"War On Christmas" Holiday Party
This Tuesday. We'll talk about 2005, and look ahead to 2006.
"This is a democracy, We choose our tormentors" -- Geoffrey Jacques
I've heard bits like this a lot recently and they were striking me as odd:
"Reconstruction has not always gone as well as we had hoped, primarily because of the security challenges on the ground," Bush said in a speech to foreign policy veterans. "Rebuilding a nation devastated by a dictator is a large undertaking. It's even harder when terrorists are trying to blow up that which the Iraqis are trying to build. The terrorists and Saddamists have been able to slow progress, but they haven't been able to stop it."Now look, I have no love for Sadam Hussein, but... he didn't directly devastate Iraq: The U.S. and its allies did. yes, Sadam engaged in wars that didn't help, and he took off with Oil revenues during the embargoes, but we bombed Iraq... he might have screwed it up, but we knocked it down and out.
Some good questions being raised out there folks as we move into our begin our official winding down of the Bush presidency. There may, technically be a little less than 3 years left, but after the 1st of the year the mid-terms become the real game and they're just the playoffs before the next presidental race... which has sort of already started. That said, people are starting to notice some things that have become the hallmarks of the Bush 'presidency' and they aren't war and doing-exactly-what-the-terrorists-want (though those are big ones), no they're: isolation and propaganda.
If anyone then had told me that, in my lifetime, U.S. presidents would appear only in select audiences of their hand-picked partisan supporters, before patriotic tableau carefully designed by their "communications directors," and take questions only from pre-screened, adoring fans, I would have scoffed at the idea of such quasi-authoritarian practices ever becoming commonplace in the republic of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison.A uniter not a divider eh? I guess that really meant he only unites with those that believe what he does lock-step.
But, in the early 21st century here we are. I cannot recall an event since the early Republican primaries in 2000 when George W. Bush has gotten anywhere near a cross-section of the American people he has been elected to represent and to govern.
How can a president govern who is so isolated, so cocooned away from the American public, so protected from any question, let alone voice of dissent? And how can the press, not only protected by the First Amendment, but also heavily obligated by that protection, not regularly report that the president has not seen a variety of real Americans for FIVE YEARS?Gary, how did you get in my head?
This kind of unAmerican behavior destroys the very core of democracy. It is more characteristic of a Latin American dictatorship than the American republic. Of even deeper concern, this is the behavior of frightened people. What is the Bush administration frightened of? Are they really convinced the president is incapable of handling himself in the give-and-take of democracy? Or are they simply afraid of the American people?
They may be afraid of me. But I'm even more afraid of them.
A frequent complaint about the Clinton administration was that it tried too hard to "spin" everything in its own favor... In practice, Clinton-era spinning meant that officials seldom conceded the obvious or acknowledged losing, failing, or being wrong about anything.OUCH
George W. Bush arrived in Washington avowing an end to all that. He promised he would never parse, shade, or play nice with the truth the way that Clinton had. But if Bush has shunned spinning, it has been in favor of something far more insidious. If the Clintonites were inveterate spinners, the Bushies have proved themselves to be thoroughgoing propagandists.
Though propaganda and spin exist on a continuum, they are different in essence. To spin is to offer a contention, usually specious, in response to a critical argument or a negative news story. It does not necessarily involve lying or misleading anyone about factual matters. Habitual spin is irksome, especially to the journalists upon whom it is practiced, but it does not threaten democracy. Propaganda is far more malignant. A calculated and systematic effort to manage public opinion, it transcends mere lying and routine political dishonesty. When the Bush administration manufactures fake "news," suppresses real news, disguises the former as the latter, and challenges the legitimacy of the independent press, it corrodes trust in leaders, institutions, and, to the rest of the world, the United States as a whole.Double OUCH.
At phony town hall meetings, Bush's audiences are hand-picked to prevent any possibility of spontaneous challenge. At fake forums, invited guests ask the president to pursue his previously announced policies. New initiatives are unveiled on platforms festooned with meaningless slogans, mindlessly repeated ("Plan for Victory"). Anyone on the inside who doubts the party line is shown the door. In this environment, where the truth is not spoken privately or publicly, the suspicion grows that Bush, in his righteous cocoon, has committed the final, fatal sin of the propagandist. He is not just spreading BS but has come to believe it himself.Hmmm, now where did we just hear that?
How Republicans Got So Corrupt
It used to be said that the moral arc of a Washington career could be divided into four parts: idealism, pragmatism, ambition, and corruption. You arrive with a passion for a cause, determined to challenge the system. Then you learn to work for your cause within the system. Then rising in the system becomes your cause. Then finally you exploit the system—your connections in it, and your understanding of it—for personal profit.Now that is a pretty good argument for term limits... or making all elections publicly funded.
And it remains true, sort of, but faster. Even the appalling Jack Abramoff had ideals at one point. But he took a shortcut straight to corruption.And, the sweet baby Jesus willing, even straighter to jail (unless he gives up some Congress folk!)
On the other hand, you can now trace the traditional moral arc in the life of conservative-dominated Washington itself, which began with Ronald Reagan's inauguration and marks its 25th anniversary in January. Reagan and company arrived to tear down the government and make Washington irrelevant. Now the airport and a giant warehouse of bureaucrats are named after him.My favorite part?
By the 20th anniversary of their arrival, when an intellectually corrupt Supreme Court ruling gave them complete control of the government at last, the conservatives had lost any stomach for tearing down the government. George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" was more like an apology than an ideology. Meanwhile Tom DeLay—the real boss in Congress—openly warned K Street that unless all the choice lobbying jobs went to Republicans, lobbyists could not expect to have any influence with the Republican Congress. This warning would be meaningless, of course, unless the opposite was also true: If you hire Republican lobbyists, you and they will have influence over Congress. And darned if DeLay didn't turn out to be exactly right about this! No prominent Republican upbraided DeLay for his open invitation to bribery. And bribery is what it is: not just campaign contributions, but the promise of personal enrichment for politicians and political aides who play ball for a few years before cashing in.
Like medieval scholastics counting the angels on the head of a pin, Justice Department lawyers are struggling with the question of when favors to and from a member of Congress or a congressional aide take on the metaphysical quality of a corrupt bribe. The brazenness of the DeLay-Abramoff circle has caused prosecutors to look past traditional distinctions, such as that between campaign contributions and cash or other favors to a politician personally. Or the distinction between doing what a lobbyist wants after he has taken you to Scotland to play golf, and promising to do what he wants before he takes you to Scotland to play golf.
Nifty article in the Washington Post today that lays out the current situation for Tom "HotTub/the Hammer" DeLay and the chances of his returning to Power. The best part?
Even if DeLay is never implicated, his return to the majority leader's post would create political "havoc," said one Republican House member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The lawmaker pointed to DeLay's decision in October to fly to Texas ahead of his first courtroom appearance aboard a corporate jet owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.And here's hoping that he never does.
"The fact that he flew down on a corporate jet for his mug shot, and not just any corporate jet but Big Tobacco's corporate jet, that's a double whammy," the lawmaker said. "A number of my colleagues say he just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand how this plays."