Tag Archives: george w bush

The breakdown of the American political system, pointing to a new and better future

Introduction:  This is the second in a series of dashed off speculative opinions.  Normal procedure on the FM website for these topics would be 3 thousand word posts, supported by dozens of links.  I dont’ have the time to finish them, and too many of these outlines have accumulated in my drafts file.  Perhaps these will spark useful debate and research among this site’s readers. 

The American system is breaking up.  The more or less clear lines dividing left from right have blurred into incoherence.  This opens the way for new solutions offering real reform.

Contents

  1. Does anti-war mean liberal?  Does pro-war mean conservative?
  2. America tests liberal and conservative solutions
  3. What comes next?
  4. For more information from the FM site and an Afterword

(1)  Does anti-war mean liberal?  Does pro-war mean conservative?

Our wars most clearly show the collapse of the traditional divisions.

  • Hillary Clinton, painted as radical leftist by many conservatives, vehemently supports our current wars.  President Obama, also painted as a radical by the right, strongly supports the Af-Pak war.
  • Patrick Buchanan and William Lind (longtime head of the Center for Cultural Conservatism) oppose our current wars. As does Andrew Bacevich (Colonel, US Army, retired, bibliography here), who describes himself as a Catholic conservative and publishes in American Conservative magazine.

Another perspective on this:  Stratfor looks at Obama’s foreign policy, sees Bush’s foreign policy, 30 August 2009.

(2)  America tests both liberal and conservative solutions

For a clear and provocative analysis of what went wrong with America during the past decade, see “System Failure“, Christopher Hayes, The Nation, 1 February 2010 —  We (the voters) performed a simple test.   Hayes describes the results which are not what either side expected.   Excerpt:

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TomGram: “The Imperial Presidency 2.0″

The power of the Presidency grows inexorably for many reason.  One is the political ratchet:  each Administration increases some aspects of the Executive’s powers, amidst praise from its partisans and impotent criticism from the loyal opposition.  Eventually they trade places, but seldom do these expanded powers get reversed — only a new wave of growth begins.

The latest TomDispatch provides more evidence of this ominous trend.

Introduction by Tom Engelhardt

October 7th marked the eighth anniversary of the Bush administration’s invasion of Afghanistan and so of the… well, can we really call it a war?… that won’t end, that American commanders there now predict could last for another decade or more. And yet, here’s the weird thing: because Congress no longer actually declares war, we officially must be fighting something else entirely. Put another way, we are now heading for the longest undeclared war in U.S. history (depending on how you count up the Vietnam years).

The Obama administration, having doubled down on Afghanistan in March, sending another 21,000 or more U.S. troops as well as extra contingents of civilians, deciding to put a billion dollars into a new embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, and build new or expanded embassy and consular facilities, roads, bases, and prisons in Afghanistan, is now considering yet another expansion of the [you fill in the blank], including up to 40,000 — some reports now say 80,000 — U.S. troops, more drone air strikes, and more training of Afghan forces. And yet, the U.S. is still operating on the pallid “authorization for use of military force” passed by Congress on September 18, 2001 at the behest of the Bush administration. It only authorizes the president “to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States.” No more. War itself — despite all the fighting, the death, and the money spent — has never been declared, and in our present era of ever expanding presidential power, it never will be.

In other words, we are at war without being at war. As in every war since World War II ended, we find ourselves once again in a presidential conflict backed by Congress. Although Senator John Kerry’s Foreign Relations Committee has held hearings on “how the nation should declare war” (a subject that you might think the Constitution had definitively settled), don’t count on the Obama administration to return to Congress for an actual declaration of war as it moves forward in the Af-Pak theater of operations.

George W. Bush is gone, but as David Swanson, TomDispatch regular and author of Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union, makes clear, our increasingly engorged presidency remains essentially untouched, despite the new occupant in the White House.

David Swanson explains how Presidential Power Grows

Will You Love Every Future President?“, By David Swanson, TomDispatch, 15 October 2009 — Reposted in full with permission.

Presidential power has been on a pathway of expansion beyond what the Constitution outlined, and what a government of, by, and for the people requires, since George Washington was president. That expansion, which hit the highway after World War II, got a turbo boost during the co-presidency of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Some of the new powers that those two stole from Congress, the courts, the states, and us the people are being abused less severely in this new age of Obama; others, more so; but far more crucially, in a pattern followed by recent presidencies, all are being maintained, if not expanded, and thus more firmly cemented into place for future presidents to use. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you are likely to strongly oppose some major decisions of some future presidents. So it shouldn’t be hard to envision some pretty undesirable consequences that might flow from presidential power that increasingly approaches the absolute.

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Economists discuss the impact of the stimulus on our recession

Summary:  The US economy continues to slow, albeit the rate of decay has slowed.  But the net damage is severe and a recovery soon is imperative — or more “black swans” will appear.   This is the third in a series of posts about the effects of basic automatic stabilizers on the economy during this recession.

  1. Why has the worst recession since the 1930’s had such a mild effect on America?, 14 July 2009
  2. Update: why has the worst recession since the 1930’s had so little impact on the economy?, 5 October 2009

The stimulus programs were mis-sold to the public, since our ruling elites (”both” parties) are compulsive liars.  Government aid cannot end recessions.  It serves only to mitigate the downturn and reduce the inevitable suffering.  The heavy lifting among these tools results from unemployment aid, Medicaid, and food stamps — focused on those that have suffered loss of income.  This post gives some reviews of the performance of these programs during the past few months, in the context of the overall stimulus package.

Contents

This is a broad sample of analysis about this important question, not a complete listing.

  1. Views of economic advisors to Bush and John McCain
  2. Other economists’ views
  3. Analysis by the Council of Economic Advisors
  4. Posts about solutions to this crisis
  5. Afterword

(1)  Views of economic advisors to Bush and John McCain

(a)  Excerpt from The Washington Independent, 7 August 2009:

Republicans are pushing back hard against today’s unemployment report, which showed a lowerr-than-expected 247,000 new jobless and the overall unemployment rate falling 0.1 points to 9.4% . Former McCain campaign economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin spoke to reporters on a Republican National Committee-sponsored call to make the wonk’s case against reading too much into the report. “No real earnings growth in this report that would suggest sustained upward growth in this economy,” Holtz-Eakin said. “It cannot be considered good news that people left the labor force. If not for that, the unemployment rate might have creeped up to 9.6%, is my guess.”

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Motto for the Obama administration: “The more things change, …”

Today we have here an excerpt from “Bush’s Third Term? You’re Living It“,  David Swanson, TomDispatch, 1 September 2009 — Posted with permission. At the end are links to other posts about change and the Obama administration.

Introduction by Tom Englehardt

A presidential candidate opposed to the Iraq War is elected and enters the Oval Office. Yet six months later, there are still essentially the same number of troops in Iraq as were there when his predecessor left, the same number, in fact, used in the original invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Moreover, the new president remains on the “withdrawal” schedule the previous administration laid out for him with the same caveats being issued about whether it can even be met.

That administration also built a humongous, three-quarters-of-a-billion-dollar embassy in Baghdad, undoubtedly the most expensive on the planet. Staffed with approximately 1,000 “diplomats,” it was clearly meant to be a massive command center for Iraq (and, given neocon dreams, the region). Last weekend, well into the Obama era, the Washington Post reported that the State Department’s yearly budget for “running” that embassy — $1.5 billion (that is not a misprint) in 2009 — will actually rise to $1.8 billion for 2010 and 2011. In addition, the Obama administration now plans to invest upwards of a billion dollars in constructing a massive embassy in Islamabad and other diplomatic facilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Here, too, there will be a massive influx of “diplomats,” and here, too, a U.S. command center for the region is clearly being created.

What’s striking are the continuities in American foreign and military policy, no matter who is in the White House. The first-term Obama foreign policy now looks increasingly like the second-term Bush foreign policy. Even where change can be spotted, it regularly seems to follow in the same vein. The New York Times, for instance, recently reported that the controversial “missile defense shield” the Bush administration was insistent on basing in Poland and the Czech Republic is being reconsidered in a many-months-long Obama administration “review.” While this should be welcomed, the only option mentioned involved putting it elsewhere — in Turkey and somewhere in the Balkans. At stake is one of the great military-industrial boondoggles of our age. Yet cancellation is, it seems, beyond consideration in Washington.

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Stratfor looks at Obama’s foreign policy, sees Bush’s foreign policy

Many on the right wing describe President Obama in extreme terms, as if he has made large changes from Bush’s policy.   Obama-fuhrer, socialist, nihilist, and extreme leftist are some of the labels they use.

With a few exceptions, their premise is incorrect.  While Obama promised change, he has delivered continuity.  Quite a disappointment for many who voted for him.

In this article George Friedman examines Obama’s foreign policy.    Stratfor’s message is clear:  US foreign policy is set by our ruling elites, and remains immutable by elections so long as the voters remain sheep.  It’s the status quo that you can believe in.

Obama’s Foreign Policy: The End of the Beginning“, George Friedman, Stratfor, 24 August 2009 — This post first shows an exact, the second shows the full article.  Reposted with permission.

(1)  Key quotes

As August draws to a close, so does the first phase of the Obama presidency. The first months of any U.S. presidency are spent filling key positions and learning the levers of foreign and national security policy. … Then September comes and the world gets back in motion, and the first phase of the president’s foreign policy ends. The president is no longer thinking about what sort of foreign policy he will have; he now has a foreign policy that he is carrying out.

We therefore are at a good point to stop and consider not what U.S. President Barack Obama will do in the realm of foreign policy, but what he has done and is doing. As we have mentioned before, the single most remarkable thing about Obama’s foreign policy is how consistent it is with the policies of former President George W. Bush. This is not surprising. Presidents operate in the world of constraints; their options are limited. Still, it is worth pausing to note how little Obama has deviated from the Bush foreign policy.

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Obama knows how to lead America by exploiting our fears

Summary:  President Obama shows that he knows how to lead Americans, giving a speech based on stories of successful cyber-attacks.  Just as Bush demonstrated with his speech about Iraq’s nukes, American Presidents can spout any nonsense to their subjects.  In turn we smile and genuflect before our betters.  Bowing is not an appropriate posture for citizens.

This analysis does not say that cyber attacks have not occurred, that they are not a serious threat, or that better defenses are needed.  After all, Bush’s false statements about Iraq’s nukes does not mean that there are no atomic bombs, or that their use is not a serious risk.  But if America is to survive — let alone prosper — in the 21st century, we must fix our observation-orientation-decision-action loop (the OODA loop).

Demanding some evidence from our leaders’ about their big claims is IMO a necessary step.  This speech has even less supporting evidence than President Bush and Secretary of State Powell gave for the invasion of Iraq.  As yet we have no way to know if these claims are any more accurate than those about Iraq.

Contents

  1. The President’s speech
  2. Public information about his claims concerning cyber attacks
  3. Afterword and For More Information

(1)  The President’s speech

Remarks by the President on Securing Our Nation’s Cyber Infrastructure by President Obama, 29 May 2009 — Excerpt:

We meet today at a transformational moment — a moment in history when our interconnected world presents us, at once, with great promise but also great peril.

… It’s the great irony of our Information Age — the very technologies that empower us to create and to build also empower those who would disrupt and destroy. And this paradox — seen and unseen — is something that we experience every day. It’s about the privacy and the economic security of American families.

But every day we see waves of cyber thieves trolling for sensitive information — the disgruntled employee on the inside, the lone hacker a thousand miles away, organized crime, the industrial spy and, increasingly, foreign intelligence services. In one brazen act last year, thieves used stolen credit card information to steal millions of dollars from 130 ATM machines in 49 cities around the world — and they did it in just 30 minutes. A single employee of an American company was convicted of stealing intellectual property reportedly worth $400 million. It’s been estimated that last year alone cyber criminals stole intellectual property from businesses worldwide worth up to $1 trillion.

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Quote of the Day about the Reverse Nuremberg Defense

First, an excellent connect-the-dots excerise by Frank Rich:  “Obama Can’t Turn the Page on Bush“, op-ed in the New York Times, 16 May 2009.  I recommend reading it!  Opening:

To paraphrase Al Pacino in “Godfather III,” just when we thought we were out, the Bush mob keeps pulling us back in. And will keep doing so. No matter how hard President Obama tries to turn the page on the previous administration, he can’t. Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

That’s why the president’s flip-flop on the release of detainee abuse photos — whatever his motivation — is a fool’s errand. The pictures will eventually emerge anyway, either because of leaks (if they haven’t started already) or because the federal appeals court decision upholding their release remains in force. And here’s a bet: These images will not prove the most shocking evidence of Bush administration sins still to come.

There are many dots yet to be connected, and not just on torture. …

This response deserves to win “quote of the day” honors:  “Sympathy for the bad apples“, by The Editors at The Poor Man Institute for Freedom & Democracy & a Pony, 17 May 2009 — Hat tip to Obsidian Wings.  Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

It’s funny that when torture was all the fault of poor, ugly hillbillies of the sort David Brooks writes about in his Adventure Stories for Young Aristocrats, we had to throw the book at the evil-doers. Now that important figures in Washington have admitted to directly ordering more and worse, however, the question of even investigating whether some sort of crime may perhaps have taken place is fraught with all sort of beard-tugging brain-twisters which no man can untangle, even with the help of modern computer technology.

  • How can we investigate if we don’t know all the facts?
  • How dare we enforce laws against things which might possibly be permissible in some highly artificial thought experiment?
  • What if ‘24′ is FOR REALS?!?
  • These are the sorts of questions which need to be shrugged at for 50 billion news cycles before we can even think about OH MY GOD A SHARK ATE A WHITE LADY AT HER WEDDING!!!!!

We’ve got what amounts to a reverse Nuremberg defense, where Bush administration officials are let off the hook because they were only giving orders. I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.

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