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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why Can't GWB Express Himself Like This?

Australian Prime Minister John Howard in response to a reporter's insinuation that British/American policies in Iraq are to blame for recent terrorism:

Can I just say very directly, Paul, on the issue of the policies of my government and indeed the policies of the British and American governments on Iraq, that the first point of reference is that once a country allows its foreign policy to be determined by terrorism, it's given the game away, to use the vernacular. And no Australian government that I lead will ever have policies determined by terrorism or terrorist threats, and no self-respecting government of any political stripe in Australia would allow that to happen.

Can I remind you that the murder of 88 Australians in Bali took place before the operation in Iraq.

And I remind you that the 11th of September occurred before the operation in Iraq.

Can I also remind you that the very first occasion that bin Laden specifically referred to Australia was in the context of Australia's involvement in liberating the people of East Timor. Are people by implication suggesting we shouldn't have done that?

When a group claimed responsibility on the website for the attacks on the 7th of July, they talked about British policy not just in Iraq, but in Afghanistan. Are people suggesting we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

When Sergio de Mello was murdered in Iraq -- a brave man, a distinguished international diplomat, a person immensely respected for his work in the United Nations -- when al Qaeda gloated about that, they referred specifically to the role that de Mello had carried out in East Timor because he was the United Nations administrator in East Timor.

Now I don't know the mind of the terrorists. By definition, you can't put yourself in the mind of a successful suicide bomber. I can only look at objective facts, and the objective facts are as I've cited. The objective evidence is that Australia was a terrorist target long before the operation in Iraq. And indeed, all the evidence, as distinct from the suppositions, suggests to me that this is about hatred of a way of life, this is about the perverted use of principles of the great world religion that, at its root, preaches peace and cooperation. And I think we lose sight of the challenge we have if we allow ourselves to see these attacks in the context of particular circumstances rather than the abuse through a perverted ideology of people and their murder.

(Hat tip to Powerline) If G.W. spoke that way, he'd have been re-elected by ten points.


Tom Van Dyke said...

I agree, but wonder if it much matters what he says. Blair is as glib as they come, and got a lower percentage of the vote in his reelection than Bush did.

What I am amazed about is that in 5+ years on the national and international stage, the inarticulate (let's face it) Bush has yet to pull a major rhetorical boner. ("Crusade" was bad, but it was just a month after 9/11, and he slid by.)

Contrast that to Kerry's "voted for it before I voted against it" and Madeleine Albright admitting on 60 Minutes to sanctions killing half a million Iraqi children (most certainly untrue). And of course, Al Gore being perpetually unhinged since the Trauma of 2000.

In this 24/7 news world, I do believe it's most important what a leader doesn't say, and Bush doesn't say it with the best of 'em. He's better than Bill Clinton, if you think about it-- he may mispronounce nuclear, but has stunning accuracy in his use of the word "is."

Hunter Baker said...

I think that he is basically Reaganesque without the stupendous talent before a mic. Fortunately, it's still good enough to win.

Of course, he couldn't win if there had been no Reagan. He mainstreamed the entire conservative movement and it took a politician of remarkable talent to achieve that.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, you mean ideas actually matter? What a concept---one that is dawning upon the opposition party as we speak.

I believe Buckley said in the 60s that all conservatism needed was the proper person to articulate it, and Reagan is seen as the fulfillment of that.

But although they're all of a fabric, I can sooner imagine Dubya without Reagan than without Rush Limbaugh. Our friends on the left are driven to marginalize him as a populist demagogue ala Michael Savage (and certainly that's a part of his shtick), but it's the daily dose of Limbaugh on the public discussion that made the Gingrich Revolution, Fox News, and Dubya possible and IMO necessary.

Don't get to hear him much anymore, but I keep tabs on his website, which has transcriptions of his rants du jour.

His self-adjudged betters have studiously ignored him, or pretended to, and that even includes the righty blogosphere. He is seldom cited among the chattering classes, yet many of what become prevailing memes can find their origins in his archives.

Denied respect or recognition, he contents himself with steering the American debate. Oh, yeah, and with an income that likely surpasses the combined total of the staff of the New York Times.

James F. Elliott said...

If Ann Coulter is any indication, income does not denote quality.

Hunter Baker said...

I agree that Limbaugh is a major, major figure, but he came after Reagan and certainly spouts forth a combination of vintage Reagan/National Review each day.

Tom Van Dyke said...

As your double super secret background source inside the neo-con cabal, James, I can assure you that among us the fetching Ms. C remains no more than a guilty pleasure. She is a sideshow to the national debate.

As for Limbaugh, I'd hoped to stay at arm's length from his politics, and just consider for a minute his considerable role in our republic.

HB, of course you're correct about his ideological underpinnings, but it's also unfair to consign him to parrot status. I do think the self-described "Limbaugh Echo Effect" exists, that his thoughts become part of the national discussion by the time his show that day is over. Everyone listens; few acknowledge it.

Is a deep-thinking theorist? No. But he is a masterdebater.

He's also been the one who has done the day-to-day heavy lifting for conservatism for 15 or 20 years. Before there was NRO Online and the blogosphere, there was Limbaugh, faithfully patrolling the sooty waters of American politics, upholding the Buckley/Reagan legacy after George HW heinously squandered it.

Just waxing semi-poetically on yet another of our underrated social touchstones, as is the custom around here. Limbaugh is the reference that dare not speak its name, the most influential and least-quoted figure in American politics.

I mean, it took a Reagan to get a Reagan elected. But Limbaugh elected a president working with far less grand raw material.

Hunter Baker said...

I don't mean to consign Limbaugh to parrot status. He acknowledges his sources.

The reason for his success clearly goes beyond the ideological. I've been listening to talk radio for about 13 years now. There is no one out there who does the kind of job Limbaugh does. He fills three hours, doesn't rely overly on callers, doesn't scream at antagonists, and maintains interest. There is a ton of mediocre talk radio out there that exists purely as a vestigial third nipple on the body of Limbaugh.

KeithM, Indy said...

If President Bush spoke eloquently, he wouldn't have been nearly as popular with his base (me included.) I always go back to his speeches and read them again the next day. The power of his speeches are in the ideas, not how he presents them.

I'd rather have a plain spoken, tough talking "cowboy" who I trust (as much as I could trust any politician) then a weasly, eloquent "intellectual" who I don't trust, and who I can't fathom what their position is.

Whether you agree with President Bush or not, you always knows where he stands. Can you say the same about Gore or Kerry?

Hunter Baker said...

That's the genius of the Reaganesque presidency. One thing you'll get from presidential scholars and leadership writers is that the idea of Reagan ruled rather than Reagan himself having to micromanage. Everybody knew what he'd want to do. Bush has self-consciously modeled himself after that.

James F. Elliott said...

"Whether you agree with President Bush or not, you always knows where he stands."

Really? Why'd he decide to invade Iraq, Kieth?

James F. Elliott said...

I actually have a point. Bush is what prevented me from becoming a Republican in my younger and more foolish days. In 2000, I was living with conservative Republicans, enjoying my many discussions with them, and was, for a time, attracted to the absolute "truths" that both Repulicanism and conservatism offered. I found John McCain to be someone whose integrity I respected (a rarity in either party) even when I didn't always agree with him. Were it not for my love of my gay and lesbian friends, I'd have probably jumped ship right then and there.

But then along came George W. Bush. I found nothing folksy or charming about him. I found nothing compelling in what he was saying even a day later. His smarmy, arrogant attitude conveyed something else to me: Hubris and a base dishonesty born of a fundamentalist's zeal for his ideology, someone who would say anything and do anything in order to advance his agenda.

His arrogance was and is highly distasteful. His dishonesty and zealotry are, I feel, truly evil. He has done nothing in five years to dispel that first impression. I feel that he is the smallest type of person, one who revels in whatever amount of authority is given him and arrogantly wields that authority as though it were a divine right. You see these people in every ideology or party, every field or profession. They were the same on the playground as they are in the adult world: Scared children wielding whatever might they can in order to control their surroundings.

Kathy Hutchins said...

I find it very, very difficult to believe that someone prepared to make political judgements based on such personal, visceral reaction to a single representative of a party would have found anything more congenial in the personas of Al Gore or John Kerry.

For what it's worth, I experience just about the same visceral reaction to John McCain and a good many other Republicans, and there are Democrats whom I find personally appealing. I grew up in Indiana, and all the members of the Bayh family are immensely popular in that very, very red state. Before he won his Senate seat, Evan Bayh was one of the most beloved governors ever. But having a party affiliation is not, or should not be, based on a cult of personality, but on an honest appraisal of one's political goals and their reflection in the goals of the national party.

I'm certain this works both ways; there were probably plenty of sincere good-hearted liberals in 1992 who could not stomach the idea of a smarmy huckster like Bill Clinton.

James F. Elliott said...

In the end, I could not join the Republicans because I saw its embrace of G.W. Bush as a the embrace of a shill, a crank with a cult of personality built upon a yearning for the yesteryears of Reagan (who was really nothing more than a doddering old man with an unshakeable faith in voodoo economics and a morbid fascination with the end of the world). That was in college, where all is theory.

A year later, I began working in child welfare and education and saw, firsthand, what had before been merely liberal theory in my wealthy, whitebread upbringing.

I cannot be a Republican now because I firmly believe in public welfare and the need for government to take a role. I cannot be a Republican because I have seen the Grand Old Party become corrupted by the politics of money and industry.

Political parties have become about ideology. I disagree with Republican ideology. I find its embrace of the cult of fanaticism to be more repugnant.

Its the same reason I always steered clear of the Pro-Palestine protests, the anti-globalization crowd, and the rabid environmentalists. Fanatacism is abhorrent.

I am a Democrat because some of their goals mirror mine, whereas the only appealing thing Republicans had was federalism. And now, we see that Republicans are willing to forego that principal in the name of shaping society. I find fewer Democrats to be morally and personally repugnant.

I, personally, had no problem with Kerry or Gore. I found nothing objectionable (nor particularly appealing) about them. I would have preferred Bill Bradley or John McCain in 2000, and I would have preferred Wesley Clark in 2004.

Hunter Baker said...

James, your view of Reagan is ridiculous and sophomoric. He was a major figure in the American presidency and will be remembered as one of the key 5-10 chief executives ever. I can't say with Bush. His standing will depend greatly on whether pressure in the Middle East results in democratization and a reduction in worldwide terrorism originating from Muslim extremism.

James F. Elliott said...

I simply disagree. I grew up during the Reagan presidency, have been looking back upon, and find little to redeem it.

He outspent the Soviet Union. BFD. He championed supply-side economics. I have yet to see proof that it works. He was capable of immense amounts of rhetoric, but that rhetoric was put to the lie by scandals like Iran-Contra.

I know that the Right holds him in high regard. For the life of me, I don't understand why.

James F. Elliott said...

And of course it was sophmoric, I blatantly plagiarized both Warren Ellis and Robin Williams. I can't exactly win in debate with idealogues such as yourselves, so I resort to irreverence. It's a time-honored tactic.

James F. Elliott said...

Sacred cows must be destroyed! Moo, Reagan. Moo.

KeithM, Indy said...

I said that you'ld know where he stood, not that you'ld understand or agree with how he got there.

KeithM, Indy said...

Oh, and as for why he invaded Iraq.

Because it was in our national interest to do so.

Saddam was in violation of several UN Resolutions.

Saddam harbored, trained and supported terrorists.

Saddam was desirous of having sanctions lifted so he could resume research and development of WMD.

Saddam terrorized his own citizens, including filling up mass graves with those he disagreed with.

Saddam fired on our jets in the no-fly zones on a regular basis.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And he openly rewarded Palestinian suicide bombers.

But we don't mention our ally and friend Israel in any public discussion of global policy. It's just not done.

Here are a few other reasons.

Hunter Baker said...

This notion that Reaganomics didn't work is possibly my greatest complaint with the left. The man cut marginal tax rates by a huge percentage and government revenues increased dramatically even AFTER ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION. The same thing is occurring post the Bush tax cut, though it was much less interesting. The same thing happened post the Kennedy tax cut. How DIFFICULT IS IT TO COMPREHEND YOU COULD HAVE A SMALLER TAX AND COLLECT MORE MONEY DUE TO GREATER ECONOMIC GROWTH? I don't see why it should be so difficult. I don't understand this blind spot of absolute, dripping stupidity, but it is there and we shall probably never stop hearing it until either the music of heaven or the silence of the grave stops our ears.

James F. Elliott said...

I'm sorry, I must have missed all that what with all the red ink all over the federal budget in the 80s and today.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I understand where you're coming from, James. You obviously don't remember the Carter Administration.

James F. Elliott said...

Or, let's put it a slightly less irreverent way. When a household doesn't save money and instead spends spends spends, then borrows money to cover the expenditures and then can't pay back on the principal, it goes bankrupt.

When a nation does that, its currency devalues. How strong's the dollar now?

That's what I thought.

For example: Oil prices are absurd, having risen from around $20 a barrell in 2003 to bouncing around $60 in two years. Diminishing supplies and increased demand do not account for the whole increase. Since oil's value is pegged to the dollar, it directly reflects the devaluing of the dollar.

When did this start? Two words, starting with "tax" and ending with "cut."

Another example: the jobless recovery. Tax cuts are great for corporations' bottom lines and the top 1%'s earnings, but not so good for the average joe who can't find a goddamn job so he can be a consumer. Tax revenue as a proportion of GDP is at some of its lowest levels ever, and corporate/top tier earner's contributions at the lowest level since before Eisenhower's day.

And last I checked, we were still in the red as far as spending versus revenue. What's the latest projection? Something like $336 billion for 2006? Up from $0 in 2000? Explain to me how we have increased revenues thanks to Reaganomics again?

James F. Elliott said...

How could I remember Carter? I was 1 when Reagan was elected.

James F. Elliott said...

As far as I can tell from doing some web-based research, it wasn't until 1994 that tax revenue reached the 1980 level, and that was after the tax restructurings and gradual increases (from the Reagan tax cut) from 1986 to 1994.

I submit, Hunter, that once again we see that supply side economics is good on paper, not so good in real life.

David Stockman went so far as to admit that he "cooked" the books on his "Rosy Scenario."

Of course I'm sure you or one of the economists here will bust out with "price stability!" at which point I will counter with Mundell's own, "Fiscal discipline is a learned behavior" and my own, "Getting a conservative to learn a new trick is like trying to pound nails with your forehead instead of a hammer."

If all this just sparks a "flat tax" discussion, I'm going to go ram my head into a wall for a while. A thought which I am sure will make some of you smile.

Have a nice weekend.

James F. Elliott said...

Oh, and Kieth:

"Because it was in our national interest to do so."

How so?

"Saddam harbored, trained and supported terrorists."

Proof? Certainly none mentioned in the pre-March 2003 run-up. Well, except for the oft-debunked Osama-Saddam connection. Which we now know was demonstrably false.

"Saddam was desirous of having sanctions lifted so he could resume research and development of WMD."

Ah, here's the money quote from you. I do believe the chief rationale for invasion was that he HAD done so. I seem to recall poor Colin Powell giving some big presentation in front of the U.N.? Pretty sure I didn't dream that. How many WMDs and WMD sites have we found? None? Something like that. Hmm. Sounds like somebody maybe was fibbing.

"Saddam terrorized his own citizens, including filling up mass graves with those he disagreed with."

Indisputably true. Again, for a President-elect who criticized intervention in Kosovo and Somalia (Anyone else remember his "you need a timetable" speech from the run up to the 2000 election? I do.), this holds little water, especially since he A) didn't use it as a rationale in front of Congress until after their were no WMDs found and B) hasn't done crap about Uzbekistan, Sudan, Kazakhstan, etc...

"Saddam fired on our jets in the no-fly zones on a regular basis."

For years. Who usually criticized Clinton for bombing stuff in Iraq after one of those acts of aggression? I do believe it was the Republicans! Dogs wagging their tails or some such nonsense, I do believe the phrase was.

As we can see, our President and his Party can't seem to separate Up from Down (or Forward from Backward, rather).

James F. Elliott said...

(I know, I know, I said I was gone but then my fiancee started running a fever and went to sleep.)

Let's put the whole "Reaganomics Redux" thing into perspective, shall we?

Minimum wage: lowest inflation-adjusted value since before the Great Depression.

Corporate taxes as percentage of tax revenue: one of the lowest margins since the 50s.

Tax revenue as share of GDP: Ditto.

Hourly wages: Down.

Disparity between rich and poor: Highest since feudalism and skyrocketing.

Homelessness: Up.

Availability and quality of healthcare: Down.

Savings, both national and household: Nil.

Currency: Tanking.

Size of debt 1980: Under one trillion dollars.

Size of debt 1992: Over $4 trillion

Size of debt 2000: approximately $5.6 trillion.

Size of debt today: over $7.8 trillion

Conclusion: Reagonomics - good on paper, not so much in real life.

Tom Van Dyke said...

How could I remember Carter? I was 1 when Reagan was elected.


Those who think things can't get any worse have no imagination, and are a bit light on their history, too.

Don't mean to insult you with the above, James---it was just too aphoristic to pass up the opportunity. If I can get just one in, I'll live forever. ;-)

James F. Elliott said...

Eh, no offense taken. Not like I can't be an a-hole myself. :)

Kathy Hutchins said...

How could I remember Carter? I was 1 when Reagan was elected.

Oh, now we're getting some perspective here. So you were born in 1979. That's the year I graduated from Indiana University and went out into the job market. A dean's list Telecommunications major with a minor in econ; I could speak French, Italian, and German. The best job I could find, supervising the recording of books for the blind, paid $2.75 an hour. I couldn't go home on my mother's birthday that year because there was no gasoline south of the Ohio River that week. I gladly would have paid whatever it was I paid this afternoon, but I didn't have that choice. THERE WAS NO GASOLINE. It was like living in effing East Berlin, that last year of Carter. Or Argentina, maybe. Not that I could have afforded to buy a house, but mortgage rates were close to 20 percent.

And then the Soviets rolled into Afghanistan, and in response we sucked our thumbs and boycotted the Moscow Olympics.

I didn't vote for Reagan the first time. I was like a battered wife who can't break away from the man who's killing her. I was in grad school by that time and like Pauline Kael, no one I knew voted for Reagan. so how could he have been elected? Lester Thurow from MIT came and gave a talk to us the next spring, explaining how East Germany had now eclipsed Great Britain's economy and had proved the superiority of command economies. And we believed it!

Although I think I had turned the corner by the time I was 26. But, you know, I was always a little precocious.

James F. Elliott said...

A major in telecommunications and a minor in econ? We had a name for people like you in college: Funny.

Hey, I can sympathize. With a B.S. in International Relations and another in Psychology and being able to speak French and Spanish, the best job I could find was as the supervisor of an emergency children's shelter for $10/hr and no bennies.

Have I anywhere indicated a preference for communism? I think not. Capitalism is basically natural selection adapted for human civilization, and that's fine. I just think that we can rise above the dog-eat-dog nature of it, and therefore there should be some government regulation and social safety nets. Capitalism has a lot going for it. It's a good system. But being the best we have doesn't mean it is the best. Anything can be better.

Like you. You'll see the light sometime, and realize that the party that wants to write discrimination into the Constitution is evil.

See, I see most people who "see the light" and go Repub as following the P.J. O'Rourke path, as he once said at a speech I saw. "I was a liberal once. And then I started making money."

Of course, there's a reason why there's a maxim that states "Money is the root of all evil."

Just like God is the leading killer of man. :)

James F. Elliott said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
James F. Elliott said...

Thought better of it.

Do you always have to be so condescending, Kathy? Trying to infantalize me is really no way to disagree about anything. It just makes you look insecure.

Being rude is fine. I'm rude all the time. I don't mean nothin' by it.

Hunter Baker said...

James, that web-based research was crap. I've spreadsheeted the information out myself. I was an econ major in college, so I actually had to study this stuff. I already told you that real federal revenue increased significantly even after adjusting for inflation. That's a fact. Just a fact. Not surmountable. Howard Dean might have the effrontery to B.S. his way against it, but you can't with any intellectual honesty.

As for your tossed off comment about all that red ink, we both know there are two sides of the equation. There's what you take in AND what you spend. There's the answer to your red ink. And yes, part of that was due to heavy defense spending that still came nowhere close to Kennedy levels as a percentage of total federal budget. The fact that Reagan spent a lot has no bearing on whether the tax cut worked. It worked. More revenue, stronger economy. Not susceptible of contradiction. Accept it and be free.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Trying to infantalize me is really no way to disagree about anything.

You are the one who brought up the fact that you were an infant at that moment in history when some of us were getting a lesson in the practical ramifications of Cyrus Vance diplomacy and Troikanomics, aka a hobnailed kick in the teeth. I'm not being condescending, I'm giving you a free sample of hard-won experience.

James F. Elliott said...

Oh, come on, Kathy. You make it sound like you were in Dust Bowl, Arkansas in 1933. Where's Steinbeck when you need him?

And Baker, if it's all spreadsheeted out and it worked, how come revenues did not reach 1980 level until 1994?

I've also found a very interesting quote from David Stockman: "The cycle of boom and bust had been going on for decades and ...its oscillations had reached the high end of the charts. That was all" Then there's Paul Volcker's slaying of the inflation beast. It would merely seem that there were plenty of other factors involved in the "boom."

Of course, following the admittedly effed up '70s, anything would probably seem like a miracle of economic genius. I think the psychological effects involved have just as much to do with people's fanatacism.

Now, I understand the point of supply-side is to make the country as an aggregate whole richer. This means private sector, rich mofos get even richer. And frankly, no one, Democrat or Republican has proposed any economic plan that doesn't have a trickle-down aspect to it. Because, yes, supply-side does make the rich richer. As I have indicated above, this policy doesn't really help anyone else. The quadrupling - yes, that's QUADRUPLING - of the debt under Reagan, the great pontificator, would seem to indicate that he wasn't so spiffy after all. One of the ten greatest presidents doesn't beggar the entity he's hired to helm. That's like saying a CEO who drives his company into the dirt deserves to be lauded as an organizational genius.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Hate to digress from this most enjoyable digression, but I ran across this link at Esmay's place:

Bush says the right thing, and Arab media notices

A pity the president's remarks are seldom carried by our own media.

James F. Elliott said...

Not bad.

Anonymous said...

"The quadrupling - yes, that's QUADRUPLING - of the debt under Reagan, the great pontificator, would seem to indicate that he wasn't so spiffy after all. One of the ten greatest presidents doesn't beggar the entity he's hired to helm."

But as you admit, the nation was wealthier afterwards. That is not what most people would call beggaring. In addition, the successful ending of the Soviet threat, which was the reason for a lot of the debt accumulation, allowed a dozen years of much lower defense expenditures and helped lead to the budget surpluses of the '90s.

Hunter Baker said...

James, that 1980-1994 factoid you keep throwing out there is just simply wrong. Go check out the treasury tables yourself, locate the inflation rate and compare. You'll have no problem getting it. You were reading agitprop.

KeithM, Indy said...

James Elliot - you really only have to look as far as the AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF MILITARY
FORCE AGAINST IRAQ RESOLUTION OF 2002 (link below) that was passed to see the justifications (PLURAL) for going to war in Iraq.

And in case it hadn't dawned on you (sorry if that's making you feel like an infant) but the actual decision to treat Iraq with boxing gloves instead of kid-gloves happened after 9/11. After 9/11 we could no longer take Saddam (or any other terror sponsoring state) for granted.

Whereas members of al Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility
for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests,
including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are
known to be in Iraq;
Whereas Iraq continues to aid and harbor other international terrorist
organizations, including organizations that threaten the
lives and safety of United States citizens;
Whereas the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001,
underscored the gravity of the threat posed by the acquisition
of weapons of mass destruction by international terrorist
Whereas Iraq’s demonstrated capability and willingness to use
weapons of mass destruction, the risk that the current Iraqi
regime will either employ those weapons to launch a surprise
attack against the United States or its Armed Forces or provide
them to international terrorists who would do so, and the extreme
magnitude of harm that would result to the United States and
its citizens from such an attack, combine to justify action by
the United States to defend itself;

KeithM, Indy said...

Oh yeah, and you may want to lookup what the 9/11 comission ACTUALLY said about Saddam and Osama, and what they didn't say.