Friday, January 16, 2009

"bush kept us safe"

I was driving around yesterday when Bush was giving his “farewell address.” Much to the annoyance of my wife, I found myself providing real-time rebuttal:

“So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity.” If you don’t count torture, secret prisons, warrantless surveillance and indefinite imprisonment without access to the judicial system.

“Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes.” Lower current taxes. But spending has skyrocketed and the federal debt has increased by over five trillion dollars on Bush’s watch. Just the interest alone on that five trillion dollars will cost today’s taxpayers – and our children and grandchildren – roughly $200 billion a year in perpetuity. A chimpanzee can cut taxes if all you have to do is add them to the national debt.

“America’s air, water, and lands are measurably cleaner.” Huh? Who’s doing the measuring?

“And the Federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.” Res ipsa loquitur.

“Facing the prospect of a financial collapse, we took decisive measures to safeguard our economy.” Might it not have been better to take “decisive measures” before we faced the prospect of financial collapse?

“Yet I have always acted with the best interests of our country in mind.” Oh, really? Turning the overwhelming national unity in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 into a narrow partisan wedge issue to win the 2002 and 2004 elections was noble selflessness?

“But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.” Dude, that’s your job. You don’t get credit for making decisions – only for making good decisions.

“The decades ahead will bring more hard choices for our country …” Yes, thanks to your bad decisions.

“We must always be willing to act … to advance the cause of peace.” By starting an unprovoked war on the basis of lies leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths?

(As Bush starting going on about freedom, justice, truth and good & evil, I couldn’t stand it any longer and had to switch over to the latest John Doe CD.)

But the line that really set me off was this one: “America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.” This has become the primary defense of the Bush presidency. In the seven years since 9-11 there has been no terrorist attack on US soil. But there was also no terrorist attack on US soil in the seven years before 9-11. So, what are we ignoring there? Oh, yes: 9-11. The worst terrorist attack on US soil ever. On Bush’s watch. After he ignored the frantic warnings of the intelligence services.

There was that memorable testimony before the 9-11 Commission that various CIA officials were running around DC with their “hair on fire” warning of the prospect of an imminent attack by Al Qaeda. In July 2001, CIA director George Tenet and counterterrorist chief Cofer Black met with Bush’s national security advisor, Condi Rice, to warn of the Al Qaeda threat and the increase in intelligence traffic on that subject, but left dejected. And, of course, there was the infamous August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief title, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” CIA analysts flew to Crawford, Texas to intrude upon the longest presidential vacation in history to deliver that message, to which Bush replied, "All right, you've covered your ass, now.” Bush didn’t even bother to pick up the phone and call his CIA director or national security advisor. He just continued blithely clearing brush and riding his bicycle..

In tort law there used to be a concept known as “one free bite.” It referred to the notion that a dog owner can’t be expected to know that his dog is likely to bite someone until the dog … actually bites someone. Thereafter, if he fails to properly restrain his dog, he is liable. But he gets “one free bite.” This concept has largely faded away in tort law. But it apparently persists in Bush’s concept of national defense (or “homeland security” as it is now known, thanks to Bush). A president is allowed one catastrophic terrorist attack on his watch – and he is off the hook as long as there isn’t another one before he leaves office. But that only applies to threats to the nation’s security that take exactly that form. So, for example, if he fails to “keep us safe” by incompetently managing the devastation of a US city by hurricane and flood – well, he gets “one free bite” on that one, too. Hey, he hasn’t lost a major US city in the three years since Katrina!

Bush “kept us safe” – if you don’t include 9-11, or Katrina, or the 4200 US soldiers who died in Iraq and tens of thousands of soldiers badly wounded in that war. And if you ignore the fact that Osama bin Laden is still alive over seven years after 9-11. And you disregard the
July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate and the report from the National Counterterrorism Center that same month, both of which concluded that Al Qaeda is stronger than at any time since 9-11 and has reconstituted in the tribal areas along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.

Bush has “kept us safe”. In fairness, I guess it’s true that most Americans didn’t get killed during his eight years in office. Ya gotta give him credit for that, I suppose. (We’re all just poorer.)

Arianna Huffington has a
good post on Bush’s farewell address (she even uses the same term I did: delusional):
Bush's Farewell Address: Still Delusional After All These Years

Thursday night's valedictory speech was quintessential Bush: delusional from beginning to end.

He made Afghanistan sound like a swell place to take a vacation when, in truth, only those with a death wish venture out these days without an armed convoy.

He lauded Iraq as "a friend of the United States" -- without ever mentioning the fact that if Iraq has a BFF it is Iran, not America.

He said his Medicare prescription drug plan "is brining peace of mind to seniors." Hardly. It's been widely derided as a poorly conceived, chaotic mess.

He claimed that, on his watch America's "air, water, and lands are measurably cleaner." Who is doing the measuring, the same eco-unfriendly companies to which he handed both his environmental policies and our public lands? This is a man whose administration refused to open emails from its own EPA because they contained information about greenhouse gas emissions that are endangering public health.

In a particularly jaw-dropping moment, Bush asserted that when people "live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror" -- a remarkable claim given the fact that Hamas, which has kinda been in the news lately, has leaders who "pursue campaigns of terror" and were willingly chosen by people given the freedom to elect who they wanted.

Another striking moment was watching the great pride the president took in saying that even though we might not have liked all of his decisions, we have to admit that he "was willing to make the tough decisions." The Crawford Cowboy to the end.

Yes, he made tough decisions... but what is the value in that if the decisions you make are consistently wrong? And Bush has made the wrong decisions again and again and again.

He was wrong about Iraq and Saddam and WMD. He was wrong to take his eye off the ball on Afghanistan. He was wrong about tax cuts being the answer to our economic woes. He was wrong about Wall Street being able to regulate itself. He was wrong about Katrina. He was wrong about torture. He was wrong about extraordinary rendition. He was wrong about warrantless wiretapping. He was wrong about Gitmo. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

The speech was spin at its most dangerous. It's easy to feel a pang of pity for a guy who was on top so long and is now heading out the door. But the more sympathy he evokes, the more susceptible we are to the lies he is telling. Before we know it, his revisionism becomes accepted as the truth.

So if there was any value in the speech it was this: it should remind us of the importance of refusing to allow this delusional revisionism to stand.

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