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  • April 26, 2016
    U.S. Conservatives Get It All Wrong on Obama's Brexit "Hypocrisy"

    President Obama's forceful statements in support of the UK remaining in the European Union made waves on both sides of the Atlantic. Brexit leader and London Mayor Boris Johnson protested Obama's "hypocrisy" on an issue of UK sovereignty, attributing Obama's firm position to the "part-Kenyan President's ancestral dislike of the British empire." But here in the U.S., the conservatives from whom Johnson appropriated his Birther talking point regurgitated their own misguided sound bite. As Larry O'Connor of Hot Air put it:
    Brexit hypocrite: Remember when Obama accused Netanyahu of meddling in America's affairs?

    I remember it quite well. And what I remember is this: Whereas Barack Obama voiced his strong support for the position of Prime David Cameron's government in London, Republicans brought Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress specifically to torpedo the Iran policy of the current President of the United States. As I put it in March 2015:

    In less than a week, Congressional Republicans have taken two unprecedented steps to undermine the foreign policy of a sitting American president. Last Tuesday, they offered Capitol Hill as a global stage to a foreign leader--Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel--to sabotage the U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran. And this weekend, 47 GOP Senators sent a letter to the leadership in Tehran warning the Islamic Republic that Congress-or the next president--could blow up any nuclear deal at any time.

    It's no wonder that White House press secretary John Earnest described the GOP's poison pen letter as "the continuation of a partisan strategy to undermine the president's authority."

    The reliably Republican Hot Air conveniently ignored all of that history and the context. When O'Connor criticized Obama's for agreeing with CNN's Fareed Zakaria suggestion that "Prime Minister Netanyahu has injected himself forcefully into this debate on American foreign policy in Washington," he made no mention of Bibi's partisan abettors:

    During the height of the debate over Obama's disastrous nuclear capitulation to Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted an invitation to address the US Congress to make a strong case against the deal that could hand nuclear weapons to a terrorist state pledged to annihilating his nation.

    Do you remember the White House's petulant reaction to the speech?...

    No matter what side of the Brexit question you fall on, there's no doubt that Obama is "injecting himself forcefully into the debate" over British policy, right? And by doing so, he is showing himself to be a world-class hypocrite.

    Sadly, no. President Obama as the U.S. head of government traveled to London in support of Tory David Cameron, the UK head of state. Obama's talk may have been unusually blunt, but it was delivered to assist, not undermine, 10 Downing Street. (It should be noted that the President was also providing air cover to American businesses, who strongly back the UK remaining in the EU.) As Politico reported four days ago:

    The president's decision to effectively stump for Cameron came after a direct intervention from the prime minister last year, according to a source familiar with Cameron's thinking.

    Rattled by tighter-than-expected poll numbers, Cameron asked Obama to make the trip during the referendum campaign rather than wait until July when the president was also scheduled to be in Europe.

    For their part, the British people apparently think Obama may have overstepped his bounds. Nevertheless, Obama still enjoys stratospherically-high positive approval ratings in the UK. And based on the changes in the betting markets, the President appears to be succeeding in his effort to help Cameron's EU "remain" campaign. As for the saboteur Netanyahu and his allies within the United States, not so much.

    Perrspective 4:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    Team Sanders Pulls a Romney on Bernie's Tax Returns

    Among Bernie Sanders' greatest strengths is his old-fashioned honesty. That's why it's so puzzling that he would only release one year of tax returns. After all, most presidential candidates publish many years of their tax records. (Across all of their elections, Hillary and Bill Clinton combined have now made 38 years available.) In any event, given their comparatively modest lifestyles, few expect any wrongdoing or grotesque hypocrisy in Jane and Bernie Sanders' IRS paperwork.

    That's why Jane Sanders' insistence on a quid pro quo on Tuesday is so disappointing. By demanding that Clinton release her Wall Street speech transcripts as a condition of releasing more tax returns, Jane and Bernie Sanders are sounding more like Ann and Mitt Romney.

    As Politico reported, Mrs. Sanders proposed that swap during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

    CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Sanders about when she might release her husband's old tax returns, as the senator from Vermont has said his wife prepares them each year.

    "He's counting on you to release them. You did release the 2014 tax returns. What about earlier years? How's that looking?" Blitzer said.

    "You know, what's interesting is we released the 2014," Sanders said. "Hillary Clinton hasn't released a transcript yet."

    She then confirmed that she'll provide the returns when Clinton publishes her Wall Street transcripts, before trying to turn the interview away from the topic.

    If that formula sounds nauseatingly familiar, it should.

    2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, after all, chose not to follow in the footsteps of his beloved father George, who released 12 years of returns for his 1968 presidential run. Hoping to secure the VP slot on the 2008 ticket, the self-funding former Massachusetts Governor turned over 23 years of returns to John McCain's vetting team. But for his 2012 run, Governor Romney initially refused to publicly release any at all, telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer in December 2011:

    "I don't put out which tooth paste I use either. It's not that I have something to hide."

    The person with something to hide, the Romney Clan suggested, was President Obama. Son Matt got laughs from New Hampshire Republicans in late 2011 when he brushed off requests for his father's secret tax returns this way:

    "I heard someone suggest the other day that as soon as President Obama releases his grades and birth certificate ...then maybe he'll do it."

    But when Governor Romney finally buckled to public pressure and made his 2009 and 2010 filings public, Americans learned that the Quarter Billion Dollar Man paid a tax rate of less than 15 percent--less than what many middle class families owe to Uncle Sam. As I noted in July 2012, there was no mystery as to why "he hasn't been paying taxes we would expect him to pay":

    That paltry figure is made possible by the notorious "carried interest" exemption for private equity managers Romney wants to preserve [which] taxes him not at the ordinary income rate of 35 percent but instead at the capital gains rate of just 15 percent. (Thanks to his unusual golden parachute, most of Mitt's millions each year come from his controversial former employer, Bain Capital.) On top of his Cayman Island investments and past Swiss bank accounts, Romney has created a $100 million trust fund for his sons - tax free. Thanks to some (apparently legal) chicanery on the part of his former employer, Mitt has also accumulated an IRA worth a reported $100 million. (The Romney camp even complained about that, worrying that recent tax code changes had "created a tax problem" for the former Massachusetts governor and asking, "Who wants to have $100 million in an IRA?")

    To be sure, Mr. and Mrs. Romney weren't happy about fielding questions on any of these topics. In January 2012, Ann Romney lamented that "unfortunately" the world now knows how "successful in business" her husband had been. But by that August, Rafalca's mom had enough of "you people," declaring "the more we release, the more we get attacked, the more we get questioned, the more we get pushed. And so we have done what's legally required, and there's going to be no more tax releases given." Mitt agreed, telling the National Review:

    "In the political environment that exists today, the opposition research of the Obama campaign is looking for anything they can use to distract from the failure of the president to reignite our economy...I'm simply not enthusiastic about giving them hundreds or thousands of more pages to pick through, distort and lie about."

    Instead, Romney's retained the right to distort and lie about his own taxes. For starters, he repeatedly claimed that his total tax rate "is really closer to 45 or 50 percent":

    "Well, actually, I released two years of taxes and I think the average is almost 15 percent. And then also, on top of that, I gave another more 15 percent to charity. When you add it together with all of the taxes and the charity, particularly in the last year, I think it reaches almost 40 percent that I gave back to the community. One of the reasons why we have a lower tax rate on capital gains is because capital gains are also being taxed at the corporate level. So as businesses earn profits, that's taxed at 35 percent, then as they distribute those profits as dividends, that's taxed at 15 percent more. So, all total, the tax rate is really closer to 45 or 50 percent."

    Now, the Internal Revenue Service and most Americans certainly would not consider their charitable giving part of what they pay to Uncle Sam. Most would probably admit that their contributions to their church is not synonymous with "giving back to the community." Especially when that tithing takes the form of tax deductible stock. As ABC News documented in early 2012, "the private equity giant once run by the GOP presidential frontrunner carved his church a slice of several of its most lucrative business deals, securities records show, providing it with millions of dollars-worth of stock in some of Bain Capital's most well-known holdings." (In its article "In Bain deals, Romney gave stock to Mormon church," Reuters explained the massive savings Mitt likely reaped on his tax bill as a result.)

    Fast-forward to 2016 and Mitt Romney is trying to turn the tables on Donald Trump. In February, Mitt Romney of all people declared:

    "We have good reason to believe that there's a bombshell in Donald Trump's taxes...Either he's not anywhere near as wealthy as he says he is, or he hasn't been paying taxes we would expect him to pay or perhaps he hasn't been giving money to vets or to the disabled like he's been telling us he's been doing."

    Now, we have no reason to believe there's a bombshell in Bernie Sanders' taxes. Which is why the message to Team Sanders is so simple. Release them or don't release them, but don't demand grades, birth certificates, speech transcripts or anything else for doing what you should be doing anyway. To put it another way, if you want Americans to #FeelTheBern, #DontBeLikeMitt.

    Perrspective 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    Let's Not Party Like It's 1984

    In the wake of last week's New York primary, Hillary Clinton's path to securing the Democratic nomination for president seems increasingly clear. What is less certain is how the candidates, their campaigns, and their supporters will handle that looming outcome between now and the close of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 28. The stakes couldn't be higher. After all, the strategies and the tone that Sen. Bernie Sanders and Secretary Clinton adopt from here on out will help determine not just whether Democrats capture victories in the White House and Senate races they should win, but whether the groundwork for more progressive policies in Washington and the states will be laid for years to come.

    Which is why I have a simple message for my friends in the Sanders and Clinton camps: #ImWithHer and I #FeelTheBern, but a plague on both your houses if either does anything to hurt Democrats' chances come November.

    That plea isn't merely rooted in the belief that we have a unique opportunity to both build on the very real--and very hard-fought--progressive gains of the Obama presidency and to roll back a morally and ideologically bankrupt Republican Party (see Trump, Donald and Cruz, Ted). My electoral angst also comes from personal experience and lingering regret. During and after the 1984 primaries fiercely contested by Gary Hart and Walter Mondale for Democratic voters much more divided than those today, I was an uncompromising purist and a sore loser who sat on the sidelines when the outcome didn't go my way.

    That history goes a long way in explaining my unease with the tenor of the race between the "idealistic" Sanders and the "pragmatic" Clinton.

    Continue reading at Daily Kos.

    Perrspective 9:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    April 18, 2016
    10 Things the GOP Doesn't Want You to Know for Tax Day

    Tax Day 2016 arrives a few days late on Monday, April 18th. But the toxic talking points from the GOP are right on schedule. The usual Republican broadsides about "Gestapo-like tactics" from the Internal Revenue Service and its "armed personnel in flak jackets" have been joined by new sound bites from the GOP's best and brightest. At an Americans for Tax Reform conference hosted by Grover Norquist, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch warned that the Internal Revenue Service "is the most feared federal agency in the country." Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, declared the IRS is "ineffective, it's inept, it is crooked and it's vindictive." Meanwhile, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce apparently placed identical newspaper op-eds in all 50 states lamenting, "This year, Washington, D.C., is expected to rake in a record-breaking $3.36 trillion in tax revenue, $115 billion more than it did last year."

    But while the Republicans are only too happy to remind you about the horrors of taxation in general and the IRS in particular, they'd prefer to stay silent on about their roles in gutting the agency, starving the U.S. Treasury of tax revenue and redirecting trillions of dollars to the very richest among us. Here, then, are 10 helpful Tax Day reminders the Republican Party want you to ignore.

    1. Congressional Republicans Slashed the IRS Budget by 17 Percent Since 2010...
    Given the right-wing rhetoric, Americans could be forgiven for believing an out-of-control IRS is growing like crazy. But it's not. Thanks to the House Republican majority that swept into power in 2011, the agency has seen its budget slashed by 17 percent since fiscal year 2010. The result of the draconian reductions from $13.6 trillion in 2010 to $11.2 trillion in 2016? Full time staff has been reduced by 14 percent and enforcement staff has contracted by a staggering 23 percent, even as individual returns have jumped by 7 percent and new laws passed by Congress have added to the agency's work load.

    2. ...Which is Why IRS Customer Service Has Collapsed...
    Thanks to temporary hires for tax season, the telephone call answer rate this year has jumped to 70 percent, up from a shocking 38 percent in 2015. But for 2016 as a whole, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen expects the figure to slide to 47 percent. As the Washington Post recently reported, that constitutes a near-collapse over the past decade:

    When more than six of 10 taxpayers were not getting their calls answered last year, it marked a stark drop in service for the agency people love to hate even in the best of times. The high point in recent years was 87 percent in 2004, and at no time since then has the percentage of answered calls fallen below 50 percent -- until 2015.

    "Unless we are able to correct this," National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson warned in November 2014, "very bad things will happen to taxpayers."

    3. ...and the "Tax Gap" Will Continue to Grow.
    Very bad things won't just happen to taxpayers, but to Uncle Sam's bottom line. In 2010, the Brookings Institution estimated that the "tax gap"--the difference between what taxpayers owe the federal government and what they actually pay--had reached $500 billion a year. That's not just an increase of two and a half times since 1998's tax gap of $195 billion annually; it represents the equivalent of the entire federal budget for the last fiscal year.

    Last year, IRS officials raised the alarm that they simply didn't have the manpower to chase down tax cheats who owe the U.S. Treasury less than a million dollars even as the percentage of audits plunged to a 10-year low. And that was before the explosion of corporate "tax inversions" and the Panama Papers revelations put tax evasion on the front pages. As IRS Commissioner Koskinen put during 2013 Congressional testimony:

    "I have not figured out either philosophically or psychologically why nobody seems to care whether we collect the revenue or not."

    Especially when more funding the IRS is like free money for Uncle Sam. For years, analysts have explained that each extra dollar spent by the IRS on enforcement produces between six and 10 dollars in additional revenue collected. As Ezra Klein pointed out when House Republicans first slashed the IRS budget in 2011:

    Converting dollar bills into $10 bills is an excellent way to pay off your credit card. Except, it seems, if you're a House Republican.

    In 2014, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) made Klein's point for him. Bragging about his role in helping House Republicans gut the IRS budget, Gosar crowed, "I am ecstatic that the House of Representatives supported my efforts today to pass a vitally important amendment which will save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars."

    It's no wonder Jonathan Cohn calls the GOP the "pro-deficits, pro-tax evasion" party.

    4. New GOP Tax Plans Will Cost Uncle Sam Trillions...
    Uncle Sam's coffers aren't at risk just because, as RNC Chairman Reince Priebus put it two years ago, "We're done playing footsie here with the IRS." Following in the footsteps of John McCain and Mitt Romney, the 2016 GOP presidential field is promising gigantic tax cuts that lead to a hemorrhage of red ink from the United States Treasury.

    As Howard Gleickman of the Tax Policy Center documented in February, the price tags of the tax plans for the top Republican contenders are mind-boggling. TPC estimated Donald Trump's proposals would drain roughly $9.5 trillion in tax revenue over a decade, with Ted Cruz ($8.6 trillion), Marco Rubio ($6.8 trillion) and Jeb Bush ($6.8 trillion) not far behind:

    To put those numbers in historical context, consider the tax cuts as a percentage as the total U.S. economy. Compared to the 2016 field, the budget-busting tax cuts of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were small potatoes.

    5. ...While Delivering a Massive Tax Cut Windfall for the Wealthy...
    The Republican White House hopefuls aren't just out-Reaganing Reagan with their gargantuan tax cuts. The size of their windfalls for the gilded-class make Reagan and Bush look like Marx and Engels in comparison:

    6. ...and Requiring the Debt Ceiling to Be Raised Repeatedly...
    Here's a funny story. Despite the fact that Ronald Reagan tripled the national debt and George W. Bush nearly doubled it again, Republicans love to hate budget deficits. All of the 2016 GOP candidates support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution and some, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, said they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling.

    Sadly for them, the next President, regardless of party, will have to raise the debt ceiling repeatedly. Over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office forecasts Uncle Sam will run up $9.3 trillion in new debt on $51 trillion in new spending. (That's on top of the current $19 trillion in debt.) All of the GOP candidates will increase that by trillions more. That means Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and John Kasich will have to increase Uncle Sam's borrowing authority and slash tens of trillions in federal spending. Put another way, to keep their promises the GOP's next standard-bearer would have to either trigger a default by the U.S. or a global economic collapse, or both.

    7. ...Because Tax Cuts Don't Pay for Themselves...
    Now, Republicans could avoid all of these horrible--and inescapable--consequences of their tax plans if it was true that "tax cuts pay for themselves." But four decades of experience have completely debunked the supply-side myth that tax cuts trigger so much additional economic growth that tax collections will be higher than they otherwise would have been. As President Bush put it in 2004, "You cut taxes and the tax revenues increase." Several years later, then Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed, agreeing with Jon Kyl's jaw-dropping proclamation that "you should never have to offset cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans."

    "There's no evidence whatsoever that the Bush tax cuts actually diminished revenue. They increased revenue because of the vibrancy of these tax cuts in the economy. So I think what Senator Kyl was expressing was the view of virtually every Republican on that subject."

    Repetition of that point by Republicans didn't make it any truer. The history of the Reagan and Bush years belie Arthur Laffer's supply-side fantasy. That's why a 2012 study found that not a single one of the economists surveyed agreed that "a cut in federal income tax rates in the US right now would raise taxable income enough so that the annual total tax revenue would be higher within five years than without the tax cut." As the University of Chicago's Austan Goolsbee put it:

    "Moon landing was real. Evolution exists. Tax cuts lose revenue. The research has shown this a thousand times. Enough already."

    The GOP's use of so-called "dynamic scoring" now required of the CBO to show the macroeconomic feedback of tax and budget legislation doesn't change the two certainties of life for Republicans: debt and tax cuts.

    8. ...and the House GOP Refuses to Say Which Tax Loopholes It Would Close.
    Another way the GOP can limit the oceans of red ink its massive tax cuts would inevitably produce is to close many of the tax loopholes, credits and other breaks that now cost Uncle Sam almost $1.5 trillion a year. But once again, the House budget resolution doesn't say which ones.

    It's no surprise why. Many of the biggest tax breaks--the home mortgage interest deduction, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the deduction for charitable giving, etc.--are very popular. So while every House budget blueprint since 2010 repeals Obamacare, moves to two, lower income tax brackets, slashes safety net spending and guts Medicaid, not one has listed a single tax break Republicans would end. As its architect and then House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan put it in 2012 when asked "which of those loopholes do you eliminate":

    "We want to do this in the light of day and in front of everybody. So the Ways and Means Committee, which is in charge of the tax system, sent us the plan here, which is a 10 and 25 percent bracket for individuals and small businesses, and then they want to have hearings and, in light of day, show how they would go about doing this."

    In the intervening four years, Paul Ryan became House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and then Speaker of the House. And we're still waiting to see how he "would go about doing this."

    9. Meanwhile, Tax Revenue is Obviously at a Record High...
    In his copy-and-paste op-eds that appeared in papers across the country, conservative Andy Koehnig lamented that "Tax Freedom Day" comes later this year because the federal government "rake in a record-breaking $3.36 trillion in tax revenue, $115 billion more than it did last year."

    Of course federal tax revenue is at a record high. The U.S. population and GDP are both growing, and so are at record highs, too. It's not just that the revenue losses from the Bush tax cuts and the deep recession which began in late 2007 are now over, as the historical tables produced by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) show. But the end of the Bush upper-income tax cuts, along with increases to capital gains tax rates for the wealthy, have helped refill Uncle Sam's coffers, too. And as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted, these tax hikes had virtually no negative impact on U.S. economic growth or job creation.

    As for those who complain that Americans are "taxed enough already" by Uncle Sam, a little history lesson is in order. In the wake of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 and the devastating recession, total federal tax revenue as a percentage of the U.S. economy plunged to its lowest level since 1950. And even with the recovery and increases in upper-income tax rates, Uncle Sam's take is still only about 18.2 percent of GDP. That's a less than the 20 percent level reached in 2000 during the Clinton boom--the last time the federal government produced budget surpluses.

    10. ...and Federal Spending is Lower Than When Bush Left the White House.
    All of which brings us to one final point Republicans would prefer you overlook. Despite all of their claims about "tax and spend" Democrats and "out-of-control" spending by President Obama, through 7-plus years of his tenure federal outlays are lower now than when George W. Bush mercifully ambled out of the White House in January 2009.

    In its latest assessment, CBO predicted fiscal year 2016 spending would rise to $3.90 trillion dollars. In FY 2017 which starts on October 1, spending during President Obama's final days in office will increase to $4.07 trillion. But taking inflation into account by using constant FY 2009 dollars (see OMB historical table 1.3) shows a different picture. At, $3.51 trillion, Inflation-adjusted FY 2016 spending will still be lower than on Barack Obama's first inauguration day. As I noted previously:

    On January 7, 2009, CNN reported on the latest long-term budget forecast from the CBO. Two weeks before President Bush ambled out of the Oval Office, CNN explained "the U.S. budget deficit in 2009 is projected to spike to a record $1.2 trillion, or 8.3% of gross domestic product." With the recession in full swing and the massive TARP program passed the previous fall, CBO predicted in January 2009 that federal spending would spike to $3.543 trillion dollars while tax revenue would plummet to an anemic to $2,357 trillion. As it turned out, the final deficit figure for the 2009 fiscal year which ended on September 30, 2009 reached $1.413 trillion because of worse-than-expected tax collections ($2,105 trillion.)

    Sadly, America's real problem isn't that the public sector spent too much after the onset of the great recession in late 2007, but that it didn't spend enough. Draconian spending reductions by state and local governments more than offset the $800 billion federal stimulus, creating an "anti-stimulus" that held back economic growth and job creation. By May 2013, the Hamilton Institute estimated those austerity policies cost 2.2 American million jobs and resulted in the slowest recovery since World War II.

    Perrspective 8:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

    April 13, 2016
    Libya and "Bad Language": Obama and Bush Reveal Their Worst Mistakes as President

    In an understandably rare interview with Fox News on Sunday, Barack Obama spoke bluntly about the "worst mistake" of his presidency. That error, as he had also recently explained to the BBC and The Atlantic, was the unraveling of Libya following the fall of Muammar Qaddafi:
    "Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya."

    Whatever you think of that answer, Obama's mea culpa stands in stark contrast to that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush. To the extent he could even think of a single mistake he had made, President Bush cited only his "bad language." You read that right. The man who presided over the worst two-term economic performance since World War II, suffered the devastating 9/11 attacks on his watch, launched the catastrophic Iraq war and birthed ISIS repeatedly said his bellicose rhetoric like "dead or alive" or "bring them on" wasn't just his biggest mistake; it was his only mistake.

    Mary Kewatt certainly agreed. As a grieving Kewatt told Minnesota Public Radio in the summer of 2003:

    "We have some issues with the fact that President Bush declared combat over on May 1. Combat is not over. We don't even know who's firing at us right now, and all of our soldiers are at great risk of being picked off as Jim was. And that's a shame. And then President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, 'bring it on.' They brought it on and now my nephew is dead." [Emphasis mine.]

    That's right. It wasn't bad enough that in just six short months President Bush went from declaring he wanted Osama Bin Laden "dead or alive" to announcing "I truly am not that concerned about him." As American casualties from insurgent attacks began to mount in the days he stood in front of a banner proclaiming, "Mission Accomplished," Dubya offered some tough talk to the supposed "dead-enders" in Iraq:

    "There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on."

    Six years later in December 2009, Bush's former press secretary Dana Perino complained it was "demonstrably false" to suggest "that President Bush was too triumphant in his rhetoric when talking about war." As it turns, President Bush didn't just repeatedly tell us that his "bad language" and "gun-slinging rhetoric" about the war was a mistake. It was pretty much the only mistake he ever acknowledged.

    As you might recall, back in April 2004--ten months after the death of Mary Kewatt's 20 year-old nephew Edward James Stergott in Baghdad, a stammering President Bush could not think of a single error he had made during his tenure in the White House:

    "I'm sure something will pop into my head here...maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one."

    But by January 2007, just days after he announced the surge in Iraq, Bush admitted to Scott Pelley on CBS 60 Minutes that he had made mistakes, if only semantic ones:

    PELLEY: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?

    BUSH: You know, we've been through this before. Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, "bring them on" was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.

    Amazingly, Bush's most profound statement of regret about his tough talk came during Dana Perino's watch in June 2008. In London as part of his final swing through Europe before leaving the White House, President Bush told The Times of London that his cowboy rhetoric was perhaps his greatest regret:

    President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a "guy really anxious for war" in Iraq.

    [...] In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. "I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric."

    Phrases such as "bring them on" or "dead or alive", he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."

    Of course, Americans can be forgiven their struggle with the notion that George W. Bush was a "man of peace," especially he endlessly bragged to them that "I'm a war president." But standing atop the rubble of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan on September 14, 2001, Bush offered inspiration and resolve in perhaps his finest moment as Commander-in-Chief:

    "I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people - and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

    They did hear from us, though some like Osama Bin Laden didn't actually receive the message until Barack Obama became President of the United States. Unfortunately, millions of people in Iraq who had no role in knocking those buildings down heard from us, too. And many of them--former members of Saddam's Hussein's regime, Al Qaeda militants drawn to fight U.S. forces in Iraq and disgruntled Sunni fighters alienated by the U.S. backed Shiite leadership in Baghdad--are the now backbone of ISIS today.

    But in 2004, President Bush had a different name for his world-historical mistake in Iraq. That word, as he explained during an August 30, 2004 press conference was "success."

    "Had we had to do it [the invasion of Iraq] over again, we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success - being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

    Fight another day, indeed, for ISIS. In Iraq, in Syria and in Libya. And calling that "catastrophic success" is just bad language for a horrible mistake.

    Perrspective 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | Share

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