The Top Ten Bush Moments


As the year winds down, Liberal Values is looking back at some of the top moments of the year. Last week we featured The Top Ten Bushisms of 2007. In the same spirit we offer the video above of David Letterman’s list of the Top Ten George W. Bush Moments as presented at the 2007 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Krugman Attacks Obama For Past Success

Paul Krugman needs to learn to realize when he is wrong and drop the subject. Krugman has launched yet another weak attack on Barack Obama. I’ve already noted that in his attacks on Obama Krugman is wrong on principle, wrong on the realities of health care, and wrong on the politics of the issue. At his blog, Krugman reviews Obama’s actions in the state legislature and concludes:

My thoughts: being president isn’t at all like being a state legislator, Illinois Republicans aren’t like the national Republican party, 2009 won’t be 2003, and the insurance industry’s opposition to national health reform — which must, if it is to mean anything, strike deep at the industry’s fundamental business — will be much harsher than its opposition to a basically quite mild state-level reform effort.

The problem with Krugman’s thoughts is that Obama was successful in what he attempted in the state legislature, while Hillary Clinton was not successful in her attempts to bring about health care reform. Obama should be praised for his success, not criticized.

Yes, being president isn’t at all like being a state legislator, but why does Krugman assume that Obama does not realize this? Obama has never said that he will do things exactly as he did in the past. What matters is that Obama understood how to pass legislation, and there is no reason to doubt that he will use similar skills to propose legislation which can pass in Congress should he be elected president.

Robert Reich also wonders yet again why Krugman is persisting in making these arguments against Obama:

Will someone please explain to me why Paul Krugman has it in for Barack Obama? And why the Times oped page continues to devote its prime real estate to Krugman’s repeated attack? Here he is again today, for the third time in two months, excoriating Obama for compromising too much with insurance companies and drug companies in his health care plan, without mentioning that (1) HRC’s health care plan compromises at least as much, (2) all the leading Democratic plans are basically the same apart from mandates, which would apply to a tiny fraction of the currently uninsured, and (3) Obama’s may be marginally better than HRC’s if he’s correct in judging that the most of the currently uninsured couldn’t afford to pay HRC’s mandate anyway.

Ron Paul and the Freedom to Oppress

After pulling in another six million dollars you would think that Ron Paul could afford to do the right thing and return that $500 contribution from Stormfront founder Don Black. At very least you would think that, now that he might have a shot at the big time, he would at least realize that returning such a contribution is what any other candidate would do and what he must also do if he wants to be credible. Failure to do so also fuels the suspicions of racism and anti-Semitism on Paul’s part which has been noted in some of his writings. Providing more evidence to those of us who suspect that conspiracy-theorist Ron Paul might be just a little bit out of touch with reality, his campaign has stated yet again that they will not return the contribution.

This is not a matter of ideology. It is a matter of simple decency. Ed Morrissey and I have totally different views on the signature issues of Paul’s campaign such as Iraq but we are in complete agreement that Paul cannot be considered an acceptable candidate in light of his acceptance of this contribution. Morrissey writes:

Keeping the money makes it look like the campaign approves of the source, and that is a very, very bad message to send when one is bragging about the success of recent money-bomb events.

What kind of money will Ron Paul refuse? Drug money? Extortion rackets? Mob skim? Those are the questions people will want answered. Paul’s response does not give confidence in the judgment of his campaign, and by extension its candidate.

Paul and his supporters will defend this decision based upon freedom, but we must remember that when Paul’s supporters refer to freedom it means something entirely different from what most of us mean by freedom. Under Ron Paul, freedom means locking up doctors for performing abortions. Under Ron Paul, who also defends states’ rights, freedom means the right for states to reenact Jim Crow laws. Under Ron Paul, who denies our heritage of separation of separation of church and state, states and local areas would be free to institute theocracies or at least much of the agenda of the religious right. These matters are far more important to most people who are concerned about freedom than whether we go to the gold standard, abolish the Federal Reserve, or withdraw from the United Nations.

I don’t doubt that Ron Paul himself is a decent and tolerant man. A world made up of more people like Ron Paul would in many ways be a more free world as in such a world people at the state and local level would not use states’ rights to oppress. However the world is not made up of Ron Pauls. There are also a lot of Don Blacks, and looking at Paul’s views makes it clear why he would support Paul. Freedom must be vigorously defended. This includes respecting the decision of the founding fathers to create a secular state, and this sometimes necessitates that the federal government steps in to protect the rights of the minority from the majority.

Jonathan Alter Explains Why Krugman is Wrong

Writing in Newsweek, Jonathan Alter explains Why Krugman is Wrong and “Why Obama’s approach to health care isn’t naive.” I’ve previously discussed Krugman’s attacks on Obama here and here, and also note the response from Robert Stein which I quoted yesterday.

Alter notes that running for president as a populist is a losing proposition:

Krugman is a populist. He writes that if nominated, Obama would win, “but not as big as a candidate who ran on a more populist platform.” This is facile and ahistorical. How many 20th Century American presidents have been elected on a populist platform? That would be zero, Paul. You could even include Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000. Instead of exploiting the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, Gore ran on a “people vs. the powerful” message. It never ignited.

Krugman says that pundits like me who reject sharp anti-corporate rhetoric and prefer cooperation are “projecting their own desires onto the public.” We’ll see. But last time I checked, millions of Americans still work for corporations or aspire to do so and bashing them wholesale is a loser politically. It works sometimes in Democratic primaries with a heavy labor vote (though not for Dick Gephardt). But not in general elections. The last two Democrats elected president-Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Bill Clinton in 1992-also campaigned during recessions. Both were smart enough to reject populism in favor of a responsive but upbeat message.

Alter looks back at what worked for the Clintons, and why their attempts at health care reform did not:

Krugman is an economist and I trust his forecast that things are going to get even worse for working-class Americans in the months ahead. The middle-class squeeze is real. Predatory lenders and CEO greedheads should be called out. So should insurance and drug companies. But it needs to be done in a way that produces results, not just spleen-venting.

How? Just after Clinton was elected, he convened a meeting of economists, CEOs, labor leaders and many others in Little Rock. The purpose of the meeting was to argue out what should be done about the ailing economy, with many of the ideas expressed there later becoming part of Clinton’s successful 1993 economic recovery package. The whole thing was on television.

Sound familiar? This is essentially what Obama is proposing for health care after he’s elected. If Hillary Clinton had done this on health care in 1993—instead of convening a secret task force—she might have been able to build a stronger public case for reform.

Edwards and Krugman think that’s naïve. They want the evil drug and insurance industries excluded from any of these conversations. Edwards surely knows better than this. The drug industry that he seeks to bar from a seat at the table is the same industry working to save his wife Elizabeth’s life and that of anyone else with a serious disease, including me. The answer to price-gouging is to force these companies to negotiate drug prices with the government, a reform any Democratic president would quickly enact.

Ideally, health insurance companies should be eliminated altogether. But a single payer plan isn’t viable politically, as Edwards readily admits. The only option is to curb their power and expand coverage through more regulation.

Alter argues that Obama has the smarter approach to achieving change:

Obama’s idea is a better one: Get every special interest out in the open on television, where the new president can cross-examine them and expose their phony rationalizations for charging $100 a pill or denying coverage to sick people (and Edwards, the former trial attorney, would be especially good at this). Then, having triumphed over the drug and insurance companies in the court of public opinion, the legislative victories will follow. It is, indeed, a fantasy to think these interests will roll over entirely, but they will get a much worse deal.

The Edwards alternative-to simply overrun them-is unrealistic. Even a 1932-style mandate at the ballot box (highly unlikely) wouldn’t make them capitulate. Look what happened when New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, elected in 2006 with a huge mandate, tried to “steamroll” a bunch of hacks in Albany. He got his head handed to him.

To call Obama “anti-change,” as Paul Krugman does, is anti-common sense. Leadership requires a mixture of confrontation and compromise, with room for the losers to save face. “They have to feel the heat to see the light,” LBJ liked to say. That heat is best applied up close. In public. Across the big table.

Clinton Accused of Blocking Release of White House Papers

A reporter for The New York Sun charges that, despite promises to the contrary, many of Hillary Clinton’s papers are being withheld from the public on the request of the Clintons:

The National Archives is withholding from the public about 2,600 pages of records at President Clinton’s direction, despite a public assurance by one of his top aides last month that Mr. Clinton “has not blocked the release of a single document.”

The 2,600 pages, stored at Mr. Clinton’s library in Arkansas, were deemed to contain “confidential advice” and, therefore, “closed” under the Presidential Records Act, an Archives spokeswoman, Susan Cooper, told The New York Sun yesterday.

An official who oversees the presidential libraries operated by the federal government, Sharon Fawcett, said in a recent interview that the records were withheld in accordance with a letter Mr. Clinton wrote in 1994 exercising his right to hold back certain types of files and another letter in 2002 about narrowing the scope of his earlier instructions. Asked by National Journal whether Mr. Clinton had “total control” over the closure of records under the confidential-advice provisions of the law, Ms. Fawcett said he did.

At a Democratic presidential debate in October, Senator Clinton was questioned about language in the 2002 letter that discussed the possibility of withholding some records about the former first lady. Mr. Clinton later called the questions “breathtakingly misleading” and complained bitterly that his wife had been sandbagged.

“Bill Clinton has not blocked the release of a single document,” the former president’s official representative on records issues, Bruce Lindsey, said in a written statement last month aimed at defusing criticism in the press and by one of Mrs. Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Obama of Illinois. Spokesmen for Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and Mr. Clinton’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

There are two areas of concern here (beyond the question of whether Clinton lied about this matter). As Hillary Clinton is running largely based upon her unique experience in the White  House, we should have the opportunity to evaluate her role with regards to formulation of policy. The other concern is that we are now experiencing an administration which has been overly secretive and we must question whether we will tolerate the same from a Democratic administration.

Iowa Remains Unpredictable, With Polling Results Contradictory

The volatility of the Iowa caucus race can be seen in how little the polls agree with each other. While I noted yesterday that John Edwards had taken the lead in the Insider Advantage poll, today we have a new poll from the Washington Post-ABC News showing Edwards back in third place. As we saw in 2004, polls are poorly predictive of the outcome of the Iowa caucus and at this point it is possible that Obama, Clinton, or Edwards could wind up winning.

There are many problems in using polls to predict the Iowa caucus. There are many undecided voters, and even many of those who chose a candidate admit that they are likely to change their minds. Another factor is that it is difficult to predict who will turn out to participate in the Iowa caucus, which is far more difficult than just quickly showing up to vote. Edwards might have the edge here because more of his supporters have attended the caucus in the past, but other polls suggest a greater intensity and determination to attend among Obama’s supporters.

Until he fell behind in most polls it was assumed that Edwards would win in Iowa, and he very well still might do much better than is currently indicated in the polls. Edwards has many advantages having campaigned there in the previous election and having started so much earlier in this campaign cycle. He particularly benefits from having spent more time in rural areas as a candidate can pick up more delegates by winning more sparsely attended rural caucuses than even if his opponent wins by larger margins in the cities.

Being the second choice of many voters can move someone into the lead as supporters of candidates with the support of less than 15% attending must choose a different candidate. Some polls have showed that Edwards is the second choice of more supporters of the second tier candidates, but Obama has been eating into this lead. In 2004 Dennis Kucinich threw Edwards his support, helping him move into second, but Kucinich finally realized this year that Edwards is not worthy of such backing.

Independents tend to be more likely to support Obama, but they are less likely to vote in the caucus. This independent support might still help Obama as Iowa voters look towards the general election, especially as Edwards only does respectable in national polls because many voters in other states still see him as a moderate. People in Iowa, as well as The Des Moines Register which decided against repeating their endorsement, are more likely to realize that Edwards is quite different, and too divisive, this year.

Obama receives more support from students, but turn out by students is poor in the best of conditions. I wonder if it will be even worse this year due to the caucus falling while some students might not even be back after the holiday break. This might potentially have an impact on Ron Paul as well in the GOP race.

The 2004 caucus was notable for John Kerry moving from forth to first in the final days. While I would not totally exclude the possibility of a second tier candidate moving up, this looks far less likely this year. By early in 2004 there were stories about Kerry’s impressive ground game and some pundits were predicting he might sneak into second place. I had the opportunity to spend quite a bit of time talking with Teresa Heinz Kerry after a campaign stop in Michigan about a week before the Iowa caucus and she seemed quite optimistic about not only beating expectations but actually winning. I wonder if this was the expected optimism of a candidate’s spouse or if she had inside information which accurately predicted the outcome. Regardless, so far I don’t see anyone in the second tier showing signs of repeating Kerry’s surge, as much as I would like to see this happen.

With all the attention being placed on the Iowa caucus it is far from certain as to how much it will matter. If Obama or Clinton win big in Iowa they will be difficult to beat, but it is questionable if Edwards could use a win in Iowa as Kerry did to take the nomination. Kerry was already moving up in the New Hampshire polls even before the Iowa caucus, and Kerry’s views are far more in line with those of New Hampshire voters than Edwards’. As Edwards has devoted so much more time to Iowa anything less than a decisive victory would not be seen as very impressive. The Edwards campaign is also hampered by a poor organization beyond Iowa, in addition to a weak candidate, and even a bounce out of Iowa might not be enough to save his campaign.

New Book Further Exposes Republican Rigging of New Hampshire Election

McClatchy has a  story on an upcoming book on the Republican phone jamming scheme in New Hampshire. They report that Allen Raymond, the author of the book, told them in an interview that he believes the scandal reaches higher into the Republican Party:

Allen Raymond of Bethesda, Md., whose book Simon & Schuster will publish next month, also accused the Republican Party of trying to hang all the blame for a scandal on him as part of an “old-school cover-up.”

Raymond’s book, “How to Rig an Election: Confessions of a Republican Operative,” offers a raw, inside glimpse of the phone scandal as it unraveled and of a ruthless world in which political operatives seek to win at all costs…

Raymond said those who’ve tried to make him the fall guy for the New Hampshire scheme failed to recognize that e-mails, phone records and other evidence documented the complicity of a top state GOP official and the Republican National Committee’s northeast regional director.

Both men were later convicted of charges related to the phone harassment, along with Raymond and an Idaho phone bank operator. Defense lawyers have since won a retrial for James Tobin, the former regional director for both the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Analogies To John Edwards

Robert Stein has an excellent response to Paul Krugman’s recent attacks on Barack Obama and defense of John Edwards. Stein wrote:

Krugman’s alternative is John Edwards, who is portraying himself as “another F.D.R.–a polarizing figure, the object of much hatred from the right, who nonetheless succeeded in making big changes.”

If Edwards is the answer, what’s the question? He may not be as weird as Ron Paul, but his windmill-tilting is much less sincere. Paul’s country-doctor ethic comes from a lifetime of bedrock distrust of government power. Edwards is a negligence lawyer who milked the system for millions, spent one undistinguished term in the Senate and, only when he hit the campaign trail, started posing as the friend of the poor.

For those old enough to respond to Krugman’s F.D.R. analogy, try Huey Long.

While Edwards is in third place in the national polls, there are signs that having spent so much time in Iowa since 2004 might pay off for Edwards, with Edwards even taking the lead in a recent poll. A victory for Edwards in Iowa will not necessarily give him the same type of bounce as Kerry received in 2004. Edwards’ populist act will not play as well in New Hampshire as in Iowa and there’s plenty of hope that the voters there will see through this charlatan whose junk economics is exceeded only by the junk science he used, as Stein notes, to milk the system as a negligence lawyer.

I agree with Robert in his analogy between Edwards and Huey Long but this is not the analogy many Democratic voters will consider. At present Edwards is doing respectably in the national polls only because most voters don’t realize he has changed his act from moderate of 2004 to a candidate running far to the left of George McGovern of 1972. Voters who are not old enough to remember Huey Long might be aware of the consequences of McGovern’s nomination and will think twice about giving the Republicans yet another term in the White House.

Considering the other major Edwards news of the day, I should also note that Edwards should be rejected because of his positions, as well as his lack of qualifications for the post and lack of integrity. These are far better reasons than any unsubstantiated rumors of infidelity being spread by The National Enquirer. Of course if either these rumors are substantiated, or the claims that the Clintons are behind this story should be true, then there will really be a shake up in the race.