Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Chris Matthews — RIP

Not really. But!

“His main motivation has always been ensuring that Chris Matthews is on television and taken seriously. He represents, perhaps, in some small way, the intersection of the elite media and the progressive media — his debate freak-out combined the Beltway obsession with the ephemeral and stylistic with a sort of progressive tendency to be operatically disappointed in the president — but that makes him even more of a sui generis figure,” Alex Pareene wrote in 2013 about Chris Matthews, whose departure got Steve Kornacki to choke up on air minutes ago.

Who will we miss when the nights get long? This Chris Matthews, interviewing Democratic National Committee chair and former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean in September 2007?:

MATTHEWS: Why do Democrats keep running these weird presidential candidates, who always seem — ever since Jack Kennedy and maybe, well, Bill Clinton, they always lose the personality question. They always seem geekier, nerdier than the Republican guy. Why is that the case?

DEAN: How do you really feel about that, Chris?

MATTHEWS: Well, it’s true. It’s an objective assessment. Look at Dukakis in the tank. That’s an objective reality. I mean, Mondale.

DEAN: Let me tell you — let me tell you what we have to do.

MATTHEWS: Jesus, a good guy, but unacceptable on television.

The Republicans, they get the charm school. They got Reagan. They have got this guy George W. Bush. You know, they seem to run charming people.

DEAN: What Democrats have to do is talk about their vales. People vote on values. They don’t vote on position papers.

MATTHEWS: No, they vote on personalities.

Speaking of personalities, here’s Chris Matthews on George W. Bush, the man he admitted he voted for:

“There are some things you can’t fake,” he explained breathlessly. “Either you can throw a strike from sixty feet or you can’t. Either you can rise to the occasion on the mound at Yankee Stadium with 56,000 people watching or you can’t. On Tuesday night, George W. Bush hit the strike zone in the House that Ruth Built…. This is about knowing what to do at the moment you have to do it–and then doing it. It’s about that ‘grace under pressure’ that Hemingway gave as his very definition of courage.”

There is a truism in American public life: the higher the number of sports analogies, the greater the fraudulence of the person making them. See: Mike Barnicle. Another truism: when a Beltway satrap cites a good American novelist, the chances are high that he has not read him — always a “him,” for in Chris Matthews’ life the “hers” stood for objects he shouted over or, feeling as generous as a Turkish pasha, hit on female journalists.

As damaging to the state of our political discourse is the groundless notion advanced by Matthews, former chief of staff to Tip O’Neill, that there is no compromise Democrats and Republicans couldn’t cut for the sake of eviscerating the middle class and the poor in which party leaders couldn’t find, to use a phrase he mumbled like Bernadette did the Hail Mary over rosary beads, common ground. In Matthews we see the propagation of the Tip ‘n’ Ronnie myth which gripped DC like malaria during the Obama years — if only Barack ‘n’ Mitch could’ve had a drink and settled problems (It provoked one of Obama’s more waspish rejoinders). He was a terrible writer, or, worse, couldn’t find decent amanuenses. On air he bullied guests. He made unlettered and ahistoric claims that set back the party he claimed to love on its heels. He will land a commentator role on FOX News by next month and earn many more millions; that’s how amoral I think he is.

‘The Report’ builds more myths in its quest for truth

An audience exists for The Report: people who believe men and women of steel hearts and constitutional sonorities ringing in their heads can transcend party loyalties for the sake of preserving our republic. Scott Z. Burns, a screenwriter for co-producer Steven Soderbergh, brings moral zeal to his fictional film about Senate staffer Daniel Jones’ years-long investigation into the CIA’s torture program created after the 9-11 attacks, an investigation that produced the eponymous report released five years ago in the waning days of Democratic Senate control. Taking a just-the-facts approach brings back the tumult of memories that the Obama and Trump administrations have not erased. Burns is clear about blame: the Bush White House for a program that never extracted useful (“actionable” to use Company jargon) intelligence from detainees it couldn’t have procured using conventional means; the Obama White House for the sake of bipartisan comity and, two years into the president’s first term, basking in the triumph of assassinating America’s Public Enemy #1. In a sense Burns’ approach is a kind of BothSidesism. But his failure to lay the blame at the feet of craven senators atrophies his film. Continue reading

John Bolton, welcome back

In 2016, Donald Trump raised eyebrows for calling the Iraq War a mistake, causing Jeb! Bush to blubber. The replacement for H.R. McMaster supported the war well into 2011. This 2003 article reads like a bill of indictment:

In recent months, Bolton has convinced 10 other nations — including France and Germany, which opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq — to join the Proliferation Security Initiative, an ad hoc coalition of countries banded together to block shipments of materials for weapons of mass destruction. The initiative could include such provocative moves as stopping and searching North Korean ships suspected of carrying weapons.

Bolton has also negotiated agreements with 70 countries to exempt Americans from prosecution by a new International Criminal Court, set up to try those who commit war crimes and other crimes against humanity who might otherwise escape prosecution. The court is the sort of organization Bolton viscerally opposes — a supranational body that some fear could complicate the unilateral use of American military power. However, court supporters say it is virtually impossible that Americans would be prosecuted.

Rereading that article is a depressing reminder how the Beltway defines “intellect” as synonymous with “using pickax on opponents.” Remember David Addington? Brilliant. Intellectual.

Remind me how Donald Trump will govern differently than a Bush, Rubio, or Cruz.

‘But above all, try something’

At the height of the budget impasse of 2011 I wondered why the hell Barack Obama sought the imprimatur of bipartisanship for policy decisions for which the Democrats would become unloved if not loathed during midterm and presidential elections. In boardrooms, classrooms, playgrounds, department stores, we appreciate conviction, however rudderless and bat shit. Dahlia Lithwick and David Cohen say enough already. Toying with the realization that had Donald Trump lost the Electoral College but lost the popular vote as Hillary his vassals would have sicced Roger Stone, the mummy of James Baker, and several generations of Federalist Society lawyers at the Supreme Court, Lithwick and Cohen bemoan the Democrats’ penchant for playing nice:

Moreover, they didn’t cop to the possibility that their theories might lose or look foolish in retrospect. Take the theory that ultimately succeeded in the Supreme Court. There was no precedent for the idea that the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause required a uniform recount within a state. However, the Republicans pressed that theory and convinced a majority, even though the justices acknowledged that the argument was both unprecedented and not to be used again. It was a win for pure audacity.

Fast forward to 2016, and the Democrats are doing nothing of the sort. Instead, they are leaving the fight to academics and local organizers who seem more horrified by a Trump presidency than Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. The Republicans in 2000 threw everything they could muster against the wall to see if it stuck, with no concern about potential blowback; the Democrats in 2016 are apparently too worried about being called sore losers. Instead of weathering the criticism that comes with fighting an uphill, yet historically important battle, the party is still trying to magic up a plan.

In other words, please present a bat shit theory. It may be laughed out of the court. Perhaps not out of federal courts in which Obama and Bill Clinton judges are majorities. “It is common sense to take a method and try it,” said the greatest Democratic president of the twentieth century. “If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” Don’t even admit it frankly. Try.

Political schadenfreude #1343

Sitting at his laptop after a meal of lamb ragout with pureed eggplant and béchamel sauce, Michael Gerson weeps for the damage wrought by Donald Trump on a noble party:

Clinton has manifestly poor political skills, and Trump possesses a serious talent for the low blow. But Trump’s nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP’s ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be.

Whatever your view of Republican politicians, the aspiration, the self-conception, of the party was set by Abraham Lincoln: human dignity, honored by human freedom and undergirded by certain moral commitments, including compassion and tolerance. Lincoln described the “promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”

Larison groans:

The lack of self-awareness in Gerson’s column is remarkable. Gerson worked for the Bush administration as a speechwriter, and was responsible for crafting some of the president’s more outlandish and ideological statements. George W. Bush launched an unnecessary and illegal war that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, the displacement of millions, and the ongoing destabilization of multiple countries to this day. He allowed the use of torture on detainees in violation of U.S. and international law. Bush did these unjust things while presenting himself as a pro-immigration “compassionate” conservative, and so Gerson had no problem with Bush or what he and his supporters were doing to the reputation of GOP and conservatism a decade ago. If there were still “humane values” in the GOP when he took office, Bush trampled on them daily, and Gerson was and remains one of his biggest supporters.

The eminence who dreamed of the Axis of Evil line laments a party that didn’t exist for him and his boss ten years ago. Suck it.

‘I can defend the invasion of Iraq’

Ryan Lizza’s essential story on the calamity of Jeb Bush’s foreign policy includes cameos by many members of the Legion of Doom: Bill Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Porter Goss, Stephen Hadley. Another nasty piece of work, Otto Reich, makes an appearance. Reich, I’m sorry to say, is a Cuban American whose most notorious sting was as the head of the excellently named Office of Public Diplomacy, charged with persuading the media to publish lies about the extent of Soviet involvement in Central America. Among the pearls: Soviets had MiGs in Nicaragua; that Nicaragua had chemical weapons; that American reporters, gay and straight, received sexual favors from Sandinista prostitutes.

Here is in 2015:

“I can defend the invasion of Iraq,” Reich told me. “What did the invasion of Iraq do? It caused all of the people who would’ve otherwise come and attacked us and killed Americans on our soil—it caused them to go to Iraq and die there. That may sound very brutal, or whatever, but we have seen what has happened when you have an Administration like the current one, that did not realize what Bush had done; sent the troops home from Iraq; created a vacuum that was filled by ISIS. And they’re killing Americans and everyone else—they’re mostly killing Muslims. I lay that at the feet of the Obama Administration.”

He added, “All Republicans say what I just did . . . but it’s not reported. Nobody listens. It goes against conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is that Bush was a failure in foreign policy, because of Iraq. Well, history is beginning to tell a different story.”

One truth bleeds out of this human pustule. I have no doubt that the GOP believes “Iraq,” whatever this term means in 2015, is a success, or was at least salvageable had it not been for the perfidy of Obama and the Democrats cutting a surge that the Maliki government had no intention of supporting.

Now Reich’s new client has fictions of his own to peddle:

He has called for a no-fly zone over Syria that would help a Sunni-led army fight a two-front war against Assad and ISIS, but it’s unclear who would make up the forces. He told reporters that American airpower in Syria is “restricted by lawyers kind of imposing all sorts of conditions.” He would change the rules, he said, so “that it would be there to fight to win.” He didn’t specify which rules he would lift, but, as Graham noted, almost every military expert dismisses the idea that airpower alone can defeat ISIS…

To fight ISIS in Iraq, Bush made the familiar argument that America should arm the Kurds and “embed with the Iraqi military,” both of which Obama is effectively doing. When asked whether he would send more troops, Bush said that the U.S. already has thirty-five hundred troops in Iraq and that the real issue was how to better integrate them into Iraqi forces. Pressed further, he conceded, in a roundabout way, that he would be willing to send more American troops back to Iraq.

There it is. Send troops back to Iraq. Bush is so stupid that he thinks that he can restore American prestige by returning troops to the battlefield responsible for the biggest moral calamity in American foreign affairs since Vietnam.