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“The Worst Of Times”: George W. Bush’s Presidency, Gliding Over The Costly Mistakes

How little there is to celebrate about George W. Bush.  How much there is to rue. Next to his son, his father’s short presidency seems worth at least a short thank you note.

The younger Bush’s presidential library fanfare calls for a reckoning before his rangers paint pretty lies the size of Texas all over the place. The squat man in the cowboy hat, Dick Cheney, was a useful reminder of the greatest one: you know, something about Iraq and WMD. Then came the war started under false premises and promises to the world community. After nine years, we left the country in shambles, like a trashed fraternity house, Bush’s scene at Yale. The untold civilian death toll is kept hidden in the shadows.

Before Bush took the oath of office, we knew his true colors from the darkness down in Florida. Folly, farce and tragedy were not far behind for American democracy, and perhaps you can say we deserved it. But he also hurt the whole world and our standing in it.

The pretty paint job on his presidency has already started. Another Bush war is now being waged on the truth. For starters, the gallery of living presidents gave Bush a platform to laud himself for staying “true to our convictions.”

What’s so great about that? Not only was he wrongheaded, but always aggressively so. He never looked back, he never thought twice. In this way, Bush reminds one of Andrew Jackson, his doppelganger. At least Jackson fought his own battles – like the one in New Orleans, the beguiling city Bush flew over on Air Force One when it was drowning. He later looked upon the Wall Street meltdown with the same kind of bemused detachment.

There are three things you are going to hear about Bush. He kept us safe. He expanded freedom. Finally, history will decide. That’s the tough crowd’s storyline and, in a way, its marching order. Pundit Charles Krauthammer picked up on it fast, asserting in The Washington Post that Bush “created the entire anti-terror infrastructure that continues to keep us safe.”

You have to admire such excellent embellishment.

As for keeping us safe, the terrorist attacks of September 11th happened on Bush’s watch, despite intelligence warnings all summer that the system was “blinking red.” His national security people, notably Condoleezza Rice, persistently ignored the threat of al-Qaida, and Bush himself rudely dismissed a CIA briefer at his Crawford vacation ranch in August for bearing more bad tidings of a terrorist plot within the United States. Really rude, because presumably he had better things to do that day.

If Bill Clinton had been president on 9/11, you can bet on him being blamed by the Republicans ’till he was out of town by sundown. Yet somehow, some way, it became the best thing that happened to Bush, the jump start to his presidency. Who can forget his inspiring leadership, telling us to fight terrorists by going shopping?

Ready to move on to expanding freedom? An absurd claim from the man who opened the sinister specter on Guantanamo, where scores of men have been held for years as terrorist suspects. There is no trial in sight after torture was visited upon many of them in the name of expanding freedom. Closer to home, the Patriot Act swiftly became law after 9/11, which clamped down on civil rights and freedoms, right down to our library books.

So much for keeping us safe and expanding freedom. The best defense Bush uses as an apologia for the wasteland of his eight years, at home and abroad, is that history will decide. Curiously, he even asks visitors to his library to make mock decisions in his shoes. He seems to be pleading: “It was hard!”

That won’t wash, for we know Bush has a reckless disregard for history. In a telling moment with Bob Woodward, Bush scoffed at the notion of history’s judgment, saying that we’ll all be dead anyway.

The library’s soft focus on hard facts cannot be the final say about George W. Bush. Shakespeare would have a field day with the father-son rivalry, the doting, sharp-tongued mother, and the colorful Cabinet war council – producing our own “war president.”

In the Bard’s absence, Bill Clinton slyly spoke to the truth of the Texas scene, stating that former presidents use their libraries to rewrite history. Clinton was also a reminder of “high cotton” peace and prosperity, a land where we lived in the best of times. Then came the worst of times. And that’s no lie.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, April 29, 2013

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Man Needs An Intervention”: Wayward John McCain And The Two Rices

What is going on with John McCain? Maybe he just despises Barack Obama so completely that he almost can’t help himself. That’s one option. Another is that he has decided for whatever reason to finish his Senate career as a full-out tea partier. A third is that he’s just a nasty man, which is pretty widely known to be true in Washington.

Hard to say. But this jihad of his against Susan Rice really is about the nastiest thing we’ve ever seen him do. Rice had nothing to do with security at the Benghazi consulate. Nothing. That just isn’t her portfolio. The only thing she had to do with Libya, in any substantive way, is that she worked like a dog to assemble the coalition that toppled Muammar Ghaddafi, and she did an outstanding job at that. Indeed, as Eleanor Clift reported for the Beast back in January, Rice did travel once to Benghazi and was given a hero’s welcome there.

All Rice had to do with the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack was that she happened to be the one who was sent out on television that fateful Sunday in September to state the talking points. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, and as I’ve passed along to you previously, she said what she was told that morning to say, and intelligence was being revised toward a conclusion that the attack was a terrorist act at the very moment that she was on the air.

McCain knows all this. He just wants a scalp, he and Lindsey Graham, over the whole Benghazi thing. And he wants to show he’s relevant. The two of them are trying to make do with Kelly Ayotte now in the old Joe Lieberman role, but they’ve lost their bipartisan cover, which takes their whining and wailing down one notch on the legitmacy big board, and even the new independent coming into the Senate, Angus King, said yesterday that he thought McCain was out of line in his attack on Rice.

Now let’s bring in another Rice, Condi. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post had the great idea today of comparing how McCain is conducting hmself now vs. what he said when Condi was up for secretary of state in 2005:

[Condi Rice] was confirmed by a vote of 85 to 13, which were the most negative votes cast for a secretary of state in 180 years. (One of those “no” votes was from John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who is vying with Susan Rice to be the nation’s top diplomat.)

Ironically, the key issue then was Condi Rice’s public use of intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq. Now McCain and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) are seizing on Susan Rice’s citing of initial intelligence about the Benghazi attack to disqualify her.

Here’s what Condi Rice said on a Sunday television show in 2002, “We know that he [Saddam Hussein] has the infrastructure, nuclear scientists to make a nuclear weapon. The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

No weapons of mass destruction, let alone nuclear weapons, were ever found.

But in 2005, McCain and Graham fiercely defended Condi Rice from Democratic attacks of “lying,” arguing she had been misled by intelligence. “I can only conclude we’re doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness at the outcome of the elections,” McCain complained when Condi Rice’s nomination came to a vote.

Amazing. The man needs an intervention. Isn’t there anyone who loves him who can tell him what he’s doing to what remains of his reputation?

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, November 15, 2012

November 17, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Lingering Bitterness”: The McCain-Graham Blisteringly Stupid And Painfully Dishonest Arguments

As a top official in the Bush/Cheney administration, Condoleezza Rice said wildly untrue things about Iraq to the American people. Soon after, she received bipartisan support to become Secretary of State.

As a top official in the Obama/Biden administration, Susan Rice said entirely credible things about Benghazi based on the collective judgment of the intelligence community. Soon after, Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham launched a smear campaign against Rice to prevent her from becoming Secretary of State.

Zeke Miller highlights the disconnect from Graham…

[I]n 2005, Graham was fiercely protective of Rice as she faced confirmation to take over the State Department, chaffing at terms used by Democratic lawmakers to describe her testimony. “The words like ‘misleading’ and ‘disingenuous,’ I think, were very unfair,” Graham said on Fox News.

Asked if then-Sen. Mark Dayton’s use of the word “liar” was justified, Graham pounced. “Yes, that’s even more unfair. Because it was all in terms of weapons of mass destruction and misleading us about the war and what was in Iraq. Well, every intelligence agency in the world was misled. And to connect those two to say that she’s a liar is very unfair, over the line.”

…and from McCain.

“So I wonder why we are starting this new Congress with a protracted debate about a foregone conclusion,” he said [in 2005], adding that Rice is qualified for the job. “I can only conclude that we are doing this for no other reason than because of lingering bitterness over the outcome of the election.”

When Condoleezza Rice lied about WMD, McCain said she had unquestionable “integrity.” When Susan Rice told the truth about Benghazi, McCain said she’s guilty of “not being very bright.” The former received McCain’s support; the latter received McCain’s contempt.

It’s troublesome when partisan hacks launch smear campaigns against public officials who don’t deserve it, but it’s especially offensive when partisan hacks launch lazy smear campaigns based on blisteringly stupid, painfully dishonest arguments.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 14, 2012

November 15, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Mr. Romney Reinvents History”: Says His Party Rallied Behind President Obama

Mitt Romney wrapped the most important speech of his life, for Thursday night’s session of his convention, around an extraordinary reinvention of history — that his party rallied behind President Obama when he won in 2008, hoping that he would succeed. “That president was not the choice of our party,” he said. “We are a good and generous people who are united by so much more than divides us.”

The truth, rarely heard this week in Tampa, Fla., is that the Republicans charted a course of denial and obstruction from the day Mr. Obama was inaugurated, determined to deny him a second term by denying him any achievement, no matter the cost to the economy or American security — even if it meant holding the nation’s credit rating hostage to a narrow partisan agenda.

Mr. Romney’s big speech, delivered in a treacly tone with a strange misty smile on his face suggesting he was always about to burst into tears, was of a piece with the rest of the convention. Republicans have offered precious little of substance but a lot of bromides (“A free world is a more peaceful world!”) meant to convey profundity and take passive-aggressive digs at President Obama. But no subjects have received less attention, or been treated with less honesty, than foreign affairs and national security — and Mr. Romney’s banal speech was no exception.

It’s easy to understand why the Republicans have steered clear of these areas. While President Obama is vulnerable on some domestic issues, the Republicans have no purchase on foreign and security policy. In a television interview on Wednesday, Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, could not name an area in which Mr. Obama had failed on foreign policy.

For decades, the Republicans were able to present themselves as the tougher party on foreign and military policy. Mr. Obama has robbed them of that by being aggressive on counterterrorism and by flexing military and diplomatic muscle repeatedly and effectively.

Mitt Romney has tried to sound tough, but it’s hard to see how he would act differently from Mr. Obama except in ways that are scary — like attacking Iran, or overspending on defense in ways that would not provide extra safety but would hurt the economy.

Before Thursday night, the big foreign policy speeches were delivered by Senator John McCain and Ms. Rice. Mr. McCain was specific on one thing: Mr. Obama’s plan to start pulling out of Afghanistan at the end of 2014 is too rapid. While he does not speak for Mr. Romney, his other ideas were unnerving, like suggesting that the United States should intervene in Syria.

Mr. Romney reportedly considered Ms. Rice as a running mate, and she seems to have real influence. But Ms. Rice is a reminder of the colossal errors and deceptions of George W. Bush’s administration. She was a central player in the decision to invade Iraq and the peddling of fantasies about weapons of mass destruction. She barely mentioned Iraq in her speech and spoke not at all about Afghanistan. She was particularly ludicrous when she talked about keeping America strong at home so it could be strong globally, since she was part of the team that fought two wars off the books and entirely on borrowed money.
Ms. Rice said the United States has lost its “exceptionalism,” but she never gave the slightest clue what she meant by that — a return to President Bush’s policy of preventive and unnecessary war?

She and Mr. McCain both invoked the idea of “peace through strength,” but one of the few concrete proposals Mr. Romney has made — spending 4 percent of G.D.P. on defense — would weaken the economy severely. Mr. McCain was not telling the truth when he said Mr. Obama wants to cut another $500 billion from military spending. That amount was imposed by the Republicans as part of the extortion they demanded to raise the debt ceiling.

Ms. Rice said American allies need to know where the United States stands and that alliances are vitally important. But the truth is that Mr. Obama has repaired those alliances and restored allies’ confidence in America’s position after Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice spent years tearing them apart and ruining America’s reputation in the world.

The one alliance on which there is real debate between Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama is with Israel. But it is not, as Mr. Romney and his supporters want Americans to believe, about whether Mr. Obama is a supporter of Israel. Every modern president has been, including Mr. Obama. Apart from outsourcing his policy to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on settlements, it’s not clear what Mr. Romney would do differently.

But after watching the Republicans for three days in Florida, that comes as no surprise.

 

By: Editorial, The New York Times, August 30, 2012

 

September 1, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Trial Baloon Leak”: Social Conservatives Won’t Let Romney Pick Condi, Christie or Daniels

The Romney campaign played the media for a bunch of saps last week. After The Boston Globe revealed that Romney had continued to work for Bain Capital for several years longer than he claimed, they wanted to change the conversation. Talking about how he may have lied to either the Federal Election Commission or the Securities and Exchange Commission about his time with Bain is not what he wanted to do.

So on Thursday his campaign leaked to the Drudge Report that former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was at the top of his vice-presidential shortlist. The national media started chattering about this ostentatiously false claim. The Beltway media has apparently never met any actual Republicans. Beltway Republicans, of course, are fiscal and social conservatives but, being educated people, they are much less likely to oppose abortion rights and gay rights, and even less likely still to care deeply about the issues than are average Republican voters. Being apparently too lazy to do any reporting on whether the Republican Party could conceivably nominate a pro-choice woman to be Vice-President, or to just read Game Change which reports that John McCain and his staffers did not mind at all that Joe Lieberman is pro-choice but ultimately accepted that they could not pick as running mate because the Republican National Convention would be in revolt, they took this preposterous notion about Rice seriously. As Media Matters noted, ABC, NBC and The Wall Street Journal reported the Rice rumor as if it were a serious possibility.

ABC’s Jonathan Karl noted that Drudge “has been accurate on Romney before.” Well, how is Drudge’s accuracy on previous vice-presidential selections? Not too good, as The American Spectator’s Jonathan Tabin points out: “Four years ago, Matt Drudge reported that Barack Obama was likely to select Evan Bayh as his running mate. Eight years ago, Drudge reported that John Kerry was likely to select Hillary Clinton as his running mate. Twelve years ago, Drudge reported that George W. Bush’s likely pick was Frank Keating.”

Romney has pledged to select a reliable conservative on social issues, and his campaign has privately reassured conservative pundits that this is the rare promise he will actually keep. Erick Erickson. “We’ve gotten assurance that he’ll stick to his pledge,” says Bryan Fischer, director of issue advocacy for the American Family Association. Erick Erickson, editor of the blog Red State, tweeted on the very night of Drudge’s report, “Multiple assurances from Team Romney tonight that Condi is not happening for Veep.”

“I’m guessing the Romney campaign leaked it as a trial balloon to see how social conservatives react,” Fischer speculates.

They reacted with horror. The word “non-starter” comes up repeatedly. “She’s a non-starter because she’s pro-abortion and soft on homosexual unions,” says Fischer.

“The former Secretary of State would be a non-starter choice mainly because she doesn’t fit the criteria that Governor Romney set for his VP pick,” wrote Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a statement. “During the primaries, Romney made very clear that his vice president would be pro-life, pro-marriage and a strong defender of religious liberty – and while Ms. Rice is many things, her record shows those three she is not. When you look at the Republican Party, there is no doubt that the pro-life position is a non-negotiable.”

Richard Viguerie, one of the founders of the Moral Majority, picking Rice would be a “slap in the face” to conservatives.

Romney has even less room to maneuver on social issues when choosing a running mate than McCain did. Besides being a Mormon, Romney supported gay rights and abortion rights when he ran for office in Massachusetts. Evangelicals remained skeptical of him throughout the primaries. As long as the race was competitive, Romney was virtually guaranteed to lose the Evangelical vote in each state to Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum.

Social conservative leaders also emphasize that they want to see the ticket balanced by adding a vociferous social conservative to balance Romney’s squishiness. “Romney needs an unapologetic and unwavering defender of the right to life and traditional marriage,” says Fischer. “He cannot afford a pro-abortion running mate. That’s suicidal. Social conservatives have enough doubts about him. He needs a running mate who strengthens his social conservatives.”

“Mitt Romney needs someone who undergirds the social policy positions that he has taken since he was governor of Massachusetts,” wrote Perkins. “He needs someone who has an impeccable pro-life record, not just someone who checks the ‘pro-life box.’ There are a number of better qualified individuals out there who have led on the life issues and would not deflate enthusiasm from his base.”

Which other rumored running mates would be considered too passive on social issues by the religious right? New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. “Christie is just not strong on the homosexual agenda,” says Fischer. “Mitch Daniels would be a disaster because he’s the guy who called for ‘a truce’ on social issues. If you call for a truce and the other side doesn’t, that’s not a truce, that’s surrender.”

Among the names that top social conservatives privately toss around? Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Allen West (R-FL). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist pastor who now hosts a weekend talk show on Fox News and a new radio program, is also frequently mentioned. But, according to Huckabee, he is not being vetted. “There’s no indication whatsoever that I’m even on the list of consideration,” says Huckabee. “I assume I’m not. I think if I had been, there would have been some inquiry at this point, there hasn’t been.”

Regarding Rice, Huckabee shares the concerns voiced by other conservatives. “I have great admiration for Condoleeza Rice, and I think she served her country well,” says Hucakbee. (Huckabee is always more diplomatic towards those he disagrees with than most conservative leaders.) “I do think her selection would be problematic for a number of conservatives. Governor Romney made it clear his vice-presidential selection would be a pro-life person. [Rice’s] comments in the past would make it very very difficult for people like me to be supportive. [I could be] supportive of her maybe as Secretary of State or ambassador to any place, but not vice president.” Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention expressed a similar sentiment to CNN, saying, “I love Condi Rice, I’d love to see her in any role in Romney administration except vice president.”

Huckabee also issues a stern warning to Romney about the risk he would entail in picking someone who is not sufficiently conservative on social issues, although he avoids naming other names. “I think [Romney] is going to make his own decision and calculate the risk of picking someone who may cause the base of the party, which really is those social conservatives, to just not be that enthusiastic,” says Huckabee.

“What he can not risk, in my opinion, is anything less than high intensity. He needs someone who will rally those voters, not chill them. They’re highly motivated to replace Barack Obama. But I think it’s a great mistake to believe they’re automatically going to be as enthusiastic about knocking on doors and working phone banks if he were to place somebody in the position who wasn’t a stalwart leader and has all the credentials to give some comfort that those issues are not going to be set aside.”

Huckabee also suggested that a disappointing vice-presidential selection would signal to social conservatives that they will just be ignored after Romney has used them to win the election. “Conservatives have been burned way too many times,” says Huckabee. “Social conservatives get used every four years, trotted out at the rallies to stand there for five hours, scream and yell for the candidate, knock on doors, make the phone calls, carry signs. When the election is over, they’re promptly forgotten, put up in the attic and asked not to come out in public again for another four years. I think a lot of people have grown tired of that, so hopefully that’s not going to be the case this year.”

 

By: Ben Adler, The Nation, July 15, 2012

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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