Archive for the ‘George W Bush’ category

In Comparison…

July 6, 2019

The “neo-conservative” foreign policies of the Trump Administration should remind Americans of George W Bush Administration’s hubris days, and where hubris can lead.  The Trump Administration has put forth some amazing policy initiatives and to date, none have yielded anything close to what the President advertised.

As a reminder,

  • “W” didn’t need regulations and deemphasized picking sound Department leaders.  Along comes Hurricane Katrina (not Bush’s fault) and the world got to see third world relief when FEMA couldn’t get out of its own way.  
  • 9/11 was arguably also not Bush’s fault but his administration had been dismissive of al Qaeda before the airplanes crashed. 
  • The invasion of Afghanistan was a positive Bush move but the morphing of the Afghan campaign into “nation building” was a decision made by amateurs. 
  • Not content with one miscalculation, the Bush team (read Vice President Dick Cheney), concocted a story about Iraq, its connection to 9/11 (there was none) and that Iraq was building nuclear weapons (it was not), and the Iraq invasion and Occupation proceeded. 
  • But not done with mega mess ups, Bush and company looked the other way on regulatory controls over the banking system.  Soon bank liquidity dried up and the world stood at the brink of a Depression Era contraction.  Hmmm.

The Trump white House, not to be outdone,

  • opened with a series of unforced errors as Trump seemingly attempted to undo anything and everything President Obama had overseen.  Americans got used to hearing “worst ever”, “ a complete disaster”, and “unfair”. 
  • Latin Americans, especially the “dreamers”, an educated Latin American group who were brought to the US as children were targeted for deportation.  Why? 
  • Muslims were next with visa severe restrictions. Why?
  • The Trans Pacific Partnership, a multi-lateral trade group, which would have given the US leverage in any subsequent trade or foreign policy dispute with China was rejected.  Why? 
  • The Paris Climate Agreement, the only tool the US possessed to help curb global green house increases, was scuttled.  Why?
  • Next came the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action where Iran’s nuclear development programs was halted, was not good enough for the Trump Administration.  Result: US unilateral withdrawal.  Why? 
  • And then came the tariffs.  Steel and Aluminum tariffs were introduced under national defense claims which were clearly unjustified and will in the future provided an bad example to any other country.  Why?
  • And more tariffs.  Canada and Mexico!  South Korea, Japan and India.  Europe and China followed, and then trouble arose. Both Europe and China are capable of tit for tat reciprocity which translates into higher prices for US consumers and reduced exports for American businesses. Why?

What is the common thread between Bush and Trump.  There are several:

  • Bush was never involved enough.
  • Trump is involved too much.
  • Both surrounded themselves with conservative/republican advisors who hosted extreme views about America’s “exceptionalism”.

IMO, President Trump naively assumed his real estate bully tactics would apply to foreign and domestic affairs.  Trump’s goals was primarily reelection while his family businesses prospered in the background.  The President has enlisted extreme advisors (Stephen Miller, Peter Navaro, Robert Litehaiser, John Bolton, and Larry Kudlow) who perform the detail work on unworkable ideas.  So what lies ahead?

Hmmm.

  • Trump’s Mexican (Latin American) policies are inadequate, immoral, and are not working.  The US needs workers and there is no process to ensure a steady flow.
  • Trade based upon punching the other country first, then negotiating back from this position does not work.  Trust disappears and global realities overwhelm unilateralism.
  • Both China and Russia represent global threats for which the strongest and most cost effective deterrent comes from a coalition of allies.  Trump has alienated most of our traditional allies.
  • Climate change represents the most serious global unknown and the US has abdicated any leadership role.  Consequences could lead to wars and civil rebellions.  Global trade could evaporate.

In short, President Trump, in just 2 1/2 years has set the table for potentially an even worse Presidency than George W Bush delivered.  In comparison, Bush was a decent (if dull light bulb) person, while Trump is a narcissistic, highly overrated bully.  But it is the factions within the conservative and republican ranks which have crafted the specifics of each President’s policies which are to be singled out. 

Defeating Donald Trump in 2020 is a must and returning all of Congress to a Democrat majority will be necessary to clean up the mess Trump has created. 

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Writing Posts Is Not Easy

May 13, 2019

Well into the third year of President Trump, it is not easy to publish new and original posts.  In the opening months of the Trump Administration, each day brought one more audacious event after another.  Posting something that reflected a Trump policy which was demonstrably ill advised was a “holy cow” event.  Now the crude, rude, and of course, incorrect Presidential statements do not surprise and have become predictable. 

Regaining the Center, dating from the George W Bush years, aims to expose and comment upon hypocrisies which others may have not yet called out.  Punditry along with newsworthy press coverage, however, are all over President Trump and never let one of his distasteful utterances go unnoticed.  What is left for Regaining the Center?

IMO, America made a serious mistake in electing Donald Trump.  To be sure Hillary Clinton was a flawed candidate too, but Clinton’s flaws were well within the bounds of sound governance.  President Trump has had virtually no foreign or domestic policy action which can be yet traced to positive outcomes.  From his “big beautiful wall” to “I love tariffs” with stops in between supporting this dictator or that one or stiffing one long time ally or another, President Trump has thrown more muck at the proverbial wall and none have achieved his promised outcomes.

(Some may cite Trump’s tax cuts as a smashing success.  Closer inspection, however, shows no connection between promised outcomes and what has actually taken place with those who received the lion share of the tax benefit.  The cost of the tax cut is being sent to our children and theirs since the tax cut is unfunded.)

All Presidents experience domestic or foreign policy failures.  Despite the best of intentions, world events do not always go as predicted.  Most Presidents, however, surround themselves with competent mainstream advisors and pursue incremental change, largely because the world is a very complicated place.  Not Donald Trump.

  • The Mexican border wall is dealing with the wrong end of the immigration problem.  Why are central Americans seeking refugee status and how can those causes be mitigated?
  • Securing new manufacturing jobs would be wonderful if that were economically possible.  Repatriating manufacturing jobs which have gone to China (or other lower wage countries) is a non-starter because the US cost to manufacture (largely wage driven) is too high.
  • Denying climate change is both dangerous for future generations but in denying, the President is refuting science.  Denial teaches science our youth that education is not important.  This dangerous example is the hallmark of second rate countries.
  • Bi-lateral trade agreements run counter to reality.  The world is complicated and trade arrangements must be flexible enough to anticipate apparent irrationalities from trading partners.  For example, religious or ideological interferences come and go, and consequently two specific trading partners might go to war and ask for the US to side with one of them.  Trade agreements where the US gets most of what it seeks and so do the other trading partners better insulates against unforeseen global changes.

Today North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela are hot spots getting hotter.  Under Trump, other countries that could be useful in resolving tensions have been alienated and are content to stand on the sidelines.

And geopolitically, China and southeast Asia represents the largest area potential trouble and future conflict.  Where is the US?  Does day dreaming sound right?  The US has allowed a trade policy disputes to erode into a trade war with consequences on Wall Street and Americans pocketbook.

Regaining the Center offers a safe port in this Trump-made storm.  The next two years culminating in the November 2020 elections provide the opportunity to reset America’s political compass.  Voters need to recognize the folly the Trump Administration and its GOP enablers have put forth.  Choosing candidates who will promise a “center” road platform and who will endeavor to work on real problems not phony political claims should be the goal.

Since no candidate is likely to speak entirely candidly (most seek to be all things to all people), the candidate pointing towards the center is probably the safest bet.   

The Cynics Quandary

February 12, 2019

The election of Donald Trump has placed a new lens on the everyday political world.  Through this lens, many, while scratching their heads about the crass, wholly despicable, and greedy attempts by the President to reap benefits from the Office of the President, say “sure President Trump is unusual but what has changed, politicians are all the same, and my life is unchanged and no different than it was under President Obama”?

Trump apologists begin with “I voted for Trump because Hillary was worse”.  To be sure, the Clintons have used their roles in State and National politics to gather and enhance personal wealth.  But both Hillary and Bill Clinton were students of domestic and foreign policy, and observed the accepted decorum associated with political life.  Both were interested in sustaining traditional American values and institutions.  

George W Bush, the compassionate conservative, was already wealthy when he ran for President.  Bush inherited “family” money and connections.  “W”, however, was hardly a student of anything (other than bicycle riding and painting).  And Bush’s term produced the Iraq Invasion and Occupation (the unwinding of the Middle East), Hurricane Katrina (the failure of Government services), and the near depression of 2008 (failure of government oversight).  Americans were left the impression that “W” meant well but was surrounded by those who didn’t.  

Barack Obama appealed to a different voter segment and was swept into office.  Obama was well intended but not skilled as an executive.  Obama was neither rich (meaning wealth and Washington influence) nor experienced (meaning how Washington worked), or just as importantly, how the Democrat Party leader ought to lead.  President Obama was more like a quick learning Don Quixote than “I don’t worry about those things” George W Bush.

President Trump represents something quite different.  His style and actions are foreign to Presidents who respected the office despite what they may or may not accomplish.  Trump is first and foremost about himself, the perpetual need for narcissistic gratification and the robust and crass search for personal wealth.  Beyond Trump’s inclinations  lays a much more dangerous side.

President Trump is putting holes in the ship of state’s side BELOW the water line.  His baseless attacks on the FBI, CIA, and members of Congress are over the top.  Trump’s repeated assertion that he knows more than the Generals (or Global Warming experts) presents  risks to every American in the days, months, and years ahead.  But some tell us Hillary would have been worse.  Hmmm.

The feeling some profess that “nothing has changed”, or that “Congress members unceasing thirst for personal wealth growth” is the real problem simply do not recognize how far out of the mainstream President Trump lies.  His pathological lying and senseless attacks on foreign allies are driving the US into that spot between a rock and a hard spot.  

Presidential leadership should be forward looking while assume the world is inherently unpredictable.  Great leaders prepare the country for unforeseen events while building the country’s capabilities.  Stealing from the future does not make America great, instead America is being hollowed out.

Great roads or bridges, if not maintained, will in time collapse.  Less wealthy countries left to their own devices will become nuisances, and often war with each other.  Income inequality is a natural event and without government’s soft touch, the economy will slow because the mass’ buying power becomes too little.  President Trump’s “friends”, however, thrive and prosper under these undesirable conditions.  Therefore, it should be no mystery why the President acts the he does.

In a large economy like the US, changes occur on the margins.  Consequently mainstream change occurs slowly and only after a period of time.  But once mainstream change begins, it will require even greater force to reverse the erosion, not just another Executive Order.  Cynics who overlook Trump’s destructive rule simply because they “see nothing has changed” are in for a surprise.  When the surprise arrives, cynics will wake up to real change and no good ideas on how to get back to the past.

VICE

January 5, 2019

The movie, “VICE”, which was recently released, should be a must see movie.  The movie catalogues Vice President Dick Cheney’s abuse of executive power during George W Bush’s 8 years in office.  Those conservative Republicans who boosted Bush/Cheney into office can claim responsibility for

  • Afghanistan War, longest military conflict in US history
  • Iraq War, invasion of a sovereign country on trumped up, phony charges
  • Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, home of waterboarding and enhanced interrogation
  • “Black Sites”, CIA overseas torture site of kidnapped victims
  • Over $1 trillion in unfunded “War on Terror” spending

President Trump is following an unorthodox path making all decisions himself.  Unlimited executive power is dangerous in any ones hands but with sociopaths like Cheney and Trump, power is extremely dangerous and what will happen next is unpredictable. 

Directly below is a “Regaining the Center” post from December 16, 2008.  VICE has put this post’s views on the big screen.

Cheney’s Presidency

(Regaining the Center, December 16, 2008)

As historians sit poised to begin the detailed accounting of the Bush 43 years as President of the United States, they will find the real history in recounting who was the real power and who’s words, thoughts, and deeds were the moving force behind the Office of the President.  It would be none other than Dick Cheney.

A lot of people would have given credit to Karl Rove if the real power were not that of George W Bush himself.  To some extent Rove was a power, but his power was reserved for the gutter and the political favor business.  All important matters of State including security were the domain of Dick Cheney.  His shadow “White House” had its own intelligence effort and routed all important decision through the Office of the Vice President before letting them go on to “W”.  While Karl was waiting to trip you in the gutter, Dick waited in the dark alley way.

In recent interviews with ABC news, Cheney confirmed that he remained dead set against closing Guantanamo and had been (and still was) supportive of the enhanced interrogation techniques (read water boarding and disregard for the Geneva Convention) used by the CIA.  On the other hand, “W”, the man with no strong opinions, has recently expressed regret about Guantanamo and said he would like to see it closed.

Chaney is a modern day Captain Queeg who will stick to his beliefs until the end.  Were his beliefs a little more enlightened, that quality would be a mark of distinction and not a mark of shame.  The Cheney doctrine (the all powerful executive branch) has been shown to be both misguided and dangerous when left to real humans.  Maybe it would work with a benevolent (and wise) dictator but Dick Cheney was neither of those and “W” was too busy with jogging, biking, and having his picture taken to do the work to actually be the President.

As historians write, I hope there will be a special commission (later followed by a special prosecutor) working along side the historians.  Then history can record that a former President and his Vice President were charged and convicted of crimes against humanity and other specific crimes against the laws of the United States.

Bush v Trump

September 20, 2018

As former President George W Bush was exiting the White House, with the Iraq and Middle East situation a shambles and the US economy in free fall into recession, a reporter ask Bush what he thought historians would write about him.  In typical “W” style, President Bush said, “I don’t think much about that”, the “W” added, “history is a long time”.  In so many words, the former President said that in the future historians might look fondly back upon his tenure when more history was known.  Hmmm.

I was flabbergasted that “W” would think that any future President could rack up so many first class disasters in 8 years and beat his record.  But history is a wonderful ointment and helps sooth painful memories.

Only 8 years later along comes Donald J Trump. 

“W” was someone seemingly devoid of curiosity, less interested in thinking and more in having his picture taken.  President Trump is in one respect quite the same, he thirsts for having his picture taken.  Trump, however, appears manic, never hesitates that he is right, and presents a constant narcissistic demeanor seeking reinforcement that he is special.  

Bush was surrounded by the Republicans best, put in their jobs because the Republican deep State were worried about “W” on his own.  Trump is surrounded by hand-picked “yes” men who keep their job if and only if they cow-tow to Trump’s every wish.

President Bush had little or no control over the direction his Republican supporters wanted to go (remember the real President, Dick Cheney?).  President Trump, senses where his present day Republican base plus his deep pocket supporters want to go, then merrily leads the parade regardless of whether it is prima facia dangerous.

George W Bush was a decent but not extraordinary man.  Donald J Trump is extraordinary in his aversion to telling the truth, readiness for public boorish behavior, and as someone who just can’t be trusted.  Both men have pushed the standard Republican platform without regard to any moral compass. 

In less than two years, President Trump has shown America that there can be less qualified Americans to be President than President Bush.  Worryingly, President Trump has, like a bull in a china shop, engendered a growing risk of war with China, another collapse of the US economy, and mightily championed the destruction of the public respect for American institutions like the FBI, intelligence services, courts, and election processes. 

“W” had no interest or stomach for this type of destructive behavior.  To that extent, Bush was a good man.

Trump has combined some of his historically based beliefs (like trade deficits, global treaties, and xenophobia) with traditional Republican values (like tax cuts, Supreme Court nominees, and anti women, anti gay, and anti healthcare) into a toxic soup offering no light at the end of the tunnel.

American Republicans can not be all “bad” people any more than American Democrats can be all good people.  But there is an unmistakeable pernicious smell to the current elected crowd called Republicans.  President Trump may be a sorry case for a human being but he is being aided and abetted by the Republican Congressional majority. 

In November step one must include flipping control of at least one branch of Congress (and preferably both).  Step two will follow in 2020 when America gets a second chance to “get it right” and deny President Trump a second term. 

Will The Chicken Hawks Return?

February 15, 2018

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying this past week before Congressional Committees. One news report quoted Coats as saying the US was running out of time to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Coats indicated that soon only military force would remain a viable option. WHAT ???

George W Bush is still alive and so is the chief chicken hawk, Dick Chaney. The memory of their fiasco telling Americans that when the US invaded Iraq our soldiers would be welcomed by Iraqis throwing flower petals at their feet as they marched by. To be sure some Iraqis threw objects at American soldiers feet but flower petals were not the objects.

The Iraq invasion and occupation remains one, if not the, greatest foreign policy failure whose consequences Americans will be visiting for years to come. The invasion opened a pandora’s box (to the surprise of Cheney and Bush) and unleashed sectarian violence through out the region. Instead of intimidating the Iranians, events embolden them to drive even harder developing nuclear weapons.

On the domestic front, Americas recognized once more that older men send younger men off to war, promise the soldiers full support and then proceed to forget about military members including those wounded and maimed when they return home.

North Korea is a two-bit country which may in fact develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver the weapons to US soil. North Korea will join a list of 8 other nations also capable of deploying the “bomb”. Does Coats think China and Russia will stand by an allow the US to “take out” North Korea or any of the others preemptively?

The conservative right may feel bold and think giving North Korea a “bloody nose” in some type of preemptive move is a wise tactic. Regrettably, these “black-white” thinkers can not recognize today’s world contours. Instead they project American military strength around the world as if military strength was unique and more appropriate than diplomacy. Current generation conservatives appear more comfortable making short term decisions and in the process frittering away America’s moral and strategic leadership.

Strategic patience was the term President Obama used to encompass a comprehensive strategy for combatting North Korea and other uncooperative States. Strategic Patience foresees bad behavior by small countries as a nuisance, not an imminent threat.  And, in any comprehensive policy, President Obama’s Administration tried to engage other powers including Russia and China in attempts to find global solutions for nuisance countries.

In contrast, the Bush/Cheney era was driven by “neo-conservatives” who relied upon rattling the saber rather then undertaking the more nuanced hard work of diplomacy. Sending other people’s children to war against smaller countries was the hallmark of these “chicken hawks”. Shooting first, thinking (about the consequences) later defined these misguided leaders.

Under President Obama, foreign policy was forged with a heavy emphasis on assessing the world as it was and as it was trending. Sending our soldiers into war became a last resort.

I wonder whether Coats testimony has accidentally revealed the emergence of a new generation of chicken hawks?

A Name From The Past

October 23, 2017

This past week has seen a name from the past, former President George W Bush, step forward and call out the dangerous white nationalist elements who cheer the loudest when President Trump promises to “make America great again”. The former President said America is not defined by color, religion, or ethnicity. Rather Americans, or at least the ones Bush knows, share a common set of values that set the country apart from the rest of the world. Isolationism and trade wars only bring destructions and conflicts, Bush said.

Steve Bannon, President Trump’s “Karl Rove”, said President Bush was a disgrace. I wonder where he got that insight?

Only a few years ago, the political world was quite different. In the 2000s, Congressional Republicans offered a fiscally conservative agenda, were content with traditional precedents, and contained their exuberances within the boundaries of national values and America’s place in the world community. Regretfully, the “neoconservative” Republican Party wing, a splinter group, coaxed former President Bush, thanks to already having won over Vice President Dick Cheney, into invading and occupying Iraq. This misstep has turned out to be a disaster for foreign policy and one more proof to most Americans that the President and the Government could not be trusted.

Is this what Bannon is speaking about?

In another eery parallel with present day Republicans, President Bush also sought and obtained two tax cuts (no effort was made to disguised these cuts as tax reform). These cuts were premised upon stimulating the economy and words to the effect “these cuts will pay for themselves”. Hmmm.

The cuts did not pay for themselves and the costs went right to the charge account, the National Debt. Oh, and the greatest benefit went to the super rich. Hmmm.

Is this what Bannon was talking about?

While this linear reflection on history may be accurate, it is not sufficient to explain why former President Bush was motivated to give his speech this week, or why Steve Bannon was willing to denigrate a former President.

This week Congress passed a proposed $4 trillion budget which contains room for a $1.5 trillion tax cut (reform). Once again Americans were told that the tax cuts “will pay for themselves”. And once again Americans were told the cuts will benefit middle class Americans. And, once again the real winners were the very wealthy like the Kochs and a whole host of special interests.

Does history repeat?

Former President Bush’s words were not in opposition to tax reform.  His words were instead very much to the point of President Trump’s un-American rhetoric and apparent disdain for traditional institutions.    Bush’s comments represent a much needed push back from mainstream Republicans.

American voters, on the other hand, have much to be disenchanted with. The smell emanating from Congress members’ partisan behavior is only exceeded by their focus upon the needs of their financial supporters. What should a frustrated voter do, turn to men like Steve Bannon?

There has been a revival of the show “Caberet” recently. This musical drama about pre-World War II Berlin is a chilling reminder about dogmatic regimes that attempt to restrict personal freedoms and freedom of the press (expression).  “Fake News”, “Muslim bans, and “building walls” are dog whistles for those with fascists views.

If nothing more, former President Bush’s words provide weight to those who object to “bully-ism” or any related form of racism, homophobia, or gender discrimination.

President Bush may have made mistakes, and Republicans at that time may have been lax on fiscal and regulatory diligence, but no one can claim Republicans were intent on subverting traditional democratic ways to gain personal or political advantage.

Since 2008, things have been different.

“Caberet” and former President Bush’s words should serve as a wake up call for a sleeping Americans.  While we have all slept, “nationalist forces” have made large inroads into America’s governing process.   Like many Germans in 1939, some Americans are becoming aghast at what NAZI government control could do.