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Thursday, September 22, 2005

A Selection of Timely Views

Two views from Times Select.  Bob Herbert talks about George Bush, and David Brooks talks about John Kerry, John Edwards, and where the Democratic party is headed:

Voters' Remorse on Bush, by Bob Herbert, NY Times Columnist: Maybe, just maybe, the public is beginning to see through the toxic fog of fantasy, propaganda and deliberate misrepresentation that has been such a hallmark of the George W. Bush administration, which is in danger of being judged by history as one of the worst of all time. Mr. Bush's approval ratings have tanked as increasing numbers of Americans worry that their president, who seems to like nothing better than running off to his ranch to clear brush and ride his bike, may not be up to the job. ... Reality is caving in on a president who was held aloft for so long by a combination of ideological mumbo-jumbo, the public relations legerdemain of Karl Rove and the buoyant patriotism that followed the Sept. 11 attacks. ...Remember, there was already a war going on when Katrina came to call. I've always believed that war is a serious matter. But the president was on vacation. Dick Cheney was on vacation. And Condi Rice was here in New York taking in the sights and shopping for shoes. That Americans were fighting and dying on foreign soil was not enough to demand their full attention. ... So it's no wonder it took a good long while before they noticed that a whole section of America had been wiped out in a calamity of biblical proportions. ...Americans are finally catching onto ... the utter incompetence of this crowd. And ... that incompetence has bitter consequences. The body count of Americans killed in Iraq has now passed 1,900, with many more deaths to come. But ... The White House hasn't the slightest clue about what to do. So the dying will continue. ... Mr. Bush never sent enough troops to get the job done, and he never provided enough armor to protect the troops that he did send. Thin-skinned, the president got rid of anyone who had the temerity to suggest he might be wrong ... Here at home, even loyal Republicans are beginning to bail out on Mr. Bush's fiendish willingness to shove the monumental costs of the federal government's operations - including his war, his tax cuts and his promised reconstruction of the Gulf Coast - onto the unsuspecting backs of generations still to come. There is a general sense now that things are falling apart. ... This is what happens when voters choose a president because he seems like a nice guy, like someone who'd be fun at a barbecue or a ballgame. You'd never use that criterion when choosing a surgeon, or a pilot to fly your family across the country... the next time around, voters need to keep in mind that beyond the incessant yammering about left and right, big government and small, Democrats and Republicans, is a more immediate issue, and that's competence.

Next, David Brooks:

Kerry and Edwards, 2005, by David Brooks, NY Times columnist: John Kerry and John Edwards ran for office together and they lost together, and they both gave major speeches about Katrina this week, but there the similarity ends. The two men might as well live in different worlds. Kerry began his speech by making the point that Bush and his crew are rotten. He then went on to make the point that Bush and his crew are loathsome. In the third section of the speech, Kerry left the impression that Bush and his crew are evil. Now we all know people so consumed by hatred for George Bush that they haven't had an unpredictable thought in five years, but in Kerry's speech one sees this anger in almost clinical form... All reality flows back to Bush. All begins with Bush, ends with Bush, is explained by Bush and is polluted by Bush, cursed be thy name...

John Edwards's speech had a different feel. Edwards took some hard shots at Bush, some of them deserved, but having left Washington after the election, Edwards is not so obsessed with power struggles. In his talk he roamed outward and spoke about the complexities of actual life. He mentioned that the typical white family has about $80,000 in assets, while the typical Hispanic family has about $8,000, and the typical African-American family has about $6,000. That's an astonishing gap. ... He concluded with a series of policy recommendations fit for the post-welfare-reform world. No conservative would agree with all of them, but nobody could fail to find them interesting. ... Edwards proposed a series of policies designed to encourage work, to encourage responsibility, to help the poor build assets.  The Kerry-Edwards contrast is characteristic of the argument that now divides the Democratic Party. On one side are those who believe that the party's essential problem is with its political style. The Republicans win because they are simply rougher, so the Democrats must be just as tough in response. They must match Karl Rove blow for blow. ... On the other side are those who believe that the Democratic defeats flow from policy problems, not from campaign style or message framing. They don't believe that Democrats can win wrapped in their own rage...  For them, the crucial challenge is to come up with policies more in tune with voters. Kerry speaks for the first group, which believes in more partisanship, and Edwards for the second, which believes in less. I have discussions with my Democratic friends over whether the party will snap back to Clintonite centrism after the polarizing Bush leaves town. Some think yes. I suspect no...

For what it’s worth, I think it’s both.  Democrats can be tougher advocates of well formulated, rational, innovative policy.

    Posted by on Thursday, September 22, 2005 at 01:41 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (2)


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