Monday, August 14, 2006

Monday with McKenna: A Dickens of a Lie

Today we welcome my Republican friend Terry McKenna back to the blog, in his usual Monday morning time slot. Just the other day, someone said to me, "McKenna can't be a Republican."

It reminded me that we've probably forgotten what a true Republican is. Let me submit that Bush and his cronies are no more true Republicans than Lieberman is a true Democrat. Look at the word: it's from the Latin Res Publica. A Republican advocates for the things of interest to the public—in other words, for what the government can deliver to the people, all of them. He is not a friend only to the mega-wealthy or to insular states and corporate interests; he chooses to speak instead on behalf of all within the res publica.

One thing a real Republican does not do is lie. That brings us to Terry's theme today, which is indeed our theme for the week. For later this week, we'll be reviewing Eric Alterman's book What Liberal Media in the context of events that are happening now, and in reference to lies that are being spread by our media today. Mr. McKenna will now begin the week's conversation of democracy.

Why is the press afraid to use the L word? How is it that, no matter the level of falsehood, the mainstream press refuses to point out the Bush administration’s LIES? I’ve touched on this before, but the lies keep coming.

The season’s lies concern foreign policy. For example, with war raging in Lebanon (if we are lucky, a cease fire may begin by the time this piece is published) many have questioned why the US has not been talking to Syria. President Bush delivered his answer first through surrogates; then in a news conference the other day, he delivered this embarrassing ramble:

“Yes that’s an interesting question (regarding why we are not talking to Syria). I have been reading about that, that people have been posing that question,”

He said top officials (including Colin Powell) had traveled to Syria to no avail. (But this was several years ago!)

“The problem isn’t us telling Syria what’s on our minds, which is to stop harboring terror and to, you know, help the Iraqi democracy evolve. They know exactly what our position is.” (But we’re talking about Lebanon!)

“The problem is that their response hasn’t been very positive. As a matter of fact, it hasn’t been positive at all.”

We have not engaged Syria during the current crisis; so the president’s attempt to make it sound as if we are is...what? A LIE!

And what is the truth? The truth is that the US probably has no substantive dialogue to offer Syria, and that we have been stalling to allow Israel time to complete its mission.

Next, we come to Donald Rumsfeld’s bizarre testimony before the Senate two weeks ago. When confronted by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), he insisted that he has “never painted a rosy picture” about the war. He characterized his statements as “very measured” and told Clinton “you would have a dickens of a time trying to find instances where I have been overly optimistic.”

Nonsense. Remember Donald Rumsfeld’s peculiar statements about looting (this was early on, after our initial Iraq “victory.” Remember these tidbits: “Freedom’s untidy;” “Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things. They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things (!!), and that's what's going to happen here.”

Fact is, no one's had a "dickens" exposing Rumsfeld’s misplaced optimism. Here's an example.

Yet after last week’s exchange, the press focused on Hillary Clinton’s self-righteousness, not on Rumsfeld’s deceitful self-justifications. (Remember, Hillary just voted for the war, Rumsfeld was one of its architects.)

But lies and evasions are the hallmark of this administration. And not only in foreign policy, but across the board, from foreign policy to Bush’s domestic agenda.

Think of our vaunted economy. Aided by Wall Street types, Bush’s apologists have hailed the economic recovery of the past few years. But now, after a few years of GDP growth, the economy is slowing down. It turns out that the recovery was a meager one. Yes, unemployment was pretty good (now climbing) but Bush-era employment figures have never approached the peak reached in the Clinton years. And real wages have stagnated. If we take out the wages of the most successful, we have a slight wage decline.

Then we have the president’s dishonest responses to major issues. Our most significant domestic challenges are these three: 1) how will we pay for promised social security benefits after baby boomers retire; 2) how will we distribute and pay for health care; 3) and how will we lessen the use of oil and other fossil fuels?

Instead of answers, we’ve received more evasions. The president’s plan for social security “reform” is to destroy it by gutting benefits for the middle class and by shifting funds to an irresponsible set of private accounts (thus removing significant revenue from the system). The president’s plan for health care has been similarly ill adapted to the problem – remember, the two main problems are legions of uninsured, and high costs. But the Bush plan is high deductible private insurance, coupled to tax privileged savings accounts.

Then we have energy policy. A good start would be to force an increase in overall fuel economy (to revise the CAFE standard). But Bush is silent about it and instead supports more drilling and the vague hope that the free market will come up with magic on its own.

By the way, the White House’s website recently featured a set of questions and answers about energy (with Secretary of Energy, Bodman – posted August 8, 2006); here's an excerpt:

David, from Tennessee writes: What is America’s policy on drilling and refining oil in our own country … and is there anyone with the guts to take this issue and move it forward?

Samuel Bodman: … the short answer is that President Bush has long been committed to … oil and natural gas exploration in parts of the Outer Continental Shelf and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Scott, from Amarillo, TX writes: I would like to know if the government can do something to give American car manufacturers a push towards greater fuel efficiency and better technology. Are incentives for consumers who buy more efficient vehicles a possible solution?

Samuel Bodman Good question. Under Energy Policy Act guidelines, consumers purchasing hybrid vehicles can receive a tax credit of up to $3,400 for purchasing the most fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles. … more than 115,000 fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles have been sold in the United States since January 2006 …This, of course, is only the beginning. The efforts to change the marketplace coming out of Detroit and from the other automakers are impressive – and while the government can provide the research and support to automakers, we believe industry is the best place for such changes to originate.

Wow… more evasions. When the CAFE was established, it was a force for change. But the law is over 30 years old and the automobile market has changed drastically (for example, we drive many more light trucks and similar vehicles that are not treated like passenger cars). Also not mentioned was global warming, the other shoe to drop even if we are magically able to significantly increase our domestic yield. Finally, the energy secretary avoided any mention of the environmental risk entailed by drilling in sensitive areas (such as the artic or deep oceans).

Smaller press organs have had the courage to accuse George Bush of the BIG LIE (see this article from The Nation); but the mainstream press remains cowed.

If the press won’t tell us the truth, it’s time to take action on our own. There is an off year election coming. You all know what to do.

—T. McKenna

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