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Tilting at Windmills

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December 9, 2008

BUSH LEGACY TALKING POINTS.... We learned last week that there's an "ongoing Bush legacy project that's been meeting in the White House," and with help from Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, the group of loyal Bushies have been strategizing on how best to paint the president's humiliating tenure in a more positive light.

Now, for those willing to help with the endeavor, the West Wing is offering talking points.

In case any Bush administration officials have trouble summing up the boss' record, the White House is providing a few helpful suggestions.

A two-page memo that has been sent to Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials offers a guide for discussing Bush's eight-year tenure during their public speeches.

Titled "Speech Topper on the Bush Record," the talking points state that Bush "kept the American people safe" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts, curbed AIDS in Africa and maintained "the honor and the dignity of his office."

The document presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success.

Now, I suspect this effort will fail miserably; Bushies can only ask Americans to doubt their lying eyes so many times. But I find the talking points interesting anyway.

The "keeping Americans safe" argument is pretty hard to believe given the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the anthrax attacks, and the thousands of U.S. deaths in Iraq. The economic argument is just laughable on its face. Bush's AIDS-related efforts in Africa have, in fact, been admirable, but his insistence on abstinence-focused prevention programs has been dangerous and short-sighted.

I'm especially struck, though, by the "honor and dignity" line. Indeed, the memo specifically argues, "Above all, George W. Bush promised to uphold the honor and the dignity of his office. And through all the challenges and trials of his time in office, that is a charge that our president has kept."

The meaning of the phrase is deliberately ambiguous, but if we look back at the 2000 campaign, it apparently means "no sex scandals." Since Bush, as far as we can tell, didn't have any affairs during his presidency, he necessarily has conducted himself in an honorable and dignified way.

Isn't this setting the bar a little low? Bush's presidency has been marred by scandals relating to torture, rendition, ignoring the rule of law, politicizing federal agencies, and the suspension of habeas corpus.

No, there was no Lewinsky during Bush's presidency. But my standard for "honor and dignity" has always been a little higher than that.

Steve Benen 8:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Bush's presidency has been marred by scandals relating to torture, rendition, ignoring the rule of law, politicizing federal agencies, and the suspension of habeas corpus.

But Bush never promised not to do those things. He only promised not to get bj's from interns. The big question here is, was that goal achieved by Bush (not asking) or by the interns (not offerring)?

Posted by: tomeck on December 9, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

No, Bush actually promised that his administration would set a new level of ethical behavior where the bar would be much higher than whether something was considered legal or not. I don't remember if that was in the campaign or an early speech during the administration, but I remember thinking, "Yeah, sure."

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on December 9, 2008 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Honor and dignity? Looking for WMD behind a curtain or with Barney? "Welcome to my hanging?" Using Iraqbodycount's statistics for how many people died in Iraq? Remember they were documenting cases that they felt should be used in war crimes trials, not doing a statistical analysis.

Kept people safe? Katrina, lead toys, mining disasters, Minneapolis bridge. These weren't just freaks of nature. They were small government at its worst.

Lifted the economy? By promoting the credit and housing booms?

Posted by: Danp on December 9, 2008 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

Any revitalizing of the Bush legacy is going to take decades and frankly once he is out of the eye, the only people that are going to really,really care are those addicted to the Bush Kool-Aid. There isn't enough to Bush for people to really care about once he isn't president. Sure historians will hash this out in books, but I don't think anything Rove and others will try to do will affect that.

Posted by: ET on December 9, 2008 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Your underestimating the corporate media and also the zombies in the media that think they are doing independent journalism if you think the talking points won't be a "success". The American people won't buy it but the echo chamber will be falling for it hook line and sinker. It's been a brilliant strategy by Bush the last few weeks to stay out of the limelight (i.e. sit back and not do shit and be accountable to Americans). Now Obama is linked in the mind to bailouts, job losses, etc. etc. and Bush can promote the idea that he "kept America safe". Apparently that doesn't include thousands dead because of an illegal war.

The BushCo. strategy of embedding reporters and using them as a propaganda arm during the run up to war was brilliant on a byzantine/Stalinist level. Looking back they don't want to admit guilt so they too will buy into the ridiculous assertion that it "kept America safe".

Decent report on an NPR show yesterday regarding cyberwarfare and how behind the times we as a country are across the board. It was easy to imagine what 8 years of Gore would have looked like at what "keeping America safe" would have meant (he would never been reelected if 9.11 happened but taking the counterfactual to an illogical conclusion pretend he had...).

There needs to be a strong "push back" as they say against this absurdity that we were kept safe.

The country is in financial ruin with an oversretched military and stormfronts on every horizon where storms aren't raining on people's head. In relatively peaceful times the country can't be considered "safe" after a jobs report like the one that was just released.

I beg people like you Steve to make the case over and over that the financial ruin has crippled the country and it's national security.

America has not been kept "safe" at all.

Posted by: grinning cat on December 9, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Legacy, what legacy?

Yes, he may use Rove & Hughes (Hughes kinda look like Jenna - I kinda wonder if this is a illegitimate child by G. Herbert Walker Bush)to write his legacy, however, since the U.S. is good for rewriting history, this would be the time to have whatever history written disappear.

Who knows, maybe they'll lie and say someone else was president instead of Boy George, and say this unknown president did such good things for the country!!!!

At least that's how the GOP'ers like to do it, lie. Lie about everything. They are pathological liars.

Posted by: annjell on December 9, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Well in truth, he may have forced the entire world into a climate crisis too rapidly accelerated for us to forestall. How many guys can claim they ended life on a planet, huh? Pretty good right? His fake ecomonic statistics and perpetual war budgets (never paid for), easy money strategy, and neglect of financial oversight melted down the economy almost single-handedly. Even the Great Depression had many authors. This is the Bush Depression--pretty good, right? You go down the list, and his failures were just epic. Even Homer had less material. Pretty good, right?

Sigh. Diminished everything he touched, and touched himself often with the Constitution.

Posted by: Sparko on December 9, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

'Honor & dignity' my ass. I'm still aggravated at Clinton becasue I feel his bj'ing around disgraced the office of POTUS. I'm enraged at "W" since I feel he not only has disgraced the office, but has disgraced Americans.

Posted by: Ken on December 9, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

There isn't enough to Bush for people to really care about once he isn't president

Really? When people think of Hoover, I think they immediately think of the Depression. With Nixon, it's Watergate. With LBJ, it's either Viet Nam or Civil Rights. Kennedy-Bay of Pigs. With Bush it will be Iraq and the Housing/Bank collapses. I don't think they will be seen as any less iconic.

Posted by: Danp on December 9, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Semen stains are worse than blood stains. Ergo, Bush is a great president.

Posted by: Grumpy on December 9, 2008 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

MoreOn "Honor & Dignity"

Proudly displaying a photo checklist of "leading terrists" that he could cross off, as they were killed and captured? Distributing decks of playing cards of said "terrists"?

Choking on a pretzel while solitarily watching TV, as his faithful dogs owlishly looked on? All his face-shredding tumbles off his bike and badly made-up appearances afterward in public?

The "brush-cutting" on his leetle ranchette? Driving foreign dignitaries around in a golf cart he named "Gator" because he apparently fears horses?

The Repubs have seriously corrupted our political language - we're going to have to retire "honor&dignity" along with "fair&balanced", "librul", etc. etc. etc...

Posted by: Zandru on December 9, 2008 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget that Jeff Guckert-Gannon was a no kidding epic sex scandal that for some reason--known only to the strange and wonderful powers of a fair and balanced media--was never really investigated. He only stayed overnight and had unrestructed access to the halls of power.

Posted by: Sparko on December 9, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Here are my simple talking points for the likes of Rove and his revisionist friends:

Worst.Presidency.Ever!

Posted by: kevo on December 9, 2008 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

The "kept America safe - no further terrorist attacks on US soil" talking point has always puzzled me. In the wake of the first World Trade Center bombing just six weeks after he took office, Pres. Clinton tracked down, tried and jailed the participants. There were no further terrorist attacks on US soil until nine months after Bush took office. Yet I never hear the wingnuts acknowledge that Clinton kept us safe from terrorism.

Posted by: Jersey Tomato on December 9, 2008 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

I think they should blame it on 9/11. If not for that, GW Bush would have been a run of the mill mediocre-to-bad one-term President. Nothing to write home about, but then nothing memorably bad except perhaps for the manner of coming into office. In the context of recent history he might have ended up being perceived as slightly worse than Carter.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on December 9, 2008 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Jersey Tomato,

Well the far right would say that Waco is state sponsored terrrorism. And of course there was that small explosion at the federal building in OKC. Committed by the far right.

I never thought the Dark Knight was all that great of a film on a macro level but there are a few great lines from the Joker that stick out. The "when everything goes according to plan, even when the plan is a disaster, then nobody freaks out. Kill a few gang bangers, drop a few bombs on some darkies [my paraphrase], and it's all according to plan..."

Bush and the Republicans achievement was making sure things went according to plan even though the plan was the worst since Weimar Germany.

Posted by: grinning cat on December 9, 2008 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

I thought the LA Times story was LOL funny. Steve's made an excellent summary of the obvious objections to the content of the hubristic memo. I'm waiting for some comedians to weigh in, although they'll have a hard time satirizing this unintended self-parody.

The Constant Weader at www.RealityChex.com

Posted by: Marie Burns on December 9, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Pretty sure he didn't keep New Orleans, Galveston, and wide swaths of Mississippi safe.

Posted by: tess on December 9, 2008 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK
...there was no Lewinsky during Bush's presidency

Simple question: how do you know? We know little of his private personal life over the last 8 years. We have no constitutional mechanism or charge to track such a thing.

We did not take the extaordinary step of paying a special prosecutor in excess of 50 million dollars to explore all aspects of his personal life. We are woefully (or blessedly) ignorant.

We do know that men in powerful positions frequently have, and take advantage of, Lewinsky-like opportunities. There is no compelling reason to speculate one way or the other when it comes to GWB, but I don't not see him as a man of restraint and control.

Posted by: little ole jim on December 9, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

You do have to give them credit for finding the one thing Bush is good at: completely repressing his interest in sex.

Posted by: Shalimar on December 9, 2008 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

Ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel if Bush held his office with "honor and dignity" - doubt she'd say yes..

Posted by: Ethel-To-Tilly on December 9, 2008 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Shalimar,

I don't think Boy George can pay someone to have sex with him.

Yes, there are women that have sex for money, but, I don't think they are that stupid.

Posted by: annjell on December 9, 2008 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

One of the best retorts I've seen to the "he kept us safe" mantra was a letter in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

As the Bush administration nears its end, there are those who say, "At least President Bush kept us safe." I would counter by saying that 9/11 happened on Bush's watch, and that credible evidence exists that he ignored reports that such an attack was at least being considered by Osama bin Laden. Does the pitcher who gives up 20 runs in the first inning, then nothing for the final eight, get credit for a shutout? If we are attacked again during the Barack Obama presidency, but not more than once, will that be OK?

Robert Leonardo
Palmyra, NJ

Posted by: Zak44 on December 9, 2008 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Here's the thing that I never understood...the whole sex scandal with Clinton thing and why people are still upset about it-- lots of people have affairs-- look at how many of the "impeachment managers" in Congress went down in flames because of their own sex scandals shortly after the impeachment. Whether or not a politician has an affair does not affect me personally. Lots of people in DC have affairs. After living there, I suspect the vast majority of people who work in DC have affairs. Screwing the country over, politicizing every department, letting whole parts of our country suffer neglect, siphoning off as much tax money to rich friends who just get richer and off shore their money, spending billions upon billions of dollars on a needless war, and all of that DOES have an affect on me personally. Getting a blow job and trying to not get caught is NOT on the same level as all of the mendacity of the W administration.

Posted by: Baaaa on December 9, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton!!! Clinton!!!
Who cares if Clinton had a sucker. At least, Monica was an adult and of the opposite sex.

Larry Craig had to go in men's restrooms.
Mark Foley was a sugar daddy to underage male pages.
Rev. Haggarty lied to his congregation and family that he was a closet gay man.

So how is Clinton that bad? Are you guys jealous because no matter how old Clinton becomes, there are still women who'd sleep with him?

Posted by: Annjell on December 9, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

PS:

Nice one, Grumpy.

Posted by: Zak44 on December 9, 2008 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah I think that's what it is, the men on this post is jealous of Bill. As a female, yeah, I'd f*** Clinton too. I'd f*** the s*** out of him.

Posted by: Annjell on December 9, 2008 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Chris Wallace of FAUX is, already, on board - He told Ron Howard in interviewing him about "Frost-Nixon" that the difference between Nixon and Bush was "Nixon did it for self, but, Bush did it "for the best interests of America".

Will Preston Hollow and Dallas become a sanctuary city? Shrub better trade-in Barney for a pack of pit bulls.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 9, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Don't misunderestimate Bush's legacy.

I'd say he wins hands down in the mangled English department.

Bushisms are juicier than Clintonisms.

We'll be quoting George for eternity.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 9, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

More Talking Points

Rove and Hughes forgot to include that GWB won the Interntional Medal of Peace.

No previous president has ever earned such a prestigious honor.

He was also the first president to give the Chancelor of Germany a neck massage, building a bridge of peace and prosperity between our two great nations.

Also, God blessed him with the gift of looking into Putin's eyes to see the soul of the man. History will be the final judge on tha one.

He pardoned Scooter Libby and John Forte, a proud American traitor, and a great rapper.

Mr. Bush came up with more clever nicknames for people in his circle than any previous president. His ability to give out cute monikers (turdblossom, brownie, stretch)will not soon be surpassed, but only time will tell.

Finally, let's not forgot the record setting growth of capitalism under the stewardship of the CEO president. Oil companies reaped the largest profits ever recorded in the history of the world.

All in all, the deciders was a massive success.

Posted by: Winkandanod on December 9, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

And, here, I thought that after giving up those 20 runs, he was placed on Injured Reserve.

Posted by: berttheclock on December 9, 2008 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

"lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts"?

Sorry, but this chart from Paul Krugman argues otherwise. Personally, I'd argue that if not for the Republicans looking the other way - on purpose - while funny-money mortgage lending schemes were going on, the weak recovery after 2001 wouldn't have existed at all. They allowed it to go on because it was the only thing that kept the recession of 2001 from continuing right up to now. There's plenty of evidence to support my argument - not so much to support the Bush claim.

Besides, the first round of tax cuts was in early-mid 2001; the most immediate impact was to turn the surplus that had existed in January of that year into a deficit by August of that year.

8 years, and they still haven't caught on to the internets and their amazing ability to get in the way of historical re-writes.

Posted by: Jennifer on December 9, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

When Obama was campaigning in the summer and fall I argued that he should have made the line "I promise to restore honor and dignity to the White House" a key part of his stump speech. It would have been a great rebuke to Bush's use of that phrase in the 2000 campaign, and an acknowledgment that Bush has tarred the dignity of the Oval Office with his multiple abuses of power.

Posted by: Stefan on December 9, 2008 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

the talking points state that Bush "kept the American people safe" after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,

Just like FDR kept Pearl Harbor safe from the Japanese after the Dec. 11 attack.

Posted by: Stefan on December 9, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, except for the whole September 11 thing, there hasn't been another terrorist attack on US soil during Bush's watch. And except for the whole "guy coming into the President's private box" thing, the Lincolns thoroughly enjoyed "Our American Cousin."

Posted by: gradysu on December 9, 2008 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

No Lewinski? What about Jeff Guckert/Gannon?

A gay male prostitute got about 200 "day passes", thus avoiding the required background check by the FBI to gain access to the WH press pool. There were instances when he checked in, but not out on the same day. Who was he servicing?

If it was a Democratic White House, the press would have had a field day. Blue dress? Endless fascination. Porno web site? Crickets.

Posted by: esaud on December 9, 2008 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

"Isn't this setting the bar a little low? Bush's presidency has been marred by scandals relating to torture, rendition, ignoring the rule of law, politicizing federal agencies, and the suspension of habeas corpus."

I have a problem with this statement, because it implies that the Lewinsky issue was more serious than the things Bush has done which you describe. Even under the worst possible interpretation of Bill Clinton's behavior, this is clearly not the case--it's the other way around. Unless, of course, you're a nut who believes that "sinful" sex is much worse than killing and torturing people needlessly.

Posted by: Lee on December 9, 2008 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush: He did not get blowed!

Yep, that's one for the ages allright.

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 9, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

While the cause of AIDS, other disease and general poverty reduction in developing countries is, as you say, admirable, The Bush administration's* dual ideological imperatives of "pro-life" and "anti-UN" have compelled them to try and create a parallel system to that of the UN, which only adds to these (by definition) poor countries having to spend even more on paperwork and duplicate record keeping to make sure that they remain in compliance with the various initiatives. This results in a generally counterproductive tilt which lessens the effect US efforts.

Posted by: jhm on December 9, 2008 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

How soon after the republicans retake congress will they vote to rename a DC airport after G W Bush - the great president who kept us safe?

Posted by: Adam on December 9, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Not only did Bush keep America safe since 9/11, he also did not allow any American city to be destroyed and the people left hanging since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

And his economy policies have not left the American economy to crash like a house of cards, except for this little unpleasantness we have today.

I'd also like to extend a belated thanks to FDR for keeping America out of war (except for that thing with the Germans and Japanese) and to Herbert Hoover for keeping America's economy strong but for those last three years of his term.


Posted by: KeninTenn on December 9, 2008 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Heck of a job, Bushie!

Posted by: maya on December 9, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Don't forget that paragon of adulthood, Dick Cheney, not going to the police after he shot a guy in the face! Very honorable.

Posted by: Elroy on December 9, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

To Bush's credit, Seattle wasn't wiped out by a hurricane. I credit him for keeping us safe from that.

Posted by: Brian on December 9, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

The rumors that he was publicly drunk at the G-8 summit may or may not be true. But whether or not he was under the influence of anything besides his own juvenile grandiosity, he did say "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter," smirk and punch the air. This was widely interpreted as a deliberately offensive insult, or in the words of Gordon Brown, "the two finger salute." Honor and dignity worthy of a junior high school playground.

Posted by: T-Rex on December 9, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

I suspect Bush's performance would have been seriously enhanced by BJs - lots of BJs.

Too bad he can't get it up...

Posted by: Glen on December 9, 2008 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, that's what they mean by LMAO.

Posted by: Luther on December 9, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Quaker in the Basement,

I repeat - who would want to blow Bush. No amount of money would compensate for this. Women have standards. That would be an insult to any female.

Besides, how do you know his beloved dog isn't doing the trick.

Posted by: annjell on December 9, 2008 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Karen Hughes, uh, doesn't she have an uncanny resemblance to Jenna Bush?

Posted by: Annjell on December 9, 2008 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, yeah, we'll give him that, there were no more attacks on U.S. soil,

so,

Foreign fighters crossed borders into Iraq and Afghanistan to fight our troops there to, "get more combat experience."

Posted by: Annjell on December 9, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK

As everyone knows, the Dear Leader successfully advanced the revolutionary precepts of the Great Leader Reagan against reactionary and counterrevolutionary elements of the Liberal enemies of the Homeland. In addition to being an inspired leader and strategist, his uncanny prescience safeguarded our Homeland from internal and external threats, making the Homeland into a beacon for the oppressed masses across the globe. The Dear Leader is also possessed of uncanny ability in the arts and sciences, regularly correcting the so-called experts in the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is our great good fortune to have been alive during the Dear Leader's tenure.

There! That's how it should be written!

Posted by: Daniel Kim on December 9, 2008 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed. Monica Goodling was much more embarrassing than Monica Lewinsky.

Posted by: Nancy Irving on December 10, 2008 at 6:27 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure if it was spin or premonition, "We're fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here."

Yes, we haven't had an attack on U.S. soil.

But, we've had attacks over there. The foreign fighters coming from Yemen, Algeria, Iran, Syria, Pakinstan, U.S., Europe, Jordan....

BTW, our troops were complaining that Pakistan and Iran were not doing enough to stop the foreign fighters entering Iraq and Afghanistan.

And guess what? Bin Laden's #2 said that was the plan, send them into the battlefield against the U.S. for combat training.

Posted by: annjell on December 10, 2008 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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