Tuesday, August 31, 2004

 

Mr. Bush Finds Some Nuance On The War On Terror™

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post writes this in his column.

NBC
Bush was also interviewed by NBC's Matt Lauer for the "Today" show while on the campaign trail in Ohio on Saturday.

Lauer asked if Bush felt most Americans would say they are better off today than four years ago. "I think over 50 percent will," Bush said.

Bush also said the war against terrorism must be fought but that it's not likely to ever end. "I don't think you can win it, but I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world."

Here's the video.

At any rate, I never thought the idea of a Perma-War on terrorism had any real currency, and I never liked the war analogy anyway.

So I guess I can't really fault Mr. Bush for finding nuance in the situation.

I just wonder what took him so long to see it.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

 

So, Just To Recap

  1. There is no proof that Iraq was involved in 9/11.

  2. There is no proof that Iraq had WMD stockpiles ready to use on the United States or on invading troops and as a result did not constitute an immediate threat to the security of the United States.

  3. Iraq was a humanitarian problem with a brutal dictator. But rather than bothering to convince the American people and the world of the rightness of action in Iraq to remedy the humanitarian situation, they posited a fraudulently conceived argument that Saddam Hussein was such an immediate threat to world peace and security that he had to be removed from the power through the pre-emptive use of military force.

    To my way of thinking, the Administration used 9/11 to accomplish the long held goal of hawkish Neoconservatives to finish the job of the first Gulf War and remove Saddam Hussein from power.

The problem with this is that an inconsistently applied foreign policy creates a number of problems.

  1. There are other countries in the world with developing nuclear and WMD programs. I believe that one, North Korea specifically, has threatened to nuclear weapons on the United States should the United States intervene in North Korean affairs.

  2. There are countries that harbor terrorists...and by terrorists not only those general bad terrorists types but also terrorists connected with 9/11.

    Osama who?

  3. There are countries with brutal dictatorial regimes that have growing humanitarian problems.

  4. There are countries in the world that are not democratic.

When do we invade these countries?

Friday, August 27, 2004

 

It Never Really Was About WMD

Here's another reason why I think the invasion of Iraq was never really about WMD or about the post-invasion bring freedom and democracy to an oppressed people justification....

Mr. Bush also took issue with Mr. Kerry's argument, in an interview at the end of May with The New York Times, that the Bush administration's focus on Iraq had given North Korea the opportunity to significantly expand its nuclear capability. Showing none of the alarm about the North's growing arsenal that he once voiced regularly about Iraq, he opened his palms and shrugged when an interviewer noted that new intelligence reports indicate that the North may now have the fuel to produce six or eight nuclear weapons.

He said that in North Korea's case, and in Iran's, he would not be rushed to set deadlines for the countries to disarm, despite his past declaration that he would not "tolerate" nuclear capability in either nation. He declined to define what he meant by "tolerate."

"I don't think you give timelines to dictators," Mr. Bush said, speaking of North Korea's president, Kim Jong Il, and Iran's mullahs. He said he would continue diplomatic pressure - using China to pressure the North and Europe to pressure Iran - and gave no hint that his patience was limited or that at some point he might consider pre-emptive military action.

"I'm confident that over time this will work - I certainly hope it does," he said of the diplomatic approach. Mr. Kerry argued in his interview that North Korea "'was a far more compelling threat in many ways, and it belonged at the top of the agenda," but Mr. Bush declined to compare it to Iraq, apart from arguing that Iraq had defied the world community for longer than the other members of what he once called "the axis of evil." Nor would he assess the risk that Pyongyang might sell nuclear material to terrorists, though his national security aides believe it may have sold raw uranium to Libya in recent years.

David E. Sanger and Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times

*Empashis added.

Via The American Prospect Online.

Yes, when presented with a question about the apparently very real nuclear capability of North Korea, a nation with

  1. a brutal dictator and;
  2. a horribly oppressed population;

the ever-engaged President of the United States just shrugs.

And says that he hopes diplomacy will work over time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

 

He Wasn't Even There

Atrios points to this story about on of those Swift Boat Vets.

Vets Protest Prosecutor in Anti-Kerry Ad
Oregon Vets Protest Assistant District Attorney's Statement in Ad That Kerry Lies About Record

The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. Aug. 24, 2004 — Several Vietnam veterans are calling for an assistant district attorney to resign after questions were raised about his statement in a recent ad criticizing Democrat John Kerry's military service.
Alfred French of the Clackamas County district attorney's office appears in the ad sponsored by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. In the spot, French says: "I served with John Kerry. ... He is lying about his record."

A group of Vietnam veterans who protested outside the county courthouse Monday said French implied he had firsthand knowledge of Kerry's war actions when in fact he had heard about what Kerry did from friends.

In an interview with The Oregonian newspaper last week, French said he relied on the accounts of three other veterans in making the statement about Kerry and did not personally witness the events. French did not return two messages left at his office Monday.

"As a senior assistant district attorney, you know as well as we do that that kind of ridiculous statement would never pass muster in a court of law," veteran Terry Kirsch said of French's account.

"We question your fitness to serve as an enforcer of the law after swearing to facts in a legal affidavit that you do not know to be true," he said.

Before recording the ad, French signed an affidavit that said: "I am able to swear, as I do hereby swear, that all facts and statements contained in this affidavit are true and correct and within my personal knowledge and belief."

It goes on to say that "Kerry has wildly exaggerated and lied about his record in Vietnam" and that he received his Purple Heart medals "in the absence of hostile fire."

Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star as commander of a Navy swift boat in Vietnam.

District Attorney John Foote released a statement Monday chiding French for bringing unwanted publicity to the suburban county's office, but stood by his employee.

"I do not personally share the opinions expressed by our prosecutor," Foote wrote. "However, all of our employees have the right to their own opinions on these subjects and to express their opinions on their own time."


Saturday, August 21, 2004

 

Mr. Bush, You Should Be Ashamed

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has this to say about Mr. Kerry's new ad called "Old Tricks".

----

Today, though, the Kerry campaign came out with a very powerful ad, one which in its tone and focus is exactly where the Kerry campaign needs to go.

It's called Old Tricks and the entire ad is a brief exchange from a debate from February 15th 2000 (which the political junkies among us probably remember) in which John McCain -- then in the thick of Bush's smears -- told Bush to his face to stop getting others to smear him over his war record. He ends by telling him he should be ashamed. The camera focuses on Bush and catches him not knowing how to respond, with what I think even his supporters would have to agree is a callow, trapped look on his face.

I say this is exactly where the Kerry campaign needs to go because it very powerfully captures a truth about President Bush -- namely, that he's a coward who truly lacks shame.

I don't say he's a coward because he kept himself out of Vietnam three decades ago. I know no end of men of that age who in one fashion or another made sure they didn't end up in Indochina in those days. (I quickly ran through both hands counting guys I talk to on a regular basis.) And they include many of the most admirable people I know.

He's a coward because he has other people smear good men without taking any responsibility, without owning up to it or standing behind it. And when someone takes it to him and puts him on the spot to defend his actions -- as McCain does in this spot -- he's literally speechless. Like I say, a coward.

As I said earlier, this is vintage Bush. And it's also a subtle nod to all the ways that Bush is someone who's always gotten by with help at all the key moments from family friends, retainers and others similarly hunting for access and power.

There's another element to this ad that we'd be remiss not to note too. It puts McCain on the spot and pulls him right back to the center of this battle. Given the fervor of his words, he can hardly disavow them or complain of their use. But there's something else too. If you listen to the ad you'll see McCain hangs his demand for an apology on a letter signed by five senators, each Vietnam vets, calling on Bush to apologize for his smears against McCain.

The five, as reported by the Times on February 5th, 2000: Senators Max Cleland of Georgia, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, John Kerry of Massachusetts and Charles S. Robb of Virginia, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

In another post, Josh had this to say....

----

As I said, I think the Kerry campaign is right to go aggressively on the attack against the president for running his campaign this way and seeking to profit politically from this garbage. But that's not enough. Kerry's surrogates have to go aggressively on the attack against the president on all his many points of vulnerability, which are legion -- his dishonesty about his own gap-ridden service in the Texas Air National Guard, his White House's on-going efforts to cover up the Plame leak, the endless record of deceptions tied to the Iraq invasion, all of it.

Counterattacking on the president's shameless behavior on the Swift Boat matter is necessary, but hardly sufficient. To be successful, Kerry and his team and his surrogates (you know, the folks he's on a first name basis with but doesn't know from Adam and can't control in any way) need to place the president on the defensive across the board.

This whole Swift Boat episode is entirely in keeping not just with the record of George W. Bush, but, to be frank, his whole family. Think back to the 1988 and 1992 presidential races. Partly, it's in the their political DNA. But it's also in the nature of blue bloods trying to ape populist politics -- for the key example, see the 1992 GOP convention in Houston and the sad antics of Bush family retainer Rich Bond.

I said a few days ago that it was ridiculous to compare the ads run by Moveon to the Swift Boat ones. And it's true -- they're very soft soap in comparison. But that's a mistake. They should be hitting much harder.

The president has chosen the ground on which he wants to fight this campaign. And as per usual he's mobilized friends and family retainers to do the fighting for him. The president is playing tackle football, not touch or flag. If the Dems keep up with the latter they'll lose.

Back in the primaries John Kerry would say that if the Bushies thought they could pull a Max Cleland on him, he'd say, "Bring it on." Well, it's on.

My sense of Kerry is almost entirely defined by watching his 1996 race against Bill Weld up close. So I think he has it in him to fight. But now's when we find out.


Friday, August 20, 2004

 

Reasons Not To Vote For Mr. Bush

Matthew Yglesias writes a column called "The Brains Thing" that revives the old Mr. Bush-Just-Isn't-Smart-Enough-To-Be-President argument.

Only now, he has Mr. Bush's term in office to draw examples from.

Bush’s most high-profile foreign-policy failure -- the disastrously bad planning for the occupation of Iraq -- provides a direct analogue to the domestic scene. The government did, in fact, do a lot of good work on the subject under the auspices of the State Department’s Future of Iraq Group. Rival analysis from Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith’s office, however, suggested that the task would be much easier. A president prepared to read and understand complicated policy briefs would have seen that the Future of Iraq Group had it right. But the country didn’t have a president like that. So yet again the path of expediency was chosen, with well-known results.

More typically, though, the president’s intellectual infirmity affects national-security policy by creating paralysis, as his famously divided foreign-policy team is unable to agree on a common approach and the president is incapable of choosing one side or the other.

As a result, one of Bush’s biggest foreign-policy disasters relates less to something he’s done than to what he hasn’t done: devise a coherent policy toward North Korea. The debacle began in March of 2001, with South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung scheduled to visit Washington. On the eve of the trip, Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters that the new administration would pick up where the Clinton administration had left off: supporting Kim’s “sunshine policy” toward the North and pushing for full implementation of the 1994 Agreed Framework under which North Korea abided by a stipulation not to build nuclear weapons in exchange for U.S. financial and energy assistance. The White House immediately contradicted Powell, giving us the first sign that something was amiss with the supposedly “grown-up” new national-security team and infuriating Kim. Administration hawks -- led by Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld -- didn’t replace the Powell-Kim-Clinton engagement policy with any real alternative; instead, they sought simply to talk tough and “isolate” North Korea, already the most isolated country on earth. Thus North Korea found itself featured in the 2002 State of the Union address as a charter member of the “axis of evil” (although this, the country later learned, was not a deliberate policy shift but simply a reflection of a desire to throw a non-Muslim country on to the list to allay fears that America was waging war on Islam). The hawks hoped that the regime would fall apart before it built nukes. Things didn’t work out that way.

North Korean President Kim Jong-Il concluded that because Bush clearly meant to invade Iraq, had broken off negotiations with his regime, and was now lumping the two together as “evil,” he might soon find himself targeted. The result -- a result that even a moderately engaged chief executive would have foreseen -- was a North Korean rush to acquire nuclear weapons that could deter U.S. invasion before it was too late. By October 2002, the State Department sent officials to Pyongyang to confront the regime with evidence that it had been acquiring centrifuges needed to make weapons-grade uranium. Instead of offering the expected denials, North Korean officials conceded that, yes, they had done just that. After some trans-Pacific name-calling, Pyongyang let the other shoe drop: Not only was it processing uranium (which could take years to be successful), it was also kicking out the weapons inspectors who, under the Agreed Framework, were safeguarding North Korean plutonium rods that could be turned into nuclear fuel within months.

The time had come for the president to do something about the situation. So he did exactly what we were assured during the 2000 campaign he would do: He asked his advisers. The problem was, they didn’t agree. Some were hawks and others more dovish, so Bush couldn’t make up his mind. As Fred Kaplan wrote in The Washington Monthly, Bush “neither threatened war not pursued diplomacy.” Eighteen months later, with U.S. forces pinned down in Iraq and North Korea allegedly possessing several nuclear weapons, military options had to be taken off the table, and even administration hawks agreed that they had to pursue talks. Unfortunately, when you refuse to negotiate until you have no sticks left, it’s hard to get a good deal, and the United States now may be unable to secure a non-nuclear North Korea. And if we do get what we want, we will surely need to give up far more than we would have had we just negotiated in the first place.

Worse, as the Prospect goes to press, history is repeating itself in Iran, pace Marx, as tragedy all over again. Tehran is cheating on its international commitments, and the United States needs to do something about it. Some in the administration want to pursue engagement; others want a push for regime change. As before, Bush can’t decide what to do, and as time goes on, our options will only get worse. No American has yet paid the price for the North Korean fiasco or the emerging one in Iran, but down the road our strategic position is deteriorating with remarkable speed while we have not yet -- and may never -- make up for the opportunity squandered at the beginning of the Iraq War.


 

Self-Inflicted?

Matthew Yglesias points to Keith Olberman on the Chris Matthews/Michelle Malkin kerfuffle. Since Mr. Olbermann wrote about it so well, I'll just post the whole thing....

Self-inflicted politics (Keith Olbermann)

My producer handed me a piece of paper, unexpectedly blank except for a brief quote that had just been clipped from Chris’ 'Hardball' interview with Larry Thurlow. He told me he thought the brief sound bite would fit ideally at the end of page A-2, our story on the conflict between Thurlow’s current version of the day John Kerry got his Purple Heart, and the Navy’s official records of 35 years ago— records that should have been written by Thurlow himself.

“I’m saying that he had a plan that included not only being a war hero, but getting an ‘early out.’”

There wasn’t much time to reflect —Countdown was to start about 20 minutes later— but the question formed quickly in my mind. “An ‘early out’? What the hell does he mean by that?”

The answer magically appeared moments later: “The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth” are going to steer the Kerry-Shot-Himself flotsam into the mainstream media.

Michelle Malkin, the unfortunate and overmatched author of a self-loathing book that attempts to justify our World War II internment and robbery of Americans of Japanese heritage, became the harbinger of the next mucky smell of low tide. She raised the story— heretofore consigned largely to Robert Novak and everybody to his right— in that delightful, Teflon way of modern politics: ‘I’m not saying that John Kerry shot himself. But in the Swift Boat Veterans’ book, they ask whether or not his wounds were self-inflicted.’

If Ms. Malkin isn’t seen on television, or moving on her own power, in the next few days, it’s understandable. My colleague Mr. Matthews forced her to hang herself out to dry ten or eleven times (never prouder of you, Chris). He may have directed the momentum, but her wounds were ultimately, uh, self-inflicted.

As Chris rightly pointed out, nobody has produced an iota of evidence that John Kerry’s wounds were anything other than the result of combat. Even in the book, the references to it are speculative and without provenance. Ms. Malkin wouldn’t even go so far as to attribute the suspicion to herself. It was in the book.

Late Thursday, the Swift Boat gang announced a second commercial to premiere in the morning, and to this writing, nobody’s been tipped about what it contains. Yet the Thurlow comment (“he had a plan”) and Malkin’s humiliating performance reek of a trial balloon. The story of the wounds will appear somewhere— probably soon.

When I raised this prospect with John Harwood of 'The Wall Street Journal,' several viewers e-mailed to chastise us for not recognizing the difference between wounds that are “self-inflicted” and those that are deliberate attempts to injure one’s self. Throw a grenade, wipe out an enemy enclave, and get a piece of shrapnel in your head in the blow-back, and you’ve received a self-inflicted wound. It isn’t intentional and it isn’t dishonorable.

But of course that’s not what Thurlow said. He spoke of some vast Swift Boat Conspiracy in which Kerry steered not a crew of soldiers through hell, but rather, steered history. “A plan,” Thurlow said. “Included not only being a war hero,” Thurlow said. “But (also) getting an ‘early out’,” Thurlow said.

He’s not talking about an inadvertent blow-back wound. It was all a plan. And if the wounds weren’t deliberately self-inflicted (again, kudos Chris— he immediately told Malkin that such an act constituted a criminal offense), they must have occurred thanks to the timely cooperation of the Viet Cong, who were good enough to shoot Kerry on cue so he could go back home with all those medals and ribbons. You know, the ribbons he threw away in protest.

We’ll save the logical disconnect that pops up right there for another time.

This is about the politics of the Smear Thrice Removed. I’m not saying this, but questions have been raised by others.

It is a perfected version of what many of President Bush’s opponents have tried in the murky depths of his reservist days. It is execrable no matter who presents it, no matter which party benefits from it.

We will hear from the very jaded that it is nothing new. It was Winston Churchill, 70 years ago, who so succinctly, and so English-ly, noted “Politics are foul.” But with instant communications, the internet explosion, and the 527 Groups, they are foul at warp-speed. The blur between an accusation with at least a thimble of evidence upon which it can rest, and the whole cloth fabrication, is so rapid as to appear as a solid line.

It is remarkable to think that we are living in the same country where a vast majority of the population never knew that Franklin Roosevelt was in a wheelchair, and where four different Republican presidential challengers, successively more and more distant of electoral chance and more and more desperate to close the widening gap, actually believed it inappropriate and unfair, just to mention it.

And that one was true.

Could Mr. Roosevelt’s limitations have been self-inflicted? Maybe some historian is asking that question. Because certainly I’m not.

But you have to ask yourself why they say Mr. Kerry's wounds were "self-inflicted" even if they mean the wounds came from a grenade he threw.

It's the association thing.

The Bush Administration did the same thing with Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Use the words together in the same sentence and get people to believe the Hussein / Al Qaeda link where none existed.

And the Administration gets to deny they never directly said Mr. Hussein worked with Al Qaeda.

So here comes the self-inflicted wound.

When I hear self-inflicted in a military sense, I believe it's easy to think something along the lines of, 'oh, the person did this to get out of combat' and not 'oh, that was from a grenade he threw at the enemy.'

And that's just what the people who push of this story want you to think. They want to taint the situation with the thought, even if it’s a slight thought in the back of your mind, that Mr. Kerry inflicted a wound on himself for medals and/or to get out of combat.

And I tend to think that those people who sill believe that Iraq had WMD before the invasion, are going to believe Mr. Kerry wounded himself on purpose.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

 

Presidential Press Conferences

Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post writes this....

No Substitute

These "Ask the President" events are no substitute for news conferences.

As White House press corps veteran and columnist Helen Thomas recently put it in an interview in the Progressive: "The President of the United States should be able to answer any question, or at least dance around one. At some time -- early and often -- he should submit to questioning and be held accountable, because if you don't have that then you only have one side of the story. The Presidential news conference is the only forum in our society, the only institution, where a President can be questioned. If a leader is not questioned, he can rule by edict or executive order. He can be a king or a dictator. Who's to challenge him? We're there to pull his chain and to ask the questions that should be asked every day, for every move."


 

I Won't Say It....

And I Won't Correct You When You Say It....

So go ahead and say it....

Dan Froomkin, makes note of how Mr. Bush is handling the spurious charges about Mr. Kerry and Vietnam....

Character Assassination

The format also offers a highly public airing of unsubstantiated charges against Bush's opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry, that the campaign would never make directly.

And Bush doesn't jump to refute those.

For instance, in Beaverton:

"Q On behalf of Vietnam veterans -- and I served six tours over there -- we do support the President. I only have one concern, and that's on the Purple Heart, and that is, is that there are over 200,000 Vietnam vets that died from Agent Orange and were never -- no Purple Heart has ever been awarded to a Vietnam veteran because of Agent Orange because it's never been changed in the regulations. Yet, we've got a candidate for President out here with two self-inflicted scratches, and I take that as an insult. (Applause.)

"THE PRESIDENT: Well, I appreciate that. Thank you. Thank you for your service. Six tours? Whew. That's a lot of tours.

"Let's see, who've we got here? You got a question?"

Mr. Bush, bringing honor and integrity back to the White House.

When does that start again? It's been four years.

Four very long years.

 

Is John Kerry Tough Enough?

E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post basically writes that Mr. Kerry needs to better at striking when Mr. Bush makes political mistakes.

A point I agree with.

Mr. Kerry needs to be clearer and more concise with his message.

And he needs to play politics better. The Bush folks are geniuses at political give and take and spin as demonstrated that they are still in the race after a horrible four-year term in office. They seem to be setting the debate at this point. Mr. Kerry needs to make that change as soon as he possibly can.

I don’t know that he needs to be better at their game than they are. That might be expecting too much from Mr. Kerry, what he needs to do rather is to make it clear to the America people how Mr. Bush is spinning and playing games. Mr. Kerry shouldn’t let Mr. Bush get away with anything.

This part made me think of something else though....

It would not be a bad thing if this campaign turned into a referendum on Bush's effort to shift taxes from wealth to work. But to move the debate in that direction, Kerry has to be as tough and strategic as Bush has been, and a lot crisper in explaining what he stands for.

Kerry did seize on the CBO report and also on Bush's comment that a national sales tax was "an interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously." The White House moved quickly to play down the idea that Bush had any plans to impose a consumption tax. Here was Bush's defense of his comment to Larry King on CNN: "This is politics. People put words in your mouth." But unless I'm missing something, Bush is the one and only person who put those words into his own mouth. Bush's people would be jumping all over a comparable gaffe -- another word for an admission of a real but hidden belief by Kerry.

Bush has given Kerry an extraordinary gift with the sales tax comment. But Kerry has still not taken full advantage of it.

The problem as I see it with that is that Mr. Bush makes huge misstatements all the time and no one seems to care. Combine that with the fact that and the expectations of the office seem to been lowered so much for him and Mr. Bush just doesn't seem to be held to account for much of anything he says.

So when he says something like the tax thing, it's left to his assistants to clean up the verbal mess and for him to laugh it off later when he's asked about it.

It's like he not responsible for anything he says.

Mr. Kerry needs to change that.

Mr. Dionne is correct when he writes this....

If Kerry needs an even stronger offense on domestic issues, he also needs a much better defense of that Iraq vote of his. It really isn't so hard. When Bush went to Congress in the fall of 2002 for authorization to go to war in Iraq, he did so after saying he was going to the United Nations to seek international support for a war against Saddam Hussein.

Yes, the congressional resolution empowering Bush to wage war was far broader than it should have been. But when push came to shove, Kerry decided to take the chance in voting "yes" to strengthen Bush's hand in negotiating with the United Nations. That seeking U.N. support was never really a Bush priority and that he botched the postwar planning is the president's problem, not Kerry's. Why can't Kerry keep it that simple?


Monday, August 16, 2004

 

Reason Enough

This from the The New York Times is reason enough not to vote for Mr. Bush.

Out of Spotlight, Bush Overhauls U.S. Regulations

JOEL BRINKLEY
Published: August 14, 2004

WASHINGTON, Aug. 13 - April 21 was an unusually violent day in Iraq; 68 people died in a car bombing in Basra, among them 23 children. As the news went from bad to worse, President Bush took a tough line, vowing to a group of journalists, "We're not going to cut and run while I'm in the Oval Office."

On the same day, deep within the turgid pages of the Federal Register, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a regulation that would forbid the public release of some data relating to unsafe motor vehicles, saying that publicizing the information would cause "substantial competitive harm" to manufacturers.

As soon as the rule was published, consumer groups yelped in complaint, while the government responded that it was trying to balance the interests of consumers with the competitive needs of business. But hardly anyone else noticed, and that was hardly an isolated case.

Allies and critics of the Bush administration agree that the Sept. 11 attacks, the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq have preoccupied the public, overshadowing an important element of the president's agenda: new regulatory initiatives. Health rules, environmental regulations, energy initiatives, worker-safety standards and product-safety disclosure policies have been modified in ways that often please business and industry leaders while dismaying interest groups representing consumers, workers, drivers, medical patients, the elderly and many others.

And most of it was done through regulation, not law - lowering the profile of the actions. The administration can write or revise regulations largely on its own, while Congress must pass laws. For that reason, most modern-day presidents have pursued much of their agendas through regulation. But administration officials acknowledge that Mr. Bush has been particularly aggressive in using this strategy.

----

A Pro-Business Tilt

The overall regulatory record shows that the Bush administration has heeded the interests of business and industry. Like the Reagan administration, which made regulatory reform a priority, officials under Mr. Bush have introduced new rules to ease or dismantle existing regulations they see as cumbersome. Some analysts argue that the Bush administration has introduced rules favoring industry with a dedication unmatched in modern times.

----

But examples of countervailing, business-friendly changes abound, some that broke through the flak thrown up from the wars, and others that remain little known.

The administration, at the request of lumber and paper companies, gave Forest Service managers the right to approve logging in federal forests without the usual environmental reviews. A Forest Service official explained that the new rule was intended "to better harmonize the environmental, social and economic benefits of America's greatest natural resource, our forests and grasslands."

In March of 2003, the Mine Safety and Health Administration published a proposed new regulation that would dilute the rules intended to protect coal miners from black-lung disease. The mine workers union called the new rules "extremely dangerous," while a mine safety administration official contended, "We are moving on toward more effective prevention of black-lung disease."

In May 2003, the Bush administration dropped a proposed rule that would have required hospitals to install facilities to protect workers against tuberculosis. Hospitals and other industry groups had lobbied against the change, saying that it would be costly and that existing regulations would accomplish many of the same aims.

But workers unions and public health officials argued that the number of tuberculosis cases had risen in 20 states and that the same precautions that were to have been put into place for tuberculosis would also have been effective against SARS.

The next month, the Department of Labor, responding to complaints from industry, dropped a rule that required employers to keep a record of employees' ergonomic injuries. Labor unions complained that without the reporting, it would be difficult to identify dangerous workplaces. But the department, in a statement, argued that the records "would not provide additional information useful to identifying possible causes or methods to prevent injury."

The administration's 2004 budget proposed to cut 77 enforcement and related positions from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, while adding two new staff members whose jobs would be to help industry comply with agency rules. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao explained to a House committee that the agency would "continue to target inspections based on the worst hazards and the most dangerous workplaces." As the budget proposal was announced, President Bush and other senior officials focused most of their remarks on the large increases proposed for defense and domestic security.



 

George W. Bush - Radical?

Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo links to this Washington Post column by David Broder....

Bush's Two Albatrosses

By David S. Broder
Sunday, August 15, 2004; Page B07

----

The first gamble was the decision to attack Iraq; the second, to avoid paying for the war. The rationale for the first decision was to remove the threat of a hostile dictator armed with weapons of mass destruction. The weapons were never found. The rationale for the second decision -- the determination to keep cutting taxes in the face of far higher spending for Iraq and the war on terrorism -- was to stimulate the American economy and end the drought of jobs. The deficits have accumulated, but the jobs have still not come back.

If Bush can win reelection despite the failure of his two most consequential -- and truly radical -- decisions, he will truly be a political miracle man. But as his own nominating convention approaches, the odds are against him.

----

Josh has this to say....

Other measures of independents all show danger signs for the president. And some further indication can be found down-ballot -- especially on the senate side. But my point here isn't to get into the nitty-gritty of the polling numbers. These are pretty conventional ways to interpret polling data. My point is only to argue -- as Charlie Cook has been arguing in his recent columns -- that if you go by conventional ways of reading the numbers, both nationwide and in key swing states, President Bush is on the way to losing this race.

That sense of the race has hardly settled in among pundits or daily newspaper reporters, or if it has, it hasn't shown through in their copy. And yet here you have David Broder writing a column which, though it says many things, says mainly that President Bush is likely to be thrown out of office -- not because John Kerry is lighting the hustings on fire, but simply because President Bush's fundamental policy decisions have failed and voters are going to hold him accountable.

That perception, that conventional wisdom, once it takes hold, can have a poisonous effect on the efforts of the perceived loser. And when that perception begins to take hold among Republicans, if it does, it will set off a vicious internal dynamic within the party.

And so this, I think, will be the key issue over the next three weeks, as we build up to and then come out of the Republican convention: when does the CW defined by Broder -- the veritable pontiff of beltway CW -- start registering? If the polls change it may never, of course. But if not, when does the president start moving ahead in the polls? Can the GOP convention fundamentally shift the dynamic of the race? And, if not, when do the first signs of panic begin to appear within the president's ranks?

The GOP convention now seems like it'll be a much more high-stakes affair than the DNC.

I say that maybe, just maybe, if the Media can get off the RNC script they've been working off of for so long, the public might be more aware of this sort of thing and vote accordingly.

Mrs. Atrios has a good post sort of about this kind of thing.

 

More Cat Blogging


Billie on the back of the chair and Socks on the arm.


Billie behind the chair.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

 

Halliburton's $1.8 Billion Problem

Ezra, over at Pandagon writes quite the post.

The Invisible Hand Bites Its Nails

You know what's efficient? private companies. Much more efficient than the government. That's why we farm everything out to them, because they can do it better, cheaper and more efficiently than the government. And the nice thing is that the unions haven't made them all unaccountable and stuff. Can't fire people in the government, they're unaccountable. Private companies though, muy accountability (via the unlinkable, password-protected, subscriber-only Wall Street Journal):

According to a report by Pentagon auditors, Halliburton has not adequately accounted for more than $1.8 billion of work in Iraq and Kuwait, representing 43% of the $4.18 billion that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root has billed the Pentagon so far.

----

The more linkable Reuters has more....

Halliburton Questioned on $1.8 Billion Iraq Work -WSJ

Wed Aug 11, 5:07 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pentagon auditors have concluded that Halliburton Co. failed to adequately account for more than $1.8 billion of work in Iraq and Kuwait, the Wall Street Journal said on Wednesday, citing a Pentagon report.

The amount represents 43 percent of the $4.18 billion that Houston-based Halliburton's Kellogg Brown & Root unit has billed the Pentagon to feed and house troops in the region, the newspaper said.

It said the findings in the 60-page Pentagon audit report, dated Aug. 4 but not publicly released are likely to increase pressure on the U.S. government to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars of payments to Halliburton.

This, it said, potentially threatens the services that KBR provides U.S. troops and other personnel in Iraq and Kuwait.

Vice President Dick Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to 2000.

No one at Halliburton was immediately available to comment on the report. But the newspaper said KBR officials dispute the report's conclusions.

The officials say they have worked within the same Defense Department system for more than 10 years without problems, and believe differences can be resolved without the withholding of large payments, the newspaper said.

In a June securities filing Halliburton said a move by the Pentagon to withhold substantial payments or demand refunds could "materially and adversely affect our liquidity."

KBR filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last December under the weight of asbestos claims.

According to the newspaper Halliburton has until Sunday, after two prior extensions, to provide Army officials with all necessary cost information for its logistical work in Iraq and other locales.

This could lead to the withholding of as much as $600 million of payments, though KBR officials are confident the Army will again extend the deadline, and the Army is considering doing so, it said.

Halliburton shares closed on Tuesday at $29.83 on the New York Stock Exchange.



Tuesday, August 10, 2004

 

Trickledown?

Brad DeLong points to Paul Krugman on trickledown economics....

What we've just seen is as clear a test of trickledown economics as we're ever likely to get. Twice, in 2001 and in 2003, the administration insisted that a tax cut heavily tilted toward the affluent was just what the economy needed. Officials brushed aside pleas to give relief instead to lower- and middle-income families, who would be more likely to spend the money, and to cash-strapped state and local governments. Given the actual results - huge deficits, but minimal job growth - don't you wish the administration had listened to that advice?

Mr. DeLong has a couple of things to say about the column....

It is a substantial mystery--why there was nobody inside the Bush administration arguing for a good old-fashioned Keynesian fiscal stimulus program that got money to the people most likely to spend it. Even though their forecasts at the end of 2002 were predicting swift employment growth, there is always the questions, "What if something else bad happens?" You would certainly expect political operatives to ask it.

It is for this other other reasons that I find myself shifting my view of the George W. Bush administration. Political hacks seem to have less influence than I had thought. Anti-pragmatic ideologues--people who *know* what the truth is, *know* that it is sunny outside, and don't bother to raise the windowshade to check--have more influence than I had thought.


 

One Can Only Hope

Michael Froomkin at Discourse.net points to the electoral-vote.com site which has this on it page....

Electoral Vote Predictor 2004:
Kerry 307
Bush 231

Monday, August 09, 2004

 

Attack The Source

Atrios links to a Pandagon story which talks about a Media Matters For America story about Bill O'Reilly and Paul Krugman on CNBC's Tim Russert.

The last bastion of the bully is to attack the source to divert attention from the argument.

And Mr. O’Reilly was quite the bully.

There’s some video here.

Sure, when someone posts something from NewsMax I roll my eyes. But you have to look at the substance of the article and the argument if you intend to refute it.

Rather than doing that, Mr. O'Reilly points his little finger around and talks loudly as a substitute for argumentation.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

 

Is Being Anti-Mr. Bush Enough?

Maybe not.

So here are some of the things that I, and I think generally Democrats, are for.

Pro-Environment
Pro-Social Justice and Civil Rights
Pro-Human Rights
Pro-Worker

For Freedom of Speech
For Due Process and Equal Protection
For Finding New Means of Energy Production
For Doing Something About Outsourcing of Jobs
For Affordable Health Care
For Regulation of Corporations
For Actually Funding Education
For Free, Universal Education
For Funding and Maintaining National Infrastructure
For Funding Continued Scientific Exploration
For Campaign Finance Reform
For A Living Wage
For Working With Other Nations on the World Stage to Deal With Terrorism
For Understanding the Nature and Creation Points of Terrorism and Finding and Implementing Non-Military Means to Deal With It
For A Thoughtful, Reasoned Foreign Policy, Domestic Policy, and National Security Policy

 

Cat Blogging


Billie again.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

 

Mr. Bush At His Rhetorical Finest

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

Via Slate

Monday, August 02, 2004

 

For Security Purposes?

Bush camp solicits race of Star staffer

President Bush's re-election campaign insisted on knowing the race of an Arizona Daily Star journalist assigned to photograph Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Star refused to provide the information.

Cheney is scheduled to appear at a rally this afternoon at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

A rally organizer for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign asked Teri Hayt, the Star's managing editor, to disclose the journalist's race on Friday. After Hayt refused, the organizer called back and said the journalist probably would be allowed to photograph the vice president.

"It was such an outrageous request, I was personally insulted," Hayt said later.

Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the president's re-election campaign, said the information was needed for security purposes.

"All the information requested of staff, volunteers and participants for the event has been done so to ensure the safety of all those involved, including the vice president of the United States," he said.

Diaz repeated that answer when asked if it is the practice of the White House to ask for racial information or if the photographer, Mamta Popat, was singled out because of her name. He referred those questions to the U.S. Secret Service, which did not respond to a call from the Star Friday afternoon.

Hayt declined to speculate on whether Popat was racially profiled, but said she is deeply concerned.

"One has to wonder what they were going to do with that information," Hayt said. "Because she has Indian ancestry, were they going to deny her access? I don't know."

Journalists covering the president or vice president must undergo a background check and are required to provide their name, date of birth and Social Security number. The Star provided that information Thursday for Popat and this reporter.

"That's all anybody has been asked to provide," said Hayt, adding that this is the first time in her 26-year career that a journalist's race was made an issue.

Organizer Christine Walton asked for Popat's race in telephone conversations with two other Star editors before she spoke to Hayt. They also refused to provide the information. Walton told Hayt that Popat's race was necessary to allow the Secret Service to distinguish her from someone else who might have the same name.

"It was a very lame excuse," Hayt said.

Popat, a photographer with six years' experience, was on assignment Friday and unaware of the controversy. But she said she was glad the Star refused. "My race shouldn't have anything to do with my job," she said.

Tickets are required for the public to attend the rally, which begins at 12:50 p.m. All tickets were distributed by Friday.

C.J. Karamargin, Arizona Daily Star

Via The Smirking Chimp

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