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By Brad Friedman on 6/7/2004 12:32pm PT  

...And here come the vultures.

From the NY Times:

Mr. Bush's advisers said Sunday that the intense focus on Mr. Reagan's career that began upon the news of his death on Saturday would remind Americans of what Mr. Bush's supporters have long described as the similarities between the two men as straight-talking, ideologically driven leaders with swagger and a fixed idea of what they wanted to do with their office.

"Americans are going to be focused on President Reagan for the next week," said Ed Gillespie, the Republican national chairman. "The parallels are there. I don't know how you miss them."

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By Brad Friedman on 6/6/2004 5:32pm PT  

I recall back during the 2000 campaign, when things didn't look very good for Dubya I had told a couple of folks that the only way George W. Bush could pull out a victory at that point was if Ronald Reagan died prior to the election and the country found itself swept by a temporary nostalgia for the golden days when there really was a vast sense of unity --- for the most part --- in America.

Compared to the divisive years of reprehensible --- yes --- Republican partisanship, disgraceful and baseless attacks on a sitting President, unending trumped-up investigations and an eventually discredited impeachment, it seemed to me that America might just latch onto Dubya's rising star as he inevitably would have sought to capitalize on Reagan-mania by casting himself in The Gipper's warm after-glow.

Such a comparison at the time, had it played out that way, as morbidly opportunistic as it might have been, could have caught the imagination of a nation starved for optimistic days of unity and propelled George W. Bush to the front of the race. It seemed, back then, Bush's only hope as I saw it.

Little did I imagine, of course, that they'd end up stealing an election to seal the deal. And of course, Reagan suprisingly held on for another four years, only to "slip the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God" at a time that may as well be 100 political years later than the year 2000.

Now, instead, it seems that Reagan's passing occurs at a rather unfortunate moment for George W. Bush. Aside from occuring on a weekend during which Team Bush had otherwise hoped to benefit from the now routinely "decadanal" D-Day Bump in Presidential esteem, his death at this time succeeds only in pointing up how Bush so desperately pales by direct comparison to a real American leader.

Oh, darn the luck.

Undoubtedly the desperate Right will twist history any way they can to draw some kind of inevitable tortured positive comparison. (Be sure to listen for it as it undoubtely happens live tomorrow on both Rush's and Sean's shows). But I think the trick is now unlikely to gain much traction. The vast differences between the real McCoy and the boy Pretender are now simply all to clear.

The endless retrospectives via every imaginable media outlet only serves to shore up the vast differences between the two men. Reagan actually was, it seems to me, someone with true core beliefs gained by decades of real life experience on both sides of the political aisle; The bold ideas of his strongly held Liberal FDR New Deal roots were applied to a time-earned move to the Right as experience not opportunistc political idealogy - --- as with our boy who would be king --- seemed to govern his core beliefs. Like him or hate him, Ronald Reagan, at least, was the real thing.

Former Reagan Chief-of-Staff and Secretary of State James Baker related this morning on This Week that Reagan "would rather get 80% of what he wanted then go over the cliff with his flag flying". It was a life-lesson learned which Dubya, apparently, hasn't the body of knowledge or intellectual curiosity to even contemplate. That, as he makes his Wile E. Coyote-like descent to disappear in a tiny poof at the bottom of the cliff.

Reagan was so successful in politics because he allowed for pragmatism to win out over rigid Conservative hopes. As Governor, he raised taxes to help balance the budget, he signed the country's most liberal abortion rights legislation at the time, and imposed strict environmental regulation on industry in places like Lake Tahoe ensuring that --- to this day --- there are still clear blue waters visible for 70 feet below the surface.

An Op/Ed in today's LA Times speaks of the many paradoxes of Ronald Reagan, outlining changing and/or nuanced beliefs that the transparently disingenuous GOP of today would have described as little more than "flip-flops" --- assuming, of course, that they applied to a candidate they opposed instead of supported.

Of note also, on a personal and local level, is that Reagan was first an actor from "Liberal Elitist" Hollywood. Who was wise enough to acknowledge on many occassions that "I don't know how you do this job without being an actor".

Meanwhile, for political expediency, today's GOP are the first to denigrate an American with an opinion on the basis that they are "an actor from Hollywood". Pusillanimously reserving, in the meantime, a convenient and hypocritical blind-eye for the Reagans, Schwarzeneggers, Eastwoods, Bonos, Thompsons and Gibsons that carry their water.

Reagan also displayed the strength of character necessesary to take real responsibility, at least occassionally, when things went horribly wrong.

As the ever sharp (and delightfully ascerbic) BRAD BLOG commenter Jaime pointed out, after 241 US marines were killed by terrorists in Beirut and America subsequently withdrew, Reagan bravely told the country "If there is to be blame it rests here and with this president."

Contrast that courageous admission to Bush's hemming and hawing, inability to recall a single mistake in his policies, continuous avoidance of any responsibility for anything from 9/11 up to the present day Iraqi morass were over 800 are now dead and thousands more wounded for a cause that was tenuous at best, and completely discredited now at worse. The stark difference between these two men couldn't be clearer.

Only the despicably blood-sucking Paul Wolfowitz (someone please explain to me why this man still has a job on the United States payroll!) was debased enough to attempt to usurp the nation's love for a true leader before the body was even cold. Just an hour or so after the news broke, while most thoughtful commentators had the reason to focus on Ronald Reagan and avoid comparison in the short term to George W. Bush, there was Wolfowitz on Fox (where else?) attempting to tell America how Ronald Reagan would have supported Bush's current policies in Iraq. How reprehensible. Not to mention, more than likely wrong.

Unlike George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan actually was a uniter, not a divider. Or as close to it, in any case, as anybody can come to such a thing in national politics today anyway.

Mr. Wolfowitz, I grew up during Ronald Reagan's presidency. I voted for Ronald Reagan. Mr. Wolfowitz, George W. Bush is no Ronald Reagan.

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By Brad Friedman on 6/5/2004 4:47pm PT  

"Life is just one grand, sweet song. So start the music."

- Caption from Ronald "Dutch" Reagan's
1928 Senior Highschool Yearbook photo.

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The heat is on...
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 10:50pm PT  

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By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 4:15pm PT  

"If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us. If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us." -George W. Bush, Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University Oct 11, 2000

500,000 Europeans would like to welcome you to Rome, Mr. President...

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By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 1:47pm PT  


(Click here for a related BRAD BLOG entry.)

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...and the horse race.
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 1:18pm PT  

Matt Drudge is highlighting the headline "CBS Poll: Vets Favor Bush". True enough. But take a closer look at how Vets feel things are going in Bush's war by perusing the actual article that Drudge is pointing to.

For example, you'll find that a vast majority of Vets believe that the war is going badly, that it wasn't worth the cost, it was a mistake, the administration has no play for the June 30 handover, and that higher level military personnel (instead of just the soldiers directly involved) should be held responsible for Abu Ghraib.

Drudge, no doubt, as confirmed today by Rush, is assuming that few will actually bother to look at more than just the headline.

In the meantime, the latest head-to-head matchup of all registered voters, from the same CBS Poll --- not reported by Drudge --- shows Kerry widening the gap and beginning to trounce Bush 49% to 41%. The more reliable Zogby Poll has it as Kerry 47% to Bush's 42% with undecideds (who usually end up favoring the challenger) growing and Bush sinking. The same 47%-42% numbers occur when Nader is added to the match-up as well.

Zogby also shows the Bush approval rating now at an astounding 58% disapprove to 42% approve.

The Bush "Presidency" is, as of this moment, 84.19% over. Hang in there, America.

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Or, as Rush would say, 'See, I told ya so!'
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 12:34pm PT  

In 2000, many of us Californians who weren't willing to lie and say anything in order to get George W. Bush elected and Gray Davis removed from office tried unsuccessfully to explain to the Power Hungry Partisans on the Right how the "Power Crisis" in California was a hoax run by Enron and others.

Of course, the Ditto Heads would have none of it and Rush Limbaugh instructed them that it was all due to the short-sighted tree-huggers in the Land of Fruits and Nuts who had only themselves to blame for not building enough power plants or something.

And of course, the Ditto Heads believed it as usual.

And as usual, they were all entirely wrong to do so. Not that it mattered. Not that they cared.

Smoking gun audio tapes obtained by CBS (you can listen to a few tapes here) show precisely how Enron and the other crooked market manipulators manufactured the fake "Power Crisis".

Here are just a few outtakes as reported by CBS (taken from stories here and here):

"He just f---s California," says one Enron employee. "He steals money from California to the tune of about a million."

"Will you rephrase that?" asks a second employee.

"OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day," replies the first.

The tapes, from Enron's West Coast trading desk, also confirm what CBS reported years ago: that in secret deals with power producers, traders deliberately drove up prices by ordering power plants shut down.

"If you took down the steamer, how long would it take to get it back up?" an Enron worker is heard saying.

"Oh, it's not something you want to just be turning on and off every hour. Let's put it that way," another says.

"Well, why don't you just go ahead and shut her down."

...

Employee 1: "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?

Employee 2: "Yeah, Grandma Millie man.

Employee 1: "Yeah, now she wants her f-----g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a—for f-----g $250 a megawatt hour."

...

Employee 3: "This guy from the Wall Street Journal calls me up a little bit ago…"

Employee 4: "I wouldn't do it, because first of all you'd have to tell 'em a lot of lies because if you told the truth…"

Employee 3: "I'd get in trouble."

Employee 4: "You'd get in trouble."

Eventually, the lies unraveled and traders scrambled.

"I'm just --- f--k --- I'm just trying to be an honest camper so I only go to jail once," says one employee.

...

And the tapes appear to link top Enron officials Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to schemes that fueled the crisis.

"Government Affairs has to prove how valuable it is to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling," says one trader.

"Ok."

"Do you know when you started over-scheduling load and making buckets of money on that?"

Before the 2000 election, Enron employees pondered the possibilities of a Bush win.

"It'd be great. I'd love to see Ken Lay Secretary of Energy," says one Enron worker.

That didn't happen, but they were sure President Bush would fight any limits on sky-high energy prices.

"When this election comes Bush will f------g whack this s--t, man. He won't play this price-cap b------t."

Crude, but true.

"We will not take any action that makes California's problems worse and that's why I oppose price caps," said Mr. Bush on May 29, 2001.

In the bargain, Enron and the other manipulators bilked the state out of some $9.8 Billion in one of the biggest gang rapes ever perpetrated on a state government.

So far, Bush's Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC), the commission responsible for keeping this sort of thing from happening, or at least holding the rapists accountable after they do, has done --- predicatably --- nothing.

Meanwhile, Bush got into office, Davis was recalled, California is nearly bankrupt, and Enron CEO Ken Lay, who Bush barely knew, still lives large. The deal is done.

Matt Drudge, who ran "siren" alerts all summer in 2000 during the fake "crisis", and from whom Rush and Sean and the Ditto Heads and most News Outlets receive their assignments each day, has had almost nothing to say since the release of the tapes.

Anyone surprised? Any Ditto Head readers of the BRAD BLOG courageous enough to admit what sycophantic, disingenous, partisan suckers they were? (Paul?)

We're still holding our breath waiting for the new Governator to beat up the bad guys over this. Perhaps later in the movie. Sometime after November 2nd perhaps.

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...And once more through the Looking Glass.
By Brad Friedman on 6/4/2004 11:45am PT  

George W. Bush met today with Pope John Paul, who had shared these thoughts with him:

"In the past few weeks other deplorable events have come to light which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values," he said.

"In the absence of such a commitment, neither war nor terrorism will ever be overcome."

Pretending not to hear him, as usual, Bush moments later awarded the Pontiff the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In completely unrelated news, John Kerry is leading Bush by 9% amongst Catholic voters, and recently Catholic Bishops have suggested that Pro-Choice political candidates should not be given communion.

There has yet to be any condemnation by the Bishops of political candidates who favor the Death Penalty. Like, for example, George W. Bush who oversaw, as Governor of Texas, more state sanctioned murder than any other Governor in US history, putting an end to the lives of almost 150 people. Not all that many, really, in comparison to those he sent to their deaths in Iraq.

For his part, Bush told the Pope that the US would work for "human liberty and human dignity."

No word on when that program will begin.

The Mad Hatter was late for an appointment, so had no time to make comment.

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By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2004 10:55pm PT  

June 1, 2004:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi leader that's fallen out of favor within your administration. I'm wondering if you feel that he provided any false information, or are you particularly --

THE PRESIDENT: Chalabi?

Q Yes, with Chalabi.

THE PRESIDENT: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him.

January 10, 2002:

Q When was the last time you talked to either Mr. Lay or any other Enron official, about the --- about anything? And did discussions involve the financial problems of the company?

THE PRESIDENT: I have never discussed, with Mr. Lay, the financial problems of the company. The last time that I saw Mr. Lay was at my mother's fundraising event to --- for literacy, in Houston. That would have been last spring. I do know that Mr. Lay came to the White House in --- early in my administration, along with, I think 20 other business leaders, to discuss the state of the economy. It was just kind of a general discussion. I have not met with him personally.

Character counts.

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Is there nothing these guys will tell the truth about?
By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2004 10:38pm PT  

Is it me, or didn't Bush tell us that the UN, in the person of Lakhdar Brahimi, would be in charge of choosing the new Iraqi Interim Governing council? I'm pretty sure he did.

Over the weekend it seemed, however, that the process got hijacked by the Interim Governing Council who made their President, the new President, their Foreign Minister the new Foreign Minister etc. And then they "dissolved" themselves. Neat trick. What could possibly go wrong?

But --- as ever with these liars (sorry, it's an overused word, blame them, not me, cause they're seemingly addicted to it) --- America apparently doesn't deserve the truth.

From Knight-Ridder:

Asked how big a role the American administration had in forming the government and selecting the prime minister and president, Brahimi reminded reporters that American Ambassador L. Paul Bremer runs things in Iraq.

"Bremer is the dictator of Iraq," he said. "He has the money. He has the signature."

He later added: "I will not say who was my first choice, and who was not my first choice ... I will remind you that the Americans are governing this country."

No good man goes unpunished by the Mayberry Machiavellis.

After he finished speaking, he walked off from the podium, alone. A U.N. banner was tacked on the wall behind him, waiting to be taken down and replaced by the Americans in time for the next news conference.
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...One more to go.
By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2004 11:39am PT  

To toot my own horn (for a change ;-) ...I predicted on April 4 that at least two Admin members would resign before the elections.

That prediction was made prior to both Abu Ghraib and the worst month of fighting in Iraq to date (more US Servicemen and women were killed in April than any other month so far).

My list would have looked a bit different after Abu Ghraib perhaps, but this is who I predicted would be gone back then:

(Listed in order of likelihood that they'll be gone - sez me)
George Tenet
Richard Foster
Dick Cheney
Karl Rove
Paul Wolfowitz
Condoleezza Rice
Colin Powell

...Looks like one down and --- so far --- in my predicted order to boot...Horn well tooted.

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By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2004 10:48am PT  

It has been said, that John Kerry is a "Flip-Flopper". Said by those who are quite professional at creating a false impression of their challenger. And for good reason. It's the only chance they have.

I've spoken about this successfully waged fallacy before, but apparently the message still needs to get out on who the real "Flip-Flopper" in this contest is. Thankfully, the nice folks at the Center for American Progress have put together a short sheet listing 20 of the Flip-Flopper-In-Chief's greatest hits.

To put it all in perspective, they open with this:

From the beginning, George W. Bush has made his own credibility a central issue. On 10/11/00, then Governor Bush said: "I think credibility is important. It is going to be important for the president to be credible with Congress, important for the president to be credible with foreign nations." But President Bush's serial flip-flopping raises serious questions about whether Congress and foreign leaders can rely on what he says.

Then they list 20 of Bush's Flips and Flops. They've left out quite a few, but on the other hand, unlike the charges against Kerry from Team Bush, these charges are actually sourced so folks can both trust and verify.

(Thanks to the ever-on-the-ball KJO for the find!)

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By Brad Friedman on 6/3/2004 9:35am PT  

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By Brad Friedman on 6/2/2004 4:40pm PT  

While a new investigation gets under way to look into the revelations that Chalabi gave highly classified info to Iran --- specifically, which higher up it was who would have had such info in the first place and the access to share it with Chalabi --- here's another breaking story...

Just one foreboding line from Josh Marshall a few minutes ago:

President hires outside counsel in the Plame case.

Undoubtedly, details to follow soon...

UPDATE (5:38p PT): CBS and AP confirm. Whitehouse spokeswoman "deflected questions about whether Bush had been asked to appear before a grand jury in the case."

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