Archive for April 19th, 2006

Here's an interesting editorial co-authored by Democratic Senators Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton that is definitely a step in the right direction towards bridging the gap between the opposing sides in the debate.

Basically they realize that both sides want to decrease abortion.

We believe that it is necessary for all Americans to join together and embrace policies that will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, decrease abortions and improve access to women's health care.

There is no question that the rate of unintended pregnancy is too high in the United States.

Half of the 6 million pregnancies each year in this country are unintended, and nearly half of these unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. It doesn't have to be this way.

Most of these unintended pregnancies — and the resulting abortions — can be prevented if we eliminate the barriers that prevent women from having access to affordable and effective contraception.

The bill they're suggesting would make contraceptives easily accessible and cheap and covered by health insurance. They would also fully fund programs that assist low-income women with carrying their children to term, programs that were gutted by Bush.

This proposal is definitely a step in the right direction. As I've written before an abortion ban would lead to excessive governmental intrusion into our private lives and likely to prove damaging to millions of young women across the country. And an abortion ban wouldn't stop abortions, it would just criminalize them and those who have them.

Still, I don't think these proposals go far enough. What about day care services? What about increased support for single moms? What about drug treatment programs? What about job training programs and living wage initiatives?

Basically I think it's important to do two things to prevent abortions: (1) Decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies. (2) Fight the economic and social conditions that make women want to get abortions.

Banning abortion and making contraceptives difficult to acquire really isn't a solution: it's a judgement. An abortion/contraceptives ban creates from an outdated moral dichtomy (sexuality = bad; asexuality = good) an oppressive law harmful to the poor. (That the anti-abortion movement is based on "Christian" values also makes it ironic.) Why impose draconian measures when, by eliminating the need for abortions, we're actually bettering our communities doing so?

In the most recent links post, I put up a link to Rolling Stone's latest cover story by Princeton professor, Sean Wilenz, "The Worst President in History?" When I first saw the magazine cover, I assumed I'd be in for a gonzo-esque romp of rhetorical excess and snarkiness.

Imagine my surprise when the article proved quite well written, reasonable, and clear in its indictments of the Bush presidency.

Here are some highlights from the article:

In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton — a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

So even the few that consider Bush a "success," consider him successful because he's compelled Congress – and in some cases, the public – to go along with his disastrous policies. Some “success.”

Ah, but these respondents are college professors. They’re liberals, right?

Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.

Historians do tend, as a group, to be far more liberal than the citizenry as a whole — a fact the president's admirers have seized on to dismiss the poll results as transparently biased. One pro-Bush historian said the survey revealed more about "the current crop of history professors" than about Bush or about Bush's eventual standing. But if historians were simply motivated by a strong collective liberal bias, they might be expected to call Bush the worst president since his father, or Ronald Reagan, or Nixon. Instead, more than half of those polled — and nearly three-fourths of those who gave Bush a negative rating — reached back before Nixon to find a president they considered as miserable as Bush. The presidents most commonly linked with Bush included Hoover, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan. Twelve percent of the historians polled — nearly as many as those who rated Bush a success — flatly called Bush the worst president in American history. And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figure would certainly be higher.

Only those who never actually went to college – or who were ideologically motivated to nitpick with professors – will agree that most academicians are a conservative bunch when it comes to making general historical claims. That is – unlike we nasty partisan bloggers – they research, weigh facts, support argument with evidence. They are not hasty.

In fact, that’s what struck me about this particular article – it was so careful with its argument! It’s very compelling. Admittedly, I agreed with the premise written into the title, so I am an accepting audience. Still, it’s very difficult not to realize how terrible this president is. You have to work very hard to find any positive benefits from this administration’s foreign policy practices, let alone in its fiscal and domestic agenda here at home. (Except maybe the immigration thing.) The article carefully negotiates the pitfalls associated with partisanship and offers a clear, compelling case for Dinky’s place in history. Dead last.

How does any president's reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

The article goes on in detail comparing Bush’s credibility and foreign policy performance with past presidents, both good and bad. One of the more interesting reasons why author Wilenz says Bush failed to successfully capitalize on the unified feelings of the US after 9/11 in implement a smart, post-9/11 policy is that he was fiercely partisan, unlike former, successful “wartime” presidents like Lincoln, FDR, and JFK (see “Cuban Missile Crisis,” you Kennedy haters!). Bush has also repeatedly and clumsily ignored the advice of conservative foreign policy leaders, like James Baker and Brent Scowcraft.

The article goes on to blast Bush’s irresponsible deficit-building fiscal policy, his attacks on science, his coupling the GOP to Christian fundamentalism, his indifference to domestic disaster, and the general corruption and scandals besetting his administration. But how history may impugn Bush is for his attempts to expand the power of the executive:

…the Bush administration — in seeking to restore what Cheney, a Nixon administration veteran, has called "the legitimate authority of the presidency" — threatens to overturn the Framers' healthy tension in favor of presidential absolutism…the Bush White House has declared that the president's powers as commander in chief in wartime are limitless. No previous wartime president has come close to making so grandiose a claim. More specifically, this administration has asserted that the president is perfectly free to violate federal laws on such matters as domestic surveillance and the torture of detainees. When Congress has passed legislation to limit those assertions, Bush has resorted to issuing constitutionally dubious "signing statements," which declare, by fiat, how he will interpret and execute the law in question, even when that interpretation flagrantly violates the will of Congress.

And what about those comparisons to Lincoln? No, don’t laugh. They’ve been made in all seriousness. What about those claims?

The president's defenders stoutly contend that war-time conditions fully justify Bush's actions. And as Lincoln showed during the Civil War, there may be times of military emergency where the executive believes it imperative to take immediate, highly irregular, even unconstitutional steps. "I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful," Lincoln wrote in 1864, "by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the Constitution, through the preservation of the nation." Bush seems to think that, since 9/11, he has been placed, by the grace of God, in the same kind of situation Lincoln faced. But Lincoln, under pressure of daily combat on American soil against fellow Americans, did not operate in secret, as Bush has. He did not claim, as Bush has, that his emergency actions were wholly regular and constitutional as well as necessary; Lincoln sought and received Congressional authorization for his suspension of habeas corpus in 1863. Nor did Lincoln act under the amorphous cover of a "war on terror" — a war against a tactic, not a specific nation or political entity, which could last as long as any president deems the tactic a threat to national security. Lincoln's exceptional measures were intended to survive only as long as the Confederacy was in rebellion. Bush's could be extended indefinitely, as the president sees fit, permanently endangering rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution to the citizenry.

I’m sure these pronouncements will be decried by the usual gang of apologists who refuse to see how incompetent and dangerous their president and their party’s unflagging loyalty. There will be doubters who insist on a third way, a “rational” view of events, a claim that we can’t guess Bush’s position in history now, that it’s a useless exercise.

To those I say the effects of this presidency are real. I say this president is a menace to this country, here, now. The evidence is there. Get your heads out of the sand. Or other dark, enclosed spaces I will not mention on this fine family site. You might feel superior by floating above “partisan” attacks, but you will not want to regret your inaction some day. What will you say when a body asks, “what did you do when Bush was president?”

To everybody else – the majority, by far – let this article serve as a reminder of why we have to work to oust corrupt, incompetent supporters of Bush, like Conrad Burns. It’s not too late.


Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I’ve had a rough couple of days. Wife was in Oregon until yesterday afternoon, leaving me to handle the twins by myself. And last night my daughter (let’s call her “Ms. Marvelous,” like she prefers) caught a “stomach ‘flu” – which is a nice way of saying I didn’t get much sleep and still smell faintly of vomit.

PSA: If you’ve got an event you think should be posted on Matt Singer’s website, drop him a line.

Wulfgar! has posted his thoughts on the debate between Montana's Democratic Senate candidates.

Apparently Idaho leads the nation in the number of drunk liberals. Which makes sense considering the hue of the state’s politics. (BTW, if you haven’t checked out Sara’s blog yet, do.)

Livingston, I Presume has a nice post up on why HSAs suck if you’re anything besides a young male. And they probably wouldn’t bother signing up in the first place.

Why do conservatives hate demo— er, okay…why does this one, particular conservative, unique and unusual, alone in his extremist beliefs, hate the First Amendment?

Looks like Rolling Stone already has Dinky’s spot in history marked out. I’m with RS – the worst presidents were considered bad by their contemporaries. No president considered incompetent or worse by a majority of the electorate was exonerated by history.

Attywood has heard the latest scuttlebutt on who’s going to replace Scott McClellan. Meet “Beltway Bob.” You may remember him.

This is the kind of dreck you find on the right end of the spectrum.

So much for another point in Bush’s rhetoric, that we wish to promote “democracy” through the world. See Condi Rice cuddling up to a vicious African dictator.

Iraqi Body Count has an interesting report by the Oxford Research Group posted that explores the possible outcome of an air strike against Iran. The conclusion? Just what you’d expect from a BushCo policy: clusterf*ck.

Oh, by the way. According to a retired Air Force colonel, the operations have already begun.

Weird, icky, creepy: the Christian fundamentalists’ father-daughter purity ball. Dads get their daughters, as young as seven, to pledge to save their virginity until marriage. (Excerpt from the girls’ pledge: “I pledge to remain sexually pure…until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband…”)

C&L on “The Decider.” Video, too!

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