unfortunately, this isn’t illegal. But it still stinks out loud.

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