Saturday, February 19, 2005
Guckert/Gannon on record at CNN (updated)
Gannon/Guckert was interviewed Friday night on CNN by Anderson Cooper. E&P has helpfully provided the transcript, certain portions of which piqued my interest.
COOPER: Was anyone at the White House aware of your private activities?
GANNON: I would say that — I would say no, absolutely, categorically no.
What intrigues me is the false start to his answer. Obviously an "absolute, categorical no" is the right answer. But it is not the answer that came first to mind.
COOPER: There are many questions that have been raised about whether or not -- people raising the specter that you are somehow a White House plant. Are you a White House plant? Were you (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
GANNON: Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, how I came to be at the White House is I asked to attend a briefing. I asked the White House Press Office. They gave me a daily pass to get in.
It's really just that simple, isn't it? So expect to see me soon in the White House Briefing Room. I'll be the one with the spiked wig, heels and pseudonym.
COOPER: The first record we have now of you actually being at a White House press briefing was on February 28, 2003, as you said, before Talon News even existed. So why were you given a White House pass?
GANNON: I was given a White House -- well, you will have to ask the White House that. But I asked to attend the White House briefing because I was -- you know, because I wanted to report on the activities there.
Yes. The activities at the White House briefing seem a great deal more interesting than the content.
COOPER: Did you receive information from the White House that others didn't get?
GANNON: Absolutely not.
An interesting answer in light of the Joe Strup interview with Susan Farris, producer for San Antonio's right-wing KTSA—
He [Guckert/Gannon] was not only anxious about pushing his story of the day, but seemed to always have some kind of inside knowledge about the White House, as well.
"I said, 'How do you have such great sources?' and he just laughed it off," she told E&P Friday. "Now we all know how."
Guckert, she said, frequently passed on what he clearly thought was insider information, during his 12 appearances on KTSA during 2003 and 2004. She first heard from him the expression "shock and awe" to refer to the massive U.S. bombing attack at the start of the Iraq war, and he fingered Mary Mapes as the producer of the so-called "Rathergate" segment on "60 Minutes" before she had seen that mentioned elsewhere.
Then there's the plea for "fairness." I'm surprised he didn't show up with a Bible.
COOPER: You have been very clear that you believe this is politically motivated. And I think just about everyone probably agrees with that, that you asked that question, it was a softball, and liberal bloggers went after you to find out what they could in the public domain about you. But isn't that -- and you say that's unfair. Isn't that -- aren't those the same techniques that you yourself used as a reporter that sort of -- to publish innuendo, to publish advocacy-driven, politically motivated reports?
GANNON: Well, I don't see it that way. But what was -- what's been done to me is far in excess of what has ever been done to any other journalist that I could remember. My life has been turned inside out and upside down. And, again, it makes us all wonder that if someone disagrees with you, that is now your personal life fair game? And I'm hoping that fair-minded people will stand up and say that what's been done to me is wrong, and that -- that people's personal lives have no impact on their ability to be a journalist, you know. Why should my past prevent me from having a future?
As for his "personal" life, since when is public advertising of yourself as an escort "personal"? It was actually his journalistic skills, or lack thereof, that had an impact on his ability to be a journalist. And I believe Jeff/James will always have a future. First the book. Then the movie.
Am I psychic? From a Joe Strup interview yesterday—
Guckert he [sic] had been consulting a publicist for guidance. "I am going to try to find the best possible way to do it," he said. "And the best possible place to do it and get the widest audience possible."
Friday, February 18, 2005
Exorcism: "A growth industry for the pastoral care business"
Satanism is growing so quickly worldwide that as of next month a papal university in Rome will offer courses on this frightening phenomenon.
Why is this happening?
It is the Internet that, along with "black metal"-type rock music and its chilling lyrics, attracts the world's young to the Prince of Darkness.
Tracy Wilkinson of the LA Times gives a bit of background—
Exorcism — the use of prayer to rid a person or place of the devil or demonic spirits — has its roots in early Christianity. It fell out of a favor around the 18th century, after the Enlightenment and advances in science and modern philosophy, but has experienced a revival in the past few decades.
Yes. As the gains of the Enlightenment are lost, to be replaced by ignorance and superstition, exorcism will naturally gain ground. Who could have imagined that the 21st century would usher in another Dark Age?
Siemon-Netto offers a catalog of recent Satanic killings—
-- In Trier, Germany, birthplace of Karl Marx, the prosecutor's office has been investigating the claim of a woman that babies were being cut up and eaten in Satanist rituals.
-- In Finland a youthful pair was jailed for eating part of a fellow devil worshiper's body, abusing it sexually, then cutting it into small pieces, all to the tunes of Black Metal music - and all in a Satanist ritual.
-- In Brisbane, Australia, two young sadistic lesbians were sentenced for stabbing and slashing the throat of a 59-year old New Zealand grandmother - in a Satanist ritual.
-- In Athens, young Satanists were sentenced for stripping, cuffing, raping and slaughtering a 15-year old girl - in a Satanist initiation scene.
-- In Buenos Aires, Argentina, two young women were found guilty of killing their father and stabbing him in the face 100 times - in a Satanist family event of sorts.
-- In Donskoi, Russia, Satanists led by 80-year old Yelena Kuzina and including members as young as 20 were jailed for murders - committed in occult rituals.
-- Only recently in a forest near Milan, Italy, youngsters danced on the graves of two coreligionists they had just killed - in a Satanist ritual murder.
These examples can be continued at infinitum. "This phenomenon," a Catholic exorcist told United Press International some time ago, "is a growth industry for the pastoral care business,... [emphasis added]
And how can you recognize a Satanist? According to the AP,
Among widely accepted signs of possession by the devil are speaking in unknown tongues and physical force beyond one's natural capacity.
Beginning with Commander-in-Chief George Bush—whose speech remains indecipherable to the best of linguists—and descending through the ranks, signs of Satanic possession are everywhere. And the Satanists celebrate their ritual torture and killing, as can be seen in these color photos of the atrocities [Warning: not for the squeamish. Thanks to Buzzflash for the link.]
In her LA Times article, Tracy Wilkinson notes that—
In Italy, the number of official exorcists has soared in the past 20 years to between 300 and 400, church officials say.... In the United States, the shortage is more acute.
That, I think, is self-evident.
Exorcism 101 - Session II (9/20/05)
Tightening the reins of power: The reverse lobby
LOBBY - A group, organization or association seeking to influence the passage or defeat of legislation. Originally the term referred to persons frequenting the lobbies or corridors of legislative chambers in order to speak to lawmakers.
A "lobbyist" is the actual person or entity that does the work of the lobby.
This understanding of the term is passé. In the old system the lobbyist was likely to be a former legislator or bureaucrat who worked in the section of the government that he or she lobbied. To advance their agenda, businesses and non-profits hired lobbyists for their presumed access to the corridors of power. It was a wonderfully corrupt system, but at least everybody understood the rules.
Federal lobbyists frequently locate themselves along K Street in Washington, DC. This is Washington's "business district."
According to Nicholas Confessore of the Washington Monthly (all emphasis is mine),
The need to cultivate them [the Democrats] meant that K Street's immediate interests would never align with the GOP's even if, more often than not, their long-term interests did. As a result, there emerged a broadly bipartisan lobbying culture. To facilitate broad access, most trade associations hired lobbyists from both parties, who were expected to be pragmatic and nonideological. Although certain industries may have had traditional ties to one party, most corporate PACs distributed money roughly equally.
Most importantly, the lobbyist was paid to represent the client's interests. For however much we might rue such a system of pay-to-play, it did give outside interests a voice in government.
But that system has now been stood on its head. As Confessore puts it,
The corporate lobbyists who once ran the show, loyal only to the parochial interests of their employer, are being replaced by party activists who are loyal first and foremost to the GOP.
I won't go into the history of this seachange. (I recommend Confessore's article for this.) Instead I want to note some of its effects.
Many of you will be familiar with the recent cancellation by PBS of an episode of their children's cartoon "Postcards from Buster." It was done at the behest of Margaret Spellings, Bush's new Secretary of Education. Buster the rabbit visited children in two Lesbian households. He learned how to milk cows. It now appears that Buster will not be allowed to milk cows with children of Lesbians. How's that for an educational message?
But in these appalling times, little surprises me when it comes to overtly anti-gay activities by the government, but the reported mechanism did.
According to Eric Boehlert of Salon,
... one outside lobbyist for PBS, Karen Nussle, the wife of Rep. Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, told executives at the network that if they went ahead and aired the disputed "Buster" episode, she would not be able to help them politically. "She's a good representative to the Republican Congress, and if they lost her that would set the relationship back and PBS would be left exposed on the Hill," says the source, who adds that PBS's main lobbyist, John Lawson, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, also warned the network against fighting the administration. "He told them, 'This threatens our relationship by making Margaret [Spellings] have to deal with this," says the source. Lawson, who is Spellings' brother-in-law and who attended her swearing-in ceremony this week, declined to comment for this article. Nussle did not return calls seeking comment.
What we have here is a group of lobbyists not representing the interests of their employer PBS, but who instead direct PBS as to what it should do in order not to offend the government.
This is pretty serious, folks.
Returning to Confessore, he writes—
Such is the GOP's influence that it has been able to marshal on behalf of party objectives not just corporate lobbyists, but the corporations themselves. During the Iraq war, for instance, the media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications Inc. had its stations sponsor pro-war rallies nationwide and even banned the Dixie Chicks, who had criticized White House policy, from its national play list. Likewise, last spring Norquist and the White House convinced a number of corporations and financial services firms to lobby customers to support Bush's dividends tax cut. Firms like General Motors and Verizon included flyers touting the plan with dividends checks mailed to stockholders; Morgan Stanley included a letter from its CEO with the annual report it mailed to millions of customers.
All this was reinforced when I came upon an article by Alexander Bolton in The Hill. Lobbyists, it seems, are being used by the Republicans to put pressure on businesses to support their campaign against Social Security.
“The dirty little secret on K Street is that these Republican lobbyists representing big corporations are doing everything to get Wall Street and Fortune 500 companies involved in underwriting the campaign on Social Security,” said one Democratic lobbyist who has regularly attended meetings with Democratic leadership staff. “They’re further out ahead than the companies they represent.”
Derrick Max, the executive director of the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, a coalition of business groups devoted to pushing Bush’s plan inside the Beltway, acknowledged that Republican lobbyists are trying to convince business to support Social Security reform.
The Democrats are now said to be meeting with Democratic lobbyists—
... Reid and Pelosi are also waging a quieter battle to influence Wall Street and the executives of Fortune 500 companies. Pelosi’s staff meets weekly with key Democratic K Street lobbyists and has talked about Social Security, a Democratic aide said. Since taking over as Senate minority leader, Reid has organized biweekly meetings with Democratic lobbyists known as the Monday Group. Senate Democratic staff gave the group a presentation on Social Security and the budget Tuesday.
The change in the role of "lobbyist" is not just that many of them now represent the government's interests rather than those of their own clients. It appears that, at least when it comes to the Democrats, they no longer have to seek out the legislators; the legislators are lobbying them.
Blogger giving me fits
As a result of new code pushed last week, a couple of bugs have been introduced which affect a small number of users.I have the queasy feeling that I'm among that "small number of users." It can take up to an hour for anything to get posted, and I have to save anything I write to a local file to guarantee it won't be lost.
We are working on fixes for both problems now.
- some will get an error page when clicking on the name of their blog from the Dashboard
- those with long usernames will be unable to log in
Very frustrating. Please bear with me.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Quote of the Day
—Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to the House Armed Services Committee
Letter from Joystick re Guckert/Gannon-McClellan
As a fellow Conservative, I feel I must point out that Mr. Guckert/Gannon has apparently hinted in interviews that he is NOT, in fact, homoSEXual. I think you do him a grave injustice in claiming that he is homoSEXual.
Please remember that a very great number of us straight heterosexual Conservative men have, on occasion, found it necessary or useful to offer personal services to paying gentlemen. This is always — for us traditional Conservative Republican men — a BUSINESS proposition; it has nothing at all to do with morality, or for that matter, emotion. As you well know, the highest moral values are one with business values. This is what makes us Republicans!
Now as to Mr. McClellan: Please don't smear him with the same lavender brush. We Conservatives have had to survive by helping each other out whenever a fellow Conservative needs a helping hand. Clearly Mr. Guckert/Gannon's business (first, the personal-service web sites; later, his new news-correspondent job) required assistance, and Mr. McClellan has the good fortune to be in a position to assist. The reported visits to Texas gay bars are easily explained: he was simply researching one of the potential markets of Mr. Guckert/Gannon's web-site business. Besides - Mr. McClellan is MARRIED, for heaven's sake!
It is true that we straight heterosexual Conservative men who offer personal services to paying gentlemen frequently are called upon to provide these services to married men. Again, it is a business after all, and discrimination would be bad business. Servicing these depraved unfortunates is a purely business transaction; and the fact that these customers are so clearly depraved is proof in itself that Mr. McClellan (a fine and upstanding REAL man - the opposite of depraved!) could not have been relying on Mr. Guckert/Gannon's services personally.
But even if he HAD called upon Mr. Guckert/Gannon in that business capacity, this should not reflect unpleasantly on Mr. McClellan. Such a lapse is not uncommon, even among sincere born-again believers. The important thing is that in such a case we Christians FORGIVE transgressions in another Christian. We are compassionate! Were he an unbeliever, a sinner unwilling to seek forgiveness, or someone so beyond redemption (such as a committed homoSEXual --- or a liberal) — well, such people are beyond our forgiveness and must rely on God's own punishments.
I hope you will reflect on your casual assumptions about these fine gentlemen. Perhaps you will find guidance in the reported recommendations of some perspicacious Democrats, who are pushing their colleagues to avoid the so-called "gay angle" and who would encourage dropping the frenzied conversation about this irrelevant teapot tempest.
I know you, as a fellow Conservative, will agree.
Another press outing? (updated) (2/16/05)
But in the end it may not matter.
A close aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite Muslims, said the alliance's leaders will visit the grand ayatollah's office in Najaf to get his blessing for their choice for prime minister. In the event they can't agree, al-Sistani will make the final decision, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Another press outing? (updated)
I just hate scandal, don't you? That's why I was particularly horrified when 365gay.com asked "Is Bush Press Aide Gay?" I thought to myself, "Dear Virgin Mother, I don't know how much more we Conservatives can take. Please let whoever it is be a lapsed Democrat."
But the Big Momma let this one go unanswered. They were referring to none other than dyed-in-the-wool Republican and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. Raw Story is apparently the source of this vicious rumor.
RawStory, which has outed other anti-gay Republicans, said its source "reserved comment on whether McClellan was actually gay, but said he was frequently seen at gay clubs." It says that another source confirmed McClellan was a regular at gay clubs.
McClellan is an Austin native.
“He was often seen in gay clubs in Austin, Texas and was comfortable being there,” the source told RawStory. “He’s been seen in places that normal people who are looking for heterosexual relationships are not seen alone.”
The source reportedly told Raw Story that McClellan was easy to spot and was well known in Austin. His mother had been mayor and is expected to run for Texas Governor. She is currently state controller.
There's a much less sinister explanation for all of this—he was campaigning for his mother. And I just hope there are some pictures to prove it.
But then. Oh, woe!
RawStory also says there is a link between McClellan and the man who posed as a journalist and had been accredited by the White House. It reports that it has found the man claiming to be Jeff Gannon had sent McClellan a wedding card when the Bush aide married.
Now I wouldn't make too much of that. Jeff Gannon probably sent a thank-you note to George Bush, for that matter. Oh... Nevermind.
McClellan was featured in an interview by Joe Strup at E&P on Monday.
Asked if he had discussed the Guckert/Gannon episode with President Bush, McClellan said, "We've only talked about it briefly," but declined to be more specific. "He's got a lot of other priorities," McClellan added.
Point #1: This matter is big enough to break through the Bush thicket.
McClellan also said he was unaware of Talon News' ties to the Texas Republican Party until recently, when scrutiny of Guckert, also known as Jeff Gannon, increased after he asked President Bush a question at a press conference last month.
Point #2: McClellan acknowledges Talon News' ties to the Texas Republican Party.
"I first came across him two years ago when I was deputy press secretary and he started covering the White House," McClellan said about Guckert during a phone interview with E&P. "I knew he asked questions from a conservative viewpoint, but that was all."
Point #3: Note the meaning of the first sentence. McClellan does not say "I first came across him ... as deputy press secretary ..." No, we only know the "when" of their meeting from this statement. If he had phrased it as I suggested, we would know for certain that their meeting was in an official capacity. Now, unfortunately, we are left to wonder.
McClellan added that he had known "relatively little" about Talon News, Guckert's former employer, which is linked to GOPUSA.com, a Republican Web site with ties to Texas Republican groups. "I knew it was a conservative Web site that reported news," he said.
Point #4: Your "relatively little" is my Aunt Fanny. McClellan is acknowledging some knowledge of Talon News. The full extent would probably only be known in court, if then.
Asked if “anyone there” was aware of Guckert before he started showing up for briefings, McClellan said: “No.”
Point #5: I don't know how Strupp phrased the question, but if he used the name "Guckert," McClellan's response may very well be honest.
Oh, I forgot to mention—
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan didn't know he [Jeff Gannon] was using an alias until the past few weeks.
Point #6: So what's so strange if McClellan knew him only as Jeff Gannon. After all, that is the way he advertised himself.
Ah, you say, Politicians don't parse questions as finely as you're doing here. And I say, Check with Bill Clinton and get back to me on that.
Of course, I am suggesting nothing here. But I know how those Lefties think, and I really think we ought to be prepared.
11:30 pm (thanks to Buzzflash for the links)
This show is moving along just as I feared. What are we to make of this Nashua Advocate editorial— A Plausible Scenario: Gay Prostitute Guckert Used Ties To/Dirt On White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan to Gain Unprecedented White House Access. The Left will stop at nothing, I tell you.
And now comes the disclosure that Jeff Gannon had gained admittance to the White House Briefing Room before Talon News ever existed. Woe is me!
It depends on what the meaning of the word "law" is ...
The Republican party's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy (updated) (8/31/04)
Another Gay Storm Trooper: Finally a wedge issue (11/16/04)
The educational value of the Guckert/Gannon affair (2/16/05)
Letter from Joystick re Guckert/Gannon-McClellan
The educational value of the Guckert/Gannon affair
NPR and the NewsHour took little nibbles at the story in the past few days, avoiding any mention of the call-boy connections. But that part of the story is beginning to emerge.
McClellan [White House press secretary] was vague about how long he has known about JG's pseudonym and connections. But he strenuously denied that JG was a plant and insisted that at the time of the press conference Bush didn't know who JG was. For many reporters, accustomed to this administration's rigid choreographing of the news, the denials didn't pass the duck test.
But what really got the bloggers' attention was JG's ownership of three Web sites: hotmilitarystud.com, militaryescorts.com, and militaryescortsm4m.com - particularly in light of his contributions to Talon News' frequent anti-gay articles. During the presidential campaign, JG once called John Kerry "a coddler of gays."
JG admitted to registering the sites for clients but said they were never launched. He has yet to respond to another blogger discovery: an AOL screen profile for a "JDG," since removed, containing a provocative photo of a shirtless man with dog tags draped around his neck. The man bears a strong resemblance to Gannon/Guckert.
No one, including John Aravosis who is one of the leaders of the investigation, wants to say that the man spread-eagled [caution: do not click on this link if your boss is standing over your shoulder] in the photo is Guckert. But I love Yewell's description of the picture as "provocative." Guckert (or his clone) is nude, which is objective. Whether the photo is provocative depends upon one's taste.
This reminds me in an odd way of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair. In the year 1998 B.M. (Before Monica), most of us didn't know what fellatio meant. I myself thought it was a technique used in Italian Renaissance painting.
Then before you could say "blow job" the nightly news organizations were painting word pictures that even the kiddies could understand. It was the biggest sex education event since the 1948 publication of Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Elementary school teachers were being asked to explain terms such as "fellatio," "extramarital" and "cum-stained." Republicans, who until then had zealously shielded the innocent ears of children from such language, felt this was just too big a story to be smothered in propriety. And the media obliged with the details.
Will the Guckert/Gannon affair be as educational? I can hear the kiddies now: Mommy, what is a prostitute? What's an escort service? What do they mean by 'military escort'? Do prostitutes live in the White House? Is a prostitute the same as a call-boy? If I become a reporter, does that mean I will be a prostitute? Can women be reporters too? Can I be a call-girl when I grow up?
If this story "gets legs," I will not be a bit surprised if in a year's time children have dropped the game of "Doctor" and replaced it with "Reporter." It's "funner" and you don't need credentials.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
A web conspiracy in the MSM
Last week Washington Post reporter Mathew Mosk exposed Joseph Steffen, Jr., an aide to Maryland's Republican governor, as the source of rumors of infidelity by Baltimore's Democratic mayor O'Malley. Steffen had broadcast the rumors on the Free Republic (FReeper) site using the acronym NCPAC (National Conservative Political Action Committee) for his identity. The governor subsequently asked for and received Steffen's resignation.
Now comes David Nitkin of the Baltimore Sun inquiring into the identity of MD4BUSH. Nitkin is reporting on a Freeper conspiracy theory that poor Joseph Steffen (NCPAC) was lured into making his scurrilous allegations by a relative newcomer to the Freeper site—MD4BUSH, whom the Freepers suspect to be a Democratic operative.
Nitkin helpfully explains to his readers that "MSM" stands for "mainstream media" and says that Freepers "don't like us [MSM reporters] 'lurking' on their site, thank you very much."
This is the most detailed account of a web controversy that I have seen to date in the MSM. Perhaps the Freeper aversion to MSM reporters lurking on their site is serving as an attractant. Forbidden fruit, you know.
Notice to reporters concerning "Simply Appalling"—
Baltimore Sun reporters lose access to state government
The ban was imposed after Nitkin had written articles about the state's plan to sell 836 acres of preserved forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, in a transaction that could have netted him millions in tax breaks.
The Sun sued for access in federal court, arguing that "the ban violated the First Amendment rights of the two journalists by denying them the same opportunities to seek information as other news organizations and citizens." But the judge dismissed the suit.
The Sun expects to appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Opinion as to the prospects for the appeal are mixed, according to the Sun's own reporting.
I especially enjoyed the reaction of the governor's attorney—
Earlier yesterday, when Ehrlich's private counsel, David Hamilton, was asked on WBAL Radio what Nitkin and Olesker could do to end the ban, he said only, "Relocate."
As chilling to a free press as this may seem, there may be a silver lining. Reporters for too long have depended upon quotes from government officials to present the news rather than dig into the actual record. If they will do their homework and report their findings, I believe in many cases government officials will of a sudden be eager to talk.
Monday, February 14, 2005
Do you suffer from ADD or do I just make you nervous?
From the NY Times, as quoted by Xymphora—
A day after Canadian officials suspended the use of a hyperactivity drug amid reports of deaths associated with its use, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa contended that United States health officials had asked the Canadian regulators not to do so.Don't miss this one!
Senator Grassley, a Republican, said on Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration had made the request of Canadian health officials because the F.D.A. could not handle another "drug safety crisis." Mr. Grassley said he was basing his contentions on reports from whistle-blowers within the agency.
A ceiling as well as a floor (7/25/04)
George Bush: Cheerleader-in-Chief of Social Security "reform"
Sidney Blumenthal is the Washington bureau chief for Salon.com and a frequent contributor to the Guardian, where he is identified as "former senior adviser to President Clinton and author of The Clinton Wars." If you skim through his recent articles, you will see that he is something of a "Bushologist"—one who combs the speeches and acts of the President for meaning—a sisyphean effort and a thankless job indeed.
Blumenthal's latest piece "Domestic gibberish" bears this subhead: "Bush's incoherence on home affairs reminds us that pre-9/11 he was the most unpopular president."
As Blumenthal searches to discover the point of it all, he posits "a break with Bush's threat-based approach" in Rice's journey abroad—
Rice's pronouncement is nothing less than a break with Bush's threat-based approach. Without ambiguity or nuance, she said US foreign policy must now be rooted, not in the war on terrorism, but in "opportunities".
While Rice was on her grand tour, Bush rushed from his state of the union address to rallies in the west and south to stump for social security privatisation. Despite research by the social security actuary and the congressional budget office to the contrary, he insists the system is collapsing. As he jetted across the US, Republican congressmen and senators either announced their opposition or reserved judgment.
At his rallies, the crowds cheered his words against terrorism as though it were a nostalgic re-enactment of his campaign, and then fell into befuddled silence.
While I reserve judgement on whether Rice is really putting a fresh foot forward in foreign policy, I have no qualms in believing that Bush managed to reduce cheering crowds to "befuddled silence." When Bush has a slogan or a catch-phrase to belt out, he's at the top of his game. But if you leave him alone with an idea to articulate, someone will almost certainly have to go in to cut him loose from the gossamer strands of thought.
Bushology, properly understood, is probably a useful tool for journalists and spies. But only in the sense that studying the words and acts of George Bush may give some insight into what the real heads of government are thinking.
For that reason I am a bit disappointed with Blumenthal's concluding comments that begin—
Bush's gibberish on social security is not the symptom of a man without qualities. Bush can be articulate, a master of his talking points and highly focused. His inability so far to sell his latest case of fear, however, may presage growing political incoherence.
First, I simply don't understand how a journalist can write a sentence such as "Bush can be articulate, a master of his talking points and highly focused." Bush can be articulate when he's prompted through an earpiece on what to say next, though even then he has trouble staying focussed on the earpiece.
Second, political incoherence is a feature of George Bush, the man, but it is certainly not a feature of the Rove administration. It is simply unthinkable (to this observer) that the push for Social Security "reform" is substantive. Blumenthal himself writes—
.... [T]he White House has admitted it has no timetable for proposing a plan. The urgent centrepiece of Bush's second term is indefinitely on hold.
I have an alternate theory: "Social security reform" is a program that has been cobbled together to manage George Bush.
Think what it must be like in the realms of power. You have a figurehead President who is as clueless as they come. He's probably too dumb to be executed. But that doesn't mean that he isn't arrogant, demanding, poutish and surly. How do you run a government to your own purposes while getting around George at the same time?
From time to time he probably asserts his Presidential prerogative by demanding to know "what's going on," though this doesn't happen often, as George is notoriously incurious.
Then there's the problem of what to do with him in public. You never know what he may say other than that it will be remarkably dumb and incoherent, and just about anything he says that isn't scripted invites a minicrisis at the White House.
So you must somehow convince him that he's "in charge" on the one hand, and make sure he's not in charge on the other.
Here's what you do: You create a project and sell it to George. You call it the "centerpiece" of his domestic program, paint pictures of his "lasting legacy," and send him out on the road with a script to be read only before admiring, preselected crowds. George is about as good at this as his capacities allow. He was a cheerleader once; now he's leading cheers for himself.
And here are the benefits: (1) Get George out of your hair while you attempt to manage the incredible international boondoggle you've created. (2) Give him something to talk about in public that fits easily into a script and that doesn't touch upon international relations. (3) Distract the media and the public from the aforesaid international disasters. (4) Pretend you have a domestic policy other than tax cuts. And finally, (5) you really would like to destroy Social Security but though you don't believe there's a chance in hell of succeeding, there's really no harm in seeing where it goes.
A friend of mine once remarked of some talentless drag queens that they were nothing but a sewing circle gone amuck. I would offer a similar thought in Bush's case: Forget the search for meaning, Sidney. Bush is best understood as a cheerleader gone amuck.
The local press turns feisty (7/20/04)
Bush's vacation -- thrills and spills (7/27/04)
Words of wisdom and comfort from the Bushes (8/17/04)
Friday night release of more Bush Guard documents (9/17/04)
The veep debate: Where was George? (10/6/04)
Suddenly there was an explosion—Our brave, macho President (10/30/04)
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Quote of the Day
—Paul Craig Roberts, former Asst. Secretary of the Treasury writing in Counterpunch