January 13, 2004

The Awful Truth

Warren Buffet had his name scrawled on the John O'Neil
Wall of Heroes for a few weeks....because he wrote a
scathing op-ed piece on the destructive, foolish tax
cut the _resident gutted the surplus with...but I had
to scratch out Buffet's name...because he chose to
back Conan the Deceiver in the California "Recall"
putsch...unforgiveable...so I am leery of scrawling
the names of Republican fat cats on the Wall, but Paul
O'Neill has done a marvelous and brave deed...and it
is starting to look like he won't get weak knees...oh
yes, the Bush cabal is going to go after him...

Paul Krugman: The point is that the credentials of the critics just keep getting better. How can Howard Dean's assertion that the capture of Saddam hasn't made us safer be dismissed as bizarre, when a report published by the Army War College says that the war in Iraq was a "detour" that undermined the fight against terror? How can charges by Wesley Clark and others that the administration was looking for an excuse to invade Iraq be dismissed as paranoid in the light of Mr. O'Neill's revelations?

Save the US Constitution, Show Uo for Democracy in 2004: Defeat Bush (again!)

OP-ED COLUMNIST
The Awful Truth
By PAUL KRUGMAN

Published: January 13, 2004

People are saying terrible things about George Bush.
They say that his officials weren't sincere about
pledges to balance the budget. They say that the
planning for an invasion of Iraq began seven months
before 9/11, that there was never any good evidence
that Iraq was a threat and that the war actually
undermined the fight against terrorism.

But these irrational Bush haters are body-piercing,
Hollywood-loving, left-wing freaks who should go back
where they came from: the executive offices of Alcoa,
and the halls of the Army War College.

I was one of the few commentators who didn't celebrate
Paul O'Neill's appointment as Treasury secretary. And
I couldn't understand why, if Mr. O'Neill was the
principled man his friends described, he didn't resign
early from an administration that was clearly anything
but honest.

But now he's showing the courage I missed back then,
by giving us an invaluable, scathing insider's picture
of the Bush administration.

Ron Suskind's new book "The Price of Loyalty" is based
largely on interviews with and materials supplied by
Mr. O'Neill. It portrays an administration in which
political considerations satisfying "the base"
trump policy analysis on every issue, from tax cuts to
international trade policy and global warming. The
money quote may be Dick Cheney's blithe declaration
that "Reagan proved deficits don't matter." But there
are many other revelations.

One is that Mr. O'Neill and Alan Greenspan knew that
it was a mistake to lock in huge tax cuts based on
questionable projections of future surpluses. In May
2001 Mr. Greenspan gloomily told Mr. O'Neill that
because the first Bush tax cut didn't include triggers
it went forward regardless of how the budget turned
out it was "irresponsible fiscal policy." This was a
time when critics of the tax cut were ridiculed for
saying exactly the same thing.

Another is that Mr. Bush, who declared in the 2000
campaign that "the vast majority of my tax cuts go to
the bottom end of the spectrum," knew that this wasn't
true. He worried that eliminating taxes on dividends
would benefit only "top-rate people," asking his
advisers, "Didn't we already give them a break at the
top?"

Most startling of all, Donald Rumsfeld pushed the idea
of regime change in Iraq as a way to transform the
Middle East at a National Security Council meeting in
February 2001.

There's much more in Mr. Suskind's book. All of it
will dismay those who still want to believe that our
leaders are wise and good.

The question is whether this book will open the eyes
of those who think that anyone who criticizes the tax
cuts is a wild-eyed leftist, and that anyone who says
the administration hyped the threat from Iraq is a
conspiracy theorist.

The point is that the credentials of the critics just
keep getting better. How can Howard Dean's assertion
that the capture of Saddam hasn't made us safer be
dismissed as bizarre, when a report published by the
Army War College says that the war in Iraq was a
"detour" that undermined the fight against terror? How
can charges by Wesley Clark and others that the
administration was looking for an excuse to invade
Iraq be dismissed as paranoid in the light of Mr.
O'Neill's revelations?

So far administration officials have attacked Mr.
O'Neill's character but haven't refuted any of his
facts. They have, however, already opened an
investigation into how a picture of a possibly
classified document appeared during Mr. O'Neill's TV
interview. This alacrity stands in sharp contrast with
their evident lack of concern when a senior
administration official, still unknown, blew the cover
of a C.I.A. operative because her husband had revealed
some politically inconvenient facts.

Some will say that none of this matters because Saddam
is in custody, and the economy is growing. Even in the
short run, however, these successes may not be all
they're cracked up to be. More Americans were killed
and wounded in the four weeks after Saddam's capture
than in the four weeks before. The drop in the
unemployment rate since its peak last summer doesn't
reflect a greater availability of jobs, but rather a
decline in the share of the population that is even
looking for work.

More important, having a few months of good news
doesn't excuse a consistent pattern of dishonest,
irresponsible leadership. And that pattern keeps
getting harder to deny.


Posted by richard at January 13, 2004 05:54 PM