Home > Political Ranting > Bits and Pieces, 1/27/06

Bits and Pieces, 1/27/06

January 27th, 2006

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Here goes.

Bush is out on the stump now, try another “Bamboozlepalooza” tour to get the public on his side. Before it was Social Security, so it is heartening that the results will be the same as he lamely tries to convince the public, through sheer gall, that his blatant violation of the 4th Amendment and the FISA Act, not to mention his unprecedented grab for authoritarian power (which makes Nixon look like a Boy Scout) is somehow not only in the best interests of the country, but actually legal as well.

It’s legal, Bush tells us. No it’s not. It violates the 4th Amendment. You can’t get more illegal than that. But Bush is apparently hoping that by stepping up to the mic often enough and declaring it’s not illegal, people will believe him solely because they won’t believe the president would lie so blatantly. And it will work with a lot of Americans who believe that the press would surely point out he is lying or is simply wrong, if he is. But if you’ve been paying attention the last four years, that isn’t what’s been happening. The press today counts statements like that from Bush as “opinions” and reports them with stenographer-like efficiency.

It could have stopped 9/11, it could have caught the terrorists in time, but FISA got in the way, Bush claims. No, FISA would have fully allowed 9/11 to be stopped–it would not have gotten in the way, and in fact did not get in the way. Bush’s inattentive and negligent mishandling of security did. FISA didn’t stop the warrants, the Bush administration never asked for them. I covered that in this post and in this one.

“If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?” Bush asks, smirk firmly planted. Because he wasn’t–not fully, and not as much to Democrats as he was to Republicans. Not to mention that Democrats, no matter how they felt about it, were prohibited by law from speaking of it. They still are, to an extent–Nancy pelosi had to plead for a letter she wrote on the matter to be declassified, and when it was, we could see that Bush’s “briefing” was less than enlightening. And then there’s the possibility that Bush might actually believe that he is above the law, in which case he wouldn’t blink at briefing anyone. Whatever the case, he damn well knows now that it’s illegal, and whatever his views, past or present, on what laws the president can ignore, what he did and is still doing is illegal. Ignorance is not an excuse. Nor is megalomania.

I went over most of the Bush administration’s scattergun defenses in this post a month ago, go take a look.


Remember those pictures I mentioned recently which featured corrupt and felonious “Bush Pioneer” (major fundraiser) Jack Abramoff introducing his lobbying clients to Bush in a photo op? Josh Marshall is all over the fact that a right-wing photo sales firm deleted those photos from the archive of Bush images that they hawk on CDs. And Laura Rozen at War and Piece has an excellent post on how this rings so similarly to the Stalinist days of the old USSR when photographs of Stalin were altered to delete persons that had become inconveniently embarrassing, and the parallels to Bush and his practices today. And no, I’m not saying Bush is equal to Stalin (though I am certain he wishes he had that much power), but it is always of value to note when our leaders adopt the habits and practices of homicidal dictators of the past. God forbid we should take that kind of thing with due consideration.


Thank God that at least Bush is on the case keeping the peace in the Middle East. Oh wait, he’s not.


Ambitious politicians hoping for a second chance at least have some utility. Too bad the Dems are too wimpy civil to brandish the flag for the cause.


“I‘m fully prepared to use the veto if they [Congress] overspend,” Bush announced today. Just in time!

Of course, he won’t. Or if he does, it’ll be because the Republicans weren’t able to slash Democratic programs enough while pushing their own record pork-barrel through, and a veto would help.

“Bush touted a five-year bill to cut spending on social welfare and other programs by $39.7 billion,” the article reported. Now there’s fiscal discipline! Except for the fact that Bush is pushing for another $90 billion tax cut for the wealthy, on top of the hundreds of billions already granted and the trillions that Bush and the GOP are trying to make permanent. And Bush is trying to claim that the Katrina cleanup–which he has all but forgotten about and is not funding adequately–is the reason why deficits are remaining in the $400 billion range every year, as if he spent anywhere near that amount (even though he lied at the time and promised a lot).

So now Bush is claiming fiscal discipline because he wants to gut social programs to feed, clothe, house, and give medical care to the poor. What a saint. And this is the guy who claims that liberals are waging a class war because we see these things and complain. Well, when one side is stealing billions from the poor and showering billions on the rich, and the other side is objecting, it’s not hard to see who is in fact waging the real class war.


In the meantime, Halliburton posted their highest profits ever. Best in their 86-year history. Gee whiz, really? How did that happen?

So much corruption, so little time to note it all. And imagine, if this is all stuff that we’re seeing, how much is there that we aren’t seeing?

Addendum: Just as the Abramoff case is picking up steam, Bush appoints the chief prosecutor to a federal judgeship, vacating the position immediately, in mid-investigation. Bush claims the appointment is “routine,” but that’s bull. When someone who you are associated with, a big donor, is being investigated, “routine” promotions which interrupt the investigation are no longer “routine.” You wait until the conflict of interest has subsided, otherwise it smacks of obstruction. Which this does.

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  1. Sage
    January 30th, 2006 at 01:23 | #1

    “Thank God that at least Bush is on the case keeping the peace in the Middle East. Oh wait, he’s not.”

    Unfortunate maybe, but not undemocratic. The fact that a corrupt and inept party like Fatah lost power through an election is in fact one of the most democratic things to have happened in Middle East in a long while. The reason Hamas won the election was probably more because of Fatahís failed domestic policy, rather than because of Hamasí policy towards Israel.

    As miserable as the idea of a pro-terrorist party holding power in a volatile region is, there are a few points to be made: 1) Thereís no reason to pretend that Fatah had had much success in pacifying the region in the last few years, and 2) The fact that Hamas even took part in the elections, and offered Fatah a chance to enter a coalition cabinet are signs that Hamas is moderating its policy. If there is a possibility that Hamas would moderate itself even more, it would be a gross mistake for Israel (or United States) to overlook this opportunity. Sabotaging Hamasí chances to forward its policy through a democratically elected parliament and cabinet would a be sure sign for Hamas that it can never achieve anything except through violence.

  2. Luis
    January 31st, 2006 at 00:46 | #2

    And you don’t think that a more skilled and involved diplomatic president might have avoided allowing the situation to deteriorate to the point where a key Middle Eastern experiment in Democracy is taken over by a terrorist group? Sorry, but I have a very strong feeling that this never would have happened under Clinton. And it certainly doesn’t look good for Bush, who says we’re fighting terrorism in the Middle East, not empowering it. As for Hamas becoming more responsible because they’re running things, I think is not too realistic–as if Hamas were a unified group with no splinter factions, ot that their leaders won’t be above taking advantage of the power to continue their ways. Simply hoping for the best is kind of how Bush got to this point in the first place, nu?

  3. Sage
    February 6th, 2006 at 06:59 | #3

    “And you don’t think that a more skilled and involved diplomatic president might have avoided allowing the situation to deteriorate to the point where a key Middle Eastern experiment in Democracy is taken over by a terrorist group? Sorry, but I have a very strong feeling that this never would have happened under Clinton. And it certainly doesn’t look good for Bush, who says we’re fighting terrorism in the Middle East, not empowering it.”

    Oh, come on, you canít possibly blame EVERYTHING on Bush.

    “As for Hamas becoming more responsible because they’re running things, I think is not too realistic”

    I donít think it is unrealistic to think that this may be a sign of Hamas becoming more responsible, although it definitely is optimistic to feel so.

    Quite often, responsibility does follow power, at least if power is gained through democratic means. It is easy to advocate extremism if you cannot be held responsible for your rhetoric; populistic and extremist parties usually moderate their views once they integrate in the democratic process. Once Hamas realizes that it has a genuine chance to improve the standard of living of its people by (tacitly) adopting a more moderate platform – it may be an opportunity too good to miss.

    Hamas is already in power in some municipalities, and to my comprehension they have somewhat moderated their views, and have collaborated with Israeli authorites at least at local level.

    “as if Hamas were a unified group with no splinter factions.”

    I assume this is the reason why Hamas cannot recognize Israel overnight after winning elections, and why change within Hamas will be slow, and change in rhetoric will be even slower than in actions. However, peace process is pretty much halted for immediate future anyway.

    “ot that their leaders won’t be above taking advantage of the power to continue their ways.”

    Well, Fatah leadears certainly “continued their ways”, in form of a corrupt one-party dictatorship. Thatís why they lost power, possibly the party can try reinvent itself now.

    It donít think Hamas contested these elections in order to send more suicide bombers. They want to do something different.

    “Simply hoping for the best is kind of how Bush got to this point in the first place, nu?”

    …But my point is that the moderates in Hamas now have a chance to experiment with parliamentary rule, and if things go well, perhaps, in time, also the more radical factions will begin to see parliamentary process as a genuine alternative for violence. If, however, moderates are frustrated by blocking their ability to effect change through parliamentary process, there is no doubt that Hamas (& other extremists) will, in future, continue to see violence as the only way to advance their goals. For this reason, I believe the opposite of your statement – anticipating the worst at this point will only bring out the worst possible outcome.

  4. Luis
    February 6th, 2006 at 09:08 | #4

    Oh, come on, you canít possibly blame EVERYTHING on Bush.Oh, please. “Everything”? You make it sound like a terrorist group winning a key vote in an election in the focus of international tension in the world is a piddling detail or something. It’s not like I’m blaming Bush for the recent Muslim cartoon crisis–this is an area Bush is supposed to be directly involved in, and his involvement is severely wanting.

    First of all, the nature of the presidency is that you get credit and blame for the big stuff. You think if this election were as big a success as it was a failure that Bush wouldn’t have taken credit for it? Bush has actively claimed credit for just about every good thing that has happened during his presidency and blamed everything bad on others. Reagan got credit for bringing down Russia just because he spent a lot, as if Gorbachev, the people of the Soviet states, and 70 years of corrupt and inefficient economic policies were secondary factors. It’s the nature of the job.

    But second, and more importantly, this IS something that Bush is responsible for. American presidents have always been closely involved in the politics of Israel and Palestine. It’s part of the job. But that’s a job that Bush has largely ignored, and through his disregard–and what little regard he has paid has been monolithic and generally hands-off–things have fallen apart. You think this would have happened under Clinton?
    However, peace process is pretty much halted for immediate future anyway.And halted why? Again, you think it’d be halted if Clinton were running things? Over his dead body. Bush ignored the region for the first year and a half of his presidency, then when things started falling apart, he came up with the “roadmap” which was just a rehash of previous plans that were already in progress. Can you honestly say that he has been even a tenth as involved in the region as Clinton was? Clinton didn’t solve all the problem there, but he damn well tried, and he sure didn’t leave the situation to be so bad that a terrorist group won control of Palestine!
    For this reason, I believe the opposite of your statement – anticipating the worst at this point will only bring out the worst possible outcome.I’m not saying not to hope. What I’m saying is that Bush failed because he neglected the region, that his policies there were mostly one-sided and uninvolved. In effect, all Bush did was hope for the best and not much else. Positive action and involvement are needed, not just hope-for-the-best. But it doesn’t look like Bush will change anything–in fact, since he let Hamas take over, he’ll probably be even more hands-off, and let the situation deteriorate further.

  5. Sage
    February 7th, 2006 at 22:46 | #5

    Luis, Iím starting to get the impression weíre talking about different subjects: Youíre saying things could be better, Iím saying things could GET better.

    But Iím not at all convinced by your attempts to pin this all on Bush. Itís my impression that Fatah lost these elections because of its corruption and failed domestic policy, not so much because of the failed peace process. And furthermore – Didnít Arafat turn down Barakís peace offer (whatever its name was at that time) when Clinton was still president? Clinton may have tried, but without much success.

  6. Luis
    February 7th, 2006 at 23:41 | #6

    Sage: I see what you’re getting at, and I honestly hope it will get better. The thing is, I think we could be much farther along in the process, and Bush’s inaction is a big reason we aren’t there. Yes, Arafat turned down a rather generous offer from Israel brokered by Clinton–a big mistake, and they’ll make them often.

    But to accept your proposition, one has to accept the idea that action to intervene and negotiate on the part of the U.S. has no significant effect, and I cannot accept that. Things went bad at times under Clinton, but he did a lot to make things better, and arguably things probably would have been a lot worse without that effort. Bush didn’t even try at first. Then he picked up much of Clinton’s work, and mostly because of pressure and work done by other nations and the U.N., got the package renamed the “road map for peace,” and mostly claimed credit for it as his own work. And then he sided with Israel too often and otherwise ignored the situation.

    In contrast, look at what Clinton achieved: he presided over the Oslo Accords and the signing of the treaty which had the Israelis pullm out of Gaza and the West Bank and began Palestinian self-government; he brokered peace between Israel and Jordan; forged the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which led to the Hebron Agreement and the Wye River Memorandum. That his monumental effort at the 2000 summit met with failure was perhaps the biggest mistake he made–overreaching in an attempt to crown his presidency–but the fact remains that he achieved a great deal in the Middle East, and laid the groundwork for most of the progress that we have seen in the region.

    I believe that a concerned effort by the U.S. will always have a net positive effect, and neglect will have a net negative effect, ergo my disdain for Bush’s policies. Again, I agree that things can get better, of course they can–but I think the best bet for that is positive action and hard work from this president, and judging from his past performance, we aren’t going to see anything close. Things could be much better now but they aren’t, and things can get much better–but Bush is not the one to accomplish that, and so I fear they will not improve nearly as much as they could.

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