Archive

  • BUSH V. GORE.

    BUSH V. GORE. Great presidents educate the public, and what's most distressing about the Bush era is that the president has so horribly mis-educated the public on the two biggest public policy decisions of his presidency: taxes and Iraq. On the first count we were told by Bush during the 2000 campaign and many times subsequently that, despite massive debt, annual surpluses were a problem for the public and the economy. (This is akin to telling a person with $10,000 in credit card debt that it would be a bad idea if, finding extra income at the end of the month, he should spend it rather than apply it to his credit debt.) On the second count, I simply don't have enough space to review all of the mid-education at work on Saddam Hussein as a threat, Saddam as an al Qaeda ally, the need and ability to democratize Iraq, etc, etc. The irony of the Bush presidency/ Al Gore non-presidency is that, during Bush's reign, Gore has succeeded rather well in educating the public about his own pet...
  • DIPLOMACY FOR BEGINNERS.

    DIPLOMACY FOR BEGINNERS. John Judis has a nice piece about the history and sorry track record of conservatives' odd aversion to diplomacy and liberals' tragic failure to adequately resist it. The upshot is that, specific issues and countries aside, the whole assumption that there's anything to be gained by either de facto or de jure denying diplomatic recognition to other countries is wrong. Having ambassadors in each others' countries and regular talks between officials about matters of common concern is just what countries that aren't actively at war with each other do. The idea that talking to Syria -- not necessarily agreeing with Syria about anything, but just talking so as to explore the possibility of agreement or at least understand what we're disagreeing about -- would meaningfully set back the cause of Middle Eastern democracy is daft. --Matthew Yglesias
  • NEOCONSERVATISM: DEMOCRACY OR HEGEMONY?

    NEOCONSERVATISM: DEMOCRACY OR HEGEMONY? Reading Shadi Hamid new article reminds me that I really think liberals ought to stop saying that the Bush administration's foreign policy -- or that of the neoconservative faction within the Republican Party -- has ever really had anything to do with democracy. In particular, framing the foreign policy debate as one in which liberals and neoconservatives agree about democracy, but disagree about methods , while realists disagree with liberals and neocons alike on this topic is, I think, highly misleading. Neoconservatism is an ideology about American hegemony and the need to defend, entrench, and expand it through constant forceful action. Somewhat ironically, all this used to be better undertood. In the waning days of the first Bush administration, Paul Wolfowitz , working for then-SecDef Dick Cheney wrote a controversial Defense Planning Guidance. As Patrick Tyler reported at the time for The New York Times ("U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for...
  • STRAIGHT HOGWASH.

    STRAIGHT HOGWASH. John McCain stopped by the studios of Meet The Press last Sunday, where he was greeted by David Gregory , who is somewhat less of a regular on MTP than the senator is. The conversation got around to the NSA wiretapping decision last week, and the Straight Talker went right to the manure wagon . In fact, "most constitutional scholars" don't believe anything like what the senator attributes to them. Some believe Judge Taylor 's decision to be flawed in its argumentation, and some of them believe its rhetoric to be impolite. (Not me, God knows.) Glenn Greenwald has done a good job correcting the most obvious misinformation coming from the most fervent of these folks. But on the fundamental question of whether or not the president of the United States has the inherent authority to order wiretaps on American citizens without probable cause or a warrant, and in defiance of settled federal law on the subject in the form of the FISA statute, there are an awful lot of...
  • ONE FOR THE FAMILY.

    ONE FOR THE FAMILY. So, this week, we read this about our commander in chief: He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that. And we recall that, in accepting his party's nomination back in 2000, he read from his teleprompter the following sentiment: I know the presidency is an office that turns pride into prayer. Here�s the whole speech . In our new TAPPED home game, match the rhetorical bells and whistles therein with the subsequent Bush administration debacle of your choosing. Begin with Hurricane Katrina. Hours of family fun! --...
  • HENTOFF OFF-MESSAGE.

    HENTOFF OFF-MESSAGE. Nobody in this business has fought harder for the Bill of Rights than Nat Hentoff has, but this piece is just awful. Hentoff ought to be embarrassed to be tossing around accusations of anti-Semitism in the pages of a toy newspaper owned by Sun Myung Moon . The Great Father, after all, is on record as blaming the Holocaust on the fact that the Jews rejected Jesus . (Talk about your Golden Oldies of anti-Semitic theorizing.) He's even more widely on the record as condemning the separation of church and state, a doctrine on behalf of which Hentoff nobly has spilled more than his share of ink. If Hentoff's going to toss this silly charge around -- attributing generally to Connecticut's Democratic voters the idiocies of a couple of blog-commenters -- then he really ought not to be doing so while taking a check from a corrupt theocratic crackpot. --Charles P. Pierce
  • IN AIDS NEWS....

    IN AIDS NEWS. Hillary Clinton is blocking renewal of the 1990 Ryan White Act, the primary HIV/AIDS legislation covering people with low incomes and little or no insurance. The reasoning is kind of interesting: The old formula apportioned money based on the number of actual AIDS cases, heavily favoring areas like New York and San Francisco that absorbed the epidemic early on. The new formula would hand out cash based on HIV incidence rates, which would give quite a bit more to rural and Southern areas which were hit by the plague hit later and are still undergoing the transformation. This, of course, would take money from New York, which is why Clinton is blocking the bill. Unfortunately, I don't really know how much money is being shifted, and how that relates to the needs of various areas. My quick read is that this is a mixture of parochialism and insufficient resources -- that the new rules are supportable, but that what's needed is more funding in total, not the reallocation of...
  • JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MIND MATTERS.

    JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: MIND MATTERS. Neil Sinhababu (everyone's favorite ethical werewolf) makes the philosophical case against Ramesh Ponnuru 's views on moral status and personhood in The Party of Death . Read to find out why Ponnuru's philosophy would mean "shrug[ging] at the enslavement of hobbits, the slaughter of kittens, and the destruction of all life beyond earth." --The Editors
  • PERPETUAL WAR.

    PERPETUAL WAR. Another bizarre Bush press conference led off the week followed by another great column by Fred Kaplan . Something I note in the text of the article that Kaplan doesn't make a big deal about, though, is Bush's statement that "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president." Bush has said this or the equivalent several times, but it doesn't seem to have sunken in with people. On NPR this morning, I heard some talk about troop levels and discussion of when those levels might be reduced. But the answer, as you can see plainly if you pay attention, is not until someone else is in the White House at the earliest. Nevertheless, a week and a half ago, I found myself debating this point with a basically sympathetic radio host as if there was some serious doubt as to what Bush was planning. But he says it himself every once in a while -- his plan is to keep the troops there throughout the duration of his presidency, and any like-minded successor will just keep on keeping them...
  • The Wall Street Journal Discovers the Housing Bust

    Good to see that reporters and my fellow economists are now discovering some of the downsides of the housing bubble. The WSJ now recognizes the problem in part , although we're still only talking about something "harder than a soft landing but softer than a hard landing." But, that's progress. The article earns a BTP goat prize for failing to note that current house price indices are failing to pick up the full decline in prices because they miss the various concessions (seller paid closing costs, buyer-side realtor bonuses, and seller subsidized mortgages) that sellers often use to move their houses. The WSJ also notes that the housing affordability index hit a record low. How could that have happened, seems it was at record highs just a few years ago. Excuse me while I go tear my hair out . --Dean Baker

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