Happy Leap Day!
Because we are given an extra day this year, I would like to spend it in a good old fashioned Bush-bash. Maybe it's because everyone's focused on the election, or maybe the entire country just doesn't want to think about President Bush anymore, but I feel that he hasn't been getting the attention he deserves of late. And what better way to spend the extra day we get this leap year?
Before we get to Bush-bashing in earnest, though, one note from the campaign trail is necessary here. Both Senator Clinton and Obama have taken some stands in the past week on legislation in the Senate. These deserve to be noted. The media in general have pretty much ignored the fact that for only the third time in history someone is going to be elected to the White House directly from the Senate. This is a shame, because their actions in the Senate while on the campaign trail are a real and concrete measurement of their positions on the issues. I'm not sure why the mainstream media greets this with a collective yawn, but I feel it's worth keeping track of.
Because Hillary Clinton apparently doesn't like to go first, I'll start with Barack Obama. Senator Obama just did something that deserves the label "classy." There was a report in the New York Times that John McCain might not be eligible to be president, because it depends how you define "natural born" (McCain was born on a U.S. military base in the Panama Canal Zone while his father was serving in the Navy). Senator Claire McCaskill, an Obama supporter, hand-wrote a bill when she heard this story, in order to clarify the legal definition of "natural born" to include John McCain. Senator Obama immediately responded by co-sponsoring the legislation. This is a beautiful piece of political goodwill. By this action, Obama is clearly saying, "I want a fair fight, and this is a distraction I don't want raised." This appeals to the fair-play principle almost all Americans hold dear, and I predict it will reap nothing but good feelings for Obama as a result.
Senator Clinton is to be commended this week as well, for co-sponsoring legislation that would "ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq." Jeremy Scahill here at Huffington Post has the full story. Obama is against the concept, which is kind of a strange position for him to be in, seeing as how he's allowing Hillary to out-flank him on the anti-war issue. But Hillary Clinton is showing some real backbone on the issue, which deserves applause. America should not hire mercenaries to do our dirty work in war zones without holding them accountable to any law whatsoever. Period.
On the anti-war front, Hillary backed a recent Senate bill to force withdrawal from Iraq within 120 days. Barack opposed the measure, and explained his opposition by saying it didn't go far enough. So that one is kind of a tossup, depending on who you believe. The bill was doomed to failure, which both of them knew, so that has to be taken into account as well.
There were actually two strong contenders for this week's MIDOTW award.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent out two strongly-worded letters yesterday on the contempt issue. While this is an admirable attempt to get the Justice Department to bring charges before a grand jury, it is probably not going to work. So while she deserves an honorable mention here, let's see what happens next. Because the next step should be to call for an independent prosecutor to look into the whole mess. And if Pelosi is not willing to take that step, then strongly-worded letters will not be remembered much by history.
Call me provincial if you will, but this week's award goes to Senator Barbara Boxer from California. She has taken the point on the fight with Bush's Environmental Protection Agency (motto: "We're protecting corporate rape of the environment!") over automobile emissions standards in California. For battling in the trenches in Bush's War on Science, Senator Boxer has earned this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award. Well done, Senator Boxer!
[Congratulate Senator Boxer on her Senate contact page to let her know you appreciate her efforts.]
For the very first time -- for the second consecutive week -- there will be no MDDOTW award given. What can I say? The Democrats had a pretty good week all around, and nobody seriously disappointed me; or, if they did something to earn the award, they managed to stay below both the media and the blogosphere's radar this week. Feel free to suggest recipients of the award in the comments, but so far I'm proud to say that this award will stay on the shelf for yet another week.
OK, with the awards out of the way, it's time to move on to the main event -- the February 29th Leap Day Bush Bash!
Volume 21 (2/29/08)
Into (and out of) a recession
Few people remember Bush's pre-9/11 incompetence now, but it simply must be pointed out here for some perspective. Bush entered office talking the economy into a recession, and he's going to exit desperately trying to talk the economy out of a recession.
I was flabbergasted, back in 2000, that George W. Bush -- after he was "elected" but before he even took office -- started trying to "talk down" the economy into a recession. Both he and Dick Cheney publicly warned of the imminent recession, for two reasons: they wanted to push their political agenda (massive tax cuts for the wealthy), and they wanted political "cover" in case such a recession developed, so they could blame it all on their favorite whipping boy, Bill Clinton.
Here's Dick Cheney, from a Meet The Press interview in late 2000 [sorry, no online transcript available, I got this quote from a contemporary New York Times article]:
We may well be on the front edge of a recession here, and I would hope that would change people's calculations with respect to the wisdom of the kind of tax cut that Governor Bush has recommended.
So the talking point writes itself:
"George W. Bush entered office trying to talk the economy in to a recession. He will leave trying to talk the economy out of a recession -- one that will be very hard to pin on Bill Clinton, this time. Let's get the economy moving again by getting Democrats back in power in Washington."
$4.00 a gallon, Mr. President
This is going to be as bad for George W. Bush as his father's astonishment over the wonders of a grocery store price scanner was.
From yesterday's press conference, our Frat-Boy-In-Chief answers a question:
Q: Can I follow up on that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe.
Q: The --
THE PRESIDENT: I guess you are -- I haven't said yes. (Laughter.)
Q: What's your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline, a lot of people facing --
THE PRESIDENT: Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?
Q: A number of analysts are predicting --
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, yeah?
Q: -- $4 a gallon gasoline this spring when they reformulate.
THE PRESIDENT: That's interesting. I hadn't heard that.
Q: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I know it's high now.
Q: And the other economic problems facing people. Beyond your concern that you stated here, and your expectations for these stimulus checks, what kind of hope can you offer to people who are in dire straits?
THE PRESIDENT: Permanent tax -- keep the tax cuts permanent, for starters. There's a lot of economic uncertainty. You just said that. You just said the price of gasoline may be up to $4 a gallon -- or some expert told you that -- and that creates a lot of uncertainty if you're out there wondering whether or not -- you know, what your life is going to be like and you're looking at $4 a gallon, that's uncertain. And when you couple with the idea that taxes may be going up in a couple of years, that's double uncertainty. And therefore one way to deal with uncertainty is for Congress to make the tax cuts permanent.
He then went on to mumble something about drilling in ANWR.
I've seen evidence that the strongest factor in any president's approval rating is the price of gasoline. When the price goes up, approval goes down. It's astonishing that Dubya will be leaving office as he entered it: without an original thought in his head. His answer to absolutely everything is, was, and shall be: tax cuts.
"George Bush doesn't realize that we all may be paying four dollars a gallon at the gas pump in a few months. Or maybe he just doesn't care. He certainly doesn't have any idea how to fix the problem. It's time to get the oil men out of power in Washington. The American people have had enough."
Of the people, by the people, for the people
George Bush wants to tap everyone else's emails without warrants, but he doesn't think anyone needs to see those coming from the White House. Over a million White House emails may be gone forever, which is incidentally against federal archiving law. The Bush White House took a perfectly good archival and backup system and totally scrapped it (because it had "Clinton cooties" or something) in favor of what can only be labeled "Swiss cheese security," due to its many holes.
"George Bush's idea of 'archiving' was apparently to toss everything he could down George Orwell's 'memory hole.' We need to get a Democrat back in the White House in order to restore the American ideal that citizens should not have to account to the government for what they write, the government should have to account to the citizens for what it writes."
Cuba and China are different... exactly how?
Compare these various answers from Bush's press conference. First, on Russia:
But U.S.-Russian relations are important. It's important for stability. It's important for our relations in Europe. And therefore my advice is to establish a personal relationship with whoever is in charge of foreign policy in Russia. It's in our country's interest to do so.
Next, on Cuba:
THE PRESIDENT: What's lost by embracing a tyrant who puts his people in prison because of their political beliefs? What's lost is it will send the wrong message. It will send a discouraging message to those who wonder whether America will continue to work for the freedom of prisoners. It will give great status to those who have suppressed human rights and human dignity.
I'm not suggesting there's never a time to talk, but I'm suggesting now is not the time -- not to talk with Raul Castro. He's nothing more than an extension of what his brother did, which was to ruin an island, and imprison people because of their beliefs.
I had these wives of these dissidents come and see me, and their stories are just unbelievably sad. And it just goes to show how repressive the Castro brothers have been, when you listen to the truth about what they say. And the idea of embracing a leader who's done this without any attempt on his part to release prisoners and free their society would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal.
Q: No one is saying embrace him, they're just saying talk --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, talking to him is embracing. Excuse me. Let me use another word -- you're right, "embrace" is like big hug, right? You're looking -- I do embrace people. Mike, one of these days, I'm just thinking about -- (laughter.) Right, okay, good, thank you for reminding me to use a different word. Sitting down at the table, having your picture taken with a tyrant such as Raul Castro, for example, lends the status of the office and the status of our country to him. He gains a lot from it by saying, look at me, I'm now recognized by the President of the United States.
Now, somebody would say, well, I'm going to tell him to release the prisoners. Well, it's a theory that all you got to do is embrace and these tyrants act. That's not how they act. That's not what causes them to respond. And so I made a decision quite the opposite, and that is to keep saying to the Cuban people, we stand with you; we will not sit down with your leaders that imprison your people because of what they believe; we will keep an embargo on you; we do want you to have money from people here in the homeland, but we will stay insistent upon this policy until you begin to get free.
And finally, on China and the upcoming Olympics:
Olivier, I have made it very clear, I'm going to the Olympics because it's a sporting event, and I'm looking forward to seeing the athletic competition. But that will not preclude me from meeting with the Chinese President, expressing my deep concerns about a variety of issues -- just like I do every time I meet with the President.
And maybe I'm in a little different position. Others don't have a chance to visit with Hu Jintao, but I do. And every time I meet with him I talk about religious freedom and the importance of China's society recognizing that if you're allowed to worship freely, it will benefit the society as a whole; that the Chinese government should not fear the idea of people praying to a god as they see fit. A whole society, a healthy society, a confident society is one that recognizes the value of religious freedom.
BZZZT! DOES NOT COMPUTE! DOES NOT COMPUTE!
[Sorry, my word processor just freaked out a little bit there. I've turned off the common sense filter, and it should be OK now...]
Seriously, can anybody explain how these three statements from the same press conference add up to anything but "American foreign policy makes no sense whatsoever" -- or is it just me?
"George Bush is apparently fine with sitting down with dictators who imprison their people not just for their political beliefs, but also for their religious beliefs... but only if there's some sports to watch during his visit."
Which side are you on?
I have to say, Dick Durban got off a pretty good line in response to Bush. And I can't improve on his talking point by a single word. From a story in the Washington Post today:
Democrats mocked Bush's statements at yesterday's news conference, where he urged giving the $168 billion stimulus package approved this month a "chance to kick in first."
"That, to me, is straight out of the Herbert Hoover playbook," Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters, adding that his bankruptcy measure would save family homes. "Right now, there will be a question on the floor of the Senate as to whether the mortgage bankers are going to win or the American families facing foreclosure are going to win."
Secret foreign money to build Bush's library
George Bush was asked about his presidential library, and in particular whether the donor list would be made public, and whether foreign donations would be allowed. His answer was a big yes to private donors, and another big thumbs up for foreign money.
This would be oh, so, easy to mock on the campaign trail:
"President Bush seems to be fine with accepting donations to his presidential library from secret, foreign donors. I think this is shameful, and I promise here and now to end this practice. Secret, foreign donations should be illegal for presidential libraries to accept."
For the Ohio campaign trail
This one is just for anyone (hint, hint) campaigning in Ohio in the next few days or so. Once again, from the Bush presser:
Q: But just given all the concerns about the economy that people have, do you feel like you could win in a state like Ohio if you were running again for President?
THE PRESIDENT: Landslide. (Laughter.)
This one is a piece of cake:
"President Bush is so out of touch with the way the economy affects average people that he just said he would win in a quote landslide unquote if he was running for president again in Ohio. We call on the voters of Ohio to turn out to the polls Tuesday to prove just how wrong George Bush is!"
Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com
Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com