Sunday, July 17, 2005
A recent essay by John Kenneth White and John Zogby discusses President Bush's declining poll numbers, and delves into the numbers behind the numbers. What they find is that much of the downturn is due to declining support among independents and moderates. While both groups trended toward Kerry in 2004, now they have turned overwhelmingly against Bush. This provides clues about the likely Republican Presidential Strategy in 2008.
Among moderately and independents, not surprisingly, the main issues of contention are foreign policy in general, and the Iraq war in particular. What is a bit of a surprise is that these groups also are turning against Bush's tax policies. In fact:
[...] Likewise on jobs and the economy, Social Security and Medicare, education, the environment, and taxes, large majorities of independents and moderates disagree with Bush. In each case, the political center’s discontent is higher than the national average. Even when asked about Bush’s handling of the war on terror, most moderates and independents disapprove [...]White and Zogby, interpreting the data, state:
What this data makes clear is that Arthur Schelesinger’s Vital Center has morphed into the Lost Center.Those of you old enough to remember the 2000 Presidential campaign will recall that Bush presented himself as a moderate. You might say that he styled himself as a "better moderate" than Al Gore. Some people bought that line, which we know know was a misrepresentation (= damn lie). This is illustrated by the fact that he changed his stripes and campaigned as a staunch conservative in 2004. Mr. Bush claims he does not care about polls. He claims he has a strategy. He claims he is a man of character. Yet somehow, whenever the polls indicate that he needs a different strategy, he adopts a different character.
He won 2004 by increasing voter turnout among a bunch of evangelicals. They cannot count on that to work a second time. Thus, the Republican Presidential strategy for 2008 must be to recapture the ('lost") center.
At the outset, I mentioned that this illustrates an important point. The point is this: the American public seem to have difficulty pulling together a lot of information and drawing a firm conclusion from widely-separated data points. This is, essentially, a problem of separating signal from noise.
There is a lot of dishonesty in politics. The background dishonesty is the noise. The signal, in the case of Mr. Bush and his Administration, is not merely the usual background noise of political dishonesty. People seem to have trouble seeing that his dishonesty is both quantitatively and qualitatively different.
A recent essay by Rep. John Conyers shows how the Rove situation fits into the larger picture of deceit. While he does not go so far as to say that any laws were broken, he does point out that Rove had to sign a nondisclosure agreement when he received his security clearance. Conyers implies that it appears that, at the very least, that nondisclosure agreement was broken.
A few days ago, I heard Daniel Schorr's commentary on the latest Rove scandal. He made the point: this is not about a leak, this is about war. (I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the point.) What he was getting at is that the Rove scandal is just a small part of a bigger picture: Americans were misled into believing that the war was justified.
Those who would dismiss the Downing Street Memos seem to miss this point. Tony Blair dismissed the memos, stating that they are being taken out of context. To that, I say, "fine, then show us the context." If Blair were to do so, the context we would see is this: Not only was the war based on lies, the entire agenda of the Administration is based on lies. This is not merely background noise. Thus, I would like to extend Daniel Schorr's point: this is not about war, this is about systematic, avaricious deceit. The lies about the war are just a part of it.
Trickle-down economics does not work, at least not as implemented by the current Administration. The gap between rich and poor is growing. Homelessness is at an historical high point. Although overall unemployment is down, long-term unemployment is unusually high. A record number of Americans have no health insurance. The proposed Social Security fixes have been shown to not fix Social Security. In fact, the private account deal would make it worse, not better. In 2001, when there was a surplus, that surplus could have been used to finance a transition to a hybrid Social Security - Private Account model that could have worked. Instead, the surplus was used to widen the income gap. The line that there is a Social Security Crisis is a lie. Compared to the overall deficit, the Social Security deficit is a pittance.
There have been systematic distortions and misuses of scientific data during the Bush Administration. Bush finally has been forced to dismiss the guy who was altering the reports on climate change, and to admit that climate change is a real problem and that human activity is to blame. Yet he still will not do anything about the problem. He boasted that he was going to invest a billion dollars in clean coal technology, but has not done so. Instead, China is forging ahead with this. If they perfect the technology, we may end up paying them royalties to use the technology for the next 20 years.
He trumpets the cause of small business. Yet the biggest profits are being seen by the biggest companies. GE, the largest company in the country (by market capitalization), posted a 25% increase in profits last year. Oil companies are making record profits. The case of Halliburton is well-known and I don't have enough Phenergan on hand to write about them right now.
He claims he is pro-life, yet he used napalm in Iraq. The UN wanted to ban the use of napalm, yet the US has not agreed. Ditto for land mines. Studies show that Iraq is worse off now. Childhood hunger is up. Life expectancy is down. His environmental policies are decidedly anti-life. In defense of his anti-embryonic-stem-cell policy, he claims that not one life should be spared to save another. Yet he launches an unnecessary war that kills tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, ostensibly -- but with no real evidence -- to save lives here in America.
He claims that he wants the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution strictly. The Constitution, of course, includes the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of the press. Then he turns around and engages in systematic efforts to undermine the effectiveness of the press.
He claims that the key to getting the US out of Iraq is going to be the building of an effective Iraqi defense force. But while KBR contractors stay in $110/day hotels, the new Iraqi forces are living like this (LA Times, free registration required):
U.S. politicians and military commanders hail the rapid development of Iraq's security forces as the key to ending the insurgency and speeding the homecoming of the nearly 150,000 American troops in Iraq. But a day spent with the 5th Brigade reveals the interlocking obstacles of logistics, bureaucracy and human nature that stand in the way of that goal.The Democrats are not buying any of this. The Zogby poll shows that independents and moderates are not buying it either. Therefore, the Republican party will have to adopt a news sales campaign to have any hope of prevailing in 2008. They will need someone new to coordinate the campaign. Maybe Brewster-Jennings & Associates could get into that line of work, since their old business is worthless now.
Uncomfortable, unsanitary living conditions on this abandoned Baghdad airfield have eroded brigade morale, Iraqi officers say. Many soldiers have quit, and more say they plan to.
"We come home from training or patrols soaking in sweat and can't even wash," says one soldier who didn't want to be identified for fear of being punished. "Is this the way we should live?"
To a man, the soldiers say they're willing to face the dangers of an insurgency that kills dozens of police officers and soldiers every month. Most cite patriotism and economic need as reasons for joining; the approximately $300 monthly salary is one of the better incomes available in Iraq.
But that dedication is tempered by a mounting feeling of anger at having been neglected and left to stew in the hangar for six months. Says one soldier: "We don't need electricity. We don't need more money. We just need water."
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