Adam Ash

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

US Diary: Bush is getting blasted from all sides

Bush contemplates his legacy

1. What Democrats Fear is Fear Itself -- by Richard Reeves

WASHINGTON - Even longtime critics of President Bush are surprised, even shocked, by the amount and the depth of Bush-bashing in this town.

"The administration lies ... unconscionable ... irresponsible ... vindictive ... inept" are the words used by one basher last week.

"You have to understand that the people in this administration have no principles. ... (Bush) is not a responsible human being," said another.

"The kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat (in Iraq)," said a third.

The first of these bashers was Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist who served on the staffs of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He has just written a bashing book titled "Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy."

The second was Andrew Sullivan, the talented conservative blogger, who added an odd conflation to the national debate by saying that Bush was a socialist and that he considered the Bush agenda to be plain old Christian fundamentalism.

The third, speaking from conservative Olympus, was William F. Buckley Jr. The title of his weekly column was "It Didn't Work." The second paragraph began: "One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed. Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. ... The administration now has to cope with failure."

Rubbing salt in the wounds, Bartlett added: "If Bush were running today against Bill Clinton, I'd vote for Clinton."

I could print some criticisms from Democratic politicians, but they are just too mushy to matter. Only Rep. John Murtha (news, bio, voting record) of Pennsylvania had the guts of a Buckley, saying we had to face the fact that we failed. Now with luck, Republicans will supplant the press as the loyal opposition to the disastrous administration.

After Bush "lost" New Orleans and Baghdad, ran the nation's budget and trade deficits to record levels, worked diligently in turning the United States of America into a police state using Soviet-style torture and "disappearing," and stretched our military beyond its strengths and capabilities, the best the Democrats have been able to do is slap at his wrists over the contracting of some port work to friendly Arabs.

Ironically, Bush was right about the port contracts. No matter. Congressional Democrats, quickly joined by Republican demagogues, managed to confirm suspicions that Americans have launched a crusade against Islam and helped to build up people who have been saying that all along -- for instance, the government of Iran.

The result of all this could be Democratic victories in this year's congressional elections. Maybe. But it will certainly mean that the White House will crank up fear as the favored Republican tactic until November. It might be said that the only thing Democrats have to fear in the few states and congressional districts actually in play is fear itself.

Republican candidates (and thinkers) have to decide whether to run with the Bush record, try to ignore it, or run against it. As one Republican pollster, Tony Fabrizio, told The Washington Post: "He (Bush) has no political capital. Slowly but surely it's been unraveling. There's been ... a direct correlation between the trajectory of his approval numbers and the -- I don't want to call it disloyalty -- the independence on the part of the Republicans in Congress."

So the political table of 2006 has been set. Democrats will stand back, as they have since the trauma of Sept. 11, 2001, and hope that the Republicans will continue to self-destruct -- a time-honored strategy that works more often than not. The Republicans, still led by the White House, have to crank up the fear issue, which they will do, I suspect, by trying to turn attention to "dangers" in Latin America, trying to make President Hugh Chavez of Venezuela into the Osama bin Laden of his region and generation.

2. White House Outlaws -- by Ralph Nader

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two top outlaws smashing our country's rule of law and democratic liberties, are testing the American people's resistance. Every day they are testing. Every day they think by flaunting the words, "war on terror", they can get Americans to concede more and more of what makes the United States a constitutionally-abiding government under the rule of law.

You know what? With not enough exceptions, they are right. Day by day, we're giving up what our forefathers fought to bequeath us since that famous Declaration of Independence of 1776. They were determined that people in this country would not be arrested without charges and jailed indefinitely, that they would not be tortured, or sent to be tortured in dictatorial regimes, or deprived of habeas corpus to take their incarceration to our courts of law, or be snooped on at the whim of the President and his deputies or that people in faraway lands would be destroyed in the tens of thousands due to a fabricated war-invasion-quagmire.

They instituted a constitution so that people would not be jailed without "probable cause", or be lied to about taking this country and its soldiers to war, or have shoved aside the checks and balances represented by American courts and the Congress. All these are being done by two pro-Vietnam war draft dodgers!

What does all this tell you about all of us out there in the great United States of America? A giant yawn of "who cares" by citizens, nearly two-thirds of whom now have turned against these two White House fabricators in poll after poll regarding the war, the surrender to Big Business, the gross incompetence in managing taxpayer dollars and the Katrina disaster.

But listen, the rumble of resistance and opposition is getting louder and not just from the increasing number of public demonstrations around the country.

A new Zogby poll reports that 72% of American soldiers serving in Iraq think the U.S. should get out within the next year, including 58% of the Marines! Three-quarters of National Guard and Reserve units support withdrawal within 6 months. Every month, more former high-ranking military officers, intelligence officials and diplomats are declaring their opposition to the war.

For a few examples of many: Retired four-star General, Joseph P. Hoar, who commanded the U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf after the 1991 war, described the Iraq war as "wrong from the beginning". Similar tough criticism has come from John Deutch, former head of the CIA, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to President Carter and Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to the first President Bush.

Retired General William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency and security adviser to Ronald Reagan, wrote that the Iraq war "is serving the interests of Osama bin Laden, the Iranians, and is fomenting civil war in Iraq." He describes the Iraq war as "the most strategic foreign policy disaster in U.S. history."

More recently, internal memos of criticism or dissent, Inspector General reports from Defense the Justice Department, and former highly-positioned staff within the Bush Administration, like Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell, are taking apart the public relations sheen concocted by the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triad.

Now comes the conservative American Bar Association - 400,000 lawyers - whose House of Delegates has overwhelmingly approved a task force report accusing President Bush, in polite legal language, of violating both the Constitution and federal law. ABA President Michael S. Greco sent it to Mr. Bush with a cover letter dated February 13, 2006 (see for the full report).

The mass media, which has finally produced many exposes of the Bush war, ignored the significance of this condemnation by the nation's largest body of lawyers, written in part by attorneys who have served in the FBI, CIA and NSA. It should have been page one news.

There comes a tipping point, however, when the opposition of the establishment, the public opinion of the citizenry, the disgust of the soldiers - their spreading casualties, diseases and mental traumas - and the corruption of the large corporate contractors to whom much of the military's functions have been outsourced, all congeal and overcome the cowardliness of most members of Congress. Then a surge of Congressional followers and allies of Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), war veteran and leading voice against the Bush Iraq policies, will come to the forefront.

The illegal, disastrous (to both Iraqis and Americans) Iraq war is now almost three years of quagmire old. The chaos and bloodshed are worsening.

It is time to make the spring of 2006 the tipping point period for constitutionalism, justice and a sane foreign and national security policy. More yawns must turn into growls from outside Washington, DC. See http://www.DemocracyRising.US for more information.

3. Buyer's Remorse for Bush -- by Pat Williams

Here in the “purple states” of the Rocky Mountain West, President George W. Bush’s job approval ratings have fallen lower than a rattlesnake’s belly. In five of our eight mountain states, Bush approval has sunk well below 50 percent with his standing in Nevada at an all-time low of 39 and Montana at a rock-bottom 42 percent. Even in the most crimson, conservative states in America—Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho—the President’s 2004 election night approval has now collapsed by an average of 10 percent with a dizzying loss of 14 percent in Vice President Cheney’s home state of Wyoming.

It has become clear that the buyer’s remorse here in the Rockies is due to more than simple disagreement with Bush’s policies. Westerns have developed serious doubts about Bush’s judgment and character as well.

A look at westerner’s disagreement with Bush policy shows this: most Americans, 70 percent, disagree with allowing the United Arab Emirates to operate six critical American ports; so do we westerners. Americans, by 52 percent in the latest polls, oppose presidential telephone wiretaps without a warrant. In the West the disapproval of such unauthorized snooping is even higher. We, along with other Americans—by a whopping 60 percent—disapprove of how Bush is handling the overall energy situation. We are overwhelmingly opposed to Bush’s relentless efforts to push roads into our last wild places and westerners are also fighting the President’s effort to sell those public lands.

It is the President’s handling of Iraq, however, that is at the heart of the public’s disapproval. What is remarkable about the latest polls is that Bush is losing support, for the first time in five years, in his strongest base-Republican stalwarts, many of whom live here in the Rockies. More than a third of those who most likely voted for Bush in both 2000 and 2004 now disagree with the war in Iraq. Independents, who narrowly voted for Bush in 2004, disapprove of the way he has handled Iraq by a whopping 69 percent.

However, the Bush collapse among folks out here may have less to do with policy disagreements and more with growing concerns about George W. personally. Time is always required for people to take the measure of their leaders. The last three two-term presidents are Reagan, Clinton and now George W. Bush. Although westerners often opposed many of Ronald Reagan’s policies they continued year after year to support him personally. With Bill Clinton, we recognized his competence and a majority often agreed with many of his policies, however, we had more than ample evidence that to protect himself, he would lie to us. Here in the West that personal flaw did him in.

After watching Bush into his second term, westerners find much that concerns them. He seems halting, has to read every speech and even then bungles the words. Bush is demanding, preachy, stubborn, unable to admit even his most obvious mistakes. Even in supposedly unscripted public appearances—be they a teleconference with troops in Iraq or a healthcare meeting here in Montana—we are surprised to find out that Bush’s handlers had carefully pre-selected the crowd and then actually scripted the questions people were allowed to ask the President. Westerner’s prefer leaders who can stand on their own two feet and, when necessary, shoot from the hip—straight that is.

For a time we westerners seemed impressed by the tilt of the Bush Stetson. Then we learned that his “ranch,” purchased just in time for his 2000 presidential campaign, doesn’t have a single horse or cow. Real cowboys have cows. What they don’t have are unscuffed, tailor-made boots with embossed insignias; they don’t swagger, aren’t bullies, and try not to start brawls they can’t win. And they never declare “mission accomplished” until the other guy hollers quits.

Yep, Bush is in trouble here in the Rockies. He’s earned it.

(Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. Representative from Montana. After his retirement, he returned to Montana and teaches at The University of Montana, where he also serves as a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Rocky Mountain West.)


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