Archive | Bush

“Birther” claim about Obama and the Bush National Guard hoax: Fruit of the same poisonous tree?

So suggests John Avalon, in a Daily Beast column “The Secret History of the Birthers.” He traces birtherism to a Texas woman named Linda Starr, who was a Hillary Clinton delegate to the 2008 Texas state Democratic Convention. Avalon writes that Starr “was also cited as a key source for CBS’ discredited election year investigation into George W. Bush’s National Guard records that led to Dan Rather’s replacement after 24 years as the evening news anchor.” Avalon links to the Thornburgh/Boccardi report, which was conducted at the request of CBS News to examine CBS’s conduct in producing the infamous 60 Minutes story about Bush supposedly evading National Guard service and then having the records scrubbed. As the report details, Starr made the claim about Bush in an article on her website, three days before the 2000 presidential election. She also played a key role in serving as an intermediary for CBS to obtain the document which purported to be National Guard memo regarding the removal of NG records about Bush. The Thornburgh/Boccardi report does not claim that Ms. Starr knew that the document  was a clumsy fabrication.

At the very least, however, the fiasco of the Bush National Guard story shows that Ms. Starr did not provide her Internet readers, or CBS, with a story which could withstand factual scrutiny. Accordingly, if Avalon’s reporting is correct, he has provided yet another reason for people to disbelieve the (already-implausible) assertion that President Obama was not born in the United States. In contrast to the way the mainstream media initially handled the 2004 Bush National Guard story, the mainstream media did a better job in 2008 by not embracing a story about a presidential candidate which could not be supported by solid, verifiable facts. [...]

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Targeted Killing, Safe Havens, and the President’s West Point Speech

Several times in his West Point speech on Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama declared that the US would not permit Al Qaeda or “violent extremists” the use of safe havens.  He specifically noted Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  The President unsurprisingly never overtly mentioned Predator or drone missile strikes, or the CIA as the operational agents in many instances of these far-from-covert actions.  But there is little doubt that both in the speech and in actual doctrine, targeted killing through drone strikes has been endorsed and indeed extended.

It was a tactic initiated by the Bush administration, but it was embraced and championed by the Obama administration, expanded and made a centerpiece of operations by it, as news stories before and after this speech in the NYT and Washington Post have repeatedly reported.  But an important question remains as to whether the administration is preserving through use and ‘opinio juris’ the legal authority and doctrines that support these sensible tactics.

Not the only tool of US will, of course – the President went to great lengths to discuss diplomacy, values, and many “soft power” options.  Targeted killing is a means, and a limited one; moreover it is not a strategic end in itself.  And it is also quite true that although speeches of this kind are often constructed so as to make oblique references to be understood as such, it is also a mistake to interpret a large policy pronouncement by reference to particular phrases and oblique references in isolation from the larger whole.  But reading the whole speech, there is little doubt that targeted killing is included among the vital tools for the projection of US power – not just in Afghanistan, not just in Pakistan (and the speech several times referred to Afghanistan and Pakistan together, for obvious [...]

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Bush Continues His Uncanny Imitation of Herbert Hoover

In this January post, I noted some of the uncanny parallels between George W. Bush and Herbert Hoover: Both were president during a time of economic crisis; both presided over vast expansions of government that helped cause the crisis or at least make it worse than it might have been otherwise; finally both were (inaccurately) portrayed by their political opponents as dogmatic free market advocates, when in fact both were highly statist. After leaving the presidency, Bush is unconsciously imitating Hoover in yet another way – by rhetorically supporting free markets and criticizing the even more interventionist policies of his Democratic successor (which in both cases built on the expansions of government initiated by the Republicans who preceded them):

Former President George W. Bush, outlining plans for a new public policy institute, on Thursday said America must fight the temptation to allow the federal government to take control of the private sector, declaring that too much government intervention will squelch economic recovery and expansion….

“As the world recovers, we will face a temptation to replace the risk-and-reward model of the private sector with the blunt instruments of government spending and control. History shows that the greater threat to prosperity is not too little government involvement, but too much,” said Mr. Bush…

Bush’s belated support for free markets follows in Hoover’s footsteps. After leaving office in 1933, Hoover wrote books and articles defending free markets and criticizing the Democrats’ New Deal. Some of his criticisms of FDR were well-taken. Many New Deal policies actually worsened and prolonged the Great Depression by organizing cartels and increasing unemployment. But by coming out as a free market advocate, the post-presidential Hoover actually bolstered the cause of interventionism because he helped cement the incorrect impression that he had pursued free market policies while [...]

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