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Monday, May 08, 2006

Bartlett on Bush / Upcoming Elections

Originally Posted: March 5, 2006 -- 7:07 PM
Fool Boards Link: http://boards.fool.com/Message.asp?mid=23792807

A review of one of many books sure to be written by traditional conservative thinkers about the true disaster of the Bush Administration.


===================

Bruce Bartlett, noted conservative economist and writer of the 1981 best-seller "Reaganomics," released a book called "Imposter: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy". The basic thesis of the book states something many Republicans are only now starting to publicly state -- George Bush is no conservative and is doing irreparable harm to virtually every principle true conservatives hold dear.

Ya think?

NOW you come to this conclusion in 2006?

Which galaxy were you in prior to November 2004?

While reading the book, I recognized most of the points had been made in a much more concise piece published in The New Republic in the summer of 2004 entitled something like "The Case Against George Bush."

Here's what Americans could have learned (should have learned...) in the first four years of the George W Bush administration.

1) DON'T TELL ME ANYTHING I DON'T AGREE WITH.

Bush and his senior staff have systematically squelched or outright fired ANY career official (civil or military) who has disagreed with him either privately or publicly. Christine Todd Whitman, Paul O'Neil, Larry Lindsey (the economic advisor who estimated Iraq would cost $100 billion per year), General Anthony Zinni, General Jay Garner, and others. To this Administration, a difference of opinion is not a sign that an issue might require re-thinking, it is a sign of dissent and disloyalty and is consistently, summarily punished. Conservatives blasted Clinton for "damage" done to the military by the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. How much damage have Bush's decisions for prosecuting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and handling terrorism suspects done to military morale from the enlisted ranks to senior brass?

In Bartlett's book, he describes a final 2005 Economic Report that was approved by the agencies formally authoring it, then altered by senior White House political staffers after their "approval". After the alteration, Greg Mankiw, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, resigned (presumably in disgust or frustration) and has yet to explain publicly his reasons. When Bush appointed replacements for other open slots on the CEA, neither of the appointees was even a full professor, which Bartlett believes is an indication that no one in academia has any interest in working for this Administration. Why bother if you're going to be ignored? Bartlett expresses concern about America's ability to make corrections in the face of a major international financial problem (like the Asian hedge fund meltdown in 1997) with the current brainpower that's willing to work in this Administration.

2) I'D RATHER WIN THAN LEAD

Most presidential campaigns and subsequent terms in office attempt to pick policies and strategies that at least 60-65 percent of the voters are willing to consider, even if they eventually oppose your ideas. The Rove strategy instead has focused on identifying enough wedge issues that can secure a small but militant portion of the Republican base that gives them the confidence of winning 50.000000001 percent of the vote then enacting whatever they can with that razor thin margin. Bush and his political staff are so confident in the correctness of their policies and/or unconcerned with what opponents think that they really don't care one iota about the other 49.9999999999 percent. Truth be told, this Administration really doesn't even care about all of the 51.000000001 percent of its base, only the portion that gives them control within the party to swing the larger 51.000001 percent.

3) I MAKE DECISIONS ON INSTINCT RATHER THAN INSIGHT

Numerous counter-spin pieces have been written about how despite poor public speaking / think-on-my-feet skills, Bush can actually hold his own in one-on-one sessions. Every bit of information about actual decision making within the Administration since 1/2001 completely contradicts this. The recently released footage of the video conference between DC and Crawford prior to Katrina is only the latest in a series of situations in which Bush's "instincts" completely failed the American people. In Katrina, he was told by a hurricane expert that no guarantees could be provided for the safety of the levees in New Orleans, he verbally committed all Federal support needed, then clearly failed to communicate that message and sense of priority within the Federal government, even DAYS after the actual breaches.

I can imagine a similar conference call around August 8, 2001 as the team gathered to scan a Presidential Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S.". Then there's the whole "My Pet Goat" episode. Remember, that shot where Arie Fleischer whispered in George's ear about "a plane" involved THE SECOND PLANE. Impressionable young kindergartners or not, if you were President who had just seen a PDB entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack the U.S." one month prior and just heard of a SECOND terrorist attack in 10 minutes with an identical modus operandi, wouldn't that have gotten you out of your seat? In less than EIGHT MINUTES?

I cannot imagine any other president with worse "instincts" than George W. Bush. His flawed instincts and utter lack of insight into ANYTHING has now cost America a $500 billion war in Iraq that a) isn't over, b) wasn't necessary to begin with, c) hasn't accomplished a SINGLE goal set for the war prior to its inception and d) hasn't accomplished any goal restated for the war, despite those goal posts being moved several times in the past three years.

4) I AM INCAPABLE OF LEARNING.

There is no such thing as a "teachable moment" with George Bush. You can't have a teachable moment when you refuse to admit you've made any mistake in judgement or strategy. Learning doesn't apply when logic and insight aren't involved in a decision. Learning can't apply when your "instincts" are driven by your "faith" and your "faith" doesn't allow for independent judgement. With Bush, it appears the more his mistakes blow up in his (our) face, the more it convinces him that he made the right choice. I think his inner dialog is effectively "Weak people always choose the easy path. I'm a strong, moral person, this is proving difficult, so I must have chosen correctly." In reality, there are many difficult correct paths but there are many more difficult WRONG paths. You really have to distinguish between the two.

5) WHEN YOU DON'T HAVE FACTS AND SUBSTANCE TO ARGUE, TALK ABOUT "MESSAGES"

George Bush is real big on "messages." I haven't done the math yet, but there is a direct, inverse relationship between the actual intellectual content of any Bush policy and the number of times the word "message" is used to describe or support the policy.

=============================================

I've seen posts on TMF from both liberals and conservatives that seem to state that now that everyone "gets it" about the horrendous fiscal, military and national security policies of George Bush, the 2006 elections will alter the mix in the House and Senate enough to put the breaks on the drunken sailor spending and incoherent policies of this Administration. It's almost invevitable. We couldn't POSSIBLY let this get any worse, right?

Don't bet on it.

The facts facing the American voters are fundamentally no different now than they were leading up to November 2004. Traditional conservative Republicans knew as much then as they do now about the damage this Administration's policies have done to the United States and to their long term party interests. Yet the vast majority were re-elected and have failed to show any backbone to fight Bush on spending, anti-terrorism and torture policy that's doing tremendous damage to America's moral standing in the world.

More importantly, I'm worried that even if the Republicans get slapped down in the November 2006 elections, the Bush administration will simply redirect its efforts from legislation to executive fiat. There are stories through the past five years about how the Bush administration has eliminated funding for dissemination of economic statistics that identify how government agencies or economic policies are really functioning or redirected / halted long term research not in sync with Bush policies. It has become apparent Americans cannot afford to get too distracted by past disasters of this administration because while we're thinking about past mistakes, they're making newer, bigger, more expensive mistakes. We HAVE to keep our eye on the ball at all times with this President. A great deal of damage can be done in two years even without a single Bush initiative making it through Congress.

Another theme I've seen recently is a bit of revisionist history about "how did George Bush become the front-runner in 2000 to become President when he was clearly not suitable for office?" There is absolutely no question about how he became President. The Republicans were lazy. They were so desperate to reclaim the White House from the Democrats that they wanted to close ranks ASAP within the party, get a candidate selected ASAP, then begin attacking the Democrats. They simply closed ranks on the guy bringing in the most campaign donations.

The danger to America in 2008 is that the Democrats will do the same . We could wind up nominating a Democratic candidate who can land donations in the short term who might win the race and repeat Bush's performance or allow the Republicans to win another four years and reward them for their utter financial and moral malfeasance.

America, things CAN get much worse. All you have to do is sit back and do nothing and reward the status quo.


WTH

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