Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again
…and expecting a different result.
I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.
--Hamlet, Act II, scene ii
If I may borrow a phrase from Hamlet
, Prince of Denmark, one of literature's most famous "flip-floppers," I would have to say that the most perfidious
trait (one might say habit) of George Bush the Younger's administration is its tendency to call a hawk a handsaw
, especially when the spade we're all staring at is clearly the shovel that we're going to need to remove the mess Bushido's
administration has piled up for the past three and a half years.
Our latest president's willful denial of the facts of his existence, which glare at him from every newspaper he admits he never reads, reminds me of my elder son as a toddler. From his earliest attempts at communication, the child insisted that the world existed only as he saw it. There was no room for what others might term "reality" in the boy's universe, and sad to say, as he approaches adulthood, that hasn't changed. He remains an imaginative kid, but he'll never be president.
Our Great American Cowboy president, alas, lacks both a healthy curiosity about the way things work and the imagination and capacity to recognize that the world-views of people who disagree with him might be relevant to the repair of the tragedy that he has created for himself and his country out of whole cloth. He persists in painting his administration in the primary colors of a willful and immature denial of the facts as the rest of humanity knows them to be.
I mention this because some people still believe Bushido's…unh…hallucinations for some odd reason, which probably has more to do with their need for clear parental authority exercised while playing around dangerous machinery than it does any sort of, shall we say, stupidity on their part.
According to a small group of admittedly Democratic psychiatrists and therapists I know, from the day America's Cheerleader-in-Chief was "elected" we've been watching a man break down under pressure. This is not necessarily a bad thing; I mean who wouldn't? When the wrong man is in the wrong job for the wrong reasons, a good old self-defensive meltdown is to be preferred over, let's say, alcoholism or drug addiction, something the president has already tried and found inappropriate to the administration of public policy in a public way. Nervous breakdowns are fine for, you know, actresses and poets, people of a…delicate…constitution, but the President of the United States, given his symptoms, really should get some down-time and some help. Hopefully, on November 2nd, this will be forthcoming.
As the Republicans quibble over minor "factual misrepresentations" during John Kerry's masterful performance last night at the first of three debates between him and George W. Bush, the Democrats have gone to work and noted 20 "misleading statements" the president made in the forty-five minutes he was allowed to speak. The Dems called them "misleading." Others might call them figments of imagination, lies, untruths, prevarications, or—in a clinical state of mind—hallucinations.
Since I ran out of space on my home node months ago, I thought it was important to note them here. How can we make good decisions in a democracy without a clear delineation of the facts?
“Of course, we're after Saddam Hussein — I mean, bin Laden. He's isolated. Seventy-five percent of his people have been brought to justice.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: 19 of The Top 22 al Qaeda Operatives Remain at Large. “Efforts to ensnare the original list of Al Qaeda's most-wanted men are also going slowly. Of 22 top terrorists listed by America in October 2001, only three have been captured or killed…” (Economist, 8/14/04)
FACT: Bush Claims To Have Wiped Out 3/4 Of Al Qaeda, Yet The Organization Is Resurging And Morphing. Despite Bush’s claims over the past several months that “much of Al Qaeda’s leadership has been killed or captured,” new evidence from Al Qaeda double-agent Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan’s computer, seized in Pakistan, shows that a “new generation of operatives…appears to be filling the vacuum created when leaders were killed or captured.” According to intelligence analysts, “Al Qaeda’s upper ranks are being filled by lower-ranking members and more recent recruits.” Al Qaeda is “more resilient than was previously understood and has sought to find replacements for operational commanders like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Walid Muhammad Salih bin Attash, known as Khallad, all of whom have been captured.” Although several major leaders have been captured, “the new operatives appear as committed to striking the U.S.” (Bush Remarks, 9/14/04; New York Times, 8/10/04; Wall Street Journal, 8/16/04)
“We're spending reconstruction money.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Only $1.1. Billion of Reconstruction Funding Has Been Spent: According to U.S. officials, only $1.1 billion of the $18 billion reconstruction package authorized by Congress has been spent - and half of that was for security costs. (Washington Post, 9/15/04; Associated Press, 8/30/04; U.S. News & World Report, 9/20/04)
“Had the honor of visiting with Prime Minister Allawi. He's a strong, courageous leader. He believes in the freedom of the Iraqi people. He doesn't want U.S. Leadership, however, to send mixed signals, to not stand with the Iraqi people. He believes, like I believe, that the Iraqis are ready to fight for their own freedom. They just need the help to be trained…. we've got 100,000 trained now.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Interim Prime Minister Allawi Proves Bush Is Exaggerating Number of Trained Iraqi Forces. Allawi: “The training of Iraqi security forces is moving forward briskly and effectively. The Iraqi government now commands almost 50,000 armed and combat-ready Iraqis.” (Allawi, Address to Joint Session of Congress, 9/23/04)
“We'll give you all the equipment you need, and we'll get you home as soon as the mission's done, because this is a vital mission.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Soldiers Lacked Armored Vehicles, Still Buying Their Own Equipment as Late as This Year. In late March 2004, the AP reported, “Soldiers headed for Iraq are still buying their own body armor - and in many cases, their families are buying it for them - despite assurances from the military that the gear will be in hand before they're in harm's way. The Portland Press Herald wrote that “In early March, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, questioned Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee about the shortage of body armor and fortified Humvees for troops serving in Iraq. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said after a visit to Iraq in mid-June that U.S. forces still need better armored equipment. Of the 15,000 Humvees in Iraq, about 1,500 to 2,000 are armored, according to the Army.” (Associated Press, 3/26/04; Portland Press Herald, 7/2/04)
“Japan will have a summit for the donors, $14 billion pledged. And Prime Minister Koizumi is going to call countries to account to get them to contribute.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Bush Relying on Japanese Diplomacy and Credibility to Get Money Already Pledged Last Year in Madrid: “In addition, a conference of Iraqi donors is set for October in Tokyo, with administration officials hoping for more success than it had at one in Madrid a year ago. While $13 billion was pledged at the time, only about $1 billion materialized, in part because of reluctance to transfer money when security in Iraq is so poor.” (New York Times, 9/25/04)
- BUSH: “We convinced Libya to disarm.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Libya's Decision To Disarm Preceded The Bush Administration And War In Iraq. According to Tony Blair, Libya first approached the US and Britain regarding its weapons question as the Iraq war approached. Blair said, “Libya came to us in March 2003 following successful negotiations on Lockerbie to see if it could resolve its weapons of mass destruction issue in a similarly cooperative manner.” The son of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi dismissed any link in his father's decision to the war in Iraq or the capture of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Saif Al-Islam Gadhafi told CNN that “the capture of Saddam or the invasion of Iraq is irrelevant” to Libya's announcement. Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment believes that Libya's decision “goes back over 10 years of international pressure on the Qaddafi regime…the whole move precedes the Bush administration and precedes the war in Iraq.” (Washington Times, 12/20/03; CNN.com, 12/20/03)
“NATO is helping now in Iraq.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Today there are only 40 NATO trainers in Iraq. (AP, 9/22/04)
“If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade the world will drift toward tragedy.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Bush and Rumsfeld Send Mixed Messages In Winning the War on Terror.
Bush says we can’t win the war on terror: When asked ‘Can we win?’ the war on terror, Bush said, “I don’t think you can win it.” (New York Times, 8/31/04)
Rumsfeld doubts the U.S. has a long term plan to win the War on Terror. “With respect to global terrorism, the record since September 11th seems to be … We are having mixed results with Al Qaida… Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?.” (Internal DoD Memo, “Global War on Terrorism,” Rumsfeld, 10/16/03; Reprinted in USA Today, 10/22/03)
“My opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at and declared in 2002 that Saddam Hussein was a grave threat.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: White House Manipulated Public Iraq Threat Assessment to Mislead Nation Into War. “The 90-page, classified National Intelligence Estimate was deemed insufficient for a Congress deliberating on war or peace. Legislators needed to refer to a public document called a White Paper, one that the American people themselves could read in order to decide whether Saddam posed an imminent threat…Unfortunately, the White Paper not only condensed but also distorted and manipulated the intelligence in the NIE to paint an even worse threat…Cautious evaluations were converted into assertions of fact, and conclusions were revised, not merely abridged, in order to make the strongest possible case for war.” (Vanity Fair, 5/2004, p. 281)
“We have 1,000 extra border patrol on the southern border, more than 1,000 on the northern border.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Bush Wrong on Border Patrol Officers. Based on Customs and Border Protection (DHS) staff briefing on August 16, 2004 on the FY2005 budget request and memos from DHS on September 4, 2004, Border Patrol increased from FY 2001 at 9,821 agents to 10,839 as of September 2004. There are 989 agents on the northern border and 9,850 on the Southern border. In reality, Border Patrol has lost 15 positions - not gained 2000 as Bush asserted. Border Patrol officers have been moved from the Southern Border to the Northern Border under the Patriot Act. (House Select Committee on Homeland Security Ameica at Risk 2/04; Office of Congressional Affairs US Customs and Border Protection; DHS 9/4/04)
“We'll be implementing a missile defense system relatively quickly, and that is another way to help deal with the threats that we face in the 21st century. My opponent is opposed to missile defenses.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: John Kerry Supports Deploying a Missile Defense System That Works. But President Bush is relying on an unproven system that cannot protect the nation from the most imminent dangers we face. The GAO found in April 2004, “as a result of testing shortfalls and the limited time available to test the BMDS being fielded, system effectiveness will be largely unproven when the initial capability goes on alert at the end of September 2004.” In fact, the system has only been tested eight times, most recently in December 2002 - a failed test. Since President Bush announced his intent to deploy in 2004, all subsequent tests have been delayed or cancelled-most recently until November 2004, after the elections. The Pentagon's own Chief Weapons inspector, Thomas Christie, says said he “will not be able to provide a confident assessment of the system's viability ahead of the planned deployment” due to an absence of realistic flight testing. Christie estimates that the system can only hit its target about 20% of the time. (GAO, “Missile Defense: Actions Needed to Enhance Testing and Accountability,” 4/04, pg. 4.; Aviation Week & Space Technology , 9/20/04; The Washington Post, 9/14/04)
“We've allocated $7 billion over the next months for reconstruction efforts. And we're making progress there.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Iraqis Won’t See Reconstruction Money For At Least A Year. “Despite President Bush's promise to spend $9 billion on reconstruction contracts in Iraq in coming months, administration and congressional officials said on Thursday it could take more than a year to pay out that much money.” (Reuters, 9/30/04)
On funding for First Responders: “We are doing our duty to provide the funding.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Bush Has Cut Funding For First Responders. Bush Cuts Funding for State and Local Homeland Security Grants by $800 Million and training funding in half. Bush cut funding to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Domestic Preparedness, which supplies a variety of first-responder grants to state and local governments, by $800 million, to $3.6 billion in 2005 from $4.4 billion in 2004. Bush cut state and local grant funding for first responder training, exercise, and technical assistance by nearly half, from $320 million in 2004 to $178 million in 2005. (Department of Homeland Security, 2005 Budget in Brief, www.dhs.gov; www.omb.gov)
FACT: Bush Cut Resources for Firefighters. George Bush cut grants for equipment and personnel to local fire departments by $246 million in his 2005 budget. According to the International Association of Firefighters, “The FIRE Act grant program has received $5 billion worth of requests,” and “has awarded grants totaling just 10% of that need.” Kevin O'Connor of the International Association of Firefighters said, “This 2005 budget is profoundly disappointing to first responders … It's a continuation of the president's lack of commitment to first responders in general and firefighters in particular.” (www.dhs.gov; www.iaff.org; UPI, 2/2/04; www.cfr.org)
Bush Consistently Cut COPS Program. Bush proposed cuts in the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program in 2002, 2003, and 2004. Bush’s 2005 budget cuts the program by 87 percent. And, according to a secret OMB memo, Bush and Ashcroft plan to cut the COPS program by $43 million in 2006 and freeze funding at that level through 2009. (House Budget Committee Democratic Caucus, 2/6/04)
“There will be elections in January.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Bush Administration Sending Mixed Messages On Iraqi Elections.
Rumsfeld Said Elections Will Be Denied To Some Iraqis. Rumsfeld: “If there were to be an area where the extremists focused during the election period, and an election was not possible in that area at that time, so be it. You have the rest of the election and you go on. Life’s not perfect,” Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. (AP, 9/23/04)
Powell: “It doesn't mean that everybody got to vote on that particular day. What's our turnout on any particular day for a variety of reasons? So, we don't need a 100-percent turnout of every single citizen.” (Fox News Sunday, 9/26/04)
“My administration worked with the Congress to create the Department of Homeland Security so we could better coordinate our borders and ports.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: White House Opposed Creation of Department of Homeland Security. In October 2001, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush opposed creating Office of Homeland Security position for Ridge. “The president has suggested to members of Congress that they do not need to make this a statutory post, that he Ridge does not need Cabinet rank, for example, there does not need to be a Cabinet-level Office of Homeland Security because there is such overlap among the various agencies, because every agency of the government has security concerns,” Fleischer said. (White House Press Briefing, 10/24/01)
“And by the way, we've also changed the culture of the FBI to have counterterrorism as its number one priority. We're communicating better.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Many Al Qaeda Recordings Not Being Transcribed. “Audio recordings that relate to Al Qaeda investigations are supposed to be reviewed within 12 hours of interception under F.B.I. policy. But the report found that deadline was missed in 36 percent of nearly 900 cases that the inspector general reviewed. In 50 Al Qaeda cases, it took at least a month for the F.B.I. to translate material. The F.B.I. ‘has not prioritized its workload nationwide to ensure a zero backlog in the F.B.I.'s highest priority cases - counterterrorism cases and, in particular, Al Qaeda cases,’ the report found.” (NYT, 9/28/04)
“Well, actually, he forgot Poland.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Actually, Polish Troops Were Not Part Of The Initial Invasion Of Iraq. "Except for a few commandos, Polish troops were not part of the original ground invasion." (Washington Post, 10/1/04)
FACT: President Of Poland Says He Was Misled About WMD In Iraq. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski told a group of European reporters “But naturally I also feel uncomfortable due to the fact that we were misled with the information on weapons of mass destruction.” (CBS News.com, 3/18/04)
“And the Taliban, no longer in power; 10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Bush Exaggerates the Number of Registered Voters. “Human Rights Watch this week said that figure was inaccurate because of the multiple registrations of many voters. In a lengthy report, the respected organization also documented how human rights abuses are fueling a pervasive atmosphere of repression and fear in many parts of the country, with voters in those areas having little faith in the secrecy of the balloting and often facing threats and bribes from militia factions.” (Wash Post, 10/1/04)
“The minute we have bilateral talks the six-party talks will unwind.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Six Party Talks Have Stalled Under Bush’s Policies. The Bush administration has acknowledged that the six party talks “will not resume this month despite North Korean commitments to do so.” (Associated Press, 9/28/04)
“Actually, we've increased funding for dealing with nuclear proliferation about 35 percent since I've been the President.” (Bush, First Presidential Debate, 9/30/04)
FACT: Spending To Secure Soviet Stockpiles Down Under Bush. Funding needs to secure stockpiles in the Former Soviet Union were clear at the outset of the Bush Administration, yet in real terms Bush has requested less money on average than the Clinton Administration did in its last year in office - despite a campaign pledge in 2000 to fund Nunn-Lugar. (Bunn and Weir, Securing the Bomb, Arms Control Today, 3/2004)
I suppose I might add that an effective president doesn't need to have the memory of an elephant, even if he is a Republican. Look at what Ronald Reagan managed with less than a full deck. Personally I can't remember what I had for lunch, let alone the Gross National Product of Kuala Lumpur, and policy wonks like Bill Clinton and John Kerry never cease to astound me. A good or bad memory is not grounds for sainthood, termination, or election. But playing fast and loose with the truth, saying anything that comes to mind when you think it's what people want to hear, well, that's a pachyderm of a different color.
The ghost of Hamlet's father begged the young prince to "remember me." Everybody in the play died because Hamlet couldn't. Or wouldn't. Or didn't. Or tried to do so and failed. Shakespeare is open to interpretation. American History tends to be a little more cut and dried.
As for the Cheerleader-in-Chief's constant petulant bray that "everything's fine, doing good, just like we planned," well...he's been saying that an awful lot, hasn't he, in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary? Just like he did last night at the first debate. Over and over and over and over again. Doesn't that sound just a little bit...well, crazy?