Is George W. the Demagoguer in Chief?

Mr. Carpenter holds a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Illinois and is a syndicated columnist. Please consider contacting your local newspaper to carry his column.

If you like the service HNN provides, please consider making a donation.

Anyone with a lick of common sense and a penchant for prophecy could easily call the 2004 presidential election without further ado: a Democrat, almost any Democrat, will mop up the floor with George W.

Forget Iraq. Today's ill-reasoned hoopla over that wagged dog will be long forgotten tomorrow. And let us even grant that America's greatest foreign policy blunder - otherwise known as Operation Iraqi Freedom - doesn't blow up in our face till at least 2005. The economy, our commonsensical prophet would reason, is always the key to electoral success and in that arena W. couldn't be doing more to ensure victory for the opposition. A massive loss of jobs, unprecedented federal deficits and 50 crumbling state governments are but 3 of the president's accomplishments so far. What's more, he has ample time before the close of electioneering to make matters even worse. This he is doing by pushing yet more fiscally traumatic tax cuts.

Yes, by 2004 we'll all be hurting like nothing we recall; excepting, of course, the top 1 percent of income earners. Those lucky few will sit out the sociopolitical revolution - "Perhaps the Bahamas, my dear?" - that is sure to come, just as it landed with crushing weight on Herbert Hoover in 1932. More recently the mini- and one-term presidential administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George Bush I suffered as well from dismal economies and politically hapless responses. One reminisces their respective Whip Inflation Now (WIN), the frozen-deer look in the "Are you better off …?" spotlight and the courageous but self-annihilating act of raising taxes when needed.

All the indicators are there not only for W.'s loss, but huge Republican losses and Democratic gains in both houses - no matter how typically your average Democrat tries to screw things up. Above all, though, Bush II is toast, our prophet would comfortably forecast with excellent historical reasoning.

But he or she would be wrong, or at the very least standing on precariously shaky ground. For these once-sound indicators of defeat neglect what has become now-s.o.p. politics for the Republican Party at large and George W. Bush in particular: the grotesque exploitation of public deception, better known as sheer demagoguery.

Whenever a fact can be distorted or reality obscured for political gain, Bush, led by his handlers, is light-years ahead of any known Democrat in skillful deployment. From grossly distorting his actual education policy to mountainous fiscal lies and to duping the public on a war's necessity, W. wields Herculean demagogic powers. He deceives not just willingly, it seems, but eagerly. Barely a White House policy is left untainted.

You want a better education for your children? Fine. Bush publicly touts reform while silently undercutting its called-for budget. You want lower taxes? Just name a price and Bush will meet it - more bogusly than Boss Tweed, more shamelessly than Huey Long. Don't like massive deficit spending which leads to higher interest and mortgage rates? No problem. His latest economic "growth" package - still more tax cuts for you-know-who - will soon offset those dangers. Honest. Forget what his own metaconservative advisors say otherwise: that their fiscal intent is to wreck social programs by driving headlong into a wall of catastrophic national debt. And, of course, as both a debate-stopper and political cover for violating international law, the administration's cynical manipulation of patriotism will go down in demagogic history as an epic achievement.

As one might expect, Bush's preternatural use of deceptive rhetoric didn't simply materialize one day in 2000 or 2003. Rather, it built on the New Right's groundbreaking demagoguery of the 1970s and 1980s, whose artificial populism mirrored its Platonic ideals of Joe McCarthy's smugness and Barry Goldwater's 1964 holy conception of "morality" politics. Quite ingeniously, the New Right movement ditched any sober discussion of complicated social problems and opted instead for the rhetorical glitz of message simplicity (our cultural values were headed to hell in a handbasket) and constant scapegoating (only elitist liberals were at the helm).

The ploys worked well enough for Republican Machiavellis to occupy themselves ever since with refinements. Based on political expediency, the party subjected its message contents to overnight reconstruction - for example the evil, then goodness, of deficits - and over time conservatism inverted to radicalism. Hence today's ever-pliable Boss Bush, consiglieri Cheney and Rove and assorted underbosses such as Rummy and Perle. Lumped together these anti-conservative creationists have delivered unto us a doomed Pax Americana with accompanying domestic ransacking - all courtesy the latest in demagogic fashion.

So what is to be done in the way of opposition? The brutish answer is to match demagoguery for demagoguery. The noble answer is to remain above it and pray for a saner day. The winning answer is probably somewhere betwixt - yet therein lies the deeper problematic of closing the demagoguery gap through an escalating rhetorical arms race, a foul but real prospect. The outs may decide that two can play at any-means-to-an-end, and that'll be all she wrote for any hope of a thoughtful democracy. Perhaps then, the enlightened answer will entail expatriate status to avoid the whole scene.

For now, though, sit back and marvel at W.'s extraordinary aptitude for demeaning honest politics and thus beating the odds. We may never see the likes of such demagogic mastery again.

© Copyright 2003 P. M. Carpenter

Mr. Carpenter's column is published weekly by History News Network and

comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:

Brian - 6/18/2003

Go back to Berkeley, damn hippie

Brian - 6/18/2003

Go back to Berkeley, damn hippie

Tom Kellum - 5/12/2003

Anyone interested in bush's AWOL can find a ton of information and evidence of his not fulfilling his military obligation. Go to any search engine and type in bush + AWOL.

What you WON'T find is any evidence to refute the truth of his being a military deserter.

Reader - 5/12/2003

Get it straight. The 2000 NYT story said,
"A review of records by The New York Times indicated that SOME of those concerns may be unfounded."
PLenty of unanswered questions are still there.

Elia Markell - 5/12/2003

Apparently, Mr. Kellum thinks innundating us with undigested assertions and innuendo is supposed to impress us. No doubt about it, his mishmash implies Bush did no duty between May 72' and May '73. This is directly contradicted, of course, by the specifics in the NYTs report. Hence, what Mr. Kellum thinks he can do by this flood of assertion is avoid explaining why the New York Times report (does ANYONE believe the NYTs is favorably disposed to George W?) contradicts his "bushAWOL." "BushAWOL"? Is this what we are supposed to credit on Mr. Kellum's say so? Sorry. Snake oil is snake oil.

Tom Kellum - 5/11/2003

Nov '72
fall '73 Returned home to Houston Texas.
Did not report in person for non-flying duty to his parent Texas 111th Squadron during this whole time.

Tom Kellum - 5/11/2003

The cited article doesn't say who Mr. Barlett is, but nonetheless, as the snippet below says, bush did receive "gratuitious" credit for certain duty dates despite NOT showing up in person.

As a side note, there is NO evidence that bush EVER actually pioted a jet aircraft on his own. He had 200 hours FEWER than is normally required before receiving one's pilot wings, and NO flight logs have ever been released.

THIS IS FROM bushAWOL (just google bush & AWOL for tons more)

Did not choose to join the full time active duty military
Chose to enlist for duty in the (Texas) Air National Guard
On application:
checked "do not volunteer" for overseas assignment
listed his "background qualifications" as "none."
Waiting list of 100,000 nationally at the time
17 Jan '68 Took the Air Force officer and pilot qualification tests
Scored 25%, the lowest possible passing grade on the pilot aptitude portion
Speaker of the House in Texas at the time, Ben Barnes, admitted he had received a request from a longtime Bush family friend, Sidney Adger of Houston, to help Bush get into the Air National Guard.
Barnes further testified that he contacted the head of the Texas Air National Guard, Brig. Gen. James Rose

May '68 Graduated from Yale 1/2 million men fighting; dying @ 350/wk
Years 1 & 2
27 May '68 Sworn in
after 6 weeks of basic airman training Received a commission as a second lieutenant By means of a 'special appointment' by the commanding officer of his squadron, with the approval of a panel of three senior officers.
Normally required eight full semesters of college ROTC courses or eighteen months of military service or completion of Air Force officer training school.
Texas National Guard historian said that he "never heard of that" except for flight surgeons

Assigned to flight school Normally reserved to pilots graduating from ROTC training or Air Force officer training

'fast tracked' into the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, a standby runway alert component of the 143rd Group Over those on the existing pilot applicant waiting list
Trained to fly the missile-equipped supersonic F-102 Delta Dart jet interceptor fighter
Racked up approximately 300 hours of training flight time in the F-102 Qualified him to fly the F-102 without an instructor
Short of the 500 hours of experience required for volunteer active duty combat operations in Vietnam

Year 3
Jul '70 Earned his wings
Applied for a voluntary three month Vietnam tour Was turned down for this volunteer active duty option Air Force needed additional F-102 pilots to fly reconnaissance missions.
Left to fly as a "weekend warrior" in the Texas Air National Guard out of Ellington AFB near Houston
3 Nov '70 Promoted to 1st Lieutenant by Brig. General Rose
Jun '70
May '71 Credited with 46 days of flight duty
Year 4
Jun '71
May '72 Credited with only 22 flight duty days 14 days short of the minimum 36 days owed the Guard for that year
Apr '72 Flew for the last time in the cockpit of an F-102 All the overseas and stateside military services began subjecting a small random sample in their ranks to substance abuse testing for alcohol and drugs.
Pentagon had announced its intention to do so back on December 31, 1969

Year 5
15 May '72 "cleared this base" according to a written report by one of his two Squadron supervising officers, Lt. Col. William D. Harris Jr.
24 May '72 Requested in writing a six-month transfer to an inactive postal Reserve unit in Alabama If Bush had been temporarily transferred there, he would not have continued flying until he returned to Texas, because the Alabama unit had no airplanes
31 May '72 Transfer request was denied by National Guard Bureau headquarters Bush should have returned to his base in Houston and continued with his flying duties.
Instead, he remained in Alabama until late in the fall.

Aug '72 Scheduled physical Could have been subject to selection for a random substance abuse test
1st Lt. Bush took his mandatory annual flight physical for pilots and failed it for some as-yet undisclosed reason,
or he refused to present himself in the first place to an Air Force Flight Surgeon, who were readily available in almost every state
Release of Bush's military service record would resolve issue.
1 Aug '72 Suspended and grounded from flying duty on verbal order of the TX 147th Group's Commanding Officer for "his failure to accomplish annual medical examination."
Two years left of remaining National Guard service.
Expensively trained pilots are not casually suspended
There is normally a Flight Inquiry Board
If one had been convened, its three senior officer members would have documented why such a severe action was justified in relation to the country's military objectives at the time, as opposed to the simple desire of a trained pilot to just "give up flying".
There is no evidence now in the public domain that a Flight Inquiry Board was convened to deal with Bush's official reclassification to a non-flying, grounded status
This absence of a Flight Inquiry Board is of particular interest to veteran pilots. The implication is that Bush's misconduct was handled like everything else in his military service: aided and abetted by powerful family connections
Country at the height of the Vietnam (air) War
5 Sep '72 Ordered to start serving three months in an active but non-flying administrative Guard unit, the 187th Tactical Reconnaissance Group in Montgomery, Alabama, for four certain duty days in October and November
29 Sep '72 In memo to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force, Major General Francis Greenleaf, then Chief of the National Guard Bureau in Washington DC, confirmed the suspension of 1st Lt. George W. Bush from flying status.
Oct/Nov '72 No official notation in his service record that Bush ever showed up for this assigned duty in Montgomery, Alabama.
Bush: "I was there on temporary assignment and fulfilled my weekends at one period of time. I made up some missed weekends. I can't remember what I did, but I wasn't flying because they didn't have the same airplanes. I fulfilled my obligations."

The Bush campaign conducted its own search of Bush's military records, and could not find evidence that Bush performed any duty in Alabama.
General William Turnipseed and Lt. Col. Kenneth Lott, who commanded the Montgomery, Alabama, base at the time said that Bush never appeared. "To my knowledge, he never showed up," Turnipseed said.
Nov '72
fall '73 Returned home to Houston Texas.
Did not report in person for non-flying duty to his parent Texas 111th Squadron during this whole time.

Year 6
May '73 Ordered to attend nine certain duty days in person during Summer Camp at Ellington AFB between May 22 and June 7.
1st Lt. Bush did not do so.

22 May '73
30 Jul '73 Bush was credited with 35 "gratuitous" inactive Air Force Reserve points -- in other words, non-attendance inactive Reserve credit time No one in the Texas Air Guard at the time, has stepped forward to say they saw Bush in person on a single day between May 22 and July 30, 1973
1 Oct'73 Prematurely discharged with honors from the Texas Air Guard. This leaves Bush without a single legitimate Texas Air National Guard service day for his fifth and sixth years of service to his Texas Air National Guard discharge.

Elia Markell - 5/11/2003

Tom Kellum apparently cannot read. He tasks Mr. Burack on Bush'd National Guard record this way

"because the issue isn't whether or not mr. bush showed up for any meetings during the summer of 1973. The AWOL missing year was from May, 1972-May, 1973."

Yet the Times report Mr. Burack posted clearly states:

"Mr. Bartlett pointed to a document in Mr. Bush's military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May."

Summer does not begin until June, Mr. Kellum.

This sloppiness with respect to fact impressed "Reader" to the degree that he calls Mr. Kellum's critics brownshirts.

Reader - 5/11/2003

I guarantee you Mr. Kellum, no matter what you say or how you say it will be trashed by the Bushie clones. Provide all teh evidence you want, be as reasonable as you want, and they will come back ignoring your evidence or attacking you personally. That's how they, and Brownshirts used to, act.
You must be a glutton for punishment, but I wish you good cheer, because you'll need it.

Tom Kellum - 5/11/2003

In the interest of clearing up your confusion about what I wrote, let me repeat what I said: "The NYT story is a red herring." It is, because the issue isn't whether or not mr. bush showed up for any meetings during the summer of 1973. The AWOL missing year was from May, 1972-May, 1973.

I never said that the facts about his service (or lack of) was a red herring. The message clearly states, in plain English, that I'm referring to the liberal NYT article.

Unfortunately, there are no records of our Commander in Chief having fulfilled his military obligation in an honorable fashion. In fact, there has been a standing offer of a $1,000 reward for anyone who can prove they saw mr. bush at ANG meetings during the "missing" year. It's very easy for anyone who is interested in the known facts about mr. bush's being a military deserter, to find them at various web sites such as bushAWOL (or AWOLbush), and many others listed on Google.

Mr. Burack promised to provide examples of Paul Krugman making failed predictions. Thus far, he hasn't. An opinion, Mr. Burack, is not a prediction. Neither is a guesstimate about what the percentage of the deficit is, relative to GNP.

Jon Burack - 5/10/2003

Some might well and justly ask why I would even bother to respond to Mr. Kellum. After all, he simply ignores the plain facts about Bush's National Guard service in 1972-73, calls them a "red herring" (a sloppy misuse of this term by the way) and returns to unsubstantiated and absurd assertions denying these facts, assertions buttressed by nothing other than a bizarre and bullying tone. But I did promise. All I can tell you Mr. Kellum is keep it up. You only dig the hole deeper for yourself. In any case, below are a few links to Krugman articles that demonstrate his sloppiness, his inability to read carefully, and his failed predictions. I am sure these, too, will all be denied, dismissed, called red herrings or whatever. But I promised, so here they are. I now will depart the company of Mr.Kellum whose Orwellian capacity to use language to deny reality only entertains for just so long.

Re, Krugman's predictions, see, on Feb. 21, 2003, here,

Where Krugman tells us that only "Saddam Hussein and a few top officials will be replaced." Already, this prediction is well on its way into the laugh bin.

Re Krugman's sloppiness, see on March 11, 2003, here,

Where Krugman tells us "[R]ight now the deficit, while huge in absolute terms, is only 2 — make that 3, O.K., maybe 4 — percent of G.D.P."

Perhaps I have to explain to you the enormous difference here between 2 and 4 percent of GDP. I think we are entitled to have an award winning economist do better than this.

Finally, for now anyway, here is one that Andrew Sullivan explains as well as I could so I give you his commentary on a Krugman column of December 3, 2002.

In a rip-off of E.J. Dionne's recent column, Paul Krugman says quite baldly that in the Wall Street Journal, "key conservative ideologues have now declared their support for tax increases - but only for people with low incomes." Read the piece he cites. ( See if you can find any argument for actually increasing taxes on the poor. In fact, the editorial states that "While we would opt for a perfect world in which everybody paid far less in taxes, our increasingly two-tiered tax system is undermining the political consensus for cutting taxes at all." The bottom line is that any further reductions in net taxes should be avoided. That's not the same as raising them. Matthew Hoy has the goods. One instructive comparison: compare Dionne's tough but fair piece with Krugman's. It tells you all you need to know about Krugman's intellectual integrity.

Reader - 5/10/2003

You must be joking, Robert Smith.
After reviewing the course of this thread it seems you were the one you started the "personal animus." Rahter than stick with arguing the issues, you derided the author in a personal way as worse than sophomoric.
Talk about pot and kettle calling...

Robert Smith - 5/10/2003

Mr. Kellum,
With regard to the canard to President Bush being AWOL his last year of duty, I point you to May 7, posted at 1:41 pm. It is quite clear that the requirements of performance were satisfied. Furthermore I would suggest that you go to where you will find a link to Bill Hobbs site, completely debunking the entire issue. Now, I have disproved your slander; prove that Krugman is the genius you claim!

Robert Smith - 5/10/2003

Mr. Kellum,
In reading your entries I find only bile and innuendo; a complete absence of facts. What arrest are you talking about? Are we to believe that only those who have committed felonies would have any desire to serve those of the inner cities? Almost every liberal post I have read on this site, stoops to the lowest levels of personal animus. They appear incapable of reasoned discourse. I can only believe that they purchased their honors from some degree mill. I challenge you to prove your charge of cocaine arrest or admit you have no such knowledge and are nothing more than a craven liar. Furthermore, with regard to Mr. Krugman, it is not for us to prove we are right - saying he is not serious - but rather for you to prove us wrong. Point to some of his columns in the NYT that are pearls of wisdom, the like of which the world has not seen since Burke. I await your, hopefully, reasoned response.

Tom Kellum - 5/9/2003

There is no evidence of bush attending any ANG meetings between May, 1972 and May, 1973. This year also includes the time period during which mr. bush worked (inexplicably) in a Houston inner city program, most likely, as part of a "deal" after being arrested for cocaine.

Release of more of his records might help clear up some of the many questions about his service in the Texas Air National Guard.

The NYT "rebuttal" is a red herring.

Now, when can we expect you to give us some of those Krugman predictions you claim are false?

Jon Burack - 5/9/2003

I will do some digging and be back to you on this. Meanwhile, this will have to do as a starter, though it is not so much a Krugman false prediction as a slander in the face of easily available facts to the contrary. A slander by the way already widely presented on the left as fact.

First, I have posted here a Krugman quote from a few days ago on Bush's National Guard Record. Then an investigative report in the NYTs itself following up on the Boston Globe gossip Krugman apparently still accepts.

[N]obody seemed bothered that Mr. Bush, who appears to have skipped more than a year of the National Guard service that kept him out of Vietnam, is now emphasizing his flying experience. (Spare me the hate mail. An exhaustive study by The Boston Globe found no evidence that Mr. Bush fulfilled any of his duties during that missing year. And since Mr. Bush has chosen to play up his National Guard career, this can't be shrugged off as old news.)

Two Democratic senators today called on Gov. George W. Bush to release his full military record to resolve doubts raised by a newspaper about whether he reported for required drills when he was in the Air National Guard in 1972 and 1973. But a review of records by The New York Times indicated that some of those concerns may be unfounded. Documents reviewed by The Times showed that Mr. Bush served in at least 9 of the 17 months in question... On Sept. 5, 1972, Mr. Bush asked his Texas Air National Guard superiors for assignment to the 187th Tactical Recon Group in Montgomery "for the months of September, October and November." Capt. Kenneth K. Lott, chief of the personnel branch of the 187th Tactical Recon Group, told the Texas commanders that training in September had already occurred but that more training was scheduled for Oct. 7 and 8 and Nov. 4 and 5. But Mr. Bartlett said Mr. Bush did not serve on those dates because he was involved in the Senate campaign, but he made up those dates later. Colonel Turnipseed, who retired as a general, said in an interview that regulations allowed Guard members to miss duty as long as it was made up within the same quarter. Mr. Bartlett pointed to a document in Mr. Bush's military records that showed credit for four days of duty ending Nov. 29 and for eight days ending Dec. 14, 1972, and, after he moved back to Houston, on dates in January, April and May. The May dates correlated with orders sent to Mr. Bush at his Houston apartment on April 23, 1973, in which Sgt. Billy B. Lamar told Mr. Bush to report for active duty on May 1-3 and May 8-10. Another document showed that Mr. Bush served at various times from May 29, 1973, through July 30, 1973, a period of time questioned by The Globe.

(Thanks to Andrew Sullivan's "Krugman Watch" for this. Will be back later with more.)

James Jefferson - 5/9/2003

Ed basically has it right. All of Herod's "UN process" occurred, but the "process" was mostly a charade. Months before that, the warmongers in Washington had made up their minds to invade Iraq any way they could, and let alternative approaches and long term negative consequences be hanged. Read the Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2003, page 1. I know it uses big words, but you can be sure that it is not a publication of Marxist egghead elitist academics.

In 1990-91, Bush Senior, an experienced if often vapid statesman acting IN ACCORDANCE with US and UN traditions (resisting aggression), got full UN approval, IN ADVANCE, for military action. Junior, by contrast, with no international experience and therefore under the thumb of the think-tank chickenhawks (and hoping maybe that they might help him improve on Daddy's failed re-election bid), stumbled his way past unprecedented anti-US opposition at the UN and around the world into a hypocritical war of US aggression which did not need to happen and which could haunt us for decades to come. John McCain, for example, would have found a way to neutralize or take out Saddam without most of the rest of the world resenting America rather than thanking it afterwards.

Tom Kellum - 5/8/2003

Would you be kind enough to post some of your favorite Krugman predictions which validate your claim of their inaccuracy?

Tom Kellum - 5/8/2003

YOU "seem to believe" in jingoistic RushLamb droppings.

Ed - 5/8/2003

>>What part of this UN process did not occur?

It did occur, but BushCo pretty much just went through the motions. There was no REAL effort to build a real coalition, as Bush Sr. had done years before. They only pursued the U.N. thing as long as it took to get all of the military pieces into Kuwait. At that point, multilateralism became "inconvenient", and the United States aggressively invaded a sovereign country, unprovoked, for the first time since the Spanish-American War. The dead of WWI and WWII are definitely spinnning in their graves.

Robert Smith - 5/8/2003

Mr. Burak,
Thank you for your kind response. You are correct, Mr. Carpenter asserts a relationship between interest rate and deficits that does not appear to be in evidence, therefore ahistorical. I find this ironic, given this is supposedly a History driven website. I did find it interesting that the one person that disagrees with us chose to make an anonymous ad hominem, that is to say, cowardly attack. And why he called me a hack is obscure. I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the journalism profession. Though I might add some of my best friends are journalists! I think we can garner some insight into the mind of "regular reader" when he calls Paul Krugman a "serious" economist. Well, let's see if our opponent is capable of reacting while the sun is above the horizon!

Jon Burack - 5/8/2003

WELL, I have to modify my previous post to this extent, we did get a one-sentence assertion from a National Review headline, that we are wrong on the deficits. This does not exactly put to rest the hard facts that contradict that assertion, but it's better than nothing, barely.

Who knows, perhaps assertions first and facts to follow.

As for Gale and Orszag, I do not know if they are serious. I know Krugman is not. He has been among the most belicose and inaccurate of all the NYTs many inaccurate journalists in his predictions. In any case, I for one would never say no serious economist has said deficits and interest rates do not interact. All I or Mr. Smith would say is the relationship Carpenter claims to know exists has not been evident in the actual data.

Finally, I would say with complete certainty that yes, Helen Thomas does NOT know of what she speaks.

Jon Burack - 5/8/2003

Excellent point on deficits, Mr. Smith. I made a similar one in an earlier post here, all to no avail. I've seen no rejoinder to that post and I suspect you will get none of any substance. (I am still also wating to learn what Mr. Carpenter thinks a "metaconservative" is, God help me.)

On the matter of the ignorance of the American people, you also make a good point, and one worth making to a very large number of the "professors" or whatever they are who post here and who see fit to present themselves as smarter than the public and George W. They do this by asserting it, as if the mere assertion of it were all that were needed. It's a kind of genuflecting I think, or taking out the statue of the god and bathing it every morning. I am sure it makes them feel good. But it doesn't convince anyone who is not already a true believer. As I say, there are many of them here. I don't really begrudge them their foolish and snobbish sense of superiority, if it makes them feel good. But I do think they ought to strive to do SOMETHING, even some little thing, to earn it, don't you?

regular reader - 5/8/2003

What garbage.

First of all, this from the NAtional Review, hardly a leftie rag: "Bush administration economists do not deny that a larger deficit will raise interest rates."

And are Bill Gale and Peter Orszag of Brookings not "serious"?

Is Paul Krugman of Princeton not a "serious" economist?

As I said, what garbage, Mr. Smith.

But, what you have written is merely what one "would have expected" from a duped hack for the "worst president in American history." Don't tell me, Helen Thomas also knows not of what she speaks.

Robert Smith - 5/8/2003

In reading Mr. Carpenter's diatribe I was struck by two thoughts. The first was his apparent ignorance of American history with regard to the relationship between interest rates and deficits. Historically, there isn't one. Interest rates fell through the 80's and 90's, at a time when the U.S. was running budget deficits of $200 billion or more. And interest rates rose during the late 90's at a time when we were running budget surpluses. While this is not the venue for a discussion of economics, let us say that no one, having seriously studied economics, would support Mr. Carpenter's assertion today. The other point, and I believe the more serious one, is his apparent sense of elitist disdain for the general citizenry. Claiming that the Republican's have been engaging successfully in a dishonest dialogue with voters for twenty plus years strains credulity. During this time the highest marginal tax rates were lowered from 70% to as low as 28%. More and more state houses and legislatures as well as the House of Representatives came under Republican control. Welfare was reformed while Trade was made more free. The Berlin Wall fell and we no longer live under the threat of nuclear annihilation. These were primarily, but not exclusively, due to Republican initiatives. Mr. Carpenter would have us believe that we were lied to. Mr. Carpenter's response is to accuse the electorate of being easily manipulated. He doesn't seem to believe that voters have the capacity to take the measure of a man and to judge for themselves if a candidate for office is genuine. He seems to believe that money is best spent when spent by the government, that American families are incapable of running their lives without the government there to hold their hands and tell them what to do. That it is better for the government to be flush than families - a government that has effectively unlimited borrowing capacity. As a matter of record, by the way, current deficits are not unprecedented. The deficits of the 80's were larger as a percentage of the federal budget and GDP than those of today and neither compare with the deficits the government ran up during WWII. In summation, this is what I would have expected from a college freshman, writing for RAMPARTS magazine in 1969. His factual inaccuracies and hyperbolic tone would have rated a "Gentleman's C" at any serious university. To find writing of his caliber on a site supposedly dedicated to history rather than ideology is disappointing.

Herodotus - 5/7/2003

Your assertions are at odds with the facts.

President Bush addressed the UN on September 12, 2002 and indicated that the U.S. would bring up the matter of Iraq's compliance with the previous resolutions with the Security Council.

Between November and Febuary, the Security Council discussed the matter, adopted the new resolution 1441, activated and dispatched a new inspections regime, headed by Hans Blix and Mohammed elBaradai. The inspections teams issued reports, the Ba'athist regime issued reports. In the end, the United States position, backed by Britain and Spain, was that they did not believe the inspections were working. The French, followed by the Germans, the Russians and even the Chinese, announced that they backed a position of having further inspections ad infinitium. The council deadlocked over how to resolve the matter, and the United States acted alone.

What part of this UN process did not occur?

James Jefferson - 5/7/2003

No "United Nations avenue" was "pursued".

The track record clearly shows that Powell lost out to Rumsfeld & Cheney in the summer of 2002 - the whole rigmarole at the UN thereafter was a smokescreen. This was reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal the day the Iraq invasion began. The war hawks were willing to give the UN a chance to be a rubber stamp, nothing more. Theoretically, Bush had the power to overrule his VP and Defense Secretary, but because he is vastly less experienced than either, he deferred to their outflanking of the accomplished general but diplomatic and political neophyte at the State Dept..

NYGuy - 5/7/2003

All it shows is he can at least spell.

Herodotus - 5/7/2003

If Rumsfeld really had been "running circles around Powell" then the United States would never have pursued the United Nations avenue from September to March.

Since the U.S. did, then Powell's influence is apparent. If Powell's influence is apparent, then someone above Powell had to chose his view over Rumsfeld's. Since that did happen, then the person who is above both of them is in a position of making decisions. That would be the president.

Since the president is in a position of making decisions, and we have evidence of that, then he is more than just a figurehead posing at photo ops.

Since he's more than just a figurehead, then your original contention is incorrect.

William H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/6/2003

I love it when right wingers squeal. It's been fair for you guys to spew venom, but even a hint of critical views or disagreement from the other side and you cry, "Foul!" That's not nobility, that's schoolyard-bully psychology showing. If you can't stand the heat in your own kitchen, give it up.

James Jefferson - 5/6/2003

Substitute "floundering amidst" for "balancing" in the first part of your third sentence and I would agree with the result, except to point out that the ex military contracter in charge of Defense has been running circles around the ex general in charge of State (at least so far). This is not the first presidential administration where the theoretical org chart was of little relevance, but History has never been a strong point at HNN.

James Jefferson - 5/6/2003

I know the truth can be painful, "Homer", but your emperor has no clothes.

Herodotus - 5/6/2003

The first key truth, according to Jefferson here, is that George W. is not chief of anything but rather one who is supposed to smile for photo ops.

Haven't you been paying attention to the events of the last ten months? Bush has been balancing the conflicting energies of Powell and Rumsfeld...above the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense is the President, and it is his call on which direction to go. I don't care what anyone's politics are, or whether you think Bush is a smart guy or not; that's just the fundamental structure of the modern presidency and the governance of this country.

Homer Simpson - 5/6/2003

The moron competition continues!! Yet another mental defective who thinks that he should have been appointed Stalin.

Tell me the truth. You've got some graduate student squirreled away in a back office somewhere trying to think of the foulest, stupidest things possible. Every day you just attach a new set of names to the idiocy and publish it.

That's what's really happening, isn't it?

After all, there really can't be this many idiots in America

James Jefferson - 5/6/2003

The first key truth is that George W. is not "chief" of much of anything. His principal duty is to smile for photo ops.

Rumsfeld is running foreign policy (kinder gentler Blitzkriegs with fewer casualties but more gratuitous insults along the way) while Powell serves as water boy disguised as good cop.

Ashcroft would be running a Gleichschaltung domestic policy if he weren't such a mental lightweight.

Fiscal policy is pure "voodoo economics".

What is "extraordinary" is that it took W so long to learn how to to keep his tongue twisted utterances to a minimum and let more experienced and bonafide-looking figures do the heavy lifting.

Mori Dinauer - 5/6/2003

The closing remarks about an escalation of demagogic tactics as the future of American mainstream politics leads me to wonder about another, more philosophical issue: can democracy work if The People are so easily duped by demagogic politicians? I find it rather easy to criticize the administration for their blatant manipulation of facts, sentiment and basic reality, but should not some blame also be reserved for those people who do not find it obvious? As an educated elitist, its unsettling to be squeezed between the lies of our leaders and the ignorance of The People.

c heisler - 5/5/2003

Talk about your basic useless efforts--encouraging the "opposition" to start using demagoguery is a classic case of an unnecessary call to action! Psst! Mr. Carpenter, the opposition is way ahead of you--they have demagogued every issue they have confronted for at least ten years--do they know any other method of rhetoric?

Jon Burack - 5/5/2003

P. M, Carpenter says of supposed Republican demagoguery,

"So what is to be done in the way of opposition? The brutish answer is to match demagoguery for demagoguery. The noble answer is to remain above it and pray for a saner day. The winning answer is probably somewhere betwix ..."

Well, it's pretty clear Carpenter himself has rejected nobility and victory in favor of brutishness. If there is a fact or reasoned argument hiding in this vituperative column somewhere, I am at a loss to identify it. (For instance, how is it Bush has "undercut" his education budget when in fact that budget went up -- with Ted Kennedy's help, or how is it massive deficits lead to higher interest and mortgage rates, when in fact they are not now so doing and have a very spotty record of doing so in previous times of deficit?)

But what I really wish people like Carpenter would do is explain how they can possible fool themselves into believing that Republicans are any better than Democrats at the game of rhetorical demonization of the other side -- this column itself being Exhibit A for anti-Republican rhetorical excess. Other exhibits might be the ad during the 2000 campaign equating George Bush with the chain-dragging racist murderers in Texas, the frequent comparisons in peace demonstrations of George Bush to Hitler, Hillary's rantings about a vast right-wing conspiracy, the regular "tax cuts for the rich" mantra, the claims of corporate greed artists seeking to "wreck social programs" in spite of actual increases in spending on such programs, plus of course the daily incantation of Republican ill will toward the holy trinity -- race, class, gender -- with homophobia thrown in for good measure.

One further query: What the hell is a "metaconservative"? That, I have to admit, is a new one on me. Perhaps it's a neoconservative who is not Jewish.

This column is a disgrace on a network presumably designed to encourage scholarly discourse.

Subscribe to our mailing list