Bush: Not "toast" yet

T.A. Barnhart

Only we can toast Bush.

Rachel Maddow, on Air America Monday morning (go to her AAR website and subscribe to her podcast; it's a great 38 minute review of the news), said that George Bush was now "toast."  Angry, not gleeful, brimming with disgust rather than triumph, she catalogued his many failures of the past week to declare that his power was gone and he was, in effect, done as President. 

Were that it so simple.  Just because he's been shown, for now, to be the horrorshow many of us have recognized him for since his days as the Texicutioner, slaughtering black convicts as fast as they could be strapped down; just because the media is currently taking a break from its role as surrogage White House PR department; just because polls show most Americans aware that Bush failed to do his job regarding Katrina; just because of these few things, we cannot conclude, as Maddow does, that Bush is "toast". 

He's in retreat, yes, and he's on a downward trend, but he still holds the bully pulpit, much of the mainstream broadcast media is inclined to tell stories that will work to his advantage (let's not forget the presence of the Turd Blossom, Reich Minister of Propaganda Rove), and public opinion is historically irrational.  All it would take is one well crafted speech from Bush, one chance to act Presidential (al Queda loves having Bush in command, so perhaps they'll move to shore up his support with some adventure), any number of possible opportunities to change the focus of the debate from this failure to the failures of Them -- terrorists, Democracts, liberals, anyone.  He and Rove are goddamn good at this, and the mere fact that he's done so horribly in the past month means very little in real terms.

Because the bottom line, as my friend Lynn Siprelle, High Queen Webmistress of the Left, keeps pointing out to me, is that this cannot be about Bush.  If we on the progressive left focus on Bush, we will lose sight of the real goal: democracy.  We must look past this one man and his slimy minions; we must see our country, it's political system, and all the people who share our country and want only that simple promise of "unalienable Rights" made by Jefferson and his cohorts: "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  Focussing on Bush is the politics of defeat; focussing on democracy is, to co-opt one of the right's more pernicious terms, the politics of life.

And with our eyes on what truly matters, our Bush-related agenda is to emphasize to America and the world the horrific list of his failings.  We do this not to bring down a man but to demonstrate the poisonous fruits of his politics.  We show the inhumane heart of his and Norquist's neoconservatism so all will recognize that their aim has ever been power and profit -- at the expense of those to whom Jefferson made his promise.  We focus on our responsibilities within our democratic republic and tell the stories of those who've suffered and died in service of Bush's primary goal: the rich grow richer.  We attack Bush relentlessly not to bring down one man but an entire political movement, the neocon death-cult religio-fascist urRobin Hood wrap-up-democracy-in-the-Constitution-like-fishwrap Republican Party powergrab.  This is the enemy, the Grover Norquist anti-democratic libertarian plague.  Bush just carries their water.

We do not revel in the downfall of Bush because the price is far too high.  We mourn that we are forced to speak daily of his malfeasance and heartlessness; how much better that we could be sore losers in politics, forced to tolerate a decent administration with whom we disagreed.  We were not given this blessing.  Instead we watched the multitudes die in New York, Baghdad and New Orleans, thousands dying as victims of the jihad of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, Norquist and the rest of their hell-bound army of death.  We must ensure this administration is crippled and gutted and rendered inert, not because it means we won -- we haven't, and we won't.  We've lost, the country and the world have lost, and there is no victory to be gained.  There's only the hope that the future can be better.  But before we can hope for that future, we must end the destruction of the present.  We must make true Maddow's words, that Bush truly become "toast".  For the sake of our democracy, the world, and the dream that America has been for most of two centuries, we must rid ourselves of Bush so that we can dream once more of a world that is good for all.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Very well said, T.A.

    By chance I just came across this appropriate quote from the great skeptic, H. L. Mencken: "The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of the truth — that error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it has been cured of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one."

    To this we might usefully add Mencken's more famous quote: "No one ever lost money understimating the intelligence of the American public." Similarly, it appears no politician ever lost an election in similar circumstances.

  • Sid (unverified)


    I hope you're wrong, but I'm afraid you're right.

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    I always thought that was PT Barnum who said that...huh.

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    Maddow is right. Bush is toast. He has personally been exposed and his approval ratings are very unlikely to turn around.

    The problem is that that's not the good news that people think it is.

    What's happening now is that the neocons and the rest of the right and corporate America are abandoning Bush to be the fall guy for them. He may even be cooperating in that for considerations to be received later. They are very successfully keeping the focus on W and away from the failed policies that are the real problem. They may well succeed in eliminating the estate tax even while all this is going on. A lot of Republicans are running as fast as they can away from Bush and the Democrats are, so far, letting them get away with it. If they can make it all about Bush, then the way is still clear for the Republicans at other levels and another neocon not-Bush to be elected and continue the program.

    Bush is a lame duck, what he can do from here on out was always going to be limited to some extent by that fact. What he can still do is control appointments to the courts and some other very damaging things along those lines. The majority in the country isn't going to deep six John Roberts because he's a Bush appointee. They will judge Roberts on his own merits. The bulk of the power in the federal government is in the Congress at this point and guess who still controls Congress?

    All the piling on we are starting to see happen is going to be a disaster for the Democrats if they allow it to continue to be about Bush, the incompetent dude, rather than the failure of the whole neocon movement that controls the Republican party.

  • Becky (unverified)

    Thom Hartmann has a bet running with Heidi Tauber on his morning show that within 2 weeks (we're about 3-4 days in) the majority will have come to believe that New Orleans was the fault of the Louisiana Governor and New Orleans Mayor. I thought at first people wouldn't be so dumb as to forget what they saw with their own eyes, but apparently the truth is so painful they're ready to believe anything that will numb the pain of the truth. Just yesterday I received an email from my mother telling me about all the ways the Governor and Mayor had screwed up the rescue and relief effort and praising Bush. I spent some time straightening her out, as I usually do when she sends me right wing spin, but all she could bring herself to admit was that there's "plenty of blame to go around." Then my neighbor came over and started telling me how angry she was about what happened in New Orleans. Honest to God I expected her to say how upset she was at Bush and FEMA, but no, she started talking about the Governor and Mayor and how she couldn't believe they would prevent people from coming in and helping those poor folks. I was absolutely flabbergasted. I tried to gracefully straighten her out, too, but don't think I got anywhere.

    My point is, don't count Bush out yet. He's got Karl Rove, the king of dirty tricks, and his vast right wing conspiracy members pulling strings and spreading spin and lies across the country through Fox News, slanted press, right wing web sites, chain emails, etc. And an awful lot of good people who don't want to believe the truth are lapping it up as fast as it's dished out.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    torridjoe: You may be thinking of "There's a sucker born every minute" reputedly said by P. T. Barnum but crediting him with this saying is disputed.

    doreta: I believe you are on the right track here. Bush is not a one-pony act. It is a good bet the neocons and other right-wingers have other candidates in their stable to replace him. Given the fact they have no consciences, things could get worse.

  • djk (unverified)

    I've got to agree with doretta. Last election, a lot of liberals were trying to undermine Bush among his own supporters by pointing out he wasn't a real conservative -- like conservatives couldn't figure out for themselves whether he was one of them or not.

    Really, we need to make Bush synonymous with conservatives/Republicans (pretty much the same thing nowadays), and Bush's policies the quintessence of conservatism. Crippling economic policies, ruinous deficits, war-mongering abroad, thousands of Americans dead in an unnecessary war, growing poverty, schools in crisis, inept federal response to a major natural disaster -- America, meet the REAL Republican party. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR COUNTRY WHEN YOU LET REPUBLICANS RUN THE SHOW.

    In 2006, Democrats can tie George W. Bush and his policies to every single Republican running for office. In 2008, we should do our level best to make the Republican presidential nominee a mirror of Bush's policies. (If the Republicans nominate another wingnut, that shouldn't be too much of a stretch.)

    From a standpoint of pure political strategy, Bush can be a useful exemplar of the Republican party for at least the next five to seven years. But beyond that, we need to find ways to frame the Republican party and the entire conservative movement as wasteful, corrupt, and completely untrustworthy.

  • mike (unverified)

    I couldn't agree more T.A.

    And lest we forget the events of Katrina, here is a nice timeline that helped me to remember how the administration performed before and in the days following the disaster.

    Katrina Timeline

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    From the independent Congressional Research Service:

    Report Confirms that Louisiana Took Necessary and Timely Steps Pursuant to a September 7 request by Representative John Conyers to review the law and legal accountability relating to Federal action in response to Hurricane Katrina, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report today about whether the Governor of Louisiana took the necessary and timely steps needed to secure disaster relief from the federal government. The report unequivocally concludes that she did. Congressman Conyers issued the following statement: "This report closes the book on the Bush Administration's attempts to evade accountability by shifting the blame to the Governor of Louisiana for the Administration's tragically sluggish response to Katrina. It confirms that the Governor did everything she could to secure relief for the people of Louisiana and the Bush Administration was caught napping at a critical time." In addition to finding that "...it would appear that the Governor did take the steps necessary to request emergency and major disaster declarations for the State of Louisiana in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina. (p.11)" The report found that: * All necessary conditions for federal relief were met on August 28. Pursuant to Section 502 of the Stafford Act, "[t]he declaration of an emergency by the President makes Federal emergency assistance available," and the President made such a declaration on August 28. The public record indicates that severa additional days passed before such assistance was actually made available to the State; * The Governor must make a timely request for such assistance, which meets the requirements of federal law. The report states that "[e]xcept to the extent that an emergency involves primarily Federal interests, both declarations of major disaster and declarations of emergency must be triggered by a request to the President from the Governor of the affected state"; * The Governor did indeed make such a request, which was both timely and in compliance with federal law. The report finds that "Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco requested by letter dated August 27, 2005...that the President declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period from August 26, 2005 and continuing pursuant to [applicable Federal statute]" and "Governor Blanco's August 27, 2005 request for an emergency declaration also included her determination...that 'the incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of disaster."
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    Then there's the question of which Democrat can beat the next neocon. Kerry? Gore? Dean? Hillary? Dream on -- every one is another loss waiting to happen.

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    Boy, there's a list of sure losers.

    Jack, take a look at the rest of the expanded field: Bill Richardson, Mark Warner, Evan Bayh, Russ Feingold, Tom Vilsack, Brian Schweitzer, Joe Biden, Wes Clark, John Edwards, ...

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    There is another angle that supports T.A.'s position. Let's look at the American people.

    When Karl Rove and the neocons were setting things up to go to war, about 75% of the people bought their snake oil. That left about 25% with enough sense to see through the flim flam. The consequences of the Iraq war have probably awakened another 5% and got them to join the 25% in the anti-war camp. So that makes something like 30% reliably against Bush.

    The latest polls put about 40% sticking with Bush, no matter what. That leaves 30% to be manipulated. When you consider that these 30% are pliable and probably not the brightest stars on the flag, then master manipulators Rove & Co. only need to get half of that group of sheep to give their side a 55% majority.

    "Bush is 'toast'" may be something we would like to believe, but don't bet on it. People are always looking for that light at the end of the tunnel, but as the old saying goes, "That light may be a train coming in your direction."

    The other problem is that the left, or even the center, has no leader. There are a few good people around, but the question is, "Can a leader emerge that progressives and others to the left of center would rally around?" The other question is, "If a good leader emerged, would the American people have enough sense to realize it?" The left does have a long history of splitting into factions and being unwilling to compromise.

    Most likely the Democrats will just put forward the lesser of two evils as usual and assign incompetent campaign managers to run his or Hillary's campaign.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    Here's what Republican writer David Brooks had to say about W and his boyz on "Hardball" last week.

    Brooks talked to someone who meets with W every day and he says the Bushies are just channeling Reagan: if they say the earth is flat over and over and over, people believe it. Then, never admit mistakes. It shows weakness and will perpetuate the story in the 24/7 news cyclone.

    Straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.

    (Make up your own "Brownie" joke here)

  • LT (unverified)

    These days, how many belong to "the left" or "the right" and how many are just looking for problem solvers?

    One of many writings on this subject was by a Washington Post columnist which begins:

    The Party of Performance

    By David Ignatius

    Friday, September 9, 2005; Page A25

    In the aftermath of Katrina, there's an opening for a different kind of politics in America. The new politics isn't about values; it isn't about settling scores. It's about performance. It's about putting a wounded, shaken country back on its feet, much as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in his famous First Hundred Days.

    One politician who is clearly articulating that vision right now is the recovering right-wing firebrand, former House speaker Newt Gingrich. I've always had a soft spot for Gingrich, despite his sometimes nasty partisanship during the 1990s, because he is that rare political figure who actually does think "outside the box" about how to solve problems. And he's doing that now.

  • CB (unverified)

    If you think W will go away because of Katrina, your nuts. America likes him because he gives them a feeling of reassurance and genuiness (especially compared to the Clintons, Kerry, Gore or Dean); and even if they disapprove of his performance now, when the idiots in the flyover states are given a chance to forgive him, they undoubtedly will.

  • LT (unverified)

    As someone who was born in Michigan and who knows Paul Hackett won 4 rural counties in Ohio, I must protest the geographic condescension in this comment: If you think W will go away because of Katrina, your nuts. America likes him because he gives them a feeling of reassurance and genuiness (especially compared to the Clintons, Kerry, Gore or Dean); and even if they disapprove of his performance now, when the idiots in the flyover states are given a chance to forgive him, they undoubtedly will.

    Those "flyover states" are not entirely represented by Republicans.

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    Dems should have gone for Wes Clark last time and should go for him next time.

    Swing voters are dying for someone they feel they can trust and is competent. Wes Clark can make that case. He's personable, good looking and a very smart guy. His military background makes him look strong, his policies make him look caring and the silver hair makes him look wise. (I happen to think he gneuinely has a significant amount of all of those qualities but having them isn't enough. You need to look like you have them on TV.) In many ways, he's the national version of Tom Potter.

    He knows what to do with Iraq and he will be able to convince enough voters of that. He is the most left-leaning candidate that the right will not succeed in painting as an ultra-leftist. (Remember actual political philosophy absolutely does not count in that fight. Howard Dean, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton have all been successfully painted as ultra-leftist by the right.)

  • TimC (unverified)

    "Brownie, you're doing a great job"

    That line will be thrown back in Bush's face from now until he leaves office. He is clueless. He is incompetent. The emperor is wearing no clothes. But that won't stop his backers from continuing to worship him. Bush is not toast, but he is starting to quack.

    Regarding 2008, please no Republican-lite nominee. I agree that HillaryC, AlG and JohnK are nearly certain losers, but I do not want an Evan Bayh or Brian Schweitzer. Wes Clark did nothing to impress me in 2004. I supported Edwards in the primary last cycle, but he was shown to be a lightweight during the general election. Unfortunately, just as in 2004, we in Oregon will have no say in selecting the eventual nominee.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    David Ignatius is usually one of the more reasonable columnists, but his optimism about the American public becoming enlightened and raising their political standards is probably unjustified. As for Gingrich, he may make sense once in a while. Given the law of averages and how much he wags his tongue, he has to get some statements that make sense, but he is basically a right wingnut and probably always will be.

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    moving from the need to undermine the entire neocon death-cult movement to a discussion of who the dem's candidate in 2008 will be is counter-productive. yes, it's fun (i expect a battle between clark & mccain), but that's not where our energies ought to be going, imo. we need to build our movement from the grassroots up. who the national leaders are is a lot less important right now; after all, for all his personal magnetism (he could have won re-election in 2000, i have no doubt), clinton had no tailcoats.

    we must concentrate our efforts on building democracy locally. replace bad city councilors & county commissioners. win back the oregon house. pass civil unions. fund the schools. these are the things we will build a movement on, not the election of a president. the grassroots work is harder than hell, it's going to take us years, but there is no substitute for fundamental work. that's why dean is visiting every state, repeatedly, and why he's forcing the dnc to fund local activists (and leaving localities free to define and communicate their messages, not the national spin).

    i'll be ready to bust my buns for the nominee in 2008, but there is a lot more work to do first -- and after. focus, people: it's what made the neocon movement so effective. and so deadly.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    Right on, again, T.A.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    When the leader of the free world is openly MOCKED for having to ask his young aide for permission to go to the bathroom, at a U.N. summit, well, it is SO over.

    The chickens are coming home to roost.


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