Thursday, January 29, 2004
"Mr. President, when did you first realize that you suffer from intelligence failure?"
(By the way, the Center for American Progress has put together a concise refutation of the Administration's 'intelligence failure' script. link)
John Kerry has a line he's been repeating over and over, and it seems to me to be exactly the way to attack the Bush Administration. Kerry says, "George Bush has run the most arrogant, inept, reckless and ideological foreign policy in the modern history of our country." Iowa / New Hampshire
The word 'inept' leaps out at me. If there's a policy area that you can point to and say, "This Administration handled that well," I don't know what it is. Even if you stick to the Administration's preferred script, the decision to invade Iraq looks like a bumbling failure -- an impression that only grows stronger as they continue to bungle the reconstruction.
But you don't have to stop with Iraq. How did 9/11 happen? Well, it certainly looks like one of the factors was that the Administration ignored the Clinton Administration's warnings that al Quaeda was a serious threat. What about the jobless recovery? That seems to have something to do with the Administration's choice to cut taxes rather than put together a realistic economic stimulus package. Last week Bush was pointing to Afghanistan as a nation building success story. But if that's what success looks like, then we're doing a better job in Iraq than I thought. The list goes on and on and on.
Calling the Bush Administration inept isn't just accurate, it's also good politics. Lots of Americans want to like George Bush. He seems like a good guy; he's jocular, religious, gregarious, the sort of guy you'd enjoy watching a ballgame with, or talking to about your crisis of faith. Call him a liar and people want to defend him. But an attack on somebody's competence isn't personal in the same way. We all know people who are nice enough, who we like, but who we just don't think would be capable of handling the Presidency. Attack Bush's competence and folks in the middle can take a look at the record and judge for themselves. And if they take a good look, they might not stay in the middle.
DeLong has a good riff that touches on this point: "Why do so many of us who worked so hard on economic policy for the Clinton administration, and who think of ourselves as mostly part of a sane and bipartisan center, find the Bush administration and its Republican congressional lapdogs so... disgusting, loathsome, contemptible? Why are we so bitter? After introspection, the answer for me at least as clear. We worked very hard for years to repair the damage that Ronald Reagan and company had done to America's fisc. We strained every nerve and muscle to find politically-possible and popularly-palatable ways to close the deficit, and put us in a position in which we can at least begin to think about the generational long-run problems of financing the retirement of the baby-boom generation and dealing with the rapidly-rising capabilities and costs of medicine. We saw a potential fiscal train wreck far off in the future, and didn't ignore it, didn't shrug our shoulders, didn't assume that it would be someone else's problem, but rolled up our sleeves and set to work. Then the Bush people come in. And in two and a half years they trash the place. They trash the place deliberately. They trash the place casually. They trash the place gleefully. They undo our work for no reason at all--just for the hell of it." link