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at 5 pm ET / 2 pm PT with Daniel Benjamin, former National Security Council counterterrorism official and co-author of The Next Attack: The Failure of the War on Terror and a Strategy for Getting it Right. He’ll answer your questions in real time about terrorism and national security (check out his latest in the L.A. Times).
The “biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network,” Bush said during last year’s Presidential debate. “And that’s why proliferation is one of the centerpieces of a multi-prong strategy to make the country safer… And we’ve been effective.”
The 9/11 Public Discourse Project — formerly known as the 9/11 Commission — just released an assessment of Bush’s progress on the issue. Despite his rhetoric, they aren’t impressed:
The 9/11 Commission concluded that the administration’s “current efforts fall far short of what we need to do” and recommends President Bush “request the personnel and resources, and provide the domestic and international leadership, to secure all weapons grade nuclear material as soon as possible.” Good idea.
This shocking event occured at the White House this morning:
Laura Bush ended the event by saying, “So have a very, very happy holiday to everybody. Have fun. ”
If Ms. Bush watched more Bill O’Reilly she’d know how offensive her remarks were to Christians:
GUEST: “Season’s Greetings” and “Happy Holidays,” Bill, does not offend Christians.
O’REILLY: Yes, it does. It absolutely does. And I know that for a fact.
In a speech today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offered some pointers on how to assess the situation in Iraq.
Don’t pay attention to terrorist attacks:
“To be responsible, one needs to stop defining success in Iraq as the absence of terrorist attacks,” Rumsfeld said in remarks at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Don’t pay attention to U.S. fatalities:
Pressure on the administration over the war has grown as the number of U.S. military deaths has surpassed 2,100. Rumsfeld said a focus on that number would be as misleading as concentrating on the large numbers of deaths at battles like Iwo Jima during World War II, without acknowledging the victories eventually achieved.
Don’t pay attention to the media:
Rumsfeld also delivered a broadside against the media, saying that in the present era of the 24-hour new cycle, events in Iraq may be reported too quickly and without context, and at times with little substantiation.
The only thing to pay attention to, it seems, is whatever Rumsfeld tells you.
On Sunday’s ABC This Week, Stephen Hadley acknowledged that President Bush has not yet ordered the shut-down of the Pentagon’s propaganda campaign in Iraq.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Has he ordered the program shut down?
HADLEY: He’s asked Secretary Rumsfeld to look at it. It’s clear from the comments that have been made so far, that the issue is whether that program is something that’s inconsistent with the policy guidance. And if it is inconsistent with policy guidance it will be shut down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it would be inconsistent to secretly pay Iraqi journalists, wouldn’t it?
HADLEY: Look, we want a free media. We want truth. That’s the whole point of this. We need to get the story about what’s happening out. The truthful story about what’s happening to Iraq to Iraqis, to the American people. That’s what we ought to be doing. This kind of practices is inconsistent with that. It’s not the kind of policy that the, that the Americans want to pursue.
The dishonest tactics used by the Penatgon in the campaign are already well established: the source of the stories (the U.S. military) were kept secret, “absolute truth was not an essential element” in the stories, and the AP and Reuters photos used in the stories did not necessarily depict the events described. This seems inconsistent with any type of “truthful story” the United States is trying to tell.
When will Bush to live up to his rhetoric and shut down the program?
President Bush has shelved plans to propose actual policy on tax reform. Bloomberg reports:
President George W. Bush will delay a major push for revamping the tax code because administration officials concluded the changes are too tough to sell to the public and lawmakers, two people familiar with the matter said.
Instead, the administration will attack their political opponents on the issue. Dan Bartlett offered a preview this morning on Good Morning America:
The last thing we need do when people are trying to pay for higher heating bills or trying to make ends meet, paying for health care, the last thing we need to do is sock them with another — with a tax increase…The last thing they need is for Washington politicians to not find other ways to cut spending but to send them the tab. We’re not going to do that. It is bad economic policy.
Of course, the bulk of President Bush’s tax cuts haven’t benefited people struggling to pay heating bills or health care costs. In 2004, for example, households in the middle 20% of the income spectrum received an average tax cut of $647, while households earning $1 million or more received an average tax cut of $123,592.
Thus, it’s possible to rollback Bush’s tax cuts for the very wealthy, provide tax cuts for those struggling to make ends meet and reduce the deficit. American Progress has a detailed tax plan that makes it happen.
The right-wing’s “War on Christmas” conspiracy rhetoric isn’t at all new, though the scapegoats have changed some.
In the 1921 screed “The International Jew: The World’s Foremost Problem,” automaker and notorious anti-Semite Henry Ford observed that “most people had a hard time finding Christmas cards that indicated in any way that Christmas commemorated Someone’s Birth.” He noted menacingly, “Now, all this begins with the designers of the cards.”
Later, the Soviet Union and the United Nations were fingered for plotting to undermine Christmas. A 1959 John Birch Society pamphlet stated, “One of the techniques now being applied by the Reds to weaken the pillar of religion in our country is the drive to take Christ out of Christmas — to denude the event of its religious meaning.” The writer sounded the alarm: “Department stores throughout the country are to utilize UN symbols and emblems as Christmas decorations.”
As Salon.com’s Michelle Goldberg writes, “To compare today’s ‘war on Christmas’ demagogues to Henry Ford is not to call them anti-Semites.” Yet Jews are not entirely absent from their campaign.
Fox’s Bill O’Reilly to Jewish caller: “You have a predominantly Christian nation. … And you don’t wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] — if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel.”
Fox’s John Gibson: “The wagers of this war on Christmas are a cabal of secularists, so-called humanists, trial lawyers, cultural relativists, and liberal, guilt-wracked Christians — not just Jewish people.”
More importantly, those who warn of a “War on Christmas” these days promote a conspiracy theory “that repeatedly crops up in America,” in which the “scheme is always massive, reaching up to the highest levels of power.”
“The FBI has reopened an inquiry into one of the most intriguing aspects of the pre-Iraq war intelligence fiasco: how the Bush administration came to rely on forged documents linking Iraq to nuclear weapons materials as part of its justification for the invasion.”