Tag Archives: George W. Bush

If things were reversed, would Katrina have been Bush’s Gulf oil spill?

As I see it, and I am interested in hearing other’s takes, the answer is a clear “no.” If Bush had succeeded Obama, instead of the other way around, and Katrina had occurred after the oil spill, there is simply no way that we would be screaming at Bush to stop the hurricane.

Because that is essentially what we want Obama to do. We want Obama to raise his staff and stop the damn hurricane. Perhaps we have forgotten that the tragedy of governmental incompetence during Katrina was not related to the government’s inability to halt a natural disaster, something we clearly should not expect of our elected officials, but rather to their total inability to handle the clean-up, the humanitarian crisis, etc. With the oil spill not yet plugged, Obama’s part in this hasn’t even really started yet.

And that’s the problem. It is literally unfathomable to a very large part of the country, many of whom are generally quite cynical, that a company of the size and stature of BP could a) have allowed this to happen in the first place thanks to total negligence, or b) that they could begin such a risky undertaking without having a legitimate plan for how to stop a leak if one started. Clearly corporations lie, cheat, and steal, but those are the banks on Wall Street, not the big companies that provide thousands of jobs across the country. Thus, though it is undoubtedly a tragedy caused by BP (but perhaps not one that is their fault, per se), it is clearly the government’s fault that this is happening. For some reason. Bottom line: these companies are perfectly capable of regulating themselves, thank you very much, but the fact that the government regulations I didn’t want didn’t keep this from happening is just appalling. You need to do more (do less)!

And Obama’s inability to figure out how to stop an oil spill (something which his law degree clearly qualifies him to do) is more proof that he is a presidential failure. That, plus the failure to pass healthcare reform, a jobs bill, a stimulus package, financial reform, etc. Oh, wait…

(You can hate his policies and pray for repeal, but recognize a winner when you see one. This is the approach I’ve had to take with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers…In fact, in many ways Obama is to the presidency what Bryant is to pro basketball. Even when Bryant, who I admittedly dislike in a surprisingly visceral way, scores 40 points and puts on an absurd performance, everybody derides it as selfish playing and any other number of negative descriptions. One has to wonder, were Kobe to have a personality transplant and finally look like he actually wants to be on the court and isn’t, in fact, looking to strangle his own teammates, would we all revere him as a virtual god instead of somebody who is unfortunately fantastic?)

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“The Truth Commission” or “How To Avoid Repeating the Past” (I’m back!)

Let’s talk about this idea of a “Truth Commission:”

History (and I mean recent history) has shown us that it is extraordinarily important for a society to confront, atone, and record the grave misdeeds of its past, as opposed to simply “forgetting” about said past and looking toward the future. Even for me, it is difficult not to instinctively believe that simply moving forward is the best use of national resources. However, vastly disparate contemporary political conditions in Germany and Austria attest to the cost of willful forgetfulness and the manipulation or glossing over of an unflattering historical narrative:

Assuming that most of you have, at the very least, an elementary understanding of the events leading up to and during WWII, I will not recap the war crimes committed by these two countries, as this is not a comparison between American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and those of the Third Reich. To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the United States today (or of the past 8 years) is comparable to Nazi Germany, and neither am I suggesting that American citizens were equally silently complicit, as many have claimed of the citizenry of Germany and Austria in the 1930s-1940s. I do, however, think that the aftermath (and I use that word lightly as I am really looking to the 1960s-1980s) contains lessons that we need to learn from.

Today, Germany’s parliament has one of the lowest levels of far-right participation in Europe (1.4%). Austria has the highest (18%). German Neo-Nazi groups certainly exist, but are extraordinarily limited and shunned by the general population. In Austria, the interests of the extreme right are discussed in the halls of government. How did this happen? What accounts for this disparity? Scholars have posited that Germany’s eventual willingness to confront its Nazi past through a surprisingly honest national dialogue that accepted guilt, as opposed to Austria’s “victim” narrative, provided a certain catharsis and openness that acknowledged the importance of admitting and atoning for the mistakes of the past in order to avoid repeating them in the future. Suddenly the younger generations had a frame and language with which to discuss Germany’s past with the older generations, and in doing so they effectively killed the elephant that was sucking the oxygen out of the room.

Austria, on the other hand, chose to perceive its position in WWII as that of the victim, thus ensuring that national guilt and shame remain slowly boiling beneath the surface and necessitating a certain amount of justification in order to maintain the status quo. Austria agreed with the school of thought that said focusing on the future rather than the past is a cleaner, less messy means of moving the country forward. This, however, essentially ensured the rise of the far-right as a major political player since Austria had/(has) yet been unwilling to even admit that it was the ideals of a not-completely-dissimilar far-right that led to their complicity in the first place. Admitting to the failings of the far-right would be admitting to complicity, which would then negate the victim narrative and then where would they end up? The unwavering answer should be, “hopefully not back in the 1940s.”

One must see Austria and Germany as exemplifying the two directions in which a society can go after major national trauma. We can look at the past, confront it, and weave it into a better future and a more honest national narrative or we can pretend like the past doesn’t exist and focus exclusively on what is ahead. These are our only two options and the one that we, as Americans, decide upon may define our future decades down the road. The idea of a “Truth Commission” may seem like liberal mumbo-jumbo to a lot of people who think talk is cheap, but in this case silence could end up a much more costly and dangerous game.

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Rush vs. Republicans, Round 1

How is it that there is an argument going on within the GOP/Politosphere about whether or not the Republican party wants President Obama to fail? This seems completely ludicrous! We’re only a little more than a month into his presidency. It wasn’t all that long ago that Obama won an election in which a fair majority of the American public voted for his proposed policies and, to some degree, ideology. The ideology hasn’t changed, so one must ask whether or not some Republicans (Rush Limbaugh) with hopefully short-term amnesia have inadvertantly decided to take a stand against the American citizenry, because let’s be clear: if Obama fails, we all fail.  Of course, I’m simplifying a more nuanced battle royale- the one between unelected non-deciders like Rush and elected officials like Eric Cantor and even Michael Steele- but for now let’s just all hope that sanity wins the day (notice that today Eric Cantor represents sanity…).

Chris Good over at Marc Ambinder writes about the inter-party dance-off:

Rush Limbaugh’s barn-burner at CPAC this weekend drew a line in the sand, once again, for Republicans: either they want President Obama to fail, or they don’t. RNC Chairman Michael Steele, subsequently, walked a tightrope on the issue last night in an interview with D.L. Hughley on CNN.

Conservative and liberal blogs alike Monday picked up on Steele’s response, some blasting Steele and others promoting a fight between the two GOP heavyweights. But Steele’s answer to Limbaugh, and its political implications, were a bit more complicated.

First came the question of Steele’s status as party leader. Hughley challenged the RNC chairman, asserting that Limbaugh is the GOP’s de facto leader. “No he’s not,” Steele responded. “I’m the de facto leader of the Republican Party.”

On the philosophy behind Limbaugh’s “fail” assertion, Steele supported the conservative commentator; on the rhetoric of it, Steele stood opposed to Rush:

“How is that any different than what was said about George Bush during his presidency?” Steele asked, making a point Limbaugh himself made during the CPAC speech, in response to Hughley’s blasting of Limbaugh’s “incindiary” rhetoric.

“Let’s put it in the context here,” Steele said. “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. His whole thing is entertainment…yes, it’s incindiary, yes, it’s ugly.” And that’s the line that has gotten the idea of Steele vs. Rush so much play in the blogosphere today.

The complexity of Steele’s response stands in stark opposition to that of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, clearly distanced himself from the radio commentator’s claim: “Nobody–no Republican, no Democrat–wants this president to fail, nor do they want this country to fail or the economy to fail,” Cantor said.

While Cantor and Steele both attacked the rhetoric, there are big differences between their political situations: Cantor, as a prominent leader in the House GOP, has to work with Obama; Steele, as the party’s top political officer, has to generate campaign cash, balance the interests of the GOP’s base–much of which, evidently, strongly agrees with Limbaugh–all the while asserting himself as political top dog in the GOP against claims that Limbaugh is the party’s de facto leader.

Steele has put forth a vision for a more inclusive GOP–not necessarily inclusive to the idea of working with Democrats, but inclusive to new voting demographics–and “incindiary” rhetoric like Limbaugh’s may seem to threaten his chance at bringing in new votes. Then again, nothing generates campaign donations like passionate support, and nothing generates passionate support like “incindiary” opposition to Democrats.

The idea of Steele attacking Rush likely isn’t one the RNC wants floating around the blogosphere–after all, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) ended up calling Limbaugh to apologize for criticizing him in January–but Steele stood behind Rush’s desire for Obama to “fail.” He may not be reaping the media-coverage benefits for doing so, but the distinction highlight’s Steele’s position between Limbaugh, Cantor, and the GOP donor base.

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