Bush and Katrina

BUSH AND KATRINA....In Vanity Fair this month, both Dan Bartlett and Matthew Dowd say that Hurricane Katrina was the event that finally, irrevocably, killed the Bush presidency. Here's Dowd:

Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn't matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn't matter. P.R.? It didn't matter. Travel? It didn't matter. I knew when Katrina — I was like, man, you know, this is it, man. We're done.

I think this is only half right. I've long believed that what really killed Bush was the contrast between his handling of Katrina and his handling of the Terri Schiavo case, which had come only a few months earlier. It was just too stark. What the American public saw was that when the religious right was up in arms, the president and the Republican Party acted. Bill Frist performed his famous long-distance diagnosis; Tom DeLay fulminated on the floor of the House; Republicans tried to subpoena both Terri and Michael Schiavo; and President Bush interrupted his vacation and made his famous midnight flight to Washington DC to sign a bill transferring the case to federal court. It was both a whirlwind and a political circus.

And it showed that Bush could be moved to action if the right constituency was at risk. It wasn't just that Bush was mostly MIA during the early stages of Katrina, but that he was plainly capable of being engaged in an emergency if it was the right kind of emergency. But apparently New Orleans wasn't it. And that was the final nail in the coffin of his presidency.

Pickens Plan Quietly Falters

So much for the vaunted Pickens Plan. Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens' massively publicized scheme to build a $10 billion wind farm in West Texas has discreetly been put on hold. Pickens cites the difficulty securing financing during the credit crisis, but has also told reporters that energy prices would have to rise again before the project becomes economically viable. This underscores the myth about Pickens' supposedly altruistic motives. The media has often portrayed him as an aging robber baron (and former Swift Boater) reborn as an idealistic green crusader--what use does an octogenarian have for greed, the thinking goes (He's even a finalist now for Dallas Morning News' "Person of the Year"). But I've argued that Pickens' real motive--getting even richer--is exposed by his plays for water rights in West Texas and public subsidies for natural gas in California--two moves adamantly opposed by environmentalists. Perhaps most telling, Pickens recently slashed $10 million from the media campaign he started to promote wind and natural gas. If Pickens himself isn't going to peddle wind right away, it seems there's less incentive for him to get everybody else on the wagon.

More Unions

MORE UNIONS....Yesterday I said that unionization, especially in the service sector, was pretty much the only serious idea on the table for increasing low-end wage growth. Mickey Kaus responds:

The only idea on the table? How about restoring economic growth and creating a tight labor market, giving all workers (not just the unionized) greater bargaining leverage? That's the traditional Clintonite formula, no?

This is a point Mickey has made repeatedly to me, both in print and in person. Unfortunately, he's never explained just how we're going to get to this paradise of perpetual high economic growth and tight labor markets — even though there's a Nobel prize waiting for him if he does. The dotcom bubble managed to accomplish it for three or four years out of the last 30, but that's about it. So until I hear the plan, I'll stick with my support for unions, flawed though they may be.

Newshour asked me to join a panel discussion on Monday night's program to ponder this issue: when it comes to foreign policy, does President-elect Barack Obama have too much on his plate, and should he get started now by, say, involving himself in the Gaza crisis? Here's a slice:

RAY SUAREZ: So, David Corn, what's President Obama's role beyond simply waiting until January 20th?
DAVID CORN, Mother Jones Magazine: You know, there are some times when political rhetoric is useful because it's true and convenient. His camp keeps saying over and over again, "We have one president at a time." And they are not saying anything at all about this foreign policy matter or basically any other.
It's true that President Obama has, you know, received calls from leaders from around the world, but he insists -- or his people insist -- they've talked about nothing substantive in these calls. It's all just been congratulatory.
And so right now I think he's kind of just waiting. And I assume that he's hoping that whatever is going on now, whatever Israel is intending to do, that they have a two-, three-week timeline on it so, when he comes into office three weeks from tomorrow, that maybe the shooting end of this aspect of the crisis will have passed and, you know, we'll be back to having the Middle East as a problem, but at least not with this type of imagery that you have now, because it's, indeed, true that I think the rest of the world will be turning to him rather soon, if not even before January 20th, to do something about this, whether he's in power to do so or not.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you just heard Trudy Rubin suggest that this inevitably pushes up Israel and the Palestinians on the lists of Obama administration priorities. Do you agree?

What Kind of New Year's Eve Will You Have?

Gawker claims there are only five kinds of New Year's Eve parties.

Poor me, I'm a definite number 4.

Well, here's the 2009 version: Waking up with your head shaved, a chip implanted in your brain, and hornier than David Duchovny. With your guilty Significant Other leering at you. Yup, now there's a 'sex' chip ready to be soldered into your brain. From the Daily Telegraph:

Don't Let the Door Hit You Etc.

DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ETC....What's the right going away present for a guy who's a serious contender for worst president in history? I can think of a few, but alas, they're beyond my meager powers to provide. So instead, how about sending us an entry in our "Goodbye, George W. Bush" video contest? Just put your 30-second (or so), PG-13 video on YouTube labeled "Mother Jones Goodbye Bush Video" and send us the link at:

mojobushvideo@gmail.com

All styles of entries are welcome, from simply talking at the camera to fancier stuff. There will be prizes, of course. So rip, riff, and rant away. And tell your friends! The more entries the merrier.

The RNC Needs to Earn Its Ghetto Pass

Would we think the whole Barack the Magic Negro brouhaha was racist if it had been an SNL production?

With all (sincere) respect to my colleague Jonathan Stein, and all the other stalwart liberals who've taken umbrage, I'm not convinced this is about racism so much as it's about chickens coming home to roost. Had the RNC/conservatives not spent the last two generations neck deep in undeniable, activist racism, they could tell a SNL-type joke now and then and get the rest of us to laugh along. We laugh at the racial parodies, and even blackface (an SNL staple) of Stewart, Colbert, Mad TV, et al, because they've proved their racial good will—if only by routinely holding the Left's (minorities included) foibles up to vicious mockery when mockery is due. In other words: Liberals have a ghetto pass. Conservatives do not.

Off the top of my head, I can think of bits every bit as harsh as the magic Negro thing:

igor_panarin.jpg Over at the Washington Monthly, Steve Benen takes note of an increasingly popular scholar in Russia named Igor Panarin who has been predicting the demise of the United States for years. Apparently the Kremlin is a huge fan and is putting him on state television as regularly as possible. Here are some of this thoughts on the old U.S. of A.:

Gaza: Insisting on Peace Now Means No Peace Later?

Just listened in on a Council on Foreign Relations briefing-by-phone that addressed the situation in the Gaza Strip. Israeli air forces are bombing the region and systematically destroying symbols of Hamas' power as a response to months of rocket launches into Israeli territory by Hamas and its allies. Hundreds of Palestinians are dead in what Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is calling "all out war."

On the conference call, one point was made repeatedly. The Israeli public broadly supports the air strikes and will continue to do so until Hamas' ability or willingness to rain rockets into Israel is extinguished. If the Americans, specifically the Obama team, insists that the Israelis stop short, it has problematic consequences for the prospects of long-term peace. Here's why. The Americans (and just about everybody else) say they want a two-state solution, which gives the Palestinians an independent state consisting of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. But giving the Palestinians full control over the West Bank would mean that Hamas would have a more strategically located launching pad for rocket attacks. Major population centers (particularly Jerusalem) would be within reach. If the Americans stop the Israelis from achieving their objectives in Gaza, the Israelis will believe they will be stopped from protecting themselves from similar but more deadly attacks launched from the West Bank. As a result, the possibility of Israel allowing the Palestinians to make the West Bank part of an independent Palestinian state slims significantly.

The speakers on the call also suggested that the Israelis don't want to make to make a mess that the new American president will have to deal with, but that because internal Israeli politics are at play here (Barak needs to appear tough because he is seeking the prime ministership), it isn't clear how long the attacks will last or how far Israel will go in fulfilling its objectives.