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saturday, june 12, 2004

Actual News
So what happened last week that hardly anyone knows about because of the 24/7 coverage of The Funeral? This morning I linked to a Guardian article about what's happening in Afghanistan, which is not good.
Preznit Bunnypants did another of his famous press conference meltdowns after the G8 conference this week. He was especially weak when questioned about The Memo:

Q Mr. President, the Justice Department issued an advisory opinion last year declaring that as Commander-in-Chief you have the authority to order any kind of interrogation techniques that are necessary to pursue the war on terror. Were you aware of this advisory opinion? Do you agree with it? And did you issue any such authorization at any time?

THE PRESIDENT: No, the authorization I issued, David, was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations. That's the message I gave our people.

Q Have you seen the memos?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't remember if I've seen the memo or not, but I gave those instructions. ...

Q Returning to the question of torture, if you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?

THE PRESIDENT: Jonathan, what I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law. ...

Q Mr. President, I wanted to return to the question of torture. What we've learned from these memos this week is that the Department of Justice lawyers and the Pentagon lawyers have essentially worked out a way that U.S. officials can torture detainees without running afoul of the law. So when you say that you want the U.S. to adhere to international and U.S. laws, that's not very comforting. This is a moral question: Is torture ever justified?

THE PRESIDENT: Look, I'm going to say it one more time. If I -- maybe -- maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you. We're a nation of law. We adhere to laws. We have laws on the books. You might look at those laws, and that might provide comfort for you. And those were the instructions out of -- from me to the government.

Also at the press conference, our President showed that hope is eternal:

Q Mr. President, a year ago in Evian, there was an expectation that in the ensuing months, weapons such as chemical or biological weapons, would be found in Iraq. I wonder if you can share with the American people your conclusions, based on what you've learned over the past 15 months, sir, as to whether those weapons were -- existed and they were hidden, were they destroyed, were they somehow spirited out of the country, or perhaps they weren't there before the war, and whether you had a chance to share this with your G8 partners.

THE PRESIDENT: Right, no -- Bob, it's a good question. I don't know -- I haven't reached a final conclusion yet because the inspectors -- inspection teams aren't back yet. I do know that Saddam Hussein had the capacity to make weapons. I do know he's a dangerous person. I know he used weapons against his own people and against the neighborhood. But we'll wait until Charlie gets back with the final report, and then I'll be glad to report.

Also this past week, the Bushies got caught in another lie. This was about its 2003 terrorism report:

The State Department is scrambling to revise its annual report on global terrorism to acknowledge that it understated the number of deadly attacks in 2003, amid charges that the document is inaccurate, dangerously outmoded and politically manipulated by the Bush Administration.

The department said it was the second time the report, considered the authoritative yardstick of the prevalence of terrorism worldwide, has had to be revised. When the most recent Patterns of Global Terrorism report was issued on April 29, senior Bush Administration officials immediately hailed it as objective proof that they were winning the war on terrorism.

"Indeed, you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight" against global terrorism, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said.

But on Tuesday, State Department officials said they underreported the number of terrorist attacks in the report on 2003, and said they expected to release an updated version soon. Several US officials and terrorism experts familiar with that revision said the new report could show the number of significant terrorist incidents increased last year, perhaps to its highest level in 20 years. [Josh Meyer, The Age, June 10, 2004]

And then there is The Memo itself. This morning I went a-skipping about on the Right Blogosphere to see the expressions of indignation over The Memo and the Attorney General's refusal to provide Congress with his memos concerning torture -- as Molly Ivins called it, "the day the Constitution died." 
This is huge, people. But you know what? The Righties, even the ones who call themselves libertarians, didn't notice. Too busy wallowing in funerary splendor, I suppose.

6:57 pm | link

Stuff I Learned from Righties, Part II
A Small Victory reports that a contingent of deranged homophobes from the Westboro Baptist Church picketed Ronald Reagan's funeral procession with signs that proclaimed the Gipper to be in hell.  
Apparently it wasn't good enough for the WBC that Reagan's AIDS policies allowed the disease to spread unchecked and under-researched far too long. WBC says that Reagan "softened" on "the fag agenda" after the death of Rock Hudson from AIDS. I have no memory of Reagan doing any more than expressing regret for Hudson's death, but if a mahareader has more background information, please leave it in the comments.
The WBC and their pastor, the Rev. Phelps, are the same crew who picket the funerals of homosexuals. I join A Small Victory in saying that these people are loathesome and picketing anybody's funeral is depraved.
However, notice the comments. Before it was clear that the picketers were from WBC, it was assumed they were lefty followers of Ted Rall. In fact, some of the commenters continued to whine about Rall even after the WBC connection was revealed.
To which I said, WTF? Rall must've done something really awful to deserve this vitriol. I don't follow Rall all that closely, to tell the truth.
So I went to the Rall web site. Rall wrote a column highly critical of the Reagan presidency, but I don't see him claiming that Reagan is in hell, and it seems to me Rall's column is pretty accurate. Facts is facts, people, whether you like 'em or not.
Possibly what pissed 'em off was this cartoon. But Rall answers the Reagan-Was-God crowd better than I could, here.

1:42 pm | link

Stuff I Learned from Righties, Part I
You'll love this one, peoples. At least a couple of Right Blogosphere bloggers -- Stephen Green and the Rottweiler -- are outraged that some members of the press had the nerve to even suggest that media coverage of the Reagan funeral was, maybe, a tad excessive (it is safe to watch television yet?). Quote the Rottweiler,
Four days on the death of a great statesman has you feeling this way, yet four weeks of blathering on about naked human pyramids didn't as much as make you lift an eyebrow?
Never mind that the naked human pyramids are changing the course of world history in ways that Reagan's funeral, however grandiose, will not.
I've been trying to remember past presidential funerals. I remember the deaths of presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower, but I don't remember their funerals at all. I remember Nixon's funeral, but only because I watched to see if anyone showed up.
President Kennedy's funeral was, of course, an exception. I remember that funeral vividly. But I think the Reagan funeral festivities went on longer (is it over now?).
The very fact that media made such a Big Deal out of Reagan's passing is clear, blatant evidence right-wing media bias, but for some reason Green and the Rottweiler don't complain about that. Curious.
Update: Here's a brief account of Dwight Eisenhower's funeral.

11:37 am | link

Pledge Drive
Duncan Campbell of the Guardian reports that elections in Afghanistan will be delayed again for lack of funds.

It is now impossible for the election to be held legally in September, the date for which both the interim government of President Hamid Karzai and the United Nations were aiming, itself a delay from the intended June polling day. It is understood that the new date is likely to be around October 5.

It has also emerged that not a single dollar pledged to pay for the elections has been given by donor countries, including members of the EU and the US. ... 

Mr Bush is anxious that Afghanistan should go to the polls before his own date with the electorate in November so that, with the condition in Iraq deteriorating, he can point to at least one foreign democratisation process.

The Guardian suggests the postponement of elections will be an embarrassment to the Bush Administration and possibly affect the November elections. To which I say, only if the swing voters notice this is going on, and of course they won't.

If we had an actual free press in this country, the situation in Afghanistan would be a problem for Bush. This news plus the recent murders of eleven Chinese construction workers by Afghanis thought to be loyal to a renegade warlord with ties to the Taliban ought to be a big red flag that the situation in Afghanistan could be better.

And the Bushies are piddling away an actual victory, or a close fascimile to one, because they don't have enough money and resources and attention span to give to Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time.


9:00 am | link

friday, june 11, 2004

The G8 Press Conference and Other Stuff
By popular demand (from mahareader YinYang), here is the transcript of Bush's post-G8 press conference.
Shrub's opening remarks are fairly ordinary -- blah blah freedom and democracy, blah blah blah peace blah and prosperity, blah blah might and resolve, blah. Also -- note this -- he only used the word resolve once. Clearly, he's slipping.
Then he began to take questions, and it all went downhill from there. He had to backtrack on his call for NATO to get involved; see, he didn't mean for NATO to send troops, but maybe they could train other troops, see.
I regret that I'm too tired to give this a proper going over, but it's worth clicking on the link and reading it. 

9:49 pm | link

Slapping Nancy Reagan
In a ghastly show of insensitivity to Mrs. Ronald Reagan, the New York Times today published a brainless screed against embryonic stem-cell research by right-wing toadie William P. Clark, former national security adviser and secretary of the interior under Ronald Reagan.  

Ronald Reagan had not passed from this life for 48 hours before proponents of human embryonic stem-cell research began to suggest that such ethically questionable scientific work should be promoted under his name. But this cannot honestly be done without ignoring President Reagan's own words and actions.

Ronald Reagan's record reveals that no issue was of greater importance to him than the dignity and sanctity of all human life. "My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land," he said in 1983. "And there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning." One of the things he regretted most at the completion of his presidency in 1989, he told me, was that politics and circumstances had prevented him from making more progress in restoring protection for unborn human life.

In 1967, as governor of California, "circumstances" inspired Reagan to sign the most liberal abortion law of the times, allowing freedom of choice during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. This was six years before SCOTUS decided Roe v. Wade.

President Reagan indeed made lots of anti-choice noise and used the abortion issue to pander to the Religious Right, but as President he didn't really do that much about the abortion issue, other than pay lip service. This suggests that his views on abortion may have been more about political expedience than moral conviction.

Further, stem cell research was pretty much the stuff of science fiction in those days and not an issue to be seriously considered. What Reagan might have really thought about stem cell research is pure speculation. However, Nancy Reagan has been crystal clear where she stands on the subject. The toadies and wingnuts could have at least let Mrs. Reagan bury her husband before they bitch slapped her.

If you feel so moved, please donate to the organization of your choice that supports embryonic stem cell research. If you don't want to do it for Ronnie, do it for my late mother. She had Alzheimer's, and tomorrow would have been her birthday.


11:17 am | link

More More More
Writ of douche-baggery? THE hot link on the Web today is this clip of last night's Daily Show on Comedy Central.
IMO it's an indication of How Far We Have Fallen that the only "journalist" telling the unvarnished truth about the Bushies is a comedian. Jon Stewart appears to have adopted the role of court jester, a.k.a. the Fool. In medieval days, jesters often (not always) got away with revealing painful truths about the monarch that no one else dared utter.
Speaking of fools, Chris Matthews was observed by Wonkette:
Vamping a bit between MSNBC correspondents' interviews of Stepford Republicans, Matthews noted that, thanks to all of Reagan's war movies, "He seemed understand the experience of the Greatest Generation better than the guys who were actually in battle could."

Yes, having a buddy bleed to death in your arms can dampen your enthusiasm for a war. But when your toughest wartime assignment is to keep your tan even, you don't really mind threatening to start another one. ...

UPDATE: We got the transcript: "He seemed to be able to evoke the World War II experience better than the guys who actually were in combat." Apologies for the inaccuracy. (The intern will be beaten. . . Not because it's his fault, we just like doing it.)

Matthews never ceases to astonish me. Meanwhile, one of the smartest men in journalism, Jimmy Breslin, writes away at New York Newsday:
The great American news industry, the Pekinese of the Press with so much room and time and nothing to say, compared Reagan to Lincoln and Hamilton, they really did. This is like claiming that the maintenance man wrote the Bill of Rights. And almost all the reporters agreed that Reagan was the man who brought down Russia in the Cold War.

Just saying this is absolutely sinful. The Cold War was won by a long memo written by George Kennan, who worked in the State Department and sent the memo by telegram about the need for a "Policy of Containment" on Russia. Kennan said the contradictions in their system would ruin them. Keep them where they are and they will tear themselves apart. We followed Kennan's policy for over 40 years. The Soviets made it worse on themselves by building a wall in East Berlin. When they had to tear it down and give up their system, Kennan was in Princeton and he sat down to dinner.
This is right. Don't let anyone tell you that Reagan brought down the Soviet Union. During the Reagan years it was obvious to me that the Soviet Union was imploding from within, not being destroyed from without. The USSR would have imploded in the 1980s no matter who was president. The only real argument is whether Reagan's policies helped speed up that process, or slowed it down.
Christopher Hitchens: The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan is an interesting read but problematic on several levels. After going on for several paragraphs demonstrating that Reagan was a flaming idiot (I suspect the Gipper was a lot sharper when he was young, before disease took his brain),  Hitchens then seems to say that Reagan was a better president than Carter was or Mondale would have been, and that smarty-pants liberals don't get that. In his dotage, Snitch has lost a few too many brain cells himself, methinks.
Andrew Nagorski writes in Newsweek that the rest of the world doesn't understand why Americans vote the way they do -- for example, why Bush is still within spitting distance of being re-elected in spite of being a total disaster.
Hell, I don't understand it, either.  Nagorski calls it "pragmatism"; I call it "brainwashed." Eric Boehlert discusses the Brainwashing of America in Salon:
The media's weeklong coverage of the passing of President Reagan has produced some of the most rapturous remembrances in modern times. Given Reagan's long illness, few expected the gloss to be pierced by examinations of his past as an FBI informant, his support for the apartheid regime of South Africa, America's covert alliance with Saddam Hussein, or the killing fields of Central America. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of media-stoked adoration has been a bit startling to those who are keepers of the flame of objectivity.

By midweek, a few news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post, had at least addressed some of the more controversial aspects of Reagan's public life. But for the most part, the reports, particularly on the 24-hour news channels, remained uniformly worshipful, as the elaborate funeral cortege, orchestrated after years of planning by Reagan's old image-makers, marched through the entire week, accompanied by rhetorical flourishes.

How can We, the People make rational decisions in the voting booth when nearly everything the People believe about historical and current events is a fairy tale?

8:04 am | link

thursday, june 10, 2004

Just published -- tomorrow's Paul Krugman column.

Here's a sample version of the legend: according to a recent article in The Washington Times, Ronald Reagan "crushed inflation along with left-wing Keynesian economics and launched the longest economic expansion in U.S. history." Actually, the 1982-90 economic expansion ranks third, after 1991-2001 and 1961-69 — but even that comparison overstates the degree of real economic success.

The secret of the long climb after 1982 was the economic plunge that preceded it. By the end of 1982 the U.S. economy was deeply depressed, with the worst unemployment rate since the Great Depression. So there was plenty of room to grow before the economy returned to anything like full employment.

The depressed economy in 1982 also explains "Morning in America," the economic boom of 1983 and 1984. You see, rapid growth is normal when an economy is bouncing back from a deep slump. (Last year, Argentina's economy grew more than 8 percent.)

And the economic expansion under President Reagan did not validate his economic doctrine. His supply-side advisers didn't promise a one-time growth spurt as the economy emerged from recession; they promised, but failed to deliver, a sustained acceleration in economic growth.

Inflation did come down sharply on Mr. Reagan's watch: it was running at 12 percent when he took office, but was only 4.5 percent when he left. But this victory came at a heavy price. For much of the Reagan era, the economy suffered from very high unemployment. Despite the rapid growth of 1983 and 1984, over the whole of the Reagan administration the unemployment rate averaged a very uncomfortable 7.5 percent.

In other words, it all played out just as "left-wing Keynesian economics" predicted. [Paul Krugman, "An Economic Legend," The New York Times, June 11, 2004]

Please read the whole article, and note the next-to-last paragraph:

It's a measure of how desperate the faithful are to believe in the Reagan legend that one often reads conservative commentators claiming that the Clinton-era miracle was the result of Mr. Reagan's policies, and indeed vindicated them. Think about it: Mr. Reagan passed his big tax cut right at the beginning of his presidency, and mainly raised taxes thereafter. So we're supposed to believe that a tax cut passed in 1981 was somehow responsible for an economic miracle that didn't materialize until around 1997. Apply the same timing to the good things that happened on Mr. Reagan's watch, and you'll discover that Lyndon Johnson deserves the credit for "Morning in America."

Just published in tomorrow's Guardian:
It will be odd for Iraqis to watch TV tonight (power cuts permitting) and hear the eulogies to freedom-loving Ronald Reagan at his state funeral. The motives behind US policy towards their country have always been a mystery, and if Iraqis sometimes explain to westerners that Saddam Hussein was a CIA agent whose appointed task was to provoke an American invasion of Iraq, it is largely thanks to Reagan's legacy.

Although Saddam was still a junior figure, it is a matter of record that the CIA station in Baghdad aided the coup which first brought the Ba'athists to power in 1963. But it was Reagan who, two decades later, turned US-Iraqi relations into a decisive wartime alliance. He sent a personal letter to Saddam Hussein in December 1983 offering help against Iran. The letter was hand-carried to Baghdad by Reagan's special envoy, Donald Rumsfeld. [Jonathan Steele, "He Lied and Cheated in the Name of Anti-Communism," The Guardian, June 11, 2004]

Here's the punch line:

It was detente that made the end of the cold war possible, and without Reagan's blind anti-communism it could have come at least four years earlier.


10:34 pm | link

Transits II (Tell Me When It's Over)
Some in the Right Blogosphere are quivering with indignation over this article by Harold Meyerson in Wednesday's Washington Post. Stephen Green of VodkaPundit, who is generally less rabid than many other rightie bloggers, linked to and recommended a number of fisks of the Meyerson article -- not a single one of which honestly addresses the facts given in Meyerson's article.
You can read the fisks if you want, but they all boil down to this: The fiskers were children during the Reagan years and imprinted on The Gipper as a model daddy-president, and they don't want their childish fantasies shattered. So instead of honestly confronting the flaws in the Reagan legacy, they fall back on myths, excuses, long-debunked ideology, and whining about how nasty those liberals are, waaaaaah.
Children, there is no Santa Claus, there is no Tooth Fairy, and Ronald Reagan had serious flaws as a president. He wasn't the worst -- I'd rank him somewhere in the middle of the all-time presidential pack. But for those who whine about how awful it is for people to pierce their little happy fantasy balloons before the man is even buried, I'd remind them what happens to those who don't remember history. And I'd rather not go through the Reagan years again, thank you very much.
Over and over again, one hears from the Reagan-besotted that Reagan made them feel proud to be Americans again. It's more correct, IMO, to say that Reagan made it OK to be greedy and homophobic and bigoted again. Not to mention a jingoist. As I clearly remember, during the 1980 campaign Reagan supporters expected their man to "throw the [African American] bums off welfare," repeating with relish his "welfare queens in Cadillacs" stories. Some told me with utter seriousness that President Ronnie would protect their children from homosexuals, although they were a bit hazy on (a) exactly why they were afraid homosexuals were after their children, and (b) exactly what Ronnie was going to do to protect them.
And, of course, people were eager to kick Iranian-Muslim butt. (Did Ronnie strike a deal with the Ayatollah to help ensure his re-election? I think he did.) Ronnie would show how tough he was in 1983, when 241 marines were killed by a truck bomb in Beirut. Ronnie turned tail and pulled out of the Middle East, but shortly thereafter unleashed our military might on Grenada. Whoop-di-doo.
Andrew Sullivan documents some of the callousness of the Reagan Administration toward AIDS sufferers. And you must read Derrick Jackson's op-ed in yesterday's Boston Globe, "Reagan's Heart of Darkness," about Reagan's benign attitude toward the pro-apartheid government of South Africa. Reagan, Jackson wrote, clearly believed black Africans to be expendable.
I don't have time to fisk the fiskers, but if anyone else wants to give it a shot, all the facts you need can be found in the following articles:
In the unlikely event you need more ammunition, check out my Maha Reagan Remembrance Roundup from Monday.
Billmon notes that the Reagan Funeral Festival is not helping Bush's sagging campaign, even as the righties still hope for a landslide victory just like Ronnie's in 1980 (see No More Mr. Nice Blog).
Found on Patridiot Watch --

Ronald Reagan's administration helped empower Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, removing Iraq from the State Sponsored Terrorism list and channeling loans and expertise to the country.

And remember, Ronnie did this knowing that Saddam was gassing his own people.

Ronald Reagan's administration armed and funded the fundamentalist Afghanis who became the Taliban when they were fighting the Soviet Union. In fact, the surface to air missles shot at our planes by the Taliban were Stingers provided by Reagan.

Ronald Reagan's administration armed and provided logistical and political support to Osama bin Laden when he was emerging as a leader of the anti-Soviet forces in the middle east. This support raised bin Laden's profile as he developed the al Queda network.

Ronald Reagan's administration sold weapons to Iran in order to raise funds to fight communists in Central America.

As far as the Afghanistan-bin Laden connection is concerned, I'm not inclined to be hard on Ronnie for that one. It looked like a good idea at the time. Al Qaeda wasn't organized for several years later. However, don't let the righties tell you that Ronnie didn't know about the Iran-Contra arms sales. It begs credulity, to say the least.

5:00 pm | link

They Don't Want You to Know
Christopher Dickey has a more benign take on Tuesday's UN resolution than I do.
Yesterday’s passage of the United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq was a model of compromise, not just another exercise in coercion and confrontation. There wasn’t a single dissenting vote. It sure is nice to hear the word “unanimous” again, after so much feckless unilateralism.
Washington, you’ll recall, could have had pretty much the same U.N. resolution nine months ago. The French and Germans offered in September to recognize the sovereignty of the U.S.-appointed regime—many of whose members are the same people in the “new” interim government. But Washington dismissed the suggestion as premature. The Bush administration insisted the Iraqis just weren’t ready for that sovereignty stuff.
This explains why I so enjoyed the GOPUSA web site banner headline, "Bush Convinces UN to Support Iraqi Sovereignty." And we've always been at war with Eastasia.
Then came the bloody month of November, when the insurgency really started to take off and American casualties mounted dramatically. Suddenly, the Bush administration decided the Iraqis actually might be ready for, well, some kind of sovereignty. A grand design for a tightly managed transition was drawn up, with a June 30 deadline. The date stuck, but most of the rest of the grand plan has been discarded or postponed,  piece by piece, as the situation in Iraq has grown steadily worse. The killing is now so commonplace it’s just so much background noise on the news.
Bush gambled his political fortunes on a good outcome in Iraq. Now that the situation in Iraq has soured, he's rolling the dice again and putting the rest of his chips on June 30. If violence decreases after this date, and if there are no more revelations about torture and cooked intelligence and whatnot, he's got a chance to neutralize Iraq as a campaign issue. However, as James Klurfeld explains in New York Newsday, the odds may be against Bush.
First, because the transfer of sovereignty is largely symbolic. The United States will still be responsible for Iraq's security if only because it has an army there and Iraq does not. The real transfer of sovereignty will be a much slower process.

Second, the security situation there remains dicey, at best. Because we have too few troops there to maintain security, those who oppose an elected Iraqi regime will do everything they can to prevent it from happening, and it will be difficult to stop them. And the support of the allies at the UN does not mean any of them will be sending a significant number of troops or even money to Iraq. They won't.

Third, because the fight for power among the different ethnic factions - and within those factions - will only intensify in the coming weeks and months. It's all up for grabs now. Already, there are rumblings from the Kurds who fear that the Bush administration has given in too much to the Shia. And the Sunnis, who ran the country in the most brutal fashion under Saddam Hussein, fear retribution from the Shia majority.
There may be more than rumblings from the Kurds; see Juan Cole on rising Kurdish anger and Spencer Ackerman in The New Republic on panic in Kurdistan..Bush may have a very small window of opportunity to throw some assurances at the Kurds before he loses it all on his June 30 bet. 
More stuff they don't want you to notice about Shrub:

9:06 am | link

wednesday, june 9, 2004

The World Is His Enabler

Once upon a time I worked for a woman who was (is, actually, as I assume she's not dead yet) a socialized psychopath. The "socialized" part, as I understand it, means that she is able to function in normal society and probably won't murder people, although I wouldn't want to piss her off while she is armed. But underneath the facade of normalcy she is very, very demented.

One of her most remarkable traits is her ability to manipulate just about anybody to do just about anything. Creditors she has stiffed continue to extend credit. Vendors and clients she has cheated continue to do business with her. Freelancers she hasn't paid in months continue to do jobs for her. It's a gift. She can be charming, she can be intimidating, or sometimes she just wears people down, but more times than not, she gets her way.
She gets her way because most people don't realize how nuts she is, and they try to reason with her or compromise with her, and before they know it they are sucked into her wacky little alternate universe where black is white and up is down and she is absolute mistress. It takes a lot of inner strength and will power to maintain your bearings in her presence, believe me.
I bring this up because it appears the entire Bush Administration has this same gift. Once again they have duped a body of people who should have learned better by now -- the United Nations -- along with, as ever, the news media establishment.
Yesterday's UN resolution on Iraqi sovereignty is being hailed as a great triumph for Bush. The New York Times reports,
The Security Council voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of an American and British resolution to end the formal occupation of Iraq on June 30 and transfer "full sovereignty" to an interim Iraqi government.
Even the European press is calling the resolution a "spectacular victory" for Bush. Sounds like quite a coup for the Bushies, huh? The GOPUSA web site today is festooned with a banner headline that says, "Bush Convinces UN to Support Iraqi Sovereignty."
A more accurate head, however, would say "UN Manages to Pry a Few Additional Shreds of Self-Rule for Iraq Away from the Bush Regime in Exchange for Covering Shrub's Butt." And the subhead would be, "Kurds Are Screwed."
Here's the deal, as explained by The Guardian:
The resolution addresses two key issues: how long foreign troops should stay on in Iraq and whether the sovereign Iraqi government has a right of veto over its operations. On the first issue, a date for withdrawal has been set, albeit a distant one. The multinational force, as it will become known, loses its mandate at the latest in December 2005 when a sovereign government is chosen or, at the earliest, within 12 months of the passing of the resolution if it is by the request of the transitional Iraqi government. ...
The second issue, a key test of sovereignty, has been fudged. The French won the argument that Iraqi forces should be put under the control and responsibility of the Iraqi government. At present they are under the control of coalition forces. But the Iraqi government will not have a right of veto over "sensitive offensive operations" of the multinational force, like the recent assaults on Falluja and Najaf. The commander of the multinational force is bound by the UN resolution to participate, when called for, in meetings of an Iraqi ministerial committee for national security. But it does not bind him to agree with its decisions. [emphasis added]
Along with failing to give the "sovereign" Iraqi government any real control over what the American military is doing in their country, the resolution also does not say diddly squat about the Iraqi interim constitution, a.k.a. the Transitional Administrative Law [TAL], which less than three months ago our Dear Leader hailed as "an important step toward the establishment of a sovereign government on June 30."
The second chapter of the TAL is, essentially, a bill of rights for the Iraqi people that would protect the rights of all Iraqis without regard to gender, religion, or nationality.
Juan Cole explains,
The resolution did not mention or endorse the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) or interim constitution adopted last February by the Interim Governing Council and based on the notes of Paul Bremer. The Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani had written Kofi Annan forbidding the UN from endorsing the TAL, on the grounds that it was illegitimate and contained provisions harmful to majority rule.

The Kurds on the other hand were
absolutely furious that the UN did not mention the TAL, which they see as their safeguard against a tyranny of the Arab majority. It stipulates that the status quo will obtain in Kurdistan until an elected parliament crafts a permanent constitution next year this time, and that the three Kurdish provinces will have a veto over that new constitution if they do not like it.
BTW, Juan Cole's blog post on this matter is the best analysis I've seen so far. Go, bloggers!
Dexter Filkins of the New York Times reports:
In a letter to President Bush this week, the two main Kurdish leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, wrote that the Kurds would "refrain from participating in the central government" in Baghdad if any attempt was made by the new government to nullify the interim Iraqi constitution adopted in March.

Well, too bad. Bush was eager to get some kind, maybe any kind, of mandate from the UN before trotting off to the G8 summit.
As Juan Cole explained, "The resolution gives the new Iraqi government substantially more sovereignty than had been envisaged by the US in the initial draft, and the Bush administration essentially compromised in order to have an achievement for the election season."
However, the professor continues, "That the US and the UK had to give away so much to get the resolution shows how weak they are in Iraq. The problem is that they have created a failed state in Iraq, and this new piece of paper really changes nothing on the ground."

Bush is lording it over the G8 Summit right now, playing the role of the conquering hero. But it sounds as if not everyone is fooled:

At the meeting of the G8 leaders in Georgia, Mr Bush called the resolution "a great victory for the Iraqi people" [Kurds don't count? -- maha] and used a photo opportunity with Russian President Vladimir Putin to demonstrate G8 unity on Iraq.

"I appreciate your help, Vladimir, in getting that Security Council resolution through today," said Mr Bush.

Mr Putin in turn called the resolution, "a major step forward".

But Mr Putin made it clear European leaders wanted to see the new Iraqi government exercise control over its political and military decisions and the continuing role of the UN in organising democratic elections by early next year.

He also cautioned that it "will take quite a long time" for the resolution to have an impact on the ground in Iraq.

At least Shrub called him "Vladamir" instead of "Pootie-Poot."

In another new twist, today Bush is calling for an "expanded role" in Iraq for NATO. Now he's courting European support. Do you think, in time, he might acknowledge there really weren't any WMDs?

Naaah ...


11:09 am | link

tuesday, june 8, 2004

Republicans Retrograde
Last night I read Katha Pollitt's column in the current issue of The Nation, "Desperately Seeking Health Insurance." In this column, I learned:
  • According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 Americans die each year because of lack of medical care.
  • Healthcare costs are involved in 50 percent of bankruptcies, which have risen 400 percent in the past twenty-five years.
Pollitt writes,
... health insurance is about more than treating an immediate illness. Lack of insurance can precipitate an avalanche of trouble: job loss, debt, bankruptcy, more illness, inappropriate charity treatment that worsens the original problem, prescription drug addiction, homelessness. ...[I]f you think of those 43.6 million uninsured as embedded in families, you have to count the privations endured by everyone in them as part of the true cost of the status quo.
I've learned from trying to argue with them on web forums that wingnuts sincerely believe the uninsured somehow, magically, get free medical treatment if they can't pay for it. I think they learn this from watching "ER." But it's not true.
However, I'm not going to write about health insurance. I'm going to write about David Brooks and why he is an idiot. Let's start with this paragraph from today's New York Times:

Once it was liberals who rhapsodized about progress. Even stoic Woodrow Wilson once exulted: "Progress! No word comes more often or more naturally to the lips of modern man, as if the things it stands for were almost synonymous with life itself." But since Reagan's time, it sometimes appears that liberals and conservatives have traded places.

Now Democrats often accuse Republicans of recklessness and utopianism while Republicans accuse Democrats of being the timorous defenders of the status quo. Democrats are more likely to emphasize fiscal prudence, foreign policy caution and economic security.

So let's think about Republican "progress." Whose fault is it that 43.6 million Americans don't have health insurance? If Harry Truman had been listened to we would have had a single-payer system for nearly 50 years by now. And the single biggest reason we still aren't able to establish a single-payer system like the rest of the civilized world is that Republicans have brainwashed Americans into being afraid of "socialized medicine."

And which party is it that works incessantly to strip workers of rights and protections in order to provide the nation's corporations with cheaper labor? And which party is it that works incessantly to gut environmental protection legislation and allow the nation's robber barons to more cheaply exploit national resources? Which party is it that works incessantly to de-regulate businesses so that the nation's tycoons have a freer hand to accumulate and hoard wealth at the expense of the rest of us? Which party is it that wants to dismantle what's left of the New Deal by privatizing Social Security? (Hint: Starts with an "R.") And don't even get me started on gay rights and women's rights and civil rights in general.

In the David Brooks lexicon, progress is defined as "returning to the status quote of the 19th century." Seriously; the GOP isn't just reaching back to undo the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt; they're reaching back to undo the domestic reforms of Teddy Roosevelt.  

But it's worse than that, because if you read on in the Brooks column, you find that what Brooks really wants is to return to the days of the Roman Empire, with us Americans as the new Romans.

But it's all really about American exceptionalism. Reagan embraced America as a permanent revolutionary force. His critics came to fear exactly that sort of zeal. John Kerry's father, Richard, was a representative one. He wrote a book, just after the Reagan years, arguing that the Reagan brand of exceptionalism is a danger. Americans are mistaken if they think all people want to copy their institutions, he argued. Instead, the U.S. should marshal its power within a web of multilateral arrangements, or it will create all sorts of problems.

And, of course, only a flaming idiot like Brooks would not have realized that our Iraq debacle has proved Richard Kerry to be correct.

You can interpret all of American history as a struggle between progressives and troglodytes. Progressives had to fight the troglodytes to end slavery. They had to fight to expand the protections of citizenship to people of color. They had to fight to secure the right to vote for racial minorities and women. They had to fight to protect children from becoming exploited factory laborers. They had to fight to establish workplace safety regulations. They fought to allow workers to form unions, and to permit family planning information to be made available to the public, and to allow equal opportunities for all Americans regardless of gender or color. I could go on. We could all go on.

Extremists in the Republican party would dismantle nearly all of the progressive reforms of the past 150 years. (I don't think they would go all the way back to the establishment of slavery, but I wouldn't put indentured servitude past them.) The Republican party blocks any hope of building on progressive reforms of the past, to the point that Democrats are just playing defense, trying to lessen the damage and protect what little they can.

Brooks thinks it is "progress" to invade other countries and establish Pax Americana by force. He might want to review Gibbons's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to be reminded what happens to great powers that overextend themselves and piss off too many people.

In one more example of the Republicans' peculiar notions of "progress," in the past couple of days we've learned that the Bush Administration believes the President is not constrained by the rule of law; authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president." (Billmon has written about this beautifully here; notice the Bushies are still falling back on the Nuremberg defense.) And the Bushies have a decidedly un-progressive view of the use of torture (see Billmon here).

Any more Republican "progress" and our grandchildren will be living in caves.

Yet hope remains; please see Katrina vanden Heuvel, "Signs of Revival." Progressives, unite! We CAN take back America!


11:01 am | link

monday, june 7, 2004

Reagan's Legacy: Saddam Hussein
More stuff They don't want you to know:
Saddam Hussein was a creation of Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration supported the Hussein regime despite his incredible record of atrocity. The Reagan administration gave Hussein intelligence information which helped the Iraqi military use their chemical weapons on the battlefield against Iran to great effect. The deadly bacterial agents sent to Iraq during the Reagan administration are a laundry list of horrors.

The Reagan administration sent an emissary named Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to shake Saddam Hussein's hand and assure him that, despite public American condemnation of the use of those chemical weapons, the Reagan administration still considered him a welcome friend and ally. This happened while the Reagan administration was selling weapons to Iran, a nation notorious for its support of international terrorism, in secret and in violation of scores of laws. -- William Rivers Pitt

You might recall that before our little excursion into Iraq, one could not turn on the TV without seeing some right-wing goon screaming that "Saddam gassed his own people!" and, of course, we had to invade right away because of that.

One of the most infamous of Saddam Hussein's mass murders was the gassing of the Kurds of Fallajah, 1988, which killed approximately 5,000 people. From The Mahablog, January 2003:

The official U.S. government reaction to Halabja? At first the government downplayed the reports, which were coming from Iranian sources. Once the media had confirmed the story and pictures of the dead villagers had been shown on television, the U.S. denounced the use of gas. Marlin Fitzwater told reporters, "Everyone in the administration saw the same reports you saw last night. They were horrible, outrageous, disgusting and should serve as a reminder to all countries of why chemical warfare should be banned." But as Power observes, "The United States issued no threats or demands." The government's objection was that Saddam had used gas to kill his own citizens, not that he had killed them. Indeed, subsequently State Department officials indicated that both sides--Iraq and Iran--were responsible perhaps for the gassing of civilian Kurds. [History News Network, "He Has Gassed His Own People," July 16, 2002]

Shortly after the massacre at Halabja, Senators Claiborne Pell, Al Gore, and Jesse Helms introduced legislation to impose sanctions on Iraq for its use of chemical weapons. The Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988 unanimously passed the US Senate just one day after being introduced.

So what did the Reagan Administration do? Reagan vetoed this Act, of course. Conventional Wisdom says that he did this because in those days Iran was the Bad Guy, and anyone who was an enemy of Iran was on Our Side.

The Reagan administration, which had been providing Iraq with $700 million a year in credit guarantees, saw Hussein's Iraq both as a potential security partner in the volatile Persian Gulf and as a promising market for American products and investment.

Secretary of State George Shultz denounced Iraq's use of chemical weapons, but others in the administration seemed more concerned about the Iraqi reaction should the sanctions become law. (Senate passage of the Pell legislation produced the biggest anti-American demonstration in Baghdad in 20 years.) Working with the Republican House leadership and some House Democrats, the administration was able to water down and ultimately defeat the Prevention of Genocide Act.

While past error is no indication of future action, the Kurds have not forgotten that Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds. Dick Cheney, then a prominent Republican congressman and now vice president and the Bush administration's leading Iraq hawk, could have helped push the sanctions legislation but did not. [Peter W. Galbraith, "The Wild Card in a Post-Saddam Iraq," The Boston Globe Magazine, December 15, 2002] ...

From time to time, accounts of how the United States helped Iraq develop those chemical Weapons of Mass Destruction break to the surface. For example, in 1992 the Los Angeles Times published a must-read article by Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas:

In the fall of 1989, at a time when Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was only nine months away and Saddam Hussein was desperate for money to buy arms, President Bush signed a top-secret National Security Decision directive ordering closer ties with Baghdad and opening the way for $1 billion in new aid, according to classified documents and interviews....

Getting new aid from Washington was critical for Iraq in the waning months of 1989 and the early months of 1990 because international bankers had cut off virtually all loans to Baghdad. They were alarmed that it was falling behind in repaying its debts but continuing to pour millions of dollars into arms purchases, even though the Iran-Iraq War had ended in the summer of 1988.

In addition to clearing the way for new financial aid, senior Bush aides as late as the spring of 1990 overrode concern among other government officials and insisted that Hussein continue to be allowed to buy so-called "dual use" technology -- advanced equipment that could be used for both civilian and military purposes. The Iraqis were given continued access to such equipment, despite emerging evidence that they were working on nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction. ...
And the pressure in 1989 and 1990 to give Hussein crucial financial assistance and maintain his access to sophisticated U.S. technology were not isolated incidents.

Rather, classified documents obtained by The Times show, they reflected a long-secret pattern of personal efforts by Bush -- both as President and as vice president -- to support and placate the Iraqi dictator. Repeatedly, when serious objections to helping Hussein arose within the government, Bush and aides following his directives intervened to suppress the resistance. [
Frantz and Waas, "Bush Secret Effort Helped Iraq Build its War Machine," Los Angeles Times, February 23, 1992]

Did the Reagan White House spread disinformation on Halabja -- saying the atrocity was an act of war, possibly by Iran, not a Gassing of His Own People -- to cover up its own role in the massacre? And after Halabja, why did the Bush I Administration continue to support Saddam Hussein?

While the American rationale was that Hussein was a buffer against Iran, classified records show U.S. support for his regime continued unabated after the official cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq War was signed in August, 1988, and after Iraq's chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish villages on July 19, 1988.

In fact, in August, 1988, Deputy Secretary of State Whitehead recommended in a secret policy memo that "there should be no radical policy changes now regarding Iraq."

The pro-Iraq strategy was embraced by Bush when he became President. His Administration continued to encourage the transfer of U.S.-supplied arms to Iraq from Arab allies, according to interviews and classified documents. [Frantz and Waas, ibid.]

Of course, if you try to explain this to one of the wingnut goons who was so fired up to get Saddam Hussein, and who simultaneously worships St. Ronald of blessed memory, he'll ask you why you hate America.


8:58 pm | link

A roundup of Reagan commentaries and farewells:
Before Reagan, pandering was principally a Democratic vice. Today, it's principally a Republican vice. Ronald Reagan performed that transformation, and it remains his most enduring legacy. Timothy Noah: Ronald Reagan, Party Animal

All of a sudden, the man who redirected tens of billions of dollars away from domestic needs to build up the largest nuclear arsenel on the planet, ran up record deficits, saw members of his Administration investigated and indicted at a staggering rate and, himself, came close to being impeached for allowing aides to create a shadow government that peddled weapons to sworn enemies of the United States and used the profits to fund illegal wars in Central America was remade as a statesman who restored dignity and direction to his country.

The problem with all this hero worship is that the spin underestimates and mischaracterizes Reagan. It reduces a complex and controversial man to a blurry icon with few of the rough edges that made him one of the most remarkable political figures of his time.

That he was remarkable does not mean that he was right. Most of what Reagan did during two terms as governor of California and two terms as president can most charitably be described as "misguided." Aside from his support for abortion rights during his governorship, and his opposition to anti-gay initiatives in California during the late 1970s, Reagan displayed an amazing ability to place himself on the wrong side of the issues--and of history. John Nichols, The Nation, Reagan's Politics of Passion

Reagan had an ability to project a kindly image, and was well liked personally by virtually everyone who knew him, apparently. But it always struck me that he was a mean man. Juan Cole

I found it hard to hate Reagan - even though I detested most of what he stood for, believed and sought to do. Yes, he was as ignorant and stubborn and incapable of rational thought as our current president, but he wasn't arrogant - or at least, he didn't come across as arrogant. He lacked Bush's infuriating sense of entitlement, and his nasty temper. Reagan smiled, he didn't smirk.

With the benefit of distance and hindsight, I can also admit that not all of Reagan's economic policies were reckless and incoherent - although his fiscal policies certainly were, and eventually had to be undone at great cost. (See Stockman, David, The Triumph of Politics)

But the economic policies of the Nixon, Ford and Carter years weren't exactly models of prudence and effectiveness either. For all his flaws, Reagan inspired confidence in the business community - which, like it or not, controls the economy and creates the jobs. His deregulation policies were, by and large, a success - it that a Democratic House was there to curb his worst excesses. He allowed the Volcker Fed to do its job of breaking the inflationary spiral. Reagan's attacks on organized labor, on the other hand, were brutal, and helped set the stage for the cuthroat corporate downsizings of the '80s and early '90s, and the dramatic rise in income inequality that's seperating the haves from the have nots. He was, for all his cornball folksiness, the ultimate class warrior - or class front man, anyway.

...Reagan's foreign policies, on the other hand, still make my blood boil, even after all these years. His decision to challenge the Soviets on every front - which, given the senility and paranoia of the Breshnev-era Soviet leadership, could easily have led to war - is, of course, relentlessly promoted by the conservative propaganda machine as the masterstroke that ended the Cold War. In reality, it was the end of the Cold War (made possible by Mikhail Gorbachov's rise to power) that headed off the disaster that Reagan's recklessness might otherwise have triggered. -- Billmon

Reagan was important because he made conservatives feel good about being conservatives, and made liberals feel bad about being liberals. Both groups internalized the package that Reagan sold, and those stereotypes remain in place to this day. The Conservatives began using the rhetoric of a majority party, and the Democrats began acting like the minority party. These roles are, of course, self-fulfilling. Stirling Newberry

Reagan was never the president of the whole country. He was the president just of the people who agreed with him. If you were a Democrat, or a liberal, or if you thought that any non-defense government program had any merit whatsoever, he dismissed you as a fool and a dupe. TV blatherers can tell you about his "sunny disposition" and "optimism," and Bush the Elder can say, "He was never mean-spirited," but he was mean-spirited a lot ... George Bush the Elder said of Clinton and Gore, "My dog Millie knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos." That's Reagan's legacy. Newt Gingich called Democrats "the enemy of normal Americans." That's Reagan's legacy. The younger Bush doesn't talk like this quite so much; he just openly governs as if people who aren't churchgoing Republicans aren't Americans. That's Reaganism, too. Steve, No More Mister Nice Blog

When the video popped off, Fox came on, with news of Reagan's death. I watched for just a short time, and not even talk about Reagan's "moral" foreign policy bothered me, because a brief period of dishonesty won't kill us, and brutal honesty at this point would not be good for the soul. But at some point, in a discussion between Brit Hume and some of the usuals, Reagan was no longer the subject of his own eulogy. The topic of conversation shifted to how much he was disliked. I don't think they even said who it was who disliked him, but it was left hanging that some people did, and that they must be bad or stupid people. "They" didn't hate Reagan the way they hate Bush, but they certainly disliked him.

Some eulogy. Let's stop focusing on a man we claim to admire and fix our narrow gaze on the people who did not share our admiration and see if we can use this as an excuse to bash them. Jeanne d'Arc, Body and Soul

Reagan was always much more frightening than the sunny optimist of now-popular legend. ... Reagan's hagiographers, having their cake, eating their cake and smearing their cake all over the historical record, have a word for the occasions when this supposedly principled man violated his principles: They call them "pragmatism." But liberals have to give the man credit for his ability, unlike President Bush, to shift course when he was walking into a wall. Rick Perlstein, Salon, The Reagan Legacy


... he had an accord with the American people, who warmed to his vision of themselves as a nation of optimistic individualists, blessed by God and by destiny, a vision that predated and outlives him, but on which he left a deep imprint. That is why, though Mr Reagan was often mocked abroad, at home he has already become something of a cult, for very ideological reasons. In this as in other things, what made America feel good about itself makes others deeply alarmed. That also continues after Mr Reagan has gone. -- The Guardian: A Rose-Tinted President

Best of all:

Was Ronald Reagan the best president? No, nor was he the worst. But the important thing is that now, long after his passing, he can be idealized, transformed and transfigured by time and ideology into a symbol of everything we desire or loathe in America, so that Ronald Reagan the man is utterly erased and replaced with Ronald Reagan the Icon, a convenient projection of our most feverish motivations in animatronic Hall-of-Presidents form.

When we keep our leaders larger than life, they become larger than our ability to rationally discuss them. We apply wondrous sobriquets, classifying the giants of the Oval Office with Catholic precision, making saints and Mysteries of men. Who can question the fighting spirit of the Happy Warrior, or the resilience of the Comeback Kid? The very invocation of their names becomes a sacrament or blasphemy, and as long as we keep their memories blown wildly out of proportion, we'll never have to confront them. The Medium Lobster, Fafblog


10:53 am | link

sunday, june 6, 2004

Transit of Venus
Don't forget that this Tuesday, June 8, there will be a transit of Venus, which means that the planet Venus will pass between Earth and the Sun. You will be able to see the planet pass across the face of the Sun. Or, rather, you might see it if you are in the right part of the globe and it isn't cloudy and you have special viewing apparatus, because if you try to look at it you will burn your retinas out.
However, the last transit of Venus was 121 years ago, so if you don't want to miss it you might try to find a webcast. This may be your only chance.
Scientists are looking at this phenomenon with some interest. However, I want to know what it means, and if the astrological aspects will impact the G8 Summit.
I've been bouncing around some astrology sites to find out what to expect during a transit of Venus. Most astrologers are going on about love and romance and stuff, but I'm not buying it. Because Venus is retrograde in Gemini right now. And the Sun and Venus are trine Neptune and approaching an opposition to Pluto, and during the transit Mercury will square Uranus. I mean, whoa.
The heavens are confused, because all the planetary aspects are canceling each other out. Although we all may be feeling lots of warm fuzzies toward one another, we won't be able to communicate. And although we may feel an urge to take action, we won't know what action to take. Hell, we won't be able to decide what shoes to wear on Tuesday. It might be a good idea to take the day off and stay in bed.
Anyway, I predict that when Bush meets with world leaders this week they will be polite to him, but they won't understand a word he says. Very like what goes on when Venus is not transiting.
You read it here.

10:18 pm | link

Don't Blame the Pretzel
There is a fascinating article by James Fallows in the July issue of The Atlantic (Not yet online, unfortunately, so I can't link to it. The Atlantic web site still has the June issue up.)
Fallows writes about the debating styles of George Bush and John Kerry, and to research this article Fallows watched hours of tapes of their old debates. The tape of Bush's debate with Ann Richards in 1994 was of particular interest:
The Bush on this tape was almost unrecognizable--and not just because he looked different from the figure we are accustomed to in the White House. He was younger, thinner, with much darker hair and a more eager yet less swaggering carriage than he has now. But the real difference was the way he sounded.
This Bush was eloquent. He spoke quickly and easily. He rattled off complicated sentences and brought them to the right grammatical conclusions. He mishandled a word or two ("million" when he clearly meant "billion"; "stole" when he meant "sold"), but fewer than most people would in an hour's debate. More striking, he did not pause before forcing out big words, as he so often does now, or invent mangled new ones. "To lay out my juvenile justice plan in a minute and a half is a hard task, but I will try to do so," he said fluidly and with a smile midway through the debate, before beginning to list his principles.
Naturally, the question is -- what the hell happened to him?
Fallows does not directly address this question. In the article, George Lakoff offered the opinion that the change to the inarticulate buffoon Bush is now was intentional -- Bush is channeling John Wayne to appeal to NASCAR dads. But I don't recall John Wayne ever coming across as an inarticulate buffoon.
Other excuses: Bush puts much less time into preparation now than he did then. (He put less effort into preparing for the 2000 presidential debates than he put into a debate with Ann Richards? He put less effort into his make-or-break interview with Tim Russert than he put into a debate with Ann Richards?)
Boyden Gray offered the excuse that the President had gotten out of practice being interviewed during the Democratic primaries. Um, nobody gets that "out of practice" in just a few weeks.
Even if the "preparation and practice" theory were true, it says something about Bush that he doesn't put the effort into preparation than he did earlier in his career. But I don't buy the theory.
Ten years ago Bush's debating style was genuinely impressive. Fallows goes on about it at some length, arguing that Bush was not just competent, but extraordinarily skilled in his debate presentation in 1994. Fallows also spoke with people who knew Bush in his early days as governor and who called him "fluent and knowledgable."
Considering his recent performances, such as the Tim Russert interview and the April televised "press conference" on Iraq, IMO the man must have suffered some kind of physiological deterioration in the past ten years. If the problem were just that he doesn't seem quite as sharp as he used to be, I could understand -- he's under more pressure now, and one could speculate that he doesn't feel as sure of himself.
But the change is too extreme to explain away. In fact, judging by the above-mentioned recent televised performances, he's gone downhill quite a bit since 2000.
Alcoholism or drug use would explain the deterioration. If it's not that, Bush must have some kind of debilitating disease, either psychological or physiological. Expect to see more evidence of this as the presidential campaign heats up.
Leftover hot links from yesterday:

7:31 am | link

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·

It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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