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Thursday, January 19, 2006

hypocrisy with a smile

Shortly after the 2004 election an ebullient President George W. Bush took what amounted to a “victory lap” press conference at the White House. The President was asked by one reporter to describe how he felt. That question, and Bush’s response, are worth reading in full:

Q Do you feel more free, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, in terms of feeling free, well, I don't think you'll let me be too free. There's accountability and there are constraints on the presidency, as there should be in any system. I feel -- I feel it is necessary to move an agenda that I told the American people I would move. Something refreshing about coming off an election, even more refreshing since we all got some sleep last night, but there's -- you go out and you make your case, and you tell the people this is what I intend to do. And after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again, that when you win, there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view, and that's what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as the President, now let's work to -- and the people made it clear what they wanted, now let's work together.

And it's one of the wonderful -- it's like earning capital. You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.

Whoo-boy!! There's some truth in that one.

Aside from the breezy triumphalism of Bush’s line about political capital, it is, a little over one year later, Bush’s offhand talk of “accountability and constraints on the presidency” that leaps out afresh here. For an administration that has spent the last few months asserting its own unchecked power and lack of constitutional constraints, for a President who has taken to amending “signing statements” to the laws passed by Congress and nominating judges who advocate a “unitary executive”, the above quote doesn’t pass the smell test.

(One thing about the GOP, of course, they do hypocrisy with a smile.)

What’s sticks in one’s craw about this quote, however, is Bush’s assertion: “the people made it clear what they wanted.”

I’m not so sure of that. In fact, it seems to me that this administration and the GOP are all about giving “the people” things we don’t want, didn’t ask for, and wouldn’t have signed on for in the first place if anyone had bothered to ask.

At that same press conference, the President highlighted what he says “the people” had been asking for in electing him:

Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror.

We have an obligation in this country to continue to work with nations to help alleve poverty and disease. We will continue to press forward on the HIV/AIDS initiative, the Millennium Challenge Account. We will continue to do our duty to help feed the hungry. And I'm looking forward to it, I really am.

Now, “after hundreds of speeches and three debates and interviews and the whole process, where you keep basically saying the same thing over and over again” to hand-picked audiences who already agree with you...and where no one who even remotely disagrees with you is even allowed...you might believe that the above boilerplate reflects the will of the people and not what it really is: a laundry list written by Grover Norquist with a couple Christmas tree ornaments courtesy of Karen Hughes. (Ah...that Millenium Challenge Account.)

Calling the 2004 elections a referendum on Social Security, of course, is simply amnesiac. (Here’s a great billmon post that set’s that issue straight.) It was also, in light of how fast Bush’s Social Security “reform” sank in Congress, a brazen act of hocus pocus.

That’s par for the course. The one-trick Houdini’s in the White House are addicted to attempting the mass hypnosis con on the American public “over and over again.” I don’t remember the general public clamoring for any of the below:

Social Security privatization
Medicare Drug Cards that don’t work
Unilateral “Democratization” of the Middle East
the unfunded mandate that is NCLB
Bankruptcy reform
Blocking the morning after pill
Spying on US citizens
A ballooning National Debt

Simply put, the GOP is the party that gives us stuff we don’t want and tells us that we asked for it.

2006 is a chance for America to "break the spell" and put in a new order at the drive-thru window: make mine Super Size. (Link to a great Tom Schaller article on vulnerable GOP districts.)

God knows, we could use a break from this.


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