Limiting the Damage By PAUL KRUGMAN
President Bush isn’t on the ballot tomorrow. But this election is, nonetheless, all about him. The question is whether voters will pry his fingers loose from at least some of the levers of power, thereby limiting the damage he can inflict in his two remaining years in office.
There are still some people urging Mr. Bush to change course. For example, a scathing editorial published today by The Military Times, which calls on Mr. Bush to fire Donald Rumsfeld, declares that “this is not about the midterm elections.” But the editorial’s authors surely know better than that. Mr. Bush won’t fire Mr. Rumsfeld; he won’t change strategy in Iraq; he won’t change course at all, unless Congress forces him to.
At this point, nobody should have any illusions about Mr. Bush’s character. To put it bluntly, he’s an insecure bully who believes that owning up to a mistake, any mistake, would undermine his manhood — and who therefore lives in a dream world in which all of his policies are succeeding and all of his officials are doing a heckuva job. Just last week he declared himself “pleased with the progress we’re making” in Iraq.
In other words, he’s the sort of man who should never have been put in a position of authority, let alone been given the kind of unquestioned power, free from normal checks and balances, that he was granted after 9/11. But he was, alas, given that power, as well as a prolonged free ride from much of the news media.
The results have been predictably disastrous. The nightmare in Iraq is only part of the story. In time, the degradation of the federal government by rampant cronyism — almost every part of the executive branch I know anything about, from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been FEMAfied — may come to be seen as an equally serious blow to America’s future.
And it should be a matter of intense national shame that Mr. Bush has quietly abandoned his fine promises to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast.
The public, which rallied around Mr. Bush after 9/11 and was still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt two years ago, seems to have figured most of this out. It’s too late to vote Mr. Bush out of office, but most Americans seem prepared to punish Mr. Bush’s party for his personal failings. This is in spite of a vicious campaign in which Mr. Bush has gone further than any previous president — even Richard Nixon — in attacking the patriotism of anyone who criticizes him or his policies.
That said, it’s still possible that the Republicans will hold on to both houses of Congress. The feeding frenzy over John Kerry’s botched joke showed that many people in the news media are still willing to be played like a fiddle. And if you think the timing of the Saddam verdict was coincidental, I’ve got a terrorist plot against the Brooklyn Bridge to sell you.
Moreover, the potential for vote suppression and/or outright electoral fraud remains substantial. And it will be very hard for the Democrats to take the Senate for the very simple reason that only one-third of Senate seats are on this ballot.
What if the Democrats do win? That doesn’t guarantee a change in policy.
The Constitution says that Congress and the White House are co-equal branches of government, but Mr. Bush and his people aren’t big on constitutional niceties. Even with a docile Republican majority controlling Congress, Mr. Bush has been in the habit of declaring that he has the right to disobey the law he has just signed, whether it’s a law prohibiting torture or a law requiring that he hire qualified people to run FEMA.
Just imagine, then, what he’ll do if faced with demands for information from, say, Congressional Democrats investigating war profiteering, which seems to have been rampant. Actually, we don’t have to imagine: a White House strategist has already told Time magazine that the administration plans a “cataclysmic fight to the death” if Democrats in Congress try to exercise their right to issue subpoenas — which is one heck of a metaphor, given Mr. Bush’s history of getting American service members trapped in cataclysmic fights where the deaths are anything but metaphors.
But here’s the thing: no matter how hard the Bush administration may try to ignore the constitutional division of power, Mr. Bush’s ability to make deadly mistakes has rested in part on G.O.P. control of Congress. That’s why many Americans, myself included, will breathe a lot easier if one-party rule ends tomorrow.
If we can for a moment see America as a child and Bush and Company as abusers we might get a better idea of why the elections will not be the Democratic landslide they should be. As we’ve seen conservatives like authority and seem to enjoy to no end the abuse of that authority. America is hurting the same way a battered child is hurting. As healthcare workers and the police take the child away the abusers swear they love that child, just as Bush and Republicans abuse America while swearing that they love it. Rank and file conservatives are enablers of the abuse of the nation by Bush and a Republican Congress, but the average Republican voter has also suffers from the abuse. As studies of child abuse have shown the some of the abused begin to eventually fell that they deserve to be abused and some go on to be abusers themselves. When Bush uses signing statements to cheat on his oath or abuse the power of his office; he does not just cheat Democrats, he cheats and abuses the country. It simply doesn’t matter to many Americans that Bush lied us into an unnecessary war, or shifted most of the tax burden on the working class, and has made it harder for working class kids to get a college education, or that more children then ever do not have regular access to good health-care, or that this administration treats every single American like a terrorist suspect with its domestic surveillance program. Like children that have been abused, the Main Street conservative feels that an abusive authoritarian culture is what is best for America. Republicans, as typified by their war on science have drawn a line in the sand against reason, progress, and compassion, what they feel, what gives them some dark feverish emotional satisfaction is what fuels conservatism. It doesn’t matter that invading Iraq did absolutely nothing to stop another 9-11, people are being killed and those killings must mean something – conservatives cannot bring themselves to believe that a fellow American would have so little regard for their lives or their children’s all for the sake of power and a perverse ideology. Irony doesn’t quite describe the cheer leading behind spending almost 3 billion dollars a month in Iraq while at the same time begrudging the pennies that are spent feeding the poor and elderly shut-ins. While there is something to be said for those that think Democrats could learn to frame the issues better, no framing in the world can get through to a mind that is addicted to abuse and self abuse, whose strategies will continue to fail in the battle against terrorism and taking care of America and Americans. Krugman is right that we’re all better off with a divided Congress, some of the hemorrhaging of blood and treasure may slow down a little, but a Democratic victory on Tuesday will simply be the political equivalent of the boy that used his finger to stop a leak in a dam. A Democratic victory , and it will most probably be a small one, will just be a band-aid on problems that go much deeper and go beyond Bush.
GREELEY, Colo., Nov. 4 — During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and his aides sternly dismissed suggestions that the war was all about oil. “Nonsense,” Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared. “This is not about that,” said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
Now, more than 3 1/2 years later, someone else is asserting that the war is about oil — President Bush.
As he barnstorms across the country campaigning for Republican candidates in Tuesday’s elections, Bush has been citing oil as a reason to stay in Iraq. If the United States pulled its troops out prematurely and surrendered the country to insurgents, he warns audiences, it would effectively hand over Iraq’s considerable petroleum reserves to terrorists who would use it as a weapon against other countries.
Besides the fact that the Sunnis are not likely to had over control of Iraq’s oil to any outsiders this is a little absurd. Bush couldn’t be bothered before the war to learn the difference between Sunni and Shia and did no post war planning at all, why should the country believe that he has suddenly become an expert at predicting the future in Iraq. Since we are spending nearly 3 billion dollars a month in Iraq, if we pulled out Bush and his Congressional Katrina cronies could afford to subsidize the price of gas for a billion a month. These neocon-artists use speeches like a clown uses a peanut can filled with confetti. The words are all meaningless and they’re betting you don’t remember the last thing they said and all the things they should have accomplished.
Don’t be a chump. Don’t bet any more
money on that damn fool shot.
(to the bartender)
Well, now… I mean, you figure I’m
a little drunk, and I’m loaded on
the hip, and you just want in, real
friendly, while the money’s still
floating, huh? Okay… Go ahead. Set
Sheepishly, the bartender replaces the balls in their original
All right, you want some easy money,
huh? Here’s a hundred and five
dollars. That’s one week’s commission.
Now you want to take the whole thing,
and then you get a crack at your
I’ll take a piece of that action.
No. I want him.
I’ll take it out of the till.
I’ll meet you in the car, chump.
Eddie chalks up his cue, waiting impatiently for the bartender
to return with the money from the cash register. Then he
downs his drink and quickly strokes out his shot, the ball
banking crisply and directly into the corner pocket. There
is a cocky leer on his face as he reaches for the dollar
from the screenplay The Hustler by Sidney Carroll and Robert Rossen