January 13, 2004
Krugman: The Awful Truth

Paul Krugman muses on how very few people are willing to attempt a substantive defense of the Bush administration, on any front: 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...

Posted by DeLong at 12:00 AM

January 12, 2004
President Empty Suit

Brian C.B. notes a paragraph by James Fallows in the new Atlantic Monthly: This is the place to note that in several months of interviews I never once heard someone say "We took this step because the President indicated..." or "The President wanted..." Instead I heard "Rumsfeld wanted," "Powell thought," "the Vice President pushed," "Bremer asked," and so on. One need only compare this with any discussion of foreign policy in Reagan's or Clinton's Administration--or Nixon's, or Kennedy's, or Johnson's... to sense how unusual is the absence of the President as prime mover. The other conspicuously absent figure was Condoleeza Rice.... It is possible that the President's confidants are so discreet that they have kept all his decisions and instructions secret. But that would run counter to the fundamental nature of bureaucratic Washington, where people cite a President's authority whenever they possibly can ("The President feels strongly about this, so..."). James Fallows's use of the word "unusual" is the most extreme use of understatement I have ever read or will ever read, no matter how long I should happen to live....

Posted by DeLong at 11:58 PM

Paul O'Neill

I was never a fan of Paul O'Neill as a Treasury Security. He never figured out how to deploy or listen to his professional staff, both making himself infinitely less effective and leading to serious personnel losses that will damage the Treasury as an institution for decades to come. He did not do a good job at marshalling opposition to the steel tariff. He did nothing to raise the level of the administration's pronouncements on economics. He let himself get rolled at the start of the administration by not drawing a line in the sand and requiring a tax cut focused on improving incentives rather than getting money to the rich. He shared the Bush administration bias against even talking to our allies. He never learned that even his most thoughtless words were taken seriously--and that he should try hard to keep from using his big mouth to amplify Brazil's economic problems. He would rather spend time touring Africa with Bono than trying to nail down AIDs funding in the budget. He never seems to have bothered to learn about monetary policy. Such rhetorical gems as his attempt to trash Bob Rubin for going to Singapore and having a...

Posted by DeLong at 11:17 AM

A Word of Advice for Greg Mankiw

From this morning's Wall Street Journal: In the book, Mr. O'Neill, who held senior positions in the White House budget office in the administrations of former presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford before beginning a 23-year business career that took him to the top of Alcoa Inc., describes his conversations with the president as a "monologue" and said the president rarely asked questions in meetings. "The president is like a blind man in a room full of deaf people," he says. "There is no discernible connection." The chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers took issue with that assessment. "That's not my experience at all," Gregory Mankiw said on CNN. "The president understands the economy. He comes from a business background." Greg: It's too late to convince anyone that George W. Bush understands the issues that come before him at the level that a president should. We know that he didn't read Paul O'Neill's or Glenn Hubbard's two-pagers. You know whether or not he reads yours. You're not helping George W. Bush's reputation. And you're harming your own....

Posted by DeLong at 11:15 AM

January 10, 2004
Is George W. Bush Really This Big an Idiot?

From Edmund Andrews of the New York Times: Growth in Jobs Came to a Halt During December: ...President Bush, speaking in Washington before a group of small-business owners, focused on the drop in the unemployment rate, which he called "a positive sign that the economy is getting better." According to the household survey, the number of people at work fell by a net 54,000 in December. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate fell because a net 309,000 people stopped looking for work and so dropped out of the labor force. Does George W. Bush really believe that this is good news?...

Posted by DeLong at 10:10 AM

January 09, 2004
Another George W. Bush-Quality Policy

Daniel W. Drezner and Gregg Easterbrook bang their heads against the wall as they consider our now Mars mission-based space program. But what did they expect? This is just another George W. Bush-quality policy, produced by the standard operating procedures of the modern Republican executive....

Posted by DeLong at 03:49 PM

Bush Employment Forecasts

Back in February of 2003 the Bush administration began handing around a piece of paper from the Council of Economic Advisers that purported to forecast that--if the Bush administration's 2003 tax cut was enacted--payroll employment in December 2003 would hit 134.3 million (up from its January 2003 value of 130.4 million. Nobody I talked to could figure out how the Bush CEA had arrived at forecasts of baseline employment growth plus effects of tax cuts that could possibly produce such a forecast: such payroll of employment growth averaging 354,000 a month seemed out of the question. The only theory advanced was that back in January 2003 somebody inside the White House had demanded a forecast showing huge honking employment growth starting now, and that the CEA had failed to resist. I'm told the piece of paper actually had some influence in persuading some members of Congress to vote for the tax cut... And, of course, today we don't have 134.3 million payroll jobs. We have 130.1 million. Economic forecasting is a black and inaccurate art. But to be off by 4.2 million in a ten month-ahead forecast of employment is truly remarkable....

Posted by DeLong at 01:02 PM

Impeach Bush Now

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill discourses on George W. Bush's competence as president: CBS News | No Dialogue In Bush Cabinet? | January 9, 2004 13:51:26: President Bush was so disengaged in cabinet meetings that he "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people," says former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in his first interview about his time as a White House insider.... "It's revealing," said Stahl on The Early Show Friday. "I would say it's an unflattering portrait of the White House and of the president -- and specifically, about how they make decisions." O'Neill, fired by the White House for his disagreement on tax cuts, is the main source for an upcoming book, "The Price of Loyalty," written by former Wall Street Journal reporter Ron Suskind.... In it, Suskind builds an insider's picture of the White House drawn on interviews with O'Neill, dozens of other Bush administration insiders and 19,000 documents provided by O'Neill. A lack of dialogue, according to O'Neill, was the norm in cabinet meetings he attended. The president "was like a blind man in a roomful of deaf people," O'Neill is quoted saying in the book. It was similar in one-on-one meetings, says O'Neill....

Posted by DeLong at 11:24 AM

January 08, 2004
Colin Powell

Why Thomas Jefferson is one of Colin Powell's heroes: Interview by Peter Slevin of The Washington Post: ...the reason I like Jefferson is Jefferson has a great line in the first inaugural which I've used with many individuals, and Richard's heard me use it many times, and as he gets to the end of the first inaugural, which is a great statement of American values, he said something along the lines, "I go now to the task that you have put before me, in the certain knowledge that I will come out of it diminished."... And he said -- and I'm paraphrasing because I don't have it in front of me, but the great line in it he says -- and I may be repeating myself just a little bit but you can look it up -- he said, "I go now to the task that you have put before me, until you realize that it is in your power to make a better choice." In other words, you picked me. I'm going to get beat up. I'm going to get diminished by this. I'm going to get criticized. Those who don't know everything I know or cannot see as...

Posted by DeLong at 08:16 PM

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Perhaps the biggest reason to impeach Bush (and Cheney!) today: FT.com / World: Bush administration officials "systematically misrepresented" the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to war, according to a new report to be published on Thursday by a respected Washington think-tank. These distortions, combined with intelligence failures, exaggerated the risks posed by a country that presented no immediate threat to the US, Middle East or global security, the report says. The study from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace concludes that, though the long-term threat from Iraq could not be ignored, it was being effectively contained by a combination of UN weapons inspections, international sanctions and limited US-led military action.... It concludes that before 2002 the US intelligence community appears to have accurately perceived Iraq's nuclear and missile programmes, but overestimated the threat from chemical and biological weapons. But it also says that during 2002, published intelligence became excessively politicised. A "dramatic shift" in intelligence assessments during the year was one sign that "the intelligence community began to be unduly influenced by policymakers' views sometime in 2002". The report says administration officials misrepresented the threat in three ways.... lumping together the high likelihood that Iraq had chemical...

Posted by DeLong at 11:48 AM

December 29, 2003
Halliburton Once Again

Halliburton strikes again: FT.com / World / International economy: Pentagon auditors claim a Halliburton subsidiary was warned by the company's own internal auditors that there were serious problems with the implementation of its contract to import fuel into Iraq. Michael Thibault, deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, told Senate governmental affairs committee staff this week that the DCAA had uncovered an audit in which Halliburton was told it was charging excessive prices to import fuel from Kuwait into Iraq and was violating federal procurement rules, according to a summary released by Senator Joe Lieberman, the ranking Democrat on the committee.... Halliburton was refusing to turn over the audit documents to the Pentagon... similar allegations were contained in a December 10 letter from the DCAA to Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary handling the fuel contract.... Pentagon auditors stumbled across the internal Halliburton document in the course of a routine audit and took extensive notes on its contents....

Posted by DeLong at 05:18 AM

December 28, 2003
Recycled Spin via Needlenose

Via Atrios, Swopa notes that time stands still: Needlenose: They really do lie about everything, Part CCCXXVI: An Associated Press article today quotes Lt. Col. Steve Russell of the 4th Infantry Division on the progress we're making against the guerrillas in Iraq: At the same time, the cost of recruiting attackers is thought to have gone up, Russell said. Gunmen and other fighters that were rumored to be paid somewhere around $250 per attack are now said to be demanding as much as $1,000. On a hunch, I did a quick Google search, and found the following in an article by a different Associated Press reporter in August, quoting Russell's boss in the 4th Infantry Division, Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno: The success of the raids has also made it more difficult for guerrilla leaders to mount attacks on U.S. troops, Odierno said. Guerrilla organizers have been forced to increase the amount they pay for attacks on coalition forces to $1,000 from $250. ''The pay has significantly gone up, which is a good thing because it shows they're starting to have trouble recruiting people,'' he said. I wonder if the AP knows it's getting recycled spin that's at least five months...

Posted by DeLong at 07:12 PM

December 26, 2003
The Plame Leak Investigation Continues

Michael Froomkin points to a Washington Post story about how the Plame leak investigation continues--and about how the White House continues to leak classified information, and false information, about the case: washingtonpost.com: Leaks Probe Is Gathering Momentum: The Justice Department has added a fourth prosecutor to the team investigating the leak of an undercover CIA officer's identity, while the FBI has said a grand jury may be called to take testimony from administration officials, sources close to the case said. Administration and CIA officials said they have seen signs in the past few weeks that the investigation continues intensively behind closed doors, even though little about the investigation has been publicly said or seen for months. According to administration officials and people familiar with some of the interviews, FBI agents apparently started their White House questioning with top figures -- including President Bush's senior adviser, Karl Rove -- and then worked down to more junior officials. The agents appear to have a great deal of information and have constructed detailed chronologies of various officials' possible tie to the leak, people familiar with the questioning said. The Justice Department has added a prosecutor specializing in counterintelligence, joining two other counterintelligence prosecutors...

Posted by DeLong at 06:14 AM

December 24, 2003
Atrios Translates Walter Pincus

Atrios translates a paragraph from the Washington Post's Walter Pincus into plain English: Eschaton: Can anyone even begin to comprehend this paragraph: The source said that at the time of the State of the Union speech, there was no organized system at the White House to vet intelligence, and the informal system that was followed did not work in the case of that speech. The White House has since established procedures for handling intelligence in presidential speeches by including a CIA officer in the speechwriting process. Look, media, everybody - it's time to just come right out and say it. CONDI RICE IS AN INCOMPETENT CORRUPT LIAR. That's very true. There is a whole National Security Council that is already tasked with, among other things, making sure that the president's speeches do not contain lies about foreign policy....

Posted by DeLong at 11:40 AM

December 19, 2003
More Scum from the Republican Party

The Decembrist looks at a Republican fund raising letter that should make every decent human ashamed to belong to the Republican Party: The Decembrist: Fundraising Letters that Work: I happened to see a Bush '04 fundraising e-mail today, from Ken Mehlman, with the heading "Foreign liberal cash used to defeat President Bush!".... there is also one priceless line in the e-mail: "Wesley Clark, who was in Europe when Saddam Hussein was captured, criticized the President this week..." Wow, what was Mr. Clark doing in Europe, when he's supposed to be an American? Probably judging a Gruyere-tasting contest, or studying up on Swedish land-use planning... You wouldn't really know that he was helping bring another evil dictator to justice, would you?...

Posted by DeLong at 05:18 PM

December 17, 2003
A Simulacrum of Fiscal Rectitude

The Wall Street Journal's David Wessel appears unhappy at the Bush administration's decision that it is time to assume a simulacrum of fiscal rectitude. His main point: Potemkin villages are fine until it becomes time for somebody to try to live in them: WSJ.com - Capital: ...Is it enough for Mr. Bush -- who stuck with his tax-cutting agenda despite the unanticipated costs of homeland security and Iraq -- to walk out of the White House with a deficit of bigger than 2% [of GDP]? Only if he has taken steps [which he does not plan to do] toward preparing the federal budget to absorb the retirement of the baby-boom generation and the rising cost of government health-care programs for the poor, elderly and disabled. Budget deficits don't kill economies. They disable them over time. The big economic threat isn't this year's deficit. It is the cost of keeping the pension and health-care promises the government has made. Adding prescription drugs to Medicare made the long-run cost bigger, and Mr. Bush has yet to show a strategy for forging a bipartisan consensus on fixing Social Security. This President specializes in pain-free budgeting. Watch him resuscitate last year's discarded proposal to...

Posted by DeLong at 09:26 PM

More Smoke and Mirrors from the White House

This is progress of a sort. At least the Bush administration now thinks that it should pretend to be in favor of reducing the budget deficit. Bush goal of halving federal deficits draws skepticism, derision: President Bush's goal of cutting in half a projected $500 billion federal deficit within five years is being dismissed as too timid by conservatives, unachievable by analysts and laughable by Democrats. Bush will include the objective in the $2.3 trillion budget for 2005 he sends Congress in February, nine months away from the presidential and congressional elections.... The deficit for the budget year that ended Sept. 30 was $374 billion, the highest ever in dollar terms.... White House officials say to achieve their goal, Bush will rely chiefly on two strategies. He will propose extending tax cuts that would otherwise expire, which they say will spur the economy, and limiting the growth of spending that Congress must approve each year, probably to 4 percent or less. "We're working with Congress to hold the line on spending," Bush said Monday. "And we do have a plan to cut the deficit in half."... "It's like so much with this administration in respect to fiscal matters, it's all...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 PM

December 13, 2003
Quite Sad, in a Way...

From Busy, Busy, Busy. George W. Bush's briefers have convinced him that he needs to say "strong" in answer to any press question that has the word "dollar" in it. But they haven't managed to teach him why or where the word "strong" belongs in the answer: Busy, Busy, Busy: Q: Mr. President, the dollar fell again today, against the euro. Mr. Snow, your Treasury Secretary says that the decline has been orderly, boosting exports. Do you plan any intervention to stop the slide in the dollar? MR. BUSH: My answer to that question about the dollar is that this government is for a strong dollar, and that the dollar's value ought to be set by the market and by the conditions inherent in our respective economies. And our economy is very strong and is getting stronger. But the policy, the stated policy--and not only the stated policy, but the strong belief of this administration is that we have a strong dollar. Quite sad, in a way. But also quite funny. And it is a mark of how little people expect from George W. Bush that nobody is surprised. It is also worth asking just why George W. Bush feels...

Posted by DeLong at 02:44 PM

December 12, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXIX

Budget policy, Bush style: "The dollar amounts saved by such cuts would be relatively small, and... conflict with other Bush policy goals.... But within the White House, such details aren't considered as important as engaging in a series of fights that enhance Mr. Bush's fiscal credibility." The important thing, you see, is getting some tame reporters to write about how Bush is fighting hard to control the deficit. The fact that Bush fiscal policy is a huge disaster is a "detail" that is not "important." Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach George W. Bush now. WSJ.com - Bush Struggles To Improve Image On the Deficit: ...The heightened focus on the deficit belies Mr. Bush's fiscal record so far. Mr. Bush didn't fight for significant spending cuts this year, and he recently signed a bill that added a expensive new prescription-drug benefit to Medicare, and before that, he won approval of a series of tax cuts that have drained government revenue. The growth of spending has produced a chorus of complaints on the political right. Last week, a group of conservative activists met with Stephen Friedman, chairman of Mr. Bush's National Economic Council, and urged the White House to take a tougher...

Posted by DeLong at 09:13 AM

December 10, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXVIII

Joshua Micah Marshall marvels at the spectacle: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: December 07, 2003 - December 13, 2003 Archives: Read this lede from an article in the Times and tell me with a straight face that these guys have any idea what they're doing ... President Bush found himself in the awkward position on Wednesday of calling the leaders of France, Germany and Russia to ask them to forgive Iraq's debts, just a day after the Pentagon excluded those countries and others from $18 billion in American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects. White House officials were fuming about the timing and the tone of the Pentagon's directive, even while conceding that they had approved the Pentagon policy of limiting contracts to 63 countries that have given the United States political or military aid in Iraq. I mean, it defies ridicule (what will I do?). The tone? How were they supposed to sugar-coat it? Please ... Clearly, we need to come up with a new executive branch foreign policy appointee, someone whose job it would be to coordinate all this stuff, who could make sure the right hand knows what the left hand is doing, someone who could ride herd...

Posted by DeLong at 10:32 PM

December 09, 2003
Joshua Micah Marshall Thinks About the Baker Appointment

Joshua Micah Marshall thinks about the Baker appointment: Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: December 07, 2003 - December 13, 2003 Archives: ...And then there's the Baker appointment. One might say that if we didn't have James Baker to turn to to handle international debt crises, we might have to invest the Treasury Secretary. I mean, this doesn't just fall under the Treasury Department's general purview. It's one of its main responsibilities. In an insightful column in Newsweek, Richard Wolffe makes the point we've been hinting at for the last for days ... Unless Baker is about to declare Iraq's independence, there are only two explanations for his appointment. Either the president feels that Powell, Snow and the rest of his cabinet are incapable of dealing with Iraq's debts. Or the president is giving Baker a far broader role in resolving Iraq's future. Both explanations are deeply unsettling for his much-vaunted foreign policy team and for the rest of the world. When Baker travels to European and regional capitals, the world's leaders will think that Baker--not Powell, Donald Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice--has the influence with the president to get things done in Iraq. Yet we, and they, can't be...

Posted by DeLong at 07:26 PM

Endorsing Howard Dean

Now that Al Gore has endorsed Howard Dean, who is next? It really sounds as though the Weekly Standard's William Kristol is about to cross the aisle: How Dean Could Win . . . (washingtonpost.com): ...how liberal is Dean anyway? He governed as a centrist in Vermont, and will certainly pivot to the center the moment he has the nomination. And one underestimates, at this point when we are all caught up in the primary season, how much of an opportunity the party's nominee has to define or redefine himself once he gets the nomination. Thus, on domestic policy, Dean will characterize Bush as the deficit-expanding, Social Security-threatening, Constitution-amending (on marriage) radical, while positioning himself as a hard-headed, budget-balancing, federalism-respecting compassionate moderate. And on foreign and defense policy, look for Dean to say that he was and remains anti-Iraq war (as, he will point out, were lots of traditional centrist foreign policy types). But Dean will emphasize that he has never ruled out the use of force (including unilaterally). Indeed, he will say, he believes in military strength so strongly that he thinks we should increase the size of the Army by a division or two. It's Bush, Dean will...

Posted by DeLong at 10:39 AM

December 08, 2003
Department of "Huh?"

I don't care what you think about the Bush administration: this is really weird: WSJ.com - Bush Presses for Release Of Guantanamo Detainees By JACKIE CALMES | Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL | WHITE HOUSE PRESSES Pentagon and Justice on Guantanamo detainees. The push to return prisoners to home countries follows Bush's visit to Britain, which wants its nine citizens back... The image of the White House having to negotiate with the Justice Department and the Pentagon is a very strange one....

Posted by DeLong at 01:47 PM

Newt Gingrich Is "Shrill"

Andrew Northrup notes that Newt Gingrich has joined the ranks of the shrill and unbalanced critics of George W. Bush: The Poor Man: Newt Gingrich is a Shrill Partisan Leftist: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said yesterday that the Bush administration has gone "off a cliff" in postwar Iraq and that "the White House has to get a grip on this." ... White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. defended the administration's policy. "I think things are going very well in a very tough situation in Iraq. . . . Newt Gingrich is not all-knowing," he said on CBS's "Face the Nation."...

Posted by DeLong at 12:01 PM

December 03, 2003
More People Join the Ranks of the "Shrill"

For some time now the official line of the Washington establishment has been that the critics of Bush are 80% correct on the substance, but that they are "shrill" and that their thoughts are corrupted by "Bush hatred." But the ranks of the "shrill" are growing. Here Fareed Zakaria reports that former Bush speechwriter David Frum is none too pleased with Bush's recent trip to London: Bush's PR Problem (washingtonpost.com): David Frum saw it while in London himself. "Bush was sealed away from London for the entire visit. There was no drive down the Mall, no address to Parliament, no public events at all," Frum wrote in his Weblog on National Review Online. "The trip's planners reduced the risk of confrontations -- but only by broadcasting to the British public their tacit acknowledgement that the visit was unpopular and unwelcome. By eliminating from the president's schedule events with any touch of spontaneity or public contact, the trip planners made the president look as if he could not or would not engage with ordinary British people." In Great Britain, Frum concluded, "the United States has a problem, a big one -- and it was made worse, not better, by this recent...

Posted by DeLong at 08:57 PM

December 02, 2003
The Evolution of Bush Steel PR

Carlos Tejada of the Wall Street Journal on steel tariffs: WSJ.com - Bush Weighs Softer Stance on Steel: A day after the World Trade Organization ruled against President Bush's tariffs on imported steel, the administration is reluctantly considering whether some compromise could satisfy its trade partners and the domestic steel industry.... Steel lobbyists in Washington acknowledged that the tariffs are likely to be reduced, if not eliminated -- despite the White House's initially defiant stance.... Bush officials said they are looking at their options.... The Bush economic team has backed the idea that the protections should be lifted in some fashion. There are also indications that Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, has had a change of heart about the tariffs as well. Mr. Rove was an influential voice in the initial decision to impose the tariffs in March 2002, but now sees them as more of a liability than a benefit, said one person familiar with administration thinking on the issue. Simply eliminating the protections, though, would provoke a harsh response from steelmakers and their tens of thousands of employees. Administration officials, looking toward next year's election, have little desire to whip up opposition in key steel states...

Posted by DeLong at 02:01 PM

December 01, 2003
What Do Washington Republicans Stand For?

Virginia Postrel asks whether Washington Republicans stand for anything at all, other than the naked exercise of power: Dynamist Blog: WHAT'S THE POINT OF POWER?: David Brooks's triumphant Saturday NYT column declares Republican victory: It was only this week that we can truly say the exodus story is over, with the success of the Medicare reform bill. This week the G.O.P. behaved as a majority party in full. The Republicans used the powers of government to entrench their own dominance. They used their control of the federal budget to create a new entitlement, to woo new allies and service a key constituency group, the elderly. The column, which deserves reading in full, leaves unanswered a rather important question: What's the point of Republican political power? Nothing more than job security for a different clique? The New Deal coalition played hardball politics. But they didn't stay in power for decades without some general principles and policy goals. (The Republicans just achieved one of the latter, further socializing medical care.) They were for the "little guy," for a "fairer society," for "equal opportunity." Their platform wasn't coherent, but you could recognize a Democratic stand when you saw it. What do Frist Republicans...

Posted by DeLong at 08:58 PM

November 29, 2003
"Starve the Beast"?

Having looked forward only three years ago to a future of budget surpluses (at least until the baby boom generation retired in earnest), we now look forward to huge deficits as far as the eye can see. Let's take the reasonable budget projections for George W. Bush's policies that generate deficits of more than $500 billion a year as far as the eye can see (until the baby boom generation retires, and the deficits grow bigger). These projections assume that there will be a Medicare drug benefit (which there is), that the expiring provisions of the tax code will be extended (which the Bush administration wants to do), that the Alternative Minimum Tax will be reformed along the lines assumed by the Congressional Budget Office (which the Bush administration says it wants to do), and that discretionary spending will grow at the rate of nominal GDP. Where did this sudden swing back to deficits come from? Republican ideologues who say that this is all part of a clever plan (rather than being yet another mammoth demonstration of the incompetence at governing of the current crew in the White House) say that the purpose of this is to "starve the beast":...

Posted by DeLong at 04:33 PM

Looking at the Bush Administration

John Dean writes about "a conference organized by Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School to review the first two and half years of the Bush presidency... [and] to make... [an] impartial assessment [of it]. The papers presented and panel discussions, later posted online, speak for themselves... I don't think that the papers at http://www.wws.princeton.edu/bushconf/schedule.htm speak for themselves. Perhaps the academic policy papers--by Allen Schick, by Charles O. Jones, and by Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay do--but the rest are by and large written in the alusive insider style reminiscent of how one spoke of the Sultan in the declining days of the Ottoman Empire that is so common in Washington. For example, consider this passage from John DiIulio's paper, in praise of Bush--or is it? During the aforementioned July 4, 2001 block-party gathering with the children and families of prisoners in Philadelphia, the president engaged the crowd with unusual passion and warmth, even by his normal standards. They responded in kind. The event ran over.... A staff colleague advised me that we really needed to move him out... in front of the church through which we were to exit... there stood two male cooks and a huge pile of barbecued ribs... the...

Posted by DeLong at 09:14 AM

November 27, 2003
What the Hell Happened?

The New Republic asks: The New Republic Online: etc.: If cutting taxes is so effective at imposing "a kind of fiscal discipline," then this should have been the most fiscally disciplined Congress in the history of the republic. What the hell happened? The story seems to be simple: the Republican leaders of Congress appear to have gone to Bush and said, "We won't stand in the way of your tax cuts if you won't stand in the way of our spending increases."...

Posted by DeLong at 10:38 AM

November 24, 2003
Eric Alterman Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Eric Alterman looks around: Eric Alterman: Altercation : The budget is out of control, we are causing a trade war with Europe, the world is united in hating us, and militants in Afghanistan and Iraq are murdering our soldiers while cheering crowds mutilate their bodies. Was this all part of a plan or are Bush and Cheney making it up as they go along? And who ever would have thought we would have so soon reached the point that suicide bombers could murder 14 people in Baghdad and two more via a missile launch, and the Washington Post would think it worthy only p. A23? Eric, it's all part of a clever plan. Flypaper, you know. I still want to know what George H.W. Bush thinks of his son....

Posted by DeLong at 05:34 PM

November 23, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCCLXXVII

Matthew Yglesias reads Elizabeth Bumiller in the New York Times, and bangs his head against the wall: Matthew Yglesias: A Different Kind Of High: Elizabeth Bumiller's headline in the Times: "For White House, 2 Bills Offer Route to Political High Ground." If passing two pork-laden bills that are opposed by every principled person in the country will get you to the high ground, then I suppose it's safe to say that the high road leads somewhere else. At any rate, this whole legislative fiasco provides another good opportunity to think about the dimensionality of the policy space. People's inclination to oppose the White House's energy and Medicare initiatives seems to have little to do with their location on a "left-right" axis and more to do with their location on a separate "tolerance for bullshit" axis... And, yes, Bumiller's story is every bit as bad as Matt implies: Opening paragraphs about Bush, "glamour", "calls to pressure wavering House Republicans," "television crews," "working late." Bonus points for a favorable mention of Karl Rove in the first two paragraphs. Paragraph about how success in passing the two bills will gain Bush "command of the high ground" for the 2004 election. Paragraph about how...

Posted by DeLong at 04:08 PM

November 22, 2003
Bad Medicare Bill IV

The New Republic writes about the Medicare bill that nobody understands yet: The New Republic Online: etc.: ...And another thing about that Medicare "reform" bill: Since CBO didn't officially score the bill until yesterday afternoon, the negotiators who wrote the bill didn't publish final language until yesterday. Nevertheless, Republican congressional leaders are pushing to hold votes before Thanksgiving. House leaders are trying to hold their votes today. (The only reason they haven't yet brought the measure to the floor is that they don't yet have the numbers to pass it. According to one congressional source, the House GOP is hemorrhaging conservative votes on the measure. So much so that, according to this same source, White House officials have spent the entire day on the phone trying to coax votes out of Democrats.) Remember what a cow many of these same people had over the secrecy and complexity of the Clinton health care plan in 1994? Well, the Medicare bill is 600-pages long. And buried in those 600 pages are all sorts of changes thrown in at the last minute, during meetings of a secret conference committee that included just two Democrats--one who votes like Republicans on Medicare (John Breaux) and...

Posted by DeLong at 11:23 AM

November 21, 2003
Bureaucratic Politics

There is a rumor that Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Stephen Friedman was cut out of the loop on the Commerce Department's decision to put quotas on imports of bras from China--that the line of communication went from Commerce Secretary Don Evans to White House Chief-of-Staff Andrew Card to George W. Bush, and not through the National Economic Council. If true, Friedman should not stay: there's no point to having an office inside the White House if you're cut out of decision-making on your issues, after all. If you're going to be a potted plant, there are better places than the West Wing to be one....

Posted by DeLong at 11:25 AM

George W. Bush Is Off Message

When George W. Bush goes off message. The startled Powell and Rice staring pointedly at the press corps to make certain that they know that Bush is saying something he's not supposed to be saying--that is indeed a remarkable image: Washington Post | Milbank, Frankel, and Barbash: ...As part of the briefing, Bush startled many by indicating that he could send more troops to Iraq, raising questions about Pentagon statements that the number would be reduced rather than increased in the coming year. He said he would do "whatever is necessary to secure Iraq," whether that means fewer troops or more troops. His comment appeared to take even top aides by surprise. As the president spoke, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice glanced pointedly toward the press corps assembled inside Britain's Foreign Office, as if to suggest that there might be some clarification coming. And indeed there was: immediately afterwards Condoleeza Rice told the reporters that there was no reason at all for Bush to have said what he did in fact say: Later a top aide to Bush, who briefed reporters on condition that the aide not be identified, said that Bush was...

Posted by DeLong at 08:56 AM

November 20, 2003
Why Does the Economist Hate George W. Bush So Much

The Economist takes a look at what has emerged as George W. Bush's energy policy: Economist.com | A new energy bill: ...After three years of talk, Congress has agreed on a massive energy bill, full of handouts to every imaginable corner of the business. Republican leaders rammed the bill through to help George Bush's re-election race. They may have gone too far. As The Economist went to press, Democratic senators looked set to start a last-minute filibuster to delay the bill. They are still furious that the Republicans shut them out of the process of reconciling the Senate and House versions of their bill. But when John Dingell, the top Democrat on the House energy committee, compares reading the 1,100-page bill to "lifting the lid of a garbage can and smelling the strong smell of special interests"?, he is not merely making a partisan point. The "no-lobbyist-left-behind bill" has also been condemned by John McCain, the libertarian Cato Institute and the Wall Street Journal. Is the law really that bad? Yes. Invoking the bogus notion of an energy-supply crisis, Republican leaders have doled out a fortune to energy lobbies. The biggest whack--some $22 billion--goes to the oil-and-gas industry. Having lost...

Posted by DeLong at 01:00 PM

No Lobbyist Left Behind I!

Me, I think that people who dislike George W. Bush do so because George W. Bush has done dislikeable things: Economist.com | Lexington: Bush-hatred is now something that civilised people wear as a badge of honour... Indeed it is. Why, Lexington needs to only look three or four articles earlier in this week's magazine to find denunciations of Bush's "no-lobbyist-left-behind [energy] bill and of his "increasingly hollow" free-trade rhetoric....

Posted by DeLong at 12:56 PM

November 19, 2003
Disgusted but Not Surprised...

Kieran Healy is disgusted but not surprised by George W. Bush's behavior on his visit to Britain: Crooked Timber: Democracy by Example : Like Tim Dunlop I am a little disgusted but not at all surprised to hear that President Bush will not be addressing Parliament on his visit to Britain. According to ABC News, "such a speech could invite the kind of heckling the president received when he spoke to the Australian Parliament last month."? One might have thought that a leader with thicker skin might have told the begrudgers to "Bring it on." Bush's aversion to explaining himself to people who might talk back is well known, of course, but it seems insulting to treat the representative body of your staunchest ally in this way.Some Tories appear to think so, too, though most of the anglospheroids seem content to bash Red Ken instead. Needless to say, the spin on the visit--see the same ABC news story-- is that Bush is in London to "address" and "confront" those who doubt his policy in Iraq. He'll just be doing this without, you know, addressing or confronting anyone....

Posted by DeLong at 08:16 AM

November 17, 2003
I Do Not Believe That This Could Be True

I do not believe this. I cannot believe this. Incompetent, short-sighted, ungrateful, and mendacious as we all know the George W. Bush administration to be, even they wouldn't do something as stupid and counterproductive as this. Would they? This Is London: US firms told 'take UK jobs home' | Robert Lea, Evening Standard | 17 November 2003 GEORGE Bush's administration has called on US companies in Britain to relocate jobs to America in an astonishing move that could trigger a major trade war. US-based multinationals have been told they will receive compensation from American trade authorities if they cancel contracts in Britain and take jobs home, according to CBI director-general Digby Jones. The allegations come only a day before Bush arrives in London for his controversial State visit and escalate the storm of protest he has already caused by slapping big protectionist tariffs on European steel imports. Speaking at the CBI's annual conference in Birmingham, Jones said: 'Three chief executives of American companies investing in Britain have told me to my face that they have been told to close down, bring their stuff home and make it in the US.' He said the companies were major employers in defence or...

Posted by DeLong at 04:25 PM

November 16, 2003
Richard Cheney: They Saw It Coming

They saw it coming, way back in 2000: Chickenhawk Down....

Posted by DeLong at 05:37 PM

November 15, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXVII

George W. Bush, winning friends and influencing people once again: Photo Op Becomes an Oops (washingtonpost.com): President Bush on Wednesday presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Isle of Islay, Scotland. "I've been honored to host Lord Robertson here at the White House many times over the past three years," Bush said. "I'm grateful that he's come once more before he leaves his post." But then the ghosts of OMB Director Bert Lance talking about his pal "Al" Kahn -- whose name is Alfred and whom everyone calls "Fred" -- drifted into the room. Bush seemed to be saying "Lord Robinson" was a "patient and determined leader," and "Lord Robinson" was this and that......

Posted by DeLong at 10:06 AM

Tell Us What You Really Think

I want David Brooks to stop pulling his punches and tell us what he really thinks about George W. Bush: Op-Ed Columnist: Swords Into Plowshares: ...Remember when George Bush used to say he was going to change the tone in Washington? He lied about that. He couldn't even reach out to Jim Jeffords, a moderate in his own party. He was never going to reach out to Democrats. He is too intellectually insecure. He can't handle people who disagree with him, so he retreats into the cocoon of the like-minded....

Posted by DeLong at 07:31 AM

November 14, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Liars? Part CCXXV

Michael Kinsley concludes that Bush did not mean a word of his speech about democracy....

Posted by DeLong at 12:03 PM

November 13, 2003
Matthew Yglesias Takes the Blame

Matthew Yglesias takes the blame for everything that goes wrong in Iraq: Matthew Yglesias: I Told Myself So: ...The shame of the Iraq situation is that it could've been done better -- by a more honest, more competent, more moral administration, but it likely won't be. The big thing to look forward to, however, will be the recriminations. Do we blame liberal hawks and idealistic neocons for being duped by a gang of ruthless Rumsfeldites, or to they blame war skeptics for fostering an atmosphere of hopelessness that led the administration to abandon serious efforts? As a dupe-turned-skeptic, of course, I'll get the blame either way. Me too. I thought last winter that the Bush administration would not be doing this without *hard* evidence of serious nuclear weapons programs. I--hard as this may be for some of you to believe--trusted them. No more....

Posted by DeLong at 08:16 AM

November 12, 2003
Bush Administration Fiscal Policy

Matthew Yglesias explains it to us: Matthew Yglesias: Spending: ...the president's position is that government spending is bad. Therefore, it should grow at 4 percent per year. Except for entitlement spending which can grow by more than that. And also defense spending can grow by more. And so can homeland security spending. And also one time expenditures don't count against the 4 percent limit. And if we don't meet that "target" it's congress' fault....

Posted by DeLong at 10:35 AM

November 07, 2003
Ronald Reagan: Oriented to Time and Place?

Timothy Noah reminds us exactly what the people who worked for Ronald Reagan thought of him: Saint Ronald - Why must we pretend the 40th president was alert and engaged? By Timothy Noah: Reagan['s] ... rather extreme mental and emotional detachment were at the time noted not only by his critics but by many of his political allies. Liberals like Chatterbox who struggled to persuade themselves that Reagan had more on the ball than he seemed saw their worst suspicions confirmed in the memoirs of former Reagan aides. Here's former chief of staff Donald Regan in For the Record: In the four years that I served as Secretary of the Treasury I never saw President Reagan alone and never discussed economic philosophy or fiscal and monetary policy with him one-on-one. From first day to last at Treasury, I was flying by the seat of my pants. The President never told me what he believed or what he wanted to accomplish in the field of economics. Here's speechwriter Peggy Noonan, describing her first encounter with President Reagan in the White House in What I Saw at the Revolution: I was surprised how big his hearing aid is, or rather how aware...

Posted by DeLong at 02:04 PM

November 05, 2003
Politics 101

A strange thing to say: Newsday.com - Bush to Speak on Middle East Democracy: WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Thursday will declare to skeptics of U.S. intentions in the Middle East that the political and economic freedoms America wants to see in the region are not "synonymous with Westernization."... But the political and economic freedoms America wants to see all over the world are synonymous with Westernization....

Posted by DeLong at 06:52 PM

Ah! If Only the Czar Knew What the Cossacks Were Doing!

Michael Froomkin is bemused to discover that Nicholas Kristof thinks that Bush and Cheney are not liars, but rather are being deceived by unworthy henchmen: Rosy Scenario" href="http://www.discourse.net/archives/2003/11/nicholas_kristof_thinks_bush_lies_is_the_rosy_scenario.html">Discourse.net: Nicholas Kristof Thinks 'Bush Lies' Is the Rosy Scenario: Nicholas D. Kristof... blames the evil courtiers and partly exonerates the evil bosses duped by their henchmen. In "Death by Optimism" he recounts the following story: "Mr. Cheney has cited a Zogby International poll to back his claim that there is 'very positive news' in Iraq. But the pollster, John Zogby, told me, 'I was floored to see the spin that was put on it; some of the numbers were not my numbers at all.' Mr. Cheney claimed that Iraqis chose the U.S. as their model for democracy 'hands down,'? and he and other officials say that a majority want American troops to stay at least another year. In fact, Mr. Zogby said, only 23 percent favor the U.S.democratic model, and 65 percent want the U.S. to leave in a year or less. 'I am not willing to say they lied,' Mr. Zogby said. 'But they used a very tight process of selective screening, and when they didn't get what they wanted they...

Posted by DeLong at 07:59 AM

November 03, 2003
All Matthew Yglesias All the Time?

One of the things I'm relatively good at is knowing when I have met my master--knowing when somebody knows more and thinks more clearly about an issue area than I do, and that it is time for me to stop trying to think through informed opinions on my own and simply adopt his (or hers) whenever an informed opinion is needed. I have met Mr. Matthew Yglesias. Here is a typical quadrifecta: He eviscerates Senator Miller on fiscal policy: "This bit about taxes sounds kind of plausible, except when you remember that the amount of money Congress appropriates is not, in fact, limited in any way by the amount of revenue the government takes in... the only effect recent tax cuts have had on spending has been to ensure that spending increases are financed through debt increases (which is to say taxes that will be paid by future generations).... Check out this report... by the intellectually honest fiscal tightwads at Cato: 'But perhaps we are being unfair to former President Clinton.... Clinton had overseen a total spending increase of only 3.5 percent at the same point in his administration. ... This is contrasted by Bush's three-year total spending increase of...

Posted by DeLong at 09:49 AM

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? Part CCCXXIV

The Washington Post's Al Kamen is amused by the latest transparent and unbelievable lie from the Bush administration. Just why do these people do it? Why don't they even consider not lying? Not Wavering on Policy Changes (washingtonpost.com): Some media and foreign policy types last week thought they may have heard an exception to the Bush administration rule that, no matter what, policy never changes. It happened Tuesday, when Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage was at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying that, six months after halting talks with Iran, the Bush administration was now prepared to resume talks with the Iranians over Iraq, Afghanistan and other issues. This is something Tehran had been pushing. Armitage's testimony had been carefully nuanced, massaged, vetted and checked among the usual administration suspects. But when asked whether this new willingness to talk to Iran after months of refusing to do so amounted to a change in policy, the White House answer was a resounding no. "I think what secretary Armitage said yesterday in his testimony was reiterating administration policy," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters. "And he -- you know, we -- we have long had existing established channels of...

Posted by DeLong at 07:34 AM

November 02, 2003
Orwellian

I'll stop calling the Bush administration "Orwellian" when they stop using 1984 as an operations manual.* From Kevin Drum: Calpundit: The Memory Hole Revisited: THE MEMORY HOLE REVISITED....April 23, 2003, USAID administrator Andrew Natsios chats with Ted Koppel about the cost of rebuilding Iraq on Nightline:TED KOPPEL (Off Camera) And we're back once again with Andrew Natsios, administrator for the Agency for International Development. I want to be sure that I understood you correctly. You're saying the, the top cost for the US taxpayer will be $1.7 billion. No more than that? ANDREW NATSIOS For the reconstruction. And then there's 700 million in the supplemental budget for humanitarian relief, which we don't competitively bid 'cause it's charities that get that money. TED KOPPEL (Off Camera) I understand. But as far as reconstruction goes, the American taxpayer will not be hit for more than $1.7 billion no matter how long the process takes? ANDREW NATSIOS That is our plan and that is our intention. And these figures, outlandish figures I've seen, I have to say, there's a little bit of hoopla involved in this.This is from the Google cache. Oddly, though, it seems to have been removed from the USAID site...

Posted by DeLong at 10:20 AM

November 01, 2003
How a Bill Becomes Law, Bush Style

Matthew Yglesias describes how a bill becomes law, Bush style: "First you find a way to help out campaign contributors. Then you find a policy problem that you don't want to solve. Then propose the first thing as the solution to the second thing. And then you move on." Matthew Yglesias: Matt Reading at Crescat has a good post up about the "Healthy Forests" boondoggle initiative that recently worked its way through the Senate.... [I]t's an excellent illustration of how this White House operates. Forest fires are dangerous, because they're hot and smoky and kill people. At the same time, the only way to make sure that forests never catch fire is to not have forests. In the happy medium, forests will sometimes catch fire, but they won't burn close to people's homes, thus preventing the death and destruction that we all deplore. In order to do this, you need to do your fire-prevention work in the parts of forests that are close to people's houses. The thing about those areas (the "urban/wilderness interface") is that they're almost all privately-owned (think about it: do you live in a national park? of course not, you're not a bear). So to improve...

Posted by DeLong at 06:31 PM

October 31, 2003
This Is Supposed to Be News?

Chris Matthews of "Hardball" goes to Brown and tells the students the real story. He says that George W. Bush is way out of his depth, and that the country is run by Richard Cheney at the head of a cabal of neoconservative hawks who have lost contact with reality: Chris Matthews: Speaking at Brown University this week, the "Hardball" player told students that the White House's rationale for invading Iraq was "totally dishonest" and that the Veep "is behind it all. The whole neo-conservative power vortex, it all goes through his office. He has become the chief executive ...It's scary." Cheney and the neo-cons saw in George W. Bush "a man who never read any books, who didn't think too deeply, and they gave him something to think about for the first time in his life," Matthews said, according to Rhode Island's Woonsocket Call. This is supposed to be news?...

Posted by DeLong at 05:44 PM

October 29, 2003
China-Bashing as Political Cowardice II

If you ask any real economist--one who is neither a muddled hack who does not know comparative advantage from the marginal propensity to consume nor a bought-and-paid-for shill--why the U.S. unemployment rate is relatively high, you will get the following answer: "First, and most important, the unemployment rate is high because the Federal Reserve misjudged how much investment spending would fall in the aftermath of the collapse of the NASDAQ bubble, and because the Federal Reserve then misjudged how fast productivity would grow. If the Federal Reserve had had an accurate forecast of the investment-spending slowdown, it would have taken appropriate action and the labor market would be in good shape. And if labor productivity growth had exhibited its "normal" recession-and-stagnation slowdown rather than zooming ahead, the amount of demand growth we have had in the past two years would have been enough to put the labor market in good shape. However, don't blame the Federal Reserve too much: it has a very hard task, it's policies can't be perfect, and all-in-all its performance over the past two decades has been amazing. "Second, and less important--but still a significant contributing factor--the Bush administration decided to propose a series of tax...

Posted by DeLong at 07:38 AM

October 28, 2003
Hasn't Oceania Always Been at War with Eurasia?

Just plain weird: Yahoo! News - Bush Disavows Mission Accomplished Banner: Six months after he spoke on an aircraft carrier deck under a banner proclaiming "Mission Accomplished," President Bush disavowed any connection with the war message. The phrase has been mocked many times since Bush's carrier speech as criticism has mounted over the failed search for weapons of mass destruction and the continuing violence in Iraq. When it was brought up again Tuesday at a news conference, Bush said, "The 'Mission Accomplished' sign, of course, was put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, saying that their mission was accomplished. I know it was attributed somehow to some ingenious advance man from my staff--they weren't that ingenious, by the way." That explanation hadn't surfaced during months of questions to White House officials about proclaiming the mission in Iraq successful......

Posted by DeLong at 03:21 PM

October 27, 2003
The Minuteman Sounds the Alarm

Tom Maguire notes that General Boykin has taken on the task of mud-wrestling not just Allah but Shiva the Destroyer: JustOneMinute: Looks Like General Boykin Is In Trouble Again: Having already offered to open a can of whup-ass on Allah, the General opens a second front. Unfortunately, he was not available for comment on the disturbing news found here [i.e., the return of Lord Voldemort and the defection of the Dementors]. Notes on the Atrocities: ...the general warned a local audience of "the Hindu scourge." "All their petty gods will be arrayed as if on a battlefield in front of you," Boykin told a group at the Second Pentacostalist Church. "But know that your God is the true God and that these are but mere demonic phantoms. The minions of Satan are many, and they have enthralled the Hindu people." In Delhi, an outraged Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee commented briefly outside his office. "It is inconceivable that a general in the US military should spout such rubbish. The only minions of Satan are the delusions dancing around the inside of his head. I expect an immediate apology from the President." Boykin was speaking to a group of young missionaries...

Posted by DeLong at 06:58 PM

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? Part CCCXXII

Well! This is genuinely weird: whtehouse.gov robots.txt: Why is whitehouse.gov (the official White House website) disallowing "Iraq" directories from search engine crawling?.... As of Oct 24, 2003 the robots.txt file at whitehouse.gov... has 1,620 "Disallow" statements.... There are 783 instance of the term "iraq" in this file... appended to paths that already exist in the file. These appear to have been added haphazardly, since the term appears in many path names for which no such terminal "iraq" directory exists.... However, this robots.txt file does exclude external search engine robots from some 75 directories that actually exist on whitehouse.gov. Michael Froomkin has a number of reactions: Discourse.net: I had a small cascade of reactions to this (via Eschaton). First thought: It’s disgusting that the White House is trying to relegate its statements about Iraq to the Memory Hole. Second thought: It’s great to live in a free country where this doesn’t work. Third thought: This demonstrates the same level of technical (in)competence we see in so many things this Administration does. Fourth thought: Maybe it does work more often than not — many people have come to rely on Google. Efforts like this often won’t get spotted most of the time....

Posted by DeLong at 12:52 AM

October 26, 2003
Experiments in Information Retrieval

As an experiment in information discovery and retrieval, Robert Waldmann decides to see how long it would have taken him--using only Google, the internet, and a slow modem connection--to discover that the notorious Nigerien uranium sale documents were forgeries. He is embarrassed that it took him three hours (but he did manage to cook and eat dinner during the process): "My error was to download the CIA Fact Book for the year 2000 with a modem. Then I found out that it listed only the president and prime minister of Niger.... After an hour and a half of downloading files which turned out to be maps and flags.... I just went to http://www.cia.gov... first page front and center 'What's New at the CIA' contains a weekly entry 'Posted updated Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments.... ' This is by far the most common item on the 'What's new" section...' robert's random thoughts Cheer up, Robert. You still beat the Vice President's office by seven months....

Posted by DeLong at 06:37 AM

October 23, 2003
Rumsfeld's Memo Is Depressing

Robert Waldmann reads Rumsfeld's memo and winds up depressed and banging his head against the wall. He is forced to answer "Yes" to the question "Does an economist who reads the Economist and a smattering of the European press really know more about Afghan politics than Donald Rumsfeld?" This makes Robert worry that perhaps our future is not in the best of hands. robert's random thoughts: I can't believe I am posting a link to Fox News but that's where Rumsfield's memo is posted. I have read to paragraph 4 and find a remarkable statement showing, perhaps, less expertise about terrorists than I would imagine Rumsfeld has. I quote: "USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis. USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban - Omar, Hekmatyar, etc." The odd thing is that Gulbudin Hekmatyar is not a Talib. He is the head of the Hezb i Islami a very different organization which has fought the Taliban. Hekmatyar is a violent, anti-US fundamentalist moslem. The Hezb i Islami are responsible for most (almost all) of the devastation of Kabul done not by the Soviet Union, not by the Muhjedein (incl Hezb i...

Posted by DeLong at 08:29 AM

An Assessment of Bush Economic Policy

Gerard Baker of the Financial Times gives his assessment of Bush economic policy: disdain for facts and substance, disorganization and disarray, and dishonesty with voters and markets. Sounds about right to me. FT.com Home US: I have carefully parsed Mr Snow's comments and the reaction to them and have narrowed the inquiry to four possible explanations.... 4. It was another example of the extraordinary agility of the Bush administration's economic team, which is able to shoot itself in the foot while trying to extract the same part of its anatomy from its mouth.... On balance, then, I prefer number 4. And, to be honest, this is not just all down to the power of deductive logic. It is not as though the Bush administration has no form in this respect. Since it took office, its economic policy pronouncements, from taxes to currencies and interest rates, have been opportunistic, ill-thought-out and incoherent. Even this week, within hours of the Treasury's insistence that Mr Snow was not talking about official rates, according to news agency reports the White House said he was not talking about market rates either. Mr Snow himself has been larking about with US currency policy for some time....

Posted by DeLong at 08:05 AM

October 21, 2003
Attention: You Are Now Living Inside a Remake of a Stanley Kubrick Movie

Dana Blankenhorn considers the recent antics of Mahathir Muhammed and William Boykin. I take his thoughts as powerful evidence that we are all living inside a simulation that is a remake of a Stanley Kubrick move: Doctor Strangelove : Ripper: Mandrake, I suppose it never occurred to you that while we're chatting here so enjoyably, a decision is being made by the President and the Joint Chiefs in the war room at the Pentagon. And when they realize there is no possibility of recalling the wing, there will be only one course of action open: total commitment. Mandrake, do you recall what Clemenceau once said about war? Mandrake: No. I don't think I do sir, no. Ripper: He said war was too important to be left to the Generals. When he said that, fifty years ago, he might have been right. But today, war is too important to be left to politicians. They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought. I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids. Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered...

Posted by DeLong at 05:20 PM

A Long Overdue Cutback in Bush Job Forecasts

Max Sawick notes that the Bush administration is now predicting that employment will grow at an average of 200,000 a month for the next year and a half--a long-overdue climbdown from their previous bizarrely ludicrous forecast of 344,000 net new jobs a month: Weblog Entry - 10/21/2003: "ALL THE PRESIDENTS JOBS, THE CLIMB-DOWN": Secretary of the Treasury John Snow has announced that the President's pledge to add five and a half million jobs is now inoperative. As we've been telling you, this would require 344,000 new jobs a month. Since July, the numbers have been negative for every month except the most recent one. The latest Snow job promises 200,000 jobs a month. You need 170,000 new jobs a month just to keep the unemployment rate from increasing. We remind you that the economy is in the unusual situation of having fewer jobs now than at the beginning of the "recovery." Historic. At least the nation's foreign affairs are well in hand. Oh wait . . . But as the New York Times's Edmund Andrews points out, even this forecast seems bizarrely optimistic: Treasury Chief Sees a Jobs Boom, but Most Don't: ...But most economists, including those at the Fed...

Posted by DeLong at 01:06 PM

October 20, 2003
*Snort*

And we are left with the mystery of how we can have higher interest rates without having higher yields on Treasury bonds. It's kind of like how we can fill a bathtub with water without putting any molecules of H20 in it. Eschaton: A senior Bush administration official Monday sought to clarify comments on interest rates made by Treasury Secretary John Snow.... The senior administration official said that Snow was only pointing out that when economies begin picking up steam, there is an increased demand for money which naturally pushes interest rates higher. The U.S. official said Snow was not talking about U.S. monetary policy nor was he indicating Treasury yields would rise......

Posted by DeLong at 09:04 AM

October 19, 2003
Bizarre...

(Via Eschaton.) In the Clinton administration, there were always three reasons for administration officials to take great care not to forecast interest rate movements: First, the Federal Reserve might not do whatever the administration official had forecast or urged it to do--in which case the administration official and his or her agency look like idiots. Second, the forecast might be accurate--in which case you have undermined confidence in the central bank's independence, and made it appear to be potentially susceptible to political pressure, which are both bad things. Third, you might undermine the Federal Reserve. If (say) the Federal Reserve is trying to keep the gap between short-term and long-term interest rates relatively low, then forecasting a rise in interest rates in the near future hinders their policy and annoys them. And you always want to work with, not against, the Federal Reserve. There's no upside: there's only a downside. Nevertheless, current Treasury Secretary John Snow has very different ideas: Anatole Koletsky: AMERICAN interest rates are set to rise over the next few months, one of President Bush’s most senior officials told The Times this weekend. However, far from being a dampener on the economy, John Snow, the US Treasury...

Posted by DeLong at 07:39 PM

Because It Would Be the Right Thing To Do?

The wave of Yankee victories has clearly disordered Tom Maguire's brain. He asks why George W. Bush should do anything to clean his White House of the taint of the exposure of CIA operative Valierie Plam: JustOneMinute: VPW - We Continue To Mock Boston: am not thrilled with "Bush - OJ", but why would sacking two officials, or five, or a dozen, satisfy the critics? As Bogie noted in "Key Largo", what they want is "more". How about, "Because it would be the right thing to do"?...

Posted by DeLong at 06:04 PM

Why Does Donald Rumsfeld Still Have a Job?

Fareed Zakaria wonders why Donald Rumsfeld still has a job. It's something I've wondered for a long time now: And He's Head of Intelligence? : President Bush's commission on public diplomacy recently noted that in nine Muslim and Arab nations only 12 percent of respondents surveyed believed that "Americans respect Arab/Islamic values." Such attitudes, the commission argued, create a toxic atmosphere of anti-Americanism that cripples U.S. foreign policy and helps terrorists. To address the problem the commission suggested amajor reorganization of the American government, hundreds of millions of dollars of funding and the creation of a new cabinet position. I have a simpler, more urgent suggestion: fire William Boykin. WILLIAM BOYKIN is the general who has recently been appointed to a senior Defense Department post. Over the last two years the general has given dozens of addresses to evangelical Christian groups in which, describing his battle with a Somali (Muslim) warlord, he has said: “I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.” He has also repeatedly explained that America’s enemy was “a spiritual enemy ... called Satan.” The enemy will only be defeated, he...

Posted by DeLong at 01:26 PM

October 18, 2003
Krugmanism and the Grand Strategy of the United States

Back when Daniel Drezner was criticizing Paul Krugman: Daniel W. Drezner: On politics, [Krugman's] not moving down the learning curve. Krugman, along with many economists, has some serious blind spots in his political analyses. He's consistently shocked when politicians engage in strategic or opportunistic behavior. He's always stunned when leaders take actions that maximize their own power rather than benefiting the greater good. He's flummoxed by the idea that nation-states might care about their relative economic power. These are all rational motivations -- they're just not ones that economists really consider when they do their own work. [Isn't this a really cynical view of the world?--ed.] Not necessarily. Politicians can desire power in the short run so as to pursue their desired ends in the long run. The logic of Bush's National Security Strategy is to prevent other great powers from rising in order to ensure the long-term growth of freedom, democracy and prosperity... I had a bunch of thoughts that I could not put into any coherent form. Now I think I can. I have four thoughts First, it is simply off-track to criticize Paul Krugman for holding politicians to high standards. That's one of the functions of the...

Posted by DeLong at 12:10 PM

October 17, 2003
Why Does the Bush Administration Lie All the Time?

Matthew Yglesias wonders why the Bush administration lies all the time--this time about botulinum: TAPPED: October 2003 Archives: Long story short: There's no threat here. This raises the question of why, exactly, Kay's team and the gang at the White House are trying to convince people that there is. Politically speaking, obfuscation is an effective strategy on this subject, since it's easy to get confused between the botulinum B bacteria (not dangerous, found in Iraq) and the botulinum A neurotoxin (dangerous, not found in Iraq). I myself made this mistake, but I'm not a biologist and I'm certainly not a biowarfare expert. This tactic -- saying things that are true in such a way as to get people to believe things that are false -- has become a prominent feature of the administration's public relations strategy... Matthew: they lie all the time because they are genuinely bad people, and because the American press corps lets them get away with it....

Posted by DeLong at 12:46 PM

Why Does the Bush Administration Lie All the Time?

And here is Condi Rice lying just for the hell of it: Through the Looking Glass: Condi Rice said, in May, 2002: I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile. Well, guess what: they were warned, specifically, about terrorists plotting to fly airplanes into buildings: In 1998, US agencies discovered that "a group of unidentified Arabs planned to fly an explosive-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center" - but did little about it, the 30-page report [on intelligence failures in Sept. 11th] says. That's a report from the BBC on an inquiry led by Eleanor Hill into intelligence failures leading up to Sept. 11th -- strangely, google news turns up nothing on the report, and on the inquiry, only a subpoena tiff with the FAA....

Posted by DeLong at 12:40 PM

Why Does the Bush Administration Lie All the Time?

And here is Gary Farber dumbfounded at a set of George W. Bush lies that only a truly dim bulb could tell: Amygdala: DARN YOU REPORTERS AND THE PEOPLE WHO LEAK TO YOU: your awesome super and legal powers are too much for me! I am overpowered and overwhelmed! I am helpless in the face of them! Mr. Bush raised for the first time the possibility that the investigation might come up empty in its search for the the source of the first article to name the Central Intelligence Agency officer. Asked by a reporter how confident he was that the F.B.I. would determine who disclosed the identity of the officer, the president responded by asking the reporter how many times he had exposed a source or had seen a source exposed. "Probably none," Mr. Bush said in answer to his own question. "I mean, this is a town full of people who like to leak information. And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official." Mr. Bush said that he wanted the truth and that he had instructed his staff to cooperate fully. But he suggested that one impediment to the inquiry would be...

Posted by DeLong at 12:38 PM

Why Does the Bush Administration Lie All the Time?

Michael Kinsley explains why the Bush administration lies all the time: TIME.com: Why Bush Angers Liberals -- Oct. 13, 2003: This dynamic works on facts just as it does on policies, making Bush a remarkably successful liar. This too is unexpected. There seemed to be something guileless and nonneurotic about Bush when we first made his acquaintance. It was the flip side of his, um, dimness and seemed to promise frankness if nothing else. But guess what? Ignorance and lack of curiosity are terrific fortifications for dishonesty. Bill Clinton knew that he had had sex with that woman and had to work hard to convince himself that he hadn't. Bush neither knew nor cared whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or close connections to al-Qaeda when he started to say so, and once he started, mere lack of evidence was not going to make him stop. Just this week, responding to the brouhaha about the alleged White House outing of an undercover CIA agent, Bush declared that he takes leaks very seriously and deplores them. Liberals across America screamed into their TV sets, "But that leak was in the papers two months ago, and you did nothing about...

Posted by DeLong at 12:35 PM

George Akerlof's Question

Paul Krugman quotes George Akerlof: The Sweet Spot: "What we have here is a form of looting." So says George Akerlof, a Nobel laureate in economics, of the Bush administration's budget policies -- and he's right. With startling speed, we've blown right through the usual concerns about budget deficits -- about their effects on interest rates and economic growth -- and into a range where the very solvency of the federal government is at stake. Almost every expert not on the administration's payroll now sees budget deficits equal to about a quarter of government spending for the next decade, and getting worse after that. Yet the administration insists that there's no problem, that economic growth will solve everything painlessly. And that puts those who want to stop the looting -- which should include anyone who wants this country to avoid a Latin-American-style fiscal crisis, somewhere down the road... I'm more optimistic than Paul: I think that there are grownups in the Republican Party, and that they will take control over Republican policymaking over the next two years. Of course, Paul points out that I believed that the Bush administration had solid and hard intelligence that Saddam Hussein had serious and...

Posted by DeLong at 09:33 AM

October 16, 2003
How Stupid Do They Think We Are?

The Washington Post--in the very last paragraph of a story--provides another example of the fact that telling the truth is not an option in the Bush White House. The Post and the Times report on September 27 that the CIA has forwarded a criminal referral to the Justice Department, and yet Ashley Snee claims with a straight face that on September 28 "no one in the White House had any idea there was an investigation"? How dumb do they think people are? Senior Federal Prosecutors and F.B.I. Officials Fault Ashcroft Over Leak Inquiry: Mr. Ashcroft and Alberto R. Gonzales, the White House counsel, have also been under fire for their initial handling of the case. The Justice Department allowed the White House to wait overnight on Sept. 28 before sending an electronic message ordering White House employees not to destroy records related to the leak. Ashley Snee, a spokesman for Mr. Gonzales, said he believed the delay was acceptable because no one in the White House had any idea there was an investigation. But The New York Times and The Washington Post had reported the day before that the C.I.A. had forwarded the matter to the Justice Department for possible...

Posted by DeLong at 07:36 AM

Why Not?

If it is really the case that no senior Justice Department official has recommended that Ashcroft recuse himself from the Plame investigation, then Ashcroft is being very badly served by his aides: Ashcroft is simply too close to too many of the principals for a failure of the investigation to be interpreted as anything other than Ashcroft taking a dive. Of course, there is the possibility that Ashcroft and his senior aides think that their role is to make sure that the investigation fails... Senior Federal Prosecutors and F.B.I. Officials Fault Ashcroft Over Leak Inquiry: Several senior criminal prosecutors at the Justice Department and top F.B.I. officials have privately criticized Attorney General John Ashcroft for failing to recuse himself or appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the leak of a C.I.A. operative's identity. The criticism reflects the first sign of dissension in the department and the F.B.I. as the inquiry nears a critical phase. The attorney general must decide whether to convene a grand jury, which could compel White House officials to testify. The criminal justice officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified, represent a cross section of experienced criminal prosecutors and include political supporters of...

Posted by DeLong at 07:31 AM

October 13, 2003
An Email Exchange on the Kay Report

Dear Brad, Did you realize just how weak the Bush spin on the Kay report is? The main support for the Bush administration spin that the US weapons inspectors found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is a vial of live botulinum found in the refrigerator of an Iraqi scientist who put it there following Iraqi government orders. Takes courage, or rather it shows, in Iraq, it was safer to have botulinum in your refrigerator than say no to Saddam. I should have realised how silly this claim was. I know that you have to boil anything you can to avoid botulism. I should have realised that to get live botulinum one basically has to can something without boiling it and wait. The bacterium is quite common. It becomes dangerous when something it can grow on is stored in the absence of oxygen. A vial of botulinum appears to be nothing special. I blush to admit that, in spite of a masters degree in microbiology, I considered live botulinum more serious than botulinus toxin. I note that newspapers are vague on the distinction. I was surprised to read that a vile of toxin was found in the refrigerator in Iraq....

Posted by DeLong at 08:40 AM

October 12, 2003
Let's Take Steel First...

I argued that one case in policy debate in which it is clearly permissible--indeed desirable, if not morally required--to attack someone's motives is when they throw overboard an entire career's worth of intellectual commitments and arguments. When you find people enthusiastically adopting positions that a couple of years ago they would have dismissed as specious lies--and all to keep their White House mess privileges for a few more months... There have been some requests for more documentation of my example of this phenomenon--former Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Lawrence Lindsey. My quote from him: Let's take steel first. I am not telling anything here that wasn't public. There were two legitimate economic points.... One argument is that tariffs are never good. I certainly taught that in my economics class. The other argument [represented by Zoellick and Evans] is a little bit more subtle. The world has excess capacity in steel. In any market where that is the case, price is going to be at marginal cost, and marginal cost is going to be below long-run average total cost.... Either you say, "OK, we'll let our firms exit, and we'll let other countries pick up [the business], and we'll...

Posted by DeLong at 04:28 PM

The Plame Affair: The Leakers' Story

Those high White House officials who revealed Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife's status as a clandestine CIA operative appear to have settled on their defense: washingtonpost.com: Probe Focuses on Month Before Leak to Reporters: Administration sources said they believe that the officials who discussed Plame were not trying to expose her, but were using the information as a tool to try to persuade reporters to ignore Wilson. The officials wanted to convince the reporters that he had benefited from nepotism in being chosen for the mission... In short, "We told Robert Novak and others that she was a clandestine CIA operative, but we had no idea any of them would be stupid and unpatriotic enough to print it. It's Robert Novak's fault. He's the guilty one."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:50 AM

October 10, 2003
Much Becomes Clear

Ah. The odds just reached 90% that the White House knows that Lewis Libby, Eliot Abrams, and Karl Rove are three of the N White House aides who tried to get reporters to print that Ambassador Wilson's wife was an undercover CIA operative. Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: October 05, 2003 - October 11, 2003 Archives: Recently I told you that Scott McClellan's denial on behalf of Abrams, Libby and Rove might be a lot less airtight than a lot of reporters have been assuming. The question is whether one or more of these three men was the source for Bob Novak's column disclosing Valerie Plame's identity as a clandestine employee of the CIA. McClellan's 'denials' have hinged on a lawyerly and off-point claim that they were "not involved in leaking classified information." Listen closely: He's not answering the question. Why not press McClellan to answer the question straight-out? Well, today at the briefing, someone did. And, as you might expect, it wasn't a reporter from one of the big prestige outlets. Here's the exchange ... QUESTION: Scott, earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with...

Posted by DeLong at 03:02 PM

October 09, 2003
Why Can't Our Press Corps Be More Like Josh Micah Marshall?

Josh Micah Marshall looks for examples of Robert Novak using "CIA operative" to mean "CIA analyst" and doesn't find any. He concludes that "Clearly, Novak knows the meaning of the phrase “CIA operative” and he uses it advisedly. In the last decade he’s never used the phrase to mean anything but clandestine agents. Let’s cut the mumbo-jumbo: past evidence suggests that Novak only uses this phrase to refer to clandestine agents. In this case, when he has every reason to run away from that meaning of the phrase, he suddenly runs away from that meaning. Especially with all the other evidence at hand, that just defies credibility. Everything points to the conclusion that Novak did know. That would mean, necessarily, that his sources knew too. The 'we didn’t know' cover story just doesn’t wash. Novak's fellow reporters have never pressed him on this point. Maybe now would be a good time..." Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: October 05, 2003 - October 11, 2003 Archives: Oh, now that’s very interesting. Let’s go back and do a little more Bob Novak exegesis. As we’ve noted before, one of the best pieces of evidence that Novak (and thus his sources) knew...

Posted by DeLong at 07:35 PM

October 08, 2003
"Leaks of Classified Information"

Josh Micah Marshall thinks that the White House's statements that Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Eliot Abrams "were not involved in leaks of classified information" is not a denial that they told reporters that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. I can't figure out how this works, but I agree that somebody in the White House staff who knows something important thinks that the phrase "were not involved in leaks of classified information" is significant. Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: October 05, 2003 - October 11, 2003 Archives: Scott McClellan flummoxed a lot of people when he announced that Scooter Libby and Eliot Abrams were not involved in disclosing Valerie Plame’s name. I say flummoxed because there was a lot of chatter, and good bit of circumstantial evidence pointing in Libby’s direction, and at least some pointing in Abrams’. But once McClellan issued flat denials on their behalf it really made people wonder. But, as you’ll remember, I’ve been making quite a point of late of the administration’s extremely disciplined use of the phrase “leaks of classified information” when referring to anything about Plame. They never mention Plame’s name --- which is perhaps understandable. But they don’t...

Posted by DeLong at 06:15 PM

Daniel Drezner Is an Unhappy Camper

Daniel Drezner writes: danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Level of outrage rising rapidly: ...[W]hat kind of message does Bush send to [the leakers] in saying this to the press? Basically, that you'll never get caught. What does this message say to the FBI investigators? Chill out, we don't expect you to find anything. Developing... and not in a way that I like....

Posted by DeLong at 02:47 PM

Truth Is Simply Not on the List of Options, Part LXI

Why does the Bush administration lie about everything? Why is truth not even an option that is ever considered? I mean, for Condi Rice to say over the weekend that the NSC Iraq Stabilization Group had been "devised... together with Dick Cheney... Colin Powell... and Mr Rumsfeld in August" and for Rumsfeld to say today that he had never heard of it is simply weird, in a pathetic way. FT.com Home US: The Bush administration's shake-up of its policymaking structure for Iraq was over-shadowed on Wednesday by an admission from the White House that Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary in charge of reconstruction, had not been consulted. Backtracking on the assurances he made at the beginning of the week that Mr Rumsfeld had been "very involved in this process", Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday: "Maybe I should not have characterised it that way." Mr Rumsfeld told the Financial Times on Tuesday he had not learnt of the Iraq Stabilization Group, a new co-ordinating body headed by Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, until he received a classified memo from her. Mr Rumsfeld said he had not been briefed beforehand. Speaking at a press conference on the first day...

Posted by DeLong at 02:46 PM

The Last-Minute Transformation of Gray Davis

The highly intelligent and extremely readable Matt Welch writes about the transformation of soon-to-be-ex-governor Gray Davis from a cautious status quo moderate interested mostly in campaign contributions to a left-wing activist: Reason: One of the 113 or so humorous ironies of today's recall is that the fact of the election itself finally turned one of its proponents' most fervent beliefs--that Gray Davis is a lefty Democrat who never met a regulation or spending proposal he didn't like--into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The career centrist pol was never loved by progressives (the old-left L.A. Weekly, in its no-on-recall endorsement, wrote: "Certainly we are no great fans of Gray Davis--last November we began our lesser-of-two-evils endorsement of him this way: 'We abhor so much about Gray Davis'"), but once the recall qualified for the ballot, they knew he had no one left to turn to. "Some administrations are famous for their first hundred days," the Weekly's Harold Meyerson wrote, in what turned out to be a prescient Aug. 8 column on Organized Labor's laundry-list of bills it wanted the lame-duck governor to sign in exchange for support. "Davis--who shies from the business of legislating unless absolutely necessary--may be remembered for his final 60."...

Posted by DeLong at 09:49 AM

October 06, 2003
Snicker: The Real Cover-Up Now Begins

Mark Kleiman bangs his head against the wall. Positively Nixonian. Somewhere, the ghost of John Mitchell is laughing: Mark A. R. Kleiman: David Jackson writes: White House lawyers will review phone logs and other records supplied by presidential aides before turning the documents over to the Justice Department officials conducting the investigation into who leaked a CIA undercover operative's identity, officials said Monday.... Administration officials said the White House counsel's office may need up to two weeks to organize documents that some 2,000 employees are required to submit by 5 p.m. Tuesday. The documents must also be reviewed for national security or executive privilege concerns and to ensure the filings are responsive to Justice Department requests for information, White House aides said.... The president said information would be submitted to the Justice Department "on a timely basis," calling the investigation "a very serious matter, and our administration takes it seriously." "I'd like to know who leaked," Mr. Bush added. "And if anybody has got any information, inside our government or outside our government, who leaked, they ought to take it to the Justice Department so we can find out the leaker." All those statements about how the investigation was in...

Posted by DeLong at 11:06 PM

Oceania Has Always Been at War with Eurasia

Billmon informs the National Review and the Wall Street Journal editorial page that the party line has changed. The National Review line that the Plame Affair is lot of fuss over nothing because "who didn't know?" that Valerie Wilson was a CIA operative is not itself inoperative. The Wall Street Journal line that the "scandal is utterly phony" is now admitted to be phony: Whiskey Bar: Feeling the Heat: Bush Toughens His Support of Investigation Into Leak President Bush said on Monday that the unauthorized disclosure of an undercover C.I.A. officer's identity was a "very serious matter" and "a criminal action" as the White House announced that at least 500 of its 2,000 employees had responded to a Justice Department demand for documents as part of an investigation into the source of the leak. I guess their tracking polls told them the "slime and defend" strategy just wasn't cutting it. Another possibility, I suppose, is that the Rovians expect or fear another bomb is about to drop -- like, maybe, a good solid lead on the names of the White House leakers. So they've got Shrub doing the PR equivalent of duck and cover. Better to try to look half...

Posted by DeLong at 07:52 PM

OOPS!

It appears that L. Paul Bremer really is called "Jerry"... You know, you really would think that George W. Bush would know Paul Bremer's first name by now: ~~~TBOGG~~~ Q Thank you, Mr. President. What is the purpose of the Iraq stabilization group? And is this an acknowledgment that the effort to stabilize Iraq is flagging? Does it diminish the authority of Secretary Rumsfeld? PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes. You know, it's common for the National Security Council to coordinate efforts, interagency efforts. And Condi Rice, the National Security Advisor, is doing just that. And this group formed within the National Security Council is aimed at the coordination of interagency efforts, as well as providing a support group to the Department of Defense and Jerry Bremer. That's the purpose. I'm sure Paul Bremer (also known as Imperial Viceroy Jerry) will be happy to know that help is on its way....

Posted by DeLong at 11:58 AM

From a Parallel Universe...

I was going to write about William Safire this morning, but I never got his column. Instead, the internet burped up a William Safire column from an alternative universe--one in which George W. Bush is a Democrat. So I can't write about William Safire: Who's Shallow Throat?: NYTimes.com > Opinion | By WILLIAM SATIRE Published: October 6, 2003 WASHINGTON — To dig into the whodunit roiling the capital, we need a glossary: leak, plain and simple, is the unauthorized passage of information from a source, an official in the know, to a media plantee. It can be deliberate or inadvertent. leaker who is admired for putting his notion of the public interest ahead of his official obligation or oath is called a whistle-blower; the same individual, viewed from inside, is called a fink, and is pursued vainly by plumbers. authorized leak is information passed on to a selected outlet with high-level approval by a designated persuader called a spinmeister. counterleak (now we're getting sophisticated) is an anonymous source's passing of a charge of someone else's leaking to a reporter, who sees a conspiracy in the exposure of the original, possibly authorized, leak. Now to the spookspeak, or intelligence-agency jargon: A...

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 AM

October 05, 2003
An "Eleven Week Pattern of Malevolence"

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner writes: "Kleiman's version of events [in the Plame Affair] otherwise seems pretty accurate, and the comments below suggest that McClellan was briefed when facing the press on July 22nd. So I'll concede there's a high probability that Bush's senior aides knew about [the Plame Affair] in July. As for Bush himself, Kleiman acknowledges that he's got no evidence either way. Given Tenet's behavior cited above, I'm inclined to think he didn't know." I am still hoping for a way to interpret White House actions between late July and Late September other than as thinking that the blowing of the cover of CIA operatives is no big deal, and hoping that the press will never focus on it. If there is no other interpretation--if we are indeed faced with what Daniel Drezner calls an "eleven week pattern of malevolence [on the part of the White House staff] that only became public in late September"--the question is then: what are we to do? You have to be scared by the fact that the White House's only response for eleven weeks was to send Karl Rove out to condone blowing the cover of a CIA operative--saying either "Joe Wilson's wife...

Posted by DeLong at 08:55 PM

What Did They Know?

What did they know and when did they know it? Mark Kleiman wonders: Mark A. R. Kleiman: WHAT DID THEY KNOW, AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT?Daniel Drezner and Brad DeLong have had an exchange about Brad's assertion that the Bush White House, whatever the culpability of the individuals in it, collectively knew in July that someone had illegally revealed the identity of a covert intelligence officer and that there was evidence that "someone" was high up in the administration, and did nothing to try to identify and punish whoever that was until the Justice Department inquiry forced the matter onto the front page.I have the greatest respect for Dan, both for the quality of his writings generally and for the intellectual honesty with which he has been confronting this affair, involving as it does potentially serious charges of misconduct against an administration with whose policy goals he, unlike Brad or me, is in substantial sympathy. But in this case it seems to me that Brad is clearly right. There are two reasons to believe that. First, it wouldn't have been nearly as invisible to them as it was to the public; things were happening, in the media, on Capitol...

Posted by DeLong at 05:45 PM

October 03, 2003
Slime and Defend

Just great. Just absolutely great. The White House decision to "slime [Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson] and defend [the leakers]" has unanticipated consequences: Leak of Agent's Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm (washingtonpost.com): Leak of Agent's Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm: The leak of a CIA operative's name has also exposed the identity of a CIA front company, potentially expanding the damage caused by the original disclosure, Bush administration officials said yesterday.... The company's identity, Brewster-Jennings & Associates, became public because it appeared in Federal Election Commission records on a form filled out in 1999 by Valerie Plame, the case officer at the center of the controversy, when she contributed $1,000 to Al Gore's presidential primary campaign. After the name of the company was broadcast yesterday, administration officials confirmed that it was a CIA front. They said the obscure and possibly defunct firm was listed as Plame's employer on her W-2 tax forms in 1999 when she was working undercover for the CIA.... The inadvertent disclosure of the name of a business affiliated with the CIA underscores the potential damage to the agency and its operatives caused by the leak of Plame's identity. Intelligence officials have...

Posted by DeLong at 08:55 PM

Things That Make You Go, "Hmmm...."

Well, this is a surprise: ABCNEWS.com : The Note: "One senior Republican aide said that if the uproar did not abate, some Republicans were considering proposing that the White House allow the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, to appoint a prosecutor. :The problem with Mr. Ashcroft is that he is not seen as an independent figure," the aide said......

Posted by DeLong at 08:43 AM

Department of "Huh?"

A strange article on the Plame Affair from Newsweek's Howard Fineman. The first piece of strangeness is Fineman's conclusion that the CIA's reaction to the exposure of its covert agents was largely an excuse for "payback" rather than sufficient cause for outrage on its own: The Plame Game : Are we to believe that it was a routine matter for the CIA to forward to the Department of Justice a complaint about the leak of Victoria Plame's name and job? Are we to think that Tenet didn%u2019t know that the complaint was being forwarded? Or that Tenet couldn't have shortstopped it if he wanted to? Fineman's underlying assumption seems to be that senior White House aides are and ought to be above the law. Which is strange. The second strange thing is this paragraph: For the first time, I see the signs of internal dissension inside the White House staff. There are those who clearly want to finger Rove as the mastermind of the leaks, even though, through spokesmen, he flatly denies that he was involved. But while he is universally admired for his brilliance, he has generated much jealously by essentially gathering all the reins of political power in...

Posted by DeLong at 07:23 AM

October 02, 2003
More Weirdness From Slate

Slate's Jack Shafer gives some good advice: Streaming Media - Making sense of the leaks and counter-leaks in Plamegate. By Jack Shafer: Readers find themselves in the position of an audience watching a play in which the curtain is drawn. We hear the noise of voices and shuffling feet and an occasional scream, but can't follow the story. That's not likely to change overnight, but if this scandal spreads and the dueling leaks continue to stream in from anonymous and thinly veiled sources, don't automatically expect the newspapers and the networks to decode the messages. You'll have to do it yourself. Ask, Who leaked? Why did they leak? Who was hurt and helped by the leak? Which reporters carried water for their sources? And most important, Which sources spoke most candidly and honestly on the record, and where were their voices heard? But he then singularly and extraordinarily fails to follow it. He writes: ...competing White House interests took a hammer to the Wilson-Plame leakers, according to Mike Allen and Dana Priest's Sept. 28 Washington Post story, signaling internal White House strife. An anonymous senior administration official (a non-con?) denounced the leakers, saying the leak was "meant purely and simply...

Posted by DeLong at 08:37 PM

Brie and Wine Speculation No. XVII

Heard at a U.C. Berkeley wine-and-cheese reception: "You really want my view--my completely uninformed, Washington-outsider, wild guess view--about why people "familiar with the thinking of George Tenet" have been calling Washington Post reporters with stories about malfeasance that threaten to deprive the president of the services of those he trusts?" "Yes." "Okay. My uninformed guess is that something happened that convinced George Tenet that he was about to be fired. When people are about to be fired, they stop being courtiers and start being patriots. And in any event Tenet has now backed George W. Bush into a corner in which Bush cannot fire Tenet--in which any attempt to fire Tenet runs a great risk of being taken as confirmation of everything bad that is now being said about the White House staff."...

Posted by DeLong at 07:10 PM

A Mirror of Wildernesses

Jack Balkin muses about the Plame Affair. I agree with him that the "CIA" has declared bureaucratic war on the White House staff. But it's not clear to me that his explanation is sufficient--the "you pushed us, we'll push you back" explanation. At this level, the "CIA" is the Director of Central Intelligence and his deputies, and they are as much the personal courtiers of George W. Bush as they are representatives of the career bureaucracy of the Agency. They would have had every incentive to find an alternative resolution than the one they have chosen: to try to deprive the president of the services of his trusted aides and to mire the White House in scandal is not likely to make George W. Bush happy to see them or eager to listen to them in the future. I would dearly love to know what has been going on between Tenet, Rice, and Card over the past two months. How many times did Tenet tell them that this was really serious, and that they needed to take action before the career staff forced his hand and forced a criminal referral against the White House staff? How many times did Rice,...

Posted by DeLong at 03:06 PM

How the Bush Administration Actively Prosecutes the War on Terror

Mark Kleiman bangs his head against the wall: Mark A. R. Kleiman: WHAT A COINCIDENCE!: One of the Saudi paymasters for Wahhabbist missionary work in the U.S. just happened to sleep in the same hotel as three of the 9-11 hijackers the night before the attack. When the FBI tried to interview him, he faked a seizure to get out of it. An FBI agent's recommendation that he not be allowed to leave the country was mysteriously not acted on, and he flew back to Saudi Arabia September 19. Five months later the Saudi government put him in charge of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque, which means he helps run the kingdom's charities. [*] Strange world, isn't it?...

Posted by DeLong at 07:07 AM

Capitol Hill Republicans Describe the Administration

From the New York Times: White House Looks to Manage Fallout Over C.I.A. Leak Inquiry: "It's slime and defend," said one Republican aide on Capitol Hill, describing the White House's effort to raise questions about Mr. Wilson's motivations and its simultaneous effort to shore up support in the Republican ranks. "So far so good," the aide said. "There's nervousness on the part of the party leadership, but no defections in the sense of calling for an independent counsel." Now Robert Fiske--Starr's predecessor--would have been fine as an independent counsel. Trouble in the 1990s was the result of the fact that the statute placed the appointment of the independent counsel in the hands of a judiciary that was corrupt, and that sought to appoint highly-partisan independent counsels in the interest not of doing justice but of embarrassing their political adversaries. Thus in the 1990s you had highly-politicized, highly-partisan, and corrupt judges like Sentelle replacing people like Robert Fiske with people like the highly-politicized, highly-partisan, and corrupt Kenneth Starr. From the Bush administration's perspective, appointing an independent counsel has many pluses, the most important of which is that if there is no independent counsel and if the investigation is unsuccessful, a lot...

Posted by DeLong at 07:04 AM

October 01, 2003
When You're in a Hole, Stop Digging

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan tries to earn his pay by digging himself in deeper: QUESTION: "Why did the President sit on his hands two-and-a-half-months ago and not ask his staff?" MR. McCLELLAN: "I'm sorry, I answered this question very clearly at the time that it came up, and you need to go back and look at what I said then.... QUESTION: When did he become aware of this?.... MR. McCLELLAN: That there was an allegation that someone leaked classified information? When was that first -- QUESTION: No, no, that an undercover official of the United States government had been outed. When did the President of the United States know that? When was he informed of that? And what was his reaction? Where's the outrage, I think, was the question that was asked. MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the outrage has always been made known. If someone leaks classified information -- are you -- when did -- QUESTION: When did the President know it, and what did he do about it?... MR. McCLELLAN: I'll look back at some of this and try to get some information for you.... In short, McClellan is saying: "George Bush did not act in July, August,...

Posted by DeLong at 03:09 PM

Oddly Unclear on the Concept

The Washington Times has an editorial that is oddly unclear on the concept of timing: Out the outers -- now - The Washington Times: Editorials/OP-ED: The outing of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife as an undercover CIA agent... would be contemptuous... not to say felonious. As former President Bush said... "insidious traitors." We fully agree... what is beyond doubt is that "two senior administration officials" did the deed.... The president has days, not weeks or months, to snap into action. He does not need a Justice Department investigation.... Yesterday, his spokesman reiterated that there's no need for an internal investigation, while the president said, "I want to know the truth"... too passive a stance. He has all the authority he needs to question his staff, seize phone logs, e-mails and vacation schedules. He must do all in his power, immediately, to identify and fire the malefactors -- whomsoever they may be. There is a need for an internal investigation -- now.... [T]his is beyond politics. It is a simple matter of right or wrong. And it is precisely at such moments that the moral and ethical measure of a statesmen is taken... But the White House knows nothing more now about the...

Posted by DeLong at 10:19 AM

Incipient Paranoia?

Billmon takes a train of thought I was following and leads it round the bend over the cliff and into the swamps of paranoia: Whiskey Bar: The Looking Glass War: Brad DeLong raises an important question: Why has the CIA decided to go nuclear on the Wilsongate story? The top echelons of the CIA have, by their leaks over the weekend, left themselves with no place to retreat if the current White House staff survives. Possibly they have concluded that they finally have the lever to evict key members of the White House staff--give our weak and underbriefed Sultan a new set of hopefully more competent and rational viziers. Possibly they have concluded that their chances of changing anything are small, but that in the final analysis they are not bureaucratic hacks but patriotic Americans, and that this current White House bunch has crossed the final line. I cannot tell which: whether this is the opening shot in a campaign to replace the incompetent hardliners and political hacks ... or whether it is the hopeless final Charge of the Intelligence Chiefs. Speculation is probably futile, unless you're one of the 20 or 30 people actually inside the decisionmaking loops out...

Posted by DeLong at 09:53 AM

Andrew Sullivan Needs Help

Andrew Sullivan is confused about what is happening in Washington. So a precis of the Plame affair seems called for to tell him what it is "about": www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: Well, I sat down yesterday afternoon and tried - no, really tried - to understand what this whole Wilson-Plame "scandal" is about... Let me help: The CIA has declared bureaucratic war on the White House staff. On the journalistic leak front, CIA Director George Tenet or those "familiar with his thinking" have told reporters that the two senior White House aides who called at least six Washington jouralists in an attempt to destroy Valerie Plame Wilson's cover as a CIA operative did so "purely and simply for revenge," that the leaks were "wrong" and "mistaken." On the legal front, the CIA has requested that the Justice Department begin an investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame Wilson's status. In late July, the CIA filed a report stating that a crime had been committed. Three weeks ago, the CIA reported to the Justice Department that the crime had in fact damaged national security. The FBI has begun a criminal investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of Valerie Plame Wilson's status as...

Posted by DeLong at 08:31 AM

I Don't Understand the White House Reaction

I read things like: ABCNEWS.com : The Note: According to ABC News' Kate Snow, speaking to an Administration source: The investigation was the subject of discussion at the 7:30 am senior staff meeting this morning. This source says to some who've been through scandals before and know how quickly they can move, this White House seems to be in denial. "What people don't realize is that if there's an investigation it does not matter if you're the leaker. It matters [if] are you willing to say things that politically you'd never say but legally you're forced to say. I don't think people understand what bringing an investigator into the White House can do." Meaning the severity of it? "Correct. People don't understand that what they say now will be held against them later." And: ...given that Capitol Hill Republicans have great faith in John Ashcroft (there's that double entendre again); given the Gang of 500 CW that leak investigations never go anywhere; and given the president's commitment to get to the bottom of this... I am very puzzled. How can the White House not have already thought that an unsuccessful investigation led by John Ashcroft is much worse for George...

Posted by DeLong at 06:37 AM

September 30, 2003
Some Dare Call It Treason III

Atrios reports: Eschaton: Julian Borger Names Karl Rove: "Several of the journalists are saying privately 'yes it was Karl Rove who I talked to.'" But whether or not Rove is one of the two principals, it is the accessories before and after the fact that we should be worried about: Condoleeza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Andrew Card, and all others who were blithely unconcerned about the presence inside the White House of those George H.W. Bush would call "insidious traitors."...

Posted by DeLong at 11:18 AM

The Valerie Plame Affair: Unclear on the Concept

A great many people seem to be unclear on one or more of the key concepts in the scandal revolving around the continued presence in the White House and out of jail of Bush aides who give aid and comfort to our enemies in time of war by blowing the cover of CIA operatives who are actually hunting for weapons of mass destruction. The first person unclear on a concept is the strangely-erratic Jack Shafer, who writes: The Plame Game - Will the leak of a CIA agent's name be the next big political scandal? By Jack Shafer: When yesterday's Washington Post gave Page One, above-the-fold treatment to the Novak-Wilson-Plame triangle, it bestowed official Washington scandal status upon the story, sending the rest of the press corps to the blogosphere and Nexis to catch up with what had been a slow-moving story... No. No. A thousand times no. That's not what happened. Remember: the two White House officials called at least six different reporter. There were at least six people--prominent people--in the elite press corps who have known the whole story since before July 14. The fact that they thought that keeping their Karl Rove brownie points was more important...

Posted by DeLong at 09:54 AM

Unbelievable

The administration that never ceases to amaze amazes yet again: Political Aims: thoughts on politics, religion and media: THE LAST STRAW I've never felt more strongly that this is a time to write to our elected representatives to make my voice heard. I've also never felt less like those letters and phone calls would do any good. How can officials even breathe the word "retention" out of the same mouth that has denied Army Reserve soldiers in Kuwait the same R&R leave program that those in Iraq have been granted? My husband is a Reservist on active duty and stationed in Kuwait. His original orders were for 365 days total, including training and mobilization before they left for the Middle East and demobilization time when the unit returned. We had been told to expect this return by Thanksgiving. Then, like so many others, the unit's orders were extended to comply with the one-year-in-country rule for Reservists and Guardsmen in that theater. Now we hope they come home in the spring. To combat the fatigue and general demoralization among the troops, and to try to stem a potential exodus from the Reserves after this extended deployment is over, the Army announced...

Posted by DeLong at 08:14 AM

Some Dare Call It Treason: Juan Cole

The extremely good Juan Cole calls for the resignation of Karl Rove. Why just Karl Rove? Condi Rice, her deputies, Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and pretty much everybody else in the White House with an ounce of love for their country has had since July 14 to think about whether people who believe it's cool to blow the cover of CIA operatives belong on the White House staff. Why shouldn't they go as well? Juan Cole * Informed Comment *: Rove should Resign: President Bush and the Wilson CaseIt has for some time struck me that despite all the phony talk about "compassionate conservatism," the Bush team has just plain mean tendencies. The giddy pleasure Bush took in executions used to disgust even fellow Republicans, and it briefly emerged as an issue in the presidential debates in fall of 2000. Then in response to home made bombs in Iraq making hamburger of our brave men and women under arms, Bush said "Bring it on!" (He wanted more mayhem wreaked on our troops?) This streak of sadism has come into public view with the issue of Ambassador Joseph Wilson's wife. Wilson, a former Foreign Service Officer who served his country...

Posted by DeLong at 07:00 AM

September 29, 2003
Bush White House Whopper of the Hour

Bush White House whopper--well, whopper of the hour. Does George W. Bush want to "get to the bottom" of the Plame affair? Or does he have no interest in asking his White House staff which two of them decided it would be a good idea to blow the cover of a CIA operative? Monday: ...aides said Bush has no plans to ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson... Tuesday: A senior official quoted Bush as saying, "I want to get to the bottom of this," during a meeting yesterday morning with a few top aides, including Rove... I bet that the second passage is the lie: Bush hasn't wanted "to get to the bottom of this" between July 14 and September 28. Why should he want "to get to the bottom of this" today? (Of course, he may well want to be quoted as appearing to want "to get to the bottom of this.")...

Posted by DeLong at 10:14 PM

Unbelievable

The administration that never ceases to amaze amazes yet again: Full Metal Jacket : Suzanne Werfelman is a mother and a teacher who has been shopping for individual body armor. This is not in response to threats from her elementary-class students in Sciota, Pa.; it's a desperate attempt to protect her son in Iraq. Like many other U.S. service members in Iraq, her son was given a Vietnam-era flak jacket that cannot stop the type of weapons used today. It appears that parents across the country are now purchasers of body armor because of the failure of the military to supply soldiers with modern vests. Werfelman's son, Army Spc. Richard Murphy, is a military policeman in Iraq. He was also one of my law students last year before being sent off for a 20-month stint. Upon their arrival, members of Murphy's unit were shocked to learn that they would be given the old Vietnam-era vests rather than the modern Interceptor vest. (They were also given unarmored Humvees, which are vulnerable to even small-arms fire.) Military officials admit that the standard flak jacket could not reliably stop a bullet, including AK-47 ammunition, used in Iraq and the most common ammunition in...

Posted by DeLong at 09:17 PM

Reasons Not to Be a Republican

Jacob Levy takes a look at the Plame Affair, and finds: The Volokh Conspiracy: Indeed, no one seems to be engaged in any denial [that a serious crime has been committed by multiple high administration officials] or defense [of the Bush White House] here other than saying "We don't know and we don't want to know so we're not going to try to find out so that we can continue to say with a straight face that we don't know." This is ugly... He goes on to say that were he a Republican, this is the fourth sufficient reason George W. Bush has given him to quit the party: Unlike Dan, I'm not a Republican to start with, so I'm not going to stop being one in disgust. (If I had been, I probably would have quit over the steel tariffs and/or the farm bill and/or the US-EU deal prior to Cancun.) But this is really, really not good... Come on, Jacob: why only four? Why not the lies about stem cells that may turn out to crimp U.S. biomedical research? Why not the smearing of John McCain in South Carolina? Why not the playing footsie with people who don't...

Posted by DeLong at 08:34 PM

The Plame Affair: What's Going On?

Let's take a step back and let me give my guess as to what is going on, using Mike Allen and Dana Priest's Sunday Washington Post article as our basic source: At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday. The "government sources" may well be congressional sources that the CIA told last week about its request to the Justice Department. They may also be George Tenet or people carrying spears for George Tenet. They are unlikely to be Justice Department sources--cui bono? after all. They may be White House sources who have decided that it is time to try to purge the bad guys of their influence. Some of the passages further on in the story raise that possibility. The fact that Tenet has moved on this--has requested the Justice Department to investigate--means that he or that large factions within his agency are truly angry and very upset at what the White House has done. Even so, it is never good for Directors or Deputy Directors or Assistant Directors of Central Intelligence to be perceived...

Posted by DeLong at 05:41 PM

James K. Galbraith

James K. Galbraith ponders the possibility that the Bush White House actually likes a slow-growth, high-unemployment economy. The key paragraphs: Why not? It may be that economic stagnation is to their taste. They don't want a new recession, obviously, and they look set to avoid that. But do they really want full employment and strong labor unions and rising wages? Probably not. The oil, mining, defense, media, and pharmaceutical firms who form the core of their constituency rely on monopoly power, patents, and the control of public resources for their profits. They do not depend, very much, on strong consumer demand. As for the election, there are no Bush Democrats. The Nixon Democrats in the South long ago turned Republican, while the Reagan Democrats up North seem to have largely returned to the fold. (Michigan, for instance, went comfortably for Gore.) In a weaker economy, too, it may be that turnout will decline, helping Bush. The calculation is therefore plain: A strong economy won't help that much, and a weak economy won't hurt that much, either. And if it does, the effect can be drowned in a sea of grateful campaign money--or perhaps by some new national security crisis....

Posted by DeLong at 05:31 PM

Scott McClellan Says George W. Bush Knows Who the Felons Are

The sharp-eyed Billmon notes a piece of a Washington Post story in which Press Secretary Scott McClellan says that George W. Bush knows which of his aides go around leaking the identity of American intelligence agents: Whiskey Bar: The Butler Did It: White House: President Knows Rove Not Involved in Revealing Identity : "[Karl Rove] wasn't involved," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said of Rove. "The president knows he wasn't involved. ... It's simply not true." Of course, the only way Shrub could know that Rove was not involved is if he already knows who wasinvolved -- which would make him (at a minimum) an accessory after the fact. The unasked followup question: "How long has George W. Bush known that Karl Rove was not involved--and thus also known who was involved? Days? Weeks? Months?"...

Posted by DeLong at 09:37 AM

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? Part CCCCLXX

Ogged wonders why Howard Kurtz doesn't read his own newspaper--or doesn't simply walk down the hall and ask a couple of questions: Unfogged: What am I missing? Bizarre paragraphs from Howard Kurtz on the Plame affair. If recent history is any guide, federal investigators are unlikely to discover who the leakers are. In 1999, a federal appeals court ruled that independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and his staff did not have to face contempt proceedings for allegedly leaking damaging information about President Bill Clinton because no grand jury secrets were disclosed. The next year, a former Starr spokesman, Charles G. Bakaly III, was acquitted of making false statements about his role in providing information to the New York Times. In 1992, Senate investigators said they could not determine who leaked confidential information to National Public Radio and Newsday about Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation. In 1989, then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh launched an unsuccessful $224,000 investigation of a leak to CBS of an inquiry into then-Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.). Howard, from the story in your own paper (my emphasis): The official would not name the leakers for the record and would...

Posted by DeLong at 08:20 AM

September 28, 2003
Some Dare Call It Treason II

Paul Krugman stalker Donald Luskin writes that any Bush administration officials who took part in "expos[ing] the identity of a covert operative" are guilty "of a conspiracy to commit treason." I'm going to have to raise my opinion of Luskin. For once in his life, he actually gets it....

Posted by DeLong at 03:05 PM

Impeachment Time

Daniel Drezner writes about the Plame affair: danieldrezner.com :: Daniel W. Drezner: Let me make this as plain as possible -- I was an unpaid advisor for the Bush-Cheney 2000 campaign, and I know and respect some high-ranking people in the administration. And none of that changes the following: if George W. Bush knew about or condoned this kind of White House activity, I wouldn't just vote against him in 2004 -- I'd want to see him impeached. Straight away. The highly intelligent and usually very thoughtful Daniel Drezner has not thought this through. Whether or not he knew about it beforehand, for two and a half months--ever since two senior White House officials called six reporters and got Robert Novak to take the bait in his July 14 column--George W. Bush has "condoned this type of White House activity." No heads have rolled. No sanctions have been applied. The White House's posture has one of hunkering down: that this is no big deal, that this will pass, that nothing internal has to change, and that this is a tempest in a teapot. Whether or not George W. Bush knew beforehand, his reactions since July 14 put him well over...

Posted by DeLong at 02:10 PM

Well, Some Dare Call It Treason

From Eschaton. George H.W. Bush tells us his opinion of the "Senior White House officials" who work for George W. Bush: Eschaton: "Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." George H.W. Bush, at the dedication of the George Bush Center for Intelligence. (thanks to POS) This is not a single rogue White House official, after all--this is two of his closest advisors, plus whoever they planned it with, plus all the other White House and other administration officials who have been sitting on evidence of a crime rather than phoning the Justice Department for the past several months. Perpetrators. Accessories before the fact. Accessories after the fact. Misprision. Kevin Drum doesn't go quite as far as George H. W. Bush. Drum calls it perilously close to treason....

Posted by DeLong at 07:48 AM

September 27, 2003
Where Are the Grownups in the Republican Party?

At last night's very pleasant event, where a substantial chunk of Berkeley economics faculty (plus one sociologist) took Robin Wells and Paul Krugman out to dinner, one of the main topics of conversation was: "Where are the grownups in the Republican Party?" And where are they? Where are the grownups? Where are even the semi-grownups? On the economic policy side, Marty Feldstein and Mike Boskin and company did not campaign for Bush thinking they were electing a guy who would blow open the federal budget and send our domestic politics on a trajectory that--unless reversed--will indeed land us in the neighborhood of Argentina. "It's amazing what they've done," says one senior Federal Reserve official. "It's like being up 8 runs at the start of the ninth inning, and then down 12 halfway through the ninth." Larry Lindsey and John Taylor did not join the federal government to impose tariffs on steel imports and blow up the Doha Round of the WTO. Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard did not join the administration to stammer that there was a plan to reduce the budget deficit by half (even though nobody can say what it is without evoking laughter). Yet they are all...

Posted by DeLong at 10:57 PM

The Plame Affair

Kevin Drum reads the Washington Post on the Plame Affair: CalPundit: Cue the Frogmarch Orchestra: CUE THE FROGMARCH ORCHESTRA....Holy shit. Here's the Washington Post today on the Valerie Plame scandal:A senior administration official said two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and revealed the identity and occupation of Wilson's wife. That was shortly after Wilson revealed in July that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson's account eventually touched off a controversy over Bush's use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq. "Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge," the senior official said of the alleged leak.Let's recap: This involves two top White House officials. They systematically called six different journalists. Only Robert Novak went with the story. (Which, by the way, actually speaks pretty well of the rest of the Washington press corps.) There are a whole bunch of people, including Mike Allen and Dana Priest, who know who the White House officials are. So much for my thought that the Justice Department would mount a desultory investigation and...

Posted by DeLong at 09:57 PM

Mark Kleiman Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Mark Kleiman thinks about war profiteering by George W. Bush's buddies: Mark A. R. Kleiman: Iraq may be costing you and me a bundle, but for the President's buddies it's a bonanza: they're setting up companies to peddle access. Josh Marshall has the details about Haley Barbour here, about Joe Albaugh here, and about Doug Feith's law partner and Ahmed Chalabi's nephew (honestly, could I make this up?) here. Where are the grownups in the Republican Party? Are there any grownups in the Republican Party?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:38 AM

September 24, 2003
Talking Down the Dollar

A correspondent asks why I am so annoyed with Treasury Secretary John Snow's attempts to talk down the dollar: ...a weaker dollar [is] a good idea... you soft-pedal the fact that we need a big real exchange rate adjustment eventually, so why not get started now? The answer is that there are good ways and bad ways to talk down the dollar, and Snow chose a bad way. A good way convinces foreign investors that future monetary policy is likely to be accomodative and interest rates low as a way of inducing them to try to sell their dollar-denominated portfolio assets for less. This way promises to boost exports eventually (because the value of the dollar falls) and to boost investment (because it adds further credibility to the Federal Reserve's promises to keep interest rates low for quite a while). It so boosts aggregate demand, reducing unemployment. And it reduces the magnitude of the dollar's overvaluation, thus diminishing the chance that we will have to face a severe dollar-driven financial crisis a few years down the road. A bad way to talk down the dollar convinces foreign investors that their investments in dollar-denominated securities are riskier than they thought they...

Posted by DeLong at 08:07 AM

Is There Anything the Bush Administration Doesn't Lie About?

Bush Administration lies weird out even Al Franken. I mean, Franken isn't even trying to be funny: he's just weirded out: Body and Soul: Story of the day: There'd been this article about Bush & God in Newsweek. It describes this Bible group that Don Evans [Bush's Commerce Secretary and longtime friend] got Bush into when he stopped drinking. [Newsweek writer Howard] Fineman describes it as scriptural boot camp. Ten guys and each week they'd study a chapter of a book over two years and analyze them line by line. Over two years, they read Luke and Acts.... [A]t the White House Correspondents dinner... seated at the table next to Don Evans.... And I said, "So you know what Acts is about?".... And I saw sort of this blank thing go over his eyes and then sort of a quick look of panic and he said, "No." And I was absolutely shocked.... [H]e said, "CBut, ah! Acts contains the Parable of the Talents"... the parable of talents was from Matthew.... But I realized that these guys didn't read these books line by line for two years and discuss them for two years -- they couldn't have! I know these guys...

Posted by DeLong at 07:16 AM

September 22, 2003
Bush's Texas Education Scam II

Ah. Here it is. Sydney Schanberg largely channelling Michael Winerip: The Village Voice: Features: Bush's New Federal Math Leaves Kids Far Behind by Sydney H. Schanberg: ...We should try to remember that the president's catchiest slogan both during his campaign and since is "No Child Left Behind."... He said it was his brightest accomplishment as governor of Texas. He said the Houston schools were the model.... Over the past year or so, getting headlines in Texas but only modest coverage elsewhere, the "Texas Miracle".. was a scam, a hoax. The governor had put the fear of Bush into the school bureaucracy. You will perform, the principals and superintendents were told. You will dramatically bring down the dropout rate and dramatically raise the reading and math scores. Bonuses were promised to those who succeeded, demotions and pay-docking to those who didn't. Suddenly, as if in the Land of Oz, kids in low-income districts who had been dropping out of high school at rates of 30 and 40 percent and higher were apparently born again, burying their faces in their books into the wee hours. And then the truth came out. They were still dropping out at the same old percentages; they...

Posted by DeLong at 09:46 AM

Bush's Texas Education Scam

Mark Kleiman has a pointer to another piece on Bush's Texas education scam: Mark A. R. Kleiman: NO NUMBER LEFT UNFUDGED: Sydney Schanberg at the Village Voice has the details on the Texas Education Miracle scam. Thanks to History News Network for the pointer......

Posted by DeLong at 09:24 AM

September 19, 2003
Steven Pearlstein Is an Unhappy Camper

The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein is disgusted because the Bush Administration's "program to rescue the American manufacturing sector": washingtonpost.com: A Feeble Plan To Save U.S. Manufacturing: After a dozen town meetings, a road trip by three Cabinet officers, months of study and countless meetings of assistant secretaries, the Bush administration has finally brought forth its program to rescue the American manufacturing sector. And it's a bad joke, a melange of tired ideas, empty promises and ideological slogans, and an embarrassment for the White House economic team. The policy was unveiled in a much-anticipated speech to the Detroit Economic Club by Commerce Secretary Don Evans. Instead of offering his knowledgeable audience a cogent, thoughtful analysis of the problems facing manufacturers, Evans trotted out old Rotary Club canards about high taxes, oppressive regulation and frivolous lawsuits. While correctly identifying runaway health insurance costs as a problem, he failed to come up with even one serious remedy. And although Evans grabbed headlines with tough talk about China, the only action to back it up -- hold on to your hat now -- was a new Unfair Trade Practices Team at Commerce to "track, detect and confront unfair competition," as if there weren't already...

Posted by DeLong at 07:08 AM

September 17, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Liars?

Reason's Jeff Taylor sounds grimly amused: he watches Rumsfeld cut Cheney and Rice adrift as Rumsfeld says that he has not seen any intelligence "that would lead me to believe that I could say" that Saddam Hussein was linked to 911. Hit & Run: Coup du Jour: The Bush team's spin patrol must be getting dizzy. First we had Vice President Dick Cheney giving us a rather interesting tale of close al Qaeda work with Iraq dating back a decade and pronouncing Iraq "the geographic base of terrorism. " Then Condi Rice slightly amended that to the Middle Eat being "a region from which the 9-11 threat emerged," a horseshoe pit still big enough to justify the invasion of Iraq. But then Rummy got into the act to express bafflement that two-thirds of the American people think Saddam had something to do with 9/11. Gee, Don could it be cuz we blew the Hell out of his country and zippered his creepy-ass sons, displaying the carcasses like we'd bagged Agog and Magog? That sort of thing makes an impression on your average American. If this is confusing, don't worry. It'll all change by tomorrow....

Posted by DeLong at 07:48 AM

September 16, 2003
Racial Discrimination in America

In Boston today: Boston's Racial Barriers Slow to Fall (washingtonpost.com): Just last month, a white landlord in Belmont, a predominantly white Boston suburb, agreed to pay an aerospace engineer $50,000 for rejecting his rental application after finding out that he was black. Stephen Ruffin had come to Boston with his wife and two children from an Atlanta suburb in 2000 to work as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The landlord allegedly told a real estate agent that the neighbors would be unhappy if she rented to a black family... In the White House today: Ron Suskind on Karl Rove and the 2000 South Carolina primary: ...As for the Waterloo of South Carolina, most of the facts are well-known, and among this group of Republicans, what happened has taken on the air of an unsolved crime, a cold case, with Karl Rove being the prime suspect. Bush loyalists, maybe working for the campaign, maybe just representing its interests, claimed in parking-lot handouts and telephone "push polls" and whisper campaigns that McCain’s wife, Cindy, was a drug addict, that McCain might be mentally unstable from his captivity in Vietnam, and that the senator had fathered a black child...

Posted by DeLong at 05:26 PM

September 15, 2003
Kevin Drum Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Kevin Drum notices yet another big Bush Administration lie: CalPundit: Yet More Lies: David Corn today:September is back-to-school time, and Bush hit the road to promote his education policies. During a speech at a Nashville elementary school, he hailed his education record by noting that "the budget for next year boosts funding for elementary and secondary education to $53.1 billion. That's a 26-percent increase since I took office. In other words, we understand that resources need to flow to help solve the problems." A few things were untrue in these remarks. Bush's proposed elementary and secondary education budget for next year is $34.9 billion, not $53.1 billion, according to his own Department of Education. It's his total proposed education budget that is $53.1 billion. More importantly, there is no next-year "boost" in this budget. Elementary and secondary education received $35.8 billion in 2003. Bush's 2004 budget cuts that back nearly a billion dollars, and the overall education spending in his budget is the same as the 2003 level.Keep in mind that this was a prepared speech, not some off the cuff remarks, so this was a deliberate lie, not a casual mistake. At long last, the anti-Bush forces seem to...

Posted by DeLong at 02:58 PM

September 14, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Liars?

Josh Micah Marshall bangs his head against the wall. He concludes that the Bush Administration--this time, Dick Cheney--constantly tells transparent lies because they have no idea that they might do otherwise. I would add a second reason: the press corps defers to them. Russert knows damn well there is no reason to believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan 9/11, but all he'll do is ask Cheney, "Is there a connection?": Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: Apparently the Vice-President of the United States can't help lying to and deceiving the people he was elected to serve. A harsh charge? Very. But I don't see how the truth of the accusation can be denied after this exchange this morning with Tim Russert on Meet the Press ... MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that? VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection. MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection? VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember...

Posted by DeLong at 08:03 PM

Jeebus!

World trade will continue to expand--but the rules under which it is conducted will not improve. Given that there are lots of clear win-win deals here being left on the table, this is very disappointing. But when have I not been disappointed by anything the George W. Bush administration has engaged in? World Trade Talks End in Failure, Delegates Say: Trade talks dissolved today when a group of developing nations walked out of the final session saying wealthy nations had failed to offer sufficient compromises on agriculture and other issues. It marked a temporary halt to the World Trade Organization's trading round dedicated to helping developing nations. Several countries were disappointed that the world economy would not get a lift from the prospect of further opening of global markets. Richard L. Bernal, a delegate from Jamaica, said that a group of African, Caribbean, Asian and Latin countries felt they had little choice. The United States and Europe, he said, were not generous enough on reducing their agriculture subsidies, on helping poor African countries dependent on cotton, or understanding their difficulties in taking on such new trade responsibilities as investment. "There is nothing for us small countries in this proposal," he...

Posted by DeLong at 03:36 PM

Why Are We Ruled by These Liars?

Right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson is bemused by the... qualitative difference between the Bush Administration and other political liars: "insane" is the description he chooses: Daily Kos: Tucker Carlson: It was very, very hostile. The reaction was: You betrayed us. Well, I was never there as a partisan to begin with. Then I heard that [on the campaign bus, Bush communications director] Karen Hughes accused me of lying. And so I called Karen and asked her why she was saying this, and she had this almost Orwellian rap that she laid on me about how things she'd heard -- that I watched her hear -- she in fact had never heard, and she'd never heard Bush use profanity ever. It was insane. I've obviously been lied to a lot by campaign operatives, but the striking thing about the way she lied was she knew I knew she was lying, and she did it anyway. There is no word in English that captures that. It almost crosses over from bravado into mental illness......

Posted by DeLong at 08:15 AM

September 13, 2003
George W. Bush: Bred Leader

Arthur Silber regards David Brooks's New York Times op-ed column as a looming disaster of trivial proportions: COMMENTS: I find it rather amusing that a lot of conservatives were thrilled -- thrilled, darling! -- when David Brooks was selected to write a regular column for the NY Times. His first column said, in essence: Behind the Bush administration's deceptive façade of ideological rigidity and obtuse indifference to facts operates an astute and highly flexible chief executive who will stop at nothing to achieve his own aims. That's the very accurate summary found here. Now we have Brooks' second column, which begins with this: If you were to pick a presidential candidate on the basis of social standing — and really, darling, who doesn't — you'd have to pick Howard Brush Dean III over George Walker Bush. The Bush lineage is fine. I'm not criticizing. But the Deans have been here practically since Mayflower days and in the Social Register for generations. And the column concludes with this: The Protestant Establishment is dead, and nobody wants it back. But that culture, which George Bush and Howard Dean were born into, did have a formula for producing leaders. Our culture, which is...

Posted by DeLong at 12:08 PM

September 11, 2003
What's an Economic Policy?

John Irons finds Paul Krugman talking to Buzzflash, and among other things denying that the Bush Administration has an economic policy--or a foreign policy, or a national-security policy: ArgMax Economics Weblog: Buzzflash interviews Krugman: Paul Krugman talks about economic policy, and what it's like writing for the NY Times. Paul Krugman, New York Times Columnist and Author of "The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century" - A BuzzFlash Interview KRUGMAN: There is no economic policy. That's really important to say. The general modus operandi of the Bushies is that they don't make policies to deal with problems. They use problems to justify things they wanted to do anyway. So there is no policy to deal with the lack of jobs. There really isn't even a policy to deal with terrorism. It's all about how can we spin what's happening out there to do what we want to do. Now if you ask what do the people who keep pushing for one tax cut after another want to accomplish, the answer is they are basically aiming to create a fiscal crisis which will provide the environment in which they can basically eliminate the welfare state.......

Posted by DeLong at 08:26 PM

September 10, 2003
Al Kamen Pretends to Laugh

The Washington Post's Al Kamen pretends to laugh, but is really banging his head against the wall: Feith-Based Initiative (washingtonpost.com): ...We've come across a most timely announcement from the highly regarded international corporate and commercial law firm of Zell, Goldberg & Co. The firm "has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq," its Web site announced.... Interested parties can reach the law firm through its Web site, at www.fandz.com. Fandz.com?... that was the Web site of the Washington law firm of Feith & Zell, P.C., as in Douglas J. Feith... undersecretary of defense for policy and head of -- what else? -- reconstruction matters in Iraq. It would be impossible indeed to overestimate how perfect ZGC would be in "assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects." That $87 billion request for Iraq is making former Bush White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey look brilliant. Lindsey... estimated last September in the Wall Street Journal that the effort in Iraq could cost between $100 billion and $200 billion.... Lindsey was dispatched to the doghouse for the next three months after that...

Posted by DeLong at 02:37 PM

September 09, 2003
David Brooks Is Not Impressive

David Brooks's column in the New York Times is not impressive: Whatever It Takes: The Bush administration has the most infuriating way of changing its mind. The leading Bushies almost never admit serious mistakes. They never acknowledge that they are listening to their critics. They never even admit they are shifting course. They don these facial expressions suggesting calm omniscience while down below their legs are doing the fox trot in six different directions.... Fortunately, while in public members of the administration emphasize their own incredible foresight, in private they are able to face unpleasant facts and pivot in response. Sometime around the middle of August, while the president was on the ranch, members of the Bush team must have done a candid and scathing review of how things were going in Iraq.... The essential news is that Bush will do whatever it takes to prevail, and senior members of his administration are capable of looking honestly at their mistakes. You will just never be able to get any of them to admit publicly they've ever made any.   Brooks pretends that this is good news: that even though they lie about what their policies always were and pretend to a...

Posted by DeLong at 08:02 AM

September 08, 2003
Only For a Moment, Alan?

Alan Murray writes, "For a moment last week, President Bush reminded me of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi information minister who became a favorite of late-night comics for his brazen denial of reality." Only for a moment, Alan? How about: "Every single effing day since he started running for President"? Whether its the consistency of his tax-cut plans with a budget surplus larger than the Social Security surplus, the number of stem cell lines, the cost of the war in Iraq, the ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the airborne toxic load from the terror attack on the World Trade Center, the likely effects of economic policies. We all know that George W. Bush and his administration lied about the long-term consequences of his tax-cut plans on the budget, lied about the number of lines of stem cells his policies would let exist, lied about the cost of the war in Iraq (and fired Larry Lindsey in large part because he'd let something like the truth slip out), lied about the (nearly nonexistent) ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, lied about the airborne toxic load from the terror attack on the World Trade Center, lied about the likely...

Posted by DeLong at 08:51 PM

September 06, 2003
Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing

Max Sawicky sends us to the Washington Post's Al Kamen, who reports that the White House lied when it claimed that George W. Bush was going to create a new "job czar" position: Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services. It turns out he is going to rename the position of Assistant Secretary for Trade Development. Not So 'New' After All (washingtonpost.com): President Bush announced Monday that he is creating a new position of manufacturing czar, otherwise known as the assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services, to focus on boosting the faltering manufacturing sector. Turns out this is not really so new, congressional and Commerce Department folks say. The existing post of assistant commerce secretary for trade development will get the new name, along with some new functions.... "I guess we can't say the new manufacturing initiative has created at least one new job after all," a Senate Republican aide quipped to our colleague Jonathan Weisman. And the change apparently was not Bush's idea. It was mandated in the House version of the 2004 Commerce, Justice and State appropriations bill.......

Posted by DeLong at 01:37 AM

September 05, 2003
The President's Plan Is About Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

The Economic Policy Institute's Larry Michel reminds us that the Bush Administration sold its 2003 tax cut as a jobs program, and that "a White House press release dated April 24, 2003 was very specific about the additional jobs the president expects his tax cuts to create... 1.4 million new jobs by the end of next year [plus] the 4.1 million jobs" by the end of 2004 projected by the administration's pre-tax cut forecasts--that's total employment growth of 5.5 million by the end of 2004: net employment growth averaging 344,000 a month. As one Deputy Assistant Secretary said in my hearing, "The President's tax cut plan is about jobs, jobs, jobs!" Of course, it wasn't about jobs. As a short-run employment- and demand-generating program, an objective grade would be a D if not an F. It was about cutting the taxes of the rich, improving incentives to save and rationalizing the taxation of capital income, and boosting the values of people's 401ks. Max Sawicky is keeping track. Since April, nonfarm payrolls have fallen from 130,062 thousands to 129,761 thousand--a loss of 301,000 over a time period when the Bush Administration had hoped to gain 1,376,000 thousand. That leaves employment 1,677,000...

Posted by DeLong at 10:46 AM

Needed: A Posse, Not a Cowboy

Paul Krugman notices that even the Bush Administration now believes that it needs to lead a posse rather than act like a lone cowboy--that the active cooperation and assistance of other countries is very useful for the United States and the world: The China Syndrome: A funny thing happened this week: the Bush administration, with its aggressive unilateralism, and its contempt for diplomacy and international institutions, suddenly staked its fortunes on the kindness of foreigners. All the world knows about the Iraq about-face... a war [Bush] felt like fighting even though it had nothing to do with terrorism, President Bush is now begging the cheese-eaters and chocolate-makers to rescue him.... he's doing the same thing on the economic front. Having squandered his room for economic maneuver on tax cuts that pleased his party base but had nothing to do with job creation, Mr. Bush is now asking China to help him out [by reducing their exports to the U.S.]. Not, of course, that Mr. Bush admits to having made any mistakes. Indeed, Mr. Bush seems to have a serious case of "l'état, c'est moi": he impugns the patriotism of anyone who questions his decisions. If you ask why he diverted...

Posted by DeLong at 10:16 AM

The Doha Round

Glenn Reynolds asks: Instapundit.com: WHY DOES THE EUROPEAN UNION hate the world's poor so much? The European commission yesterday launched a ferocious attack on poor countries and development campaigners when it dismissed calls for big cuts in Europe's farm protection regime as extreme demands couched in "cheap propaganda". In a move that threatens to shatter the fragile peace ahead of next week's trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, Franz Fischler, the EU agriculture commissioner, said Brussels would strongly defend its farmers... For the same reason that the Bush Administration hates the world's poor so much, Glenn. Neither the Bush Administration nor the European Union has any conception of what good international trade policy--good international trade policy either for their home countries or for the world at large--is. The Manchester Guardian article Glenn Reynolds cites makes it clear that the position Franz Fischler is defending is a joint U.S.-E.U. position, a position that proposes "...far smaller cuts in [developing country] protectionism than developing countries want." One of the things I have heard recently is that there has been a big shift in the United States Trade Representative's office in this administration. Back in the Clinton administration the USTR was more often than...

Posted by DeLong at 10:00 AM

September 04, 2003
President Bush Explains Why His Tax Cuts Aren't Doing Any Good

President Bush explains why his tax cuts aren't doing any good: the way the tax laws are written, they are set to expire and so have little effect on long-term planning and incentives: President Bush Outlines Six Point Plan for the Economy: Finally, people are more likely to find work if businesses and their workers can be certain that the lower tax rates of the last years will stay in place. Today you don't have that confidence they'll stay in place, and there's a good reason -- because under the laws that were passed, tax relief is set to expire. The death tax -- which is being phased out and will disappear in 2010, but comes back to life, because of a quirk in Senate rules -- will be revived in 2011. That doesn't make any sense to say to the small business owner or the farmer or the rancher, we're going to phase out the death tax -- which is a bad tax to begin with -- and then let it pop back to life. But that's reality. Shouldn't he have thought about this before he pushed his fellow Republicans in the Congress to enact larger temporary tax cuts...

Posted by DeLong at 07:11 PM

September 03, 2003
Andrew Sullivan Says George W. Bush Is Not a Liar

Andrew Sullivan says that George W. Bush is not a liar. Sullivan says that Bush mis-states, deliberately confuses, resorts to euphemism, takes refuge in his ignorance, and is dishonest--but he is not a liar. www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: ...the trope that has really caught on among elites is the notion that Bush is a liar. The New Republic and Paul Krugman trumpeted this charge early on, and now the Washington Monthly has chimed in, with one of the most fatuous and rigged pieces of lazy insta-journalism I've read in a while. (Bob Somerby gets it right, for once.) It's not just that I find the Monthly's (and Krugman's) charges silly. They conflate mis-statements, deliberate confusion, euphemism, ignorance and dishonesty in ways that make it hard for anyone to emerge a non-liar. It's more that when you start using the term "liar" promiscuously in public discourse, you make such discourse increasingly impossible. The term should be reserevd only for a conscious and deliberate statement that you know is untrue as you sepak or write it......

Posted by DeLong at 01:13 PM

September 02, 2003
David Sanger Is Unhappy with George W. Bush

David Sanger is unhappy with George W. Bush: Bush Defends Tax Cuts and Announces Jobs Post: Since the last time President Bush addressed a Labor Day picnic — with carpenters in Pennsylvania — the economy has lost 700,000 jobs, most of them in manufacturing.... "Things are getting better," Mr. Bush told a subdued crowd here. Orders for goods are coming back to the country's factories, the president said, and productivity is on the rise -- though he acknowledged that was one reason jobs were disappearing. "The economy is beginning to grow," he said, "and that's what I'm interested in. I believe there are better days ahead." Skipping past all his talk during the last campaign and since then about reducing government regulation, he promised reliability rules for electric power companies and continued crackdowns on corporate executives who cheat the system.... Mr. Bush's only new announcement today, the traditional start of campaign season in election years, was the creation of an assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing, a step clearly intended to reinforce his commitment to bringing back blue-collar jobs. Yet the creation of the position is the kind of action that Republicans, when they were out of office, used to...

Posted by DeLong at 09:04 PM

Matthew Yglesias Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Matthew Yglesias bangs his head against the wall. But why is any of this a surprise? Why would anyone have ever thought that George W. Bush cared about the effectiveness of any policy other than tax cuts for the well-off? Matthew Yglesias: Policy, Anyone?: If you're looking for evidence that the administration doesn't really give a damn about domestic policy, check out the New York Times's coverage of the White House position on the prescription drug debate. Near as I can tell from the article, the White House doesn't have a position except to say that congress should pass a bill. They don't care if the congress passes the Senate bill or the House bill or some combination or what the combination contains. They just know that the voters want to see a bill, so they've decided that it's a bill the voters shall get. Serious politicians actually care about the content of the bills they're considering signing....

Posted by DeLong at 08:35 PM

September 01, 2003
Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps?

The New York Times's Steven Greenhouse gives Labor Secretary Elaine Chao the floor: Looks Like a Recovery, Feels Like a Recession: Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao predicted that job creation would soon improve, and along with it, worker optimism. "We're on the road to recovery, but obviously the president and this administration are deeply committed to accelerating the recovery so that everyone who wants to work can find a job," Ms. Chao said Friday in an interview... Ms. Chao said the president's tax cuts had stopped the slump from growing worse and would soon fuel growth and job creation. As evidence of growth, she pointed to the report Friday that the economy expanded by 3.1 percent in the second quarter... Doesn't Greenhouse remember that last fall--when the latest Bush tax cut was being devised--its two main goals were (i) to reduce taxes on the rich and (ii) to boost the value of 401ks? That crafting a tax cut that would be effective at boosting employment was a distant number three (if that) in the Administration's list of goals? And that when the Administration began to worry about the pace of job loss over the winter, the response was not to...

Posted by DeLong at 09:31 PM

August 27, 2003
The IMF Is Unhappy

John F. Irons notes that the advance word is that the IMF is extremely unhappy with the feckless Bush Administration's macroeconomic policies: Blog - ArgMax.com: IMF doesn't like the US budget situation. IMF chides U.S. over budget - Aug. 27, 2003 IMF slams U.S. over budget Global lending agency says government assumptions too optimistic, not doing enough to fix deficits. August 27, 2003: 6:16 AM EDT MILAN, Italy (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund is set to reproach the United States for being too optimistic in its assumptions on government spending and revenues and lacking a coherent budget plan, according to a summary of a draft report. The report "criticizes the U.S. government's excessively optimistic assumptions regarding the development of overall state spending and revenues and the lack of a medium-term concept to consolidate budgets and reform the social insurance system," the draft said. [...] News of the IMF report comes a day after a congressional budget agency forecast a federal budget deficit of $480 billion in 2004, a record shortfall... I remember then-IMF head Michel Camdessus's meeting with then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen in the fall of 1993, where Camdessus said that he was very happy to finally be...

Posted by DeLong at 08:59 PM

August 24, 2003
Oliver Willis Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Oliver Willis bangs his head against the wall when he thinks of the extraordinary deterioration in America's long-run fiscal picture: Knifing The Baby @ Oliver Willis: Like Kryptonite to Stupid: Even their Wall Street faifthful are wondering what the hell is up with the "borrow and spend" Republicans and their deficit "It's already time to think beyond this year and next about how to take down long-term deficits that could become disastrous," said Allen Sinai, president of Decision Economics Inc., who has strongly supported the president's tax cuts. "It would be good for the economy for the administration to at least signal they will do something." The Congressional Budget Office will release new budget forecasts Tuesday that will put next year's red ink near $500 billion. Sinai's own forecast put the figure even higher, as high as $535 billion. Absent any serious change in policy, private sector economists say deficits will remain in that range through the decade, then escalate sharply with the retirement of the baby-boom generation. To imagine that 2 years ago the argument was what exactly we should do about the increasing budget surplus. President Clinton said we shoud pay down the debt and save social security....

Posted by DeLong at 11:46 AM

August 22, 2003
Surprise, Surprise...

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: $401 Billion vs $455 Billion: Good News, Bad News, Or No News?, 8/13/03: In early July, we issued a projection of future deficits.  Our analysis explained that official budget projections paint too rosy a picture because they omit costs that are likely or nearly certain to occur.  For example, CBO's March "baseline" projection reflected laws in place at that time.  CBO consequently assumed that the various tax breaks enacted in 2001, 2002, and 2003 would expire on schedule.  Likewise, CBO omitted relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax after tax-year 2004 and did not include the likely enactment of a Medicare prescription drug benefit.  Our report concluded that if these and other likely costs occur, deficits over the ten-year period from 2004 through 2013 will total $4.1 trillion, will not fall below $325 billion in any year, and will reach $530 billion, or 3.0 percent of GDP, by 2013. Other analysts, such as Goldman Sachs, the Concord Coalition, and the House Budget Committee minority staff, have published similar estimates. Significantly, our $4.1 trillion ten-year projection included a deficit estimate of $403 billion for 2003 and $446 billion for 2004.  CBO's current estimate of...

Posted by DeLong at 08:19 AM

August 21, 2003
It's Still a Puzzle

The Economist gives the Bush tax cut a low grade: Economist.com | Budget deficits: ...Whether a [short-term] budget deficit is good or bad may depend more upon what shape tax cuts or spending increases take. America's recent tax cuts are in theory the right medicine to support its economy, but they have failed to give maximum stimulus per dollar of revenue lost, so they will increase the long-term budgetary costs. Tax cuts aimed at low earners are more likely to be spent than handouts to the rich, for they save more... It is still a great puzzle: after all, nobody has a greater interest in a stronger American economy than the White House political operatives who guide George W. Bush. Why haven't they been strong and powerful arguments for better-crafted and truly effective stimulus packages?...

Posted by DeLong at 09:29 AM

August 19, 2003
Kevin Drum Is Fair and Balanced

Kevin Drum is fair and balanced. Our press corps--which does an excellent job of evading the fact that our president knows much less than a president should about pretty much everything--is not: CalPundit: I Guess He's a Big Picture Guy: I GUESS HE'S A BIG PICTURE GUY....Our wartime president demonstrates his keen grasp of the military operations he is overseeing in Afghanistan:"We've got about 10,000 troops there, which is down from, obviously, major combat operations," he said. ....In fact, the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan represent the highest number of U.S. soldiers in the country since the war there began. By the time the Taliban government had been vanquished in December 2001, U.S. troops numbered fewer than 3,000 in Afghanistan. And three months later, in March 2002, when the last major battle against remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda took place in eastern Afghanistan, about 5,000 U.S. troops were in the country.As I recall, Howard Dean got pilloried for being about 10% off in his estimate of U.S. troop strength in Iraq. Do you think we'll see the same reaction to the guy who actually is president for not even knowing if U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is up or...

Posted by DeLong at 07:55 AM

August 13, 2003
The Economist Is Unhappy at the U.S.-E.U. Trade "Deal"

Better than nothing, but not much better than nothing, is what the Economist says. I find this infuriating. The AFL-CIO provides a large share of funding for the Democratic Party. The AFL-CIO was scarred for life when the Reagan deficits of the 1980s pushed up the value of the dollar and devastated many union-heavy manufacturing industries. The AFL-CIO now fears free trade greatly--and this makes making progress on free trade very, very difficult when a Democrat is president. Nevertheless, Bill Clinton worked hard and made a lot of progress toward a better world. By contrast, building momentum for freer trade in a Republican administration should be as easy as falling off a log. But the Bush Administration can't even fall off a log reliably: Economist.com: LATE on Tuesday night, bleary-eyed trade negotiators from the European Union and the United States claimed to have sealed a pact for reforming agricultural trade.... But the text of this latest deal is a classic of the genre, full of fuzzy language, fussy jargon and fudged commitments. It calls for reforms, cuts and caps without putting figures on any of them.... The text offers a commitment to eliminate subsidies, over time, on those products of...

Posted by DeLong at 06:58 PM

August 12, 2003
Bush-League Implementation

Last February Daniel Davies asked if there was any reason to think that the Bush adventure in Iraq would not be a SNAFU: D-squared Digest -- A fat young man without a good word for anyone: Can anyone... give me one single example of something with the following three characteristics: It is a policy initiative of the current Bush administration It was significant enough in scale that I'd have heard of it (at a pinch, that I should have heard of it) It wasn't in some important way completely f***** up during the execution. Now comes Daniel Drezner to say that the Bush Administration has created and is unlikely to be able to fix the SNAFU that is the reconstruction of Iraq: Daniel W. Drezner :: Why this administration is losing me on Iraq: The day after the fall of Baghdad, I posted: "For Operation Iraqi Freedom to succeed, military victories must be followed up with humanitarian victories. It's not enough to defeat Saddam's regime, there needs to be tangible evidence that conditions are improving." Ten days later, I posted the following dilemma for the administration: "Rumsfeld, and the rest of the Bush administration's foreign policy team, face a clear...

Posted by DeLong at 03:47 PM

I Deeply Resent the Way This Administration...

It was Teresa Nielsen Hayden who said: "I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist." Here Jeffrey Sachs succumbs to the belief that the real reason for the invasion of Iraq was to get enough military ground power in place to give the U.S. the capability to conquer and occupy Saudi Arabia in 72 hours. FT.com Home US: Saudi Arabia was real target in Iraq war | By Jeffrey Sachs | Published: August 12 2003 20:02 | Last Updated: August 12 2003 20:02 The crucial question regarding Iraq is not whether the motives for war were disguised, but why. The argument that Iraq posed a grave and imminent threat was absurd to anybody not under the spell of round-the-clock White House and 10 Downing Street spin. But the actual reasons for launching the war remain obscure. The plot thickened with the release last month of the US Congressional investigation into September 11. It seems increasingly likely that Iraq was attacked because Saudi Arabia was deeply implicated in the terrorist attacks. Two truths have long governed US energy security. The first is that Saudi Arabia is the key to world oil stability, the accommodating...

Posted by DeLong at 12:58 PM

August 11, 2003
Alan Murray Wonders Why We Are Ruled by These Liars

The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray bangs his head against the wall at the Bush Administration which has "willfully deceived the public and Congress about the costs of the Iraqi war and its aftermath... [and] continue[s] to do so...": WSJ.com - Political Capital: WASHINGTON -- The battalion of reporters investigating 16 words in President Bush's State of the Union address might want to dispatch a squad to look into the 15 words uttered by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz March 27. In testimony about Iraq to the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Wolfowitz said: "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Really? Perhaps it depends on the meaning of the words "relatively soon." But if he was talking about the current decade, Mr. Wolfowitz's statement, echoed by others in the administration at the time, was then and is still simply untrue. In an interview from Baghdad last week, L. Paul Bremer, the man now running Iraq, provided a more candid assessment. Over the next four or five years, he said, Iraqi oil revenue won't begin to cover the tab for repairing the nation's battered infrastructure. He put the bill at "probably well above...

Posted by DeLong at 07:41 AM

August 01, 2003
Eric Alterman Bangs His Head Against the Wall

Eric Alterman bangs his head against the wall. Not only does Condi Rice not read her own briefing materials, she doesn't listen to (or read) here boss's speeches. Eric Alterman: Altercation : "He's trying to acquire nuclear weapons. Nobody ever said that it was going to be the next year." - Condoleeza Rice in PBS interview, 7/30/03         "[Iraq] could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year." - George Bush, 10/8/02...

Posted by DeLong at 10:42 AM

July 29, 2003
Blithe Unconcern

DeLong tries to figure out why the Bush Administration makes the economic policy decisions it does: FT.com Home US: A phrase that comes to mind when looking at America's pattern of business cycle management is "blithe unconcern", writes Brad Delong, professor of the University of California......

Posted by DeLong at 05:28 PM

A Clever Plan Indeed

Charles Dodgson finds confirmation of his idea that everything stupid the White House does is really part of a very clever plan: Through the Looking Glass: Once again, you read it here first. Bill Kristol, July 28, 2003: Almost two weeks ago, the president ordered his White House staff to bollix up its explanation of that now-infamous 16-word "uranium from Africa" sentence in his State of the Union address. As instructed, and with the rhetorical ear and political touch for which they have become justly renowned, assorted senior administration officials, named and unnamed, proceeded to unleash all manner of contradictory statements. The West Wing stood by the president's claim. Or it didn't. Or the relevant intelligence reports had come from Britain and were faulty. Or hadn't and weren't. Smelling blood, just as they'd been meant to, first the media--and then the Democratic party--dove into the resulting "scandal" head first and fully clothed. Charles Dodgson, April 26, 2002: The true Bush diplomatic strategy, [his defenders] claim, is deep and complex, and cannot be understood by simply taking the administration's public positions at face value. It is an elaborate series of bluffs, feints, and jabs, a kind of diplomatic blindfold chess, at...

Posted by DeLong at 11:00 AM

July 27, 2003
Bearers of Bad Tidings

AP's Tom Raum notices an interesting pattern: Boston.com / Latest News / Washington / WASHINGTON TODAY: Bush loyalists stay on job despite Iraq intelligence flap : ...One curious fact stands out. Some who gave President Bush unwelcome information that turned out to be accurate are gone. Those who did the opposite are still around. Former economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey, retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and former Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki voiced concerns about the expense, aftermath and forces that would be needed concerns now proving to be true. These men are no longer in the picture. By contrast, nobody so far has come under apparent pressure to resign in the events that led up to the president's mention in his State of the Union address in January of a British intelligence report that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. That claim was based on forged documents and challenged by the CIA. Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to get his hands on nuclear weapons was an important part of Bush's case.... While resignations may yet come, all the major players in the drama have expressed strong loyalty to Bush, noted Stephen Hess, a scholar with the Brookings Institution. ''And...

Posted by DeLong at 07:49 PM

July 25, 2003
Why Hasn't Condi Rice Been Invited to Spend More Time with Her Family?

I do not understand why Condi Rice keeps her job... The Amazing Stories of Condoleeza Rice - A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary: The Amazing Stories of Condoleezza Rice A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY Condoleezza Rice is the nation’s top national security official. After September 11th, she claimed that the White House had no prior knowledge that Al Qaeda was planning to hijack planes in a terrorist attack. That assertion was proven false. In the months before the Iraq War, Rice repeatedly reassured the public that the U.S. was seeking a peaceful resolution, and that war was not a foregone conclusion. However, it now appears that at the same time she was saying this, she was telling senior State Department officials that the decision to go to war had already been made – well before diplomatic efforts to diffuse the situation even began. Most recently, it appears that she has given three separate, incongruent stories about her role in the massive intelligence breakdown that led to the White House making false statements about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities. It appears that Rice has either been misleading the public about her role in that fiasco, or alternately, has been grossly negligent in not reading the government’s...

Posted by DeLong at 12:11 PM

July 23, 2003
The Current NSC Staff

Recent press reports have led many people to ask, "What kind of people staff the National Security Council these days?" Well, here is NSC director Elliott Abrams on Tail-Gunner Joe (McCarthy, that is): In his review (Elliott Abrams (1996), "McCarthyism Reconsidered," National Review February 26, pp. 57-60. [A review of the reissue of William F. Buckley and L. Brent Bozell, McCarthy and His Enemies (Regnery).]) of the reissue of Buckley and Bozell's infamous McCarthy and His Enemies, Abrams advances on his own--or approves Buckley and Bozell's advocacy of--five theses: The key issue in assessing Joe McCarthy--the bar he has to pass--is not whether his charges were accurate or backed by evidence, but whether the State Department was running its security policy poorly. Senator McCarthy did not need to show that individual State Department employees were spies or even that there were spies in the State Department. Instead, all he needed to do was to show that there was some evidence the State Department had overlooked that an employee was a security or loyalty risk. In most of his cases McCarthy did adduce persuasive evidence; the State Department's efforts stood condemned; and the screams of 'Red Scare' were efforts to occlude...

Posted by DeLong at 06:20 PM

July 19, 2003
Mark Kleiman Sees Another Hopeful Sign:

Mark Kleiman sees some very hopeful signs in the reaction to the White House's attempt to smear reporter Jeffrey Kofman: Mark A. R. Kleiman: CULTURAL LAG A story is told, whether canonical or not I don't know, about Georges Clemenceau. Apparently a veteran Clemenceau met at a memorial service after the war was over shouted at him: "C'etait les juifs!" ["It was the Jews!"]Instead of arguing, Clemenceau replied, "Oui. Les juifs, et les bicyclistes." Puzzled, the man asked,"Pourquoi les bicyclistes?"Clemenceau shrugged and said, "Et pourquoi les juifs?"I was reminded of that by a detail of the Jeffrey Kofman affair, brought to my attention by Austin Cline of "About Atheism."According to the Lloyd Grove story in the Washington Post, one of the commanders of the 3rd Infantry apparently said to the reporter, whom the White House tried to "out" as a gay Canadian, "Are you really ... Canadian?" And Matt Drudge did roughly the same thing, headlining his link "ABCNEWS Reporter Who Filed Troop Complaints Story is Canadian."It seems to me -- though I may be overinterpreting -- that both the soldier and Drudge were making the same gentle joke: rejecting the White House's attempt to denigrate Kofman in terms of his...

Posted by DeLong at 07:02 PM

July 17, 2003
High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The Bush administration continues to surprise me: Capital Games: ...In a recent column on Nigergate, Novak examined the role of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV in the affair. Two weeks ago, Wilson went public, writing in The New York Times and telling The Washington Post about the trip he took to Niger in February 2002--at the request of the CIA--to check out allegations that Saddam Hussein had tried to purchase uranium for a nuclear weapons program from Niger. Wilson was a good pick for the job. He had been a State Department officer there in the mid-1970s. He was ambassador to Gabon in the early 1990s. And in 1997 and 1998, he was the senior director for Africa at the National Security Council and in that capacity spent a lot of time dealing with the Niger government. Wilson was also the last acting US ambassador in Iraq before the Gulf War, a military action he supported. In that post, he helped evacuate thousands of foreigners from Kuwait, worked to get over 120 American hostages out Iraq, and sheltered about 800 Americans in the embassy compound. At the time, Novak's then-partner, Rowland Evans, wrote that Wilson displayed "the stuff of heroism."...

Posted by DeLong at 09:24 AM

July 15, 2003
The Idiot Ottoman Sultan Problem Again

Michael Kinsley bangs his head against the wall because nobody is giving the obvious answer--"Bush!"--to the question, "Who lied in Bush's SOTU speech?" But perhaps the most interesting thing is that everyone in Washington--Democrats, Republicans, and independents; journalists and political hacks; experts on national security and those who believe that "Star Wars" is ready for deployment--everyone, starts from the assumption that George W. Bush is a sock puppet. It is inconceivable to everybody that George W. Bush might have asked questions about the reliability of claims "in the speech presented to him." It is inconceivable to everybody that George W. Bush might have actually gotten himself briefed at some point about the quality of the evidence that Saddam was going full-throttle to reconstruct his nuclear program. It is inconceivable to everybody that George W. Bush might have the curiosity about the world and the factual knowledge of even a part-time intern working on Andrew Sullivan's weblog. Ronald Reagan's handlers had to work hard to get him out of the let's-give-the-Iranians-weapons-and-give-them-an-incentive-to-take-more-hostages-disaster loop by portraying him as an old, decent man of failing wits. They had to work hard to do this (even though it now looks as though it was true--as...

Posted by DeLong at 10:04 AM

July 13, 2003
Still More Lies From the Bush Administration

The Sandwichman spots another fast-and-loose-with-reality play from the Bush Administration: Weblog Entry - 07/13/2003: "memory lapse": ROSE MARY WOODS' FOOT YOU DON'T by the Sandwichman "A senior administration official said Bush's chief speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson, does not remember who wrote the line that has wound up causing the White House so much grief." Not credible. A speechwriter doesn't forget unless he is told to "forget". A speechwriter KEEPS RECORDS OF DRAFTS AND CHANGES TO DRAFTS. It's called cover your ass. Presumably Mr. Gerson's memory lapse also entails considerable shredding of paper and physical destruction of hard drives. There will be no "eighteen and a half minutes of erased tape" this time......

Posted by DeLong at 11:39 AM

July 11, 2003
WTO Says U.S. Steel Tariffs Are Illegal

Surprise, surprise: WSJ.com - WTO Says U.S. Tariffs On Steel Are Illegal: GENEVA -- The World Trade Organization ruled Friday against heavy import duties on steel imposed by the Bush administration, saying they violate global trade rules. The European Union and seven other countries had complained that the duties -- supposed to protect the U.S. steel industry from cheap imports -- were unfairly hurting their own producers. "This is not just a partial victory, this is a full victory. We have been given satisfaction on all accounts," said EU spokeswoman Arancha Gonzalez. In a joint statement, the eight complainants called on the U.S. to remove the measures "without delay." The EU said it was ready to impose $2.2 billion in retaliatory duties on U.S. imports. Mr. Bush introduced the "safeguard" duties of as much as 30% on steel products in March of last year. The administration argued the tariffs met WTO provisions allowing temporary duties for as long as three years to protect a domestic industry from a flood of cheap imports and give it time to restructure. Mr. Bush, during his 2000 presidential campaign, had vowed to protect the domestic steel industry -- a pledge seen as pivotal to...

Posted by DeLong at 07:42 AM

July 10, 2003
David Wessel Wonders When the Recovery Will Begin

David Wessel wonders when the real recovery will begin--when real GDP will begin to grow at the 3.5% per year pace that we think is needed to keep the unemployment rate from rising, or the 4.0% per year pace that we think is necessary if unemployment is to start to decline (and even then only slowly: by perhaps 0.2 percentage points per year). Forecasters tell him that the real recovery should begin very soon--but they said the same thing six months ago, and six months before that as well. More disturbing is the fact that it is not at all clear where any extra boost to the economy could come, should one turn out to be needed. The Federal Reserve is out of gunpowder. More aggressive fiscal policy--bigger short-run deficits--would be possible, but neither the president nor the congressional majority has shown any inclination at all to think seriously about how to try to use spending and tax policy to boost employment and growth in the next year or so. If neither monetary nor fiscal policy can be of use, the only remaining policy lever is to try to boost exports by talking the dollar down--a very difficult, hazardous, and...

Posted by DeLong at 12:21 AM

July 07, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CCXV

Linda Bilmes on Bush's AIDS initiative: FT.com Home US: ...The figure of $15bn continues to be repeated. Last week, for example, Mr Bush reiterated it in a White House briefing with African journalists. "There is tremendous suffering on the continent of Africa," he said. "And we will put a strategy in place that effectively spends $15bn over five years to help ease the suffering from HIV/Aids." In reality, nothing like $15bn will ever be spent. In the Byzantine world of the US budget process, Congressional "authorisation" by itself means little. What really counts is the annual appropriation that approves the federal budget and without which nothing can be spent. Using this yardstick, the programme is already falling woefully short of the $15bn rhetoric. The culprit for this shortfall is not Congressional budget-cutting but the president's failure even to ask for the amounts needed to fulfil his pledge. His 2003 budget requested only $1.9bn - an increase of just $450m on what was spent in 2002 and a third less than the $3bn a year implied by the State of the Union promise. In January, Mr Bush promised to make a contribution of $1bn over five years to the Global Fund...

Posted by DeLong at 11:22 AM

July 03, 2003
Carlyle Group Director David Rubenstein Tells a Story

From Unfogged: HOW BUSH GOT BOUNCED FROM CARLYLE BOARD - Suzan Mazur, Progressive Review: ...But when we were putting the board together, somebody [Fred Malek] came to me and said, look there is a guy who would like to be on the board. He's kind of down on his luck a bit. Needs a job. Needs a board position. Needs some board positions. Could you put him on the board? Pay him a salary and he'll be a good board member and be a loyal vote for the management and so forth. I said well we're not usually in that business. But okay, let me meet the guy. I met the guy. I said I don't think he adds that much value. We'll put him on the board because - you know - we'll do a favor for this guy; he's done a favor for us. We put him on the board and [he] spent three years. Came to all the meetings. Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. And after a while I kind of said to him, after about three years - you know, I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should...

Posted by DeLong at 07:31 AM

July 02, 2003
Jane Galt Has a Theory

Jane Galt proposes a theory for why George W. Bush is now lying about when the recession started. In her view, we should expect George W. Bush to lie: it would be to his political disadvantage not to claim that the recession began before his inauguration. I think she's correct. I think White House political affairs has calculated that (a) the press will write a couple of stories about how Bush is lying, (b) the non-liberal media will then let the story drop, and (c) a large number of people will hear Bush's message, and associate Clinton with the recession. ArgMax Economics Weblog: Comment on Revising History: ...you can hardly expect Bush to say nothing... if he does [say nothing], the Democrats will gleefully be claiming he caused [the recession] since, after all, it didn't officially start until he was in office......

Posted by DeLong at 09:09 AM

Editorial Goes Missing

The truly interesting thing about this Army Times editorial pointing out the (inevitable) large gap between the Bush Administration's words and actions is not that there is such a gap, but that the Army Times has now pulled the editorial. I'm curious as to why... In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap — and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately. For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day. Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones. Then there’s military tax relief -- or the lack thereof. As Bush...

Posted by DeLong at 07:39 AM

July 01, 2003
Historical Revisionism

John F. Irons is really annoyed that George W. Bush is trying to backdate the start of the recession to 2000. Of course, the real thing to get annoyed about is that the Bush Administration has done so very, very little to fight the recession: This isn't to say that Bush somehow caused the initial recession (although it certainly didn't help that VP Cheney was running around in the country in late 2000 and early 2001 telling everyone how the economy was in bad shape.)... The important question is not whose fault is the recession, but rather what has been the response of the administration to the economic situation. We have seen 3 major tax cuts... each of which were sold as economic and job stimulus, but which in reality had very little to do with good counter-cyclical fiscal policy, or with the current economic problems. The result? Unemployment continued to increase and is up to 6.1%, and there have been 2.5 million jobs lost since March 2001... As I've said before, the failure of the Bush Administration to take any significant steps to boost aggregate demand over the past two years is remarkable and strange. The most they've done...

Posted by DeLong at 12:51 PM

June 03, 2003
Time to Bang My Head Against the Wall Once Again

Back when George W. Bush "won" the presidential election of 2000, I said that there was at least one bright spot: under the Clinton administration making progress on freeing up world trade had been a very hard slog. Republican administrations, I said, have a much easier job advancinge the free trade ball because of their different constellation of key domestic interest groups they must appease. I was, once again, an idiot. I had no grasp of how incompetent and how substance-free George W. Bush and the key members of his team were. I really don't understand why Bob Zoellick hasn't quit his job as Special Trade Representative yet: he could make more money, enhance rather than diminish his reputation, and do more to put pressure on George W. Bush and company to liberalize trade from outside the administration than it appears he can from inside. Today's Wall Street Journal has some details on the latest missed opportunity: WSJ.com - World Leaders End Summit; Farm Funds Stymie Progress: EVIAN, France -- While world leaders gathered here insisted consumers and firms should be more optimistic about the global economy, they failed to make headway on an issue that would make them feel...

Posted by DeLong at 11:52 AM

June 02, 2003
Why Are We Ruled by These Idiots? CXII

The New Republic covers the Republicans' false and shifting rationales for why they decided to leave one in six children behind in the current tax cut. The New Republic Online: etc.THE BUSHIES' LAME EXCUSE FOR SCREWING THE POOR: Yesterday's New York Times reported that the tax cut bill George W. Bush rammed through Congress and signed into law on Wednesday mysteriously omits a provision that would have increased the child tax credit for families making between $10,500 and $26,625 from $600 to $1,000. The provision would have cost a mere $3.5 billion, and would have benefited about 12 million children, or, according to the Times, one out of every six children under the age of 17. When asked about the omission, a spokeswoman for the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means committee, which oversaw the junking of the provision, argued that the Senate's insistence on a $350 billion cap for the entire tax cut package had forced the Republicans' hand. "The Senate preferred to have $20 billion in state aid. But when we had to squeeze it all to $350 billion, they weren't talking about the child credits." This argument is, of course, preposterous on its face. House and Senate...

Posted by DeLong at 04:44 PM

May 28, 2003
An Email From the United States Treasury

The United States Treasury thinks I should know that economists speak out in favor of President Bush's jobs and growth bill. Note that the "economists who speak out" include only two of the eighteen living Republican former members of the President's Council of Economic Advisers. I'm not surprised to see Beryl Sprinkel in this company. I am surprised to see Mike Boskin in this company: he was a guy who used to say that the reason to vote for George W. Bush was that he would solve the long-run problem of financing America's entitlement programs (Social Security and Medicare), and he has now reduced himself to applauding a bill that blows another hole in the long-run fiscal stability of the American government. Two of eighteen is a remarkably low score. Take that as a good summary index of what economists predisposed to like Republican economic policy initiatives think of what is now going on. Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2003 3:24 PM Subject: ECONOMISTS SPEAK OUT ABOUT THE JOBS AND GROWTH BILL Here is what economists are saying about the Jobs & Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003: "The tax cut is good for the economy short run, intermediate run,...

Posted by DeLong at 02:36 PM

May 22, 2003
I Very Much Hope This Is Wrong

The hard-working Max Sawicky reports that the Bush Administration's forecasting "Troika"--the Council of Economic Advisors, the Treasury, and the Office of Management and Budget--are projecting that, with the president's proposed policies enacted, payroll employment in the United States will grow from 132,130,000 in July of 2003 to 137,640,000 by December 2004--a net increase of 5.51 million payroll jobs in eighteen months. Now the U.S. economy's level of employment has grown that rapidly twice--in 1977-1978, and again in 1983-1984 (with huge numbers of baby-boomers entering the labor force in the first case, and with an extraordinarily rapid 2.1 percentage-point decline in the unemployment rate in the second). But those increases in employment came with 5.5% and 7.3% annual rates of increase in real GDP. No one is forecasting such rates of increase in real GDP over the next year and a half. One of two things must have happened: Max Sawicky is wrong about what the administration troika's employment growth forecast is. Some high politician has reached down into the innards and guts of the forecasting process, and has said "employment in 2000 averaged 136.9 million. We cannot forecast that in December 2004--at the end of President Bush's first term--fewer Americans...

Posted by DeLong at 09:14 PM

Andrew Sullivan Explains Why He Is Proud to Be a Republican

On Bush administration economic policy: While the president and his party put another huge hole in this country's future fiscal solvency, Alan Greenspan, that notorious leftist, testified in Congress yesterday.... 'He reminded lawmakers the US government was facing a "significant" budget problem as the "baby boom" population ages and draws on more healthcare and retirement benefits. "I'd like to see that addressed more seriously than it is," he said. "I must say the silence is deafening."' Worth repeating that: deficits do matter.... The bottom line is that the U.S. government is going to go seriously broke in a few years because of demographic pressure and entitlement growth. Yet the current administration is merrily adding to the national debt by not one but two big tax cuts, while pushing spending to heights unseen since LBJ opened the spigots. I'm sorry but we saw the consequences of that kind of combination in the 1980s and it took a decade to bring the budget back to balance. The fact that the Democrats are no better is not an argument. It makes Bush's negligence even worse... On Bush administration Middle Eastern policy: THE MESS IN IRAQ: All the signs are pointing to a serious...

Posted by DeLong at 09:24 AM

May 21, 2003
More Denial

For some strange reason, Virginia Postrel has also started swimming in denial: Dynamist Blog: TAX ANTI-REFORM: When a tax "cut" is so temporary and targeted, the paperwork and computer-reprogramming alone constitute enormous hidden tax. The congressional process has taken a good idea for fundamental tax reform and turned it into short-term, wildly distortionary vote-buying with absolutely no economic rationale. It's just one more example of why anyone with a brain inevitably develops contempt for Congress... Hey. It was George W. Bush who insisted that the Senate bill completely eliminate the tax on dividends--even if only for a year or two. Achieving that desire under the $350 billion ten-year budget-resolution cap is the source of the real and extraordinary weirdness. You can blame the Republican senators for not standing up to him and telling him he's an idiot (and I do). But in this case most of Ms. Postrel's contempt should be directed at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. :-)...

Posted by DeLong at 08:36 AM

May 20, 2003
Wow. The Financial Times Is Really Grumpy

Wow. The Financial Times is really grumpy. It's not clear whether the immediate cause is the "dollar policy," the tax cut, or simply a long train of abuses and usurpations that has caused them to lose all patience. What is clear is that the Financial Times is now an advocate of its three-part plan for dealing with the Bush administration: Open toilet. Insert Bush administration. Flush. Financial Times - May 19, 2003 LEADER: Exit economists The news that the two leading contenders for the presidency of the New York Federal Reserve have withdrawn from the running is troubling. It seems neither Stanley Fischer, formerly number two at the International Monetary Fund and now at Citigroup, nor Peter Fisher, Treasury under- secretary for domestic finance and a former New York Fed man, could be persuaded to take over the second most powerful position in the Federal Reserve system. Doubtless both men had understandable personal reasons for their polite refusals. But their reluctance fits something of a disturbing pattern these days. Serious economic policymaking has been so downgraded in George W. Bush's America that it is becoming harder to persuade anyone to do it. All the members of the president's first economic...

Posted by DeLong at 02:40 PM

Wow. Phillip Carter Is Very, Very Grumpy

Phillip Carter is very very grumpy: he sees the Bush administration as in the middle of turning an operational victory in Iraq into a strategic defeat for both the United States and for the people of Afghanistan. I tend to view everything through the lens provided by the details of Bush administration economic policy--where, to put it broadly, the people who are any good at it are not listened to, and the people who are listened to are really horrible at it. Carter appears to believe that the same thing is true of security policy as well: "Faux Pax Americana" by Phillip Carter: The generals' argument had never been just about what forces it would take to decapitate Saddam's regime. It was also about being ready for the long, grinding challenge after the shooting stopped. By that measure they have been proven dizzyingly correct. April and May brought daily news reports from Baghdad quoting U.S. military officers saying they lacked the manpower to do their jobs. As the doubters predicted, we may have had enough troops to win the war--but not nearly enough to win the peace. When victory arrived, we lacked the troops on the ground to prevent Baghdad--and...

Posted by DeLong at 09:20 AM

May 17, 2003
The Big Mystery

Nonfarm employment, which peaked in March of 2001 at 132.46 million, is now down at 130.35 million. I try to imagine what has been going on inside the National Economic Council for the past nine months, and I simply cannot visualize it. One would think that boosting employment would be the administration's first economic policy priority--that's what their talking points say, anyway. In addition to the fact that boosting employment is good for the country, there is the crass political fact that boosting employment is essential for the administration's political survival. You would think that the pressure put on the NEC by Media Affairs and Political Affairs would be immense: "We lose our jobs in November 2004 if the labor market is still in the toilet. We need policies to boost the number of jobs." Yet that's not what's going on. It's as if the White House thinks that its job is done once they have said that their policies will produce more jobs, and that the question of whether policies are actually stimulative is simply not worth asking. It is a great mystery. Someday I'll find out the answer......

Posted by DeLong at 08:56 AM

May 13, 2003
The National Review Flunks Quality Control Once More

Kevin Drum notices that the people who write about economic policy for National Review cannot calculate: CalPundit: Addition, Multiplication, Whatever: ADDITION, MULTIPLICATION, WHATEVER....We can't be too nice to National Review, can we? So to make up for our last post let's take a look at Stephen Moore's latest scribblings about the dividend tax:The company must pay a 35 percent tax on the profits that it earns and then if that after-tax money is paid to the shareholders in a dividend, they get smacked with a tax as high as 38 percent. That?s a 73 percent tax on dividends.My goodness, 73%. That is high. That is, it would be high if Moore's arithmetic were reliable. But it's not. His example actually amounts to a 60% tax rate. Yep. It's true. (1 - 35%)*(1 - 38%) = 0.65 * 0.62 = 0.397 = (1 -60.3%). A note to the editors of National Review: why not get some economics commentators who can calculate? Oh... You mean these are the only ones you can find who are politically reliable....

Posted by DeLong at 04:36 PM

May 12, 2003
A Broom Closet

The Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray asks Andrew Card to give CEA Chair-Designate Greg Mankiw an office--a broom closet inside the West Wing. There's nothing Andrew Card could do that would promise to make a bigger difference in improving the massively inept botch that is Bush administration domestic policy....

Posted by DeLong at 08:48 PM

Mickey Kaus Is Wrong

Mickey Kaus says that the reason Paul Krugman isn't using his New York Times column to teach the American people about the dangers of deflation is that the topic isn't "partisan and dumbed-down enough": Kausfiles by Mickey Kaus: Now that the Fed is officially worried about deflation, Paul Krugman's Web-only explanation of his thinking about deflation and the "liquidity trap" seems like Essential Reading for All Concerned Americans. ... Why not make this a NYT column? [Not partisan and dumbed-down enough?-ed. You said that! I didn't.]... He may be right about the difficulty of explaining the dangers of deflation and the liquidity trap in 730 words--God knows I couldn't do it, I'm going to take two hours this Wednesday afternoon. But if Kaus really does think that the liquidity trap is not a partisan issue, he hasn't thought about it for even five minutes. After September 11 it was clear that there was some chance that the U.S. economy might fall into a liquidity trap. The answer to the question, "How do you deal with a liquidity trap?" is the same as the answer to the question, "What do you do in a sailboat if you are caught on a lee...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 AM

May 08, 2003
Bemused

One of the strangest things about the George W. Bush administration is its refusal to propose a stimulus package that would actually stimulate the economy. Nobody believes that this is an administration that would decide that it is more important to pursue economic policies that are good for the country as opposed to those that generate good employment news in the summer and fall of 2004. And here what is good for the country--short-term fiscal stimulus--and what is good for President George W. Bush's reelection chances are perfectly aligned. So why the continued focus on policies that all serious analysts agree have little effect on employment in the short term? It's a total mystery. It's as if the economists have been unable to persuade anybody else in the White House that economic policies, like, affect, you know, the economy. Here the Economist piles on, telling its readers that Bush's claims that his program will boost the recovery are simply not credible. Economist.com: Another Bush, Another Jobless Recovery: ...The White House claims that if Congress passes tax cuts worth at least $550 billion over ten years, it would create 1m new jobs by the end of next year. A long-awaited study...

Posted by DeLong at 12:28 PM

May 07, 2003
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Competent Executive Branch? Part MCIX

Bruce Bartlett (one of the few sane people in Washington, DC, as evidenced by his decision to live in beautiful Great Falls, Virginia) has switched from believing that Job #1 is to reform and reduce the taxation of income from capital in order to boost long-run economic growth to believing that Job #1 is to boost demand and stimulate the economy over the next two years. Unfortunately, he says, as the economic news making the case for immediate stimulus stronger has dribbled in over the past half year, "the White House [which] recognizes that the political and economic landscape has changed... has simply revised its rhetoric. Now, instead of making the correct argument for its dividend plan -- that it will raise productivity, growth and incomes over time -- the White House talks only about jobs, jobs, jobs. The problem is that the dividend plan probably won't create many new jobs and very few of those will come in the short run." The Thomas option -- The Washington Times: May 7, 2003 The Thomas option Bruce Bartlett      By tomorrow , both the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee will have completed mark-up of a major tax...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 AM

May 06, 2003
A Platonic Dialogue Between a Senior Administration Official and a Sane Republican Economist

A Platonic Dialogue Between a Senior Administration Official [SAO] and a Sane Republican Economist [SRE] SAO: The President's Economic Plan is about jobs! Creating jobs! SRE: But... SAO: Creating jobs. The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that the President's Economic Plan will create 500,000 jobs by the end of 2003. And... SRE: But... SAO: ... one million additional jobs by the first Tuesday of November in 2004. SRE: Yes, I know that you say "Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!" But at least some people at the Treasury Department say different: the linkages from dividend tax cuts and tax rate cuts to investment spending and consumer spending are just too weak to generate such large effects, and the estimates assume that the Federal Reserve keeps interest rates unchanged as fiscal policy shifts, but it does not... SAO: The Council of Economic Advisers has estimated 1.5 million jobs... SRE: And that the true reason for the President's Economic Plan is that it will boost long-run growth by improving the efficiency of investment by reducing the economic drag produced by the double taxation of capital. SAO: We are a disciplined administration. And when there might be conflict in other administrations, we resolve it. We...

Posted by DeLong at 07:44 PM

May 03, 2003
No More Circulation of Elites!

You know, I didn't use to be a very partisan person. While I cannot imagine any likely eventuality that would lead me to cross from the Democratic to the Republican side of the aisle--at least not until the poison injected into the bloodstream of the Republican Party by Richard Nixon's southern strategy dies away enough to reduce its fever beneath 104--I used to think that alternation of power, circulation of elites, give-and-take was useful. There are, after all, good things that the Republican Party can do easily that the Democratic Party cannot: tax simplification for example (with the honorable exception of Bill Bradley, who has done the most heavy lifting on this issue in my lifetime); trade liberalization; a general push forward to try to keep the government from making people spend their lives filling out government forms and checking to be sure they are obeying every single regulation (with the caveat, however, that the same Republicans who inveigh against every regulation of the market are very eager to regulate the bedroom). What I am trying to say is that I used to think that total political dominance by the Democratic Party would not be good for the country, that...

Posted by DeLong at 09:31 PM

April 27, 2003
The National Review Flunks the Turing Test Once Again

Dwight Meredith takes a look at a National Review attack on Paul Krugman. He wonders whether National Review is simply mendacious--read the Bush Council of Economic Advisers document they rely on, and decided to misrepresent it, on the grounds that nobody else would read it, and that, even if somebody else did read it, it is never the case that truth can catch up with a lie. The other possibility is that the people who write for National Review flunk the Turing test: pick buzzwords and sound bites out of their sources and hurl them into the ether, without ever thinking about whether they are saying makes any sense at all. Those are the choices: Mendacity or Mindlessness? I vote for mindlessness. This bunch of errors is just too blatant and embarrassing for anyone to have made them deliberately. Dwight Meredith: ...a February 4, 2003 Council of Economic Advisors report to the effect that the 1.4 million jobs will be created in the second half of 2003 and in 2004.... If the Bush tax cuts create 1.4 million jobs just through 2004, we can assume that they will create many more jobs over ten years. The CEA report doesn't give...

Posted by DeLong at 01:07 PM

April 26, 2003
Wizard of Oz, Part CCXXVI

Max Sawicky is driven to the edge of lunacy by the casual mendacity of the Bush administration: MaxSpeak: WITH THE THOUGHTS YOU'D BE THINKIN', YOU COULD BE ANOTHER LINCOLN . . . Yesterday our leader told us that " . . . this nation has got a deficit because we have been through a war." Thus far the cost of the war is estimated at $20 billion. The deficit for Fiscal Year 2003 is projected at $246 billion. Moreover, as a matter of deliberate policy, the President proposes to further increase the deficit this year by close to $40 billion. Over ten years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Bush Budget would reduce surpluses and increase deficits by $2,710 billion. And so it goes.I would not be just a nuffin'My head all full of stuffin'My heart all full of pain.I would dance and be merryLife would be a ding-a-derryIf I only had a brain--Whoa! AFTERTHOUGHT: None of this such be taken to have any bearing on the President's veracity in the matter of weapons of mass destruction....

Posted by DeLong at 09:28 AM

More from the Topkapi Palace

The New York Times's Adam Clymer tries to make sense of recent Bush Administration moves in economic policy--or, rather, in economic publicity, for in Clymer's view the point of all the within-White House intrigue is not to shift the administration toward a better economic policy, but to create the media image of a president working on improving the economy. Mr. Clymer misses one big point, however: while the president cannot control the economy, he can influence the economy--albeit with a long lag. If you wanted policies to make the economy better in, say, the summer of 2004, you would have worked to get such policies into place in 2001 and 2002: trade agreements and tariff reductions; aggressive moves to reassure investors that corporate fraud, corporative executive malfeasance, and other problems of corporate control were being dealt with; and perhaps some short-term front-loaded tax cuts targetted at getting more money into the hands of people who would actually spend it. Presidents don't control the economy. But their chances of having a good economy four, five, six years into their terms of office are much, much better if they focus on getting economic policies that are good for the country in place...

Posted by DeLong at 09:12 AM

April 23, 2003
More Intrigue From the Topkapi Palace

According to the National Journal, President Bush's decision to back Alan Greenspan for another term as Federal Reserve Chairman is "no surprise." But if it is "no surprise," why has there been "speculation" that the White House would rather see someone "in that powerful job that is more likely to support his economic policies"? Somebody or somebodies in the White House want it nosed about that it is "no surprise"--that Bush Administration economic policy is now and always has been run by adults. But if that were the case there would not have been a steel tariff. There would not have been that farm bill. And there would not have been the current incoherent set of budget proposals--it's a cyclical stimulus! no, it's a long-run growth program! it will boost the stock market and raise consumption! no, it will raise national saving and reduce consumption! Greenspan does, after all, think that a deficit-widening tax cut is a bad idea right now. And if the White House thinks that somebody with Greenspan's views is the best person in the country to run the Federal Reserve, what does that mean that the White House thinks about the strength of its own arguments...

Posted by DeLong at 09:10 PM

March 31, 2003
Losing Favor

In the Ottoman Empire during the days of its decline, a grand Topkapi Palace functionary who lost the confidence of the Sultan often found himself in a lead-weighted sack at the bottom of the Golden Horn. In the modern White House, a cabinet member or assistant to the president who loses the confidence of the President often finds himself invited to spend more time with his family. Here we see a number of people at the level of Karl Rove or Andrew Card--for this story has three sources, and people at their level are who "senior administration officials" are--preparing the ground for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld (and possibly NSC head Rice) to be invited to spend more time with their families. Their offense? Keeping the news that Saddam Hussein's forces might fight secret from the President. KRT Wire | 03/28/2003 | Bush's aides didn't warn of stiff Iraq resistance: President Bush's aides did not forcefully present him with dissenting views from CIA and State and Defense Department officials who warned that U.S.-led forces could face stiff resistance in Iraq, according to three senior administration officials. Bush embraced the predictions of some top administration hawks, beginning with Vice President Dick Cheney, who...

Posted by DeLong at 09:09 PM

March 30, 2003
Leadership Secrets of George W. Bush

From Teresa Nielsen Hayden: Making Light: March 2003 Archives: The quote is from a writeup of a CBS News/60 Minutes interview, Bob Woodward talking to Mike Wallace about his own recent interviews with George W. Bush. Woodward says [Bush] told him that when he chairs a meeting he often tries to be provocative. When Woodward asked him if he tells his staff that he is purposely being provocative, Mr. Bush answered: “Of course not. I am the commander, see?”Bush: “I do not need to explain why I say things. — That’s the interesting thing about being the President. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.” O, my heart sank when I read that quote. I’ve been thinking about it, off and on, ever since. I recognize that behavior. Lord help me, I’ve seen it done. It’s one of the tactics you can use if you’re in an executive-level job that’s beyond your abilities, you have to have meetings with underlings who know more than you do, and your only concern is to save face while making sure they’re giving you what you want. The discussion...

Posted by DeLong at 08:15 AM

March 21, 2003
Patrick Nielsen Hayden Poses Us an Essay Question

Patrick Nielsen Hayden asks us to compare and contrast the rhetoric of Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Collins to that of President George W. Bush: Electrolite: Rhetoric of war. Compare and contrast. Excerpts from the address of Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish, March 19, 2003: “We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own. Show respect for them. “If you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory. “Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood and the birthplace of Abraham. Tread lightly there. “You will see things that no man could pay to see and you will have to go a long way to find a more decent, generous and upright people than the Iraqis. “You will be embarrassed by their hospitality even though they have nothing. “Don’t treat them as refugees for they are in their own country. Their children will be poor, in years to come they will know that the light of liberation in their lives was brought by you. “If there are casualties of...

Posted by DeLong at 11:58 AM

March 20, 2003
War Costs

The Wall Street Journal's Jackie Calmes reports: Cost of War: WAR COSTS: Bush is mum, but lawmakers see first bill of up to $90 billion. Early estimates suggest supplemental fiscal-2003 spending of $62.5 billion for defense -- mobilization, 30 days of operations and added costs of global antiterrorism efforts. Billions more would go to Middle East allies, reconstruction in Iraq and domestic funds for first-responders, Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration. Airlines seek aid for expenses of federal security mandates, and relief from security fees and ticket taxes. Chicago-based United relies on House Speaker Hastert of Illinois, visits Senate Leader Frist. House Appropriations Chairman Young chafes that White House isn't more open: Budget director Daniels "is not proving very helpful." Larry Lindsey got fired from the White House last winter in large part because he dominated a news cycle last year with an estimate that war with Iraq would cost $100 billion or so. Think what that means about how this administration operates....

Posted by DeLong at 09:06 PM

March 14, 2003
Even the Neoconservative New Republic

Even the neoconservative (on foreign affairs) New Republic is fed up to the brim--is banging its head against the wall--is totally and utterly outraged by the Bush Administration's failure to even consider, even for a moment, even as a hypothetical option, that it might tell the truth. There's a real pathology here: TNR Online | Truth Be Told (print): the Bush administration... keeps saying things about Iraq that turn out not to be true.... The Bush administration quickly accused Baghdad of leaving out key information.... "The declaration ignores [Iraq's] efforts to procure uranium from Niger." In his January 28 State of the Union address, the president cited the uranium deal.... The inspectors reviewed the document... crude forgeries. The Iraqi officials who had allegedly tried to buy the uranium were not even in their jobs at the time the documents were supposedly written. Confronted with ElBaradei's findings last Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition," Colin Powell changed the subject.... [I]ts claims about other nuclear "issues" haven't held up much better... "high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons." In early January, the IAEA contradicted Bush once again, arguing that the 81-millimeter aluminum tubes were "not directly suitable" for enriching uranium...

Posted by DeLong at 01:45 PM

March 06, 2003
Janet Rehnquist Resigns

This is really, truly weird--not the "deciding to spend more time with her family" but the substantive stuff. Firing all six of your deputies? CBS News | Janet Rehnquist Resigns | March 4, 2003 19:07:36: Congress is investigating Rehnquist's work as internal watchdog of the agency, including her decision to delay an audit of Florida's pension fund at the request of Gov. Jeb Bush's office. Investigators also are looking at whether she forced out several top career staff members. Her management also is under review by the Integrity Committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, a peer group of inspectors general... She reportedly said in her resignation letter that she wanted to spend more time with her family... Investigators on the Senate Finance Committee have said they have heard about questionable practices from dozens of people who work for the HHS inspector general's office. Specifically, congressional aides said they have heard from credible sources that Rehnquist had an unloaded, service-issued 9 mm handgun in her office, even though she is not licensed to carry it, as well as a poster of a target in her office. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., leaders of the Finance Committee,...

Posted by DeLong at 09:00 PM

Right-Wing British Financial Newspaper Calls Bush Economic Policy "Lunacy"

Gerard Baker, the Washington correspondent for the Financial Times, calls the Bush Administration's economic policy "lunacy." Note that Gerard Baker is not a partisan Democrat. Gerard Baker is a normal, smart, conservative, keen-eyed financial reporter who is trying to give the largely well-off European readers of the Financial Times some idea of what is going on in economic policy in Washington. The fact that he is reduced to words like "lunacy" and "utterly out of touch" and "engaged in one of those psychological exercises where if you say something patently false enough times you eventually start to believe it" should give anyone who is still inclined to credit Bush Administration economic policy with any competence at all a great deal of pause. FT.com Home Global: ...the more important lesson of all this is how utterly out of touch with economic reality those on the ideological Republican right have become. They now regard the most obvious and widely accepted nostrums of fiscal economics as tantamount to treason. For the past two years, they have been engaged in one of those psychological exercises where if you say something patently false enough times you eventually start to believe it. Deficits do not matter....

Posted by DeLong at 11:59 AM

February 25, 2003
Power Struggle in the Degenerate Ottoman Sultanate II

As merchants and passers-by in Old Constantinople would hear screams and thuds from the Topkapi Palace, so we read in our media faint echoes of a struggle inside the White House over which economic policy faction will gain the ear of our underbriefed President. Past echoes of the screams and thuds have come from International Economy, the Wall Street Journal, Robert Novak, Business Week, and others. Today's echoes come from the G-7 Group's (very valuable, although usually much less entertaining) daily email: US Fed : Whither Greenspan? We can't help but wade into the debate over Alan Greenspan's imminent demise. It isn't happening. Bloomberg, Business Week, and Robert Novak have each contributed to a cyclone of speculation about whether President Bush will fire Greenspan. He won't. Sure, some administration insiders are angry that he didn't find a better way to couch his longstanding opposition to deficits in a way that might sound less critical of the reduced taxes paid on dividends that Greenspan supports in principle. But that isn't grounds for dismissal. And what about this speculation that Council of Economic Advisers chief Glenn Hubbard is about to ascend the throne? We don't think so. Hubbard, who came to the...

Posted by DeLong at 03:59 PM

February 24, 2003
William Watts Gets Snookered

William Watts of CBS Marketwatch gets snookered. He writes: EarthLink - Finance: But as is usually the case when politics and economics meet, there are a number of contradictory answers. Glenn Hubbard, the chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers and an architect of the tax-cut plan, has argued that the deficit's impact is relatively minor, and partly offset by future economic growth that can stem from income-tax cuts. "I think that the effects (on interest rates) of the size of the proposals that the president proposed are very, very modest and they are outweighed" by the potential upside benefits Hubbard told reporters last week. The Economic Report of the President, released earlier this month by the Hubbard-led CEA, laid out a formula that results in a sanguine answer when it comes to the impact of debt on interest rates. Read it. According to the CEA's calculations, each dollar of debt crowds out about 60 cents of capital. The other 40 cents is offset by larger capital inflows from abroad. "A conservative rule of thumb based on this relationship is that interest rates rise by about 3 basis points for every additional $200 billion in government debt," the report...

Posted by DeLong at 06:18 PM

Why Are We Governed by These Clowns?

Why Are We Governed by These Clowns? Why is not lying never considered--even as a hypothetical option? Here is some evidence that whoever is preparing Bush's economic talking points and speeches either has no contact with any of the professional forecasters at the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Management and Budget, or the National Economic Council, or simply does not care that the President not tell pointless lies: Feb. 24, 2003 | Faked forecast: Yesterday the Long Island (and Queens) daily [Newsday]'s economics correspondent James Toedtman broke the kind of important story that requires only a single telephone call to expose lying in the White House. Last Thursday, the president claimed that the "nation's top economists forecast substantial economic growth" if Congress would only pass his latest tax cut. After scores of Nobel economists warned that said tax cut is economically useless as well as unfair, Bush's desire to make such a claim is understandable. Unfortunately it is also entirely false. The "top economists" to whom Bush... referred were the 53 highly-respected respondents to a monthly newsletter known as Blue Chip Economic Forecast. They had allegedly agreed that the U.S. economy would grow 3.3 percent in 2003 if...

Posted by DeLong at 06:04 PM

February 23, 2003
WhiteHouseology

These days we see strange and bizarre signs in the media of a bitter, desperate, and hidden struggle over the making of Bush Administration economic policy. Fred Barnes, writing in The International Economy, says that Karl Rove and Dick Cheney have been the key players in the Administration's "decision to change direction," to reject the belief that "no further stimulus was needed," and to "change tack and... propose a package of tax cuts to assure a growing economy, notably in 2004." By contrast, U.S. Treasury staff "point out privately" while talking to the G-7 Group that the "package was never about stimulus..." But the G-7 Group's Treasury sources' boss, newly-hatched Treasury Secretary John Snow, tells journalists and other industrial country finance ministers that the tax cut package is intended to boost short-term global growth and is especially needed "in view of the uncertainties over Iraq." Meanwhile, Cato Institute head William Niskanen claims that Alan Greenspan's "statements [about the inadvisability of widening the deficit] indicate he is leaving the job"--that Greenspan has decided that spreading his view of the long-run folly of Bush Administration fiscal policy is more important than being nominated for another term as Federal Reserve Chairman, and that...

Posted by DeLong at 08:28 PM

February 21, 2003
The Bush Budget Once Again

Michael Kinsley bangs his head against the wall on the Bush budget, saying all the normal and appropriate things. As far as I can see, Bush Administration fiscal policy has no external private supporters (except possibly Kevin Hassett?) at all--at least, not one person I have talked to in private who understands the federal budget has told me that they think that the package as a whole (including future extra military expenditures, AMT relief, and all the other things in the policies but not in the OMB numbers) is good for the country. If anybody does think this is good policy, please drop me a note explaining why. The George W. Diet - Lose unsightly pounds by eating like a pig. By Michael Kinsley: Suppose you had a friend who was grossly overweight for years but lately had been looking very trim. Suddenly, though, he puts on 30 or 40 pounds and is waddling around like his old porcine self. He explains that he's found a marvelous new diet: "You eat like a pig and stop exercising until you get so fat that you just have to lose weight." Would you say that your friend is kidding himself?And if your friend...

Posted by DeLong at 01:41 PM

February 17, 2003
A Mirror of Wildernesses

How likely is it that the--weak--intelligence information that the Bush Administration thinks necessitates a conquest of Iraq is in fact correct? Jim Henley has some views: Jim Henley, Unqualified Offerings: A key piece of the information leading to recent terror alerts was fabricated, according to two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York. The officials said that a claim made by a captured al Qaeda member that Washington, New York or Florida would be hit by a "dirty bomb" sometime this week had proven to be a product of his imagination. Here comes the good part: It was only after the threat level was elevated to orange -- meaning high -- last week, that the informant was subjected to a polygraph test by the FBI, officials told ABCNEWS. "This person did not pass," said Cannistraro. Does that mean we can take the duct tape back if we kept the receipt? Not necessarily: Despite the fabricated report, there are no plans to change the threat level. Officials said other intelligence has been validated and that the high level of precautions is fully warranted. Still, there's a lesson here: It's not the first time a captured al Qaeda operative...

Posted by DeLong at 07:55 AM

February 13, 2003
Hal Varian Sees Inflation in Our Future

Hal Varian (whom I rarely see on the Berkeley campus, even though his office is only one building over) offers his prescriptions for what should be done in the short run, the medium run, and the long run as far as U.S. fiscal policy is concerned. Most interesting, however, is his forecast that feckless politicians combined with the structural features of American politics are likely to push us toward much higher inflation--once the president has obtained "a pliable Federal Reserve Board" which "can probably be arranged." Deficits and Political Pain: ...let me offer my own prescriptions for the short, medium and long term. Though there is a good chance that the economy will be significantly stronger this year, it wouldn't hurt to have some modest short-run fiscal stimulus. Consumers have kept on spending; the real budget shortfall is coming from business spending and state government cutbacks. A sensible stimulus package would involve a temporary investment subsidy, like accelerated depreciation or even an old-fashioned investment tax credit, along with direct grants to the states. State tax increases and budget cuts could well exert a significant fiscal drag on the economy in the next year, so some attempt to moderate their impact...

Posted by DeLong at 11:02 AM

February 12, 2003
Stan Collender on Fiscal Policy

Stan Collender writes that the 2004 Budget's summary tables--especially Table S-3--"contradicts virtually every major claim the [Bush] administration is making about what it is proposing." Budget Battles (02/11/2003): The Secrets Of S-3 By Stan Collender NationalJournal.com Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2003 Summary Table 3, or S-3, is one of the most standard -- and basic -- tables in President Bush's budget. And it contradicts virtually every major claim the administration is making about what it is proposing. (Click here for a PDF of S-3.) OMB's own projections show that by 2006, the annual increase for interest payments on the federal debt will be larger than the increase in defense spending. S-3 starts with the baseline -- that is, the White House's estimate of the surplus or deficit if there are no changes in what the federal government is doing. Budget aficionados often say that the baseline shows what will happen if the federal government is on automatic pilot. The Office of Management and Budget-prepared baseline shows that the deficit will decline precipitously without the changes in tax and spending policies the White House is proposing. In fact, the baseline shows that the budget will be in surplus starting in 2006 and...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 PM

February 11, 2003
When Are Deficits Supposed to Start to Suppress Spending?

Jacob Levy of the V Conspiracy asks an obvious question. If (as Mickey Kaus and others maintain) running a large federal deficit is good because it restrains spending, how come spending growth is not restrained now? We have the deficit, after all--plus the prospect of national bankruptcy a generation hence to concentrate our minds. Missing from this NYT piece about how conservatives stopped worrying and learned to love deficits: any mention of when this effect of deficits restraining spending is scheduled to kick in. The federal budget is in deficit already, boys and girls... [The Volokh Conspiracy]...

Posted by DeLong at 09:52 PM

This White House Is Very Strange Indeed

This White House is very strange indeed. Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard interviews administration officials, and the picture they paint of how economic policy works seems to have no contact with reality: The Four Horsemen of Bush Economic Policy | From the Winter 2003 issue of The International Economy | by Fred Barnes | 01/20/2003 ...Another big name with diminished influence is Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman. Greenspan was close to O'Neill. The firing of O'Neill was "a shot across the bow" of Greenspan, an administration official says. At the White House, there's a feeling the Fed has fallen behind the economic curve. This is bad news for Greenspan, hardly a friend of the Bush family after his tight money policy helped doom the re-election chances of President Bush senior in 1992. White House aides can recite the date--June 2004--without hesitation. That's the deadline for the chairman's reappointment. For Greenspan, the message in the O'Neill canning is that the same awaits him should he jeopardize Bush's re-election prospects by raising interest rates... You fire a Treasury Secretary to send an oblique message to a Federal Reserve Chair that his reappointment is in jeopardy should he not "behave"? Isn't...

Posted by DeLong at 09:38 PM

Not Serious on Freeing-Up Trade

WASHINGTON, FEB 10--The Bush Administration's first act in its Free Trade Agreement of the Americas negotiations is to take all discussion of agricultural subsidies off the table. This is not good. To say you won't even discuss what is the major hoped-for objective of the other partners in the negotiation is a very bad negotiating strategy--or is a very bad negotiating strategy if you want an agreement. Bob Zoellick has got to know better. As the first stage in negotiations to expand free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere, the Bush administration is offering to lift all tariffs on textiles and apparel within five years. The proposal will be presented on Tuesday by Robert B. Zoellick, the United States trade representative, who prepared the offer to cover duties on everything from beef to lamps while making special concessions for the poorest nations, a senior trade official said. The goal, Mr. Zoellick said, is the eventual elimination of duties on goods and services from throughout North and South America. But the administration will refuse to discuss reducing America's multibillion-dollar agricultural subsidies in the negotiations because they are not tariffs, the senior official said....

Posted by DeLong at 04:32 PM

What Greenspan Did Say

He called for reestablishment of something like the Budget Enforcement Act--"I am concerned that, should the enforcement mechanisms governing the budget process not be restored, the resulting lack of clear direction and constructive goals would allow the inbuilt political bias in favor of growing budget deficits to again become entrenched..." He refused to support the reduction of taxes on dividends unless other taxes were raised to make the net effect budget neutral--"the Fed chairman said he continues to support elimination of double taxation on dividends... only if other revenue can be found so as not to raise the budget deficit." NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned Tuesday that "geopolitical tensions" have added to the uncertainties dogging the U.S. economy, making a recovery difficult, and called for more discipline to control the growing U.S. federal budget deficit. In response to questions from senators, the Fed chairman said he continues to support elimination of double taxation on dividends, but only if other revenue can be found so as not to raise the budget deficit. Greenspan, in prepared remarks for his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, said uncertainties about a possible war with Iraq were "creating formidable barriers...

Posted by DeLong at 03:34 PM

Andrew Sullivan Admits Paul Krugman Was Right All Along

If Paul Krugman had written this, I would have said that it is a little harsh and over-the-top. But it's from Andrew Sullivan, who has finally woken up to the fact that Paul Krugman has been right all the time in his harsh judgments of Bush Administration economic policy: www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: ...BUSH'S ACHILLES HEEL: It's the economy, smarty-pants... the explosive rate of current government spending... the president's utter insouciance about how to pay for it... his latest budget removes any [excuse for giving him the benefit of the doubt]... worse than Reagan... ratcheting up discretionary spending... no signs whatever of adjusting to meet the hole he and the Republican Congress are putting in the national debt... illiterate flimflam.... But as the tables in the budget also showed, the tax cuts have also contributed significantly to the deficit - and they've barely taken effect yet... staggered that the budget does not contain any mention of the looming war. I guess you could make a semantic point about its not being inevitable - but not even as a possible contingency? Is that how an ordinary citizen plans his own budget?... an awful legacy in the making. In the first three...

Posted by DeLong at 03:14 PM

September 12, 2002
Jeffrey Frankel on U.S. Economic Policy

Jeffrey Frankel asks a hard question: why, for the past two decades, have the economic policies pursued by Republican administrations been so lousy? Over the past two decades, he points out, Republican administrations have been more protectionist, less eager to promote competition, and fiscally irresponsible. Democratic administrations have been more favorable toward free trade, more eager to let competitive markets work, and strongly oriented toward budget surpluses. What's going on? Frankel's answer appears to be that Republican presidents are--don't laugh--drawn from what John Stuart Mill used to call the stupid party. They simply do not understand that bad economic policies are produced not because of the moral failings of politicians and bureaucrats, but because each interest group believes that it deserves a special favor from the government. Resisting such claims from your political supporters requires " stamina, knowledge, ability to absorb and synthesise facts, analysis, ability to communicate, and willingness to trade off issues when constraints make it appropriate, while taking unpopular stands when required." And these qualities George W. Bush's administration seems to lack, badly. FT.com / World: ...Governing is far from easy. Intelligent economic decision-making requires painstaking work: gathering detailed information, making logical analysis of trade-offs, and confronting...

Posted by DeLong at 10:03 PM

September 11, 2002
Florida Election

I used to think that Jeb Bush was a smart guy who would probably not make too bad a president: State: What a mess: ...Before the scope of the problem became apparent Tuesday, Florida's Republican governor framed the problem in partisan terms. [Jeb] Bush referred to the rival party that now has been snakebit by election foibles in two straight major elections. "What is it with Democrats having a hard time voting -- I don't know," Bush said....

Posted by DeLong at 09:05 AM

September 06, 2002
A Correction From John Quiggin

John Quiggin corrects this morning's Paul Krugman column about the rhetoric surrounding Social Security privatization. Of course, doing so makes Krugman's basic point twice as strong... John Quiggin: ...Paul Krugman is usually right up to the minute. But the main point of his latest piece, namely, that the US Republicans have backed away from using the term "privatization" to describe their plans for Social Security individual accounts, was in Salon's Spinsanity back in June. And the kicker for his column is this para: "And what's the name of the Cato project to promote personal accounts? Why, the Project on Social Security Privatization, of course." In fact, as was reported in this blog, back in July, the Cato Institute has followed the Republican party line, and changed the name to Project on Social Security Choice. Of course, it will be a bit embarrassing for them to write in with a correction, since it simply underlines the main point......

Posted by DeLong at 12:59 PM

Who Controls the Past Controls the Future. Who Controls the Present Controls the Past

I used to think that Paul Krugman was being too shrill when he described the Bush Administration's tactics as "Orwellian." I hereby confess: I was wrong. He was right. The Bully's Pulpit: ...Ari Fleischer's insistence that Mr. Powell and Mr. Cheney have no differences over Iraq seems to have pushed some journalists into facing up, at least briefly, to the obvious.... "The Bush team has always had a credibility problem with some reporters because of their insistence on saying 'up is down' and 'black is white.'" But... if history is any guide, many reporters will... the next time the administration insists that chocolate is vanilla... won't report that the stuff is actually brown; at best they'll report that some Democrats claim that it's brown. The Bush team's Orwellian propensities have long been apparent to anyone following its pronouncements on economics. Even during campaign 2000 these pronouncements relied on doublethink.... George W. Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security always depended on the assertion that 2-1=4 — that we can divert payroll taxes into high-yielding personal accounts, yet still use the same money to pay benefits to retirees. ...Republican political consultants have found that in an era of plunging stocks and...

Posted by DeLong at 12:54 PM

September 03, 2002
Ari Fleischer: Chocolate Is Vanilla

ABC News's The Note says that the press is getting tired of being told that black-is-white and chocolate-is-vanilla by Ari Fleischer. I'm not sure that the general press is, but it's clear that The Note is getting tired of it: ABCNEWS.com : Political News Summary: Home Stretch (September 3, 2002): The sidebar story on this topic today is Ari Fleischer's chocolate-is-vanilla insistence yesterday that the Vice President and the Secretary of State are of a like mind on Iraq. This goes right to the credibility of the administration. The Bush team has always had a credibility problem with some reporters because of their insistence on saying "up is down" and "black is white." While the public doesn't necessarily see or pay attention to all of this, there has been a corrosive effect on the filter through which media and political elites view Administration statements and actions. The Brent Bozells of the world would like to see this as simply liberal media bias, but there are plenty of people on the right who will at least quietly agree they share this view, based on past Bush decisions such as steel tariffs......

Posted by DeLong at 09:41 AM

August 31, 2002
What the Founders Envisioned

Dan Kohn says something very smart about the falsity of the Bush administration's claims about "enemy combatants": Dan Kohn's Blog: ...The thing I don't understand about conservatives' claim that "enemy combatants" like Jose Padilla weren't envisioned by the framers is how obviously the text of the constitution contradicts them.... To quote Article III, Section 3: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted. Why did the framers so carefully spell out what was required for a treason conviction and that it couldn't be lasting on the family (corruption of blood)? Because they were responding to the numerous abuses that had occurred in England of unfairly accusing and prosecuting political enemies, under the rubric of treason, while denying the accused the rights of due process. I have little doubt...

Posted by DeLong at 03:45 PM

August 30, 2002
Paul Krugman on the Fiscal Outlook

Back in the early 1990s there were a bunch of us who believed that reducing the deficit--returning American fiscal policy to sanity--would lead to a jump in confidence in America's long-run future, to an increase in investment in America, to a high productivity-growth recovery, and to rapid increases in Americans' incomes. We turned out to be right: economic historians will long argue to what degree the 1990s boom was the result of changes in fiscal policy and to what degree it was the result of other factors, for the magnitude of the productivity boom was far greater than we had hoped for, even in our wildest dreams. Thus it is very disappointing to see how quickly what I regard as our flagship accomplishment is being reversed by the Bush administration and the current congress. Here Paul Krugman sums up the story so far: Just Paul Krugman: Trust Us: The story so far: Summer 2000: Candidate George W. Bush assures voters that his tax cut is affordable. He illustrates his point with four $1 bills. One bill, he says, represents the tax cut; one represents new programs, such as prescription drug coverage; the other two are funds set aside to pay...

Posted by DeLong at 12:51 PM

August 29, 2002
Bush to Economists: Don't Worry, We'll Make Sure Our Proposals Don't Pass

Economists have been worried that the Bush Administration will monkey with the tax code in destructive ways in an attempt to provide "investor protection" to show that it is "doing something" for the victims of the NASDAQ crash. Now the Bush Administration is telling critical economists not to worry. Whether their proposals are good tax policy or not doesn't matter, for the administration has no intention of actually passing any laws to change the tax code. They just want the investor class to think that something will be done if the Republicans acquire substantial electoral majorities in November. washingtonpost.com: Investor Tax Cut Push Becomes Campaign Tactic: In an Aug. 21 White House meeting with more than a half-dozen economists, Lawrence B. Lindsey, Bush's chief economic adviser, said the administration is committed to moving forward with tax cuts to boost the stock market and soothe investors' pain, several participants said. The package almost certainly will include a provision to increase the amount of stock market losses that can be deducted from income taxes each year, said congressional aides familiar with the negotiations. Also under consideration are reducing the tax rates on capital gains and stock dividends; raising the limit for contributions...

Posted by DeLong at 01:51 PM

August 25, 2002
Our President Stumps for Wossisname, the Republican Candidate for Governor of California

Paul Kedrosky writes: The California election cycle is underway, with Republican Bill Simon running for the Republican side of the governor ticket. GW Bush wants the man to win, but there is trouble: the $78 million jury decision against Simon['s family firm] for business misconduct. That kinda runs counter to GW's avowed thirst to bring down bad CEOs. So that has left Californians with the fascinating spectacle of GW B campaigning for Bill Simon in California this week, without Bill Simon actually being there most of the time. Good fun, listening to GW using pronouns rather than Simon's name. And what's more, GW has been abridging most of his stump speeches, removing the troubling bits about corporate responsibility. You gotta know your crowd, after all!...

Posted by DeLong at 05:07 PM

August 22, 2002
Ordinary Americans, Bush Administration Style

From Andrew Tobias: Ordinary Americans, Bush Administration Style. Back in the days when a hundred thousand dollars then had the same place in the American income distribution as a million dollars today, Republican politicians Nelson Rockefeller talked about "the average guy, making a hundred thousand a year." The Bush administration seems to have the same viewpoint: when they talk about somebody owning a "travel business," they don't mean she owns a four-person travel agency in a strip mall--they mean she owns the Radisson Hotel chain and TGI Friday's. Andrew Tobias - Money and Other Subjects: THE WACO ECONOMIC SUMMIT John R: “On PBS a few minutes ago, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill tried to play down criticism that the forum's attendees aren't representative of everyday people.  He cited attendee Marilyn Carlson, ‘who owns a travel business.  She should be able to give us perspective about what it means to be on the front lines.’  Well, Marilyn Carlson's ‘travel business’ is the Carlson Companies, the privately-held conglomerate that owns the Radisson hotel chain, TGI Friday's, and a dozen other entities.  (See carlson.com.)  She's the daughter of the late Curt Carlson, the wealthiest person in Minnesota.  That's the Bush administration view of what...

Posted by DeLong at 08:15 AM

August 21, 2002
The Bush Tax Cut and the Long-Run Deficit

Bush OMB Director Mitch Daniels and his staff caught some well-deserved flak last month for issuing a press release making the--false--claim that the 2001 tax cut was responsible for only 15% of the ten-year deterioration of the fiscal balance, and then for trying to pretend that they had not issued such a press release. As Paul Krugman wrote on August 6: Last month the Office of Management and Budget got sloppy: it issued a press release stating flatly that tax cuts were responsible for only 15 percent of the 10-year deterioration. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noticed, and I reported it here. Now for the fun part. The O.M.B. reacted angrily, and published a letter in The Times attacking me. It attributed the misstatement to 'error,' and declared that it had been 'retracted.' Was it? It depends on what you mean by the word 'retract.' As far as anyone knows, O.M.B. didn't issue a revised statement, conceding that it had misinformed reporters, and giving the right numbers. It simply threw the embarrassing document down the memory hole. As Brendan Nyhan pointed out in Salon, if you go to the O.M.B.'s Web site now, you find a press release...

Posted by DeLong at 03:12 PM

August 17, 2002
Joshua Micah Marshall Thinks the *Entire* Bush Administration Is Less Than Competent

Perhaps the strangest thing about the transition from the Clinton to the Bush II administration was the sudden and massive loss of power by those concerned with the substance of economic policy. The Bush II administration has a bunch of good people--but they aren't listened to. And those who are listened to on economic policy are incompetent both at the substance and at the presentation of policy. Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: ...the president today tried to explain why he's cutting more than $300 million in funding for firefighters and ground zero rescue personnel. It's Congress's fault: "What [the firefighters] ought to be upset about is the fact that Congress tried to tie my hands. They said, 'You've got to spend $5 billion or none of the $5 billion.'" The clear sense of that remark is that the president would have supported the money for firefighters. But Congress forced his hand by lumping it in with a lot of other spending. Unfortunately, this contradicts what the president said a mere three days ago. Back on Tuesday the president said that along with axing the $5.1 billion he would ask Congress to send him another bill to reinstate funds...

Posted by DeLong at 08:13 AM

August 16, 2002
No Comment Department

Why, why, why are we governed by people with the brains of three year olds? Through the Looking Glass: An article in today's New York Times describes Republican opposition against Dubya's headlong rush towards war with Iraq. To which Republican hawk Richard Perle responds: "The failure to take on Saddam after what the president said would produce such a collapse in confidence in the president that it would set back the war on terrorism." This is a marvelous turn of logic. Some might say that if we need bad policy to back up Dubya's ill-considered, bellicose rhetoric, that would be a sign that the wrong guy is in the Oval Office. But to Perle, it's failure to follow up the ill-considered, bellicose rhetoric --- no matter what the consequences --- that makes for bad policy......

Posted by DeLong at 03:00 PM

Look What Crawled Out From Under the Rock...

From Atrios. The Bush clan continues to surprise: Eschaton: Look who Jeb has chosen to run Florida's child welfare agency: "TALLAHASSEE - The man named Thursday by Gov. Jeb Bush to head Florida's notoriously inept child welfare agency.... In a 1989 essay entitled The Christian World View of the Family, Regier and co-author George Rekers railed against abortion and gay couples forming families, and emphasized that husbands have 'final say in any family dispute.'... The essay also said Christians should not marry non-Christians, that divorce is acceptable only when there is adultery or desertion and that wives should view working outside the home as 'bondage.' The 'radical feminist movement,' the essay adds, 'has damaged the morale of many women and convinced men to relinquish their biblical authority in the home.'...

Posted by DeLong at 09:59 AM

August 14, 2002
Cats and Dogs Almost Living Together

Raining frogs, plagues of locusts, cats and dogs living together! I agree with the Wall Street Journal editorial page: WSJ.com - Major Business News: ...we'd like to offer one post-Waco suggestion. To wit, that President Bush convene a more workable forum and think seriously about economic policy. We'd suggest he lock himself in a room with Larry Lindsey from the White House, Glenn Hubbard from the Council of Economic Advisers and John Taylor from the Treasury. Then he could reach out to Stanford University to add Michael Boskin... That's a good idea. An economic policy made by those people would be much much better than our current made-by-White-House-Communications policy. On second thought, I don't agree with the WSJ. They add to that list: John Cogan and Martin Anderson. Anderson is the Reagan hack who misrepresented what the sources of the 1980s deficit were. John Cogan spent the late 1980s and early 1990s arguing that budget deficits were caused by the institutional structure of Congressional decision making. To the best of my knowledge, he has never found the time to acknowledge that the end of the deficit in the 1990s was in striking contradiction to all his writings. For the rapid...

Posted by DeLong at 11:17 AM

August 13, 2002
Truly Weird

From Amygdala. Somehow I missed this. It is indeed a strange world we live in... REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON MIDDLE EAST BOMBING August 4, 2002 Cape Arundel Golf Club Kennebunkport, Maine 6:15 A.M. EDT THE PRESIDENT: "Good morning. I'm distressed to hear about the latest suicide bombers in Israel. For those who yearn for peace in the Middle East, for those in the Arab lands, for those in Europe, for those all around the world who yearn for peace, we must do everything we possibly can to stop the terror. "There are a few killers who want to stop the peace process that we have started, and we must not let them. For the sake of humanity, for the sake of the Palestinians who suffer, for the sake of the Israelis who are under attack, we must stop the terror. "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. "Thank you. Now watch this drive." Amygdala...

Posted by DeLong at 07:02 PM

August 06, 2002
Paul Krugman Gets Angry

Paul Krugman is angry about how the Bush administration can't even keep from editing the archival copies of its own documents: "if you go to the O.M.B.'s Web site now you find a press release dated July 12 that is not the release actually handed out on that date." The sad thing is that Bush's people in the Office of Management and Budget have probably never read 1984, and do not recognize what they are doing... The Memory Hole Last month the Office of Management and Budget got sloppy: it issued a press release stating flatly that tax cuts were responsible for only 15 percent of the 10-year deterioration. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noticed, and I reported it here. Now for the fun part. The O.M.B. reacted angrily, and published a letter in The Times attacking me. It attributed the misstatement to "error," and declared that it had been "retracted." Was it? It depends on what you mean by the word "retract." As far as anyone knows, O.M.B. didn't issue a revised statement conceding that it had misinformed reporters and giving the right numbers. It simply threw the embarrassing document down the memory hole. As Brendan Nyhan...

Posted by DeLong at 05:32 AM

August 03, 2002
Katherine Harris in the News

From the Sideshow: Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush back in the news. I cannot believe that the Florida legislators who established the requirement that candidates for one office resign the other ever imagined that a governor would then reappoint the resignee as "acting" in their old job. The Sideshow August 2002 Archive Katherine Harris Steps Down TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Katherine Harris resigned Thursday as Florida secretary of state and made the move retroactive to July 15, saying she had misunderstood the rules about when she had to quit to run for Congress. You know, this woman seems to be really good at not knowing any of the requirements for her position - or why they exist. Harris, a Republican who as the state's chief election official was thrust into the international spotlight during the 2000 White House recount, said she had intended to quit later this month to focus on the congressional race. But the state's resign-to-run law required her to file a letter on the day she qualified to run for Congress stating her intent to resign. Otherwise, the law says, the candidate must resign immediately. "I made a mistake in not filing the letter," Harris said. Harris...

Posted by DeLong at 01:41 AM

July 29, 2002
Tom Friedman on the Importance of a Good Referee For the Market Economy

Occasionally the New York Times's Tom Friedman hits an extraordinarily powerful home run. This is, I think, one of his best: In Oversight We Trust ...You see, what really distinguishes American capitalism from most other countries' is not that we don't have C.E.O. crooks, but others do, or that we never have bogus accounting, bribery, corruption or other greedy excesses, but others do. No, we have all the same excesses that other capitalist nations have, because fear and greed are built into capitalism. What distinguishes America is our system's ability to consistently expose, punish, regulate and ultimately reform those excesses -- better than any other. How often do you hear about such problems being exposed in Mexico or Argentina, Russia or China? They may have all the hardware of capitalism, but they don't have all the software -- namely, an uncorrupted bureaucracy to manage the regulatory agencies, licensing offices, property laws and commercial courts. Indeed, what foreigners envy us most for is precisely the city Mr. Bush loves to bash: Washington. That is, they envy us for our alphabet soup of regulatory agencies: the S.E.C., the Federal Reserve, the F.A.A., the F.D.A., the F.B.I., the E.P.A., the I.R.S., the I.N.S....

Posted by DeLong at 01:35 PM

July 26, 2002
How Much Leverage Does Bush Have on Capitol Hill?

ABC's "The Note" repeats something I've heard a lot lately--that legislators have concluded that George W. Bush is unlikely to veto anything, ever, and so that his preferences and opinions don't need to be taken into account as laws are drafted... ABCNEWS.com : Political News Summary: July 26: "I'm Not Going To Accept..." The Note's sense is that after the president's steel flip-flop and signing of McCain-Feingold, the feeling has pretty much been dispelled that George W. Bush would do something that is not in his political interest. There's no concern among plotting lawmakers, like there was with Ronald Reagan, that this president might just do something which would be really politically nuts -- like stand on principle at his own expense. And this arguably has diminished his leverage; legislators in both parties may feel they have his number......

Posted by DeLong at 09:28 AM

July 25, 2002
The Economist Calls For Democratic Congressional Majorities This November

The failure of the Bush White House to listen to its economic advisors--either to the likes of Mark McClellan on just what long-term strategy toward social security and medicare needs to be, to the likes of John Taylor on international economic policy, or to the likes of Glenn Hubbard on the steel tariff and the farm bill--has pushed the Economist one step closer to abandoning its liking for George W. Bush. The pointless go-it-alone foreign diplomatic policy has pushed it yet another step closer. But with one thing I disagree: the problem with the Bush economic policy team (Paul O'Neill aside, perhaps: I don't really know what's been going on inside his Treasury) is not that they are the wrong people for the jobs, but just that they are ignored. Economist.com The Economist endorsed Mr Bush two years ago, and we have given strong support to America's war against terrorism. After September 11th, he proved a brave leader, sometimes magnificently patient and determined, surpassing this newspaper's expectations of how he might handle such a crisis. But there have also been disappointments. His economic policy has too often been amateurish and rigid. His fiscal policy still seems to be based on...

Posted by DeLong at 10:42 AM

July 22, 2002
Financial Times: Bush 'Warned in Advance' of Harken Problems

If I read this correctly, the SEC's failure to pursue the insider trading case against George W. Bush is becoming puzzling... Bush 'Warned in Advance' of Harken Problems US President George W. Bush received confidential information about Harken Energy's troubles four months before he unloaded most of his shares in the Texas oil company where he served as an outside director, according to documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a February 1990 letter to directors - including Mr Bush - Mikel Faulkner, Harken's president, conceded that the previous year's profitability would be "disappointing", and warned that the failure to consummate a deal with a subsidiary had left Harken "with little cash flow flexibility"....

Posted by DeLong at 09:23 AM

July 20, 2002
Joshua Micah Marshall Says Go Read Chris Caldwell

Joshua Micah Marshall says go read Chris Caldwell's New York Press column, and then go read it again... Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall I didn't want to do any posts this weekend. But this article by Chris Caldwell in the New York Press merits an exception. It's simply devastating and the most apt statement of the White House's predicament I've yet read. Every word of it practically is worth reading and reading again. There's always an element of unmerited, guilty pleasure you feel when you hear someone on the other side making your side's case for you. But it's equally true that sometimes a political point can only be made clearly by someone who has to say it with an element of regret, whose words are free of the dross of wishful-thinking and mindless overstatement......

Posted by DeLong at 10:04 PM

David Hale and Bruce Bartlett Criticize the Bush Team

David Hale and Bruce Bartlett Criticize the Bush Team The grounds on which they criticize it are interesting. Both say that Bush's decision to pursue short-run political gain instead of long-run sound economic substance on a whole range of economic issues has undermined confidence in the administration's economic policy management. The implication is that the steel tariff and the farm bill have had severe repercussions in reducing confidence. I don't know if it's true, but it's an interesting point. And the fact that it's not coming from one corner of opinion alone means it's something to be taken seriously. No Strong Voice Is Heard on Bush's Economic Team Within the administration, the economic advisers clearly lost out to the political staff this year on two important matters. In March, the administration decided to impose tariffs on imported steel. In May, the president signed a bill with vast new subsidies for farmers. Both steps violated cardinal conservative Republican free-market economic principles. Mr. O'Neill even said publicly, in ostensibly off-the-record remarks to 200 members of the Council on Foreign Relations in March, that he opposed the tariffs on steel because the United States should be the world's leader in promoting free trade....

Posted by DeLong at 08:11 PM

July 15, 2002
Lessons: How to Be Economic Cheerleader-in-Chief

The surprising thing is that Treasury Undersecretary Peter Fisher, Treasury Undersecretary John Taylor, and CEA Chair Glenn Hubbard know these lessons as well as Bill Clinton did (after he had been taught them by Bob Rubin). Does White House media affairs--and President Bush--simply not talk to them at all? ABCNEWS.com : Political News Summary: July 15: The George W. Bush Stock Market? This may gall the White House, but Bill Clinton and Bob Rubin were models of discipline compared to this Administration when it came to the economy and the role of the Economic Cheerleader-in-Chief. The rules for success in these efforts are simple: don't become captive to the vagaries of the day-to-day market ups and downs; stress the long-term fundamental health of the economy with reassuring specifics; be seen as having a plan to grow the economy from Washington, which includes fiscal discipline; and, don't stop thinking about tomorrow (which really is more of a pop song than a rule, but is still key in this). Republicans mostly are still publicly saying that Democratic efforts to make the midterm elections about "this" -- that is, the economy -- won't work, but restiveness is beginning to show in some corners,...

Posted by DeLong at 03:32 PM

Business Week's Reporters Join the Posse

Business Week's reporters join the posse. In response to George W. Bush's claim that the Harken-SEC dispute about whether the "sale" of Aloha Petroleum was genuine or not was a judgment call, in a grey area, not black and white, something about which reasonable people could reach different judgments, Business Week's reporters say, "not so." Did the noteholder have substantial collateral? No. Was the company reasonably assured that the loan would be repaid? No. The Aloha sale passed neither of these tests. Unless it had passed both of them, Business Week's reporters say, "accounting rules bar recognition of revenue from an IOU." BW Online | July 22, 2002 | The Ghosts That Won't Go Away ...To raise revenue in June, 1989, it sold a Hawaiian subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum Ltd., to a group of Harken insiders for $12 million. The buyers paid $1 million in cash, and Harken took a note for the remainder. Harken then claimed income of $8 million, even though accounting rules bar recognition of revenue from an IOU unless the noteholder has substantial collateral and the company is "reasonably assured" that the loan will be repaid. The ploy let Harken report a loss of $3.3 million in...

Posted by DeLong at 07:25 AM

July 14, 2002
No Comment

washingtonpost.com: Across the Pond, Bush Gets Quayled 'According to Timesman Jack Malvern, liberal politician Shirley Williams -- also known as the Baroness Williams of Crosby -- recently recounted to an audience in Brighton that "my good friend Tony Blair" told her the following anecdote: "Blair, Bush and [French President] Jacques Chirac were discussing economics and, in particular, the decline of the French economy. 'The problem with the French,' Bush confided to Blair, 'is that they don't have a word for entrepreneur.' "'...

Posted by DeLong at 08:00 PM

George W. Bush: Cognitive Dissonance

Chad Orzel finds himself bemused at the cognitive dissonance between Our-President-Abroad and Our-President-at-Home: Uncertain Principles ...another, no less fatuous split seems to be developing. In foreign policy matters, it seems that George Bush is a master manipulator, managing to out-maneuver and out-wit all the leaders of Europe and the Middle East put together. It's all part of the grand scheme, what Charles Dodgson referred to as "an elaborate series of bluffs, feints, and jabs, a kind of diplomatic blindfold chess, at once treacherous and Machiavellian in its methods, and nobly Jeffersonian in its outlook and aspirations." Meanwhile, at home, he's a sort of, well, dim-witted rube, who can sit on the audit committee of a corporation that's engaging in dodgy accounting to cover its shaky financial situation, and get memos about the various problems, without managing to pick up any hint that it might possibly be a good idea to unload some stock before the excrement comes in contact with the ventilation system. He had absolutely no clue whatsoever, and just sold because he felt like it. There's been a fair amount said touting Bush's extensive business experience as a job qualification. Now, even his own press people are making...

Posted by DeLong at 07:46 PM

July 13, 2002
The Aloha Petroleum Deal

I haven't seen the details of the Aloha Petroleum deal set out anywhere in a comprehensible way. So I might as well do it here: In 1989 the managers and directors of Harken Energy Corporation were presiding over a company that was losing a lot of money that year. The SEC-cleaned accounting statements would eventually report that Harken lost $12.6 million that year. Anxious to report better numbers, the managers of Harken came up with a plan. Harken would sell 80% of its chain of Hawaiian gas stations--Aloha Petroleum--to a group of investors that included Harken's chairman Alan Quasha and another of its directors. Harken would loan the buyers $11 million and the buyers would kick in an additional $1 million up front for a total sale "price" of $12 million. Since Harken had carried Aloha on its books as worth $5.1 million, this "sale" would produce an immediate $7.9 million profit--$12 million in the sale "price" minus the $4.1 million valuation of 80% of Aloha. For Harken, this was enough to turn a bad loss for the year into a modest loss. The net effect on Harken's balance sheet? Beforehand, Harken had had Aloha Petroleum as an asset carried...

Posted by DeLong at 10:18 AM

Selling Into Good News?

Of all the strange things the Bush White House has said, the strangest of all is the claim that when George W. Bush sold the bulk of his stake in Harken, he thought he was "selling into good news." Salon.com Politics | Memos: Bush knew of Harken's problems Contrary to the president's statements, company memos show he knew the firm was headed for trouble. By Anthony York July 12, 2002 WASHINGTON -- President Bush has said that when he sold more than 200,000 shares in Harken Energy Corp. in June 1990, he did not know the company was in bad financial shape. But memos from the company show in great detail that he was apprised of how badly the company's fortunes were failing before he sold his stock -- and that he was warned by company lawyers against selling stock based on insider information. Less than two months after Bush sold his stock, Harken announced a $23.2 million loss for the second quarter of 1990. Bush maintains he did not know Harken was going to report the loss and thought he was "selling into good news, not bad," as close Bush advisor Karen Hughes told the American Spectator in 1999,...

Posted by DeLong at 08:56 AM

July 07, 2002
Before Paul Krugman Leaves for His Vacation...

Before Paul Krugman leaves for his vacation, he takes one more shot at George W. Bush. Between the two options Krugman gives us--Bush knew about and benefited from Harken's accounting frauds, and Bush was just a very negligent and disconnected director--I think the second is by far the most probable. Succeeding in Business ...the ploy works as follows: corporate insiders create a front organization that seems independent but is really under their control. This front buys some of the firm's assets at unrealistically high prices, creating a phantom profit that inflates the stock price, allowing the executives to cash in their stock. That's exactly what happened at Harken. A group of insiders, using money borrowed from Harken itself, paid an exorbitant price for a Harken subsidiary, Aloha Petroleum. That created a $10 million phantom profit, which hid three-quarters of the company's losses in 1989. White House aides have played down the significance of this maneuver, saying $10 million isn't much, compared with recent scandals. Indeed, it's a small fraction of the apparent profits Halliburton created through a sudden change in accounting procedures during Dick Cheney's tenure as chief executive. But for Harken's stock price -- and hence for Mr. Bush's...

Posted by DeLong at 03:36 PM

July 03, 2002
Bush as a Corporate Director

Byron York, writing in National Review, claims that George W. Bush has no legal vulnerabilities arising from his dumping Harken stock while he was a director and while there was bad undisclosed financial news about Harken hanging. I think he's right about legal liability: Bush's claim that he did not know the bad news is sufficiently plausible to shield any court from deciding beyond a reasonable doubt that he engaged in criminal insider training. But I think he's wrong on the political side: for Bush to be so unaware of Harken's current status to think that he was, as Karen Hughes claimed, "selling into good news" when he was not only a director but also a member of Harken's audit committee demonstrates an astonishing degree of disconnection and disinterest in the company, and in his fiduciary responsibilities to its shareholders. Byron York on Bush & Democrats on National Review Online All the evidence available at the time -- and all that is available now -- suggested that Bush did not, as Krugman implies, engage in insider trading or other wrongdoing. This is what I wrote about the transaction in the June 1999 issue of The American Spectator: [Bush's] largest single...

Posted by DeLong at 10:01 AM

July 02, 2002
The Great "Trifecta" Political Mystery Solved

Interesting solution to the great mystery of the 'trifecta': ABCNEWS.com : Political News Summary: July 2: Minority Report : "The mystery of the missing trifecta has been solved," the Post 's dogged Dana Milbank reports. "Sort of." "In this space last week, it was noted that President Bush often tells audiences that he promised during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would allow the federal budget to go into deficit in times of war, recession or national emergency, but he never imagined he would 'have a trifecta.' Nobody inside or outside the White House, however, had been able to produce evidence that Bush actually said this during the campaign. "'Now comes information that the three caveats were uttered before the 2000 campaign -- by Bush's Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore. The Post 's Glenn Kessler found in the archives this promise from Gore: "Barring an economic reversal, a national emergency, or a foreign crisis, we should balance the budget this year, next year, and every year.' Gore said that to the Economic Club of Detroit in May 1998, then repeated it at least twice more, in speeches in June and November of that year." "There is still no trace...

Posted by DeLong at 12:29 PM

June 03, 2002
Republicans: The Really Stupid Party

Bush bewildered [Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso] with the question "Do you have blacks, too?"

Posted by DeLong at 02:07 PM

May 31, 2002
U.S. Feels the Pain of Steel Tariffs

Less than three months after the Bush administration suggested its stiff new tariffs on steel imports would have only a limited impact on prices, the levies are sending waves of pain through America's manufacturing sector -- including steep price increases, supply shortages and layoff threats...

Posted by DeLong at 02:13 PM

May 09, 2002
More Evidence That Republicans Really Are the Stupid Party

When Dick Armey calls for Israel to "grab the entire West Bank" and for Palestinians to move to a Palestinian state someplace else--in their "hundreds of thousands of acres of land... and soil and property and opportunity" that Arab countries have, does he know what he is saying?...

Posted by DeLong at 03:18 PM

April 15, 2002
Does it matter that George W. Bush is dumb and lazy?

Remember the White House lawn press conferences in the week after September 11--the ones in which Bush kept saying "the leader of Pakistan" because he could not yet recall that Pakistan's dictator is named Pervez Musharraf?...

Posted by DeLong at 03:45 PM