Not Over ‘Til It’s Over

It seems to me that much ommentary on President Bush has already taken on a retrospective tone, as if his Administration were already over. It is over, in the sense that most Americans have had it with the Bushies. Eugene Robinson writes,

It’s official: Bush Derangement Syndrome is now a full-blown epidemic. George W. Bush apparently has reduced more of his fellow citizens to frustrated, sputtering rage than any president since opinion polling began, with the possible exception of Richard Nixon. …

… A Gallup Poll released this week showed that 64 percent of Americans disapprove of how the Decider is doing his job. That sounds bad enough — nearly two-thirds of the country thinks its leader is incompetent. But when you look more closely at the numbers, you see that Bush’s abysmal report card — only 31 percent of respondents approve of the job he’s doing — actually overstates our regard for his performance.

According to Gallup, if you lump together the Americans who “strongly” approve of Bush as president with those who only “moderately” feel one way or the other about him, you end up with about half the population. That leaves a full 50 percent who “strongly disapprove” of Bush — as high a level of intense repudiation as Gallup has ever recorded in its decades of polling.

Gallup has been asking the “strongly disapprove” question since the Lyndon Johnson administration. The only time the polling firm has measured such strong give-this-guy-the-hook sentiment was in February 1974, at the height of the Watergate scandal, when Nixon’s “strongly disapprove” number was measured at 48 percent. Bush beats him by a nose, but the margin of error makes the contest for “Most Reviled President, Modern Era” a statistical tie.

The shrinking Republican base still supports Bush, but Independents have joined the Dems in the Anti-Bush League.

Bush didn’t come by this distinction with help from family connections or the Supreme Court. No, he earned it.

And, you know, being President is just about the only thing the sociopathic little bleep ever did in his life without help from family connections.

What’s hard to fathom is how we’ll make it through the next 14 1/2 months.

Maybe that’s why retrospectives feel so soothing.

Sidney Blumenthal describes the Bush Administration as something like a smoking ruin:

Every aspect of George Bush’s foreign policy has now collapsed. Every dream of neoconservatism has become a nightmare. Every doctrine has turned to dust. The influence of the United States has reached a nadir, its lowest point since before the second world war, when the country was encased in isolationism.

Don’t hold back, Sidney. Tell us what you really think.

Gone are the days when the stern words of a senior US official prevented rash action by an errant foreign leader and when the power of the US served as a restraining force and promoted peaceful resolution of conflict. In the vacuum of the Bush catastrophe, nation-states pursue what they perceive to be their own interests as global conflicts proliferate. The backlash of preemptive war in Iraq gathers momentum in undermining US power and prestige.

The resignation last week of Bush’s close advisor, Karen Hughes, as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, whose mission was to restore the US image in the world, signaled not only failure but also exhaustion. The administration’s ventriloquism act of casting words into the mouth of the president’s nominee for attorney general, former federal judge Michael Mukasey, who would not declare waterboarding torture, demonstrated that Bush is less concerned with the crumbling of America’s reputation and moral authority than with preventing an attorney general from prosecuting members of his administration, including possibly him, for war crimes under US law.

The neoconservative project is crashing. The “unipolar moment,” the post-Cold War unilateralist utopia imagined by neocon pundit Charles Krauthammer; “hegemony,” the ultimate goal projected by the September 2000 manifesto of the Project for the New American Century; an “empire” over lands that “today cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets,” fantasized by neocon Max Boot in the Weekly Standard a month after September 11, have instead produced unintended consequences of chaos and decline….

…The Bush administration finds itself devoid of options. Neoconservatives are left, happily at least for some of them, to defend torture. They have no explanations for the implosion of Bush’s policies or suggestions for remedy. Self-examination is too painful and in any case unfamiliar. Bush regrets Musharraf’s martial law, yet tacitly accepts that the US has no alternative but to support him in the war on terror that he is not fighting – and is using for his own political purposes.

On the rubble of neoconservatism, the Bush administration has adopted “realism” by default, though not even as a gloss on its emptiness. Bush still clings to his high-flown rhetoric as if he’s warming up for his second inaugural address. But this is not rock-bottom. There is further to fall.

Um, that last bit wasn’t so soothing.

Be sure to read Craig Unger’s piece on “How Cheney took control of Bush’s foreign policy” at Salon. Colin Powell was already being shoved out of the loop by Cheney and Rumsfeld before Bush was inaugurated. Unger also writes that Paul Wolfowitz probably would have become Director of the CIA were it not for his affair with Shaha Riza, a.k.a. the “neoconcubine.” Somehow Mrs. Wolfowitz found a way to take her marital grievances to the White House.

See also “The Battle of the Bushes” and “How George Bush Really Found Jesus,” which are taken from Unger’s new book The Fall of the House of Bush.

A Cadillac Queen By Any Other Name

Today the Keyboarding Vegetable makes excuses for Ronald Reagan:

The distortion concerns a speech Ronald Reagan gave during the 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Miss., which is where three civil rights workers had been murdered 16 years earlier. An increasing number of left-wing commentators assert that Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign with a states’ rights speech in Philadelphia to send a signal to white racists that he was on their side. The speech is taken as proof that the Republican majority was built on racism.

The truth is more complicated.

Of course it is. For example, one little tidbit that Brooks left out is that this same Philadelphia, Mississippi, was already infamous as a place where three civil rights activists were murdered.

I’ve already explained here that “states’ rights” was universally recognized as code for “white supremacy” back in those days. If Reagan didn’t understand what message he was sending, then he was an idiot. You know how upset righties get when you say Reagan was an idiot. And, truly, he was a genius compared to George Bush.

And the moral is: Context is everything.

Instaputz and Bark Bark Woof Woof nicely take down Brooks in more detail. I just want to add one more point to what they’ve written.

I realize it is possible nowadays to favor stronger state sovereignty on principle without being a racist. But Jim Crow and states rights’ were so tightly woven together back in the day that a politician who didn’t want to send winks and nudges to white racists would never have used the phrase “states rights.” I might understand how someone (especially someone not old enough to appreciate the, um, nuances of the times) might be persuaded to think that the Philadelphia speech was just a misstep. But as Paul Krugman wrote of another apologist,

Bruce Bartlett’s attempt to explain away Reagan’s Philadelphia speech as an innocent misunderstanding would be more plausible if it were out of character for Reagan’s career. But tacit appeals to racial politics — often taking the form of tall stories about welfare cheats, culminating in the Cadillac-driving welfare queen — were, in fact, a staple of Reagan’s political career.

Two issues were critical to the Reagan landslide in 1980. One was Iran, and the other was the Cadillac Queen. Iran probably got more media coverage, but IMO it was Reagan’s stories about the Cadillac Queen that won the deal. During the 1980 campaign I can’t tell you how many times I overheard whites say “I’m voting for Reagan because he’s going to kick the n—— off welfare.”

So don’t bother arguing with me that Reagan didn’t run on an appeal to racism. I watched him do exactly that.

The Devil You Know

I find rightie reactions to Bernie Kerik’s indictment wondrously entertaining. Shorter versions:

Everybody knows politics in the New York and New Jersey are corrupt. Unlike, of course, politics everywhere else.

Whatever Giuliani did wrong, Democrats did it first.

Nobody’s perfect.

Damn liberal media. “[T]he only reason that Bernie Kerik’s being pilloried (Hillary’ed?) now is because he is associated with the Republican frontrunner.” Yeah, the fact that someone with known ties to the mob nearly became head of the Department of Homeland Security shouldn’t bother anyone.

And, above all — Hillary Clinton is the spawn of the devil. Their hysterical obsession with Senator Clinton deserves its own entry in the DSM.

This blogger writes,

And you know, between the timing , and the force with which the news media seems to be applying in covering this little affair, something does seem rather obvious — the only reason that Bernie Kerik’s being pilloried (Hillary’ed?) now is because he is associated with the Republican frontrunner — and the Democrat front runner is Hillary Clinton — someone who decidedly needs her own scandalous past to be mitigated by scandals amongst her opponents.

Given the scandals and Hillary Clinton’s past, even her recent past, doesn’t it stretch credibility beyond the breaking point that this indictment against Kerik comes down just now, while Hillary Clinton’s scandal filled past gets ignored? the timing, in particular, would seem questionable.

The long arm of the Clintons.

I would like to explain how “news” works. The reason the Kerik indictment is in the news is that it happened yesterday. Scandals associated with the Clintons are not on the front pages at the moment because there are no new developments. See, that’s why they call it “news.”

Jammie Wearing Fool even brings up Jim McDougal, who’s been dead for nearly a decade. JWF also mentions indicted fundraiser Norman Hsu, who has “recently been in the news.” Yes, dude, he was recently in the news. A lot. This rather refutes claims of media bias, I would think. But if righties had their way, the nation’s newspapers would still be running photos of Monica Lewinsky on the front page of every edition.

Knee slapper of the week: “[Rudy] wants to win without seeming to be an unprincipled opportunist who changes his positions wherever convenient.” Yeah, he’s doing a heck of a job with that.

Now Giuliani says he “erred” in appointing Kerik police commissioner. Should’ve checked him out better, Giuliani says. But Giuliani was briefed on at least some of those ties before the appointment.

Down With Tyranny writes,

Driving home last night I heard Giuliani claiming it didn’t matter if Kerik bent a few rules because crime was down 60% in NY while he was police commissioner. That’s as big a lie as all the other lies that comes pouring out of Giuliani’s face. Crime in NY was down 8%, not bad– but not close to 60%. And as far as a few rules being broken… Giuliani’s administration was riddled with Mafia connections and Kerik was the go-between.

This is the sort of thing that people actually need to know about a guy running for president.

As far as Senator Clinton is concerned, if there are any bombshells that haven’t already been exploded I sincerely hope they are discovered and detonated before the nomination is settled. I don’t expect absolute purity in any candidate. But I feel media and Dem party insiders are hustling to give away the nomination to Senator Clinton before actual voters have focused on the presidential race and noticed there are other candidates. So, righties and media, if she can be brought down, please bring her down now. You’d be doing us all a favor. And if new information about unsavory associates and Senator Clinton comes to light, by all means put it in the news.

But regarding the stuff Ken Starr couldn’t get an indictment on — my dears, it’s over. That horse is so dead there’s not enough of a carcass left to beat.

Update: See Steve Benen

Giuliani has a pattern of cozying up to suspected criminals, and giving them jobs. Accidentally promoting one felon is one thing, repeatedly associating with unsavory characters, including a suspected child molester, starts to reflect poorly on one’s judgment.

I’m sure righties will counter with, yeah, the Clintons have a pattern, too. But righties have long undercut their own cause by ceaselessly promoting every absurd rumor they could find into a national scandal. After a while, to the general public it’s all just white noise. If those with Clinton Derangement Syndrome could learn to discriminate between the credible and the incredible their accusations might have more of an impact. But I’m not holding my breath.