Archive for May 11th, 2006

Warning: This is a late-night ramble.

Matt Singer noticed that Jack Cafferty is pretty dog-gone angry about the latest wiretapping. He’s warning about imminent dictatorship.

It’s funny how long these ideas take to percolate to the mainstream, isn’t it? The question of executive “over reach” was brought up when the Patriot Act was passed. Some said it placed more power in the hands of the President than the “Reichstag Fire Decree,” but that only brought up the specter of the Nazis, which gets a little tiring after awhile, even if it’s accurate.

Back in November, I posted on (now dead, sadly) that the detention of suspected terrorist Jose Padilla represented the administration’s dictatorial ambitions. For my post, a commenter accused me of falling “completely out of touch with reality.”

Do I think Bush is Hitler? No. Do I think Bush is going to round up millions, stick them in concentration camps, and gas them? No. But what’s going on here? C&L is right, there are a dozen better ways to increase security than data mining: more border patrols, more inbound cargo screening, getting rid of the politicians in the CIA, Justice Department, and FBI, and go after Osama bin Laden.

Instead the Bush administration declared war on valuable government agencies and littered them with political operatives. Instead the Bush administration invaded Iraq, which had no ties to Islamic fundamentalist terror groups. Instead the Bush administration rounded up hundreds of foreign nationals with little or no evidence and detained them in Guantamano without any basic legal rights. Instead the Bush administration built secret prisons in Europe and kidnapped foreign nationals and detained them there. Instead the Bush administration tortured. Instead the Bush administration spied on domestic anti-war groups. Instead the Bush administration monitored the phone calls of tens of millions of everyday Americans.

Every move this administration has made has solidified the power of the executive at the cost of our secuirty.

Now nations all over the world distrust us, some hate us. Now young Arabs inflamed by the Iraq War are volunteering to blow themselves up to kill American soldiers. Now average US citizens are being scrutinized by secret government agencies operating without oversight.

In his post Matt Singer compared the current political climate with the first 100 days of FDR’s presidency, in which the nation was reeling from a sudden economic depression and some political allies were urging the newly elected President to seize authoritarian powers. Only FDR valued Democracy more.

In earlier links and posts, I’ve seen Bush compared to Lincoln, who navigated a Civil War with only a few Constitutional violations — suspending habeous corpus for several suspected Confederate spies — but with the approval of Congress and to a lesser extent than Bush’s current Constitutional degradations.

These comparisons of the current President to past great Presidents are all fine. By comparison we see Bush is really quite a poor executive. But the comparisons are starting to frustrate me a little. There’s really no point. It’s not like the President is going to roll out of bed realizing he’s no Lincoln or Roosevelt and resolve to do better. He’s a vain little man who refuses to compromise his “vision,” no matter how poorly his ideas are when executed in reality.

Really the only thing standing between the President and…dictatorship?…disaster?…further encroachment on our civil liberties?…using nukes in Iran?…all of the above?…is Congress. And not all of Congress, or a strong Democratic reaction, but the Republican Party.

That’s right. The only thing standing between us and the endangered republic is a pack of spineless, corrupt weasels who have done nothing to protect their own body’s power, their own electorate, their own country from George W. Bush.

We’ll see. Will Arlen Specter step up during the Hayden confirmations? Will John McCain actualize his outsider image and publicly call out Bush, even if it might endanger his 2008 bid for the GOP’s presidential nomination?

Don’t hold your breath folks. It looks like the only way this President will be held accountable is if we put a Democratic majority in Congress. That starts right here in Montana with a corrupt Senator who has thoughtlessly supported the President at every turn.

Yet another reason to vote for Tester.

The New York Times’ Michiko Kakutani has written a good analysis of the recent “floodlet” (reg. req’d.) of books about the Bush administration.

They range widely in perspective: there are books by reporters, by administration insiders and by counterterrorism and economic experts; books with conservative, liberal and nonpartisan points of view; books that offer a wide-angle window on the administration; and books that zero in on particular aspects of the war in Iraq.Yet taken together with earlier volumes, these books create a cumulative and, in many respects, surprisingly coherent portrait of the Bush White House and its management style.

It’s an interesting way of studying the current administration. So…what drives the Bushies?

…an appetite for big, visionary ideas, imposed from the top down; an eagerness to centralize decision making in the executive branch; and a tendency to shrug off the advice of experts, be they military experts, intelligence experts or economic experts.

According to Kakutani, while most observers agree that these qualities drive Bush and his gang, they disagree on what that means for policy. Some see Bush as a maverick breaking the stodgy old rules and doing things in a bold, new way. Others see a reckless disregard for information or facts leading to “inflexibility,” and disregard for the usual checks leading to disaster.

Everybody likes the idea of a rogue cop bucking the rules, circumventing all the bureaucratic nonsense and getting the crook. It’s a staple in Westerns, cop shows, movies. Only it doesn’t work out too well in real life. Why? Ask yourself, what kind of person does it take to make up the rules, keep grounded, and find a successful new solution to a problem? Why, someone extraordinary, that’s who.

Bush is not extraordinary.

Bush has earned nothing on his own. All of his business ventures were handed to him by his father’s friends – and he failed every one of them. (As part owner of the Texas Rangers his biggest move was to trade away Sammy Sosa.) He’s been successful in politics, but largely because of his father’s name, money, and friends. His record as Texas governor was atrocious, he left his state’s finances in disarray when he ascended to the nation’s top seat. His record as President is considered by many historians as the worst. Ever.

The sad thing is that Bush disdained the advice of experts and executed policy on “gut” rather than knowledge, which is about all he could do with his limited understanding of the world. (Anyone remember his inability to locate countries on the globe?) Being a maverick is great — if you know what you’re doing. Bush is inept, incompetent, a bumbler, and a stooge.

Bush is the kind of guy the checks and balances were meant to catch.


It’s official. The government has been spying on tens of millions of Americans.

Kevin Drum has some thoughts on the breaking story that the NSA was illegally wiretapping domestic calls. Does anyone think this is a problem besides me? Does Bush think this is China?

Jane at Firedoglake: “Can we call it a dictatorship yet?”

Guess who comes out as a hero in all this wiretapping bullsh*t? You’ll never guess. Qwest. I kid you not. What does it tell you that Qwest has stronger ethics than the Bush administration?

Your daily Morrison links: Pogie gets some “facts” from Morrison’s camp about the Tacke affair. Matt Singer contemplates the fact sheet and addresses the myth of Morrison’s support. Wulfgar! pitches in. Eric Coobs suggests a new look for the embattled state auditor.

Every time you turn over a rock, you see another Republican lawmaker scuttling for safety. This time it’s Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA).

Speaking of scurrying, repulsive Republicans, check out the latest hidden provision in the Iraq/Afghanistan bill, which bars oversight on new contracts for reconstruction work. What won’t Republicans do for a buck? Anyone who still supports the GOP is living in a fantasy world.

The Slog’s monkey links. Apparently monkeys will pay for monkey porn. What conclusions can we draw from this?

Apparently the majority of Americans are dangerously liberal. Go figure.

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