Friday, September 19, 2003

Krauthammer in context

Charles Krauthammer is getting pissy because Democrats dare to question Bush's $87 billion check for Iraq.

The Democrats are not quite prepared to say that we should not be spending any money on Iraq, and they all line up for the $66 billion earmarked for "protecting our troops" (although, as their own Dennis Kucinich points out, the best and cheapest way to protect troops is to bring them home).

But when it comes to the other $20-odd billion for infrastructure, the Democrats have had a field day blasting the administration. The universal theme is: Why there and not here?

Sen. John Edwards gave the usual formulation: "This is the same administration who says we can't afford a real prescription drug benefit, we can't afford to invest in our public schools, we can't afford to address the serious health care crisis in America, but the American taxpayer can afford to pay for everything that's happening in Iraq right now." Rep. Rahm Emanuel is more pithy: "[For] Iraq, $2 billion to the electric grid; [for] America, a blackout."

But Krauthammer very carefully peels every bit of context away from the issue in order to make Democrats look bad. To regain some sense of the bigger picture, let's look at what Krauthammer had to say last week in Time, when he was trying figure out just what it is that makes us "Bush haters" so mad.

The President's unilateral assertion of U.S. power has redefined America's role in the world. Here was Bush breaking every liberal idol: the ABM Treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, deference to the U.N., subservience to the "international community." It was an astonishing performance that left the world reeling and the Democrats seething. The pretender had not just seized the throne. He was acting like a king. Nay, an emperor.

On the domestic front, more shock. Democrats understand that the Bush tax cuts make structural changes that will long outlive him. Like the Reagan cuts, they will starve the government of revenue for years to come.

So, while trying to get to what it is that bothers us about Bush, Charles Krauthammer pretty much lays out the case against the man and the very reason why his numbers need to be checked and rechecked (and no, Charles, very few of us are really all that pissed about Florida anymore): Bush's management of the our country has proven to be completely incompetent. Look at what Krauthammer wrote again.

  • The President's unilateral assertion of U.S. power has redefined America's role in the world. It sure has, Charles. Once, we had allies and could boast diplomats who could reach compromises with those allies, even when the going was difficult. Today, though, we are shouldering most of the burden of a war that is the direct result of the president's "unilateral assertion of U.S. power" and we must go begging for assistance from other countries. Moreover, when France makes what you call an "unserious proposal," you and other neocons just throw up your hands. "There's no talking to those French bastards," you squeal. In the days of Madeleine Albright, it was understood that diplomacy is as much like haggling as buying a rug in a Baghdad market. The first position is only a starting point. Bushies have forgotten that, but, even if they hadn't, they seem to lack the patience and/or talent to bring about compromise. Unilateral action is easy. Finding common ground is difficult. No one thought Bush was acting like an emperor, but, rather, like a spoiled child.

  • As for the Kyoto treaty, the ABM treaty and our supposed "subservience" to the international coomunity, it should be remembered that those were all made in the days when, rather than being subservient, we led the international community and (remember this?) they followed. So, I don't think Republicans ought to be bragging about "going it alone" when, these days, that's about the only way we can go.

  • Bush tax cuts... will starve the government of revenue for years to come. Krauthammer's right here. Why doesn't he see that, with Bush's "bold" foreign adventures, starving the government is a bad thing? Democrats are completely correct in asking why we have to cut funds that help struggling Americans in order to pay for Bush's war and his tax cut for the richest of Americans. We can't afford to fully fund any of the things Bush once praised -- No Child Left Behind, Americorps, getting new funds to first responders to terror -- but, despite their unwillingness to talk about costs of the war prior to its beginning, we are now expected to just shut up and toss money at Iraq. But, considering that only 22 percent of Americans believe Bush has a plan for rebuilding Iraq, only 26 percent think we should give Bush the money he's asking for and only 43 percent think that the war has been worth the cost of human lives and money, Democrats would be remiss if they didn't ask where the money was going.

  • Add to all that the fact that millions of Americans are now out of work, our budget deficit is spiraling out of control and our soldiers are dying on a daily basis, and I think it's obvious that Krauthammer's full of shit. The issue isn't whether or not Bush will get his money. Democrats know we have to finish the job over there or create a new center for terror. The issue isn't whether or not people hate Bush. The issue is this: People who love their country don't want to want to see it led into grief by incompetents. So, like giving a child his allowance, Democrats will make sure Bush gets the money for Iraq, but they just want to make sure it isn't contributing to his further delinquency.

    Update: The Poor Man says we should read Jonathon Chait's article in The New Republic. I've pretty much given up on that magazine, but any article in which the author basically says, "Yeah, I hate George W. Bush" and then explains exactly why ought to be read.

    And: Jeanne at Body and Soul wants to know how we could be expected to trust Bush with $87 billion. She, it seems, wouldn't trust him much less.


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