Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Having it Both Ways A Key Aspect of Being Two-Faced

You gotta love the incumbent administration's approach to the logic of their positions. In the universe of black and white, they continue to maintain that opposite, mutually exclusive facts can both be true (or false).

So John McCain and Chuck Nagel defend John Kerry on defense, rightly pointing out you can take any votes against specific defense spending out of context to spin any old way, but when you look at the big picture, Kerry's about as pro-defense a Senator as it is.

McCain, of course, was actively campaigning for Bush in New Hampshire and has been a valued proxy for the campaign. But this is what the GOP brain trust then said to trash McCain's credibility in assessing Kerry's record on defense:

    Grover Norquist, a GOP lobbyist close to the White House, said, "McCain is just full of bitterness. Hagel is McCain's only friend in the Senate."

The Bush administration thought highly enough of Richard Clarke to retain him as the counter-terrorism expert. But they claim he can't have had anything valuable to say about the danger before 9/11, because they can't recall him being around, claiming he was "out of the loop". Previously the Bush administration blamed the Clinton administration for 9/11, paradoxically claiming that because it clearly happened on the Bush team's watch, it was the result of years of neglect by the Clinton administration. At the same time, somehow the military didn't get any credit for being built back up during the latter Clinton administrations -- triumphs, at least militarily, in Afghanistan and Iraq are magically attributed to Bush.

When Paul O'Neill came forward with a strongly-researched and supported book about his tenure in the Bush administration, the surrogates attacked O'Neill as a minor figure who had stolen classified material. As it turns out, O'Neill had nothing to do with the classified documents that were released, it was a lower-level Treasury department snafu. When O'Neill was taken on as Treasury Secretary -- after having risen to be CEO of Alcoa -- his experience and skill were touted. Yet when he questioned the experience and skill of Bush (whose multiple business failures were masked by the public contribution of a new ballpark to the Texas Rangers, and then only barely so), O'Neill's skill and competence were questioned.

Bush has budgets with record deficit spending -- more than during WWII or the depression. Yet the criticism of John Kerry is that he'd add a trillion dollars to the deficit (which is mere chump change compared to the four trillion Bush ACTUALLY has added to the overall debt). Kerry's accused of having proposals that don't add up, on heels of revelation that the adminstration deliberately underestimated the cost of the medicare prescription benefit by at least $130 billion.

My favorite example of this phenomemon is Dick Cheney, citing votes going back to the end-of-the-cold-war defense reductions, claiming Kerry wanted to cut defense by a trillion dollars. Of course, if you look at it, most of those cuts were proposed during Bush I by none other than Dick Cheney, including many programs that the military said it needed, at the expense of pork-barrel defense spending the military services said it didn't need.

The attack on Kerry for cutting spending on intelligence was equally bone-headed. The vote in question was to cut spending back by a billion dollars for a black budget agency that had accumulated over a billion dollars in unspent reserve funds and clearly didn't need. The money would've been used by other intelligence agencies. It's a classic example of cutting government waste.

There's a scary aspect to all this. It's not just that it's a political tactic: keep saying Blue is Red and 2+2 is 5, and maybe the middle 10% of voters will eventually believe it. The scary part is: could it be they actually BELIEVE this? They're that idiotic that they can't even see they're contradicting themselves on just about every campaign issue, policy decision, and raison d'etre of their policies?

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