Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Feb. 14, 2005

Dead Men Walking

There is an old adage that nothing else focuses the mind like ones own pending execution. And last week we began to see some serious focusing on the part of leading congressional Republicans.

That focusing began as Republicans who have visions of replacing George W. Bush as president in 2008, and those who hope to be reelected to their current seats, felt a noose being gently slipped around their necks.

When startled Republicans turned around, imagine their shock to discover the would be executioner was none other than George W. Bush.

The noose Bush was trying to slip on without alarming them was his 2006 budget. It seems that now that they have had time to read it, Republicans realize that it is chuck full of tax cuts and spending increases that won’t hit until Bush finishes his second term – and just in time for the next – (they hope)- GOP president and GOP Congress to deal with.

Now that the GOP controls both Congress and the White House they are still pretty sure that Bush’s successor will be one to them. And, NONE of those hopefuls is about to let Bush skate painlessly through his second term by kicking all the pain down the road for them to feel long after Bush blows Dodge for good.

And so it came to pass last week that everyone of the GOP presidential aspirants could not sleep because of a similar recurring nightmare:

January 21, 2009 - The Scene: Being sworn in as the new President of the United States of America. Supreme Court Chief Justice Clarence Thomas awaits at the podium. As he stands and approaches to take the oath of office the announcer shouts into the microphone:

Dead man walkin’ Make way – Dead man walkin’

By the end of last week, puffy-eyed, sleep deprived GOP leaders slipped the noose and scurried to the nearest microphone to assure voters, in essence, “He’s with me.”

- "I don't think anyone in the administration really thought Congress would go along with this," Said one house Republican. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the Agriculture Committee, has also voiced his objections.

- Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). "The days of being everything to everybody are quickly coming to a close," he said, adding that a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts would make it politically impossible to borrow the full cost of a Social Security fix. "We have to look at the deficit in a holistic way."

- John Weaver, an advisor to Sen. John McCain (R-Az): "… unfortunately in the political world kicking (problems) down the road is often seen as leadership."

Just how much pain and suffering is Bush trying to leave behind for his own party when he goes back to Crawford? Texas-sized mess, of course. Here is just a sampler of the numbers causing GOP leaders to wake up screaming at night:

- Tax cuts approved in 2001 and 2003 of $1.7 trillion are due to expire at the end of 2010. Bush wants them made permanent adding an additional $1.1 trillion in negative revenue (debt) during the next president’s term.
- Bush’s Social Security restructuring that would cost $754 billion through 2015 – over the next ten years and up to $4.6 trillion over the next 20 years. But like the his tax cuts and Medicare drug benefit cost would not be felt until 2009, the first year of the next president’s term.
- The first full 10 years of the Medicare drug benefit program would cost $1.4 trillion during its first decade and $3.5 trillion in the second decade.
- Bush’s plan to establish broad new tax-free savings accounts would cost $15 billion beginning late in the next president’s term -- and the cost would rise sharply from there, as the accounts began shielding virtually all American savers from capital-gains, dividend and interest taxation. "That's a time bomb," said James Horney, a budget analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

So, how many Republicans are willing to hang together so Bush can beat the rap? Not many, and that spells trouble for Bush. In national politics the bigger a bill of goods a party is peddling the more accomplices they need to convince people it’s true. During Bush’s first term lowering taxes on the rich and justifying war were successfully peddled lies. Bush was able to keep his party singing off the same hymnal. If bullshit were music, during Bush’s first term the GOP was a loud and tight marching band.

This time it’s different. Take for example Bush’s Social Security private accounts gambit. Like the other lies he sold us in his first term, Bush has hit the road, crisscrossing the country like a patent medicine salesman trying to convince his intended victims he is offering them salvation. Only this time he is singing acapella – there's no GOP toady chorus accompanying him. He’s on his own – which in Bush’s case is not so good.

Instead of backing him up GOP leaders are spending a lot of time behind locked doors trying to figure out how to neuter their leader before his policies send them back to minority status. So, instead of singing from hymnal they are writing their own budget, coming up with their own Social Security plan and talking seriously about cutting back both Bush’s Medicare Drug benefits and his precious tax cuts.

Don Nickles, the recently retired Republican chairman of the Senate Budget Committee who is working closely with Hill Republicans, said Bush's drug benefits will need to be reopened to address problems of skyrocketing costs. He also said that Congress will have to be selective in extending the tax cuts, dropping some of the cuts and perhaps modifying the estate tax repeal to keep some of the revenue. That was Don Nickles talking, not Tom Daschle, not Harry Reid, not Ted Kennedy - though one might have though it was one or all of them.

Congressional Democrats are going to be the least of George W. Bush’s problems this time around. Members of his own party are not about to let him write checks they will have to cover long after he’s back in Crawford regaling folks with tales of his days in the Yankee capitol.

This could interesting. Bush never did understand the complexities and sensitive processes that make capitalism function, just as he also does not understand the complexities that influence the physical environment. Deficits, he believes, have not proven to be bad for the economy, just like global warming hasn’t been proven to be bad for the environment.

The man is not deep. So he will not understand what fellow Republicans are doing “to him” and to the handful of beliefs he holds dear. As they refuse to make his tax cuts permanent, reject his private SS accounts, and cut his Medicare Drug benefits, Bush will become befuddled. (Befuddleder… I should say.)

Anyway, I intend to enjoy the show.

Memo to Democrats: Try not to screw this up. Resist calls by the quisling arm of your party – those who want to court the red-state knuckle-dragger votes by “not obstructing” Bush’s proposals. You don’t have to obstruct anything in this case. Just stand by ready to throw lifelines to Congressional Republicans don't want to go down with Bush’s fiscal Titanic as they watch their captain float off in the last lifeboat.

"You can't depend on the man who makes the mess to clean it up." -- Richard M. Nixon

Democracy: What a Bitch!
My favorite stories are the ones where owners of mean-ass pit bulls and rotweillers get bitten by their own dogs.

It was in that spirit of cosmic justice I enjoyed reading how Iraq’s democracy midwife, George W. Bush, was shocked when his baby came out looking nothing like daddy. Clearly an Iranian milkman had gotten to the girl first.

With all the votes counted the winner was announced… Iran won the Iraqi election. And not by the kind of slim 2% margin Bush won his either, but by a healthy 48%.

Thousands of members of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Iran-friendly Shiite-dominated slate won almost half the votes and will name a prime minister who spent decades in exile in Iran. Most of the militia members in its largest faction were trained in Shiite-dominated Iran. Second place with to the Kurdish alliance, whose co-leader Jalal Talabani is the top nominee for president and also has deep ties with Iran.

"This is a government that will have very good relations with Iran. The Kurdish victory reinforces this conclusion. Talabani is very close to Tehran," said Juan Cole, a University of Michigan expert on Iraq. "In terms of regional geopolitics, this is not the outcome that the United States was hoping for."

Oh, would that be the same Iran that just told the Bush administration to get stuffed, that they intend to continue pursuing their own nuclear weapons program? The same Iran that is one of the two remaining Axis of Evil nations? The same Iran the administration claims is now the world capitol of support for terrorists? That Iran?

Nice going Gomer. I’m not sure we can survive many more new democracies right now George.

At least not the kind you deliver.

Raconteur at Large

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