CONVENIENT EXPLANATIONS. Has Bob Samuelson been asleep the past five years? In his column today, Samuelson puzzles at the fact that the Bush administration is "shamefully" (a) claiming that this year�s $296 billion deficit is an achievement; and (b) attributing said "achievement" to Bush�s tax cuts, and celebrating accordingly.

For Samuelson and others who may need a refresher course, there are two guiding principles of Bush-era public policy. First, invert the usual policy process by identifying the solution or answer you prefer, then shop around for a problem or question to fit it. Record surpluses? Time to cut taxes. Impending recession? Tax cuts are the answer. Cat stuck in tree? You guessed it: tax cuts.

Second, no matter the result, claim not merely success, but success attributable to the pre-ordained solution. Libya has come to the table? The Iraq invasion is a success! Rising violence in Baghdad? The dead-enders in their last throes know the invasion was a success! The Sox finally won the Series? Congrats to Rummy and the Iraq architects. This is why Bush in 2004 couldn�t think of any mistakes he�d made -- with this foolproof (so to speak) method, everything is a success, and always.

What�s most galling about the Bushies� ex ante certainty about this administration�s �solutions� and the even greater ex post certainty about their root causes is that such certainty flies in the face of the administration�s reflexive notions about causality. Every social scientist recognizes that no set of variables ever explains all the variance in any equation. Bush�s EPA exploits this fact to claim that there�s uncertainty about global warming; �intelligent design� hucksters do the same with evolutionary theories. But when it comes to the complexity of fiscal accounting in a multivariate national and world economy, such uncertainties vanish because, well, it just has to be the tax cuts. Cigars all around, fellas!

The price of ideological governance is certainty where it doesn�t exist, and doubts wherever and whenever they are convenient. That�s the �shame� of this administration, one only made worse by the fact that guys like Samuelson have taken so long to figure out what so many of us realized from the outset.

--Tom Schaller