Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Reading

Beating Back the Bush — The Sunday chat shows will probably have a few defenders of former President George W. Bush.  Here’s the counterpoints from Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon:

Bush Zoinks 03-04-04Every dog goes to heaven and every former president should get a shot at repairing his legacy, especially when it’s as tattered as George W. Bush’s. With the opening of his presidential library and museum this week, observers from former Bush officials to mainstream outlets were taking a fresh, rosy look at the Bush legacy. Some offered dopey and facially ridiculous cheerleading, while others offered more compelling suggestions to return to the Bush era with an open mind. After all, other presidents left office in a cloud only to be redeemed by history years later.

So, is this week making you feel a bit nostalgic for the Bush era? Don’t. It’s been almost half a decade since the 43rd president left office, and he’s looking as bad as ever. Of course, that won’t stop a small circle of admirers (many of whom used to be on his payroll) from trying, so here’s your guide to taking on the five biggest specious pro-Bush talking points put forward this week:

1) Bush kept us safe: The biggest myth of the Bush presidency, by far, is that the president kept the country safe. As Charles Krauthammer wrote this week in the Washington Post in a typical example: “It’s important to note that he did not just keep us safe. He created the entire anti-terror infrastructure that continues to keep us safe … Which is why there was not one successful terror bombing on U.S. soil from 9/11 until last week.”

Just no. First of all, why does 9/11 not count? It’s not like the U.S. government was completely unaware of the threat from al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden until 9/11. After all, bin Laden had already helped orchestrate the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed hundreds in 1998, and Bill Clinton launched cruise missiles into Sudan and Afghanistan to try to kill bin Laden three years before 9/11. And then there’s that CIA briefing that warned Bush: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” — 36 days before Sept. 11. Bush’s response to the briefer giving him the news? To say, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” Then he went fishing. Literally.

As for the claim that there were no terror attacks on U.S. soil after 9/11 under Bush — also bogus. Conor Friedersdorf writes:

“Bush’s tenure included anthrax attacks that killed five people (more than died in the Boston marathon bombing) and that injured between 22 and 68 people. Bush was president when Hesham Mohamed Hadayet killed two and wounded four at an LAX ticket counter; when the Beltway snipers killed 10 people; when Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar injured six driving his SUV into a crowd; and when Naveed Afzal Haq killed one woman and shot five others in Seattle.”

Also, there was the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, just before the 2000 election, which should have brought an extra warning about the al-Qaida threat, and later on, bombings in London, Madrid, and Jordan. Meanwhile, thanks to the wars there, much of the attention from international terror went to Iraq and Afghanistan, where al-Qaida and sympathetic groups found it easier to kill American soldiers than to attack Americans on U.S. soil.

There are more, including the howler that Bush was fiscally responsible, and the most egregious one of all: “Iraq wasn’t that bad.”

The Deportation Machine — William Finnegan in The New Yorker on how undocumented workers are treated when they are caught.

You get arrested. The authorities run a background check. They need to know if you have outstanding warrants or unpaid tickets, if you jumped bail somewhere, if you’re driving a stolen vehicle. To obtain your criminal history, they routinely send your fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which keeps a database of more than a hundred million prints. The F.B.I., under a federal program known as Secure Communities, will share your fingerprints with the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security’s core job—the reason it was created—is to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States. Your prints might reveal that you’re a suspected terrorist. D.H.S. is also charged with border security. Its Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm, ICE, will run your prints through the D.H.S. database—specifically, its U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program (U.S.-VISIT) and Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT), which also contain more than a hundred million prints—searching for a match with people wanted for immigration violations. If a match occurs, ICE can issue a “detainer.” Now the local authorities, before they release you, may notify ICE, which may elect to transfer you to federal custody in order to begin deportation proceedings.

Florida Ethics — No, really.  Carl Hiaasen has the scoop.

Promise not to laugh?

An ethics bill was passed last week in Tallahassee.

It’s no joke. The Legislature unanimously approved a law designed to clean up its own sketchy act, and that of elected officials all over the state.

Gov. Rick Scott says he’s “reviewing” the bill. To veto it would be an act of profound cluelessness, but remember who we’re talking about.

The ethics legislation is significant because the concept of enforcing ethical behavior is so foreign to Florida politics. Decades of well-publicized misdeeds and flagrant conflicts of interest have failed to make a moral dent.

A few years ago, lawmakers went through the motions of establishing something called a Commission on Ethics. Most Floridians were unaware of its existence, for good reason. It was a total sham.

Doonesbury — The perpetual question.