Yep, even after Barack Obama became the first two-term president since Eisenhower to win more than 51% of the popular vote in two elections, giggling wingnuts like Erickson are still using the "Black Jimmy Carter" line. And despite the non-stop giddy SCANDAL! drumbeat by right-wingers, his approval rating is at 49%.
In comparison, after the actual scandals of Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, Abu Grhaib, FISA, the US Attorney firings, and Valerie Plame, George W. Bush spent his last three years in the 30s.
As his performance over the past week suggests, Rep. Darrell Issa's response to the tragic deaths of American citizens in the Middle East apparently depends on which party controls the White House. After all, in February 2007 Issa mocked the families of four Blackwater contractors slaughtered in Fallujah. Now, the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has accused former CIA Director David Petraeus of carrying water for the Obama administration's supposed Benghazi cover-up. That would be the same General David Petraeus Issa charged six years ago was being targeted by Democrats "as part of an ongoing partisan smear campaign against U.S. efforts in Iraq."
Appearing on Meet the Press with host David Gregory on Sunday, John Boehner's Benghazi Grand Inquisitor suggested that Petraeus and the members of the independent Accountability Review Board did President Obama's bidding on the Benghazi probe:
GREGORY: Chairman, my reporting of the immediate aftermath of this talking to administration officials is that CIA Director David Petraeus made it clear when he briefed top officials that there-- that there was a spontaneous element to this, that it was not completely known that this was a terrorist attack right away. You don't give any credence to the notion that there was some fog of war, that there were-- there were conflicting circumstances about what went on here.
On April 25 - Thursday evening - American icon and humble hero George W Bush took one small step for man, one slip-and-fall for humanity - as he re-entered a spotlight until-recently blissful to have been abandoned by him, for the dedication of his presidential library. Put aside for the moment that having an actual structure that houses things you read dedicated to him is like honouring Chris Christie with a gluten-free restaurant or naming a Bar Mitzvah after Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Hell, I half expected him to don his trusty flight suit and declare "all major combat operations over in Iraq", you know, just for the memories.
But really, he did not have to do anything of the sort. For it was perfect timing for the My Pet Goat Athenaeum to emerge from the steamy Sun Belt hydrofluorocarbons just as one disaster after another befell the country, a helpful reminder of the eight torturous (in more ways than one) years he and his corrupted West Texas ideology made the rest of the United States resemble, well, West, Texas.
From the explosion at the fertiliser plant due to flagrant flouting of environmental regulations to the attack in Boston, the rejection of common sense gun safety to the square dance around sequestration; this was shaping up to be a Bush Legacy week whether he stayed home to paint nude portraits of Jeb or chose to step out and try to defend a presidency many Americans must be still convinced was just one long phantasm brought on by a bad batch of Peyote.
Michael Lind points out in, Made In Texas, that we have had conservative presidents over the past century and southern presidents. We have not had the combination. And it is an important distinction. As Lind put it in an interview with BuzzFlash (2002), "His [Bush's] political values - ranging from aggressive militarism in foreign policy to small-government ideology and fervent support for laissez-faire economics" have come to define much of our political culture in Washington - hence last week.
First, we had the Festrunk Brothers launch an attack on the Boston Marathon two weeks ago, and just about everything involved had Bush's West Texas political culture written all over it. Because of the NRA, which "worked out of his White House", there is no way to track where gun powder was bought as there is with plastic explosives. Because... freedom! (And defence contractor profits!).
There was the fact that these two clowns apparently committed these atrocities because of anger over Iraq - for which I hope the younger brother (I refuse to give them attention by using their names) spends a nice, long, pain-enveloped life carving rocks into chess pieces at Shawshank. Ahh yes, Iraq. Remember that war? The one that George W Bush lied us into with tales of yellowcake and "curveball", that has now cost up to about $2 trillion?
It is because of this war, unpaid for tax cuts and Big Pharma boondoggles that we apparently have to eliminate Medicare, according to the Pied Piper of granny starving, Congressman and former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But let us eliminate, post haste, the part of our silly self-created "sequestration" - flight delays! - that causes inconveniences to wealthy members of the Congress on their way to the next Ladybank-single-malt-festooned, campaign contributor bribe-fests.
We were also recently treated to the West Texas answer to allowing weapons of war on our streets to blow apart toddlers in schools. Nothing. Unless you count Congress' finding ways to allow itself to insider trade again. Because... freedom!
Finally, there is the tragedy in West, Texas. A fertiliser-plant explosion near Waco (just like the Crawford pseudo-ranch!) that engulfed the neighbourhood, due to an understaffed and barely functioning Chemical Safety Board (by Congressional design), a lack of common-sense zoning requirements and the no-follow-ups rule we like to impose on the Environmental Protection Agency when they find that a plant like say, this one, had no risk management plan in 2006. But hey, the plant self-reported (is that like self-deporting?) that it posed "no risk" of fire, and why would they lie?
You may remember that a certain convict-Congressman named Tom DeLay - of West Texas - compared the EPA to the "Gestapo" and current lunkhead Texas Governor Rick Perry attacks the very same EPA for its "misguided and job-killing policies", as opposed to his people-killing ones. And then there is, once again, George W Bush. The Decider decided as President that, as dictated by his West Texas ideology, he would assault the EPA by any means necessary, short of naming the former Arabian Horse Association guy to run it (he saved that for FEMA... phew!).
So, in a way, it was fitting to see the George W Bush library opening this past week. It is his West Texas world. We are just stuck living in it.
The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.
From his hospital bed, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has acknowledged his role in planting the explosives near the marathon finish line on April 15, the officials said. The first successful large-scale bombing in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era, the Boston attack killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.
Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.
Obama has made repairing U.S. relations with the Islamic world a foreign policy priority, even as he has expanded drone operations in Pakistan and other countries, which has inflamed Muslim public opinion.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has provided limited information to authorities that indicates he and his brother acted independently, without direction or significant influence from Islamist militants overseas. U.S. officials said they are still working to assemble a detailed timeline of a trip the older Tsarnaev took to Russia, but see no evidence that he received instructions there that led to the attack.
“These are persons operating inside the United States without a nexus” to an overseas group, a U.S. intelligence official said.
The Obama administration on Friday lifted the covers on its compromise budget proposal for fiscal year 2014. While Obama's blueprint would slash the national debt by a projected $1.8 trillion over the next decade (bringing the total reductions since 2011 to $4.3 trillion) through painful changes to Social Security and Medicare, Republicans are predictably balking at Obama's call for $580 billion in new tax revenue. Despite the administration's up-front concessions on spending, GOP leaders including John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor continue to repeat their talking points that "the President got his tax hikes in January" and "the discussion about revenue is over."
But as a quick glance at U.S. budgets past and future shows, the discussion over tax revenue should be far from over. For starters, thanks to two wars, the new unfunded Medicare prescription drug program and the government responses to the 2008 financial meltdown, federal spending surged over the previous decade even as tax revenue as a percentage of the U.S. economy hit 60 year lows. And looking ahead, the U.S. Treasury will need to raise revenues higher than the historical average not just to fill the massive hole left by the Naughts, but to fund $2 trillion more in war-related spending, to address the aging of the U.S. population and to meet the public's demands for more, not less, spending across almost every area of government.
Here are 10 reasons why Uncle Sam needs more tax revenue. (Click a link to jump to the details for each.)
What's that they say about blind squirrels again? Here's Nooners, talking about what ails the GOP this morning on "This Week."
NOONAN: You know, I tend to think that the go GOP's central problems have to do with things we don't talk all that much about. One is what happened in 2008 and the continuing repercussions of the crash. The repercussions where the party stands, what its positions are on how to create growth, that is becoming in part within the party, a rising disagreement -- not disagreement, but a rising difference of emphasis between those who are saying the way we have to go is growth right now and those who are saying we've got to handle this debt and deficit thing. They're sort of different approaches.
Another is that I think the Republican Party has to make clear what its foreign policy is. It has had two wars for the past 12 years, people are still settling in and thinking -- I mean, the voters have said, we don't like that. We're not for that. The Republican Party has to make clear what it stands for and it's going to have to have a little bit of debate to get there.
So I think those two big things, and the policies that spring from them, will make all of the difference and so will an eventual compelling presidential candidate, somebody who is involved right now is going to work his way through. At the end of the day, it is the candidates who resolve a lot of unresolved things by taking a stand and speaking for forcefully for it.
"Those two big things" -- the Iraq War and the Great Recession are indeed the two major reasons the Democratic Party swept into power 2006 and 2008, and they both loomed large in 2012. The problem for Republicans is they seem to be in complete denial about this. They're still insisting George W. Bush was a great president, that we "won" in Iraq, and that Barney Frank and irresponsible minorities caused the crash.
Do you ever hear Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan say the Iraq War or the radical financial deregulation of Wall Street were mistakes? No, you haven't. And as long as the official domestic policy of the Republican Party is tax cuts and deregulation and the party's official foreign policy is neoconservative, you won't.
Even if the Republicans decide to adopt less hateful policies towards immigration and gay marriage, they're still, at the end of the day, going to have to come to terms with the Bush administration. And that's something to date they've refused to do.
Yes, it's been several long years of C&L reminding people there was no legitimate reason to invade Iraq. You might be as tired of reading about it as we are of pointing it out. But it's important that we continue to deconstruct the facade that was used to sell us on the Iraq invasion, because we're seeing the same slow buildup of "facts" about Iran. War is only about money and power, and rarely if ever about justice:
Fresh evidence is revealed today about how MI6 and the CIA were told through secret channels by Saddam Hussein’s foreign minister and his head of intelligence that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction.
Tony Blair told Parliament before the war that intelligence showed Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme was “active”, “growing” and “up and running”.
The Republican opposed the Iraq surge and favored regional negotiations with Iran and Syria. The GOP luminary has cautioned against pre-emptive strikes on Tehran's nuclear facilities. He publicly criticized Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. He advised the presidential campaigns of both John McCain and Mitt Romney on national security policy, and in 2000 helped secure Florida for George W. Bush. Oh, and he declared "f**k the Jews" and complained they "didn't vote for us anyway." Of course, that GOP leader wasn't Vietnam War hero, former Nebraska Senator and Obama Pentagon nominee Chuck Hagel, but Republican heavyweight James A. Baker III. And as it turns out, while Lindsey Graham called Baker a "role model," John McCain lauded the former Bush Secretary of State as "smartest guy I know" and wanted him to lead the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Of course, you'd never know that listening to the incendiary rhetoric of Graham, McCain and other Republicans who have turned on their former colleague. Forgetting President Bush's selection of John Bolton as UN Ambassador, Senator Graham called Obama's selection of Hagel "an in-your-face nomination." On Sunday, Graham was not done in his criticism:
"Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be the secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation's history."
But Graham has a different attitude towards James Baker, the man neoconservative hardliners refer to simply as "F**k the Jews." After all, just a year ago the International Republican Institute (IRI) honored Baker with its 2011 Freedom Award for his exemplary public service and his work in international diplomacy. Among those lauding him that day was none other than John McCain's sidekick, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham:
"He was the right guy at the right time in so many circumstances and he has served our country in so many ways," U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of Baker in presenting the award. "When it comes to spreading freedom, you have done more than your fair share and when it comes to setting a standard, you are a role model."
John McCain, the other half of Washington DC's most enduring bromance, was even more effusive in his praise of James Baker.
In November, John McCain proposed that former President Bill Clinton, "a person of enormous prestige and influence," should be appointed by President Obama to negotiate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But in a May 2006 interview with the Israeli paper Haaretz, Senator McCain had a different man in mind as President McCain's Middle East emissary:
A McCain administration, alongside his close supervision from the White House, would send "the smartest guy I know" to the Middle East. And who is that? "Brent Scowcroft, or Jim Baker, though I know that you in Israel don't like Baker." This is a longing for the administration of the first president Bush, or even for the administration of President Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s. In both of them, general Scowcroft was the national security adviser. McCain will act to bring peace, "but having studied what Clinton did at Camp David, perhaps not in one try, but rather step by step, and I would expect concessions and sacrifices by both sides." In general, a movement toward the June 4, 1967 armistice lines, with minor modifications? McCain nods in the affirmative.
And why would John McCain say, "I know that you in Israel don't like Baker?"
As the CBC recalled, that unease stems from yet another U.S.-Israeli clash over expanding settlements in the West Bank:
In the early 1990s, when then president George H.W. Bush became annoyed at Shamir's refusal to stop building settlements, he cut off $10 billion in loan guarantees, which Israel needed to resettle Russian Jewish immigrants.
At the time, James Baker, Bush's secretary of state, publicly recited the White House switchboard's phone number, declaring to Israel: "When you are serious about peace, call us!"
Then there was Secretary of State James Baker's infamous "fuck the Jews" remark. In a private conversation with a colleague about Israel, Baker reportedly uttered the vulgarity, noting that Jews "didn't vote for us anyway." This was more or less true--Bush got 27 percent of the Jewish vote, compared with 73 percent for Dukakis, in 1988. And thanks in part to Baker, it was even truer in 1992, when Bill Clinton got 78 percent of the Jewish vote and Bush got only 15 percent--the poorest showing by a Republican candidate since Barry Goldwater in 1964.
During Monday night’s third and final presidential debate, Mitt Romney the hardline hawk turned tail and ran away from almost every foreign policy position he’s held for months. Monday’s Romney backed unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2014, after having previously declared the pull-out be “based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals.” The supporter of George W. Bush's war on Saddam Hussein now says, "We don't want another Iraq, we don't want another Afghanistan." He pledged to increase foreign aid, after having promised GOP primary voters he would start every country’s assistance “at zero.” And Romney’s bluster about a drawing a red line at Iran developing a “nuclear capability” just “one screwdriver's turn away from a nuclear weapon” was gone.
Of course, to keep the campaign’s focus on economic issues Romney’s strategy was to neutralize President Obama’s advantage on foreign policy and national security by seemingly adopting it lock, stock and not-so-smoking barrel. The only question left isn’t whether Romney's laughably long list of foreign policy flip-fops, flubs and follies shows his unworthiness to be Commander-in-Chief, but whether voters will punish him for it.
Romney Opposed U.S. Strikes Against Bin Laden in Pakistan. In December, Governor Romney brushed off Chuck Todd's suggestion that President Obama deserved credit for ordering the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden:
"I think in a setting like this one where Osama bin Laden was identified to be hiding in Pakistan, that it was entirely appropriate for this president to move in and to take him out," Romney replied, later adding that "In a similar circumstance, I think other presidents and other candidates, like myself, would do exactly the same thing."
As it turns out, not so much. Throughout 2007 and 2008, then Senator Barack Obama declared "we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights." Like President Bush and John McCain, Mitt Romney opposed unilateral American action to kill the Al Qaeda chieftain and his henchmen:
"I do not concur in the words of Barack Obama in a plan to enter an ally of ours... I don't think those kinds of comments help in this effort to draw more friends to our effort..."There is a war being waged by terrorists of different types and nature across the world," Romney said. "We want, as a civilized world, to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme with them."
Of course, Romney's confusion about whether or not to respect Pakistani sovereignty may have something to do with his past reversals about whether or not killing Osama Bin Laden even mattered. After insisting in late April 2007 that "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Romney under fire from the right reversed course just three days later and declared of Bin Laden, "He's going to pay, and he will die." (That also explains his ridiculous comment five years ago that "I want to double Guantanamo," and his plans now to revive the Bush administration's regime of detainee torture.)
Romney's comical past on Afghanistan and lack of policy specifics on its present largely explain why the GOP nominee was so noticeably silent on the topic at the Republican National Convention.