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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Saturday, 28 August 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

News Cycles: Friday Afternoon Follies

Why does the interesting news break late Friday afternoon after the press put their Saturday newspapers to bed and the nightly newscasts were over, and the weekend television programming turns to sports? Sometimes if you have bad news you hold release of it for the least possible exposure. Maybe no one will notice. Then too, sometimes life just doesn't follow the news cycle.

Bush and the Texas Air National Guard

Is Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the person who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard? Late Friday a video clip [Windows Media] started going around, and the wire services started picking it up.

If you have a slow connection or cannot stream the video, Barnes says this -
Let's talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush and I know them both. And I'm not namedropping to say I know `em both. I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard and I'm very sorry about that and I'm very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.
Oh man, this is trouble

Jeff Horwitz adds this -
Barnes then condemned the Republican attacks on John Kerry's war service: "And I tell you that for the Republicans to jump on John Kerry and say that he is not a patriot after he went to Vietnam and was shot at and fought for our freedom and came back here and protested against the war, he's a flip-flopper, let me tell you: John Kerry is a 100 times better patriot than George Bush or Dick Cheney."

The video of Barnes was filmed by Todd Phelan and Mike Nicholson, organizers of a political group called Austin4Kerry. Phelan is currently an organizer for the Travis County Democrats. The video first appeared on the Austin4Kerry Web site on June 25, but was widely overlooked until Friday. The video also includes a separate interview conducted by the same two filmmakers in which Barnes speaks with admiration about Kerry's valor.

Phelan and Nicholson recall they were surprised by the candor of Barnes' remarks while they were filming him at the rally. "To be honest with you, my eyes lit up instantaneously," Phelan told Salon. "I looked at Mike, he looked at me, and it was like 'Did he just say that?'"
Yep, he did.

But is he lying? Did he help a rich white kid take the coward's way out of fighting in a war the kid said he totally supported? We shall see if this is so.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, wants the facts.
I'd like to hear him give some details as to how he did that. Who approached him? Is there evidence that George W Bush was aware it was happening? Was his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, demonstrably aware? What strings did Barnes have to pull?
Yep, Rick has the instincts of a newsman. This is just one guy saying he did this, and a lifelong Democrat at that. He is not happy with the younger Bush, but is he making this all up?

Did the younger Bush receive special favors? As noted here by James C. Moore, the fellow who wrote "Bush's Brain" - the recent book about Karl Rove - the answer from Bush is no, and Moore provides a direct quote from Bush: "I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

If Barnes is telling the truth? Bush can always say he had no idea Barnes did anything. Bush will say he didn't ask for any favors, nor did his father. Barnes must have been freelancing or something.

If Barnes is lying? Well then Bush looks good. Some guys are just lucky, as I'm sure you understand.


More interesting is the Friday late-breaking news that someone high up in Douglas Feith's office at the Pentagon has been feeding Israel top-secret planning documents and got caught. CBS broke the story late in the afternoon, Pacific Time.

The most detailed version of this mess is here, from an investigative reporter who has been working this story for many months and was going to publish soon - but got blindsided.

Of course this Isreali-mole-in-the-Pentagon expos? confirms everything the Muslim world knows, or think they know. This won't play well in all the capitals from Amman to Cairo to Islamabad. We are, it seems, really the Likud Party West and Israel is the fifty-first state. More fodder of the evil-doers who hate us. The only word is, for now, a "high level official" turns out to be a spy for Israel, and Sharon has had all our planning documents and details of our military array for some time. The word going around this is an employee at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, one Larry Franklin, reporting up through Douglas Feith to Rumsfeld. My money would have on Richard Perle, the former head advisor to Rumsfeld. Perle ran the Jerusalem Post for Conrad Black, and Perle was the chief advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu way back when. Oh well. The story will play out early next week, and it may have to do with how the US and Israel plan to deal with Iran and its nuclear threat - bomb them, or invade and occupy the place, or fund a coup? Whatever.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -
I do hope we nail and jail whoever is responsible. (Remember Jonathan Pollard? Is my recollection correct that Clinton would not pardon him during the mid east talks, nor would he as he left office?)

If Bush takes this lightly, which may help him in Israel and certain segments of the American Jewish community, it will definitely further hurt America's image around the world - which, of course, this crowd has heretofore not given a flying fart.
And as I said to Ric, yes, Pollard is still in jail. Clinton wouldn't let him out. And Israel is still protesting his sentence. And by the way, all polling I've seen shows Bush is not getting any more of the Jewish vote than he ever got - which is not much. Kissing Sharon's ass these last three years hasn't moved the figures at all. It must be frustrating.

As for America's image around the world, these guys prove they're tough by ticking off the number of former allies who are appalled and scornful of what we now do or say - their objections are a badge of honor.

This just gets more interesting all the time.

Posted by Alan at 12:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 27 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Trends: The Coming Bush Victory

Late in the week my friend Phillip in Atlanta asked me if I still believed Bush would win the election in November.

Will Bush win? Given this week's polls - I'm still pretty sure. Close, but trending to Bush - and I'll plug in some figures in Excel and do a regression analysis later (something I learned as a professional geek years ago - how to do double regression trend lines). Of course, the electoral vote is another matter. Rick Brown is on that one (see his column It's the Electoral College, Stupid! from earlier in the week).

You can always find the latest polling data at The Daily Kos, as Markos Moulitsas Z?niga (Kos) tracks it all -
CNN/Gallup Likely Voters - 8/25 (Prev: 8/1)
Bush 48% (51)
Kerry 46% (45)
Nader 3% (2)

FOX News
Likely Voters - 8/25 (Previous: 8/4)
Bush 43% (43)
Kerry 44% (47)
Nader 3% (2)

Registered Voters - 8/25 (Prev: 8/18)
Bush 44% (41)
Kerry 47% (48)
Nader 2% (2)

LA Times
Registered Voters - 8/24 (Prev: 7/21)
Bush 47% (44)
Kerry 44% (46)
Nader 3% (3)

Registered Voters - 8/23 (Prev: 8/5)
Bush 43% (42)
Kerry 43% (45)
Nader 5% (5)
Other factors? There's a new Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad due out soon. CNN has shifted its wording - and its folks all now say, as they introduce one more item on it all, that the facts are in dispute (Kerry may not have saved Rasmussen's life - we don't know - so he may be dead? But? Should we tell they guy?) Just being fair - the Swifties say this, all the Navy records and other facts of time and place say something else, so to be fair, all is in dispute (CNN can't take sides). [See footnote.]

Also the Republican Convention in New York City will give Bush a boost next week.

Beyond the Polls - The Economy

The economic numbers this week were bad for Bush - poverty is and issue - "The number of people living in poverty rose by 1.3 million to 35.9 million people, or 12.5 percent of the population, up from 12.1 percent in 2002." And this - "The poverty rate has risen from a recent low of 11.3 percent in 2000, meaning an additional 4.3 million people are living in poverty as defined by the government." Ands there is the issue of healthcare - "The number of people with health insurance increased by 1.0 million to 243.3 million between 2002 and 2003, and the number without such coverage rose by 1.4 million to 45.0 million. The percentage of the nation's population without coverage grew from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 15.6 percent in 2003."

But most folks would rather be jobless and starve as long as Lars and Spanky don't marry each other. Social issues regarding queers and perverts, so to speak, carry weight. And there is the idea Bush was chosen by God, so you know what to do.

And finally, after all, Bush may be dangerous, but Kerry is just dull, and he flip-flops, and he speaks French when no one is looking.

And folks get off when Bush smirks. They find it funny that he says "Fuck You" to the world - and it makes them proud. That's what everyone secretly wants to say to the world, about everything.

Thus he wins.


Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has a question about these economic figures - "If 12.5 percent of Americans are impoverished; while 15.6 percent are without health insurance, doesn't this indicate that about 3.0 percent of the non-impoverished are maintaining their status by not having health insurance?"

Yes. That is exactly what happens. The three percent difference represents people whose employers no longer offer and health benefits at all - a growing number of firms large and small, as those who run businesses are supposed to show profits and growth to shareholders and health benefits are a drag on the bottom line. That's illegal in California, where if you have two hundred or more employees you must provide the benefits. No choice. But laws vary state to state. With the glut of folks on the market who need work, the desperate-but-qualified, no longer offering benefits just does not hamper a firm's ability to hire or retain good people. Folks would rather work without benefits than not work at all.

Employers too have shifted the cost of the benefits more and more to the employees - you must now chip in some of your own money if benefits are offered. We had a four-month grocery workers strike out here on that issue - and the union caved. Most everywhere the percent you as a worker must chip in will rise, next year, by an average of over nine percent more.

Wal-Mart has a benefits plan where they only cover "catastrophic" expenses - all else is your problem. Our emergency rooms here are thus not only flooded by the uninsured, and illegal immigrants, but also by fulltime employed Wal-Mart workers with broken bones and such. Three Los Angeles emergency rooms have shut down this year so far because they just cannot sustain the losses involved - no one can pay for the services and they are required by law to treat anyone who walks in the door. Catholic Healthcare West's Sherman Way room shut down last week - in Northridge, out in the San Fernando Valley. (I thinking they're closing the whole hospital, actually. I used to work for CHW and know their General Ledger and Accounts Payable systems well - that was my job for three years, managing those systems.) The remaining six emergency rooms in Los Angeles county are now even more flooded and making sounds like they too might shut down. The city and the county, and the state, don't have the money to do much about this. Our governor, Arnold, the charismatic Austrian fellow who speaks German and talks tough, has just arranged to float twenty-two billion in bonds to keep us solvent for a bit longer on borrowed money. There is nothing available for this. The Feds say it's not their problem.

Too, many of those employed, as Ric guessed, with bills and debts, opt to waive whatever heath coverage is offered - a growing number of young workers who feel healthy, and economically squeezed. It's a choice. You're young. You take your chances.

But we're free, and don't have to suffer under socialized medicine like in France, Canada or Sweden, or the UK. We are willing to pay the cost of freedom from the evil Marxist ideas of the old Soviet Union and those godless communists. Think of the state motto of New Hampshire - "Live Free or Die." Change the "or" to "and" and you get the idea.

Bush can campaign effectively on the evils of socialized medicine. That always works. As for the poverty figures? We have turned the corner? Harder to sell, but folks may buy it.

Steph, my friend in London, Ontario, says things in Canada are not that good there really -
Healthcare in Canada? If you were still here in Ontario, Alan, this year you would have to shell out $750 for a new Health Care tax above and beyond what already goes to health care from your income taxes.

Add to that an average auto insurance increase of 30-40% (yup, just this year compared to last) here in Ontario, and the city of London's 10.5% increase in property taxes and 7% on water taxes. Oddly enough I don't know anyone getting anywhere near the raise needed to keep up with all this.
I guess things are tough all over.

And Ric in Paris shot this back -
All that is a piffle. In France some companies are saying to workers that if they don't start working 40 hours a week for 35 hours' pay, they'll move the factory to Poland. Bosch did that two weeks ago. Their French help is now working longer - until Bosch decides to move the factory to Poland in two years anyway.

Other companies have not bothered with this 'politesse.' They call in the CRS riot police and moving vans, strip the factory and truck it to Poland - leaving the workers behind to carry on with their 35-hour work week in an empty shell. Shown on TV-news tonight. If it keeps up France should be totally delocalized within six months. The natives will be in an ugly mood; tourists need to be warned!

In situations like this it hardly matters how high taxes are getting. And in Canada's particular case we should remember that those huge percentage increases are based on piddly Canadian dollars, probably worth no more than a handful of alloy pesos. Heaven help us all if taxes had to be paid in petro-euros!
Ah, tough times everywhere. And is a reference, one US dollar is worth 0.85586 euros, and one Canadian dollar is worth 1.68789 USD - right now. You do the math.

Gee, Bush could run on the economy-is-fine idea. We don't have toy currency like Canada, and businesses are bailing out of France. So we must be doing just fine.

Still, I think Bush will probably run on the social issues, and character, as he calls it.

He will win.


The Press

Footnote on CNN:

On the function of the press there was this satiric exchange on Jon Stewart's Daily Show this week (it's a comic faux news show)
STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?

CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.

CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.

STEWART: But that should be -- isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?

CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my *opinion*? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' -- might wanna look it up some day.

STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?

CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well -- sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.

STEWART: So, basically, you're saying that this back-and-forth is never going to end.

CORDDRY: No, Jon -- in fact a new group has emerged, this one composed of former Bush colleagues, challenging the president's activities during the Vietnam era. That group: Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability. They've apparently got some things to say about a certain Halloween party in '71 that involved trashcan punch and a sodomized pi?ata. Jon -- they just want to set the record straight. That's all they're out for.

STEWART: Well, thank you Rob, good luck out there. We'll be right back.
Well, Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, who used to work for CNN and was actually in at the start of it, takes exception -
Naw, that phony journalist guy's confusing "objectivity" (which is when you try to get at the truth) with "fair and balanced" (which is when you try to give every bozo with a sizeable constituency a few moments control of the microphone).

The real problem with "fair and balanced," of course, is that liars have an advantage.

For example, you might find some group of right-wing veterans willing to fudge their recollections in defense of the "good cause," but there would be no such group as "Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability," because if they really were what they say they are, they'd all be voting for Bush and would just keep their mouths shut.

But if they weren't what they say they are? Then that would be lying, and once again, liars tend to voting for Bush, so once again, they would just keep their mouths shut!
Yep, but Rick's CNN, where his wife still works as one of the VP's, is in fact giving every bozo with a sizeable constituency a few moments control of the microphone.

Josh Marshall caught these:

Daryn Kagan from Tuesday morning...

KAGAN: And so here comes a new ad by the Swift Boat Veterans and they're not just attacking the medals that John Kerry might have won but they are attacking what he did after he came back from the war. Is that going to be effective?

Miles O'Brien the next day...

O'BRIEN: All right, we are listening to Max Cleland, former senator from Georgia and former Lieutenant Jim Rassmann, a former Green Beret whose life was saved by John Kerry in the Mekong Delta in 1969. Although, that is a point of dispute, given what has all transpired here with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Okay. A group of people say the moon is made of green cheese and the earth is flat, and you report it. You report others say it's not. You report that too. Fair is fair.

Bull. If you know something is just not so, don't you report that?

It's not just CNN, it's the Washington Post and many others -
Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said he believes the Swift Boat Veterans coverage had been fair and properly scrutinizing. "We have printed the facts and some of those facts have undermined Kerry's opponents," he said. "We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the (Swift Boat) Veterans, we just print the facts."

He defended a lengthy Post story that ran Sunday which appeared to give equal credibility to both Kerry's version of the events in Vietnam (which is supported by his crewmates and largely backed up by a paper trail) and the Swift Boat Veterans, despite the fact that previous stories in the Post and the New York Times had debunked many of the group's accounts.
That is from a discussion of this all in Editor and Publisher you will find here.

Advantage Bush. Anything you say, even blatant lies, will be reported extensively, and given equal time. So if you are willing to lie through your teeth, the press will advance the story.

They just report, and report anything at all. It's not their business to sort out the truth. And that's another reason Bush will win.

Bush has called for an end to all these "issue ads" of course. From New York Times: President Bush said on Thursday that he did not believe Senator John Kerry lied about his war record, but he declined to condemn the television commercial paid for by a veterans group alleging that Mr. Kerry came by his war medals dishonestly. (Full story here.)

That's cute. Let the lies stay out there. The press will help out. And they will dutifully report you say you don't personally think the guy is a lair. But some do. And you think all such ads should stop, but won't say the one ad you clearly imply is full of lies, well, you have no comment. Cute.

The economy may be shaky, at best, and the war has turned out to be quite a mess, but the press is toothless and, if his friends spread enough poison, this is over now. Bush wins.

Posted by Alan at 21:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 27 August 2004 21:54 PDT home

Thursday, 26 August 2004

Topic: Bush

Follow-Up: The Meme Gathers Momentum

Last weekend, in Fitness for Command: No one wants to mention the elephant in the room, but things change, you will find a discussion of a new meme, or maybe an old meme returning.

Yes, in the last presidential election campaign, four years ago now, we were told that George Bush might have had little experience up to that point, and not much curiosity about anything, and he didn't know about a lot of places and people and things, and that, in fact, he might not be terribly smart - but that didn't matter. Intelligence didn't matter. Character mattered. You could look up all the shallow and stupid things Bush said - and see what he knew nothing about - and then find all the conservatives defending him. Bush would restore honor and dignity to the White House, they said, and his smart advisors, with their decades of experience in previous administrations, would keep him from stumbling.

We were sold his upright character, and a backup infield of great talent. And we bought it. Gore was too smart by half - but you couldn't trust Gore. Gore was liar who had been second in command to an even bigger liar. Honesty, directness, simplicity - in short, character - matter more than how smart you were, or how clever. We didn't need that.

And that was followed by a discussion of this.

The Brains Thing
Three years of watching Bush makes the point: Intelligence matters more than "character."
Matthew Yglesias. The American Prospect - Issue Date: 09.01.04

And now we get this.

It's the IQ, stupid
His supposed intellectual failings are the butt of countless jokes, but so far the question of George Bush's brainpower hasn't hampered his electoral prospects. Why not? In the latest of his dispatches for G2, former New York Times editor Howell Raines asks how important intelligence really is in an American president
The Guardian (UK), Friday August 27, 2004

Of course Howell Raines was the follow who had been Editor-in-Chief at the New York Times and resigned over the Jayson Blair scandal and all that faked reporting. Or he resigned because it seemed everyone who worked at the Times just hated him and his management style, and his favorite, Blair, filing false stories and getting them printed without question, provided a rather convenient lever to dump Raines. Whatever.

Here in the British press (maybe the Times won't print him) he drops in an essay that carries the Bush-is-unfit-for-command-because-he's-dumb-as-a-post meme a bit further. [Note this item was simultaneously printed in the Washington Post, Friday, August 27, 2004; Page A21.]

Raines covers much of the same ground Yglesias covers - the same quotes and facts - but adds a comment about this business with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (emphases in bold are mine and the British spelling isn't) -
Happily for the White House, this contrived debate over Kerry's war record diverts voters from a truly important national-security question related to the intellectual capability of the incumbent. Was George W dumb enough to be talked into adopting a flawed strategy for a phoney war by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney? The facts and authorship of these blunders are beyond dispute. Cheney and neo-conservative theorists wanted to make war on Iraq, not al-Qaida. Rumsfeld wanted to do it with a much smaller force than the military needed. What we don't know is why Bush went along.

Bush's former press secretary, Karen Hughes, in her awkwardly named book Ten Minutes from Normal, assures us that what "Bush does best of all" is "ask questions that bore to the heart of the matter". She says that during the 2000 campaign, she and a "brilliant" issues staff "never once succeeded" in anticipating all of Bush's penetrating questions. "He has a laserlike ability," Hughes writes, "to reduce an issue to its core."
And that's the meme in its new mutation. We went to war because Bush was too dumb to think it through. People may want to believe people like Karen Hughes must be right, but it's getting to be harder and harder to believe this laser vision crap.

Raines too finds an old source - Richard Brookhiser -
The millions of us who did not witness this and other potentially laserlike interactions must rely on speculation as to how Bush's mind works. The most informative writing I've seen on that score was an essay published over a year ago in the Atlantic Monthly by Richard Brookhiser, the historian and conservative columnist sympathetic to Bush. "Bush has intelligence, energy and humility," he writes, "but does he have imagination?"

Brookhiser goes on to worry that Bush's limited information "habitat" could cut him off from the ideas necessary to feed presidential creativity in activities like running a major war. ("Habitat" is a wonderfully chosen word in that it invokes the territoriality of White House advisers in general. Can we imagine Rumsfeld, the alpha-male advocate of hi-tech warfare, inviting the commander of an armoured division into the cabinet room to tell the president why it's stupid not to take more tanks to Iraq?)

Brookhiser goes on to speak of Bush's reliance on "instinct" and the fact that Bush's religious "faith means that he does not tolerate, or even recognise, ambiguity".
That's sympathetic?

Raines too thinks back to the Reagan campaigns and what the cartoonist Garry Trudeau called "the search for Reagan's brain." I remember that.

And Raines adds more.
Trudeau's meaning, of course, was that Reagan didn't have one, but these days the phrase is to me more evocative of the journalistic gropings of the White House press corps to explain what, if anything, was going on inside that big, smiling, glossy-haired head. In a filing cabinet I had not opened in over 20 years, I found my own attempt - a 6,000-word draft of "reflections" on "Reagan's mind". I had never turned the piece in to my editors at the New York Times because I felt I had not solved the mystery as to the quality of Reagan's intellect.

I was not the first, nor will I be the last writer to break his pick on that stone. But in reviewing what I wrote in 1982 after two years of close observation of Reagan on the campaign trail and in the White House, I saw a couple of points that seemed worth revisiting as Reagan's self-appointed heir seeks a second term. I characterised Reagan as a "political primitive" who valued "beliefs over knowledge" based on verifiable facts. The White House spin was that this was a positive in that it represented "rawbone American thinking". I also noted that Reagan had a "high tolerance for ambiguity" as to the outcome of policies that proceeded from such rough-hewn thought.
But Bush is no Reagan. And that bothers Raines, as he argues Bush is quite different in that Bush doesn't recognize, as Raines puts it, the mere existence of ambiguity. He says what we get in George Bush is a shadowy version of Reagan's strengths and an exaggerated version of his intellectual weaknesses.

And then we get an insider story - and you have to love those -
In 1982, at the height of my journalistic desire to explain Reagan's brain, I went to see David Gergen, then a presidential assistant in charge of communications. His was not an easy job, since it included such tasks as explaining Reagan's decision to throw thousands of the most disabled Americans off social security assistance. We're not talking "welfare queens" here. We're talking blind people in wheelchairs.

I told Gergen I wanted to write a piece for the sophisticated reader about exactly how Reagan's mind worked. With a twinkle in his eye, Gergen said, "It will be a long, long time before we can have that conversation."

It hardly seems worth the trouble now. Reagan is in the pantheon, and the American nation and its allies and adversaries escaped mutual assured destruction. Now the US is at war in Iraq in a conflict that could yet metastasise into regional strife or global terrorism. We'll never know how much Reagan thought and how much he gambled in regard to security and economics. My guess is the answer would be pretty scary. So for the 150,000 US troops in Iraq, for the 99% of taxpayers who will not get a five-figure windfall, for the millions of urbanites unsettled by talk of suitcase nukes, it's still worth asking how Bush's mind really works.
How it works? Try if it works.

By the way, in the opening of Raines' piece he refers to this - the official icon of the reborn meme. And this has been on the web distributed so widely and for so long it is probably in public domain now. It's not mine. (Someone will sue me?)

Posted by Alan at 21:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 August 2004 22:05 PDT home

Topic: World View

UK Notes: Blair Does Not Have the Political Skills of Bush (or maybe he does)

Just a note -

MPs plan to impeach Blair over Iraq war record
David Hencke, Westminster correspondent, The Guardian (UK), Thursday August 26, 2004

It seems some Members of Parliament are getting frisky -
MPs are planning to impeach Tony Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanours" in taking Britain to war against Iraq, reviving an ancient practice last used against Lord Palmerston more than 150 years ago.

Eleven MPs led by Adam Price, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, are to table a motion when parliament returns that will force the prime minister to appear before the Commons to defend his record in the run-up to the war.

... The MPs' decision follows the commissioning of a 100-page report which lays out the case for impeaching Mr Blair and the precedents for action, including arguments laid down in Erskine May, the parliamentary bible, on impeachments dating back to medieval times.

... Under the ancient right, which has never been repealed, it takes only one MP to move a motion and the Speaker has to grant a debate on the impeachment. This means, at the least, Mr Blair will have to face a fresh debate on his personal handling of the war and there will have to be a vote in parliament on whether to institute impeachment proceedings.

In effect, impeachments were discontinued after Lord Palmerston, accused of concluding a secret treaty with Russia, survived an impeachment debate in 1848. The proceedings were replaced with a convention on ministerial responsibility, with ministers being forced to resign if they misled parliament. The last two cases involved the Home Office minister Beverley Hughes, over immigration clearances in Romania and Bulgaria, and Peter Mandelson over the Hinduja passports affair.

Mr Price said he believed the case was compelling. "To dust off Victorian constitutional histories and examine precedents from the time of Charles I and Chaucer may seem bizarre. But the conduct of the prime minister has left people and parliament with no alternative if we are to preserve the very basis of democracy."
Cool. It takes only one member of parliament to get the ball rolling on this? How quaint. On this side of the pond we need a House committee hearing to see if the issue should even be raised - the House has to form a committee that itself then has to vote to then ask the full House of Representatives to vote to recommend that the Senate then consider acts of impeachment, which the Senate then has to consider, nor not.

Poor Tony. Things are a bit looser over there in the Mother Country.

And then this convention on ministerial responsibility where ministers are forced to resign if they misled parliament? What's up with that? What an odd concept. Powell and Rumsfeld would be in big trouble if we believed in ministerial responsibility. And Bush?

We don't do responsibility that way. Here every four years the general population gets a shot.

So Blair will be on the hot seat, maybe. I bet he wishes he were even more of an American.

Or maybe not.

Blair snubs Bush's war honour invite
Exclusive by Paul Gilfeather Political Editor, The Sunday Mirror (UK), August 22, 2004

Blair is no dummy -
TONY Blair has snubbed George Bush's pleas to fly to the US and pick up his "war medal" ahead of the Presidential elections.

The US President knows the PM, who is massively popular in the States, would provide his flagging re-election campaign with a much-needed boost.

And he is putting huge pressure on Mr Blair to pick up the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded by America for his unswerving support in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But Mr Blair's closest aides have warned him to resist the plan, insisting that a meeting with President Bush would torpedo Democrat rival John Kerry's bid for the White House.

A senior Government source said: "There has been a lot of telephone traffic between the White House and Downing Street over the medal in recent weeks. George Bush wants the Prime Minister to come to Washington and pick up the medal, which is the highest honour America can bestow on a foreigner.

"But he has refused for more than a year now and for good reason. He cannot possibly accept an award for the Iraq War when British and American troops continue to risk their lives there.

"The Democrats are watching the situation very carefully and there would be uproar if Tony travelled to Washington to meet Bush so close to the Presidential elections.

"But Bush isn't letting up. The White House has already let it be known that they feel slighted because of this and believe they can use this to put pressure on Blair to get him out there."
Pressure? He may be impeached for the whole business - and George says he needs him and is, well, feeling slighted. What sort of pressure can the White House put on Blair? They tell him George is all depressed and feeling so disappointed and sad?

"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" King Lear - Act I, Scene 4

Blair was due to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor in Washington but the Mirror says "following intense negotiations" the ceremony was scrapped. It would be fun to have a transcript of those negotiations.

"After all we've done for you, Tony...."

"Yeah, like what, George?"

The Mirror adds that Blair is now not expected to pick up the award until he leaves Downing Street.

On the right over here NewsMax is reporting it this way -
While many world newspapers are reporting the situation as a snub to Bush, The Economic Times suggests that Blair feels a visit to the U.S. now would be tantamount to support for Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and Blair doesn't want to be seen as partial.
Ah, Blair is just being fair and impartial. That must be it.

Or maybe he just doesn't want to be the happy "good dog" playing fetch, endlessly. Maybe being a subservient, obedient puppy for a dim-witted master is finally getting to him.

Hell, add too that it must be hard being the articulate one to the bumbling smirking fellow standing next to you who can't quite explain himself and doesn't ever quite get the concept.

Maybe enough is enough.

Posted by Alan at 19:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Wednesday, 25 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Political Theater: Our President Doesn't Deal with Losers, or Cripples, or Whiners

Here's the barebones store as reported by the Associated Press -
Cleland unable to deliver letter to Bush
Wednesday, August 25, 2004, 2:09 PM
CRAWFORD -- Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland tried to deliver a letter protesting ads challenging John Kerry's Vietnam service to President Bush at his Texas ranch today, but neither a Secret Service official nor a state trooper would take it.

The former Georgia senator, a triple amputee who fought in Vietnam, was carrying a letter from nine Senate Democrats who wrote Bush that "you owe a special duty" to condemn attacks on Kerry's military service.

"The question is where is George Bush's honor, the question is where is his shame to attack a fellow veteran who has distinguished himself in combat?" Cleland asked. "Regardless of the political combat involved, it's disgraceful."

Encountering a permanent roadblock to Bush's ranch, Cleland left without turning over the letter to anyone.

"I have a letter signed by nine members of the U.S. Senate, all of whom have served honorably and I'd like to hand it to a responsible officer here on the gate," Cleland said as he tried to deliver it to security personnel at the roadblock. He accused a member of the president's security detail of trying to evade him.

"I am just going to return the letter and make sure it gets in the mail," Cleland said as he returned to his car.

In their letter, the senators said, "This administration must not tacitly comply with unfounded accusations which have suddenly appeared 35 years after the fact, and serve to denigrate the service of a true American patriot." ...
And AP provides much additional he-said she-said detail.

Oh, these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are causing no end of problems.

Of course this is all over the news.

As Digby over at Hullabaloo comments, this was made for the evening news and cable "analysis" shows.
This is creative and the press loves it. Max Cleland, disabled veteran and former US Senator is greeted by some lowly functionary in Crawford because Bush is too much of a pussy to talk to him himself.

Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton would have used the moment to show himself as a regular guy with respect and humor.

Bush hid. As usual.
But perhaps this was calculated. Our president doesn't deal with losers, or cripples, or whiners. Call it tough love.

Cleland had with him that Rassman fellow - who famously said John Kerry saved his life way back in 1969 in Vietnam, pulling him from the water under enemy fire, even though Kerry himself was wounded. The Navy gave Kerry a medal. The Navy says it happened. Everyone who was there said it happened, just like that. The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth say it just isn't so, as that is not what they heard. Everyone is lying, including the Navy. Oh well.

And the Bush folks tried to give Cleland a counter-letter, saying the Democrats should stop picking on George Bush. Cleland said no thanks.

Atrios at Eschaton says sure, Cleland ambushed Bush for a bit of theater, but a real man would have known how to handle it.

And then Atrios points to this comment - from Steve Gilliard:
Yes, this was a campaign stunt, and yes, Cleland has his own grudges against these people, but a real man would have invited Cleland and Rassman up to the ranch house, gave them some sweet tea, taken the letter and let them go.

... Now, let's be real. Cleland probably owes Kerry a $20 because one of them had to have bet Bush would live down to character, and the other bet that he couldn't be so stupid as to turn away a triple amputee from his home. But make no mistake, they knew what Bush would do, and they bet on him doing it.

Yet, once again, the Bush campaign walks into a trap set by Kerry. Two decorated veterans show up to you door and you hide from them? That's just stupid. It's bad politics if nothing else.
Really? Maybr it is good politics. As was pointed out previously here it seems half the country likes this child bully who can sucker-punch the skinny, brainy wimp and get away with it. The same probably goes for crips and losers. This is know as playing to your base, in many senses.

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has a number of things to say about this, and about this guy Patterson (not our Bob) he sent out to meet Cleland and hand Cleland the counter-letter.
... The president gets called on to step up to the plate and say one way or another way he supports his friends' (rapidly deteriorating) smears on his opponent's military record.

And he just won't do it.

First, he sends out his chief spokesman to dodge the question.

Then he dodges the question.

And now, politically on the defensive, he calls another veteran and asks him to rush over to the ranch to face Max Cleland.

(It turns out that Patterson, the guy who got the 911 call from the president, has received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Bob Perry, the funder of the Swift Boat ads.)

Needless to say, the president doesn't have to play into the Kerry photo op by showing up to take Cleland's letter; a straight answer about the Swift Boat smears would do nicely.

But he just can't do it -- a classic bully.
But Marshall hones in on another detail.
Cleland got stopped at the first roadblock.

He tried to give the letter to secret service officials guarding (giving the word rather a new meaning) the president. But the president got a political ally from Texas, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson -- who is also a vet -- to show up and offer to take the letter, if Cleland would take a letter from him in exchange.

Cleland told him never mind; he'd rather stick it in the mail.

That prompted Patterson to utter this pricelessly unlovely retort ... - ""I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

Yes, quite mobile. Classic.

Did I mention that President Bush is addicted to having others do his dirty work for him?
Well, gee, these triple-amputees can be damned tricky! And rude like you wouldn't believe. And insulting. Cleland wouldn't even face Patterson.

The nerve of some people - as you'd think they'd show the third string substitute representative of the president (who was no doubt busy running the country) a little more respect. Cleland must think he's a big shot because he was stupid enough to actually go to war, and then careless enough end up in a wheelchair with no legs and only one arm. Hell man, the guy could have joined the Texas Air National Guard way back when. It's his own fault. What a loser.

You have to love political theater.


Of course, you have to grant that the Bush folks are under a lot of pressure and we should understand if they are a tad short-tempered. Tuesday Vice President Cheney said Bush's call for a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage was something he thought was the wrong thing to do. And also on Tuesday the commission headed by a former secretary of defense released its findings - and said the responsibility for the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere went all the way up the chain of command to Rumsfeld - crappy planning and lousy resource planning (not enough folks for much of anything that was done in Iraq) and not much oversight at all. Just bad management. And then John Kerry again called for Rumsfeld to resign, or be removed. Then on Wednesday morning a second commission reported its findings - the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib was far worse than reported and did indeed include actual torture, and some senior commanders needed to be brought to courts martial. Geez. And then Wednesday evening, after Cheney had floated his idea that maybe the administration could be a bit more moderate on this business with the gay folks (Cheney has a daughter who is a lesbian) - well, the Republican National Committee finalized its plank on this matter, the official party position. No gay marriage should be allowed anywhere, and the constitution really should be amended, and further, no "civil unions" should ever be allowed for gay couples in any state - no contracts, no shared insurance, no tax breaks like "real" married folks get, no "family" hospital visitation rights when one or the other falls ill - no nothing. Now the party may fight itself, and the gay wing, the Log Cabin Republicans, may bolt.

And then too on Wednesday we discovered that the Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth shared an election lawyer - one Benjamin Ginsberg who helped out with the Florida recount arguments in 2000 - and he resigned from the Bush campaign. That's against the law. These independent "527" opinion organizations are not allowed to coordinate with candidates - or they fall under the traditional spending restrictions. What was Ben thinking? He told Reuters he was thinking this - "I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen. To suggest otherwise is flat wrong." Huh? He was coordinating the non-coordination? Guess so. So the Bush campaign lost its top outside attorney.

Max Cleland just showed up on a bad day.


Ah yes, and here's the latest (via Josh Marshall) from the Bush folks (at - If Kerry Can't Handle the 'Swiftees,' How's He Going to Handle the Terrorists?

So the high-minded discourse continues.

Posted by Alan at 21:39 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Wednesday, 25 August 2004 21:59 PDT home

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