Politics

Bush's Catalogue of Failure

Reading between the lines of his final State of the Union

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Listening to presidents reporting on the State of the Union, you would conclude that they came from Lake Wobegon, since every one of them, by his account, is well above average. Just once, I'd like to hear one say what would be true of many: "Because of my mistakes, the state of the union has gotten worse."

But none ever does. Even the worst presidents prefer to focus on their successes and ignore their failures. The striking thing about President Bush's final State of the Union address is that even the successes he claims are largely fictional. Judged by his own criteria, the speech was a catalogue of failure in almost every realm.

With one year left in his term, we see a new figure: George Bush, fiscal conservative. He proposed to cut or kill 151 programs at a savings of $18 billion. He threatened a veto if Congress doesn't curb earmarks. He bragged that his new budget "will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012."

You would never guess this is the same president who had been in office nearly seven years before he finally vetoed a measure because it cost too much. Or who let non-defense discretionary spending rise nearly twice as fast as it did under Bill Clinton. Or who pushed through the biggest new entitlement program (Medicare coverage of prescription drugs) in 40 years.

The claim that he has set us on the high road to a balanced budget was not a George W. Bush moment but a George Strait moment: "If you'll buy that, I'll throw the Golden Gate in free." The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan fiscal watchdog group, calculates that 2012 will bring a deficit totaling $485 billion.

The president's proudest domestic program is the No Child Left Behind Act, which he hailed as a triumph. "Last year, 4th and 8th graders achieved the highest math scores on record," he said, referring to the National Assessment of Educational Progress. "Reading scores are on the rise." Here, he dodged data suggesting that the law has done nothing to improve educational outcomes.

Since it took effect, reading scores have barely budged among 4th graders and they have fallen among 8th graders. Math scores have risen, but not as rapidly as before. And in one international test, the Program for International Student Assessment, Americans' performance in math declined between 2003 and 2006. According to that test, says Andrew Coulson of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, "U.S. students have suffered overall stagnation or decline in math, reading and science in the years since NCLB was passed."

Bush has spent most of his energies on foreign affairs, but looking abroad does not brighten the picture. Bush claimed that because of the success of his strategy, "the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home." The next day, though, the White House let it out that not all of them are returning just yet—and that by the time Bush leaves office, the number of American troops in Iraq may still be higher than it was before the surge began.

He said the surge has "achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago." In terms of violence, he has grounds for that claim. But in terms of political reconciliation, Iraqis have failed to meet many of the major benchmarks that Bush demanded a year ago.

Then, he warned Iraqis that "America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people." But the Iraqis have balked, and Bush is letting them get away with it.

He bragged that thanks to our help, hope is on the rise in Afghanistan. In fact, 2007 was the deadliest year for U.S. troops and Afghan civilians since 2001. The Taliban has rebounded. One administration official recently told The Washington Post, "We're seeing definite expanded strongholds. That's not going to stop in 2008. … If anything, it's gaining momentum." In Afghanistan, things are getting worse, not better.

When he first went to Capitol Hill following his 2001 inauguration, Bush said he and members of Congress should aspire to earn "from our fellow citizens the highest possible praise: Well done, good and faithful servants." Whatever he hears from the American people when he leaves office next January, I'm guessing it won't be that.

COPYRIGHT 2008 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  1. Here is the Wesley Snipes tax case.

    I would like to talk about how evil the IRS is and how there shouldn’t be an income tax.

  2. At least you’re not hiding the thread jack attempt behind any veil 😉

  3. I’m not typically one to defend Bush, but he didn’t “push through” the Medicare drug benefit. The public was demanding one, and politicians across the spectrum were responding.

    Reading Reason, you’d think it was Bush’s pet project, that he rammed through a skeptical Congress.

    Nobody who didn’t support a prescription drug benefit in Medicare would have survived in office past 2002 or 2004 without one.

  4. On topic,

    It’s been seven years of the Bush adminstration. He had a GOP majority for the first six. Is there anybody delusioned enough to say this train wreck of an presidency is somehow, by any measuer better than the Clinton I administration?

    Partisanship is OK, but we adults should be able to put it aside when assessing a politicians job performance. I’ve yet to vote for a Democrat for president and consider Bush II, like most sequels, notably worse than the original (who was hardly an upper tier president).

  5. J sub D,

    His Africa policy has been better than Clinton’s.

    And that’s it.

  6. The public was demanding one,

    Really? A link would be nice.

  7. His Africa policy has been better than Clinton’s.

    Of all the people at H&R joe, you were the last I’d have expected to find a nugget in that giant pile of manure. I’m impressed.

  8. I’m not going to find you links for you, RC. I will mock you though.

    What are you, kidding me? Did you live in this country during the 2000 election cycle?

  9. I think Ford actually said “The State of our Union is not good” IIRC but I can’t think of any other President that had the balls to admit it when things were terrible.

  10. joe,

    Some elements of the public were concerned with the issue.

  11. Enough elements of the public were concerned with the issue that all of the top contenders from both parties felt the need to promise to deliver a drug benefit as they campaigned for the presidency.

  12. The geezers wanted free boner pills and the politicians delivered. Taxpayers? Screw ’em!

  13. OT, check out this poll question from Gallup:

    Is there any candidate running this year that you think would make a good president, or not?

    And the results?
    1992: 40% Yes?.. 41% no?.. 19% No opinion?
    2008: 84% Yes??11% no??. 5% No opinion?

    Thoughts?

  14. Everyone looks good next to Bush, thats all.

  15. Whatever he hears from the American people when he leaves office next January, I’m guessing it won’t be that.

    I’m thinking, “Good fucking riddance- don’t let the door hit you on the way out” would be about right.

    Although “Sir, come with us, and don’t cause a disturbance” as federal marshals escort him to his flight to the Netherlands would be pretty sweet.

  16. The Netherlands? Thats too good for him I was thinking more along the lines of St. Helena.

  17. joe:

    1992: 40% Yes?.. 41% no?.. 19% No opinion?
    2008: 84% Yes??11% no??. 5% No opinion?

    Thoughts?

    Thoughts: Obama and McCain have more appeal across party lines than do most candidates. Not sure if that accounts for all of it, but I think it’s a part. Also, the fact that there are significantly different types of candidates running this year than is usual for either party (Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama are all a little unusual for their parties in one way or another) and in some cases getting a little press, might be making those on the fringes or with particular axes to grind more happy than usual.

  18. 2000 2007 Change (%)
    US Population 281.4 million 301.6 million +7.18
    Tax Revenues $2.025 trillion $2.54 trillion +25.4
    National Debt $5.67 trillion $9.01 trillion +58.9
    Budget Deficit/Surplus $236.2 billion -244.2 billion -196.7
    Unfunded Liabilities (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) $33 trillion $53 trillion +60.6
    MZM Money Supply on Dec. 31 $4.697 trillion $8.105 trillion +72.6
    Monthly Inflation in December 3.38% 4.08% +20.7
    Military Spending $294.5 billion $439.3 billion +49.2
    Department of Agriculture budget $75.1 billion $88.7 billion +18.1
    Farms 2.167 million 2.09 million* -3.5
    Dollar-Euro Exchange Rate on Dec. 31 1.062 .6794 -36.0
    Gold Price on Dec. 31 $272.15 $833.20 +206.15
    Citigroup Stock on Dec. 31 $51.06 $29.44 -73.4
    Archer-Daniels-Midland Stock on Dec. 31 $15.00 $46.43 +209.5
    Gasoline Price (US Regular) on Dec. 31 $1.38 $3.02 +118.8

    Dear President Bush and Congress,

    Fuck You.

    Remaining Your Faithful Servant,

    Lee J. Cruz

  19. The tax cut I received was a hell of a lot bigger than we’d get from Gore. And the carbon myth would have been front and center under Gore. Not to mention we would have had to look at that disgusting man for four years. Those things alone make Bush better than the alternative.

  20. Enough elements of the public were concerned with the issue that all of the top contenders from both parties felt the need to promise to deliver a drug benefit as they campaigned for the presidency.

    Hoorah! Let’s hear it for the hypochondriac vote.

  21. James-

    The Republican Congress would’ve blocked a Gore Presidency’s leftish tendencies.

  22. I think what is needed to fix the current mess of prescription drug handouts, SS, and the drug war too, if for people to start refusing to pay their taxes in larger percentages.

    I wonder if they could legally bar someone from running commercials to encourage people to refuse to pay taxes?

    Wouldn’t that be a cool trial?

  23. Also about comparing this Prez,

    I Clinton’s policy in regards to Iraq was worse than Bush’s

    Clinton and Gore’s stance on Gun rights would have been worse.

    They seem to be equally bad in the area of IRS, and the Drug war.

    I am hoping that the Republicans in Congress fight the seemingly inevitable Hillary presidency tooth and nail. (and that they gain much popularity doing so.

  24. Why haven’t we invaded Zimbabwe, yet?

  25. Is there any candidate running this year that you think would make a good president, or not?

    1992: 40% Yes?.. 41% no?.. 19% No opinion?
    2008: 84% Yes??11% no??. 5% No opinion?

    Thoughts?

    It would be interesting to see who the respondents thought would make a good president.

  26. What are you, kidding me? Did you live in this country during the 2000 election cycle?

    Sure, and while I am sure powerful lobbying groups were pushing for a big Medicare expansion, I’m just wondering what the broader public attitude was.

    You don’t seem to know either, joe, so we’ll just leave it at that.

  27. Clinton’s policy in regards to Iraq was worse than Bush’s

    Thousands of dead solier’s families might disagree. Tens of thousands of wounded and crippled vets might disagree. Tens of thousands of dead Iraqi’s families might disagree. Halliburton Inc. probably agrees.

    Clinton and Gore’s stance on Gun rights would have been worse.

    Maybe, might have. Speculation.

  28. I’m reminded of Fred Barnes chuckling as he spoke about the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. He spoke of how the Democrats had tried for years to get one through and the Republicans had always blocked it. Now they were mad because the Republicans got that legislation through and they could claim it as their success.

    Talk about blind partisanship, if they blocked it… it must have been a bad thing. That is.. until they did it. *shaking head*I don’t think it would have got through if we had an Al Gore Presidency, the deciding vote was Cheney in favor of the bill.

  29. “It’s been seven years of the Bush adminstration. He had a GOP majority for the first six. Is there anybody delusioned enough to say this train wreck of an presidency is somehow, by any measuer better than the Clinton I administration?”

    Yes – investment income tax rates are lower and we don’t have a Vice President running around squawking about needing more gun control laws to protect “the children”.

  30. RC, you live in your own little world.

  31. J sub
    A lot of people might disagree. Haliburton employees or owners might agree or disagree.

    Tens of thousands of dead or injured Shia might agree or disagree.

    Tens of thousands of dead or wounded Kurds might agree or disagree.

    3,000 or so dead Americans in the towers might agree or disagree (they were, I believe, proof that containment was not working).

  32. Also, it is speculation that Al Gore and Clinton were worse on gun control?

  33. 3,000 or so dead Americans in the towers might agree or disagree (they were, I believe, proof that containment was not working).

    Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Nothing. This has been definitively proven for years.

  34. There are two groups that benefited from the Iraq War. The Kurds, and the Iranians. Everyone else loses.

  35. joe,

    One could make that argument, but would be an argument about the nature of the overall troubles in the region from which the 9/11 plot orginated.

  36. joe,

    At least that is the argument I would make if I were trying to draw said connection.

  37. US Population 281.4 million 301.6 million +7.18
    Tax Revenues $2.025 trillion $2.54 trillion +25.4

    Are those tax revenue numbers in the same year’s dollars? That is, have they been normalized for inflation. If so, then conservatives are right that lowering taxes can increase tax revenues, even correcting for the larger population.

    If they are not inflation normalized, then normalizing them using the method below* (and correcting for population increase) you get $2.613 trillion that we would have collected had the tax laws stayed the same as under Clinton. That is, the Bush tax cuts are costing the treasury ~$73 billion per year.

    *Take the inflation rates of 2001-2007 from here: http://www.miseryindex.us/irbyyear.asp

    and multiply them properly (i.e. 1.0283 * 1.0159 * …) to get the total inflation from the end of 2000 thru 2007 (=1.204 or 20.4% inflation over 7 years), then you multiply that by $2.025 trillion, you get $2.438 trillion. Now if you correct that for the increase in population (more people paying into tax system), 2.438 trillion * 1.0718 = $2.613 trillion.

  38. Right, that is what I was referring to.

    9/11 being a direct result of containment.

    OBL already didn’t like us. But Our troops stationed in Saudi and Kuwait containing Iraq were the motivations for 9/11.

    Of course if containment was the right thing to do, then it was the right thing to do, and fuck the terrorists.

    But I don’t think that containment was the right thing to do. Bombing Iraq day by day, and starving kids, and enriching corrupt UN officials.

  39. “””Is there anybody delusioned enough to say this train wreck of an presidency is somehow, by any measuer better than the Clinton I administration?”””

    I bet there is. It’s the same group that acts like it’s the dems fault for the current problems in the nation. How they forget that the republicans were in charge of 2 of the 3 branches of government for 6 of the last 7 years.

  40. “””3,000 or so dead Americans in the towers might agree or disagree (they were, I believe, proof that containment was not working).””

    Yet containment is the way the Bush admin has handled the person behind those almost 3000 deaths to this day.

  41. 3,000 or so dead Americans in the towers might agree or disagree (they were, I believe, proof that containment was not working).

    Well that explains us invading the country that was home to the majority of them, deposing the undemocratic regime and freeing up the 50% of their population that had no discernable human rights. Yep, the House of Saud had it coming.

    Seriously, Iranian mullahs excepted, how than the invasion and occupation of Iraq be counted as anything but an unmitigated disaster? The Kurds were essentially autonomous prior to the invasion, the average Shia is less safe than prior to the invasion. But you knew that.

  42. Are those tax revenue numbers in the same year’s dollars? That is, have they been normalized for inflation. If so, then conservatives are right that lowering taxes can increase tax revenues, even correcting for the larger population.

    I buy the correction for inflation, but isn’t the population correction somewhat bogus ? This is making the assumption that the tax burden is evenly distributed. I suspect that the vast majority of population increase is not the favored target of the tax man.

    Actual numbers for this would be interesting.

  43. But Our troops stationed in Saudi and Kuwait containing Iraq were the motivations for 9/11.

    OK, let’s accept that for the sake of argument. For you claim that Bush’s Iraq policy was “better” in this respect, you would have to believe that a larger number of American forces actively occupying Iraq would inspire less terrorism than a smaller number of American forces on bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

    The growth of al Qaeda in Iraq would seem to refute such a claim.

    Bombing Iraq day by day Good thing we’re not bombing Iraq anymore, and that poverty is lower.

  44. “”Well that explains us invading the country that was home to the majority of them, deposing the undemocratic regime and freeing up the 50% of their population that had no discernable human rights. Yep, the House of Saud had it coming.

    Hmm should we invade Germany too? If it turns out that a bunch of them were German citizens? Or were studying in Germany maybe?

    I mean, I lived in Saudi for 6 months, I don’t like the government anymore than the next guy, but this line of logic seems misplaced to me.

  45. If the 9/11 hijackers were Germans citizens, or if they’d studied German, there would be a stronger nexus between Germany and the attacks than there is between Iraq and the attacks, though still less than between Saudi Arabia and the attacks.

    If invading Saudi Arabia, which is much more closely linked to those events, seems nonsensical (and I agree, it does), what does that say about invading Iraq?

  46. “because the public was demanding one and politicians across the spectrum responded.”
    This is exhibit A for how much ass unchecked democracy sucks. It doesn’t matter if it’s constitutional. It doesn’t matter whether it’s redistributive and whether or not the government has the right to take earned income from some and give it to others. It’s all about what “the public” demands.

  47. “It doesn’t matter if it’s constitutional. It doesn’t matter whether it’s redistributive and whether or not the government has the right to take earned income from some and give it to others. It’s all about what “the public” demands.”

    The line was crossed in a major way on that about 70 years ago and it’s been off to the races for government expansion ever since.

    Thanks for nothing, FDR.

  48. “”””It’s all about what “the public” demands.”””

    You could not be more wrong. That is why we are a Constitutional-Republic and not a Democracy. Our founding fathers knew public demands = mob rules.

  49. “””This is exhibit A for how much ass unchecked democracy sucks.”””

    Ah, yes you are right about that.

  50. Does anyone notice that we haven’t been attacked under President Bush since 911? He thinks long-term, has principles, and is much smarter than any of the bloggers and critics.
    Can you envision Bill Maher giving the State of the Union speech?

  51. winston churchill said- “democracy is the worst form of government – except when compared to everything else”

    But if the US has a constitution to prevent mob rule or abuse- wouldn’t that worthy document have limited the powers of the adminstration from telling lies to justify an illegal war. And once it was discovered, that lies were knowingly used – wouldn’t impeachment be persued?

  52. it will lose the support of the American people.

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