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Posts Tagged ‘bush’

An unhappy anniversary

Posted by Richard on June 18, 2011

Mark J. Perry remembered the grim historical significance of this day (emphasis in original):

This is a post to recognize the 40th anniversary of the day in 1971 that President Nixon declared that the U.S. government would start waging a "War on Drugs" war on peaceful Americans who chose to use intoxicants not approved of by the U.S. government (HT: Don B.).

Q: Which repressive country puts the most people in jail for violating government laws? 

A. Iran
B. Saudi Arabia
C. Libya
D. Egypt
E. United States of America

Well, it's not even close…………..

Read the whole thing. And read Perry's other recent posts on the subject here, here, and here.

It's widely known that in their youth, each of our last three presidents chose to use intoxicants not approved by the U.S. government. Yet each of them subsequently supported, advocated, and directed a policy of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of non-violent "drug offenders" every year, and even sanctimoniously claimed that it's for their own good.

Would Clinton, Bush, and Obama be better off today if they'd been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for 3-5 years when they were young, destroying their careers before they got started? Would the country be better off today if they'd been … 

Um … maybe I shouldn't go there. Just weakens my argument.

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Return of the Bush Doctrine

Posted by Richard on March 6, 2011

Charles Krauthammer nailed it on Friday, pointing out that some of the same people who denounced the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime are now clamoring for the West to do something about Moammar Gaddafi, a far less murderous and dangerous tyrant:

A strange moral inversion, considering that Hussein's evil was an order of magnitude beyond Gaddafi's. Gaddafi is a capricious killer; Hussein was systematic. Gaddafi was too unstable and crazy to begin to match the Baathist apparatus: a comprehensive national system of terror, torture and mass murder, gassing entire villages to create what author Kanan Makiya called a "Republic of Fear."

No matter the hypocritical double standard. Now that revolutions are sweeping the Middle East and everyone is a convert to George W. Bush's freedom agenda, it's not just Iraq that has slid into the memory hole. Also forgotten is the once proudly proclaimed "realism" of Years One and Two of President Obama's foreign policy – the "smart power" antidote to Bush's alleged misty-eyed idealism.

It began on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first Asia trip, when she publicly played down human rights concerns in China. The administration also cut aid for democracy promotion in Egypt by 50 percent. And cut civil society funds – money for precisely the organizations we now need to help Egyptian democracy – by 70 percent.

This new realism reached its apogee [I'd say its nadir] with Obama's reticence and tardiness in saying anything in support of the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran. On the contrary, Obama made clear that nuclear negotiations with the discredited and murderous regime (talks that a child could see would go nowhere) took precedence over the democratic revolutionaries in the street – to the point where demonstrators in Tehran chanted, "Obama, Obama, you are either with us or with them."

There was a telling moment in Libya the other day, when rebels begged for Bush

Now that revolution has spread from Tunisia to Oman, however, the administration is rushing to keep up with the new dispensation, repeating the fundamental tenet of the Bush Doctrine that Arabs are no exception to the universal thirst for dignity and freedom.

Now, it can be argued that the price in blood and treasure that America paid to establish Iraq's democracy was too high. But whatever side you take on that question, what's unmistakable is that to the Middle Easterner, Iraq today is the only functioning Arab democracy, with multiparty elections and the freest press. Its democracy is fragile and imperfect – last week, security forces cracked down on demonstrators demanding better services – but were Egypt to be as politically developed in, say, a year as is Iraq today, we would think it a great success.

For Libyans, the effect of the Iraq war is even more concrete. However much bloodshed they face, they have been spared the threat of genocide. Gaddafi was so terrified by what we did to Saddam & Sons that he plea-bargained away his weapons of mass destruction. For a rebel in Benghazi, that is no small matter.

Yet we have been told incessantly how Iraq poisoned the Arab mind against America. Really? Where is the rampant anti-Americanism in any of these revolutions? …

It's Yemen's president and the delusional Gaddafi who are railing against American conspiracies to rule and enslave. The demonstrators in the streets of Egypt, Iran and Libya have been straining their eyes for America to help. …

Facebook and Twitter have surely mediated this pan-Arab (and Iranian) reach for dignity and freedom. But the Bush Doctrine set the premise.

While his critics were making sneering jokes about My Pet Goat, George W. Bush was reading Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy and embracing the transformational power of liberty. How many bloody Middle East dictatorships must fall before he's awarded a Nobel Peace Prize?

Who am I kidding? There aren't enough murderous dictatorships in the world for that to happen.

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Sharansky hopeful about Egypt

Posted by Richard on February 5, 2011

The Wall Street Journal's David Feith interviewed Natan Sharansky about recent events in Egypt and other Arab dictatorships, and found him neither as surprised nor as pessimistic as most of the so-called experts:

"The reason people are going to the streets and making revolution is their desire not to live in a fear society," Mr. Sharansky says. In his taxonomy, the world is divided between "fear societies" and "free societies," with the difference between them determinable by what he calls a "town square test": Are the people in a given society free to stand in their town square and express their opinions without fear of arrest or physical harm? The answer in Tunisia and Egypt, of course, has long been "no"—as it was in the Soviet bloc countries that faced popular revolutions in 1989.

This idea is the animating feature of a worldview that bucks much conventional wisdom. Uprisings like Tunisia's and Egypt's, he says, make "specialists—Sovietologists, Arabists—say 'Who could have thought only two weeks ago that this will happen?'" But "look at what Middle Eastern democratic dissidents were saying for all these years about the weakness of these regimes from the inside," and you won't be surprised when they topple, he says.

Sharansky doesn't buy the idea that propping up tyrants like Mubarak is the only way to prevent Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood from taking over. He argues that the longer Mubark remains in power, the more the Brotherhood becomes the only strong, well-organized opposition poised to take over. Better that the dictator should go now, with the streets largely filled with people yearning for freedom and democracy, not radical Islamists.

Sharansky wants the US to adopt a policy of "linkage," as it did with the Soviet Union in 1974:

If he were a U.S. senator, Mr. Sharansky says, he would immediately introduce a law to continue support to Egypt on condition that "20% of all this money goes to strengthening and developing democratic institutions. And the money cannot be controlled by the Egyptian government." Ideally his measure would kick in as soon as possible, so that it can affect the incentives of any Egyptian transitional government established to rule until September, when a presidential election is scheduled.

Sharansky thinks President Obama's response on Egypt is improving daily and is certainly much better than his response to the 2009 Iranian revolution: 

… By his reckoning, the Obama administration's position during the recent Iranian protests was "maybe one of the biggest betrayals of people's freedom in modern history. . . . At the moment when millions were deciding whether to go to the barricades, the leader of the free world said 'For us, the most important thing is engagement with the regime, so we don't want a change of regime.' Compared to this, there is very big progress [today]."

Inconsistency is par for the course in this field. "From time to time," Mr. Sharansky says of the George W. Bush administration, "America was giving lectures about democracy." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a strong address in Cairo in 2005. And in 2002, by threatening to withhold $130 million in aid to Egypt, the administration successfully pressured Mr. Mubarak to release the sociologist and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim from prison. In their final years, however, administration officials reverted to bureaucratic form and relaxed their pressure drastically.

Condoleezza RiceEarlier this week, I recalled Condi's marvelous 2005 speech in Cairo and some of Bush's finest moments speaking about "the transformational power of liberty." But by 2006, with things going badly in Iraq and his popularity tanking, Bush pretty much gave up on the one thing he got right

President Obama relaxed it even further, Mr. Sharansky notes, inserting only vague language about democracy into his June 2009 address in Cairo. "There was no mention at all that at that  moment democratic dissidents were imprisoned, that Mubarak had put in prison the leading [opposition] candidate in the past election," Ayman Nour.

Much needs to change in Egypt, Sharansky concedes, before it can become a free society, but he believes those changes can and must begin now: 

Even if the U.S. embraces linkage, Egypt's September election could be quite problematic. "Only when the basic institutions that protect a free society are firmly in place—such as a free press, the rule of law, independent courts, political parties—can free elections be held," Mr. Sharansky wrote in "The Case for Democracy." In Egypt, those "free, developed institutions," he tells me, "will not be developed by September."

What can develop over the next eight months, Mr. Sharansky says, is a U.S. policy making clear that "whoever is elected cannot continue to survive—he cannot continue to rely on the assistance of the free world in defense, economics, anything—if democratic reforms are not continued and if democratic institutions are not built." After several years of such democracy-building, he says, when dissidents like Mr. Ibrahim enjoy the ability to build institutions like trade unions and women's organizations, "then in a few years you'll have a different country, and you can have really free elections."

Read the whole thing. Then let your congresscritters know that you support Sharansky's proposal for aid linkage. 

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The transformational power of liberty

Posted by Richard on February 2, 2011

First, Tunisia. Now, Egypt. And other Middle East autocrats have taken notice. The "transformational power of liberty" is on the move in the Middle East:

Once invincible, a Mideast autocrat is close to finished. Egypt's longtime President Hosni Mubarak is fading fast after a week of inspired street protests. And the shock waves are spreading out as his rule weakens.

The 82-year-old leader now is offering not to run for re-election later this year. It's a too-little, too-late gesture to mollify masses of Egyptians who are demanding that he depart and give new leadership a chance.

Underscoring Mubarak's final moments is another reality: His longtime ally, the United States, is giving a firm shove after initial hestitation. "We hear your voices," President Obama said in a Tuesday message to the demonstrators. The transition "must begin now," he added.

It's an earthshaking moment for the Mideast. The region's biggest country, viewed as one of the most stable, is on the brink of democratic change. And it was created by widespread, homegrown protests, not a bloody coup or outside force.

First came the demise of Tunisia's corrupt government, an act that touched off a similar surge in Egypt that Mubarak was unable to quell. One telling moment was an assurance from the independent-minded military that it would not use force against citizens taking to the streets.

The looming downfall of Mubarak could send reverberations throughout the Mideast. Jordan's King Hussein raced to get in front of similar protests in his country by firing his Cabinet. Other leaders might scramble to stay in power as the Mideast glimpses a chance for democracy. A turning point is at hand.

I blame Bush. This is from an October 2005 post, "The one thing Bush gets right":

Bush spoke at length about the fifth point, and his commitment to "the transformational power of liberty" remains solid. He singled out Egypt and Saudi Arabia as "friends" whom we're encouraging to reform and to "respect the rights and choices of their own people." He pointedly added:  

… We're standing with dissidents and exiles against oppressive regimes, because we know that the dissidents of today will be the democratic leaders of tomorrow. We're making our case through public diplomacy, stating clearly and confidently our belief in self-determination, and the rule of law, and religious freedom, and equal rights for women, beliefs that are right and true in every land, and in every culture.

Bush closed, as he so often does, with a restatement of his commitment to and confidence in liberty:

Throughout history, tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that murder is justified to serve their grand vision — and they end up alienating decent people across the globe. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that regimented societies are strong and pure — until those societies collapse in corruption and decay. Tyrants and would-be tyrants have always claimed that free men and women are weak and decadent — until the day that free men and women defeat them.

We don't know the course of our own struggle — the course our own struggle will take — or the sacrifices that might lie ahead. We do know, however, that the defense of freedom is worth our sacrifice. We do know the love of freedom is the mightiest force of history. And we do know the cause of freedom will once again prevail.

I also blame Natan Sharansky (as channeled by Bush). Also Condi and her 2005 speech in Cairo. And Tony Blair.

I'm optimistic and hopeful about the wave of transformational liberty sweeping across the Middle East. Arab Muslims have a strong yearning for democracy. Yes, there's a danger that radical Islamists will gain power in democratic elections. But as I noted years ago regarding Iraq, even such an outcome would be a short-lived victory for radical Islam:

It's a crucial idea that the Islamofascists seem to understand clearly, but the critics and pessimists just don't get: once the vast majority of the people buy into the concept of democratic government — even a Sharia-based or Shia-dominated democratic government — the reactionary theology of the Islamofascists has already lost. Their version of Islam can't tolerate people choosing, period — even if you make the "right" choice, the very idea that it's up to you to decide between competing ideas undermines their entire belief system and will eventually destroy it. 

Years ago, I argued that the Bush Doctrine is a long shot, but it's the best option we have. Now, it just may be working. Best wishes to the freedom-loving people of Egypt, Tunisia, and the other autocratic nations of that region.

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Posted by Richard on September 19, 2010

Paul Shanklin has been creating great musical parodies for almost two decades, many of them featured on the Rush Limbaugh Show. His latest is his best in years. Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure and amusement, here's George W. Bush (or someone like him) singing "Obamaville":

[YouTube link]

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The Pelosi recession

Posted by Richard on August 6, 2010

Every political pundit in the country will admit that presidents get too much credit when the economy is good and too much blame when it's bad. And then they'll promptly forget that. Everyone does it, myself included. For what seems like forever, pundits and politicians on the left and right have been blaming Bush and Obama, respectively, for the current economic mess. Certainly, both deserve blame, but neither deserves as much as he gets.

Bush was never much into fiscal discipline to begin with. And in his final three years — with his popularity sagging, his focus on turning things around in Iraq, and his own party in Congress abandoning whatever commitment to their professed principles they had, shoveling out pork by the ton, and wracked by scandals — he seemed to give up on the domestic front. His efforts to do something about Fanny and Freddie, for instance, were half-hearted at best. Eventually, to his shame, he bought into the neo-Keynesian clamor for stimulus and bailouts. 

Obama, in my opinion, deserves a larger share of blame because he isn't just going along with destructive economic policies, he's the author and chief advocate of them. In the Senate, he was one of those pushing Bush into the destructive decisions made in final two years, and in fact complaining that Bush wasn't spending, stimulating, and bailing enough.

But let's not forget that all spending bills must originate in the House and that Congress is the source of all legislation of any kind. A president can propose and can veto, but that's about it (to his further shame, Bush was unwilling to veto irresponsible spending bills, even when he was still popular and had majorities in Congress). 

So I suggest a little less blaming of Bush or Obama and a little more examination of the historical record. When did things really start falling apart and deficits start ballooning? Why, in 2007 (FY2008). After the Democrats regained control of the House.

Democrats will shout (they always shout) that Bush inherited a balanced budget and turned it into huge deficits. Yes, initially. In the wake of the 2000 dotcom collapse and 9/11 (you do remember 9/11, don't you?). But then, Bush did one great thing domestically: he vigorously fought for lower taxes. And in 2001 and 2003, the Republican Congress cut tax rates significantly. These were across-the-board rate cuts, not the kind of picayune targeted tax credits, picking winners and losers, that we get from the Democrats.

Critics have tried to rewrite history, but the 4 years after the first tax cuts took effect in mid-2002 were a period of remarkable economic growth, rapidly declining deficits, and historically low unemployment. I outlined the facts in July 2006 in a fine fisking, if I do say so myself, of a New York Times editorial. Read the whole thing, but here are some key facts: 

  • Annual GDP growth was 4%, well above the average since WWII.
  • Unemployment declined to 4.6%, well below the average for the preceding four decades.
  • Tax receipts were up by double digits each year, once again proving Arthur Laffer correct — tax rate cuts don't reduce revenue, they stimulate so much growth that revenue increases. (Some of us would argue that that's the dark cloud in the silver lining of tax cuts. πŸ˜‰ )
  • The deficit declined from 4.5% of GDP ($450 billion) in FY2004 to 1.2% ($160 billion) in FY2007, and was on a glide path that would have balanced the budget by October 2008 (FY2009) had Congress not changed course.

The last time things were going nearly as well was in the years after the Republicans took over the House in 1994, before the "Gingrich revolution" fizzled and (like during the second Bush term) the Republicans lost their way. 

Bush bears responsibility for doing some good things and some bad things, and Obama bears responsibility for doing some bad things and some worse things. But the major responsibility for the fiscal and economic state of the nation always resides in Congress, and particularly in the House.

Things go to hell when the Republicans abandon their core principles and when the Democrats have the power to act on theirs.

If you have to hang a single individual's name on it, this is properly called the Pelosi recession. 

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George W. Bush’s worst mistakes

Posted by Richard on February 27, 2010

Catching up on Big Lizards, I see that Dafydd has opined on our previous president's five worst mistakes. I heartily commend it to you.

I suspect my libertarian friends will enthusiastically embrace numbers 1 and 2, and recoil in horror when they reach number 3. I confess I'd have to refresh my memory of the Hamdan and Boumediene decisions to confirm Dafydd's interpretations. But I'm inclined to side with him on this one, too.

For those who strenuously object, I'd point out that, under this gentler and more humanitarian administration, which believes in treating enemy combatants as criminals and Mirandizing captives on the battlefield, we've just about quit taking prisoners. We've instead embraced the macho t-shirt slogan, "Kill 'em all, let God sort them out!" Thus we've abandoned centuries-old principles of how nations ought to conduct war — and become less civilized. Unintended consequences.

Number 4 I'm not sure about. Dafydd is correct about Bush breaking his promise regarding the Iran nukes problem. I'm not sure how Dafydd's proposal would have worked out. And he isn't either, but wishes we had done something, even if it was wrong. I'm sympathetic.

I'm sure there's widespread agreement with number 5, which Dafydd calls "Bush's greatest failing" (emphasis in original): 

Like Mary Poppins, he made it a practice never to explain anything!

Where Reagan was the Great Communicator, Bush was the Great Obfuscator. He never quite got the point that one of the primary duties of the POTUS is to explain to the American people what he and his administration are doing… and why they're doing it. In detail: Here is the problem; here are the options; here is one we've chosen; and this is why we chose it. Here are the potential upsides and downsides; and this is metric by which we'll judge its success.

I don't mean going to the U.N. for permission to overthrow Saddam Hussein, or testifying before Congress, or filing amicus briefs in the federal courts. I refer here to going before the people themselves, as Reagan loved to do, and speaking directly to them to explain the overall strategy and how all the niggling details fit into the big picture.

But Bush rarely did it, if ever. Rather than define himself and his tenure, Bush allowed his political enemies to define him in their own misleading terms. Needless to say, Bush came out the loser in that exchange.

I think "if ever" is a bit unfair. He did it occasionally, and sometimes rather well. Consider, for instance, his October 2005 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy, which I praised highly and quoted from extensively. But granted, that wasn't "going before the people" a la Reagan. I watched the whole speech on line, but I doubt many people did; most saw a 30-second clip on the evening news chosen to be at best insignificant and more likely unflattering.

And that was the problem. Throughout his two terms, the MSM worked relentlessly to get between Bush and the people and to obscure whatever his message was or present it in the worst possible light. Reagan was able to get around them and communicate directly with the people; Bush was largely unable or unwilling to do that.

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Billboard of the year

Posted by Richard on February 8, 2010

I hope this picture is real and not just Photoshopped. It's the funniest billboard I've seen since this one. As Instapundit put it, "Heh™."


If it's not real, I'd be willing to kick in some money to help make it so. πŸ™‚

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Posted by Richard on December 6, 2009

Was Obama channeling Bush at West Point? Jon Stewart compares surges then and now, and presidents then and now. Enjoy:

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Where Democrats stand on surveillance

Posted by Richard on July 11, 2008

President Bush today signed legislation expanding intelligence agencies' powers to monitor communications involving foreign terrorist suspects.

If you're planning on contacting a bin Laden-backed, Taliban-supported Deobandi madrassa in Pakistan to see if the sons you sent there to be radicalized have been turned into jihadis and are ready to come home to continue the struggle, consider yourself warned.

The bill was passed by the Senate Wednesday 69-28. Twenty-two Democrats voted for the bill, including Senators Bayh, Casey, Feinstein, Inouye, Landrieu, both Nelsons, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Webb. Oh, yeah, and Sen. Obama, who had pledged during the primary campaign to filibuster the bill.

It was another significant victory by the purportedly incompetent and unpopular lame duck:

Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.

Debate over the surveillance law was the one area where Democrats had held firm in opposition. House Democrats went so far as to allow a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, leading to a five-month impasse and prompting accusations from Mr. Bush that the nation’s defenses against another strike by Al Qaeda had been weakened.

But in the end Mr. Bush won out, as administration officials helped forge a deal between Republican and Democratic leaders that included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. The measure gives the executive branch broader latitude in eavesdropping on people abroad and at home who it believes are tied to terrorism, and it reduces the role of a secret intelligence court in overseeing some operations.

The bill also made it clear just where many leading Democrats — including the presumptive presidential nominee — stand on this "privacy rights" issue: They're unalterably opposed to any compromise on communications privacy, even for foreign terrorists, and even if their opposition threatens national security and the safety of Americans … but not if it threatens their political future. 

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“Bush lied” is a lie

Posted by Richard on June 10, 2008

What's up with the WaPo? An epidemic of remorse about past sins? Just one editor having second thoughts? Hard to say. A week ago, I noted with surprise that The Washington Post had editorialized that the news from Iraq "ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the 'this-war-is-lost' caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)."

Now, WaPo's Editorial Page Editor has declared that the most pervasive leftist meme, "Bush lied," is false. But don't jump right to the WaPo opinion piece by Fred Hiatt, read the analysis by Doug Ross first.

On issue after issue, Hiatt points out that Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, claimed to have evidence that "Bush lied," but in fact Rockefeller's report clearly shows that on issue after issue, the President's statements were "substantiated by the intelligence community."

After five years of WaPo (and the rest of the MSM) supporting and promoting the "Bush lied" meme, it's quite a change.

Fred Hiatt concluded (emphasis added):

Why does it matter, at this late date? The Rockefeller report will not cause a spike in "Bush Lied" mug sales, and the Bond dissent will not lead anyone to scrape the "Bush Lied" bumper sticker off his or her car.

But the phony "Bush lied" story line distracts from the biggest prewar failure: the fact that so much of the intelligence upon which Bush and Rockefeller and everyone else relied turned out to be tragically, catastrophically wrong.

And it trivializes a double dilemma that President Bill Clinton faced before Bush and that President Obama or McCain may well face after: when to act on a threat in the inevitable absence of perfect intelligence and how to mobilize popular support for such action, if deemed essential for national security, in a democracy that will always, and rightly, be reluctant.

For the next president, it may be Iran's nuclear program, or al-Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan, or, more likely, some potential horror that today no one even imagines. When that time comes, there will be plenty of warnings to heed from the Iraq experience, without the need to fictionalize more.

 Doug Ross concluded:

The Bush Lied meme, which was marketed incessantly by the Democrats and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself), was unadulterated partisan pap. Furthermore, it was dangerous pap, as it presents a future CINC with additional complexities and bickering even when the need to take military action is clear and present.

Yep. Thanks, Mr. Hiatt, for finally setting the record straight. Better late than never.

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One question for McClellan

Posted by Richard on May 29, 2008

I can remember watching some of Scott McClellan's press briefings and literally shouting at the TV because he was so incompetent and did such a pi**-poor job of representing the administration. As he was being badgered by a hostile press more interested in argumentation than asking questions, McClellan looked about ready to wet his pants.

The first time I saw his replacement, Tony Snow, in the same role, my reaction was, "Now that's a press secretary! He should have replaced McClellan ages ago."

I remember when McClellan resigned (we now learn he was pushed), he and President Bush made a love-fest out of it, heaping praise on each other. McClellan talked about how proud he was to have served and how grateful for the opportunity.  

I haven't seen too many of the excerpts from McClellan's new book — the one the MSM is fawning over. In the ones I've seen, McClellan's "revelations" consist mainly of his speculations about what took place in meetings he didn't attend and his "conclusions" about Iraq and the Plame affair that simply aren't true. News flash, Scott: Richard Armitage is the man who leaked Plame's identity to Bob Novak.

There are a lot of valid questions about this book. How much was it shaped by PublicAffairs Books' leftist editor Peter Osnos? Why is it coming out now? Isn't it interesting that the publishing house is owned by Perseus Books Group — along with Nation Books (affiliated with the ultra-leftist magazine of the same name) and Vanguard Press (publisher of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder) — which has lots of rich leftists on its board and has ties to George Soros

Blue Grass, Red State found six other "fun books" from Perseus, which should give you an idea of their focus. (HT: Suzy Rice)

The most appropriate reaction to McClellan's book that I've read is this one:

Well, why, all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner? This is one-and-a-half years after he left the administration. And now, all of a sudden, he’s raising these grave concerns that he claims he had. And I think you have to look at some of the facts. One, he is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book.

But that wasn't really a reaction to McClellan's book. That was what Scott McClellan himself said about Richard Clarke's book criticizing the Bush administration.

So I'd like someone to ask McClellan one question — the classic cross-examination question: Were you lying then or are you lying now? 

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Congress overrides veto of bloated farm bill

Posted by Richard on May 22, 2008

Yesterday, President Bush vetoed this year's 673-page, $300 billion* farm bill, which is even more of an abomination than most farm bills:

While it continues and, in some cases, expands traditional farm subsidies, the 673-page measure is stuffed with billions of dollars of new money for anti-hunger programs, conservation programs, fruit and vegetable growers and the biofuels industry.

"Members are going to have to think about how they will explain these votes back in their districts at a time when prices are on the rise," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "People are not going to want to see their taxes increase."

She added, "Congress is asking families to pay more in subsidies to wealthy farmers at a time of record farm profits."

Not only that, but Congress is also paying farmers to keep land idle and to devote more of their acreage to corn for ethanol at a time of record commodity prices, rising grocery bills, and international warnings about hunger and famine. 

Nothing better exemplifies the hypocrisy and corruption in Congress than comparing their treatment of Big Oil — they grill energy company CEOs and self-righteously chide them for their record profits and tax breaks — versus their treatment of Big Agriculture — they lavish tens of billions in direct subsidies on ADM and its fellow feeders at the public trough (who are also making record profits).

The House overrode the veto within hours, and the Senate followed suit today. Both did so by lopsided margins — there's no shortage of Republicans eager to join the Democrats in keeping the pork projects and special interest subsidies flowing. 

But hold your horses! The current Congressional leadership is not only extremely liberal, it's also inept. The version of the bill that they sent to the President is different from the one they actually passed:

Due to a printing glitch, the version that Bush vetoed was missing 34 pages on international food aid and trade _ a mistake that may require Congress to send the White House yet another bill.

The printing error turned a triumphant political victory into a vexing embarrassment for Democrats.

The party's leaders in the House decided to pass the bill again, including the missing section in the version that Bush got. That vote was 306-110, again enough to override another veto from Bush should the need arise.

Democratic leadership aides said the Senate will deal with the problem when Congress returns in June from a one-week vacation.

House Republicans used the error to plead Democratic incompetence. They complained that Bush vetoed a different bill from the one Congress passed, raising questions that the eventual law would be unconstitutional.

Well, at least there were some Republicans who actually objected to both the bill and the travesty of a process. Most of them seem to have embraced bipartisanship. You remember what bipartisanship means, don't you? It's when the members of the stupid party and the evil party get together and do something that's both stupid and evil. 

* I've seen price tags ranging from $289 billion to $330 billion, apparently because of some sleight-of-hand and gimmickry in the bill that makes the actual cost hard to determine.

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Posted by Richard on February 19, 2008

Former President George "Read My Lips" H.W. Bush endorsed Sen. John McCain and said McCain can carry "our conservative values" to the White House. Yeah, that's the same George H.W. Bush who scoffed at "that vision thing," abandoned his "no new taxes" pledge, and squandered the Reagan legacy he inherited.

<snark>I'm sure all the economic conservative / libertarian Republicans will rally around McCain now that he has George H.W. Bush's blessing.</snark>

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Bush soaks the rich

Posted by Richard on December 21, 2007

The Democratic presidential candidates (Edwards especially) have been running around bashing the Bush tax cuts, complaining about "inequality," and promising to make the rich pay their "fair share." But according to The Wall Street Journal, the rich not only pay the vast majority of income taxes, they paid a larger percentage in 2005 than in 2000 (emphasis added):

Last week the Congressional Budget Office joined the IRS in releasing tax numbers for 2005, and part of the news is that the richest 1% paid about 39% of all income taxes that year. The richest 5% paid a tad less than 60%, and the richest 10% paid 70%. These tax shares are all up substantially since 1990, and even somewhat since 2000. Meanwhile, Americans with an income below the median — half of all households — paid a mere 3% of all income taxes in 2005. The richest 1.3 million tax-filers — those Americans with adjusted gross incomes of more than $365,000 in 2005 — paid more income tax than all of the 66 million American tax filers below the median in income. Ten times more.

It wasn't, as the left argues, because of "rising inequality." Between 2000 and 2005, the income share of the richest 1% barely budged, going from 20.8% to 21.2% (a 2% increase). Extrapolating out, that's just 0.8% in a decade. During the 90s, by comparison, the income share of the top 1% rose 7% (from 14% to 21%, a 50% increase). So "rising inequality" was far more in evidence during the Clinton years — when the left didn't seem to notice.  

Notably, however, the share of taxes paid by the top 1% has kept climbing this decade — to 39.4% in 2005, from 37.4% in 2000. The share paid by the top 5% has increased even more rapidly. In other words, despite the tax reductions of 2001 and 2003, the rich saw their share of taxes paid rise at a faster rate than their share of income. 

And contrary to the claims made by the left, the Bush tax cuts didn't increase the deficit, reduce revenue, or need to be "paid for." Lower tax rates (as usual) led to increased tax revenue: 

The amount of capital gains declared on tax forms has doubled since the tax rate was cut to 15% from 20% in 2003, which has also contributed to more Americans being "rich." Dividend income has also increased by at least 50% since that rate was cut to 15% from nearly 40% in 2003. So part of the income gains of the rich are simply a result of assets that have been converted into taxable income — in part because of lower tax rates.

That leads to my main crticism of the Bush tax cuts. I believe it was Milton Friedman who said that if you cut tax rates and revenue increases, it proves that you haven't cut tax rates enough.

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