Archive for February, 2007

let us now praise . . . bush

February 26, 2007

Let us now praise George Bush. . . . H.W., that is.

Yes, Bush 41 is a Republican. And, it is difficult to forget the Willie Horton attack ads. But time heals all wounds, and, as for campaign ’88, as Truman said, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

But I think all Americans should take a moment to reflect on the contributions of George H.W. Bush. He is\was moderate in temperament and politics, and that even-keel served the US and world well.

On the economy and US’ fiscal outlook, Bush looked at the facts and concluded that he needed to raise taxes, despite his famous “read my lips” pledge. National interest super-ceded personal ambition and political ideology. He also introduced “pay-go” to control the run-away federal budget, a policy that Democrats recently re-introduced to reign in out of control Republicans in Congress and the White House.

On global matters, Bush rallied a true coalition of nations to thwart Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Having defeated Hussein and established supremacy over Iraq, Bush reflected on the pros and cons of overthrowing Saddam Hussein altogether, and acted accordingly. Allowing Hussein to remain in power was not optimal, but, as a realist, Bush early on grasped that with Hussein or any central authority gone, an Iraq divided along sectarian and other lines and at war with itself was not in our vital interest, particularly with respect to how this would increase Iran’s influence over Iraq and the Middle-East generally.

In what is perhaps his most overlooked contribution, in a show of even-tempered resolve in the face of change in Hungary first, then East Germany, and eventually Russia, Bush did not over-play his hand politically or rhetorically and thus force the Soviet Union into a corner from which the only way out was with all pistols blasting. Historians and politicians will credit Ronald Reagan (and Jackson Democrats!) for accelerating the decline of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, but George H.W. Bush should be remembered as the manager of that transition, particularly during the pivotal years between 1990-1992.

One matter that Bush handled poorly was the Tianneman Square massacre. For my generation, I think what happened there was a signature moment in which forces for change clashed with forces of inertia, and that our side was far too silent as events unfolded in Tianneman.

Then and now, I did not see how realpolitik considerations could explain our silence; speaking out would not have stopped or significantly slowed economic reforms underway since the late 1970s. China’s leaders saw what was wrong with the Soviet Union and were determined not to go that route. Hence the inevitability of economic reforms there.

Even if they haven’t yet, sooner or later China will need to adopt social reforms that give rise to a free and independent civil society — otherwise economic growth withers on the vine. And so at a pivotal moment, George H.W. Bush missed an opportunity to plant, if only in a subtle manner, the idea of United States as an ally of democracy and freedom in China. To her credit, when Hillary Clinton visited Beijing in 1995 to attend the World Conference on Women, she talked about justice and equality for women – a kind-of-subtle jab at the PRC for its lack of justice and equality in general.

On balance, our nation and the world around us is a better place because of George H.W. Bush’s stewardship through pivotal moments in world history. But much of that leadership, key parts of which were carried forward by Bill Clinton, has been undone in very recent years. I read somewhere that Bush has decided to not write a memoir of his Presidency. (Yes, yes, I know: Bush released letters and other materials in his book called “All the Best.” But that’s not the same as a detailed, thought-provoking memoir). I hope he changes his mind, as Democrats and Republicans alike have much to learn from his successes and mistakes as he led this nation through pivotal moments in US and world history.


nice article on tauscher

February 21, 2007

There’s a nice article on Ellen Tauscher in today’s Washington Post. She sounds pretty reasonable, and frankly, “Working for Us” also comes across as restrained and judicious, i.e. not out to chop the heads of all moderate democrats. It’s a good start.

“third way’s” new report explodes myths

February 13, 2007

Third Way, a Washington, D.C.-based strategy center that seeks to reframe a variety of issues of concern to Democrats, recently issued “New Rules Economy: A Policy Framework for the 21st Century.” The report debunks a myriad of conventional wisdoms regarding America’s middle class, citing hard data showing that the “glass is half full” and not “half empty” as many doom-and-gloom Democrats like to say.

With this report, Third Way begins to reframe the relationship between the Democratic Party, middle class and the larger economy in which we all live, moving policy away from simple-minded notions where all corporations are bad, and markets and free trade are evil.

The report begins by showing rising middle class incomes, particularly for prime-working age households (25 to 59 years). In doing so, Third Way removes one important card on which neo-populist’s political house of cards is stacked: middle class stagnation. Their opposition to NAFTA and other free trade accords, Wal-Mart, and lower corporate taxes is, at its core, based on perceived causal relationships between all that and a world in which “the poor are getting poorer” and the “middle class is stagnating and swimming in debt.”

But what if you demonstrate that the middle class is not stagnating, as Third Way does? What if you show a relationship between middle class jobs and globalization? What if you show that the bulk of the debt middle class are swimming in is mortage debt, which, as Third Way writes, is not a “negative event”?

Thus, Third Way shows that the world in which the middle class lives and thrives is more complex than caricatures painted by neo-populists. Coming right as the new presidential election season is getting underway, hopefully this report will spark conversations and policy-making that is as robust as the reality in which we all live.

by the way…

February 9, 2007

By the way, you can contribute on-line to Tauscher’s campaign by going here. I made a small contribution there and hope you do too.

here come the borgs

February 3, 2007

President John F. Kennedy once said, “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.” This quote bears repeating in light of the formation of a new political action committee whose goal is to eradicate differences of opinion within the Democratic Party. Washington D.C.-based “Working For Us” will train the full muscle and might of its coalition of labor and liberals on moderate Democrats, to compel uninformity with respect to “economic issues such as wages, health care and overseas job losses.” It seems to me that the best way to deal with the issues of our day is to hear all sides of a debate in a frank and respectful discussion the outcome of which involves some kind of comprise between liberal and moderate positions. But “Working for Us” seeks to bully moderate Democrats into silence and submission. So, we have a choice: we can remain silent and let “Working for Us” run amok. Or, we can get behind people like Ellen Tauscher not necessarily out of love for her but, given the bullying by “Working for Us”, because it’s the right thing to do.

Ellen Tauscher for Congress
P.O. Box 1285
Alamo, CA 94507
FEC ID# C00310706

Website: Working for Us

First Impressions

February 1, 2007

They say first impressions count. If so, Barak Obama came across as unusually mellow in his official announcement regarding his candidacy for President. What this means I am not sure. And frankly, “mellow” isn’t all that bad . . if not for the qualities that attracts many to Obama. Excitement. Pizzaz. A certain “je ne c’est qua” that exudes hopefulness.

Hillary Clinton followed Barak with her own announcement. What I found refreshing was that she didn’t go for the obvious blows against G.W. Bush but was clear in that she wants, “The ‘right end’ to the war in Iraq.” . . . I also think she hinted at something that Gore and Kerry failed to do. That is, ride Bill Clinton’s coat-tail. “No matter who you are, or where you live, if you work hard and play by the rules, you can build a good life for yourself and your family” — a “basic bargain” that Hillary copies straight out of Bill’s “Putting People First” playbook. . . . what this tells me is that she’s not gonna be afraid of using Bill. IOW: she knows they are going to attack him anyways, but I think she’s betting that the more they attack Bill, the more people will be reminded about the good things that Bill and Hillary did. As they say, the best defense is a good offense!

Prior to this announcement, Hillary Clinton’s lengthy interview with Meredith Viera also showed a certain commanding presence that for the moment seems to be lacking in other candidates. So, she’s not exciting like Barak, but, in my mind at least, somewhat presidential.

John Edwards also comes across as someone whose style says executive leader. He has a clear message and a self-confidence that comes across easily. “I’m not talking about individual responsibility; I am talking about responsibility for your country.” Listen carefully as Edwards answers every question by smoothly introducing and re-introducing his theme of community responsibility and sacrifice.

. . . As opposed to Tom Vilsak, whose video seems a wee bit confessional. To be sure, the point of the spot is to be conversational, and for this, Vilsack ought to be commended. Because it shows he’s reaching out to ordinary people.