"A lousy president but ludicrously over-demonized…"

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That's Alexander Cockburn's assessment of George W. Bush in the midst of an anti-John Kerry diatribe:

So Bush, a lousy president but ludicrously over-demonized, is bracketed by a Democratic candidate, Al Gore, who was calling for immediate war on Saddam back in 1999, flanked by all the neo-Cons who subsequently flocked to Bush, and by Kerry who now says he holds exactly the same position, rationalized by the same neo-Cons.

If the war on Iraq bothers you, a vote for Kerry is a vote thrown away.

Whole thing here.
I don't agree with Cockburn on much (probably not even this), but I admire his willingness not to shuffle over into the pro-Kerry camp as many other left-wingers have done, despite their obvious contempt for virtually everything JFK2004 stands for.

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  1. Russia’s Lukoil and France’s Total weren’t brushed off at that donationless James Baker “donor conference” this year. They were brushed off during the run-up to the war and in the early months of the occupation:

    This, for instance.. and this too (scroll down to the end).

  2. So he’s saying that Bush should be demonized, but not overly so?

  3. SMK links to Pravda and the SFGate to show that America is playing hardball with our allies. I’m not assuming you’re a fellow traveler, SMK, but how is hardball a bad thing? Is it your argument that the contracts (and bribes) agreed to by Saddam should be honored by the Iraquis? It’s a litle unclear to me where you are coming down on this but given your “progressive” posts in the past I know a “any country but the US” position is the one you take. Last – is it REALLY “arguable” that Carter was one lousy president? Must….control…my…trigger…finger.

  4. gaius,

    So Kerry doesn’t actually say what he means, but just agrees with whatever act seems “inevitable”? Is this what anyone would want in a president?

    Funny how Kerry always comes out looking worse, the more his supporters try to extricate him from his webs of contradiction.

  5. “I’m pretty sure that Kerry said he would have gone to war in Iraq. No?”

    No. He said he would have voted for the use of force resolution. He would have stayed in the game, but would have played his cards differently.

    You know, rick laredo, for a moment there, I thought you had actually found a Democrat who asserted that Iraq had a WMD arsenal. Not “might have some weapons.” Not “could be a threat.” Not “at some point in the future,” but actual “has WMDs.”

    Then I remembered Bill Cohen is a Republican.

  6. From Kerry’s speech voting yes on the Iraq authorization:

    …”I would have preferred that the President agree to the approach drafted by Senators Biden and Lugar because that resolution would authorize the use of force for the explicit purpose of disarming Iraq and countering the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

    The Biden-Lugar resolution also acknowledges the importance of the President’s efforts at the United Nations. It would require the President, before exercising the authority granted in the resolution, to send a determination to Congress that the United States tried to seek a new Security Council resolution or that the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD is so great he must act absent a new resolution–a power, incidentally, that the President of the United States always has.

    I believe this approach would have provided greater clarity to the American people about the reason for going to war and the specific grant of authority. I think it would have been a better way to do this. But it does not change the bottom line of what we are voting for.

    The administration, unwisely, in my view, rejected the Biden-Lugar approach. But, perhaps as a nod to the sponsors, it did agree to a determination requirement on the status of its efforts at the United Nations. That is now embodied in the White House text.”

    Entire speech here if you’re interested in something more than sound bites: http://www.independentsforkerry.org/uploads/media/kerry-iraq.html

  7. Funny how Kerry always comes out looking worse, the more his supporters try to extricate him from his webs of contradiction.

    You’ll get no argument from me on that point: Even though I think Kerry is a lesser evil compared to W, every time I say that I feel a little queasy. And every time I take another look at Kerry I have second thoughts about the “lesser evil” label.

    The only reason I haven’t switched positions is that every time I take a look at W my “lesser evil” stance on Kerry is reaffirmed.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have a major party candidate whom we can actually like, instead of some guy who earns reluctant and faint praise as the “lesser evil”? Hell, right now I’m not even thrilled by the third party candidates, let alone the major party ones!

  8. Is this what anyone would want in a president?

    it’s funny to me, crimethink, that you seem to believe any politician is anything else.

    and please, don’t infer that i am a kerry man. i vote for him as manager knowing he is a probable disaster only because who i have now as manager is a certifiable disaster.

  9. webs of contradiction

    but i must address, crimethink, that this simply isn’t what he said is. it is perfectly understandable and follows very well — if you only accept that parliamentary government is not and cannot be about rigid conformity to ideology and zero tolerance.

    only dumbasses (which i’m sure you are not) cannot see that legislative politics is compromise, and that legislators of all stripes as a natural consequence of fulfilling their duties honorably will say and do multitudes of things that can be viewed as contrary to any subsequent reductivist viewpoint, especially when taken out of all context. this would be as true for bush as kerry — had bush any legislative record at all. that he doesn’t makes his “flip-flopping” propaganda the natural course to pursue, especially for the benefit of the legions of dumbasses who vote.

    that is, dumbasses — or people who Know who their Enemy is, Know what They Think better than They do, and Will Not Compromise until They are Dead.

    and it is people who think thusly that i want, more than anything, to keep out of power.

  10. joe,
    “Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal.” — John Edwards, Oct 10, 2002

    I’m pretty sure Edwards is a Democrat. /R

  11. literal-minded prig:

    I think Cockburn is saying that for Bush-hating liberals to demonize him at every opportunity while maintaining their undying support for Kerry makes no sense. He says there isn’t any real difference between the two (a sentiment I agree with), especially when it comes to the war. So when Cockburn says Bush is “over-demonized,” I think he means Bush is over-demonized by mainstream liberals who think Kerry is really that different than Bush.

    Cockburn may be a far-left “progressive”….but he writes some entertaining and often insightful articles. I love this sentence from the piece:

    “In other words, absolutely nothing separates Kerry from Bush’s positions on Iraq except he claims he would have lied more efficiently and somehow wheedled the UN and NATO into giving support.”

  12. again rick, in a human political world, it is not the same to back a resolution that is likely to pass and to come up with the resolution and manufacture supporting propaganda.

    is it really that hard for everyone here to see that ideological inconsistency is largely the basis of effective parliamentary government? that politicians — and decent people as well, for that matter — agree to things they would prefer not to for a multitude of different possible reasons?

    i’m so tired of the willful simpleton as a character in political debate. “he said this, and it doesn’t agree with this! LIAR!” lol — people are stupid.

  13. Gaius Marius, joe specifically asked for a quote from a Democrat

    “You know, rick laredo, for a moment there, I thought you had actually found a Democrat who asserted that Iraq had a WMD arsenal. Not “might have some weapons.” Not “could be a threat.” Not “at some point in the future,” but actual “has WMDs.” and I sent in the following Edwards statement, “We know that he has chemical and biological weapons.”

  14. gaius:

    You are exactly right here:

    “i’m so tired of the willful simpleton as a character in political debate. “he said this, and it doesn’t agree with this! LIAR!””

    I guess my problem with the BushHitler set is that they scream LIER! LIIEEESSS! everytime Bush opens his mouth, but claim nuance, or political expedience, or anything other than lies when their guy does the same.

    I don’t think either one of them is very trustworthy or ideologically consistent, and you really have to contort to make Kerry seem any better on that front.

  15. “You fucked up. You believed me.”
    –Bluto in Animal House

  16. Gaius Marius, Consul of Rome and Cesars uncle, if memory serves me corrctly. Can’t help but wonder if your namesake held the same attitude as you do toward his fellow citizens, “stupid” and politicans “liars”.

    But then again he was both a citizen and a politican

    I also wonder if he used capital letters. /R

  17. Fair enough, Rick. It is true that too many people took Bush at his word in the couple of years following September 11. And shame on them.

    None of which changes the main point here – the assertions the administration made about the alleged threat Iraq posed to us were not the accepted position of the Clinton administration, but represented a change in the degree of the treat, the immediacy of the threat, and the certainty of the threat.

  18. Can’t help but wonder if your namesake held the same attitude as you do toward his fellow citizens, “stupid” and politicans “liars”.

    yes he did, as a matter of fact — ambition has no friends. marius was, of course, famously populist (seven times elected consul, even against the law) and saw power in the gullibility of the masses.

    and the romans didn’t have lower-case letters, so i’m trying to make up for lost time.

  19. I don’t think either one of them is very trustworthy or ideologically consistent, and you really have to contort to make Kerry seem any better on that front.

    i kinda am a member of the bushitler set — but i would completely concur and even go so far as to say that i may soon be forced into the kerryhitler set. i may be firing marius to get sulla. i certainly don’t see a massive difference.

    but again, if you have a manager you know to be bad, you are derelict in your duty not to fire him if you have other options. as far as kerry goes, i can only say that he *might* be bad — and thereby am compelled to act.

  20. I’ve gotten to the point where I just don’t give a shit.

  21. If we end up firing Gaius Marius to get Cornelius Sulla, please (1) make sure we’re not on the proscription list and (2) allow me first dibs on Bush’s Crawford ranch. Gratias Agimus.

  22. Well, that’s one shuffle Cockburn just ain’t gonna make. I saw him on TV back in 2001 gloating that he’d helped Nader cost Gore some state or other. He was still saying that the Demos had it coming to them for being corporate whores.

    Of course, that was before Ashcroft went into full jackboot mode and we got the post-911 perpetual warfare state–so it struck me as a little funnier then than it does now.

  23. Bush’s overdemonization by the left is balanced by the multitude of conservatives groveling at his feet.

  24. I find more people who “support” Kerry claim the “anyone but Bush” reason for their support. It doesn’t really disprove the conservatives claim that all the Dems want is power, regardless of policy.

    Then again, conservatives who claim “rather Bush than Kerry” don’t have much room to speak.

  25. By temperament Cockburn has far more in common with the neocons at Bush’s side than he does with Kerry so his anti-Kerry (and Gore) hatred is not surprising. Cockburn agrees with Wolfowitz, Krauthammer and the rest that ideas matter, that one’s life should be dedicated to the pursuit of a consistent ideological direction no matter what the real world consequences might be. Cockburn & Friends are much like the far-right in sharing a lack of tolerance and deeply authoritarian views. Kerry is annoying from a libertarian perspective because he tends to reflexively support regulation and pervasive quotidian government interference in banal matters, but Bush or Cockburn types are far more dangerous in that both really believe they can remake the world in their image, and they’ll happily burn the world down trying to do so.

  26. Don’t know anything about Cockburn, but the quote about bad but overdemonized was spot on. You want to have some fun? Go over to the left side of the blogosphere and start reminding the commenters that Kerry would have gone to war, too.

    It is like the face of Medusa – the one thing they can’t look at.

  27. Say what you will about Kerry’s centrist position on Iraq, but neither a Gore nor Kerry administration would have actually pushed for or launched a full invasion of Iraq in response to a terrorist act committed by Pakistani-backed Saudi theocrats.

    It’s also hard to imagine either of them trashing relations with France, Germany and Russia along the way by declaring Iraq contracts held by firms in those countries null and void, especially when France for one has a lot of potentially useful Arabic speakers in its army. Nor is it easy to imagine either one responding to an economic downturn with willfully destructive fiscal policy. If Bush I and Carter were arguably lousy presidents, a different vocabulary is necessary to describe this one as it dilutes the meaning of “lousy” and sullies the reputations of the genuinely and merely lousy.

  28. s.m.:

    I’m pretty sure that Kerry said he would have gone to war in Iraq. No?

  29. Jason,

    I believe S.M. is pointing out that Kerry may have said that, but that means very little. Most likely he wouldn’t have gone to war despite what he verbalized.

  30. One thing that’s missed when taking Kerry to task for his statements that he “would have” supported the war if given the same advice and intelligence is that Kerry wouldn’t have been given the same wildly off-base advice and intelligence in the first place.

    He wouldn’t have surrounded himself with and packed the DoD, the State Department and the intel posts with neocons obsessed with invading Iraq, and therefore the action plan prepared in response to a terrorist act committed by Pakistani-backed Saudi theocrats would not have included an invasion of Iraq.

  31. s.m. koppelman:

    “Nor is it easy to imagine either one responding to an economic downturn with willfully destructive fiscal policy.”

    What?? Kerry is among the top five biggest spenders in the senate!

    http://www.ntu.org/misc_items/rating/VS_2003.pdf

    An analysis of his agenda reveals:

    If Sen. Kerry’s policy agenda were enacted in full, annual federal spending would rise by at least $226.125 billion during the first year of a Kerry Presidency alone, on top of the 29 percent spending run-up under George Bush’s term.
    :
    http://www.ntu.org/main/press_release.php?PressID=629&org_name=NTUF

  32. When Cockburn wrote “over-demonized”, perhaps he was referring to Moore’s movie and suggestions that Bush is the head of a semi-secret oil cabal.

    “…nothing separates Kerry from Bush’s positions on Iraq except he claims he would have lied more efficiently…”

    So Bush bombed, invaded and occupied Iraq, he killed almost twenty thousand Iraqi civilians, he cost us the lives of almost a thousand U.S. soldiers, and, according to Cockburn, he did it all under false pretenses.

    A list of facts does not a demonization make.

  33. “but neither a Gore nor Kerry administration would have actually pushed for or launched a full invasion of Iraq in response to a terrorist act committed by Pakistani-backed Saudi theocrats.”

    heh. that’s cute. idealism is so noble, especially in the young, and most especially when projected upon politicians.

    awwww!

  34. I think Cockburn’s inability to find a “dime’s worth” of difference between Bush and Kerry reflects the marginalization of Leftist ideas in contemporary political thought. Leftist like Cockburn now represent the reactionary segment of the polity ever seeking to return their glory days of 60′-70s. They are so removed from mainstream political thought that they truly can see no difference in the poles of the mainstream political debate.

    We forget how much things have changed. In the early 70’s faith in the government’s ability to micro-manage the economy was so widespread that a Republican president implemented wage and price controls. Most people today would view such controls as ludicrously counterproductive. The mainstream debate now is how to best guide or assist the free-market to produce the results we want. Direct intervention in the economy like we had in the 70’s is a dead issue.

    I think much of the rage directed at Bush is really externalize fear about the far-Left’s own increasing irrelevance. I think many have their personal egos so tied up their politics that political marginalization feels like a personal attack. They have not played a major role in anything that has happened in the last 15 years and they know it. They are ineffectual and ignored and this feels them with rage.

    They give off the same squirrelly vibe the far-right did back in 60’s.

  35. koppelman,

    “…by declaring Iraq contracts held by firms in those countries null and void”

    Are you suggesting that Bush did this? If so, you are inventing another piece of the puzzle (Jim Baker went to France, Germany, etc. and there were announcements that said countries were willing to forgive/reconsider the loans to Saddam).

    I also want to feel the love for Kerry – could you please let me know what you are smoking/drinking that does the trick?

  36. I don’t agree with all of the sentiments in this thread, nor do I agree with Cockburn on much, but on this I agree: Bush is a bad President, but hardly the demon he’s made out to be.

  37. … and Bush has not declared that the contracts are null and void. I remember reading that the US has said it is for the (future) Iraqi govt to decide.

  38. My take on Cockburn is he likes to be a contrarian. It gets more attention. See, his ears are burning, we’re talking about him.

  39. I’m pretty sure that Kerry said he would have gone to war in Iraq. No?

    for what it’s worth, jason, i think No. saying that he voted to support the resolution is not the same as saying he would have proposed the resolution (or ensured that it was proposed). too reductive. and — although it’s possible he would have — i sincerely think it’s unlikely.

    afghanistan, however, he certainly would have gone in for.

  40. wellfellow:I believe S.M. is pointing out that Kerry may have said that, but that means very little. Most likely he wouldn’t have gone to war despite what he verbalized.

    I would like to be an informed voter, wellfellow. Where can I get the secret decoder ring that tells me what Kerry really means when he says something else?

  41. I would like to be an informed voter, wellfellow. Where can I get the secret decoder ring that tells me what Kerry really means when he says something else?

    Just assume he’ll do the opposite. Usually works pretty well for politicians from all parts of the ideological spectrum.

  42. So if Kerry wouldn’t have gone to war against Iraq, would he have continued Clinton’s policy of random bombings and starving the civilians?

    I ask in all seriousness. Before Bush, our policy for Iraq was pretty hideous. Whenever I hear about how bad Bush’s war against Iraq was, I want to scream out, “Well, what was the alternative? Keep Iraq under seige?”

    I’m also a firm believer that having our troops stationed in Saudi Arabia was an excellent recruiting tool for al Qaeda. Would the Dems have kept our troops there until we had a Beruit-style, massive terrorist attack on the troops barracks?

  43. “but neither a Gore nor Kerry administration would have actually pushed for or launched a full invasion of Iraq in response to a terrorist act committed by Pakistani-backed Saudi theocrats.”

    “I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force – if necessary – to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.” — John F. Kerry, Oct 2002

    “He wouldn’t have surrounded himself with and packed the DoD, the State Department and the intel posts with neocons obsessed with invading Iraq,”

    “(Saddam) will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983” — National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Feb 18, 1998

    “Saddam’s goal … is to achieve the lifting of U.N. sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed.” — Madeline Albright, 1998

    “I am absolutely convinced that there are weapons…I saw evidence back in 1998 when we would see the inspectors being barred from gaining entry into a warehouse for three hours with trucks rolling up and then moving those trucks out.” — Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Cohen in April of 2003

    Do your parents know you are playing with the computer? /R

  44. It’s really a shame that the Dems didn’t nominate someone who’s clearly anti-war. Even though I support the war, I think it’d be good for the country to have that debate once and for all, and get a lot of crap out in the open.

    Am I being really naive here, or just kinda? 🙂

  45. “Well, what was the alternative? Keep Iraq under seige?”

    unfortunately, because neither side of the american political or public spectrum has the serenity or self-confidence to accept something as beyond their control to alter for the better. so you’re probably right.

    the best solution may well have been to leave iraq alone after 1991. i suppose that was never an option — so instead of leaving saddam to torture and kill iraqis, we did, first through siege and then through conquest and chaos.

  46. “Do your parents know you are playing with the computer? /R”

    darn, rick!

    did you have to bust the ‘kid’ now? I was hoping he’d tell me what he was smoking!

  47. “I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force – if necessary – to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.” — John F. Kerry, Oct 2002

    oh, rick, more reductivist word-twisting. if things hadn’t been how they were, how would they have been? lol…

    kerry saying this in october 2002 knowing of the inevitability of the act is so much different than him coming up with it in the white house on september 12, 2001 — or in 1992, de facto, if you’re wolfowitz. or do you believe his words weren’t motivated by his political situation?

    i understand how simple shills use kerry’s words against him as if it all means something — but intelligent observers should understand that kerry is a politician, and everything he says is conditional with respect to his observation of the current reality and his calculation the odds of forward action.

  48. hitchens is a leftist that neither cockburn nor any of the rest of you anti-warriors can touch, in terms of erudition or humor, but his reasons for supporting bush are straightforward and earnest:

    the war was right for US, Iraq and the world, regardless of WMD, and only bush has the fortitude to see it through

    criticisms of bush are largely sophistry:
    1) lamenting bush’s failure to build a coalition with genocide profiteers and sanctions scammers like his father did–you know, the same ones who vetoed finishing the job the first time
    2) chastising bush for not maintaining a myopic focus on the ‘quagmire’ in afghanistan
    3) demeaning bush’s multilateral efforts to correct clinton/carter errors in N Korea
    4) advocating more focus on ‘homeland security’ while mourning the loss of civil liberties under the patriot act

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