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Through The Looking Glass

I mentioned this article once already, but it's really pretty astounding. Or, rather, the fact that it did not, in fact, astound me is a sign of what astounding times we live in.

Most of all, Mr. Bush's aides said that after five months in which they have focused almost exclusively on attacking Mr. Kerry, the president will use his speech to offer what they asserted would be expansive plans for a second term, in an effort to underline what they argued was Mr. Kerry's failure to talk about the future at his own convention.

. . .

Mr. Bush's advisers offered no details on what he might propose, and even some Republicans said the White House might be constrained both by the deficit and resistance among Republicans on spending.

Now here's the thing. It's quite true that the Democratic Convention didn't focus much on the details of the Kerry policy agenda. Instead, it reflected the broad theme of "strength" and biographical details about John Kerry. But if the Kerry campaign had decided to focus on policy specifics and had leaked this fact a week before the convention, reporters wouldn't be scratching their heads going "I wonder what Kerry will say." They could look at Kerry's website where there are a lot of specific policy proposals and look at the text of various policy speeches Kerry has given over the course of the campaign. With George W. Bush, though, the contention that he will focus on specific proposals for the future leaves us all with blank stares. It isn't merely that he hasn't communicated such an agenda to the public, he hasn't communicated one at all even to people who follow these things closely.

If you look at the Bush campaign's education page for example, you won't find a positive agenda on education. Instead, you'll find a defense of the No Child Left Behind Act citing various good things about the act. These are, moreover, things that John Kerry is not proposing to change. You don't see any explanation of why Kerry's education proposals would make the act worse (because there are no such reasons to be given) nor any indication that George W. Bush believes that any further changes should be made to improve K-12 education. For him, the world stopped in early 2001 when NCLB passed and it's simply axiomatic that there is no longer anything to be done.

Of the five news releases under the header "latest on education" one has nothing to do with education ("Mrs. Bush: President's Policies Improving Womens' Lives Worldwide") one is pure politics with no policy content ("Bush-Cheney '04 Announces Pennsylvania "Educators for Bush" Team") and the other three consist of Laura Bush stating that reading and literacy are a good thing. Now I've never explicitly heard Theresa Heinz Kerry speak out on this particular issue, but while there is a great deal at stake in this election, I feel confident in saying that whether or not the First Lady of the United States will believe that reading is a good thing will not be one of them. The irony, of course, grows thicker when one considers that the current president, by all accounts, isn't big on reading.

Now flip over to the Kerry-Edwards K-12 education page and you'll see a bunch of policy proposals. As if, you know, John Kerry is running for president in part in order to implement a K-12 education policy agenda and he believes that when people become better-informed about his agenda this enhances his chances of winning the election.

In Bush's defense, if you click around enough you really can find a health policy agenda. This is something that requires a discussion of its own, but a good place to start is this Mark Schmitt post. The Bush plan, near as I can tell, is an insane scheme to destroy America's employer-provided private sector health care system. It's such a bad idea that, from a liberal point of view, it's almost worth supporting simply because it will "quicken the birth pangs" on the inevitable road to socialized medicine. On the other hand, the human suffering and likely fiscal crisis it would cause means that I cannot, in good conscience, give my assent. That people who can get people who know better to return their phone calls would put such an idea forward in earnest is, I think, rather shocking. This, however, is the president who thinks that funding the government exclusively via a 60 percent sales tax is "interesting" so I suppose that's what you get.

What I really meant to write about, though, was education. On health care, Bush's ideas are terrible because all conservatives have bad ideas about health care (to be more precise, everyone who thinks seriously about health care pretty soon winds up holding opinions that get them driven out of the movement) but plenty of conservatives have perfectly serious proposals to improve NCLB. You can find them by hitting the "education" tab on any of this fair city's conservative think tank home pages. Bush just doesn't care.

August 22, 2004 | Permalink


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When you details, you mean that Bush will give details? He'll have to remember facts, processes, plans? We're talking about the same guy? Narrow-eyed, gray of hair, fake Texas accent, lips tied in knots?

Watching Bush try to give specifics on anything is like watching a kitten walk around on the rim of a toilet.

This is gonna be a fun watch after all.

Posted by: djangone | Aug 22, 2004 11:07:21 PM

Instead, it reflected the broad theme of "strength" and biographical details about John Kerry.

People keep saying this, and though I generally believe it's true, I thought a major theme of the convention was stem cell research. In fact, there was a prime time speech devoted entirely to the topic, and yet I have never heard anyone say, "The Democratic Convention was on Kerry's biography and stem cell research."

On a completely different topic, where did you hear about the proposed 60% sales tax? I thought the proposed tax was closer to 30%.

Posted by: blank | Aug 22, 2004 11:09:24 PM

"Ownership society" = social security reform

This President doesn't and won't do details, and expect the unveiling of this proposal at the convention to be vague in a particular way intended to inspire the base.

Also expected in Acceptance Speech: Intention to bring freedom to all oppressed peoples of the Earth. Why do Democrats hate Freedom?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 22, 2004 11:21:33 PM

Well said. This is the Matthew Yglesias we know and love, though the great SFVT/Whiz explosion was an important moment.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 22, 2004 11:26:02 PM

...fake Texas accent..

There is one thing about Bush which isn't fake: the Texas accent.

Posted by: jonnybutter | Aug 22, 2004 11:38:07 PM

I keep asking people i know who support bush to cite me one substantive policy matter on which they support him, and the only answer i get is akin to what the idiot ed koch said: war on terrorism/iraq.

the fact that iraq is FUBAR and the "war" on terrorism has been conducted in a haphazard and misguided way insofar as it has been conducted at all since the "axis of evil" speech and the failure at tora bora doesn't seem to penetrate; the fact that there are no other policies with which bush is identified going forward doesn't seem to bother the bush supporters i know.

it remains quite stunning; i'm not sure i've ever seen anything like it. afer all, there was no question what bush I stood for if re-elected, nor reagan, nor nixon....

Posted by: howard | Aug 22, 2004 11:53:55 PM

the fact that there are no other policies with which bush is identified going forward doesn't seem to bother the bush supporters i know.

Howard, circa 1864: "I know there's some kind of conflict with the south going on, but, Mr. Lincoln, I'm most interested in your thoughts on reimportation of perscription drugs from Canada."

Howard, circa 1944: "I heard there's something going on in France, Mr. Roosevelt, but the important issue here is what happens to Caribou breeding grounds in northern Alaska."

You get the idea.

Posted by: Al | Aug 23, 2004 12:12:05 AM

Hey, Al...you mean like republican Tom Dewey accusing FDR of needlessly prolonging the war by insisting on unconditional surrender?

Yeah, I know...scurrilous...

Posted by: pbg | Aug 23, 2004 12:38:15 AM

We've already been through this.

Months ago Bush was supposed to deliver one policy speech per week, for I don't know how many weeks...something like eight. The press was all over it.

He delivered one speech, and I can't even remember what that one was about. Funny how no one called them out on the carpet after they stopped the speeches.

Bottom line: I'll believe it when I see it.

Posted by: surfmonkey | Aug 23, 2004 12:52:33 AM

I don't disagree with the general point, but I don't see an astounding content disparity in those two pages. Particularly if you click the "read the whole brief" link, it looks about the same to me as far as degree of detail.

Posted by: spacetoast | Aug 23, 2004 2:15:00 AM

They can leak the names of CIA spys and expose al Quaeda double-agents, yet not a whisper of what Bush's second term might bring, especially when you remember what surfmonkey reminds us -- that there was supposed to be a policy speech per week (I think we're going to Mars soon, or the moon again -- maybe not.) I fully expect to be completely uninspired, and very busy debunking and shrieking against the hypocricy.

Posted by: Mark Adams | Aug 23, 2004 3:00:09 AM

It was something about going to Mars, I believe?

Posted by: Kiril | Aug 23, 2004 3:00:32 AM

Should so we shouldn't be caught peddling recycled myths, Rice simply repeated what had already been made public....
from War and Piece blog, Husain Haqqani ( former advisor to Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto) reported that:

"But in fact, U.S. officials did not leak Khan's name. The first leak of Khan's name, according to well-informed, reliable sources in the region who spoke on condition of anonymity, came from Pakistani officials in Islamabad -- who perhaps were motivated by eagerness to show off their success in arresting al-Qaida figures" and " blaming the Americans as the source of the leak, served to absolve the Pakistanis of any responsibility in breaking up new al-Qaida cells"
As The Big Dog president Clinton has pointed out this may not have happened if Bush hadn't farmed out vital security tasks to the Pakistanis. That's where the muddy, but true scandal is. Ironically the Bushies and his bitches in Congress keep talkng about intelligence failures as regards the CIA, when one of our biggest intelligence failures is in the Whitehouse. Remember Chalabi and the Iranian spy scandal? When you sleep with sleaze bags, expect some sleaze.

Posted by: anti-instapundit | Aug 23, 2004 7:56:25 AM

Great point there about how FDR never managed to accomplish anything aside from fighting a war.

Surely you should listen closer if you've thought Bush has no substantive agenda. We're going to have men driving around on Mars in hydrogen cars in no time flat. Also we're going to wipe out the plague of steroids. Also, massive, serious immigration reform with Mexico. We're there yesterday.

Posted by: The Navigator | Aug 23, 2004 9:30:24 AM

Al, when is Bush going to sign his Standard Form 180?

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 23, 2004 10:40:55 AM

Actually, the NYT article that MY cites kinda pissed me off. I mean, why even give column inches to trumpet the 'news' that Bush is 'going to have' policy specifics unveiled at the convention, with nothing about what those polciies will be, along with a few swipes by Republican talking heads about the Democratic convention? Totally bogus story.

Posted by: Tim | Aug 23, 2004 10:41:16 AM


Posted by: Zizka | Aug 23, 2004 11:22:34 AM

Seems we missed the turnoff for 'A Little Weird' a while ago, and we're well down the road to Totally Insano-ville.

National sales tax? Abolish the CIA? What will these fun-loving guys think of next?

Talk about kids in a candy store! Every day offers a new example of "Now that I OWN the government, we can do whatever we want..."

They really believe that God GAVE us our liberties and gave us THEM to tell us what our liberties are.

Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad....

Posted by: serial catowner | Aug 23, 2004 11:30:37 AM

Al, actually, i want to thank you for clarifying: it really is true that bush supporters cannot see any distinction between the problem of islamic fundamentalist terrorism and world war ii or the civil war. This would be sad if it weren't so perverse.

But - just for the fun of it - let's grant you that there are no other issues (why, then, is bush going to announce some? why then the frenzy over tax cuts? why then the awful medicaid drug benefit?). Then on exactly what basis do you think that Bush is doing a good job in the only issue that metters? Because he talks like a poor imitation of a '50s TV western?

Posted by: howard | Aug 23, 2004 12:17:43 PM

Al, what about those Form 180's? They were very importnat to you on Saturday. You talked about them all day long.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 23, 2004 12:38:43 PM

Mars, BITCH!

Posted by: MattB | Aug 23, 2004 1:21:25 PM

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