My Photo

« For the record. | Main | Critique of RNC Reason »

September 03, 2004


Nice post. And don't forget that Bush said he'd make the tax cuts permanent, and that his proposal for Social Security reform is projected to involve something like a trillion dollars in transition costs. Where is the money going to come from? For some strange reason, he didn't say.


I cover a bit of this in my post too...sorry about that.

John "Pull Out and Pray" Kerry?

I thought Kerry was proposing having MORE troops on the ground. Do you have new information or are you just winging it?

In the future, the government will be funded by compassion.


Kerry and Rubin also are detailing a new Iraq policy to "significantly" reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq during the first six months of a Kerry administration. In an NPR interview Friday, Kerry said: "I believe that within a year from now, we could significantly reduce American forces in Iraq, and that's my plan." His comments took several aides by surprise. Until the interview, Kerry's stated policy was to significantly reduce troops by the end of his first term.


Kerry dropped his proposal to increase the number of troops on the ground some time ago.

This is not a conservative agenda. This is not even the agenda of a serious man. This is the agenda of a man in love with big government.

No, von, a man in love with big government would propose all these plans and cheerfully admit to the need to raise taxes (on someone) to implement them.

This is the agenda of a narcissist, a man in love with himself and in love with being president, who will say anything to keep his job.

Or were you just referring to his stance on sex-ed?

Posted above before I saw your post.
Your "pull out and pray" comment does imply a whole lot more than, ""I believe that within a year from now, we could significantly reduce American forces in Iraq, and that's my plan."
Particularly since he says "I believe..." and "we could...".

I nearly lost it when he said he would close all these special interest loopholes in the tax code.

As if.


I hadn't heard that -- that's a little discouraging. However, the article you cite says this as well:

Rubin said Kerry could accomplish the new goal "because of the new credibility we would bring to the White House, because leaders would see cooperation with the United States as a plus rather than a minus. . . . We will be in a better position to get help in terms of troops and money."

This is not exactly "pull out and pray" -- Kerry is saying that he'll get other countries to pick up the slack. I'm skeptical whether he'll really be able to do that, but he doesn't say what he would do if those extra foreign troops don't materialize.


Even as a Big-Government-Tax-And-Spend-Liberal-Bolshie-Statist, I was appalled at the level of the expenditures (including the tax cuts) mentioned by Bush. [All the more so at the chutzpah required to then criticize Kerry for suggesting "two trillion dollars in new expenditures".] I can only imagine how appalled you must be.

W/r/t John "pull out and pray" Kerry:

I reserve the right to take occasional, juvenile digs at public figures. This is one. I also understand that Kerry has outlined a secret plan to get other countries on board to replace the departing U.S. troops; I just don't think that one should make a voting decision based on such vague hopefulness.

"Having presumably learned from his mistakes..."

Whatever would make you assume that? This is a man who believes he's being advised directly by God and for him to admit mistakes would bring his whole house of cards down. Bush is not a man of reflection and to count on him learning from past mistakes is a mistake in itself.

"And I have no doubt that, having presumably learned from his mistakes, Bush will be more capable in Iraq than John 'Pull Out and Pray' Kerry."

Two big questions come to mind, here, von: First: isn't the "presumption" that George W. Bush, or anyone in his Administration will "learn from their mistakes" more a matter of wishful thinking, than a position based on actual experience and recent history? AFAICT, the entire record of the Bush 43 Adminstration, on both foreign and domestic issues, has been to push through (ideologically)pre-determined policies, utilize their legislative-majority unity to steamroller any and all opposition (viz. Homeland Security, tax cuts, etc.), and then adamantly stand by their positions regardless of effect.
And, when faced with unpleasant reality that goes against their pre-conceived ideal results (viz. job creation, nuclear nonproliferation, etc), either change the subject, denigrate their critics, or "cook the books". It's kind of hard to posit that GW Bush (or any of his gang) will "learn from their mistakes" on ANY policy, since the hallmark of this Adminstration seems to be an innate inability to EVER believe that ANY of their policies could be a "mistake" in the first place.
Second: is it not just a bit disingenuous to characterize Kerry's proposal for eventual troop reductions in Iraq (and from the cite above, it sounds more like a wishful-thinking hope than a solid commitment to a goal) as "Pull out and pray"? Yeah, I'm sure many on the leftmost fringe would love to able to applaud a swift, unilateral withdrawal from Iraq, but what do think the ACTUAL likelihood of that happening is (under a Kerry Presidency or not)? Do you favor the stationing of huge numbers of troops in Iraq on a permanent basis? As occupiers? I know battle plans rarely survive the first shot, but whatever happened to the notion that we would be only need 30,000 troops in Iraq by this fall (a plan floated, I believe, by that notorious peacenik Donald ["MIA"] Rumsfeld)? A plan, BTW, that was part of the Administration's big sell on the Iraq War. So far, I have seen or heard, even in the blogosphere, much in the way of any substantive plans from the Administration as to the scale or mission of our future commitment of forces in the Mid-East.
Shouldn't this be a legitimate issue for discussion (rather than just snark)?

"Having presumably learned from his mistakes"?!

Von, give me any evidence - ANY whatsoever - that Bush has done this. Bush's administrtion remains still tongue-tied and clueless when faced with Iran and North Korea - far more dire threats than Iraq was, as many in the antiwar crowd suspected - and in fact has allowed them to gain strength. Our policy towards Pakistan is a nightmare, farming out the majority of our counterterrorism work to a country still deeply in bed with al Qaeda and the number one nuclear proliferator on the planet. And if George Bush has any idea what to do with Saudi Arabia in a post-9/11 world, he has not demonstrated this in the last three years.

So tell me, Von, seriously, because I am desperately trying to understand why any sane individual could countenance supporting this walking disaster - what demonstrable capacity to learn from mistakes does George Bush possess?

I reserve the right to take occasional, juvenile digs at public figures. This is one.

It's a dishonest dig, and contributes to a dishonest meme. What I cannot fathom is the rush to search for any excuse to back one of the most traumatic failures in modern American presidential history. Why no little digs about George "I Don't Think Much About Osama bin Laden" Bush?

I also understand that Kerry has outlined a secret plan to get other countries on board to replace the departing U.S. troops;

If you've heard any word on any Bush plan - secret or otherwise - to stabilize Iraq, defeat al Qaeda, and win moderate Muslims over to our side, I'd love to hear it. From where I'm sitting, George Bush is selling you a war that's already been won by pixie dust and happy thoughts.

"I just don't think that one should make a voting decision based on such vague hopefulness."

I will be voting on a few other vague hopes: confidence and competence. The current president has neither my confidence nor his own competence.

I don't think I really mentioned much about social issues. Frankly, I think some of us slagged him too much. Yes, many of the "conservative" promises have been in speeches before - but getting them on the record in the most significant of campaign speeches is VERY important. For starters, this is a WH very reluctant to make promises because they know the power they can hold. I'm optimistic.

Bush's plan for Iraq is very clear, "Stay the course. We've turned the corner."

Now we don't know what course or what corner but, you know, sounds like something.

Mike --

I don't think I really mentioned much about social issues.

What I mean is that I don't understand how this speech can be viewed as "conservative," unless it's an assessment based on the speech's approach to social issues. There's nothing conservative in expanding the government or proposing that more control be handed to Washington, D.C. I do understand that Bush says he's for smaller government (and said that again in his speech), but it's impossible to square those words with his proposals (and past actions).

CJM --

what demonstrable capacity to learn from mistakes does George Bush possess?

Criminy, he's been constantly readjusting his strategy in Iraq to account for local conditions and events. Not always to my liking, of course, but the man can adapt. Really: If you like the Bush presidency, keep on pretending he's a dumb rube; you'll get four more years of it.

It's a dishonest dig, and contributes to a dishonest meme.

No, it's not. Kerry wants to pull out of Iraq quickly. He can't tell us how he's going to do it. The risks of pulling out -- instability, civil war, power grab by the Mullahs (or Iraq or Iran -- are overwhelming. "Pull out and pray" may be a juvenile turn of phrase, but is an accurate description of Kerry's current Iraq "policy".

Gee von...

"The risks of pulling out -- instability, civil war, power grab by the Mullahs (or Iraq or Iran -- are overwhelming."

Kerry has probably never thought of it that way. Someone should inform him.

Come on, talk about pretending someone is a dumb rube.

Carsick --

Kerry's proposal is what it is. When/if he proposes more, I'll consider changing my views. But hope is not a plan -- and that doesn't change based on the politics of the person attempting the transmutation.

And, of course, all of these wonderful programs will be paid for with another tax cut. I think the "subtract" key on somebody's calculator is broken ...

Re "pull out and pray":

Kerry is Catholic. They're required to do it that way.


Kerry wants to pull out of Iraq quickly.

Are you sure about that? The way I've always read the Kerry quote at the top of the thread is that he believes that with sufficient internationalization of the effort American troops would be able to come home quickly. In other words, the "pulling out" would be a consequence of correctly constructed foreign policy, not an end (or even means) in and of itself.

[I happen to think that's foolishly optimistic myself but I haven't yet seen anything to convince me that Kerry regards immediate withdrawal as a policy objective, only a fortuitous outcome.]

"Rubin said Kerry could accomplish the new goal "because of the new credibility we would bring to the White House, because leaders would see cooperation with the United States as a plus rather than a minus. . . . We will be in a better position to get help in terms of troops and money."

The proper characterization would be 'pray and pull out'. He has the wishful thinking on European involvement first, the troop pullout second.

Carsick, Kerry hasn't talked about the obvious implications of pulling the troops out anytime in the near future. He strongly suggests that he would pull the troops out if elected. That suggests that he either is lying about pulling the troops out, is deluded about significant European help, or is willing to allow the negative consequences of a troop pullout to take place.

When you had to give a one or two sentence outline of a thesis did you call it a proposal?
As I said before, I think your "pullout and pray" implies a whole lot more than what Kerry said.

"Kerry is Catholic. They're required to do it that way."

Actually, no, if we're talking about a tricky timing scenario: that'd be literal Onanism. Not that we Catholics actually read the Bible, you understand... ;)


Gee Sebastian, if you're going to read that much into it why don't we add "dropping a nuclear bomb on Baghdad and allow the negative consequences" to your list.

Face the fact that the current president has large credibility problems due to his "miscalculations". A new administration may actually have other options available to them that are currently off the table.
One of them may be to discuss the effects of a potential pullout with our allies to induce a little more participation. Should we show our hand or should we keep it close to the vest?

Should Kerry hope to have our troops home? I hope even Bush does.
Is he saying he'll bring them home before some sort of stabilization is assured? I haven't heard him say that. Neither have you.

I continue to think that von and Sebastian are interpreting Kerry in the most pessimistic way possible. He has said that he'll be able to get more foreign involvement and therefore bring a lot of troops home. He has said nothing about what he will do when he is (inevitably) unable to get the foreign troops he's promising. Obviously it's regrettable (if understandable politically) that he's not being clearer on that point, but to say that he will or he won't pull troops out in that case is simply to project your own preconceived notions onto him.

Hey Sebastian
I love this line you wrote in another thread.

"You project onto him, and then smash him for what you project."

Of course you were referring to someone else but the active subject is universal eh?
It resonates with me, ya know?

So, to summarize:
Libertarians: socially liberal, economically conservative, (yet often freakishly unrealistic)
Democrats: socially liberal, economically liberal
New Wave Republicans: socially conservative, economically liberal

von and a healthy percentage of other wired Republicans: socially liberal, economically conservative

Now I realize those labels are ridiculously broad brushes, but not so much that they're meaningless. So the question is not, will this group break away from the Republicans, it's why are they even there to break away in the first place?

By all accounts I'm a member of the left side of this blog's audience but I, just this Spring, voted in a democratic primary for the first time in over 20 years.
My parents slowly became RINO's yet oddly never changed their beliefs and principles.
Odd how that's happened.

And about Democrats being "economically liberal": There's one big difference between us and the current incarnation of the GOP that should make us a lot more palatable to von. We do hope that at some point we can enact, for instance, some sort of universal health care coverage. (Some of us think this would be not just right, but also very good for business.) But we are prepared to put things like this on hold for the sake of fiscal discipline. Large chunks of the Clinton presidency can be read as Democrats deferring their own agendas until we had undone the effects of the Reagan deficits. If we are elected this time, we will put them on hold again until we have undone the effects of the Bush deficits. Until this speech, I had thought that Republicans' version of fiscal irresponsibility involved only tax cuts we cannot afford, not gobs of extra spending we cannot afford. Now I see that it involves both. But they are not willing to defer their plans until we have reached some point of fiscal sanity. They were under Reagan and Bush I, but they are not any longer.

Personally, I am tired of my party always having to be the grownups about fiscal matters, but I also recognize that this does not for an instant mean that we should not be willing to step up to the plate and do it.

Actually, no, if we're talking about a tricky timing scenario: that'd be literal Onanism.

My understanding -- and how's this for a threadjack? -- was that, contrary to popular interpretation (and maybe dogmatic doctrine?), Onan's crime was for refusing to impregnate his wife. The, uh, spilling of his seed upon the ground was simply a graphic way for him to fail to do so.

Anarch gettin' all historical and lit'ral on us. (Actually appreciated.)
Isn't "pull out and pray" practised by Catholic teens who are afraid of being caught with protection but are not immune to the siren call?

Or, to bring it back to the current posts on the thread...

Isn't "pull out and pray" practiced by Libertarians who want the freedom to have unprotected sex but see child rearing as a social program they don't support?

Onan's crime was for refusing to impregnate his wife.

Almost -- it was for refusing to impregnate his brother's wife:

8 And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother's wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother.
9 And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.
10 And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.

Almost -- it was for refusing to impregnate his brother's wife:

You know, I can't believe I omitted that. This food poisoning crap has clearly migrated from my stomach to my mind :s

The above speech is nothing new, to me. It's long been apparent that Bush is neither liberal nor conservative. Bush is, in my opinion, a nationalist, devoted to a cause which has no ideological root save its own continued existence. This is why, in my opinion, he has no problem with removing civil liberties, why he has such apparent contempt for people from other countries, why he finds it easy to scapegoat minorities, and why his platform seems to be, as Garrison Keillor put it, "a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk."

Truth be, like most, there are aspects of Bush's speech and of his spoken policy that I can find myself agreeing with. The traditional liberal-European* ethos emphasises the enabling capacity of Government; the conservative-American** ethos emphasises the restrictive aspect. Both are valid considerations. In theory, it is a good thing that Bush's "compassionate conservatism" acknowledges both aspects of government, seeing both the good and the harm that can be done. But, as the frenchman said, in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.

In political terms, the traditional sides weigh up the pros and cons with different weightings, the liberals viewing the necessary restrictions on pure economic growth as being worthwhile costs for more egalitarian societies and the conservatives viewing the few who drop off the bottom as unavoidable costs for maximising the growth for all.*** The sensible, thoughtful people on both sides acknowledge the costs that their policies bring, as well as the benefits, and make the choice because we do not live in a perfect world, we live in a harsh and unforgiving reality which does not allow us to eat our cake and have it, too.

It is not overly worrying that Bush's speech and rhetoric does not seem to reference this complex, nuanced reality we all occupy. All politicians of every stripe hype up their plans and gloss over the complexities of implementation for rhetoric's sake. But it is worrying that, because he is a simple man who believes wholeheartedly in what he says, his actions are those of someone desperately trying to eat the tax cut and war cake while simultaneously giving away generous slices of social programmes covered in cream. Unfortunately, when push comes to shove, the rich boy's biases come down in the failure of implementation, meaning that not only are Bush's social redistributions costly -- thus theoretically angering the conservatives -- but they also do not work very well, thus angering the liberals twice over as they have to put up with continued failure to do the things they see as necessary and the taunts of boorish conservatives who claim they should be happy because Bush is spending money, and after all, there is nothing a liberal likes more than to see money flushed down the toilet with nothing to show for it, right?

If the Democrats wanted to win, they would force this election away from Iraq and onto domestic soil. They may be vulnerable on the civil liberties front because they all voted for the PATRIOT act like good little sheep (although it would take doublethink of epic proportions for the Republicans to turn that around too badly -- after all, so did they!). Big Government Tax-Less-Waste-More-Borrow-The-Difference fiscal policy coupled with restrictions on civil liberties and religiously inspired attempts to get the government into people's bedrooms -- surely there's something in there to piss off everyone in the USA about the Bush White House's actual track record on domestic policy.

But no. Still we fall for the distractions about "threats to the western way of life," as if the Jihadists could somehow knock down democracy like they destroyed the twin towers.**** Talking about Iraq and Afghanistan, as if foreign policy was more than a reactionary process anyway. No politician has much control over what he does in other countries -- the Iraq situation would have had to have been dealt with somehow by some American president, sooner or later, and the fact that the moderates didn't deal with it meant that it fell to the, ahem, "visionary" -- but they are far more able to control what they do within their own borders, in areas where they have sovereign control and do not have to wheedle with others. This is the area on which Bush should be fought, on the damage he has done to America while his opponents have been distracted by his fumblings half-way around the globe.

* broadly speaking

** VERY broadly speaking

*** I've not got much space to work with here. Please assume that if you can think of ways to say these generalisations in more nuanced ways, that the nuances are implicit in the acknowledgement of these as simplified generalisations.

**** What if they bomb the magical democracy mines in Darkest Canada? The world's supply of freedom of speech would dry up! We should ration it now, to make sure it lasts!

Von has provided a list of supposedly “big government” initiatives. I thought that it might be useful to go through them and get an idea of how “big” we’re really talking. While the POTUS didn’t provide any specific dollar amounts during his RNC speech, his official reelection site did actually provide some numbers.

... [the Federal Government] will double the number of people served by our principal job training program and increase funding for community colleges. ...

The price tag for this is about $250 million annually.

.... To stand with workers in poor communities and those that have lost manufacturing, textile, and other jobs [the Federal Government] will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, [the Federal Government will] provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business, and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America. ...

Sounds like Jack Kemp’s “Enterprise Zones” which used to be quite popular amongst the Empower America crowd. We’re trying something similar to help some of the harder hit regions in Minnesota and I can’t say that I’m a fan. That being said, if it results in a net decrease of federal revenue while expanding the private sector (as opposed to simply relocating jobs which would be a wash) it’s hardly a “big government” initiative.

.... [the Federal Government] will offer a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase them....

Health Savings Accounts are a terrific idea but this hardly deserves to be lumped in as “big government” since it actually results in a greater movement towards privately owned and controlled health insurance. The “direct help for low-income Americans” appears to be in the form of a tax credit rather than any new federal spending. Either way this is hardly “big government” particularly considering that the alternative is likely to be new federal spending.

.... In a new term, [the Federal Government] will ensure every poor county in America has a community or rural health center. ...

I have not located any hard numbers on the cost for this and needless to say, I am opposed. That being said though, I do recognize that from a tax perspective it makes a certain amount of economic sense. The rationale being that people without health insurance (or rather their employers) tend to pay higher taxes by not being able to deduct the cost of their health insurance from their taxes. This extra tax revenue accrues at the federal (and sometimes State level) while the cost for treating the uninsured usually comes from the counties and/or States. IIRC the costs for treating the uninsured is somewhat higher (but not by a lot) than the extra taxes paid by the uninsured (or rather their employers) so in one sense there is a certain equity in having the federal government dedicate that revenue to health care services. Again, I don’t support it but I can appreciate the rationale and it probably isn’t that much.

.... In a new term, [the Federal Government] will change outdated labor laws to offer comp-time and flex-time. Our laws should never stand in the way of a more family-friendly workplace. ...

Which means changing an existing law to give employers and employees more flexibility and is not an expansion of government but rather moving it in a more pro-freedom direction. Hardly an example of “big government” since the laws are already in existence. Although if you want to make to make the case for repealing federal overtime laws, feel free. Until then, Bush’s proposal is objectively more pro-freedom than the status quo.

In our high schools, [the Federal Government] will fund early intervention programs to help students at risk.

We already do this but the president is proposing to increase the funding by $200 million.
We [the Federal Government] will place a new focus on math and science. As we make progress, we [the Federal Government] will require a rigorous [national] exam before graduation. ... [The Federal Government is going to further involve itself in our schools? Pardon me, but why the hell would one think that some bureaucrat in D.C. knows more about the conditions of my local schools than, say, my local officials?]

We already do this but the president is proposing to increase the funding by $269 million.
[The Federal Government will] expand[] Pell grants for low and middle income families, we will help more Americans start their career with a college diploma.

Pell Grants are a bad idea (as is financial aid in general) but the president proposes to increase the total level of funding (not the amount of the increase) to about $12.9 billion or roughly about a 47 percent increase from the amount when he took office.

... [The Federal Government] will lead an aggressive effort to enroll millions of poor children who are eligible but not signed up for the government's health insurance programs. We will not allow a lack of attention, or information, to stand between these children and the health care they need. ...

The price for this is about $1 Billion over two years.

Bottom line: these seem similar to the sort of “micro-initiatives” that Clinton used to tout (school uniforms anyone?) in his latter State of the Union Addresses. The President proposes a number of popular but relatively small initiatives targeted to a few select groups (e.g. poor children) that result in a rather marginal increase in already existing levels of federal spending and involvement.

I can agree with opposing these as a matter of principal (and yes I know the line about “a billion here, a billion there”) but I cannot take seriously someone who would criticize Bush for proposing small increases in spending while at the same time being willing to consider voting for Kerry* who wants considerably larger increases in spending. Moreover you seem to be including at least a couple of items (Opportunity Zones, Health Care Savings Accounts, and Flex-time) which are arguably a reduction in government and/or expansion of the private sector and individual freedom. Considering also that Kerry’s largest domestic priority (the $895 Billion bailout of the insurance industry under the guise of “health care reform”) is definitely statists whilst Bush’s largest domestic proposal (the partial privatization of Social Security - which has been acknowledged by the author) is definitely moving power away from the federal government; it seems clear that on balance Bush is still clearly better on this issue than Kerry.

* However if an individual who has already publicly proclaimed that s/he would not vote for Bush and cites this as a reason also says (and means it) that s/he will also not vote for Kerry who is objectively worse, this criticism of course would not apply to that individual and their critique of Bush's spending and expansion of the federal government would be more credible.

The comments to this entry are closed.