The commonly agreed upon rules of discourse apparently do not apply to Bush. The new conversation paradigm is "talking point." The problem with relying on talking points became abundantly clear on today's (01/16/05) Sunday shows. Topics included the Inaugural, Social Security, election in Iraq, and Iran. The inaugural is an appetizer; the meat of this diary begins with Social Security.
Once again, Bush is criticized for his misplaced financial priorities. A party in the midst of war, but as Counselor to the President Dan Bartlett says, if the fat cats want to pony up their own money for a party, why should Bush refuse? Bartlett is right too when he says, in response to criticism that the money should be used for more worthy purposes, that the donors are perfectly free to contribute to both relief efforts AND to the inaugural.
If the inaugural were 100% funded by donations, we might object to the purpose of the donations, but it's not up to me to tell someone how to spend their own money. On the other hand, Bush intends to break a long-standing tradition of reimbursing D.C. for collateral expenses, like parade grandstands, security, etc. expected to cost around $12 million dollars. The administration suggested that money earmarked for fighting domestic terrorism be used.
Obviously, in spite of the fear-mongering, terrorism in the country's capitol is not a big threat. Another indication of the true threat level in the US is the deployment of the National Guard, our first responders, to Iraq. I expect that the United States ranks low among countries in a comparison of frequency and mortality of past terrorist attacks. The administration has evaluated the risk of future attacks and found it to be low as well.
It is too bad that Rahm Emanuel relied on talking points in his interview with Tim Russert. He continually appeared to evade the question, "Do you believe that Social Security in in crisis?" Nevertheless, his message came through, as this post from a conservative viewer shows:
When shown a quote about social security being in a crisis, which Emmanuel currently denies, he said that the only crisis was "that people do not have retirement plans on top of social security." Russert repeated the quote and demanded to know if Emmanuel agreed with it. Emmanuel demanded to know from whom the quote came. Bill Clinton. Emmanuel then insisted that Clinton balanced the budget, etc. Non sequitur.
Another conservative viewer commented:
I thought Russert was unusually tolerant in allowing Emmanuel to change the subject over and over again when asked what Dems would do about a problem. I wonder, though, whether listeners got tired of all the evasions and Emmanuel's return to talking points that had nothing to do with the questions asked.
Clearly both viewers noted a violation of the one of the rules of discourse, that is, answer the question that is asked. Compare to this interchange between a conservative and a conversation partner who "is not a Democrat."
That response ducks the question
I was responding to this statement
"Radical Islamists have attacked our country on at least seven different occasions since 1993. Two of these attacks have been on our own soil with the latest attack occurring on September 11, 2001. Thousands have died in these attacks, and the safety and security of the American people remains at risk."
Does not address the original question
So we see that conservatives understand and expect adherence to the rules of discourse. So the rest of the interchange is enlightening. The "non-Democrat" wondered if the conservative agreed with Bush's justification for the war per his comment in the debates.
It was pretty famous and widely quoted statement
LEHRER: Mr. President, new question. Two minutes. Does the Iraq experience make it more likely or less likely that you would take the United States into another preemptive military action?
BUSH: I would hope I never have to. I understand how hard it is to commit troops. Never wanted to commit troops. When I was running -- when we had the debate in 2000, never dreamt I'd be doing that.
But the enemy attacked us, Jim, and I have a solemn duty to protect the American people, to do everything I can to protect us.
And forthwith picked up a new conservative conversation partner.
and misinterpreted by you. Bush was referring to 9/11 in talking about the enemy. Foolish of you misread something like that.
Jim Lehrer specifically asked about Iraq.
Doesn't matter what Lehrer asked
When Bush said that we were attacked, he was referring to 9/11. Why are you having such a hard time understanding this?
I guess I just expected Bush
to answer the question he was asked. He was asked about Iraq and responded that the enemy attacked us.
Debate moderators ask questions, and candidates answer with their own talking points. It happens in bipartisan fashion and is common practice. Again, why are you having such a hard time understanding this?
The poor non-Democrat was having a looking-glass experience worthy of anything Lewis Carroll made up. We also arrive at the point. The rules that apply to the rest of us mere mortals do not apply to Dear Leader. The problem with relying on talking points is that only the Republicans are allowed to do so.
We will have to follow-up on the story that Social Security employees are going to be helping spread the administration's propaganda and that the employees are objecting. Dan Bartlett said that "Social Security is independent," and employees will not be asked to advocate. Don't expect the automated message you hear when you call Social Security to go away.
RECORDED MESSAGE: Did you know that the 76 million strong baby boom generation will begin to retire in about 10 years? When that happens, changes will need to be made to the Social Security system, changes to make sure there's enough money to continue to pay full benefits. Most experts agree, the sooner those changes are made, the less they are going to cost.
In an effort to reach out to Democrats, Dan Bartlett insisted that Social Security is a "mathematical, not ideological issue." He further says that removing the income cap "only fixes the problem for 4 years. The White House expects to "make legislative progress," if not pass Bush's plan, by June 1. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) on Fox News Sunday argued that Americans will favor personal savings accounts (PSA) because everyone knows investments work. He ignored Sen. Richard J. Durbin's (D-Ill) objections to gambling with retirement funds in a market where "you might win or you might lose." Bartlett says "gambling is better than the status quo" because you might win.
Overall, Democrats successfully made their arguments on the Sunday shows, but then again so did the Republicans. Most interesting was the speculation coming out of Fox News Sunday's panel that Democrats created a loyal following in America when they implemented Social Security because people got a check right away. When people get even more money from their PSA's, they will switch their loyalty to the Republican party, thus destroying the Democratic party forever. As Mara Liasson of National Public Radio pointed out, waiting 20-30 years for the PSA's to pay off politically seems pretty poor strategy. My take: the baby-boomer market crash could cause a plan like that to backfire.
Elections in Iraq
I hope, I hope, I hope, elections go successfully, there is meaningful turnout, the new Iraqi government takes over peacefully and our soldiers come home. But I don't expect it, and neither does Bush. The misleading headline rejoiced, "Bush Says Troops Will Come Home Soon," but the first sentence out of the gate said, "President Bush says the U.S. military will pull out of Iraq "as quickly as possible," but he is not endorsing Secretary of State Colin Powell 's statement that troops could begin returning home this year."
What to make of elections where secret candidates campaign secretly, and voters go to secret precinct locations to vote guarded by masked Iraqi guards. According to David Martin, a reporter in Samarrah, speaking on Face the Nation, the number of polling places has been reduced from 39 to 10. Officials do not expect a large turnout and will consider a 10% turnout to be a "major success." The Iraqi Ambassador to the U.N. Samir S.M. Sumaidaie, believes there will be a large turnout and the election must be held if only to prevent the insurgents from claiming victory.
According to Dan Bartlett, the mere fact that there will be an election is a mark of success. Since voters are voting for party slates, the names of the actual candidates do not matter anyway. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), on CNN Late Edition, believe that the election will give Sunnis fair representation because "there are Sunnis high up on the slates." In addition, a number of Sunnis will be appointed to responsible positions in the new government. McConnell assures us that "the election will meet international standards."
Seymour Hersh on Iran
We have heard the drumbeating start for an incursion into Iran. Colin Powell tested the water a few weeks ago with his announcement that Iran was pursuing nuclear capability. After the "yeah, right" response we haven't hear much about Iran until today when the buzz was a recent article by Seymour Hersh in the [New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/printable/?fact/050124fa_fact].
Although the Republicans roundly denounced him as a writer of fiction, by all accounts his track record is pretty credible. According to Hersh, all the principles in the war in Iraq are intent on action in Iran, that "this is on," and will be managed wholly by the Pentagon. Bartlett allowed that Iran was a problem, but the administration is actively pursuing diplomatic solutions.
I have to disagree with Hersh's assertion that officers serve "in loco parentis" for young soldiers. The youngest officers are the same age as the enlisted soldiers. In my experience, officers have relatively little interaction with the troops compared to the noncommissioned officers (NCO's). I have seen how NCO's sometimes mentor young soldiers by introducing them to the local brothels. Not quite "in loco parentis." Besides, America changed the age of majority to 18 as a direct result of the outcry during the Vietnam War. How dare the government send children to war! They could fight and die, but not vote. The government solved the problem by declaring them adults.
One Other Tidbit
So what is Bush's mandate? Evidently NOT Social Security. Three polls:
- Gallup Poll on Bush war support.
What should be President Bush's priority in his second term?
Terrorism 10% 71 votes
Iraq 21% 156 votes
SS 5% 35 votes
Economy 64% 468 votes
Total: 730 votes
2004 Election: An endorsement of Pres. Bush's Iraq policy? 4814 responses