Self-reflection is not something we have come to expect in elected officials, particularly those who have left office fairly recently. But could former Vice President Dick Cheney have not even made the slightest effort to convince people he didn’t deserve the “Darth Vader” moniker assigned by his foes?
Cheney’s memoir, written with his daughter, Liz Cheney, is so unapologetic as to be a caricature. One could hardly imagine that Cheney—or even anyone from the recently-departed Bush administration—would suddenly decide that the war in Iraq had been a mistake, based on lies. But he might have acknowledged that the basis for going to war—even if one believes that it was an honest misunderstanding, instead of a craven lie—turned out to be (oops!) not true. He chides the nation for failing to live within its means, but fails to consider the fiscal impact of two wars, massive tax cuts and a huge Medicare drug entitlement program. And his no-apology book tour confirms the theme; Cheney told the Today show that he thinks waterboarding is an acceptable way for the United States to get information out of suspected terrorists, but says he’d object if another nation did it to a U.S. citizens.
Former President George Bush certainly offered no apologies in his memoir, and that’s to be expected. But Bush wasn’t mean or angry in his book. He even told a rather charming story of how an African-American staffer had brought his two young boys to the White House during the waning days of the presidency, and that one of the boys had asked, “Where’s Barack Obama?” There is characteristically nothing kind or charming or insightful to be found in Cheney’s tome. Even the cover is daunting—a grimacing Cheney inside the White House, looking like he’s deliberately trying to scare away the tourists.
The shot against former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is inexcusable: Cheney tells a story about how Rice had “tearfully” admitted to him that she was wrong to tell Bush that he should have apologized for misleading the American public about Saddam Hussein’s alleged attempt to secure yellowcake uranium from Niger. Whether Rice broke down before Cheney, we may never know. But to turn an accomplished woman like Rice into some silly, weak little girl is unforgivable. Agree with Rice or not. Slam her for misstating or misreading intelligence before and after 9-11 or not. But she is brilliant; she has dedicated her life to scholarship and public service, and she deserves to be treated better.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell—who preceded Rice, and whom Cheney seems to believe was somehow hounded from office, although Powell said he had always intended to stay just one term—offers the best summation: Cheney took some “cheap shots” in the book. That’s not the reflective mindset necessary for a memoir.
By: Susan Milligan, U.S. News and World Report, August 30, 2011
Whenever I read pieces like David Brooks’s column this morning — pieces that attribute our budget deficits to the public’s irresponsibility and lack of realism — I find myself wondering how so much recent history went down the memory hole.
To be fair, polling on budget questions does suggest a popular demand that we repeal the laws of arithmetic — that we not raise taxes, not cut spending on any popular program, and balance the budget.
But if we look at actual policy changes, it’s hard to see that too much democracy was the problem.
Remember, we had a budget surplus in 2000. Where did it go? The two biggest policy changes responsible for the swing into deficit were the big tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, and the war of choice in Iraq.
And neither of these policy changes was in any sense a response to public demand. Americans weren’t clamoring for a tax cut in 2000; Bush pushed his tax cuts to please his donors and his base. And the decision to invade Iraq not only wasn’t a response to public demand, Bush and co. had to spend months selling the idea to the public.
In fact, the only budget-busting measure undertaken in recent memory that was driven by popular demand as opposed to the agenda of a small number of powerful people was Medicare Part D. And even there, the plan was needlessly expensive, not because that’s the way the public wanted it — it could easily have been simply an addition to traditional Medicare — but to please the drug lobby and the anti-government ideologues.
Now, a lot of historical rewriting has taken place — I’ve even seen pundits solemnly describe the Iraq war fever as an illustration of the madness of crowds, somehow erasing the fact that it was Bush and Rumsfeld, not the masses, who wanted the thing.
But the reality is that if you want to see irresponsibility and self-indulgence at the expense of the nation’s future, you don’t want to visit Main Street; you want to hang out in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Avenue.
By: Paul Krugman, The New York Times, Opinion Pages, May 6, 2011
The Washington Post this morning ponders a portion of President Obama’s Sunday night speech that likely made many Americans take pause — the portion in which the president explicitly said “bin Laden was not a Muslim leader.” This key phrase directly counters an integral tenet of the “war on terror” narrative: the vision of the current era as an epic conflict between the United States and a global Muslim population supposedly guided by the al-Qaida mastermind.
However, despite the ubiquity of this kind of Islamophobic “us-versus-them” framing, and despite the Post’s perseverating, Obama was exactly right, and not just because, as the president correctly noted, bin Laden was “a mass murderer of Muslims” — but because bin Laden doesn’t meet a basic definition of “Muslim leader” in terms of mass support and following in the Muslim world.
That’s right, as the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project reports, “In the months leading up to Osama bin Laden’s death, a survey of Muslim publics around the world found little support for the al-Qaida leader [and] al-Qaida also received largely negative ratings among Muslim publics.”
In fact, a comparison of these results with Pew’s larger study from 2010 shows that in terms of favorability ratings, Obama outpolled bin Laden and the United States outpolled al-Qaida in almost every Muslim nation surveyed.
Of course, just because bin Laden and al-Qaida are wildly unpopular in the Muslim world doesn’t mean the United States is winning over those populations in the long haul.
As America occupies Iraq and Afghanistan, bombs Libya and Yemen, conducts drone strikes in Pakistan and props up repressive dictators in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, Pew’s data shows the Muslim world still conflicted as to whether the United States is an ally or an aggressor. So, a recent Zogby poll finding that “a majority of the public across the [Middle East] — including a sizable minority in Saudi Arabia — believes a nuclear-armed Iran would be a positive development in the Middle East.” That’s not because Muslims necessarily support the Iranian regime at large, but because, as one of the pollsters noted, many Muslims see nuclear arms as the only deterrent to U.S. aggression in the region.
The bottom line, then, is clear: While insinuations that the Muslim world monolithically loved bin Laden and continues to love al-Qaida are absurd, it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that our current occupations and bombing raids aren’t winning the “war on terror” — that is, as long as you consider the “war on terror” as much a long-term battle for hearts and minds as a short-term exercise of military maneuvers.
By: David Sirota, Salon, May4, 2011
There are certain tip-offs that suggest when somebody is misleadingly describing a politicians’ position. One of those tip offs is when you see somebody quoting a small piece of a sentence fragment, which often suggests a statement being wrenched out of context to alter its meaning. Another tip-off is when you read anything in the frequently-misleading Wall Street Journal editorial page. And yet another is when you come across any statement spoken or written by the compulsively dishonest Karl Rove. So the combination of Rove, writing for the Journal, quoting a sentence fragment is a red-siren tip off that some misleadin’ is going on.
Here’s Rove in today’s Journal, charging President Obama with flip-flopping on democracy promotion:
Mr. Obama also came out rhetorically for his predecessor’s Freedom Agenda, saying America supports “freedom for people to express themselves and choose their leaders” throughout the region. That statement is at odds with what Mr. Obama said in June 2005, when he insisted “we cannot, and should not, foist our own vision of democracy” on the Middle East.
Okay, having already used heuristics to establish with 99.99% certainty that Rove is lying, let’s nail down the final 0.01% by consulting Obama’s speech from 2005:
In testimony before Congress, Secretary Rice stated that while she believed it was possible to create a multi-ethnic, democratic Iraq under a unified national government, it was also possible that, in the near term, Iraq may look more like a loose federation and less like a tightly-knit, multi-ethnic society. According to the deal struck in the writing of the Constitution, the structure of the national government may still be altered by discussion among the three major factions. If it is the Administration’s most realistic assessment that the Iraqi government will take the form of a loose confederation, then we need to be thinking about how we should calibrate our policies to reflect this reality. We cannot, and should not, foist our own vision of democracy on the Iraqis, and then expect our troops to hold together such a vision militarily.
Notice that Rove has actually distorted Obama’s speech in two different ways. Obama was not invoking “our vision of democracy” to mean democracy, period. He was describing the debate in Iraq between advocates of a loose federation versus a strong national government, and arguing that the U.S. should let Iraqis settle this question rather than foist our vision upon them. Nowhere did Obama state, hint or imply that people in Iraq or elsewhere should not enjoy democracy.
Indeed, Rove cut off the portion of Obama’s sentence that referred to “on the Iraqis” and changed it to “the Middle East,” to further pull it out of the context and transform it into an attack on the rights of Arabs to enjoy democracy.
By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 31, 2011