Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bush's Final State Of The Union Spin Can't Hide The Failures And Tragedy Of His Administration

For a president obsessed with how history will view his time in the White House, George W. Bush would have spent a great deal of time considering his final State Of The Union speech, over the years.

No doubt before the Iraq War began, Bush imagined that the last SOTU speech he would deliver as president would be one in which he could talk happily about how right he was about the decision to go to war on Iraq, because democracy, freedom and liberty were now spreading throughout the Middle East.

Instead, Iraq is still gripped by incredible violence, democracy is in retreat in the Middle East, and Bush is set to go down as one of, if not the most, unpopular presidents In American history :
George Bush used his final state of the union address last night to try to reassert his primacy in American political life and demonstrate his commitment to Republican principles.

But it was impossible to escape comparisons between the Bush of seven years ago, newly arrived from Texas with a reputation as a uniter and with a vision for sweeping change, with the modest proposals put forward by the president tonight.

With 51 weeks left in his presidency, and a personal approval rating in the low 30s, the night was one of the few remaining moments in the national spotlight for the man overshadowed by the race to choose his successor.

Bush made it clear in a speech lasting nearly an hour that he would resist being cast as a lame duck president, and would fight hard for Republican goals. He threatened to veto bills from Congress that included funding for special interest projects, or earmarks, and warned of the dangers of accelerating US troop withdrawals from Iraq.

Mindful of his waning presidency, Bush announced none of the sweeping new initiatives that are typically unveiled in the annual address. Although he repeatedly referred to the last seven years, he spent little time talking about his legacy.

Instead, Bush attempted to use his diminishing political capital to allay anxiety about the economy, which has replaced the Iraq war as the issue of most concern to Americans.

Amid his ritualistic assertions that the state of the union was strong, Bush conceded: "our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty".

The centrepiece of last night's address was an appeal to Congress to pass a $150bn (£75bn) temporary economic stimulus package that would ward off a recession by giving tax rebates to 117 million families.

The bill, agreed between Bush and the House of Representatives last week, is already facing amendments in the Senate, and Bush called for its passage. "This is a good agreement that will keep our economy growing and our people working and this Congress must pass it as soon as possible."

...Bush used the address to tie up what his officials called "unfinished business" of his presidency: the tax cuts of his first term, which will expire in 2010, and legislation on wire taps without court oversight.

Bush repeated his demands for Congress to pass legislation that would protect telephone companies involved in the surveillance from lawsuits.

On the Iraq war, he used the occasion to remind Americans of the gains achieved during the past year when he ordered an additional 27,000 troops to Iraq. The president spoke on a day when five soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in the northern city of Mosul, but Bush was adamant his strategy was working.

"While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago," he said.

"Some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt."

Bush went on to issue a stern warning to Iran. "America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf," he said.

The speech, which was in the works when Bush made his visit to the Middle East earlier this month, called for a Palestinian state. It also included strong statements on Darfur, and a continued committment to $30 billion to fight Aids in Africa

Despite Bush's reluctance to go over his record at length, in many ways, the speech was a reminder of the failures of the Bush presidency.

The ambitious domestic agenda unveiled in previous state of the union addresses never got off the ground as Bush acknowledged himself last night when he talked about the failed efforts to overhaul social security and America's immigration laws.

What might have been...
Bush On Hardcore Alcoholism

President Bush doesn't often speak about his days as an alcoholic. He'll make the occasional reference, or joke, but it's a rare day when Bush speaks at length about the dark days when he couldn't he couldn't live without the booze :

US President George W. Bush says religion helped him overcome alcoholism and he hasn't had a drink since he quit more than 21 years ago.

In a rare reference to having once been an alcoholic, Mr Bush told a Protestant church-sponsored organisation which helps prisoners reintegrate into society that a "higher power'' helped him beat alcohol.

"Addiction is hard to overcome,'' Mr Bush said in Baltimore, Maryland.

"As you might remember, I drank too much at one time in my life. I understand faith-based programs. I understand that sometimes you can find the inspiration from a higher power to solve an addiction problem,'' he said.

(Bush)...quit cold after a bout of heavy drinking on his 40th birthday.

"I had too much to drink one night, and the next day I didn't have any,'' he said.

"I haven't had a drink since 1986.

"I doubt I'd be standing here if I hadn't quit drinking whiskey, and beer and wine and all that,'' the President said.

Packing away whiskey, beer and wine makes Bush sound like the alcoholic that would throw down whatever was within reach.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Evangelical Insider : Bush More Interested In Talking About Sex Than God

Jacob Weisberg digs into the truth about President Bush's God-related beliefs, and what he finds is strange, unusual, troubling. An extract from Weisberg's excellent book, The Bush Tragedy :
One of the defining aspects of George W Bush’s presidency is his professed belief in God. Yet what really are his religious beliefs? The question, which seems central to understanding his presidency, never receives a satisfactory answer. Indeed, one religious figure close to him soon after his conversion was shocked to find that he talked about sex rather than theology and says that a lot of his faith seemed to be politically calculated.

Bush’s religion has often been described as evangelical. But unlike most other evangelicals, he blithely uses profanity and as governor of Texas he would play poker. He doesn’t pay tithes, he doesn’t try to convert others – one of the central obligations in most evangelical denominations. And he didn’t raise his daughters in the faith.

What Bush clearly does believe in is the personal, transforming and sustaining power of belief in God. Having a personal relationship with God, praying and reading the Bible daily were the tools he used to get control of his life more than 20 years ago.

They made it possible for him to control his drinking, keep his family together after his wife Laura threatened to leave him, manage his aggressive behaviour, cope with the burden of a heroic father and attain success.

With his behaviour under control, he began to gain the confidence of his father, Vice-President George H W Bush, who was having a problem winning the support of evangelical Christians for his bid for the presidency in 1988. Bush Sr regarded televangelists as snake-handlers and swindlers. But with the help of his eldest son and an evangelical minister called Doug Wead, he won the presidency.

The crucible of the campaign forged a close relationship between George W and Wead. “Weadie”, as George W called him, says the candidate’s son spent an inordinate amount of time talking about sex.

Bush Jr was so anxious to avoid any whiff or rumour of infidelity (there were rumours about his father) that he asked Wead to stay in his hotel room one night when he thought a young woman working on the campaign might knock on his door.

“I tried to read to him from the Bible, because by that time he was sending me these signals,” Wead told me. “But he wasn’t interested. He just rolled over and went to sleep.”

Wead said Bush resisted religious overtures as firmly as sexual ones. “He has absolutely zero interest in anything theological – nothing,” Wead said. “We spent hours talking about sex . . . who on the campaign was doing what to whom – but nothing about God. And I tried many, many times.”

Wead also recalls the son’s expressions of his own political interest. The campaign had prepared state-by-state analysis of the electorate. “When he got the one on Texas, his eyes just bugged out,” Wead remembered. He recalled that Bush said: “This is just great! I can become governor of Texas just with the evangelical vote.”

With the various roles he played as Bush Jr’s life counsellor, political adviser and spiritual companion, Wead became in the late 1980s the first in a series of what might be described as surrogate family members to George W.

What Karl Rove would do in helping Bush launch his political career in Texas, and Dick Cheney in helping him define his presidency, Wead did in helping Bush assert and establish his independent identity as a person of faith. But the experience left Wead troubled about the sincerity of Bush’s beliefs. “I’m almost certain that a lot of it was calculated,” he says.

He was particularly concerned about Bush’s rebellious daughters, Barbara and Jenna. Why hadn’t Bush called in the preacher Billy Graham who had helped to convert Dubya?

“If you really believed that there’s some accountability to life, wouldn’t you have Billy Graham come down and have a magic moment with your daughters? Are you just going to let them go to hell? You have all these religious leaders coming through. If it changed your life, wouldn’t you invite them to sit down in the living room and have a talk with your daughters? Or is it all political?”

Once elected, Bush Sr mishandled the religious right. In 1992 his share of the evangelical vote fell and he lost to Bill Clinton. George W became the keenest student of that defeat and he followed Wead’s advice when successfully bidding to become governor of Texas, where the political landscape had been reshaped by the rise of the evangelical movement.

As he and Rove later mapped out his presidential bid, Bush faced a new problem: how to retain the support of the right-wing evangelical leaders that he privately called “wackos” without being so closely identified with them that the association would alienate other voters. The answer was to expand his support for religiously based treatment for drug and alcohol abuse into “faith-based initiatives”, his signature social policy.

The phrase he picked up from Wead that encapsulated this philosophy was “compassionate conservatism”. The word “compassionate” had special overtones to born-again Christians, referring to their duty to be Good Samaritans. But to nonevangelicals, it simply sounded like a way of saying “not all that conservative”. It exemplified Bush’s ability to speak in code, using language with special meaning for evangelicals that sounded innocuous to everyone else.

An agnostic, Rove thought talking the talk was enough and that the candidate did not need to stroke the leaders of the religious right, to Wead’s dismay. Envy over Rove’s closer relationship with Bush may have pushed Wead towards an act of betrayal that he tried to portray as a service to history: secretly tape-recording nine hours of his private telephone conversations with Bush in 1999 and 2000. These tapes, of which I’ve obtained a partial copy (not from Wead), provide a glimpse of the man behind the public mask. They capture Bush thinking aloud and rehearsing answers to questions expected on the campaign trail.

On one, he acknowledges illegal drug use decades back. “Doug,” Bush says, “it doesn’t just matter [about] cocaine, it’d be the same with marijuana. I wouldn’t answer the mari-juana question. You know why? Because I don’t want some little kid doing what I tried . . . I don’t want any kid doing what I tried to do [pause] 30 years ago.”

But the more interesting revelation is how politically Bush thinks about religion. Speaking of an upcoming meeting with evangelical leaders, he notes: “As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things and some improper ways. I am going to say that I’ve accepted Christ into my life. And that’s a true statement.”

The tapes reveal how political the faith of George W Bush is. Wead said that during the countless hours the two spent talking about religion over a dozen years, they discussed endlessly the implications of attending services at different congregations, how Bush could position himself in relation to various tricky questions and how he should handle various ministers and evangelical leaders. But the substance of Bush’s own faith never came up.

Wead told me that he now struggles with the question of how sincere Bush’s expressions of devotion ever were. He often goes over their conversations and the many memos he sent to Bush advising him how to woo the religious vote. “As these memos started flowing to him, he started feeding back to me what his faith was,” Wead said. “Now what is interesting for me, and I’m trying to understand is, was I giving him his story?”

Bush’s skill at “Jesus talk” raises an interesting problem. I’ve edited six books of Bushisms which collect hundreds of examples of the president’s verbal clumsiness. The patterns of these slips testify to some sort of relatively minor, undiagnosed language processing impairment akin to dys-lexia. But Bushisms are only one aspect of a complex verbal picture.

Growing up, Bush developed a glib facility with language that compensates for his disability. In private conversation he is quick-witted and funny, using focused tools of memory and physicality to create intimacy. In private he can be profane and get in your face, swearing “like a sailor” in a 1999 campaign interview with Tucker Carlson, a conservative reporter he expected to protect him, or telling staff that he would kick Saddam Hus-sein’s “sorry motherf****** ass all over the Mideast”. But in scripted and more formal settings, Bush is capable of dignified eloquence.

The greatest surprise is that Bush’s verbal clumsiness is sometimes matched by an impressive degree of precision. In a political context he is sensitive to the resonance and nuance of his terminology. He has always avoided the kind of evangelese that arouses the concern of secular citizens. He seldom uses such terms as born again, saved, Jesus, sinner, heaven or hell. Instead, during the 2000 campaign he chose more generic words: God, charge, heart, love, faith, spirit, service and prayer. To irreligious ears these sounded merely like elevated diction. Christian evangelicals, however, recognised them as references to the born-again religious experience.

In the event, Bush won only 68% of the evangelical vote in the presidential election in 2000, and nearly lost the contest. According to Rove’s calculations, 4m evangelical voters stayed home on election day. This poor performance meant Bush had a big job to do in cultivating the religious right in advance of the next election in 2004. It made passing a faith-based bill urgent. But implementing a faith-based policy proved far more difficult than promoting one. What worked in Texas ran aground in Washington because the national political spectrum was more liberal and secular.

John Dilulio, the first head of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, left in disgust after six months and, in an interview for Esquire magazine, complained that there was no serious discussion of domestic policy or apparatus for developing it. His deputy, David Kuo, quotes Bush shouting: “Well, is he [Dilulio] right, or isn’t he? Have we done compassion or haven’t we? I wanna know.”

Years later he might still be wondering. There is essentially no faith-based programme beyond a minuscule $30m “compassion fund” that channels grants to politically sympathetic Christian groups. The chief work of the White House faith-based office turned into putting on conferences in swing states at which it touted breaking down largely nonexistent barriers and encouraged church groups to apply for grants that weren’t available. In his memoirs, Kuo quotes Rove at the outset of the administration demanding: “Just get me a f****** faith-based thing.”

Margaret Spellings, Bush’s first domestic policy adviser, expressed a similar frustration. “Just get me a damn faith bill. Any bill. I don’t care what kind of bill. Just get me a damn faith bill,” she said.

Kuo’s view is that Bush got snookered by Rove and other aides. The president never understood – or noticed – that the faith-based programmes he dictated never got implemented. He soon discovered, anyway, that what mattered to religious leaders was not government funding but influence on policy throughout the government where it intersected with abortion, evolution and other matters on the evangelical agenda. And this Bush and Rove gave them.

Kay Coles James, a prominent evangelical, was made head of the White House office of personnel. She put evangelicals in sensitive positions at justice, interior, state, health, the Food and Drug Administration, Nasa and the Centers for Disease Control. Even applicants to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq were vetted for evangelical status – not because it mattered to their work, but on the straightforward principle of political patronage. The spoils system appeased Bush’s evangelical constituents.

The secular misunderstanding of Bush is that his relationship with God has turned him into a harsh man, driven by absolute moral certainty and attempting to foist his evangelical views onto others. Many of those who know Bush best see the religious influence in his life cutting in precisely the opposite direction. As one of the evangelical staff members in the White House told me over lunch last summer, Bush’s religion has made him more genuinely humble and less absolutist in the way he defends his views.

Believing that he, too, is a lowly sinner, he has learnt to be more tolerant of the faults of others. But if his eternal perspective improves his personality, it diminishes any ability to take in ambiguity or complexity. He told Senator Joe Biden early in his presidency: “I don’t do nuance.”

That line was probably spoken with self-deprecating irony, but it captures a truth about the intellectually constricting lens of his faith. Bush rejects nuance not because he’s incapable of engaging with it, but because he has chosen to reject it. Applying a crude religious lens that clarifies all decisions as moral choices rather than complicated trade-offs helps him fend off the deliberation and self-contradic-tion he identifies with his own father.

But closing one’s mind to complexity isn’t mere intellectual laziness; it’s a fundamental evasion of freedom, God-given or otherwise. A simple faith frees George W from the kind of agonising struggle that his father went through in handling the largest questions of his presidency and helps him to cope with the heavy burden of the job. But it comes at a tragic cost. A too crude religious understanding has limited Bush’s ability to comprehend the world. The habit of pious simplification has undermined the decider’s decision-making.

Again, Weisberg's book, The Bush Tragedy, is well worth tracking down, if you can stand to hear anymore about President Bush right now. Make it one for the shelf, to look back on in a decade or two, when Bush's championers are trying to re-cast his role in American history, and the bungled fuckarama that was his presidency. This book will remind you just what a tragedy Bush was as president.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

BushCo. Told '1000 Lies' In Lead Up To Iraq War

For two years before the War On Iraq began, President Bush, US Vice President Dick Cheney, White House media wranglers, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary Of State Colin Powell and a coterie of media-friendly NeoCons took part in an unrelenting, insidious propaganda campaign to convince Americans, and the rest of the world, that not only did Iraq have WMDs and nuclear weapons, but if War On Iraq did not begin soon, Saddam would attack Israel, the UK, Europe and the United States.

From AP :
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat. from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.

The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.

"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.

"Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.

Some of the key "false public statements" made during the lead up to the start of the Iraq War :

  • On August 26, 2002, in an address to the national convention of the Veteran of Foreign Wars, Cheney flatly declared: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." In fact, former CIA Director George Tenet later recalled, Cheney's assertions went well beyond his agency's assessments at the time. Another CIA official, referring to the same speech, told journalist Ron Suskind, "Our reaction was, 'Where is he getting this stuff from?' "
  • In the closing days of September 2002, with a congressional vote fast approaching on authorizing the use of military force in Iraq, Bush told the nation in his weekly radio address: "The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. . . . This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year." A few days later, similar findings were also included in a much-hurried National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction — an analysis that hadn't been done in years, as the intelligence community had deemed it unnecessary and the White House hadn't requested it.
  • In July 2002, Rumsfeld had a one-word answer for reporters who asked whether Iraq had relationships with Al Qaeda terrorists: "Sure." In fact, an assessment issued that same month by the Defense Intelligence Agency (and confirmed weeks later by CIA Director Tenet) found an absence of "compelling evidence demonstrating direct cooperation between the government of Iraq and Al Qaeda." What's more, an earlier DIA assessment said that "the nature of the regime's relationship with Al Qaeda is unclear."
  • On May 29, 2003, in an interview with Polish TV, President Bush declared: "We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories." But as journalist Bob Woodward reported in State of Denial, days earlier a team of civilian experts dispatched to examine the two mobile labs found in Iraq had concluded in a field report that the labs were not for biological weapons. The team's final report, completed the following month, concluded that the labs had probably been used to manufacture hydrogen for weather balloons.
  • On January 28, 2003, in his annual State of the Union address, Bush asserted: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." Two weeks earlier, an analyst with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research sent an email to colleagues in the intelligence community laying out why he believed the uranium-purchase agreement "probably is a hoax."
  • On February 5, 2003, in an address to the United Nations Security Council, Powell said: "What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources." As it turned out, however, two of the main human sources to which Powell referred had provided false information. One was an Iraqi con artist, code-named "Curveball," whom American intelligence officials were dubious about and in fact had never even spoken to. The other was an Al Qaeda detainee, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who had reportedly been sent to Eqypt by the CIA and tortured and who later recanted the information he had provided. Libi told the CIA in January 2004 that he had "decided he would fabricate any information interrogators wanted in order to gain better treatment and avoid being handed over to [a foreign government]."

The false statements dramatically increased in August 2002, with congressional consideration of a war resolution, then escalated through the mid-term elections and spiked even higher from January 2003 to the eve of the invasion.

Some of the key "false statements" made by President Bush :

....on September 25, 2002, in response to a reporter's question, President Bush said: "They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that Al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that Al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world."

In a national radio address on September 28, 2002, President Bush flatly asserted: "The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons, is rebuilding the facilities to make more and, according to the British government, could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order is given. The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq. This regime is seeking a nuclear bomb, and with fissile material could build one within a year."

What the American people did not know at the time was that, just three weeks before Bush's radio address, in early September, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet told the Senate Intelligence Committee that there was no National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Such an assessment had not been done in years because nobody within the intelligence community had deemed it necessary, and, remarkably, nobody at the White House had requested that it be done.

The CIA put the NIE together in less than three weeks. It proved to be false. As the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence later concluded, "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) judgment that Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program.

In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, President Bush said: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

But as early as March 2002, there was uncertainty within the intelligence community regarding the sale of uranium to Iraq.

In an interview with Polish television on May 29, 2003, President Bush stated: "We found the weapons of mass destruction." Bush was referencing two trailers or "mobile labs" discovered in Iraq.

Just days earlier, the Defense Intelligence Agency had concluded that the trailers "could not be used as a transportable biological production system as the system is presently configured." It was ultimately acknowledged that the trailers had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction and were probably used to manufacture hydrogen employed in weather balloons.

BushCo. wanted to go to War On Iraq, and every lie, "false statement" and downright untruth was spoken to advance the case for the war.

BushCo. was going to War On Iraq regardless of whether it was proven that Saddam Hussein had WMDs or not. War On Iraq was a focus of the Bush administration within weeks of seizing control of the White House in January, 2001, eight months before the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington DC.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get Out Of My Face

Andrew Sullivan spotted this amazing picture of President Bush talking to a child after a speech on the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.

The expression says it all.

Some comments from Bush about MLK's birthday :

Martin Luther King Day means two things to me. One is the opportunity to renew our deep desire for America to be a land of promise for everybody, a land of justice, and a land of opportunity. It's also an opportunity to serve our fellow citizens.

...our fellow citizens have got to understand that by loving a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself, by reaching out to someone who hurts, by just simply living a life of kindness and compassion, you can make America a better place and fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King is a towering figure in the history of our country...

Bush didn't explain why he thought this was so.
One More Year - Good Riddance To Bush, Hell Awaits The Next US President

From the UK Independent :

Arabia is the land of illusion and desert mirages. And as he jetted last week from kingdom to sheikdom, to be regaled with feasts and falcons, jewels and ornamental swords, George Bush might have imagined that all was well with his presidency. But this, his longest and most ambitious trip to the Middle East, will surely be remembered – if it is remembered at all – as a gaudy, irrelevant footnote to a presidency that has long since failed.

Today is a sombre milestone, marking the start of the last of Mr Bush's eight years in the White House. This being a leap year, exactly 366 days remain until 20 January 2009, when his successor will be sworn into office. It is a time when incumbents look to their legacies. And for this President the view could scarcely be bleaker.

Is he the worst President in US history? Mr Bush faces stiff competition from the likes of James Buchanan, who watched as America slipped towards civil war, or Warren Harding with his corrupt administration, or Herbert Hoover, who failed to halt the slide into the Great Depression, or, more recently, Richard Nixon, the only President to be forced to resign. But in terms of dogmatism, incompetence, ignorance and divisiveness, Mr Bush surely compares with any of the above.

His first, albeit far from most important, bequest is seemingly inevitable defeat for his own party in November, ending almost 30 years of Republican dominance since Ronald Reagan took power. As David Frum, a one-time Bush speech-writer, put it the other day: "I fear the Republicans are heading to an epochal defeat, 1980 in reverse. Every gain we have made since then has been wiped out since 2002."

That, it should be noted, is a Republican speaking. But Frum's evidence is overwhelming, from the President's consistently abysmal approval rating, to the 70 per cent of the population who believe the country is "on the wrong track" (a level not seen in two decades, and that before all-but-certain recession began to bite), to the 51 per cent of Americans who identify themselves as Democrats. By contrast, just 36 per cent of Americans call themselves Republicans – the widest such margin in two decades. Even on the Republicans' signature issue of national security, Democrats are at level pegging. All other things being equal, it is hard to see them losing in November.

In politics, of course, all other things are not equal. The chances of Bush ordering military strikes on Iran may have receded, after last month's report by the US intelligence community that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. But some other foreign calamity, a lethal domestic terrorist attack or even a scandal could reshuffle the electoral cards.

....the Bush era leaves its own nasty odour. Corporate cronyism has been rife. Globalisation and cuts driven by ideology have turned the wealth gap between rich Americans and the rest from an embarrassment into an obscenity. Since 2001 the real income of ordinary Americans has stagnated.

And the mind-boggling losses suffered by such pillars of the financial establishment as Merrill Lynch and Citibank, followed by humiliating foreign bail-outs, suggest something is fundamentally amiss with capitalism, American-style. Like Enron and WorldCom, these colossal financial shipwrecks will forever be associated with Bush's tenure.

The new occupant of the Oval Office can but hope today's dislike for America is directed at a leader, not at a country. That may well be, but one thing is for sure. Never again will the US occupy that extraordinary position of supremacy – military, moral and economic – that it held in the interlude between the demise of Communism and the attacks of September 2001.

To the 44th President falls the task of explaining that truth to the country, as well as dealing with the concrete day-to-day problems left by George Bush. Indeed, one wonders, why would anyone want the job?

Monday, January 21, 2008

How Bush Can Change The World In 365 Days

Two stories examining what President Bush hopes to, and could realistically, achieve in his final year in office. It really all comes down to this, his last year in the White House. Will Bush be remembered for helping to plunge the world into the fourth great global conflict of the past century, or will his legacy become that of a visionary leader who defied much of the world, and most of his own people, to change the world for the better?

The first piece is from the Los Angeles Times (excerpts) :
One year from today, the next president of the United States will take the oath of office. If history is any guide, for the next 365 days, President Bush is likely to be one of the lamest ducks in history. Deeply unpopular, mired in the fifth year of war in Iraq and presiding over an economy slipping toward recession, he will be given no quarter by the Democratic-controlled Congress whose powers he has consistently sought to crimp. But history must not be permitted to circumscribe what Bush and Congress could yet accomplish. Both must reject the election-year paralysis that has become a self-defeating political tradition.

Lame-duck years typically feature torpor broken by last-ditch presidential foreign policy initiatives, usually unsuccessful. This year, the world faces problems far too serious to shelve for 12 months in deference to the American political calendar.

The seizure of highly enriched uranium in the Republic of Georgia last year proves once again that the most likely source for terrorists to obtain nuclear weapons materiel isn't Pakistan or Iran, at least not yet. It's Russia, which has secured only about half of its nuclear materiel. To its credit, the Bush administration has embraced the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to secure such materiel overseas, but at the current pace, it will take 15 years to complete the job. Experts say it can be done in four or five years. And it must.

Amazingly, there is no senior official in the U.S. whose sole responsibility is to prevent nuclear terrorism. Bureaucracies being what they are, it's essential that one person coordinate efforts and be accountable. Bush could appoint a White House deputy national security advisor for preventing nuclear terrorism. Best of all, he wouldn't even need congressional approval.

Bush could do his country and his legacy a big favor by closing the detention center that has become an international symbol of U.S. injustice. Terrorism suspects should be indicted and transferred to prisons such as Ft. Leavenworth, repatriated or released.
The second piece is from the Washington Post (excerpts) :

With one year left in the White House, Bush is trying to turn the normal plight of a lame-duck president to his advantage in an effort to salvage his foreign-policy legacy -- not only seeking an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but also attempting to stabilize Iraq, isolate Iran and curb North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

...Bush's power to sway world events during his final months in the White House is dwindling, along with his political influence at home. While polite and warm to the president in their private meetings and phone conversations, the world's leaders are making their own calculations: Should they work with Bush, or are they better off waiting him out in favor of an unknown president in 2009?

Those deliberations differ from country to country and hinge on who foreign officials believe might be the next occupant of the Oval Office. Some leaders -- such as Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- appear to have strong political incentives to work with Bush during his final year. Others, in places such as North Korea or Iran, or even in friendly nations interested in progress on global warming, may be playing for time, hopeful that a new U.S. president might be more responsive to their concerns.

....Bush and his advisers left the region believing they made some headway in convincing officials that the president will use his final year in office to make progress on key issues such as Iraq and Iran. With a new administration likely to accelerate a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, this might be the last year for the Maliki government to push toward political reconciliation with U.S. protection.

While heartened by the administration's new vigor in trying to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, others in the region believe the new engagement from the administration -- after seven years of allowing problems to fester, in their view -- is a case of too little, too late.

Bush spent much of his Middle East trip trying to address such perceptions, acknowledging them in an interview in Riyadh last week with some of the reporters who accompanied him. "After years of disappointment," he said, "those of us directly involved in the process have a lot of work to try to instill confidence in the people."
But however Bush changes the world the world for the better, or for the worst, most Americans will remember him for what he did to his own country during his time in the White House, and how he handled the great dramas of the past decade : 9/11, the Iraq War, the 'War on Terror', Hurricane Katrina and the immolation of the American economy.

Bush is likely to leave the White House, one year from now, as one of the most unpopular and controversial American presidents in history.

One year is not enough to repair the damage of his NeoCon-infected vision for changing the world, or to renew the faith of Americans who feel so utterly betrayed by the Iraq War and the endless lies and controversies that have poisoned and fouled his eight years in the White House.
Bush : "I'm A Peacemaker, Not A Warmonger"

President Bush's first visit to Saudi Arabia is primarily so he can seal the deal on a remarkable $20 billion arms sale. All the rest is mostly fluff and photo opps. Bush won't get down on his knees and beg the Saudis to ramp up oil production to get the price at the pumps to fall, Bush is an oil man himself, and oil men don't beg. They particularly don't beg in front of each other.

Despite overseeing some of the biggest arms and weapons deals in history, Bush insists he's "not a warmonger". Most Saudis, most Palestinians, most people anywhere, find this hard to believe.

But Bush keeps on signing that same tune. As he's said before, sometimes you have to keep repeating the propaganda to try and make it stick in peoples' minds.

From ABC News :
In Riyadh....the president participated in a traditional sword dance with one of the princes of the royal family. It was a public, and a little awkward, display of affection, all part of Bush's first visit to Saudi Arabia aimed at repairing strained relations between the world's biggest oil producer and the world's biggest oil consumer.

The president sat down with "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran at one of the vast royal palaces, and it became clear who holds the cards right now in the oil markets, with the price up near $100 a barrel.

The president, who once said he'd "jawbone" Saudi leaders into lowering prices, told Moran what he intended to say to King Abdullah on the topic in their meeting.

"I will say to him that, 'If it's possible, your majesty, consider what high prices is doing to one of your largest customers,'" Bush said. "In other words, the worst thing that can happen to an oil-producing nation is that the price of oil causes the economy to slow down, because that will inevitably lead to fewer purchases [of oil]."

Bush said he's worried about an economic slowdown in the United States and around the world because of those high oil prices.

"These are smart people. They know that the price of oil can affect our economy, and they know that if our economy weakens and there's less purchasing power that it will affect their ability to sell barrels of oil."

Today, however, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said that Saudi Arabia would allow market forces to dictate oil production and prices. "We will raise production when the market justifies it," he said. "This is our policy."

When Bush took office, the United States imported just about 53 percent of its oil. Today, that number stands at 60 percent.

"That's why I've got these alternative energy projects going on that I think will make a difference," the president said. "They don't make a difference in the short term because we're talking about actually beginning to encourage people to change habits, such as using ethanol. And we're also not exploring for oil and gas in our own country like we should be."

The president acknowledged that he had something to prove on this trip.

"I do, but it's not so much to prove for my sake. It's really to prove for peace," he said. "And I believe the time is right to push for a Palestinian state. The time is right because there's an Israeli leader who understands that and a Palestinian leader who understands that."

The president said he believes it is the right time to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process because "the environment has changed," both with the leaders involved and the support of the Arab world.

"It's going to be tough," the president said, but he believes that by the end of his term in office there will be a deal for a Palestinian state.

When asked whether that deal would address "core issues," for the first time the president said, "I do believe so."

"I have talked to these leaders face to face," he said. "I have asked them point blank, 'Do you understand how difficult these issues are?' Yes. 'Are you prepared to make the painful political compromises?' They say they are."

Despite that optimism, the president also said that he feels misunderstood in the Middle East.

"My image [is] 'Bush wants to fight Muslims.' And, yes, I'm concerned about it. Not because of me, personally. I'm concerned because I want most people to understand the great generosity and compassion of Americans," he said.

"I'm sure people view me as a warmonger and I view myself as peacemaker," the president said. "They view me as so pro-Israeli I can't be open-minded about Palestinian peace, and yet I'm the only president ever to have articulated a two-state solution. And you just have to fight through stereotypes by actions."

The president said he hopes to change that image by opening a dialogue and letting "the results speak for themselves."

"I mean, when this democracy in Iraq solidifies and emerges and is whole, people will understand what I meant about the democracy agenda. People will know that my view is not American democracy, but it's freedom based upon certain principles that honors the traditions and culture of the host country."

Bush said despite Saudi Arabia's connection to some of the Sept. 11 hijackers and terrorism ideology in general, he views the Saudis as "our friends." He spoke of meeting with Saudi entrepreneurs and business leaders during his trip who worry that Americans view them as enemies, not friends.

"There's a lot of really good people here," Bush said. "Look, you can't deny the fact that some, a majority, of the terrorists came from Saudi, but you should not condemn an entire society based upon the actions of a handful of killers."

The president stressed the importance of fostering business connections and cultural and education exchanges between the two countries.

"If Americans are concerned about U.S. perceptions in the Middle East, the best way to defeat that perception is through opening up our colleges and universities," he said. "And I believe we can make sure that, as best as we can, terrorists don't come to our country, and at the same time, be more open."

The president said he was surprised by the "deep concern that people won't welcome Middle-Eastern investments into the United States. & And I found that in most of my stops, not the Israeli-Palestinian stops, of course, but in the Gulf, I found that to be the case. And it's disturbing to me."

The president says he still believes that freedom and democracy are possible in the region, and will ultimately be the way to bring an end to terrorism against the United States.

"Look, I know I've been accused of being a hopeless idealist. On the other hand, I don't see any alternative, if you believe it's an ideological struggle."

"The way to protect America in the short term is to use our intelligence services to find [terrorists] and bring them to justice. In the long term is to offer a better alternative than the status quo, or societies that don't give people their rightful place, or societies that don't listen to the demands of people."

"And so the freedom agenda is absolutely essential. And the freedom agenda doesn't develop in one man's term of office. It takes a while. My job is to plant the seeds. [The] truth of the matter is that freedom is advancing quite amazingly in the Middle East."

"The other thing is, if I could be perfectly blunt about it, I think people who say we can be free, but you shouldn't be, are elitist," the president added.

The president said that "elections themselves represent freedom," even when they put in power leaders who are against the interest of the United States.

At the same time, the president defended his support of undemocratic regimes in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

"The American president doesn't come and lecture somebody. The American president develops a relationship where he can work with somebody. And as I told you, his majesty is, he is modernizing his society. Is it going to meet somebody's standards sitting in Washington, D.C.? Probably not overnight. Can it eventually? Yes. And for us to say that you can't have a democracy if you've got a king is just not right."

During his trip, the president visited the Mount of the Beatitudes where, by tradition, Jesus is understood to have said the words, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."

When asked to respond to the fact that many Americans do not view him as a peacemaker, the president replied, "We'll see what history says. I happen to believe that the actions I've taken were necessary to protect ourselves and lay the foundation for peace. That's what I believe. But history...I've often said this...I don't think the history of my administration is going to be written during your time as a newscaster, or my time on Earth. I believe that it's going to take a while for people to determine whether or not the foundation of peace has truly been laid."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bush Protected By Robots During Middle East Visit

If a robot goes nuts and assassinates the president, who's responsible?

The roll-out of security for President Bush's first visit to Israel and Palestine is mind-boggling. And yes, it's true, robots will be protecting him, along with all this :

Snipers posted on rooftops, entire city blocks sealed off, thousands of police on duty - Israel and the Palestinian Authority are going on full alert for US President George W. Bush's visit.

For weeks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have grappled with how to ensure the safety of the leader of the world's biggest superpower in densely-populated urban centres in one of the most volatile regions on the planet.

Israeli police say 10,500 officers and border guards will be on duty and all intelligence services in the security-obsessed country placed on high alert for operation "Clear Sky" when Air Force One touches down on Wednesday.

On the Palestinian side, 4000 law enforcement officials will be deployed in Ramallah alone, with additional personnel in the city of Bethlehem.

Streets and whole city blocks are to be closed in Jerusalem and the West Bank capital of Ramallah during the three-day visit, the first by an American president in more than nine years.

"The visit will paralyse Jerusalem," one Israeli official said. "It will be impossible to move around and get anywhere close to where he is staying and visiting."

Residents of Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem will face checkpoints, streets closed to cars and pedestrian traffic and swarms of security personnel.

The president is coming with his own plane, helicopters, transport planes and 20 armoured limousines, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported.

Some 400 American security personnel are due to arrive with him, as well as 200 White House staff, it said. In addition, 15 US canine teams trained in explosive detection will be on hand, it said.

In Jerusalem itself, blocks around the historic King David Hotel where the president is staying will be closed, with snipers due on rooftops and a balloon with cameras and night-vision hovering above, local media reported.

Robots were even sent into the sewers below the King David to check the subterranean area, the Jerusalem Post quoted a hotel official as saying.

People who live near the King David - scene of a deadly 1946 bombing by an underground Zionist group seeking to overthrow British rule in Palestine - are to receive special tags from the Shin Beth internal security service to access their homes, according to media.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bush "Worse Than Nixon"

Bush & Cheney at a minimum should face impeachment, or failing that, international war crimes charges, with Donald Rumsfeld thrown in for good measure. Will this ever happen? Probably not, but it should, that much is clear.

From the Washington Post :

...what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an "imminent threat" to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson's observation: "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

The basic strategy of the administration has been to encourage a climate of fear, letting it exploit the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks not only to justify the invasion of Iraq but also to excuse such dangerous misbehavior as the illegal tapping of our telephones by government agents. The same fear-mongering has led government spokesmen and cooperative members of the press to imply that we are at war with the entire Arab and Muslim world -- more than a billion people.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Bush's Last Year In The White House Set To Be Grim And Lonely

President Bush's last 370 or so days in the White House are unlikely to provide him with the legacy and positive historical turn of events that he seems so currently obsessed with. Economists shake their heads in disbelief, and shame, when they hear Bush say that the American economy is "solid" and "firm". With Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's assassination and continued widespread attacks and instability in Iraq and Afghanistan,Bush's 'War on Terror' is looking more than ever like a complete bust.

He is about to leave for a trip to the Middle East, where he is expected to face hostility from both Israelis and Palestinians.

Bush, like most Americans, must be counting down the days to when his run in the White House is over.

This story from UPI explains why Bush's final twelve months in power will be both grim, and lonely :
Grim, because Bush’s signature "war on terror" is nowhere near the kind of "victory" on which he had placed so much hope. Hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury have been spent, but the democratic transformation of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world has not materialised.

Grim, because the economic news -- which has generally remained upbeat over Bush’s tenure -- has turned decidedly negative in recent months. The chances that his successor may inherit a recession, as well as the many foreign-policy fiascos created by the disastrous combination of the administration’s ideological rigidity and incompetence, are growing steadily.

Lonely, not only because of the departure during the past year of virtually all of his closest and most long-standing loyalists -- Dan Barlett, Karen Hughes, Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, and Karl Rove -- but also because he is seen increasingly as both a lame duck and an albatross around the necks of his party’s candidates.

Indeed, the focus of national and international attention -- so far as the U.S. is concerned -- appears to have shifted to the race to succeed him in next November’s elections. Remarkably, the mainstream U.S. media this week devoted as much space to the reactions of the main presidential candidates to Bhutto’s assassination as to the administration’s.

The fact that all of the major Republican candidates not only rarely evoke his name, but often suggest that his performance in office has been less than stellar, serves only to underline his marginalisation.

Bush, of course, is still hoping that 2008 may yet deliver his presidency from the fate of being judged as one of the very worst -- if not the worst -- in history.

A number of eminent historians have in fact already reached that judgement, based, among other things, on the strategic disaster of the Iraq war; the squandering of Washington’s overseas image as a champion of international law and human rights; the defiance of constitutional safeguards at home; the politicisation of the system of justice; and the distortion of scientific research regarding global warming and other critical issues.

His hopes of escaping that assessment rest primarily in the area of foreign policy, on which, as a "war-time president", he has staked his reputation.

Go Here To Read The Full Story

Thursday, January 03, 2008


It's very interesting to see this video of Bush half-zonkered and compare his behaviour to some of his more recent, uhhh, senior moments. Bush says he hasn't had a drink in more than 20 years, so presumably this video is pre-1986. Presumably :

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Mind Your Manners, Mr President

This is often referred to as "the banned interview" with an Irish journalist. Bush is faced with more detailed and somewhat more probing questions than he gets from the mostly neutered White House press corps and he doesn't like it one bit. There's a genuine nastiness in Bush's face, and voice, as he answers some of these questions.