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Monday, October 31, 2005

Alito: Bush pushes all in

Alright, so you're George W. Bush. Your presidency is essentially in complete and utter collapse: your relationship with Cheney is on the rocks, your top aides are being indicted or being threatened with indictments, a war you started under questionable, if not outright dishonest pretenses is failing both in reality and in the court of public opinion, you're at least partially responsible for the most massive failure in federal aid since Reconstruction, your base feels betrayed because when you had the opportunity they've been preparing for since the 1970s you tried to appoint your buddy lawyer to the Supreme Court, and congressional leadership, which had been acting as a wing of the executive branch since 2002, has finally grown a set of opinions, in large part because most of them are considering trying to replace you. Basically, you're losing at everything: competence, popularity, politics and legacy.

Luckily, you manufactured a problem with executive privilege and have another shot at the Supreme Court. What do you do? You appoint the most conservative judge you can find. Enter, Judge Samuel Alito. Now, I'm not really qualified to comment on the actual legal issues at hand (although it never stopped me commenting on other things), so I'll let you dig through what you think of the law, Alito's jurisprudence, etc. on your own. When you do, educate me! What I can see quite clearly, is the President Bush is looking for a fight and he's looking for a fight that he thinks will reunite his party and get him a big W in his column (no pun intended). If Democrats challenge, they'll have to pull a filibuster, and W thinks he can win that political food fight. Judging from last Spring, he may be right. Democrats, liberals etc. throughout the country may be having small seizures as they read this man's world view, but that's why you win presidential elections.


At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Elephant said...

I think a discussion about Alito would be interesting, but where did you get all the stuff in your first paragraph. In what sense is Bush's presidency in collapse?

There's nothing wrong with Bush's relationship with Cheney. An official in the Vice President's office has been indicted by a political gold-digger for maybe misspeaking about how he learned about someone's identity when it's clear no crime (regardng Plame) has been committed, no one else has been indicted. In case you didn't notice Iraq just approved its constitution, Saddam Hussein is currently being tried for crimes against humanity, every day the Iraqi army gets stronger on the ground, every day the Middle East moves closer to a future of stability and democracy. It's ridiculous to hold the federal government, much less the president, responsible for the failings of corrupt and ineffective state and local leaders in Louisiana. Bush appointed someone he trusted to fill a vacancy on the supreme court, but was derailed by sexism and elitism from both sides of the aisle. In the meantime, his tax cuts are working, the American economy is strong, corporate governance has been improving, and schools are being held more accountable. When Bush is remembered as the man who had the courage to start the remaking of the Middle East, his legacy will be greater than that of nearly any American president. And politically, I think the GOP will have little trouble defeating Hilary in a national election in 2008.

As for Alito . . . it seems he is a very conservative judge, and he is not who I would have chosen, nor who I thought Bush would have chosen (my bet was on Gonzales, McConnell, or Luttig). It does look like a choice made to appease conservatives, in a manner that seems unnecessary, because why should Bush care? But it's the president's prerogative to appoint whom he chooses to the court, and the senate's job to advise and consent, not to wring him through an ideological litmus test. Anyone who thinks O'Connor was the swing vote on the court is very misled -- judges on the supreme court vote in very unusual ways, and there is no single judge at the center. Seemingly weird things happens -- sometimes Thomas votes with Ginsberg, Souter, Stevens and Breyer, against O'Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia and Kennedy. Actually, the vast majority of cases are 9-0 decisions, but if you want to see more about how varied the supreme court is, take a look at the PNAS paper , A pattern analysis of the second Rehnquist U.S. Supreme Court.

At 12:08 AM, Blogger andrew golis said...

two quick questions "elephant": first, do you disagree with White House talking points about anything? second, do you read newspapers?

Quite frankly, I was trying to represent an admitidly biased but I think very common perception of the political reality. The point of my post was not to get into a talking points pissing match over the relative truth of any of those claims (although I would defend most of them), but was rather to explain what I believe are the political motives of Bush's choice. If you honestly believe that most of the country believes that Bush is a great President valiantly leading the country through difficult waters while some partisan hack prosecuter attacks his people, the economy grows in leaps and bounds, people's of the Gulf Coast thank Bush for his leadership, and Iraq pushes on toward happy democracy, than fine, dispute my political claim. While you're at it, put down the GOP talking points and pick up a newspaper and a copy of CBS's most recent poll.

At 12:38 AM, Anonymous Elephant said...

I definitely don't dispute that right now Bush's popularity is not very high, but if you look at the poll numbers for American presidents as a function of time, you'll see they follow a very interesting cyclic structure, with few exceptions (i.e. Nixon)! There is, of course, a difference between the political reality, and the reality qua reality, but the political reality also looks different from where you sit. If you want to analyze what Bush does from his perspective, maybe you should think about what his political reality looks like from his own perspective. They might be something like this:

Darn, that non-partisan but obviously over-zealous prosecutor trying to make a name for himself is giving the democrats ammunition against my administration. But this will blow over soon. Gas prices are high, but they're coming down, and since the economy is strong due to my tax cuts , it won't be too big a problem for long. Each day the situation in Iraq gets more stable, with a growing Iraqi military, a constitution, Saddam Hussein on trial, we're putting more diplomatic pressure on Syria, although Iran is beginning to worry us more. We've got to get this supreme court thing settled soon, so I can get back to fixing social security. Let's give those whacky conservatives what they want, and those silly liberals what they want too -- a high profile confirmation hearing. If they really do block him, they'll look obstructionist and petty, especially since he's got such a polite demeanor. Win - win.

At 2:54 AM, Blogger andrew golis said...

He understands that politics is not about his perspective (as dilusional as it may be) but other people's perspective. I don't think he acts from malevolence, I'm willing to accept that he's optimistic and trying to do what he thinks is right (as much as I may think he's totally wrong), but he realizes that he has to fit his political moves toward those ends in whatever political climate he actually exists in. This means going along with the mainstream political discourse- which is that he's at his lowest polling numbers because of scandal and incompetence- and using it to his advantage. In this case, that means fighting his way out of a hole by proving his loyalty to his base and fighting valiantly back to viability. There are already hints at this narrative, and if the media moves with it and the White House uses its ability to dominate the news effectively it will be able to steer itself back into safe waters with this story. The question will be: is there an alternative narrative: more indictments, more problems in Iraq, a mistake in the supreme court political debate that sets them back (like a slip-up or sudden realization of a nanny or something). If not, and events allow them to, the White House will regain some footing. If anything unforseen and bad happens the media may return to the narrative of the death of W's presidency.

If he thinks the way you acuse him of thinking- simple-mindedly, seeing only the positive side of undisputedly complicated situations- he's in danger not only of misunderstanding his political situation, but misunderstanding politics, his job and the entire world.

btw, you're right that he thinks that throwing a bone to the right and left wings will cause a fight that he thinks he can win. That's why I said it in the original post.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Say Elephant,

Whatever you're smoking I sure could have used it the last few years. You're out of your gourd.

Ever hear of a thing called FACTS?

"Obviously over-zealous prosecutor."

This is a lie. Libby fabricated elaborate stories on purpose under oath and deserved to be indicted.

"This will blow over soon."

Possible but unlikely. In Illinois Fitzgerald issued 66 indictments seriatim on the same matter, and made his way up the chain. Number 66 was the governor of the state. Moreover if the plea bargain has already been ruled out Cheney will have to testify, which means media frenzy.

"The economy is strong due to my tax cuts."

"If you look at the yearly growth in GDP as a function of time, you'll see it follows a very interesting cyclic structure, with few exceptions," imbecile. Moreover, real wages are down, there's a housing bubble out there and potential currency crises depending on how China behaves.

"Each day the situation in Iraq gets more stable."

This is a lie. Fatalities in Iraq are up -- 30 Iraqis a day in the first half of 2004, this year about 50 a day. And this October just ended was the fourth deadliest month for US soldiers since the war started.

"[Bush] can get back to fixing social security."

This pure insanity. Your attitude has never deserved anything but ridicule, and now it is prima facie ridiculous. Be ashamed of your slavish intellectual posture.

-- A.

PS. More delusions and lies from your first post:

Libby was indicted for "maybe misspeaking about how he learned about someone's identity."

This is a lie. Read the indictment.

"every day the Middle East moves closer to a future of stability and democracy"
This is sheer delusion, unless by it you mean to express a generalized optimism about the future of the world. Every day I am moving closer to a future in which my great-great-grandchildren cluster round each evening to hear stories about my days as an international spy and ladies' man, a career I intend to start as soon as I finish this load of laundry.

"In case you didn't notice Iraq just approved its constitution,"

Every informed commentator believes that this was the worst possible long-term outcome. Strong support would have been good, and so would a defeat; in either case the Sunnis would have a stake in electoral politics. At present they just feel defeated and even cheated, and the violence is much more likely to continue than to abate as a result of this outcome.

" schools are being held more accountable"
Oh, thank heavens! As we all know, the biggest problem with the state of education was that schools didn't care about children's learning. And even better, this will take some of the pressure off all those highly accountable parents who've been wringing their hands every day about their kids' curricula.

"Bush appointed someone he trusted to fill a vacancy on the supreme court, but was derailed by sexism and elitism from both sides of the aisle."

This is a statement *entirely* without basis, unless by 'elitism' you mean "the tendency to expect that people will be good at a job they've been nominated for"; and unless by 'sexism' you mean 'not-sexism,' or the 'the not-soft not-bigotry of reasonable expectations.'

"corporate governance has been improving"

This is a statement without any basis that I know of.

"It's ridiculous to hold the federal government, much less the president, responsible for the failings of corrupt and ineffective state and local leaders in Louisiana."

This is a lie not only in light of the sequence of events but also structurally. FEMA is precisely tasked with coordinating disaster response at all levels: from its website: "Developed by the Secretary of Homeland Security at the request of the President, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) integrates effective practices in emergency preparedness and response into a comprehensive national framework for incident management. The NIMS will enable responders at all levels to work together more effectively to manage domestic incidents no matter what the cause, size or complexity." And "The National Response Plan establishes a comprehensive all-hazards approach to enhance the ability of the United States to manage domestic incidents. The plan incorporates best practices and procedures from incident management disciplines... and integrates them into a unified structure. It forms the basis of how the federal government coordinates with state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector during incidents." In other words, the buck stops at the top.

Now if only you could get your elevator to get near that level.


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