Archive for the ‘Bush’ Category

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About This “But He Kept Us Safe” Meme…(pt. II)

January 21, 2009

Yea, I know I’ve been over this before, but I thought I’d mention that there now appears to be a website created for the purposes of formally thanking Bush for it (h/t LGF):

bushmissionaccomplished

Never mind the irony that Bush has stated on multiple occasions that he regrets the whole “Mission Accomplished” thing, of course.  On his watch, nearly 3000 died in the worst terrorist attack in American history.  In response, he turned around and invaded a country that had nothing to do with it, resulting in even more American lives lost, tens of thousands wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars spent…and nearly 6 years later, we’re still there.  But we’re supposed to thank him, because the batshit crazy cave-dwellers haven’t managed to pull off another stunt with knives and flying lessons?    They’re saying that not allowing the same mistakes and oversights to happen again is cause for some sort of praise, and willfully ignoring the fact that the battle was being waged well before 9/11, and making the assumption that those of us that hadn’t died horrifying deaths would be living under bin Laden’s rule if it wasn’t for the protective blanket provided by Papa Bush.   I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it. 

Well, if one admits that it’s a cop-out for unconditionally supporting the guy all these years, then maybe I get it.

Anyway, if you click the image, you’ll see also that the site’s founders make the claim that “the president’s Number One Mission is to protect our nation” (bold in original).   But as we saw yesterday, the oath requires the president to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States”.   Much has been made of the conflict between the two principles during Bush’s eight years in office, certainly, and I would assume that the ultimate goal would be to avoid sacrificing one for the sake of the other.   So how did Bush do with regard to the actual oath?  Pretty poorly, it would seem. 

So go ahead and thank him, if you wish.  You’re just a couple clicks away.  Give him the ol’ A for effort.  For myself, I think instead I’ll wait see if Obama is capable of cleaning up the mess first.

Exit thought:  That image of Bush has always spooked me.  Is it a gay lover look?  A Manson-esque stare?  The failed televangelist?   I’m not sure, but I’d take his ridiculous eyebrow-contorting phony smirks any day of the week over that crazy mugshot.

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Bush’s Departure Reminder

January 16, 2009

Somewhere within all the coverage of the jet diving into the Hudson river, I happened to notice Bush decided to give a farewell speech (something his father didn’t do).  As it turns out, I’m kinda glad he did, ’cause I’d almost forgotten to pick up some beer for the party I’m gonna have in a few days.  I’m sure he’s glad he did it too, ’cause if nothing else, it gave him one last chance to stand up in front of America and make those ridiculous eyebrow-contorting smirks:

bushfunnyface1

from yesterday's video

After this boilerplate performance, I take great comfort in the thought that this was the last display of fumbled phrases and childishly robotic over-enunciation of everyday words.  The last attempt to whitewash his unwise decisions with platitudes about “taking the fight to the terrorists” and head-scratchers like “promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity”.   The last Bush speech from behind a podium. 

Finally, it’s over.

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About This “But He Kept Us Safe” Meme…

December 5, 2008

I have to apologize to my fellow members of the WPPBA, ’cause I really haven’t been paying as close of attention to politics as I should as of late.  So, I return to the fray… 

I couldn’t help but notice the recent hubub over the “Bush Legacy Project“.   Interesting, but not unexpected, all things considered.  I suppose the operative word there is “project”.  Hmmm…”project”.   When I think of “projects”, the first thing that comes to mind is one of those assignments that teachers hand out to groups of high school students.  And in the history of “projects”, I imagine that this would go down as one of the tougher ones.   Just think, having to come up with positive things to report on the Bush presidency.  I’d hope those kids would be graded on a curve.

But, hey, someone’s gotta try, right?   So, enter Peggy Noonan, who gives it a shot in today’s WSJ:  ‘At Least Bush Kept Us Safe’

Back to the Christmas gathering. There was no grousing about John McCain, and considerable grousing about the Bush administration, but it was almost always followed by one sentence, and this is more or less what it was: “But he kept us safe.”

Now, I’m not sure who hangs out at Peggy’s Christmas gatherings, but I can’t picture that statement resonating with anyone besides the zombie-eyed Bushbot kool aid overdosers that make up that 20% of Bush’s approval ratings.  Maybe it’s just me.  I guess if you’re that desperate to look at the glass as full even when it’s nearly empty, this kind of notion probably elicits a few head nods in a room full of like-minded individuals.  But the reality is that it’s so hollow that the sound of bullshit splattering actually echoes when shoveled with this sentiment.    Yep.  {{{{{echoes}}}}}  Here’s why…FILES-US-ATTACKS-BUSH

In order to really embrace this idea, one has to commit to a couple intellectually dishonest assumptions.   The primary one, of course, being  the assumption that the whole “keeping us safe” concept didn’t get added to the list of presidential responsibilities until after 9/11 (’cause certainly 9/11 was a far cry from “keeping us safe”).  The subset of that would include the “out of the blue” arguments I’ve heard from Krauthammer and others; as if the president and the entire U.S. intelligence community had never heard of Al Qaeda or bin Laden, and no one had ever thought about counter-terrorism before that day.

Since this one is pretty obvious, the 20 percenters usually follow “he kept us safe” with the qualifier “since 9/11″.   This is a nice segue into the next assumption…

A secondary assumption is that one really understands al Qaeda’s capabilities, motives or intentions.  After 9/11, no doubt many of my fellow Americans believed that AQ’s goal was something along the lines of systematically striking at every major city until we were all dead.  The attacks supposedly (perhaps because of their magnitude) marked the beginning of some onslaught, and we were expecting to be faced with wave after wave of terrorist plots and bombings.  A crisis that only a strong president could do what needed to be done to prevent the imminent Armageddon.   Or something like that…which is supposed to give the weight to the “after 9/11″ portion of the meme.

The problem is, this mindset ignores whether real terror threats to domestic targets have actually increased or decreased since 9/11.  But we’re to assume, I guess, that they’ve increased.  As Noonan correctly pointed out, much of that information is kept out of the public view, so we could speculate all day long, but just entertaining the question leads one to ponder the second one:  Has Bush kept us “more safe” than, say, Clinton?  And once you’ve gone there (comparing to other presidents), you’ve effectively watered down “he kept us safe” as a notable accolade. 

Or, it could very well be that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11 because, frankly, they haven’t really tried to.  Maybe they haven’t felt the need to.   To use a hockey metaphor, it’s hard to congratulate the goaltender that lost a 1-0 game, even though he only let in one goal.  Many, including myself, have suggested that 9/11 was less about killing Americans, and more about provoking a response.   Bush certainly gave them a response, and we got a giant, expensive, and deadly mess in Iraq (and occasionally a mocking by the al Qaeda creeps via the internet along the way). 

Anyway, after eight tumultuous years, and where we find ourselves now, its kinda telling that people like Noonan are posting up op-ed’s saying “Hey, at least we weren’t bombed again!”, and presenting it as the primary thing that matters.  It probably sounds good to the aforementioned faithful, but I don’t think it’d help the grade out on the “project”.

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Update:  Meanwhile, over at the discussion-free zone dubbed JammieWearingFool, JWF posts the following:

Say what you want about George W. Bush, but you cannot deny him this. Despite every effort made by the media and the left to undermine his policies designed strictly for this purpose–to keep us free from terrorism post-9/11–he got the job done, and for that he has earned his legacy.

That’s right, not only was Bush doing battle with al Qaeda, he was winning in spite of the plans of the evil media and half of the American citizens.  No doubt, it must be tough for him to keep that cape hidden under his suit.

Anyway, aren’t we counting our chickens before they hatch a bit here?  There’s still 40-something days left in Bush’s term, after all.   But should the unfortunate occur, I have no doubt that voices like JWF’s and Noonan’s Christmas Coctail Team will go moaning on about how much we could really use a Republican taking the oath Jan. 20 instead of Obama (because of those innate national security skills, of course) or blaming the media and/or the left for “undermining” the policies of the wise GWB.

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Who Are You Calling “Anti-American”?

October 25, 2008

I’ve had plenty of time to ponder my post on the Bachmann incident (I was initially speechless), so I decided that a follow up post was in order… 

You see, I realized there was something I was missing, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  Something that I was leaving unsaid, more specifically.  I know that her comments revealed that she views her colleagues in Congress through a “pro” and “anti-American” lens (which is in and of itself pretty disturbing, and the underlying reason why her campaign has been suffering lately), but there was a gaping hole in the entire discussion, and I’ve finally figured out what it was:  

For how much the phrase gets tossed around lately, “anti-American” really deserves a cohesive definition that everyone can agree on. 

So, considering my tradition of using the Chamber as a platform for defining things and establishing paradigms, I figured that this might be a good idea going forward.  After all, who knows how often we’ll see the term flung about around here?  I should really have something set in stone.  And in an attempt to set a definition that will be accepted and universal, I think we should first start with defining what “American” is.  That would be logical, right?  It would appear to me that it’s not the “anti-” that should be explored (assuming we can juxtapose “anti-” and “un”).  Everyone knows what that means, after all. 

I argue that, while many may agree that quaint things like apple pie, baseball, Uncle Sam, Mt. Rushmore, etc. are intrinsically “American”, there is still a possibility that not all would agree.   Indeed, the Founding Fathers wouldn’t have seen much significance in any of those things (apple pie recipes from the 14th century?).  My proposal would be to strip away all of the cultural icons, traditions, monuments, and any given individual’s belief in what the American “spirit” is (thanks Alfie), thus leaving just the lowest possible standard of what is unequivocally American:  The U.S. Constitution.   The Chamber position is that, at the end of the day, it’s essentially all we have.  The president takes an oath to “protect and defend” it.  The Supreme Court interprets it.  The Congress can collectively amend it.  One could make a pretty compelling argument that, without recognition of the Constitution, there is no America.  Cities may burn and towns may flood.  The Federal Reserve may be depleted of funds.  Half the U.S. population could be wiped out by some horrible disease.  Great American traditions like World Series could disappear forever.  But as long as the tenets of the Constitution remain intact and can be effectively upheld and executed, America remains.

That said, I shall declare:  From this day forth in the Chamber, anything that doesn’t meet the standards of (or anyone who seeks to undermine) this most American of ideals will be considered as “anti-American”.   Calls that don’t meet this lowest of bars will be deemed to be just hallow, inflammatory, pejorative-laden rhetoric, and will be called out as such.   Even an activity like, say, burning the Flag is subjected to this basic requirement.  

OK, I’ve brought down the proverbial gavel.  I think its time to test the definition.  Let’s use a hypothetical scenario:

Debater A claims that Obama policy X is “socialist” and his views are “anti-American”.  Debater B asks A if there is anything in Policy X that would be considered unconstitutional.  Debater A thinks for a second, and responds “It should be”.  Debater B then points out that if one cannot prove that policy X is unconstitutional, then one must conclude that the Constitution makes room for (what A considers) “socialist” policies and thereby cannot be deemed “anti-American”.

hhmmm…it seems to work.  Perhaps it makes for a clumsy debate the way I’ve phrased it, but I think it is logically sound*.   

Now that we’ve agreed on that, let’s come full circle, and revisit what Bachmann said about the would-be Democratic president and her colleagues in Congress:

“I’m very concerned that he may have anti-American views”

“I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think the American people would love to see an expose like that.”

And I say to Ms. Bachmann that, when it comes to your fear of your fellow politicians having “anti-American” views, perhaps you might want to “take a great look at” your most favorite-ist person in the whole wide world.  You know, the current president:

*I suppose I should open the thread up to more tests or to point out holes, so have at me.

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Does Al Qaeda Care About Our Elections? (Part III)

October 22, 2008

Interesting.  A month after I posed the question in Part II, I think I saw the answer pop up today.  Here’s the WaPo via memeorandum: On Al-Qaeda Web Sites, Joy Over U.S. Crisis, Support for McCain

Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market’s downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America’s economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.

And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.

“Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election,” said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the “failing march of his predecessor,” President Bush.

The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had “exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy.” It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.

Whether the current financial situation we find ourselves in is due to the expensive “War on Terror” is surely to be disputed, of course, but it’d be pretty hard to argue that it’s helped the situation (unless one wants to make the claim that the Iraq intervention has somehow prohibited another financially ruinous attack, thereby being a net plus).  It’s been 4 years since Osama released his “bankrupt the U.S.” October surprise, and it has been argued that the tape put Bush in the White House (as designed), so one may naturally wonder if AQ has something up their sleeve this time around.  And like I posted in Part II, there apparently have been warnings of another attack.   So, What would they do?  An attack, or maybe drag Osama out of the cave to release another taunting video?

Actually, the better question would be:  Would the American people fall for it again, whatever they did?

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Update: No signs of Qaeda election threat – U.S.

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James Kirchick Didn’t Get the Memo, Apparently

June 16, 2008

I came across a post by fellow blogger Jimmie over at Sundrie’s Shack, in which he reported on an editorial in the LA Times penned by the assistant editor of New RepublicBush never lied to us about Iraq: The administration simply got bad intelligence. Critics are wrong to assert deception.

Now, as tempted as I was to dissect this over at Jimmie’s place (since it was the second time in a week that an editorial rebutting the “Bush Lied” meme was featured over there), I figured that it’d be better for me to address this over here in the Chamber, and give my pal Jimmie a couple of pingbacks instead.  That, and I do feel frustrated that when the topic comes up, the focus is always on claims about WMD intelligence and connections to al Qaeda.  And as much as I’m convinced that the administration attempted to hyperventilate the American public with ad nauseam presentations of worst-case scenarios as iron-clad fact, this misses what I feel is the actual, bigger “lie”, so if I haven’t covered this already (I have), I’m going to do it now…again

From what I remember, the “Bush Lied, People Died” really picked up steam after the publication of the famous Downing Street Memo, because the focus was primarily on the passage that read “But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy“. To be certain, that portion of the “memo” deserves a fair amount of attention, but what most people miss is the broader point, encapsulated by the sentence the preceded it, reading “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD“.

The meeting took place in Britain on July 23, 2002, remember, and it’s fairly contradictory to what Bush himself said months later in October, when he signed the AUMF:

“Our goal is not merely to limit Iraq’s violations of Security Council resolutions, or to slow down its weapons program. Our goal is to fully and finally remove a real threat to world peace and to America. Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action. Yet, if Iraq is to avoid military action by the international community, it has the obligation to prove compliance with all the world’s demands. It’s the obligation of Iraq.”

There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Congress took him at his word here, and that the AUMF was meant as leverage to force Saddam to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions, and not a green light for invasion.  Indeed, Congress wouldn’t have granted an AUMF under other conditions, and the administration knew this.  So, the idea was to play along, attempt to scare up public support, convince a few allies to come on board, and when they felt they had jumped through enough hoops (like sending in U.N. weapons inspectors), they went ahead and used it.  It’s really not that complicated.

Of course, there are war supporters out there who are quick to discredit the DSM (even though no one has challenged its authenticity), and I certainly wasn’t going to base my entire accusation on one document.  But lets face it, there is enough evidence out there (other documentsstatements from high-ranking officials, and other evidence) to corroborate the notion that Bush was more interested in invading than he was about finding out if the weapons inspectors were actually going to find anything.   But for some reason that just doesn’t sink in for everyone.  Heck, I’ve come across war supporters who concede that the nation was misled, but it was necessary and that the ends justify the means.  I just don’t get it;  it’s OK with them?  But make no mistake, misled we were…lied to, in fact.

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McClellan Book Reaction Hilarity Depot Thread

May 28, 2008

This is a thread for all the LOL’s over this McClellan book thing.  I just find it hilarious width and breadth of the theories I’ve come across.  Like, “who got to him” type stuff.  “I question the timing” .  Ya know.  Deflector shields on MAX. 

Also, I’ll admit that I heard this on the radio today.  This Scotty thing actually brought a woman to tears:

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We’ll start with Darla in Bellingham, Washington. Hi, Darla, nice to have you here.

CALLER: Hi, Rush. I tell you, I’m so… I’m so… I can hardly talk. I am so upset about this Scott McClellan book. I — I have children and grandchildren that I have to try to protect in our great nation. And here for a buck, for payback, I don’t care what it is. He can’t wait ’til the president’s out of office? We have to do things, and, of course, he has more credence because he’s known, quote, unquote, the president longer than many so he comes out with this trashy crap in this book that gives to the haters of this country, the terrorists of the world. If it makes our news media wonder if the president’s going to comment on it while he’s trying to give a speech to a graduating class then, oh, it must be that important, well, if they say it and it emboldens them — and it always does embolden them — well, does it make the country safer? Where is the patriotism in this country? I can certainly say it. We have lost our soul. Scott, you’re a citizen of the country first. If it’s payback to the president, fine. Is it payback to me? Is it payback to my family, too? Do you have to make the buck first? (voice breaking) I am sorry I sound upset but, Rush, that’s just — I — I — I don’t get it. I’m — I’m fed up. Where is the patriotism in this country? Where? Why have we decided that we don’t just have to hate the president, we have to hate our country, we have to hate what it stands for, we have to put our desire for money and our 15 minutes of fame above everything?

 I’ll try to get more as I stumble upon it.

Update:  Good stuff at Sadly No! and Hysterical Raisins.

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The Patriotic Duty Of Blowing One’s Stimulus Check

May 9, 2008

The other day I saw an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:  The economic-stimulus rebate: Save it or spend it?   Having not yet received my check from Uncle George, I decided to read on.

America needs help. Sue Wagner, an economic patriot, is answering the call.

The Brooklyn Center telecommunications worker used her $600 check — part of the $168 billion national economic-stimulus package — for a spa that was installed in her back yard Tuesday.

I want this country to be stimulated,” Wagner said.

That’s exactly what government officials want to hear. Checks began to flow from Washington, D.C., this week, part of a program to lift the economy out of the doldrums by boosting consumer spending. Every taxpaying adult is supposed to get $600, plus an extra $300 per child for families. But as officials await the impact of the rebates, a Pioneer Press online survey showed fewer than a third of volunteer respondents would spend the money as officials hoped.

It got me thinking.  Should I blow this thing?  And if I do, will I feel patriotic?

I sat and thought about all the things I could do with an extra $600, and my practical side kept telling me that I should put it on a gas card to combat the ever-soaring gas prices.  Then I thought I should just dump it into my mortgage.   Heck, there are probably a thousand things that I could have done that would have been financially safe and reasonable. 

As I was arriving to work the next day, I got out of my 2000 Cougar, walked toward my building and looked back to confirm that I had armed the car alarm.  As I looked at it I was reminded how old the car was getting, and that it wasn’t looking as good as it used to.  It had a crack in the fiberglass front bumper valence, and my carbon-fiber hood was looking cloudy and discolored (having been subjected to the elements for a few years).  I decided right then and there what I was going to do with that check:  My Cougar was going to get a makeover.

So, I contacted my body shop and scheduled the appointment.  I told the guys while I was there for the estimate that this was a stimulus check expense.  They smiled and a few of them told me that work had been pretty slow lately and that they really appreciate the business.  Apparently people had better things to spend their money on than repairing cosmetic damage on their vehicles, or so I guessed.  I handed over the keys and told them I’d see them in a week.

Well, I recently got the car back, and I gotta say that I couldn’t be happier.  I figure that I killed a couple birds with one stone.  I had fixed up something that had been bugging me for quite some time, and used my chance to stimulate the economy.  I guess the added bonus is that I get to advertise it all over town as I drive around:

Ahh…patriotism!

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Official Gas Price Rant Thread

April 22, 2008

First off, name this graph:

 

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Prediction: Debates Will Cost McCain The General Election

April 14, 2008

Yesterday, I read a multi-page analysis from the Politico’s John F. Harris & Jim Vandehei, detailing the political dangers facing Barack Obama in the general election should he win the nomination to represent the Democrats.  The piece predictably highlighted the various controversies and preconceived weaknesses that will supposedly continue to haunt him as the November vote looms, and suggested that the Clinton camp has restrained itself thus far in exploiting the bulk of it:

Republicans will also ruthlessly exploit openings that Clinton — in the genteel confines of an intraparty contest — never could. Top targets: Obama’s radioactive personal associations, his liberal ideology, his exotic life story, his coolly academic and elitist style.

The popular consensus I’ve gleaned over the last few months is that the majority of this war will be waged on the new-media battlefields of YouTube, blogs, and talk radio, with a mix of ads coming from agents of independent actors like 527 groups. Obama will be picked to shreds while McCain mostly sits on the sidelines, and the end result will be a disaster for the Democrats…or so the meme goes.

So, in light of the fact that I’ve seen scarce commentary on it, I’m going to go ahead and count my chickens before they hatch here for a moment, and predict that while Obama will certainly take his lumps, he will eventually find himself in the White House by utilizing a more old-fashioned forum: The presidential debates.

  VS.

Now, I can imagine what my readers might be thinking. “Um, Chen? By most accounts, Kerry won the debates in 2004, and he still lost. Debates are overrated”.  

That’s a fair point, but I should probably point out that we’re talking John Kerry vs. George W. Bush here.  It was like watching a spelling bee for 1st graders.  Sure, somebody won, but it was pretty tough to come away from it feeling particularly impressed.  They might as well have skipped them, quite frankly.

This time around, however, the stage is set a bit differently.  On the one hand, you have a young, highly educated, charismatic and articulate public speaker.   On the other, an aged, quiet and rather uninspiring man that is developing a track record of confusing basic facts (hence, my picture of Lieberman whispering into McCain’s ear; something he won’t have the benefit of come debate time) related to things that are considered his strengths (i.e. national security and foreign policy).   This could be the making of a political wrecking ball;  a situation where one candidate outperforms the other to the point of making him look like he doesn’t deserve to be on the same stage (as opposed to the 2004 situation, where neither of them appeared to deserve it).   Picture the highlight reels playing for days, complete with detailed analysis of the rout by the punditry and plenty of still shots of McCain’s scowls and assorted confused looks.   

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that a strong showing such as this could overshadow many of the swipes that had been taken at him by the various surrogates and hacks.  The visual of a head-to-head comparison can be a powerful, memorable and well-publicised event, after all.   It certainly could be enough to tip the scale in a very close election, so, I’m putting this prediction out there.  Or, to channel Hans and FranzListen to me now and believe me later:  McCain gets smoked in the debates, and it costs him the general.

BTW-  Like all threads here in the Chamber, the comments section is left open indefinitely, so feel free to come back and mock (or praise) me right here come November.   Of course, in the unlikely event that Hillary gets the nod, I’ll have no choice but to acknowledge my little jinx, and post an update.

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Just End The “War On Terror”

February 22, 2008

Speaking of memos, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh has an excellent article up today: Memo to President Obama

It is a debate that only Obama can start. McCain won’t bring it up. Nor will Hillary Clinton. Apart from being on the verge of oblivion politically, she is too fully vested in the war on terror, having voted in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq as part of it. And if that debate doesn’t start, we as a country will be effectively doomed to a “war” that has no prospect of ending. Bush has gradually expanded his definition of the war on terror to include all Islamic “extremists”—among them Hezbollah, Hamas, and other radical political groups that have no ties to Al Qaeda, ideological or otherwise. In doing so the president has plainly condemned us to a permanent war, for the simple reason that we will never be rid of all the terrorists. It is also a war that we will wage by ourselves, since no other nation agrees on such a broadly defined enemy. As Princeton scholar G. John Ikenberry has written, “It is perhaps a paradox—and one that is fitting for the strangeness of our current age—that we will need to end the war against terrorism because we cannot end terrorism.”

This is something that I’ve argued here in the Chamber many, many, many, many times*.  Would Obama have the political courage to change the paradigm in this country?  I’m not sure. 

During one of the presidential debates last April (have they really been going on for that long?), the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed that such a thing as a “global war on terror” existed.   Obama, somewhat hesitantly, did raise his hand:

I’m in complete agreement with Hirsh on this.   If we really want “change”, one of the first things we need to do is to start making the distinction between policies of smart counterterrorism and protecting the homeland and a ‘war’ that is, by definition, unwinnable.  John Edwards understood this, but he did a terrible job in articulating it (the “bumper sticker” thing just wasn’t working).  

I really hope Obama gets this memo.

*For a full list of Chamber entries on this issue, check the “war on terror” tag.

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McCain Apparently Didn’t Get The Memo

February 20, 2008

Maybe I was the only one who thought it was a little strange that, in last night’s Wisconsin victory speech, John McCain said this:

“Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?”

McCain was, of course, referring to what Barack Obama said back in August:

“I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges… But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. … If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

Now, I’m fully aware that Mr. McCain isn’t the only one that has given Obama flak over this comment.  Heck, just about every right ring blogger and their brother has as well.  But it would appear that neither McCain nor his speechwriters caught this little tidbit in the Washington Post yesterday:

In the predawn hours of Jan. 29, a CIA Predator aircraft flew in a slow arc above the Pakistani town of Mir Ali. The drone’s operator, relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants, clicked a computer mouse and sent the first of two Hellfire missiles hurtling toward a cluster of mud-brick buildings a few miles from the town center.

The missiles killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander and a man who had repeatedly eluded the CIA’s dragnet. It was the first successful strike against al-Qaeda’s core leadership in two years, and it involved, U.S. officials say, an unusual degree of autonomy by the CIA inside Pakistan.

Yea…I’m not quite sure how the spin machine is going to reconcile this one.  I guess the logical thing for the Straight Talk Express to do would be to condemn the confused, inexperienced leadership of George W. Bush

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Why Obama, Part V: Ethics

February 6, 2008

For the fifth installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the ethics in government issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website

Ethics (pdf)

The Problem

Lobbyists Write National Policies: For example, Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force of oil and gas lobbyists met secretly to develop national energy policy.

Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the “state secrets” privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.

Wasteful Spending is Out of Control: The current administration has abused its power by handing out contracts without competition to its politically connected friends and supporters. These abuses cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year.

Barack Obama’s Plan

Shine the Light on Washington Lobbying

  • Centralize Ethics and Lobbying Information for Voters: Obama will create a centralized Internet database of lobbying reports, ethics records, and campaign finance filings in a searchable, sortable and downloadable format.
  • Require Independent Monitoring of Lobbying Laws and Ethics Rules: Obama will use the power of the presidency to fight for an independent watchdog agency to oversee the investigation of congressional ethics violations so that the public can be assured that ethics complaints will be investigated.
  • Support Campaign Finance Reform: Obama supports public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. Obama introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and is the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) tough bill to reform the presidential public financing system.

Shine the Light on Federal Contracts, Tax Breaks and Earmarksobama08_thumblogo100.gif

  • Create a Public “Contracts and Influence” Database: As president, Obama will create a “contracts and influence” database that will disclose how much federal contractors spend on lobbying, and what contracts they are getting and how well they complete them.
  • Expose Special Interest Tax Breaks to Public Scrutiny: Barack Obama will ensure that any tax breaks for corporate recipients — or tax earmarks — are also publicly available on the Internet in an easily searchable format.
  • End Abuse of No-Bid Contracts: Barack Obama will end abuse of no-bid contracts by requiring that nearly all contract orders over $25,000 be competitively awarded.
  • Sunlight Before Signing: Too often bills are rushed through Congress and to the president before the public has the opportunity to review them. As president, Obama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.
  • Shine Light on Earmarks and Pork Barrel Spending: Obama’s Transparency and Integrity in Earmarks Act will shed light on all earmarks by disclosing the name of the legislator who asked for each earmark, along with a written justification, 72 hours before they can be approved by the full Senate.

Bring Americans Back into their Government

  • Hold 21st Century Fireside Chats: Obama will bring democracy and policy directly to the people by requiring his Cabinet officials to have periodic national broadband townhall meetings to discuss issues before their agencies.
  • Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.
  • Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.
  • Release Presidential Records: Obama will nullify the Bush attempts to make the timely release of presidential records more difficult.

Free the Executive Branch from Special Interest Influence

  • Close the Revolving Door on Former and Future Employers: No political appointees in an Obama administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration.
  • Free Career Officials from the Influence of Politics: Obama will issue an executive order asking all new hires at the agencies to sign a form affirming that no political appointee offered them the job solely on the basis of political affiliation or contribution.
  • Reform the Political Appointee Process: FEMA Director Michael Brown was not qualified to head the agency, and the result was a disaster for the people of the Gulf Coast. But in an Obama administration, every official will have to rise to the standard of proven excellence in the agency’s mission.

Barack Obama’s Record:

  • Federal Ethics Reform: Obama and Senator Feingold (D-WI) took on both parties and proposed ethics legislation that was described as the “gold standard” for reform. It was because of their leadership that ending subsidized corporate jet travel, mandating disclosure of lobbyists’ bundling of contributions, and enacting strong new restrictions of lobbyist-sponsored trips became part of the final ethics bill that was signed into law. The Washington Post wrote in an editorial, “The final package is the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet.”
  • Google for Government: Americans have the right to know how their tax dollars are spent, but that information has been hidden from public view for too long. That’s why Barack Obama and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) passed a law to create a Google-like search engine to allow regular people to approximately track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans online. The Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “It would enable the public to see where federal money goes and how it is spent. It’s a brilliant idea.”
  • Illinois Reform: In 1998, Obama joined forces with former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) to pass the toughest campaign finance law in Illinois history. The legislation banned the personal use of campaign money by Illinois legislators and banned most gifts from lobbyists. Before the law was passed, one organization ranked Illinois worst among 50 states for its campaign finance regulations.
  • A High Standard: Unlike other candidates Obama’s campaign refuses to accept contributions from Washington lobbyists and political action committees.

To me, this is one of the more important issues, and in this race I was looking for someone who could clearly reverse the trend that the Bush administration came to embody.  This is an issue that effects the very core of our democracy.  Is our government “of the people and for the people”, or is it simply guided by the whims and wishes of powerful donors, lobbyists, special interest groups and cronies? 

Of the remaining candidates, Romney and Huckabee don’t even address this issue (at least, not on their websites), and McCain’s position is pretty light on specifics.  Clinton, to her credit, does address it, but with such an established Washington political machine and extensive network, it lacks believability and it’s hard to look at this as much more than lip service.  Clinton is running a campaign run by big donors, and where there are big donors there are usually expectations of big favors.  Obama, on the other hand, has a certain amount of purity being a relative newcomer to Washington and is running his bid on an extraordinary amount of much more numerous and smaller donations.   Where some see lack of experience, I see a man who hasn’t become corrupted by the system and is genuinely coming in to do the people’s business, which gives him a lot more credibility when it comes to what he has posted on his website for this issue.

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Why Obama, Part III: Foreign Policy

January 28, 2008

For the third installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the foreign policy issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website.   However, in the spirit of addressing a topic that arose in the comment section of Part II, I’m going to start off with a narrower focus.  For this thread, I’m going to paste a section of an Obama speech on his ideas for restoring American leadership.  (All other aspects of Obama’s foreign policy positions and statements are fair game in this discussion and can be found here, but I’ve decided to start with this particular component).  From the 4/23/07 speech:

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.

We now know how badly this Administration squandered that opportunity. In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies – a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset.obama08_thumblogo100.gif

There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs.

I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission – we must lead the world, by deed and example.

We must lead by building a 21st century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people. We must lead by marshalling a global effort to stop the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons. We must lead by building and strengthening the partnerships and alliances necessary to meet our common challenges and defeat our common threats.

And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the world’s forgotten corners – because while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another path – who want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.

This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.

This will require a new spirit – not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence. It will also require a new leader. And as a candidate for President of the United States, I am asking you to entrust me with that responsibility.

Obama goes on to propose five ways this can be accomplished, but in the interests of brevity, and to start the discussion, I’m going to address the small portion I bolded above.  There may be those out there who feel that our position hasn’t really changed, and the idea that Bush has made the U.S. is less popular globally is a myth and a concoction of the MSM.  I suppose if we’re going to address “restoring” something, we should probably get this right out of the way first.  So, to support Obama’s contention, I’m going to start with a single graphic:

osamabushkim.jpg

Poll:

· ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,010 adults by telephone from October 27-30. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. Polling was by phone in Canada (sample 1,007), Israel (1,078) and Mexico (1,010)

In other words, its not just the Mayans. From Italy to India, from Thailand to Turkey, from Germany to Greece, there’s a pretty consistent message going out.  We could use some help in this category, to say the least.  There’s a reason why international interest in who will replace Bush has reached unprecedented levels.  I’m glad that Obama speaks honestly and frankly about it, and I think he’s got the best ideas for turning this around. 

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