Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The CNN poll in October that found that almost as many people said they liked George W. Bush as President Obama seemed like it was either a case of some drunk counting the numbers, or a headline grabbing ploy by CNN on a slow news day. The poll seemed to add even more insult to absurdity when it found that a statistically insignificant 2 percent said that Bush was a worse president than Obama. A year earlier Obama had more than a 20 percent edge over Bush in the number that ranked him a far better president than Bush. But now Gallup has weighed in with its poll on Bush’s alleged renewed popularity. It went even than the earlier poll and found that Bush has edged past Obama by one percentage point as the better ranked president. Gallup just crunches the numbers and doesn’t really go to deep into why the supposed stunning turnaround in Bush’s popularity other than to chalk it up to the passage of time, short memories, a little historical revisionism, and of course, Bush’s well orchestrated and scripted book tour filled with adulatory, and puff ball interviews.
That’s much too simple. It’s true that the passage of time does dim memories and presidents that left office with abominable ratings (Truman) or were driven from office in public disgrace (Nixon), or suffered a landslide loss (Carter) get cut some slack with age, and are benevolently viewed as harmless, even wizened elder statesman. With the passage of time, historians pick and highlight the favorable things that low rated presidents did. In Truman’s case, it was the Marshall Plan and his hanging tough against the Soviets during the early stages of the Cold War. In Nixon’s case it was his China thaw, and accepting the wind down of the Vietnam War. With Carter, he’s garnered admiration as a better president outside the White House than inside the White House with his thoughtful books, commentaries, and insights on foreign policy and his globetrotting peace keeping and humanitarian efforts.
But that took years, even decades before the public rehabilitation of former presidents. Bush is getting the historical pass barely two years out of office. The colossal giveaways to the corporate rich and Wall Street, a failed, flawed, and absolutely unnecessary war, a bungled Katrina response, off the chart sex, and corruption scandals within the GOP, a tanked economy, and a general clueless, governing incompetence that defied political belief have seemingly vanished from public and historical view faster than a Houdini disappearing act. The disappearance doesn’t totally explain why so many now pine for a return of Bush over Obama. Bush has rally done nothing to deserve this nostalgia, and history has certainly not absolved him, let alone vindicated him of, his colossal policy failures.
Bush gets the early pass in part because of the two year relentless, and structured GOP campaign of denigration, vilification, and assault on Obama’s policy initiatives and Obama personally. Its shock troops, the Tea Party horde, Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, Palin and the endless pack of shrill, hatchet job rightside bloggers, websites, and talk show hacks have effectively painted a picture of an Obama as an alien, anti-American, a closet Muslim terrorist sympathizer, a socialist, communist, and an inveterate America basher and hater.
The other part is the confusion, frustration, and even anger at Obama for not selling the positive accomplishments that his administration has accomplished in the face of the GOP assault and the mess that Bush’s failures have littered his presidential path with. There’s also the anger at him from the throng of progressive and liberal Democrats for not hitting, and hitting back hard ala Truman and FDR at the GOP’s bullying, badgering and hectoring. The term that was once heard in only the faintest of whispers “cave” in in regards to his policy compromises with the GOP has now progressed to a roar. The latest being the compromise agreement to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Even though his back was to the wall and there were pluses in the compromise—unemployment extension, social security tax cuts, and cuts for small business— the president will be endlessly reminded he broke his cornerstone campaign promise that he would not back the tax cut extension for the rich. That’s now ancient history.
Bush’s rehabilitation can be chalked up in part to the penchant to give lambasted presidents good marks when they are safely out of the White House and can do no more harm and in bigger part to the calculated assault on Obama. But the desire of so many to compare the man who was the architect of so many towering policy failures to Obama and then believe the worst of the worst about Obama still grates to no end.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk show on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on thehutchinsonreportnews.com And on Twitter www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must explain what she meant when she allegedly signed the much railed at orders in April and July 2009 that allege that she ordered US diplomats to spy on UN officials and others. But that hasn’t stopped the rush to judgment in the calls for her resignation. It’s not just a premature call, it’s a silly call.
Yes, on the surface, it does look bad. The Secretary seeming to secretly order State Department officials to collect the fingerprints, facial images, DNA, and iris scans, of African leaders and to obtain passwords, personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, and other data connected to diplomats. The Clinton bashers have leaped to conclude from this that she ran a giant spy network out of the State Department and used state department officials, American diplomats, and the usual suspects, the CIA, and other shadowy US backed foreign intelligence agencies to get the goods on diplomats, big and small.
There are three problems with this. The WikiLeaks cables are simply raw cables. There is absolutely no context, background, rationale, or even hard verification about the time and place given for when and even why Clinton or any other state department official asked for the information, not to mention what they hoped to do with it if they did indeed order systematic spying.
The U.S. has run well documented intelligence and counter-intelligence operations since the Cold War and has vast experience, state of the art technology, and well placed operatives to gather whatever information it needs on the actions and activities of friends and foes. It has never had a problem getting that information.
The second problem is that much of the information that Clinton allegedly hungered to get on UN diplomats was already public information and easily obtained in the endless meetings, conferences, discussions, and briefings, as well as the exchange of information that American friendly diplomats routinely share with the State Department. The information is shared through front and back door channels.
Clinton reiterated this point noting that official foreign policy is not set through diplomatic cables but at and within the White House. Clinton also added the obvious that she and other US diplomats routinely meet with and get information all the time from an array of sources, and the information, some of it sensitive, is given without the need for stockpiling DNA, fingerprints and Iris scans.
The biggest problem is the speed and fury in the call for Clinton’s head. The calls are not made because of high moral concern over a compromised State Department, a suddenly ineffectual Clinton to do her job, or the illegality, or at best embarrassing impropriety of what the cables purport to show she did. It’s about politics. Spying is institutionalized in US foreign policy and every other major nation’s policies and operations and every president and state department official has either authorized spy operations, snooping on allies, or flatly conducted illegal operations.
The Bush administration targeted any and everyone it considered a foe or potential foe, American citizen or not, with a systematic spy, monitoring and surveillance operation if suspected of being a potential terrorist. Organizations and individuals were slapped with so-called roving wiretaps (taps that can be placed on an individual or group anywhere, anytime) again based on the flimsiest evidence or suspicion. Bush officials stretched the term terrorist to include anyone that it said was a "terrorist combatant," where and how long that individual could be held (indefinitely) and how they should be legally disposed of (none of the standard constitutional protections).
There were no calls for Bush officials to resign and there were no demands that the State Department which certainly was privy under Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice to the dubious actions tender their resignations. Or that they resign following the totally discredited doctored evidence of alleged WMD that provided the cover for the Bush administration to wage the Iraq war. Then Secretary of State Powell defended this phony evidence at the UN.
But on the strength of one of even a handful of unvetted memos from a dubious source Clinton has suddenly become hopelessly damaged goods and must go. The call is an empty one since Clinton hasn’t her say on what she had in mind, if indeed she even authorized the spying in the damaging way WikiLeaks documents purport to show. The jury is way out on that and is likely to stay that way.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles.
Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com