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BUSH UNCHAINED! We thought we knew what Bush might have said—if he could speak to us truly: // link // print // previous // next //

THE TROUBLE WITH HIPPIES: Wow! This e-mail to Josh is just deeply unwise. We’ll likely discuss it tomorrow.

YGLESIAS GETS IT RIGHT: Three cheers for Matt Yglesias! He starts this post by noting Rudy Giuliani’s most inane recent statement:
YGLESIAS (4/3/07): In case Rudy Giuliani's penchant for cross-dressing had you doubting his conservative bona fides, doubt no more. "I regard myself as a supply-sider for sure," he told Larry Kudlow on March 27. And just in case you weren't clear that by "supply-sider" Giuliani meant "know-nothing fool and liar," he clarified: "[I] watched Ronald Reagan do it and learned it, saw it work. Taxes get reduced, more revenue comes in."
Matt goes on to state the obvious; as a general matter, the claim that lower tax rates produce higher revenue is untrue, and “known to be untrue.” In fact, the claim doesn’t rise to the level of being “untrue;” it doesn’t even make simple sense, on its surface. After all, if lowering tax rates produced higher revenue, why wouldn’t Bush lower marginal rates even further—to 20 percent, let’s say? (No—to 19!) But this is just one of the many ludicrous claims invented by the kooky-con right. It has been fed to the rubes for the past twenty years. Result? The rubes—and now, the Rudy’s—just keep on reciting it.

Meanwhile, Matt identifies the larger problem; in large part, talk-show listeners believe this nonsense because the press corps refuses to challenge it. “No news organization remarks on the fact that Giuliani has pronounced himself a proud crank,” Matt writes, “nor does anybody remark on the news organizations not remarking on it. We've come to expect nothing better from our political coverage.”

Indeed. In this area as in so many others, the kooky-con right is simply allowed to invent a series of bogus claims. Everyone knows these claims are bogus, but they’re permitted to stand. When Fred Thompson says that Mars is warming, no one challenges his brilliance either. And when Ann Coulter writes a top best-seller that’s full of false claims from its first page to its last, the New York Times rushes into print, praising her for all her research!
In the process, the press corps allows a Bosnia-ization of the public discourse, in which crackpots of the kooky-con right are allowed to invent their own sets of facts. No, democracy can’t work in a system like that. But for the poodles and swells who run our news orgs, life is easier—simpler by far—when you avoid the wrath of the right. New York Times execs reach the Hamptons more quickly each weekend if they don’t have to deal with these vexing issues. And this practice will continue until liberal journals, like The American Prospect, hound these orgs to the gates of hell, insisting that they change their procedures—insisting that they stand and correct the bogus claims of the kooky-con right.

That in mind, we’ll challenge one thing Yglesias said; he referred to Steve Forbes, who has endorsed Giuliani, as “someone who favored the flat tax in 1996.” But that’s a bit of a kooky-con mythology too, if a “flat tax” is a system of taxation where everyone is required to pay the same percentage of their income in taxes. Forbes has never propose such a plan; the claim that he supports a “flat tax” is really just a cleverly-crafted deception, much like the pleasing claim that lower tax rates produce higher revenues. But then, our discourse teems with these silly deceptions. They’ve been ignored by the press so long that we all start to think that they’re true.

Did Steve Forbes ever propose a “flat tax?” See THE DAILY HOWLER, 11/11/04; scroll down to “FLAT EARTH, CURVED TAX.”

BUSH UNCHAINED: Was Matt Dowd sincere when he boo-hoo-hooed about his deep disappointment in Bush? We don’t have the slightest idea—but mainstream journalists and fiery liberals rushed off to vouch for Dowd’s good faith after he told his sad, sad tale in Sunday’s New York Times (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 4/4/07). They even did so after Digby recalled what Dowd said in 2005—back when Bush was still riding high, before there was any imaginable reason to jump off his sinking ship. Yep—even after Digby’s piece, fiery liberals swore by Dowd. As one of our analysts sadly said: What rubes we mortals be!

What did Dowd say in 2005? Before we go there, let’s make sure we know why he’s so disappointed today. Struggling hard to speak through his tears, Dowd expressed his disappointment in Bush to the endlessly credulous Jim Rutenberg:

RUTENBERG (4/1/07): In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.
He criticized the president as
failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.
Poor guy! Indeed, “he said his disappointment in Mr. Bush's presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.” And it’s all about Bush’s troubling “fail[ure] to reach across the political divide to build consensus.” Noble man! Rutenberg quoted Dowd further: ''I think we should design campaigns that appeal not to 51 percent of the people, but bring the country together as a whole.''

Like his former partner, Mark McKinnon, Dowd was disturbed by all that partisan conduct! Then too: As McKinnon had done in 1996, Dowd had also found a convincing way to exit a sinking ship.

Because uh-oh! Digby went back and reminded us about Dowd’s words in early 2005—back when Bush still ruled the world, before he got crushed on Social Security, before his numbers on the war went deep down into the basement. In those days, Dowd didn’t seem to be troubled by Bush’s partisan ways—by his focus on the 51 percent. In those days, he was still boasting that he, Matt Dowd, had virtually invented this approach! According to Dowd, he had done an analysis right after Election 2000 which showed that it didn’t make major sense to aim at voters in the middle. (There weren’t enough of them any more, Dowd’s research had suggested.) And so, in its conduct of Campaign 04, Bush aimed his appeal at the GOP base. Here’s the way the Frontline folk summarize their interview with Dowd, an interview which was conducted in January 2005. For the full published excerpts, click here:
FRONTLINE: A former Democratic consultant, Matthew Dowd was the chief campaign strategist for Bush-Cheney 2004 and director of polling and media planning for Bush-Cheney 2000. Here, he describes how, even as the Florida recount was progressing, he and Karl Rove were already thinking about a re-election campaign in the event that Bush won. Dowd tells Frontline that while most of the resources in the 2000 campaign were devoted to trying to win over independents, his post-election analysis showed that only 6 to 7 percent of the electorate was truly "persuadable." "You obviously had to do fairly well among the 6 or 7 [percent]," he says, "but you could lose the 6 or 7 percent and win the election, which was fairly revolutionary, because everybody up until that time had said 'Swing voters, swing voters, swing voters…'" This analysis, which was tested in the 2002 midterm election, formed the basis for the 2004 campaign's decision, known as the "base strategy," to focus on delivering votes from reliable Republicans.
Dowd’s work had helped engineer the “base strategy.” No, there’s nothing illegal about that approach; it isn’t even necessarily wrong. But as Digby noted, Dowd is boo-hoo-hooing today about an approach he helped create, just a couple of years ago. In his recent interview with the Times, Dowd presents a different picture of his very delicate feelings during Campaign 04:
RUTENBERG: [Dowd] said he clung to the hope that Mr. Bush would get back to his Texas style of governing if he won. But he saw no change after the 2004 victory.

He describes as further cause for doubt two events in the summer of 2005: the administration's handling of Hurricane Katrina and the president's refusal, around the same time that he was entertaining the bicyclist Lance Armstrong at his Crawford ranch, to meet with the war protester Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq.
Bush wouldn’t meet with Cindy Sheehan! No wonder Dowd was so upset! Yes, that first paragraph offers paraphrase, not quotation. But boo ho hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo! According to Rutenberg, Dowd was clinging to the hope that Bush would again become the non-partisan type if he prevailed in Campaign 04. Does that feeling come through in the Frontline interview, conducted two months post-election?

How sincere is Dowd when he tells his sad tale? We have no idea, and we don’t hugely care. It’s possible that he means what he says—and then again, he may be inventing. But it was sad to see so many folk rush to affirm his brilliant good motives in the wake of the sad, sad interview reported in Sunday’s Times. In 1999, Dowd jumped a sinking ship, leaving the Texas “Democrat Party.” This week, he left another such ship—saying he’s disappointed in Bush, who wouldn’t even meet with Sheehan! Good God! He even sobbed about his divorce—a divorce which has nothing to do with this, except as a pathetic, successful attempt to make us rubes feel sad and sorry.

And then, we rubes rose up in high dudgeon when Bush dared discuss this great man this week. How dare George Bush suggest, for an instant, that Dowd was anything but sincere and far-seeing? Mainstream journos—and fiery liberals—could barely contain their anger with Bush, who had slimed another great patriot. But here at THE HOWLER, we saw his words somewhat differently; we imagined what Bush was really thinking as he waxed about his friend Matt. Just a guess! Here’s what Bush might have said this week if he weren’t a professional pol—the kind of person who can’t really share the things he thinks and knows:
BUSH UNCHAINED/PRESS STATEMENT: For six years, Matt Dowd fed you bullsh*t on my behalf. Now, he’s feeding you bullsh*t on his own behalf. I wish Matthew well in his corporate career, where he’ll trick you credulous rubes into buying a ton of bad products.