Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Thursday, September 15, 2005
It's official: George W. Bush is no conservative
E.J. Dionne said it best in the pre-speech analysis and in his WaPo column: the George W. Bush era is over... And another thing: that guy in the White House is no conservative. He's not exactly liberal either ... frankly, I'm not sure he knows who he is anymore...

The president just gave a speech (full text here) that should have astounded anyone who calls themself a conservative. Put aside the dry, pedestrian tone and utterly unmemorable language. Ignore the fact that the blueish lighting of the church in the backdrop exctly matched the president's shirt, giving him the eerie look of a ghostly floating head (Wizbang has an even bettter picture...) Even ignore the stunning announcement that four years after 9/11, the president has now instructed his cabinet to conduct a fullsome review of the disaster plans for all 50 states. Even ignore the laughable claim that the power is back on in most of Mississippi, and all the happy metrics about the "progress" being made on the ground (if you've spoken to anyone still in the region lately, you know that that's not true, and it sure reminded me of his many Iraq addresses...) The really astounding thing about Bush's two-week late New Orleans speech was the laundry list of promises, and the astounding sum we're all going to pay for them (not to mention the fact that he didn't explain where we're going to get the money.)

Defying anyone to continue calling him a conservative after tonight, Bush promised a thoroughly federal response to the Katrina crisis, complete with some $200 billion in big government spending. In an interesting twist, he essentially proposed to turn over that cash to state and local officials to spend as they wish, beneath the moonlight glow of some sort of accountability commission... (feel free to laugh, it really is pretty funny.) He lifted Bill Clinton's enterprise zones and renamed them opportunity zones. He promised homesteading opportunities and special mortgages and rebuilding projects and more. And while he threw his base a few bones about entrepreneurship and tax credits, even the analysts at Fox said he sounded more like LBJ than Ronald Reagan.

In a move that seemed to please most of the Black talking heads who analyzed the speech on cable TV, not to mention that group of brand spanking new Black Republicans sitting in the Astrodome parking lot and acting as the Karl Rove talking point-mouthing post-speech panel for ABC News, Bush said that most of the poor in three of the poorest states in the union were in that condition because of historic racism, something that spun Tucker Carlson's mussy-topped head all the way around. And while I stipulate that I agree that racism plays a part in the miserable condition of African-Americans in the impoverished states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and in other parts of the U.S., I think most people nowadays understand that it's much, much more complicated than that. Most astoundingly, rather than just empathize and promise to inspire the nation to do better, Mr. Bush promised that his administration would reach into the federal tiller and spend it all better. Proving he's listening to his friend T.D. Jakes about how to win back angry African-Americans, he used the words "minority owned businesses" twice. (Interestingly, he failed to mention that he put Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove in charge of the rebuilding effort...)

What Bush has really done tonight is take FDR and marry him to William Howard Taft (does that count as a gay marriage...?) He's going to throw fistfulls of federal cash at the Gulf region, most of it in the general direction of New Orleans, in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding in his poll numbers. And then, as we've already seen, he's going to let his cronies in the major reconstruction, development and energy industries belly up to the bar, soak up all the pork-flavored greenbacks, welcome the evacuees home with rebuilding jobs at below-standard wages (if they can wrestle the jobs out of the hands of undocumented workers from Mexico, for whom the president has waived the normal hiring penalties in the Gulf), and then take a big, fat tax cut for their trouble. Oh, and he's going to convene about a dozen commissions and governmental self-investigations...

As for reactions, most of the analysts, including the two I respect most, Douglas Brinkley and David Gergen, found it too tepid and too late. MSNBC/Newsweek "Bushologist" Howard Fineman also thought it flat and uninspired. Poor Joe Scarborough couldn't believe that the same government who couldn't deliver water to the abandoned city of New Orelans is promising to blow the whole federal wad on whatever and whoever might have even the faintest desire to chip in to rebuild. Rita Cosby interviewed a local New Orleans contractor after the speech who said that of the millions of dollars soaking his city, local businesses have gotten only crumbs. Keith Olbermann reported before the address on the president's Pascagoula, Mississippi visit earlier in the day, during which he dropped in for his photo op at the local Chevron refinery. My in-house analyst, Mr. Reid, called Bush a "no tax and spend president."

And then there was the speech itself: a laundry list of phone nubers, web-sites and federally-funded pork as far as the eye can see -- he could just as soon have had an aide put the list up on the White House web-site. What America needed tonight was a truly presidential address: an eloquent statement of humility and humanity; a call for the nation to find its voice and pull out its tools and come up with solid ideas and out of the box solutions to revive the Gulf region, with the help of the federal government, but not just via an open checkbook. What the country did not need was a blanket promise to paper over everything that went wrong in the Gulf with mountains of unrestrained taxpayer cash.

...unless, of course, the president is willing to trim back some of his other big-money initiatives, like, say, that little project in Iraq...

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posted by JReid @ 9:43 PM  
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