"Welcome to the Presidency of Lyndon Milhous Bushson."
The good part came right at the end. After nearly an hour with Tim Russert in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush showed himself. "I'm not going to lose," the president snapped. This was, after all, the very reason Bush had stooped to answering questions Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Bush cannot imagine a set of facts, a change of circumstance, a shift of mood that might overtake the electorate and influence its choice. This is because he is not influenced by facts, or changing circumstance or shifts of mood. It's not that, as president, he feels he must answer to the American public for the missing weapons of mass destruction or the missing jobs or the missing budget surplus. He could have done that long ago. It's just that there seems to be some possibility the chads may not fall his way in November. His jittery political advisers told Bush it was time to show himself. And so for an hour the people saw the president as indeed he is.
He is a man who does not accept the slightest suggestion that things aren't necessarily as he sees them. A man who does not believe there's any explanation for disagreement or disenchantment with him or his policies, other than a culture of political opportunism in Washington. A man who came to office pledging to be a "uniter, not a divider" and instead has become a polarizing figure at home and abroad.
Why does he provoke such anger and dissatisfaction, Russert asked.
"Gosh, I don't know," the president replied. He guessed it might have something to do with his asking allies to do hard things. But, he vowed, "I'm not going to change, see? I'm not trying to accommodate."
That would be, well, too democratic.
"The American people need to know they've got a president who sees the world the way it is," Bush declared. "See, I know exactly where I want to lead," the president said. He believes he's shown a capacity to "be steady and make good decisions."
If his decisions are so good, why is he not SEEN as someone steady who makes good decisions?
"Still, the great risk for Mr. Bush, Democrats and Republicans said on Sunday, is that he could just as easily lose as win an election that turns into a referendum on his judgment and character. Mr. Bush is particularly vulnerable, they said, if the Democrats raise enough doubts about his credibility on the war and on the economy, which now faces the highest federal budget deficit in history."
Rev up that DeLorean and tune up that flux capacitor - we're headed back to the future - 1992!
"But in the past month, Bush reached a tipping point. His credibility -- a huge asset since the days after Sept. 11 -- is in jeopardy. Three years of job losses and wage stagnation are taking a toll on middle-class confidence. I think Bush really does see himself as a war president. If that's what he's betting the election on, he risks repeating the very experience he has devoted his administration to avoiding -- his father's."
The President enters Credibility Gap [scroll down]
In any case, a President who, in the first three years of his presidency, largely refused to answer questions from the press (even over ribs in the Nothin' Fancy Café in Roswell, New Mexico) suddenly appears on "Meet the Press" "voluntarily"… Call it panic and you won't be far off, though no one's likely to say so. Big government, giant budgets, all aimed at profiting that 1% -- plus various military contractors (and other "security" corporations that have slipped in under the "Homeland defense" rubric), energy companies and companion servicing businesses -- throw in dynastic power and you have the Bush version of imperial America 2004. It's also starting to look like a precarious and increasingly unpopular construct, left, right, or center. So just watch out. You don't want to be standing underneath (as most of us are), if it comes tumbling down.
After an excruciating delay, chickens are finally coming home to roost for George W. Bush. For over a year, critics have been pointing to the president's systematic misrepresentations of everything from Iraq to education to budget numbers. But the charge hasn't stuck, until very lately. All of the administration's mendacity comes together in the latest Bush budget. According to the White House, the deficit, now $521 billion, will be halved over the next five years. But the administration achieves this sleight of hand by excluding future costs of occupying and rebuilding Iraq, claiming large savings as yet to be identified, failing to adjust revenue projections, and presuming program cuts so unpopular that Congress is sure to reject them.
Conservative freak out
George W. Bush is a conservative in the same way Britney Spears is a virgin: only when it suits his marketing. Guns and butter. Lots and lots of both. A major expansion of entitlements. Unprecedented increases in domestic spending. The national government taking more and more responsibilities (and authority) from the states. Judicial nominations used as wedge issues (especially as part of a "Southern strategy"). A politically cynical crafting of policy to buy the support of one particular interest group after another. A White House licking its chops at the prospect of an election opponent seen as an extremist, after a previous election marked by a tremendously close popular vote. Talk of putting men on the moon, fergoshsakes. Ethics aside, welcome to the presidency of Lyndon Milhous Bushson.
Conservatives and other limited-government types are furious at President George W. Bush for his big-spending ways… The Cato Institute calculates that Bush has presided over the largest increases in discretionary spending since President Lyndon B. Johnson's budgets of the late '60s.
Like a credit-card thief, the President of the United States is going on a shopping binge and making other people pay. If history gives Bush a nickname, it will be Deadbeat Dubya.
"Republicans are swiftly forfeiting the perception that they are especially responsible stewards of government finances. It is surreal for a Republican president to submit a budget to a Republican-controlled Congress and have Republican legislators vow to remove the "waste" that he has included and that they have hitherto funded… Such casualness, which would be alarming in any president, is especially so in one whose vaulting foreign policy ambitions have turned his first term into Woodrow Wilson's third term, devoted to planting democracy and "universal values" in hitherto inhospitable places. Once begun, leakage of public confidence in a president's pronouncements is difficult to stanch."
The President enters Credibility Gap [scroll down]
It's not just the President's obvious critics to his left who are lining up to have a go at him. Conservatives of various stripes are beginning to freak out as well. Of course, a lie of a budget, a nation seemingly saddled with mountainous debt until the sun rises in the West, a federal government bigger than the nearest planet, and a pile of lies and evasions that add up to an imperial war from hell can do that to anyone, especially since this administration isn't -- never has been -- into conserving a thing except power; and, even there, they may have overstepped the limits. After all, most conservatives weren't trying to elect a king or even a family.
Kevin Philips, former conservative and the mastermind behind the "southern strategy" that has anchored every winning Republican presidential campaign since Nixon, but now a populist critic, commented on the nature of the Bush "dynasty" this Sunday in a piece in the Los Angeles Times. With the tongue-twistingly long title, Four generations have created an unsavory web of links that could prove an election-year Achilles' heel for the president, it said in part:"Top 1% economics: Over four generations, the Bush family has been involved with more than 20 securities firms, banks, brokerage houses and investment management firms, ranging from Wall Street giants like Brown Brothers Harriman and E.F. Hutton to small firms like J. Bush & Co. and Riggs Investment Management Corp. This relentless record of handling money for rich people has bred a vocational hauteur. In their eyes, the economic top 1% of Americans are the ones who count…
"Politically, over four generations the Bush past has been prologue. Despite George W. Bush's new good ol' boy image -- cowboy boots and born-again ties to the religious right -- his basic tendencies go in the same directions -- oil, crony capitalism, top 1% economics and military-industrial-establishment loyalties -- that the previous Bush and Walker generations have traveled. The old biases and loyalties seem ineradicable; so, too, for old grudges, like the two-generation fixation on Saddam Hussein."
Top 1% economics and dynasty, of course, add up to something other than conservative. As Paul Krugman recently commented in reviewing American Dynasty, Phillip's latest book, in the New York Review of Books (The Wars of the Texas Succession):"And George W. Bush, as the scion of this dynasty, is the first president to, in effect, inherit the office. For four generations the Bush family has thrived by exploiting its political connections, especially in the secret world of intelligence, to get ahead in business, as well as exploiting its business connections, especially in finance and oil, to get ahead in politics. And whatever the public and the pundits may have thought about the 2000 election, for the Bushes it was a royal restoration…
"Old-line Republicans that I know cling to the belief that the Machiavellianism is only temporary, that it's embraced in service to a higher goal. Once the 2004 election is over, they say Bush will show his true colors as an idealist, someone who genuinely believes in small government and free markets.
"But if Phillips is right -- and I think he is -- there is no higher goal. Bush's motivations are dynastic -- to secure his family's rightful place."
So here is the best way to try to understand this president. It's all too simple to say what you see is what you get. It is more accurate to say that what everyone else sees, Bush does not get. No wonder he does not believe there's the slightest possibility Americans will vote him out of office. Bush cannot imagine a set of facts, a change of circumstance, a shift of mood that might overtake the electorate and influence its choice. This is because he is not influenced by facts, or changing circumstance or shifts of mood. Actually, some of those old-line Republicans, it seems, are no longer holding out for 2005.
And this is why the Democrats have a realistic chance for victory in November - assuming that the election isn't stolen, of course!
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