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Archive for the ‘Bush’ Category

Bush was never a real believer in Free Markets. He instead believed in preserving the power and privilege of people like him. He sold it as a new kind of middle way, so-called “compassionate conservatism.”

Bush did not work hard to get where he was, instead inheriting his name, his network, and most of his money from his family. My experience with these “fortunate sons” is that they have a certain blindness about their own and others’ economic fortunes. Not having attained their success through their own efforts, they either feel guilty about it and indulge in various guilt-driven flirtations with leftism, or, alternately, don’t care about the structures that allowed their enterprising ancestors to attain wealth, aiming instead to preserve what they have at the expense of the economy as a whole.  Consider Bush’s perception that a woman who needed three jobs to support herself and her family was “uniquely American” rather than a tragic consequence of a low wage, screwed up economy.

Bush has been willing to sell out American workers and manufacturers out for many years to China and Mexico in the name of a cockeyed notion of fairness.  Now, worried about his legacy, he’s willing to kick the auto manufacturing can down the road by giving away TARP money to the Big 3 automakers.  There is no rhyme or reason to it, and his selective involvement in the economy is an invitation to chaos and politically chosen winners and losers.  Instead of setting the rules of the road, under Bush, the government has chosen very distinct winners and losers in the economy.

Consider Bush’s numerous deviations from free market principles and basic fair play:

  • The giveaway to MBNA and other credit card companies in the ex post facto bankruptcy reforms of 2005;
  • The giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry in the form of the prescription drug Medicare benefit of 2006;
  • The rescue of Bear Sterns earlier this year coupled with the rejection of a Lehman Brothers bailout;
  • The $190B farm subsidy bill of 2002;
  • The cheap-money, high deficit imposition of various costs on future generations in order to create the present day illusion of prosperity.

Bush has repeatedly put a particular social class–corporate America, its multinational managerial elite, and the wealthy in general–above the good of the country as a whole.  Unlike Reagan and the long traditions of the Republican party, Bush has shown indifference to American workers and businesses most threatened by globalization. Obviously the Big 3 have problems largely of their own making, caused not least by the short-sighted greediness of their unions.  But they did not create the last decade’s unbalanced trade with China, our overly leveraged and under-regulated financial sector,  the slow money-suck of constant inflation, nor the immigration-driven wage gap with the rest of the “blue collar” economy.  They should not be bailed out now, not least because they have a tool in bankruptcy to reform themselves.  But the trade and monetary conditions of the last 10-20 years should never have come to pass.  Now terrible decisions are being made under crisis conditions by an ideologically unmoored failure.

Unfortunately, Obama and the Democrats promise more of the same whether in the form of spending on make-work infrastructure programs, appointing an “auto czar,” or “investing” in new technologies.  Their policies, an exagerrated version of Bush’s with even less regard for the national interest, will perpetuate the legacy of cronyism and failure with slightly different winners and losers, i.e., giveaways to minorities, the unproductive, and politically correct Third World supplicants.  Whenever the government gets involved in these matters and insulates participants in the market from the usual requirements of profit, loss, and competition, then political considerations come into play, just as they do in a smaller way in the realm of government contracts, such as the practice of affirmative action set asides and other forms of patronage.

Bush did not embrace free markets tempered by some consideration of the necessity of a strong, vibrant, and diversified national economy.  Unfortunately, his term went down in the recent history books as “extreme conservatism” rather than the nonideological jumble that it was, the reflection of a man with a peculiar past and a worldview formed by lifelong associations with preservation-minded elites in the world’s most corrupt nations.

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Doug Feith is a piece of work. Compare his recent attempts to pain himself as the Cassandra uttering realist warnings to Bush about Iraq in 2004 with his saccharine pro-democracy rhetoric uttered at the time. I agree with his criticism today that Bush’s rhetorical shift from WMDs to democracy confused the American public and resulted in a wrong turn by redefining the mission as “freeing Iraq.” Bush’s talk of liberation obscured the chief pre-war rationale for the war as a self-defensive action based on the reasonable view that Iraq had WMDs coupled with the reasonable reduction in tolerance for risks posed by troublesome and provocative nations like Iraq after 9/11. Bush’s rhetoric in 2004 almost exclusely emphasized the democratization efforts. Too bad for Feith–and Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice, Rumsfeld, and Perle–all of the administration people were all sayings the same things as Bush at the time. It wasn’t lying per se. Democracy always made an appearance in lists of reasons to attack Iraq. But a tertiary rationale became the main rationale, and no one bothered to acknowledge this change in forthright terms. It’s as if “Elections for Bavaria” replaced “Remember Pearl Harbor” in May of 1943.

More important, whether or not the administration’s unacknowledged change in emphasis constituted ethical rhetoric, no one in the administration dissented about the idealist rhetoric’s major premise: that with or without WMDs, a democratic Iraq was a worthy and achievable goal that furthered American national security.

I confess, before the war, I thought all of this democracy talk was merely window-dressing to justify our realist motives. I only realized later that the Bushies were bona fide foreign policy idealists with general indifference to the welfare of Americans. For Bush and other liberals, fidelity to liberal principles is the chief mark of strategic success.

Feith is a liar and an Israeli spy. He belongs in jail, not on the pages of America’s newspapers. It’s one thing to make mistakes. Everyone does, particularly in the complicated world of foreign policy. But, like Sanchez, Rumsfeld, and George Tenet, his lack of character consists in his unwillingness to acknowledge his own barely hidden dual loyalties and consequent dual motives in promoting and managing a huge failure of an operation that rested on mistaken intelligence and sought to obtain ridiculous goals.

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Daniel Larison makes a very strong point:  the world does not like the US because of its policies, and the symbolism of an Obama presidency will do little to heal the rifts and unavoidable tensions with the rest of the world:

As I have said before there is scarcely a more disrespectful, condescending attitude towards the rest of the world than the assumption that they can be bought off or won over with something as superficial as a U.S. President with a mixed racial background.  If the Obama fans actually believe their candidate has some legitimate policy changes to introduce, that might be a reason for other nations to respond favorably to him, but on the whole the changes on offer are, like so much else in this campaign, symbolic and aesthetic.  In the end, Obama fans project their own fantasies about “racial reconciliation” into the international sphere, implicitly likening the majority of the world to our minority populations, which is to belittle them a second time.  This relieves them of the obligation to critique seriously U.S. foreign policy, which is the source of some significant part of anti-U.S. animus, since they have already concluded that America’s reputation can be repaired in some measure simply through the election of one man. 

It sure doesn’t help that Obama knows he’s weak on foreign policy and sometimes plays the hawk, like an in-over-his-head manager playing the tyrant to rattle and silence his subordinates.  His appearance and background will do little to help him with counterparts ranging from China to Pakistan to Russia, and his lack of experience and interest in foreign affairs will provide an additional burden if he becomes the President.  George W. Bush is a good example of this problem in action: he could care less about world affairs before he became President, he’s been unduly influenced by idealistic-sounding idiots like Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld, mucking things up mightily because his ability to think critically about the sometimes conflicting advice he’s getting is severely compromised.

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Apparently, John McCain is seriously considering Condy Rice to be his Vice President, and she wants the job. I can’t say I’m surprised, but I do think she will do little to help him with moderates, and such a choice will further alienate real conservatives.  This issue is unusually important because of McCain’s age and health; his vice-president stands a reasonably good chance of assuming the office.

First, I think he is likely to choose her because he’s expressed unease about attacking Obama.  He can’t muster the same passion against him that he could against an Edwards or Clinton.  (Could you imagine McCain firing a staffer for an anti-Hillary youtube video?)  For McCain, Obama’s race is like a shield, and McCain acts like any other guilty white liberal on race, as evidenced most dramatically by his embrace of America-destroying immigration policies.  Condy gives him a get out of jail free card and also allows him to further his own vanity, proving to himself and everyone how progressive he is on racial matters.  

Second, there is no daylight between McCain and Condy on the war. It’s true the war is unpopular, and McCain’s reprise of Bush’s ’04 electoral strategy appears less likely to be effective this time around, but it’s clearly something the two of them are very sincere about. Far from balancing the ticket, McCain seems disposed to pick a lackey type who will not challenge his oversized ego and unorthodox ideas.

Finally, Condy is a messianic liberal who, like Bush, is able to paint the imperial policing job in Iraq in the grandest of terms:  the installment of sacred democracy and the expiation of our national “birth defect” of slavery.  McCain likes this sort of talk; it elevates his merely instinctual “politics of duty” to grander historical purposes.  Rice frequently ties this back to her own life, equating slavery and Jim Crow with any recognition of group differences, including the conservative criticism that Iraqis cannot profitably handle democracy and self-government.

Rice has no apparent leadership qualities, is a weak public speaker, is totally out to lunch on the Palestinians (often comparing their treatment to black civil rights activists) and has accomplished literally nothing at all as Secretary of State.   She is a race-obsessed liberal and incompetent, but McCain may still pick her.  Her race, her minimal qualifications, and her hawkish views on Iraq are enough for him.

Consider her record.  She failed after 9/11 to be a voice of reason by not defending racial profiling of Middle Easterners and distinguishing this from the Jim Crow policies of America’s past.  She failed as National Security Advisor to pull Bush off the rails by saying, “If we’re to pursue this ambitious course, we need many more troops regardless of what Rumsfeld is saying.”  In works like Fiasco and Cobra II, she appears to have done very little in her role at the NSA, being bulldozed and parried by aggressive folks like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Perle, and Feith.  Since becoming Secretary of State, she has been tone deaf in our dealings with Serbia, Russia, Israel, China, and many other parties, the worst example of the “ugly American” we’ve ever seen in this role.  

Worst of all, when she is not insulting foreigners, she insults America and its past with half-educated bromides, usually dealing with slavery and discrimination.  Her habitual appeal to these examples show that she is far too traumatized and alienated by her youth in Alabama to be entrusted with stewardship over the country as a whole.  The United States is still a white majority country, where most of its people see much to admire in our history.  Most of us, particularly on the Republican side, view the Founding as a glorious chapter in our history, the exact opposite of a “birth defect.” 

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Bush is the first President ever to utter the slanderous charge that the United States did not do enough to stop the Holocaust.  I’ve written at some length about this lie and the reasons it has become fashionable before.  In short, there was little the Allies could do until very late in the war (when most of the death camps had ceased their extermination policies), and the Allies sensibly pursued a policy of ending Nazi atrocities against European civilians by focusing their energies on winning the war.  Bush is trashing his country and its reputation on the basis of a fashionable leftist myth.  What a gratuitous insult to the men who fought in WWII and their commanders who had to make thankless decisions under such conditions of uncertainty and duress.

To Bush, I must ask, did these guys do enough?

Normandy Graveyard for American Soldiers

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Every President apparently wants to be Jimmy Carter at Camp David.  A friend asks about Bush’s latest inane adventure to Israel, where he is apparently pushing both sides–including the side the recently elected Hamas–to pursue peace.  I responded as follows (and added a few tidbits for clarity).

I think we’re too involved overall. And I think this is one of the most stupid and untimely attempts to date.

I especially think now is a bad time to get involved because the Palestinians have demonstrated in their election of Hamas that at least a significant plurality of them are too radical to consider peace. There’s no doubt they will sabotage any two state solution, even one that completely gave up Jersualem and returned to the ’67 borders.

Even if a majority favored such a treaty, the Palestinian state is weak and corrupt and couldn’t control revanchist terrorist elements. So I think this whole exercise is a waste of time.

As a practical matter, I think the fence is a sensible solution, and if I were Israeli I’d want to pull back to a robust, continguous border and abandon the less defensible settlements. Obviously, when I look at these matters I lack a romantic and religious attachment to that region and simply look at it as a practical national security matter. I’d equally favor things like partioning Iraq if I thought it would do any good.

This whole caper I believe is Bush’s naivite coupled with him throwing a bone to Condy, who is trying to accomplish something, or at least appear to, during her term as Secretary of State.

Long run, I’d favor substantial disengagement from the entire Middle East other than a commercial one: buying Arab Oil and Israeli computer chips and weapons. No more bases. No more hugging and kissing Saudi kings. No more interminable wars in Iraq. No more money for Israel too (other than from sales of weapons, which I would not oppose to any friendly regime, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc.).

As for Israel’s security, so long as they have nukes and Iran does not, I think they’re pretty safe from any existential threat and can find a way to manage the festering sore of the Palestinians, particularly if they build a fence.

I also think that the less involved we are, the more freedom we both will have to pursue our respective national interests. We can’t publicly approve everything they do, even though some of it just needs to be done, at least from an Israeli perspective. As for Iran, I’d prefer to avoid involvement as much as possible and simply threaten to nuke them from top to bottom if they develop a nuclear weapon, reactor, facility, etc.  The interminable farce of negotiating, bribing, etc. is riduclous and makes us look weak.

Conclusion: the Middle East is a mess.  It’s best to avoid the neighborhood.  Israel can’t, but we can.  Thus our ties to Israel need to be reduced substantially. Bush is stupid and naive to think he can sort the Middle Easter mess out.  He shows this by demanding American standards of behavior from Israel, who must live next to these people. He shows this by prasising democracy in lands best served by liberal-minded dictators, a la, Pinochet.  The Palestinians have lost much sympathy I and others had for them by behaving like crazy animals since 2000 and electing Hamas.

Israel needs to think practically and push for sustainable security solutions. Being so tied to the US takes away the freedom of action Israel would benefit from if they ditched the aid, which comes with too many strings from their perspective. It also ties the US down; it makes it difficult to cooperate with Arab and Muslim regimes–like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia–with whom the US must cooperate for a variety of strategic reasons including oil and the war against al Qaeda.  So let us go our separate ways, wishing one another well, but neither having to take responsibilty for the acts of the other.

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One problem with Bush is that he’s neither analytical, consistent,curious,  nor is he particularly experienced in life to know what he’s doing. So a series of abstractions and sycophants compete for his attention.  Worst of all, when all else fails, he resorts to decisionmaking by instinct, instincts honed through a singularly undemanding life prior to assuming the role of the presidency:

They said Mr. Bush — an ardent believer in personal diplomacy, who once remarked that he had looked into the eyes of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and had gotten “a sense of his soul” — was taken in by the general, with his fluent English and his promises to hold elections and relinquish military power. They said Mr. Bush looked at General Musharraf and saw a democratic reformer when he should have seen a dictator instead.

Nothing wrong with dictators, sometimes they’re our only friends in certain parts of the world, but you shouldn’t let the Burberry suits and Cambridge educations fool you, whether you’re talking about King Abdullah or Putin or the Chinese or Musharaff.  Incidentally, I believe the latter is someone we can do business with, and the current tensions reflect parochial battles between ethnic groups and power brokers, but his power also is a delicate matter, and we needn’t demand elections when he’s hanging by a thread.

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