More W and Reagan Comparisons

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

This time, a stupid one from James K. Glassman at Tech Central Station. Let’s pick it apart, shall we?

First, like Reagan, the current president adopted a simple, straightforward program and is resolutely pursuing it: 1) cutting taxes, 2) bringing the fight against terrorism directly to the enemy, 3) building democracy in parts of the world where it has been suppressed, and 4) advocating compassionate, conservative policies in health care, the environment and education.

Substitute "communism" for "terrorism" in the in the second part of the program, and you have — at least for numbers one through three — the same goals pursued by Reagan.

First of all Jimbo, this President is advocating compassionate, conservative policies in health care, the environment and education? Mmmmm. I guess he’s "advocating" them (from time to time) — but he’s not doing it. And this is what really separates Bush from Reagan — Reagan, for all his flaws, wasn’t an empty mouthpiece who "advocated" something and then ignored it (or did the opposite).

Second, like Reagan, the current president is determined to see his program through — despite the opposition of the media, academia, the bureaucracy, Europe and, unfortunately, parts of the business community as well.

What does that mean? ALL Presidents face opposition. This is a meaningless similarity. It’s kind of like saying, "Secondly, like Reagan, the current President works in Washington, D.C."

Third, like Reagan, the current president has an optimistic view of America. As Reagan said in his second inaugural, "There are no limits to growth and human progress, when men and women are free to follow their dreams." Bush, also, sees this nation and its people as a force for good in the world with a glorious future — again, in contrast to Europeans and European wannabes on the East and West Coasts.

Ignoring the ridiculous swipe (and BTW, isn’t Georgia and South Carolina on the East Coast?), one has to wonder what Jimbo thinks an "optimistic view" is, and how Clinton (or Bush the Elder for that matter) lacked such a view. Again, every President likes to paint rosy scenarios — the difference with Bush Jr is that he thinks optimism is ALL that is required.

Case-in-point: What was the post-war planning for Iraq? The "optimistic" notion that Iraqis would throw flowers at our feet — that was the extent of it. Even Reagan (or at least his advisors) understood the complexities of global situations.

It is interesting to note that Glassman’s article appears on the Bush-Cheney website under the headline "Reagan’s Legacy in Good Hands". Puh-lease. And remember how Democrats were criticized for supposedly turning Paul Wellstone’s memorial into a political rally? Hello?!? The problem here is, of course, even by conservative standards, Bush 43 — the Worst Communicator — is no Ronald Reagan. Not by a long shot.

Why W Isn’t Reagan

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

Nick Confessore at Tapped as an excellent post on the subject of "Reagan’s Other Legacy". In it, he refers to an article by New Republic contributor Jonathan Chait (posted at the Reagan legacy website). The Chait article is prescient, being dated before 9/11 — indeed, being dated before George W. Bush was "elected". He summarizes the Reagan mystique in this way:

The Reagan presidency lives on in conservative mythology as a bygone utopia peopled by titans against whom the mortals of today must be measured. As conservative writer David Frum observed in his 1994 lament, Dead Right, "Post-Bush conservatives look back on the accomplishments of the early Reagan years the way seventh-century Romans must have looked at their aqueducts: to think that we once built all this!" When conservatives debate the Reagan legacy, it is not to dispute its merits but to lay competing claims to its mantle. Witness this year’s intraconservative debate over expanding trade with China. Proponents of permanent normal trading relations pointed to Reagan’s support for free trade; opponents invoked his anti-communism. Had someone dug up a forgotten diary entry laying out Reagan’s position for such a future contingency, it might have settled the argument then and there. The premise underlying such debates was explicated by Reagan hagiographer Dinesh D’Souza, who wrote that "the right simply needs to approach public policy questions by asking: What would Reagan have done?"

And therein lies the problem. Once it is agreed that all wisdom resides in the canon of Reagan, then the hard work of debate and self-examination and incorporating new facts is no longer necessary. On economics, defense, and morality, the Republican Party has refused to adapt itself to a patently changed political landscape for fear of acknowledging that the old ideas–the Reagan ideas–no longer work. And those who have tried to adapt have been cast out as heretics–anti-Reagan and therefore anti-conservative or even anti-Republican. When Ronald Reagan was actually president, Republicans prided themselves on being "the party of ideas." Now, as their hero fades into the twilight, his memory sits at the heart of a deep intellectual ossification.

And then predicts what this would mean for the younger Bush:

The mortals of the present can never live up to the icons of the past. In George W., the Reaganites appear to have everything they have always wanted: a popular conservative poised to end the political exile into which his father thrust them. But at some point W.’s ideology will smack up against the hard reality of today’s very different world, and either his popularity or his conservatism will give way. At that point the true believers will discover ideological deviations and conclude bitterly that the younger Bush is his father’s son after all. And then, the verity of their doctrine reaffirmed, they will begin once more their search for the true heir to Ronald Reagan.

This has proven to be true. Bush’s poll numbers have been in steady decline . . .

Blog_bush_approval_may_2004

. . . but for three huge crises which have shot up his approval. As for that, Confessore has the right analysis:

These crises have obscured the inevitable clash between Bush’s ideology and his popularity, and of course Bush has also tried hard to camoflage many of his most purely conservative proposals in a way Reagan never bothered to.

Indeed. Even for conservatives, Bush (like his father) isn’t Reagan.

Ronald Reagan

Ken AshfordRepublicansLeave a Comment

It seems fitting to say a few words in honor of "The Great Communicator" at the time of his passing. It seems more fitting that I not be the one to give such a eulogy. Ronald Reagan had skills as a politician which were undeniable. And his message was welcome to many. But not to me, and it would hypocritical of me to say otherwise.

What strikes me as amusing is how the so-called "liberal" media is turning his passing into an outright love-fest. They seemed capable of noting, in Nixon’s passing, of taking stock of some of the negative aspects of that man’s presidency. Not so with Reagan. He seems to get a pass. Turn on the T.V. and you will hear, for example, how Reagan passed the biggest tax cut in American history. Which is true, but do they also mention that the biggest tax cut was followed by the biggest tax increase in American history, thanks also to Reagan?

Perhaps it is too soon to be thinking about legacies — the man only died two days ago — but it seems that the first draft of history is being written inaccurately.  One has to wonder what effect, if any, this will have on Bush’s numbers. Will he benefit from the reflected glory of Reagan, or will voters compare and contrast . . . and find Bush wanting? Time will tell.

UPDATE: Or maybe not. Apparently, the Reagan sheen might not reflect on Bush as much as conservatives hope. From yesterday’s New York Times:

Some Republicans said the images of a forceful Mr. Reagan giving dramatic speeches on television provided a less-than-welcome contrast with Mr. Bush’s own appearances these days, and that it was not in Mr. Bush’s interest to encourage such comparisons. That concern was illustrated on Sunday, one Republican said, by televised images of Mr. Reagan’s riveting speech in Normandy commemorating D-Day in 1984, followed by Mr. Bush’s address at a similar ceremony on Sunday.

"Reagan showed what high stature that a president can have — and my fear is that Bush will look diminished by comparison," said one Republican sympathetic to Mr. Bush, who did not want to be quoted by name criticizing the president.

Another senior Republican expressed concern that by identifying too closely with Mr. Reagan, Mr. Bush risked running a campaign that looked to the past, which this adviser described as a recipe for a loss.

Several Republicans added that Mr. Bush’s hopes of enlisting Mrs. Reagan might be complicated by the differences between Mrs. Reagan and Mr. Bush on the issue of embryonic stem-cell research. Mrs. Reagan has been vocal in arguing that the research might help others suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which doctors diagnosed in Mr. Reagan after he left office, while Mr. Bush’s policy restricts public financing for this kind of research to existing cell lines.

Mmmmmmm . . .

Way To Go, Kid!

Ken AshfordRandom MusingsLeave a Comment

Frankly, I think anyone who can spell "autochthonous" deserves far more than $18,000. He deserves a Congressional Medal of Honor or something.

And now I am stuck trying to think of any other English word which has "-chth-" in it (in a row, of course). Anyone?

Bush Campaign Enlisting Help Of Churches

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Election 2004, GodstuffLeave a Comment

As reported here:

The Bush campaign is seeking to enlist thousands of religious congregations around the country in distributing campaign information and registering voters, according to an e-mail message sent to many members of the clergy and others in Pennsylvania.

Liberal groups charged that the effort invited violations of the separation of church and state and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of churches that cooperated. Some socially conservative church leaders also said they would advise pastors against participating in such a partisan effort.

But Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush administration, said "people of faith have as much right to participate in the political process as any other community" and that the e-mail message was about "building the most sophisticated grass-roots presidential campaign in the country’s history."

As far as I can tell, this does not violate any constitutional notions of "separation of church and state" — the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign is not, technically, "the state".

However, any church that joins or endorses the Bush campaign will lose their tax-exempt status, as this IRS news release make very clear. One has to wonder if the Bush campaign people know that . . . or care.

A Tale Of Two Headlines

Ken AshfordHistory, Iraq1 Comment

Veterans Dismiss Comparisons with Iraq – MSNBC, June 2, 2004; 7:48 a.m. E.T.

. . . Yet, as a handful of U.S. veterans from the Normandy invasion explained, there are few parallels between the two undertakings.

As far as they are concerned, World War II represented a unique era because of the very real, palpable, and all-encompassing threat posed by Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Bush Likens War Against Terrorism to WWII – Associated Press, June 2, 2004; 2:45 p.m. E.T.

"Our goal, the goal of this generation, is the same," Bush said Wednesday, after referring to World War II. "We will secure our nation and defend the peace through the forward march of freedom."

Thus goes the Republican attempt to cast the War in Iraq as something noble. Jeez. Not even the vets are buying . . .

Cheneyburtongate

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Corporate Greed, IraqLeave a Comment

Cheney has stated that he has had no role or influence in the government’s award of no-competitive-bid contracts to Halliburton.

As Time and CNN are reporting, a March 5, 2003 e-mail puts those comments into question. The email is "an internal Pentagon e-mail from an Army Corps of Engineers official to another Pentagon employee". As the story says:

The e-mail — dated March 5, 2003 — says Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, approved the arrangement to award the contract to the oil-services company. According to an e-mail excerpt in Time, the contract was "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP’s office."

. The contract was awarded 3 days later. Time reports the e-mail also says Feith got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his supervisor, Paul Wolfowitz.

Now, all that’s bad enough, but listen to the excuses.

[A] senior official told CNN the e-mail was a typical "heads-up" memo from one government agency to another that "a decision has been made, we’re about to announce this contract, and as a courtesy we are alerting the White House of a public announcement. This is a standard practice."

The "coordinated action" referred to, the senior administration official said, was "that of publicly announcing the contract decision that has already been made."

So the decision to award the contract to Halliburton had "already been made"? Okay, but then why does the email itself say that the contract was "contingent about informing WH [White House] tomorrow"?

The lame excuse-making goes on:

The heads-up would have been given because of Cheney’s previous involvement in the company as chief executive officer, and the anticipated controversy over the noncompetitive bid, the official said.

But the email itself says "We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP’s office."

So let me get this straight – – The e-mail was a heads-up that there might be controversy over the Halliburton non-competitive bid contract, yet the email itself says that there would be "no issues . . ."?

Seriously . . . WTF?!?

Cheney Is A Lying Liar

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Corporate Greed, IraqLeave a Comment

Hat tip to Lizard Queen for catching this recent news item:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – A Pentagon e-mail said Vice President Dick Cheney coordinated a huge Halliburton government contract for Iraq, despite Cheney’s denial of interest in the company he ran until 2000.

The March 5, 2003 e-mail, from an Army Corps of Engineers official, said that top Pentagon official Douglas Feith got the job of shepherding the contract, according to the newsweekly Time that hits newsstands Monday.

Feith had approved the multi-billion-dollar deal "contingent on informing WH (the White House) tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w(ith) VP’s (vice president’s) office," said the e-mail obtained by Time.

The newsweekly said it was three days later that Halliburton won the contract, although no other bids had been submitted.

"As vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government," Cheney told NBC’s "Meet the Press" in September, Time said.

Whatever . . . you liar.

“Pop” vs. “Soda”

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

When people refer to "soft drinks" generically, what word do they use?

Well, it depends. This map has the answer. (Note: Click on it to make it big).

Totalcounty_1

Anyone want to do one for hoagies/submarines/grinders?

Overlooked Story of the Week

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

I suspect this has something to do with all the Halliburton scandals (kickbacks, overcharging, etc.), as well as how we’ve been outsourcing our military/intelligence operations to a bunch of non-accountable mercenary companies:

Established by an act of Congress in 1979, the Federal Procurement Data System was a rare island of public information, the only complete record of federal contracts. Using the database, journalists, auditors and federal investigators could review the million or so agreements with corporations Uncle Sam signed each year. They could find the companies reaping the largest awards, track the rise in no-bid deals, and measure the recent drive to replace federal employees with corporate employees. But under a new contract, the General Services Administration has now turned over responsibility for collecting and distributing information on government contracts to a beltway company called Global Computer Enterprises, Inc.

In signing the $24 million deal, the Bush Administration has privatized not only the collection and distribution of the data, but the database itself. For the first time since the system was established, the information will not be available directly to the public or subject to the Freedom of Information Act, according to federal officials. "It’s a contractor owned and operated system," explains Nancy Gunsauls, a project manager at GCE. "We have the data."

As reported here, information about who your government is contracting with, and for what — some of which was available on-line for FREE, or otherwise available for no more than $500 — could run you (and journalists, etc.) as much as $35,000 per inquiry.

Why is this worthy of your contempt? Folks, we live (supposedly) in a democracy with an open government. As one blogger said: "We can’t hold our government accountable if information about its actions is considered to be proprietary data, owned by a private corporation rather than by the American people." Amen.

Expansionism, government secrecy, human rights violations . . . Is it just me — or are we becoming more and more like the former Soviet Union every day?

Rush On Armed Forces Radio

Ken AshfordIraq, Right Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

Before I rant, a smattering of statistics:

Number of USO tours done by Al Franken: 4
Number of USO tours done by Rush Limbaugh: 0

Number of well-received USO tours done by Al Franken: 4
Number of well-received USO tours done by Rush Limbaugh: 0

Just thought I would throw it out there. You know, for perspective.

So here’s one question — why does Limbaugh’s program enjoy exclusive access to American Forces Radio and the American forces in Iraq? Remember, Rush’s program is being broadcast on AFR with your tax dollars.

Secondly, even if you think the AFR doesn’t have to be "fair and balanced", is Rush "Prison-Abuse-Is-A-Fun-Fraternity-Prank" Limbaugh the right guy? This is going out over the airwaves in Iraq, under the auspices of U.S. military (who are supposedly trying to get to the bottom of the prison abuse scandals) . . . and many Muslims have radios and understand English quite well.

Outrage Fatigue

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Economy & Jobs & DeficitLeave a Comment

It’s almost hard for me to get angry at the Bush White House anymore. The parade of lies and obfuscations over the past few months has left me so jaded-exhausted that each new piece of offensive news relating to the Bush Administration is greeted by me with ho-hum-so-what-else-is-new ennui, rather than the indignation it properly reserves.

Here’s the latest in the series as reported in WaPo:

The White House put government agencies on notice this month that if President Bush is reelected, his budget for 2006 may include spending cuts for virtually all agencies in charge of domestic programs, including education, homeland security and others that the president backed in this campaign year.

So heads up, folks. Bush is going to run on all these wonderful programs he’s funding for 2005. What he’s not telling you is that he’s already intending to cut them back in 2006 after he is (he hopes) elected. For example:

The administration has widely touted a $1.7 billion increase in discretionary funding for the Education Department in its 2005 budget, but the 2006 guidance would pare that back by $1.5 billion. The Department of Veterans Affairs is scheduled to get a $519 million spending increase in 2005, to $29.7 billion, and a $910 million cut in 2006 that would bring its budget below the 2004 level.

The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program was funded at $4.7 billion for the fiscal year beginning in October, enough to serve the 7.9 million people expected to be eligible. But in 2006, the program would be cut by $122 million. Head Start, the early-childhood education program for the poor, would lose $177 million, or 2.5 percent of its budget, in fiscal 2006.

The $78 million funding increase that Bush has touted for a homeownership program in 2005 would be nearly reversed in 2006 with a $53 million cut. National Institutes of Health spending would be cut 2.1 percent in 2006, to $28 billion, after a $764 million increase for 2005 that brought the NIH budget to $28.6 billion.

I don’t mind the cuts. We have a deficit, and we need cuts (as well as tax increases). But the election-year bait-and-switch is so transparent and, well, outrageous. If I could be feel outrage, that is.

New York Times Embarrassed By Its Lack Of Rigorous Reporting

Ken AshfordIraq, Right Wing and Inept MediaLeave a Comment

I know many on the right like to paint the New York Times as ultra-liberal, but today’s editorial in the NYT — which borders on an apology — points out just how the NYT failed its readers by being too accepting of many of the claims being made by the White House about Iraq.

In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

* * *

Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get prominent display, while follow-up articles that called the original ones into question were sometimes buried. In some cases, there was no follow-up at all.

The Times give some examples, too. Here’s one:

On Sept. 8, 2002, the lead article of the paper was headlined "U.S. Says Hussein Intensified Quest for A-Bomb Parts." That report concerned the aluminum tubes that the administration advertised insistently as components for the manufacture of nuclear weapons fuel. The claim came not from defectors but from the best American intelligence sources available at the time. Still, it should have been presented more cautiously. There were hints that the usefulness of the tubes in making nuclear fuel was not a sure thing, but the hints were buried deep, 1,700 words into a 3,600-word article. Administration officials were allowed to hold forth at length on why this evidence of Iraq’s nuclear intentions demanded that Saddam Hussein be dislodged from power: "The first sign of a `smoking gun,’ they argue, may be a mushroom cloud."

Five days later, The Times reporters learned that the tubes were in fact a subject of debate among intelligence agencies. The misgivings appeared deep in an article on Page A13, under a headline that gave no inkling that we were revising our earlier view ("White House Lists Iraq Steps to Build Banned Weapons"). The Times gave voice to skeptics of the tubes on Jan. 9, when the key piece of evidence was challenged by the International Atomic Energy Agency. That challenge was reported on Page A10; it might well have belonged on Page A1.

What liberal media? (You KNEW that was comin’, right?)

More Abu Ghraib Photos

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Some have justified the abuses at Abu Ghraib, claiming that it was necessary for interrogation purposes, and if we can get information that saves ONE American soldier’s life, it was worth it blah blah blah . . .

capt.ny11805200003.prisoner_abuse_ny118.jpg

This guy is dead. He died while in U.S. custody at Abu Ghraib. What information was Army Spc. Sabrina Harmon of the 372nd Military Police Company (pictured here) hoping to obtain from him?