tax cuts... education... health care... environment... housing... welfare... character ed... foreign policy... social security...
"Truly radical policies...are being implemented before the world's uncomprehending eyes by the new American president. He has signaled his indifference to the peace processes that have been nurtured by the United States government for a decade. Ireland will be handled out of the State Department, not the White House. The Middle East will be treated with detachment. And last week George W. Bush repudiated the Clinton administration's positive engagement with North Korea, undercutting the strategy that had won South Korea's president Kim Dae Jung the Nobel Peace Prize.What possible motive could Bush have for pushing the two Koreas back toward war? Indeed, one suggests itself: The threat from North Korea has been the main justification for Bush's embrace of Nuclear Missile Defense. Does he promote this deadly hostility for the sake of his program, as he stimulated the recession for the sake of his tax cut?
"This week Bush is meeting with representatives of China. The sub-headline of The New York Times story yesterday was ''Collision Course Feared.'' That course is being set by Washington. If the suspicion that traditionally marks the relationship between China and the United States once again becomes the occasion of a major East-West arms race, then darkness once again will have come out of light....George W. Bush seems too boyish to rank with the fools who gave us the nightmares of the last century, but he is embarked on a course that threatens to repeat them. At risk are lives of new generations everywhere. Think of the young in China, Korea, Ireland, the Middle East, and here." James Carroll, 3/21/01
Back to the Future: G. W. Bush and the Iran-Contra Affair.
If Bush were to become president, chances are fair to good that we could count on a domestic or international scandal that would rival the scope of Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal. The basics are in place. Bush is just as permissive and is just as administratively inept as Reagan. Further, although much younger than Reagan, stories this past week have informed us that Bush inexplicably suffers from the same loss of energy that drove Dutch to bed and blanket in the middle of each day, leaving the ship of state to founder on the rocks of ambitious aides and advisors. As Frank Bruni recently expressed it in the NYT, "Mr. Bush himself makes frequent comments about resting and sleeping and a sensible pace, concerns that do not exactly portray him as a ball of fire." Such concerns have prompted Bush Watcher Ted Zep to revisit Hedrick Smith's "The Power Game" [Ballantine, 1989, pp. 617-618], re: Iran-Contra. With the obvious parallels to a possible Bush administration in place, what he read was not very comforting.
"Reagan's hands-off habit of delegating great authority pays a premium to aides who are sharp and aggressive. In fact, Reagan's permissive style was the most important element in the rise of his National Security Council staff. Ironically, in September 1986, just two months before the Iran disaster burst Reagan's bubble, Fortune magazine carried a flattering cover story. It promised: 'What Managers Can Learn From Manager Reagan.' Beside a head shot of Reagan was his formula: 'Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere.'" This behavior, of course, is what Bush has pointed to as his administrative technique as Governor of Texas. Further, Bush spokesmen have been saying, in effect, "Yes, he's not all that bright, but he has the personality that attracts people who are to his cause." As Zep puts it, "Lord knows why the GOP wants an even emptier suit [than Reagan] in office, with the Iran-Contra gang back at the helm [of a G. W. Bush administration]."
Smith continues, "the Iran hearings in Congress underscord how lax [Reagan] was, how rarely he pressed tough questions, prodded for explanations, checked the odds and consequences of failure, kept his staff on his toes. Even when the Iranian operation blew up in his face, Reagan was neither curious nor alert enough to ask Poindexter for an explanation of the diversion of Iranian funds." If there are any doubts about this being a description of typical Bush administrative behavior, the reader is invited to review our study of Bush's response to the health care scandal in Texas. Consider his appointment of the obsessive son of a powerful Republican Congressman to head the massive state Department of Health and his lackadaisical and vague defense of the man and his policies as the scandal continues to this very day. (Read here)
Just as in Bush's case, Smith sees the scandal as being part of a larger problem. [The scandal] "fit Reagan's pattern on foreign affairs. He would set a general course, but his understanding was often so hazy and simplistic that he was at the mercy of aides--more than most presidents. Republican senators, coming away from the Oval Office, told me of their shock at his weak grasp of important issues. Most Reagan aides loyally defend him, but some admitted embarrassment as his gaps or his mental laziness. Others reported having to step in and handle conversations for Reagan so that he did not look stupid." Recall that this very thing happened last week with Bush and his totally confused statements about his tax cut policies. Karen Hughes had to step in and explain the policy to the confused reporters traveling with Bush on his plane.
"One high State Department official told me of his dismay at Reagan's comments," continues Smith,"that showed he simply had not understood what we had been talking about. I got the impression on that occasion and others that his knowledge is shallow and superficial. The people around him can manipulate things to get his general approval on something and then keep complications away from him." Bush brags about this approach to decision-making. He has said many times that he wants the big picture and is quite willing to make a quick decision on the basis of broad generalizations supplied by his advisors, leaving the nuts and bolts to them.
Smith concludes, "Reagan's formula is made to order for an assertive, activist national security staff, taking general cues from the president and translating his wishes into order to other agencies. That gives the National Security Council staff great leeway to speak for the president, leaving no one but the president in a position to challenge its word." If Bush were to become President, what would happen would be an all-out battle behind the scenes for control of foreign policy. Based on what we know about the proposed make-up of the Bush team, the winner would be Cheney leading the hawks in the name of our national corporate interests. (Read here and here.) With Cheney in the Ollie North role, Bush would be allowed to continue his afternoon naps and later tell reporters, in all honesty, that, in spite of Whatever-Gate, he knows that his advisers are all good men and women and he has total confidence in their abilities and motives and he takes pride in his ability to select good people for the job and God bless America. --Politex, 8/28/00
"...On March 23, 1983, President Reagan, whose hard-line anti-Soviet policies had by then given rise to the largest antinuclear movement in cold war history, personally -- and almost in secret -- wrote an insert to a routine defense speech, calling on the scientific community to turn its great talents to the cause of world peace and to give us a means of rendering nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete." In background briefings after the speech there was talk of such Buck Rogers weaponry as space-based lasers that could destroy the entire Soviet missile fleet. Mr. Reagan's own officials, among them Mr. Shultz, his secretary of state, were appalled, and some speculated that the president had got the idea from a science fiction film. It took them almost a year to discover what a stroke of political genius the speech insert was.
"Since 1946, opinion polls had shown that the vast majority of Americans believed that scientists could develop a defense against nuclear missiles if they put their minds to it. Indeed, except when the issue of vulnerability was front and center in the news, most Americans expressed confidence that the United States had a defense against nuclear weapons already. Just two weeks after Mr. Reagan's speech, a White House poll asked respondents whether they believed scientists could come up with "a really effective way to destroy Soviet nuclear missiles from space." The answer was, as always, a resounding yes. Mr. Reagan certainly expected this answer. In addition, he and his close aides recognized that because of its inherent ambiguity, a defense initiative would appeal to conservatives as a way to develop a weapons system even while it appealed to the public at large as a means to eliminating the nuclear threat.
"By the time of Mr. Reagan's re-election in November 1984, all of his top officials had lined up behind the Star Wars concept. A number of existing research programs were cobbled together, and the Strategic Defense Initiative was launched with great fanfare and much rhetoric about the potential of lasers and other exotic technologies. Mr. Shultz, Robert McFarlane and other moderates in the administration wanted to use S.D.I. as a bargaining chip for Soviet strategic weapons.... However, Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, his aide Richard Perle and their fellow hard-liners had other ideas. They saw S.D.I. as a way to block offensive arms reductions, to tear up the 1972 ABM treaty and to begin an arms race in defensive as well as offensive weapons. The two sides brawled for the rest of the Reagan administration, and neither succeeded in gaining its ends. In the meantime, however, S.D.I. became extremely popular in the polls. While the hard-liners pleased knowledgeable conservatives by blocking strategic talks, Mr. Reagan pleased the public by offering to share S.D.I. technology with the Soviets and promising the elimination of nuclear weapons. The antinuclear movement, its rhetoric stolen, gradually faded away.
"In the past 15 years, the United States has spent $60 billion on antimissile defense research and has yet to produce a workable weapons system. An effective defense of the country remains wholly elusive. Yet Republican conservatives have continued to speak as if exotic technologies were ready to jump off the assembly lines and have continued to press for a deployment of something -- anything -- that would irrevocably commit this country to an open-ended process of developing national missile defenses. Congressional Democrats tried to resist the pressure, but their ability to do so waxed and waned with their own political fortunes and those of the Republican right. In early 1998, or around the time the Republicans took their impeachment case against President Clinton to the Senate, the Democrats gave way.... In March the Senate, with administration support, overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling for a deployment. At the time White House officials commented that the administration's support for the bill would help to defuse a potent political issue for the Republicans in the campaign of 2000.
"Last fall, Mr. Clinton announced he would make a final deployment decision this summer -- in the very midst of the presidential campaign. This determination clearly had little to do with technology, for the schedule did not permit time for adequate testing -- and since then one of the two tests has failed. Rather, it had to do with the fear that the Republicans would call Democrats weak on defense....
"In the midst of these technological and diplomatic embarrassments for the administration, Governor Bush revived the political issue by calling for the entire Reagan program: Star Wars, radical nuclear-arms reductions, the de-alerting of nuclear forces and the sharing of antimissile technology with our allies and possibly the Russians as well.
"The proposal is, of course, self-contradictory; it is also wildly implausible in that the Pentagon is no more likely to agree to give away advanced American technology than it ever was, and no country except the United States can afford an open-ended missile defense program. But then, the majority of Americans did not notice any of these problems when Mr. Reagan made the proposal 15 years ago." --Frances FitzGerald, NYT, 6/4/00
To: Condoleeza, Special Advisor to The Bush Campaign, Austin, Texas
From: Doris, Special Correspondent to The Bush Watch, Des Moines, Iowa
Let's face it, girlfriend. Some smart chicks like to date dumb guys--the puppyish, butt-slappin', high-fivin' boys who think "eloquence" means getting married without checking with Dad first. Others of us get week at the knees in the presence of a man who can quote Alexis de Tocqueville from memory and whose idea of a public display of subtle, suggestive lasciviousness is to loosen his tie and take off his glasses. You've got Bush, I've got Nader. If it were only a question of which one we'd rather marry, we could carry on this conversation in private. But you're working really hard to see to it that your dumb jock gets to be President of the United States, and you're giving him ideas about what constitutes a sane foreign and defense policy. My guy certainly does listen to people at the grassroots--female ones, no less--but you know he doesn't have to rent smart chicks like us to do his thinking and talking for him. So we're going to have to have this discussion out in the open, since if your guy wins, you'll be President. And Condi, honey, if this is your idea of a sane defense policy, I'm not voting for you, no matter how much I'd like to see a woman of color in the White House.
Condi, you're famous for being able to 'splain things to Dubya in a way he can grasp. You've been discussing video games with him again, haven't you? You told him that if he agrees to decommission more of the old nuclear arsenal--the "Pong" of high-tech weaponry--he could upgrade to Nintendo 64, didn't you? Here's what the Game Boy said on the campaign trail the other day:
"It's not enough to make incremental improvements on existing (weapons) systems. . . . Our mission is to design and develop quantum-leap weapons, weapons that will dominate the battlefields of the future, weapons that will allow America to redefine how war is fought and won, and therefore allow this great nation to redefine how the peace is kept. . . . The best way to keep the peace is not to match every conceivable threat weapon for weapon or division for division, but to redefine war on our terms. That means giving United States troops the technological superiority that they need to prevail."
Condi, did you write that for him? Did you really tell him that with a flick of the joystick, he can wipe out the old scores and start a new game, this time with even cooler weapons? Did you tell him that if the Pentagon only had smarter bombs, it wouldn't matter if the Commander-in-Chief were dumber than a box of rocks?
Condi, surely you know that for all the billions that have been blown on the Strategic Defense Initiative, not even one preliminary test has turned out to be an unqualified success without faking the data. Surely you know that even the Department of Defense had to admit after Shrub's Daddy's little war that it had grossly deceived us about the effectiveness of those Patriot missiles, and that once again we need to stop confusing cool TV graphics, CNN style, with reality. Surely you know that our military helicopters have had this bad habit lately of getting more expensive, more technologically sophisticated, and more likely to crash and burn and kill all the passengers than they used to. Surely you know that promising the Pentagon $20 billion over five years for "new weapons research" is, given its history of accountability, cost control, and arms-length relationships with defense contractors, tantamount to stealing $20 billion from the taxpayers and handing it over to GE and Boeing and the rest of the military-industrial complex.
So what are you up to? After the disgusting spectacle last year of the Republican-controlled Congress killing the last great arms control treaty because they just hate Clinton, have you decided that the only way to get any reasonable reduction in the nuclear arsenal is to bribe these boys with more terrifyingly dangerous, environmentally lethal Pentagon pork? Your boy said that his Nintendo weapons policy would "improve the morale" of the U.S. military. Do you really think it is a fair and reasonable thing that responsible arms control has to be held hostage to the entertainment needs of Bush and his technophile army buddies? Do you really think that the foot soldiers on food stamps are going to be jumping up and down when they see the defense contractors get richer by $20 billion?
It's weird, Condi. When Bush talks about education, he zeroes in on the issue of accountability, and refuses to part with any tax dollars to the schools until they've passed the tests without cheating. When he talks about the environment, he warns us that there are still three scientists left who aren't sure that global warming has really been proven scientifically to be a problem. When he talks about Social Security, he says the government can't be trusted with our money, because the bureaucracy has a habit of frittering it away. Now that we're talking about defense policy, though, there is no accountability, there is no scientific evidence, and there is no hesitation in funneling billions into the biggest corporate welfare agency of all time, the DOD.
Condi, if you want to date a good-looking glad-handing doofus, I say more power to you. I am a thoroughgoing libertarian when it comes to what consenting adults do with their own personal lives (another problem I have with your guy). But if you're going to try to turn him into something vaguely presidential, you are going to have to deal with the inevitable problem of making a rich draft-dodging slacker sound like something other than an incoherent boob when he advocates nuclear reduction on one hand and missile defense proliferation on the other. I really think you ought to try to find a surrogate for your political ambitions who doesn't have to have it all explained in video game language. I know about a million moms--not to mention the rest of the world outside America the Dominator--who have a little bit of a problem with the idea that the solution is always cooler weapons.
In Sisterhood, June 2,2000
BUSH'S DEFENSE PLAN SORELY LACKING IN DETAILS, SPECIFICS
New York Times: Bush Foreign Policy Plan Lacked Important Details:
"It lacked details and raised, but failed to answer, tantalizing questions. But Gov. George W. Bush's call today for 'a new approach' to the nation's nuclear arsenal represented what could be, in the view of experts, a significant shift in arms control and post-cold-war relations with Russia.... But in calling for missile defenses not only for the United States but also for its allies, Mr. Bush challenged the longtime orthodoxy of arms control: that prohibiting defenses allowed limits in offenses.... Many of the proposals outlined by Mr. Bush, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, were greeted with striking praise from arms-control experts.... But they warned about the risks in other parts of Mr. Bush's vision. Mr. Bush's seemingly open-ended view of missile defenses, they said, could undercut the benefits of his proposals to reduce the number of weapons and take 'as many weapons as possible' off 'hair-trigger status.' 'It's very encouraging from the prospect of unilateral reductions,' said George R. Perkovich, director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, a private organization in Charlottesville, Va. 'But I don't think that kind of gesture is going to change any of the problems with our relationship with Russia. Even if we're willing to get to lower levels, the Russians aren't, because of the kind of national missile defense he's proposing.' Bruce G. Blair, president of the Center for Defense Information here and a strong advocate for reducing the alert status of American and Russian forces, welcomed Mr. Bush's remarks. But he said they contained inherent contradictions. Mr. Blair said that if the United States proceeded with a significant missile defense system, Russia would feel compelled to keep its forces on alert to preserve their ability to launch an overwhelming counterattack. A heightened Russian posture, he added, would convince the Pentagon that the steps Mr. Bush said he would pursue -- even unilaterally -- would not be possible. 'They're working at cross-purposes,' Mr. Blair said. Neither Mr. Bush nor his aides would discuss his proposals in detail, leaving many questions about how -- and whether -- he could bring about a new era of arms control in a Bush presidency. He did not rule out creating a missile defense based at sea or in space, which would prove even more unsettling to the Russians than the limited system the Clinton administration is considering and would certainly require abrogation of the A.B.M. treaty. And while he said he favored reducing arsenals below the 3,000 to 3,500 warheads negotiated under the second strategic arms reduction treaty, or Start II, he did not say whether he would go as low as the proposed Start III levels of 2,000 or 2,500. Mr. Bush emphasized that he would never make any reductions that the Pentagon did not endorse, but it has long been the Pentagon that has resisted deeper reductions in warheads. Today, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with Adm. Richard W. Mies, the commander of the strategic force, appeared before the Senate's Armed Services Committee and testified that they would oppose any further reductions in warheads beyond Start III, something that Russia has proposed.... Michael Krepon, president of the Henry L. Stimson Center, a research group here, said it was possible to move past the 'cold-war logic' of mutually assured destruction and allow for a defensive system. The key, he said, was to manage a 'cooperative transition' with the Russians that would reassure them that they would not lose their strategic leverage when the United States builds a defensive shield. 'What George W. did not tell us was the kind of defenses and the architecture he is envisioning,' Mr. Krepon said. 'Those particulars will clarify whether or not this cooperative transition is likely to succeed.'" [Myers, New York Times, 5/24/00]
Los Angeles Times: Bush Unable To Answer Questions About His Defense Plan Without Reading From His Speech:
"The technology itself, to shoot down missiles from the sky, is controversial and unproved. The Clinton administration will decide later this fall whether to go forward with a modest, land-based system that has already failed in several tests. Clinton is trying, so far without success, to persuade Russia to accept amendments to the ABM Treaty permitting the limited system. Even if Moscow changes course and accepts Clinton's proposals, it would be unlikely to endorse Bush's plan. The treaty permits either party to abrogate it, but that would be a very drastic remedy, which would raise questions about all arms control agreements. Arms control experts said Bush's approach might erode stability in a post-Cold War era in which Russia, China, France, Britain, India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons. Vice President Al Gore's aides immediately attacked Bush's proposal as 'irresponsible.' They continued their efforts to paint Bush as too inexperienced to handle the nation's affairs abroad, a tact they have turned to increasingly in recent days as Bush has focused on foreign policy. Gore supports the Clinton administration's vision of a limited missile defense system based in Alaska. He also supports the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which Bush opposes. The Senate last year refused to ratify the pact. 'Abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty for an untested 'Star Wars' system and opposing the comprehensive test ban treaty is irresponsible and unrealistic,' said Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for Gore, the presumptive Democratic nominee.... And while he pledged to 'significantly' reduce the number of missiles, he dodged questions about how those cuts would be linked to the development of an effective system to shoot down incoming warheads.... During a flight to Ohio, Bush said he did not want to use the phrase 'unilateral cuts' to describe his strategy because of its connotations. He responded to further questions by asking for a copy of his speech. Searching about for a pair of reading glasses, Bush pointed to a line declaring that 'deterrence remains the first line of defense against nuclear attack.'... Although Bush insisted that his program is not directed against either Russia or China, both countries have viewed America warily in recent years.... One area of instability would come in the time between the U.S. announcing its plan to develop a missile defense and actually deploying one. That transition would invite close scrutiny from China and Russia as to how to respond to a new system that could remove their ability to attack the globe's remaining superpower. 'The more aggressively you pursue defense, the less stable the global security system becomes,' said Jon Wolfsthal, an arms control specialist at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace." [Miller, Los Angeles Times, 5/24/00]
New York Times: Gore Campaign Criticized Bush for Unrealistic Nuclear Plan:
"Today, Mr. Gore's aides sharply criticized Mr. Bush, saying his approach to nuclear security was unrealistic, that it would not be accepted by the Russians and that it would would undermine years of arms control agreements. Mr. Gore's advisers pointed to Mr. Bush's opposition to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and said the governor advocates the radical rewriting, if not outright abolition, of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. 'Bush's agenda is irresponsible and shows that he lacks the depth of experience to keep America safe and secure,' said Douglas Hattaway, a spokesman for Mr. Gore." [Mitchell, New York Times, 5/24/00]
Wall Street Journal: Bush's Weapons-Cut Proposal Called "Wishful Thinking":
"Two weeks before President Clinton travels to Moscow for a U.S.-Russia summit, Texas Gov. George W. Bush called for unilateral reductions in America's nuclear arsenal at the same time as the U.S. moves ahead with a robust national missile-defense system. The presumptive GOP presidential candidate refused to say how many more weapons he would cut; nor did he say what the U.S. could do to calm Russia's fears of a new multibillion-dollar race to build antimissile systems.... A recent Congressional Budget Office study put the cost of the Pentagon's proposed ground-based antimissile system at $60 billion during the next 15 years. Tuesday, however, Mr. Bush seemed to open the door for a far more ambitious, and expensive, approach, saying that the U.S. needs to explore both laser and space-based technology. A senior administration official Tuesday dismissed the Bush proposal for weapons cuts as 'wishful thinking,' saying, 'We're having a hard enough time getting the Russians to agree to a limited missile-defense system' that doesn't threaten their deterrent. The official predicted that the Russians would want to build up their arsenal if confronted with a more-robust U.S. defense system." [Robbins, Wall Street Journal, 5/24/00]
Boston Globe: Bush Outlined Vague Defense Plan, Did Not Say How He'd Pay For It:
"Instead, Bush reiterated his support for a national missile-defense system to protect against attack from 'rogue states' such as North Korea or Iran. Such a defense shield - a popular concept among many Republicans in Congress - is under consideration at the White House. Yet scientists have been unable to prove a missile defense system is technically feasible. Even Bush foreign policy adviser Condoleeza Rice yesterday admitted the technology was not fully available, saying Bush's role would be to 'give people the energy and resources to pursue that goal.' 'There is enough evidence out there... that he is quite confident that we can build something that works,' Rice said. Bush also did not address how he proposed to pay for the system, beyond citing projections of a $4 trillion budget surplus over the next decade.... Campaign aides to Vice President Al Gore pounced on the proposal. 'Bush's agenda is irresponsible and shows he lacks the depth of experience to keep America safe and secure,' spokesman Douglas Hattaway said." [Kornblut, Boston Globe, 5/24/00]
Chicago Tribune: Bush's Weapons Cut And Missile-Defense Plan Called "Fundamentally Incompatible":
"Though he declined to detail his arms-reduction goal, Bush said his plan would reach 'the lowest possible number consistent with our national security' even without a Russian promise to make commensurate reductions. 'We should not keep weapons that our military planners do not need,' Bush said. 'These unneeded weapons are relics of dead conflicts.' The proposal to cut arms unilaterally may be less bold than it seems, however. Russia desperately wants to cut nuclear arms because it cannot afford to maintain its huge conventional force and a major strategic arsenal. Bush was vague when asked what technology would enable the United States to defend its own territory as well as its allies. 'What I see out there is a couple of things: One, the world has changed a lot since the '80s. Science is evolving; laser technology is evolving. There is a lot of inventiveness in our society that hasn't been unleashed on this particular subject,' Bush said.... 'Like a lot of statements Gov. Bush makes,' said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart, 'he makes very broad statements; then, when you ask him a detailed question, he says he doesn't know the answer and he'll consult with his advisers.' Gore spokesman Douglas Hattaway said Bush was advocating a 'radical rewriting' of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which bans national missile defenses, 'or more likely, its abolition.... Bush's agenda is irresponsible and shows that he lacks the depth of experience to keep America safe and secure.' Arms-control advocates welcomed Bush's proposal on unilateral weapons cuts but criticized his missile-defense plan. 'The two strategies are fundamentally incompatible,' said Stephen Young of the Coalition to Reduce Nuclear Dangers. Unilateral cuts and taking weapons off of alert reduce tension, Young said. But building a missile defense could cause Russia to keep its weapons on alert and postpone any weapons reductions." [Tackett and Diamond, Chicago Tribune, 5/24/00]
USA Today: Gore Campaign Capitalizes On Bush's Foreign Policy Weaknesses:
"Vice President Gore is trying a time-tested incumbent's strategy against Texas Gov. George W. Bush in the race for the presidency: He's questioning whether the two-term governor has the knowledge and experience on foreign policy and defense that the White House demands.... Bush has made some early, minor missteps on foreign policy, and the Gore campaign has done its best to capitalize on them. 'It's increasingly becoming clear that George W. Bush's knowledge of foreign policy begins with Slovenia and ends with Slovakia. As you recall, he got confused which leader he met with,' Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane says. 'Over the past year, we've seen the governor make comments that were reckless, risky and at times just flat out wrong. In November, he suggested that he would act to make sure the Israelis were not pushed into the Red Sea, showing a lack of geographic knowledge around the globe.' (Israel has resisted efforts by its neighbors to push it into the Mediterranean Sea, along its western coast. The Red Sea separates Saudi Arabia from Africa.)... But Gore is doing his best to make voters a little uncomfortable with Bush. The Gore campaign issued a written statement Tuesday that criticized Bush's support for a national missile defense system and his willingness to discard the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. 'Bush's agenda is irresponsible and shows that he lacks the depth of experience of keep America safe and secure,' it said. In a foreign policy address three weeks ago, Gore charged that Bush was 'stuck in a Cold War mind-set' that sees Russia and China as enemies and ignores regional conflicts as outside U.S. strategic interests. 'One has to assume that these gaps in Gov. Bush's foreign policy views and experience will be filled by the ideologies and inveterate antipathies of his party - the right-wing, partisan isolationism of the Republican congressional leadership,' Gore said." [Page, USA Today, 5/24/00]
Washington Post: White House Official Said Bush's Plan Is "Flippant, Much Too Casual":
"Texas Gov. George W. Bush called yesterday for a much larger missile defense program than the 'flawed' system proposed by the Clinton administration, saying that as president he would build defenses to protect not only the United States but also its allies and interests overseas. At the same time, Bush--surrounded by some of the GOP's most prominent defense and security experts, including retired Gen. Colin L. Powell--said he would unilaterally reduce the country's nuclear arsenal to 'the lowest possible number consistent with our national security.'... For Russia, he held out the possibility of deep cuts in warheads, which Moscow wants for economic reasons. At the same time, Bush remained vague on how deep those cuts could be, averting confrontation with U.S. military chiefs who have insisted that the United States needs to maintain 2,000 to 2,500 strategic warheads, not the 1,500 that Russia favors.... Bush declined to put a price tag on his antimissile system but said it would not subvert his plans to cut taxes by $1.3 trillion over 10 years, save Social Security and promote new spending on education and domestic programs. The White House and Vice President Gore's campaign denounced Bush's speech as a rhetorical kitchen sink of vague concepts that glossed over obvious problems, such as the cost of such a system and scientific limitations that could make it impossible. 'No, I don't think people will take this very seriously until he actually starts putting some details out,' White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said. 'I think people will see this as someone who's trying to make political points.'... Clinton has not ruled out proceeding with missile defense if Russian leaders refuse to amend the ABM treaty. Nonetheless, a White House official criticized Bush for campaigning, in part, on a threat to abrogate that treaty. 'Bush's attitude toward this is flippant, much too casual,' the official said. 'And the assumption that of course it will work, because we are a peaceful nation and we will tell them so, is truly naive.'... Bush said it should be possible to go below the START II treaty level of 3,000 to 3,500 warheads on each side. But he said he could not propose a specific number until he is in office and his secretary of defense has assessed America's arsenal. That vagueness led Gore campaign advisers to maintain that Bush had essentially endorsed the White House's approach: Talks have already begun on a START III accord." [Neal, Washington Post, 5/24/00]
POLITEX: BUSH "PRIVATIZES" HIS FOREIGN AFFAIRS PROBLEM. When Dubya made his first West Coast swing through California, Oregon, and Washington in mid-summer, he told the voters, in effect, "I may not know much about foreign policy, but I have some great advisers who do, and I'll be sure to ask them for advice." Since the press then got all caught up in the Bush Cocaine Crisis, that "foreign policy statement" didn't earn the laughter that it should have, so now Bush has moved on to the next stage of his attempt to "privatize" foreign policy, to begin to publicly take it out of the hands (and mind) of the candidate and farm it out to trusted advisers who know the score and will tell him what to do. Kind of an updated version of Dr. Strangelove, but this time Paul Wolfowitz, who served in both the Reagan and Bush administrations, is "Doctor" and Condoleeza Rice, who served in the Bush administration under Brent Scowcroft, Poppy's national security adviser, is "Strangelove." Scowcroft figures into Dubya's foreign affairs mix as the puppeteer of young George's foreign policy team. Meanwhile, last night on Fox Poppy told Paula Zahn, "I had my chance on those issues. I still read up everything, try to stay up to date, but I don't - I don't want to always be in the game anymore." Sure, Dad. It seems like you're the only member of your administration who doesn't have a piece of the action on "rambunctuous" George's foreign policy team. Yet, George and Dad want us to believe that the boy's doing it on his own without any meaningful help from the old man. Uh-huh.
So, what does young George tell reporters about the world's latest crisis? "I may not be able to tell you exactly the nuances of the East Timorian situation," George W. tells The New York Times shortly before the East Timorese situation flares out of control, "but I'll ask [Condoleeza] Rice, or I'll ask Paul Wolfowitz, or I'll ask Dick Cheney. I'll ask the people who've had experience." In other words, adds Jacob Heilbrunn in this week's New Republic, "I'll consult Dad's people. Rice was a Bush National Security Council (NSC) aide on Soviet affairs; Wolfowitz was undersecretary of defense for policy, and Cheney, of course, was secretary of defense. Among the others rounding out Bush's circle of foreign policy advisers is Richard Haass, director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, who handled Gulf War planning and other Middle East issues for George W.'s dad....Give George W. Bush credit for knowing his own limitations. He seems fairly comfortable talking about education or the economy. But when it comes to foreign policy, he has little to say, and when he does talk, he flounders...Thus, if you want to know what George W. would do in foreign affairs, you have to know what this group of people thinks."
Paul Wolfowitze, a Reaganite hard-liner, represents one of two foreign policy positions fighting to gain young George's heart and mind. "It will be interesting to see how Wolfowitz fares in the George W. campaign," writes Heilbrunn," and whether, if George W. is elected, Wolfowitz's neo-Reaganism will have an impact on the new president's thinking. Reaganites tend to see the bold exercise of American power not in static cost-benefit terms, but in dynamic risk-reward terms. Yes, it's risky to confront enemies in the world, especially militarily. But it can sometimes bring change that radically lowers the long-term dangers to American interests and values." At present, though, young George appears to be guided by those who created his father's foreign policies. "To the degree that Scowcroft and his acolytes help shape a George W. Bush foreign policy, then, it will be a neorealist policy. A second Bush administration would hardly withdraw from the world, as the neoisolationists who now dominate the Republican majority in Congress would. It would instead favor U.S. engagement in the world, with force if necessary, but only to protect vital (usually economic) interests. No more moral or humanitarian interventions; the Bush realists' chief concern would be the old Nixon-Kissinger game of maintaining a balance of power among the great nations rather than vindicating the rights of the small nations--much less those of oppressed individuals." While the dangers of the Reagan approach to foreign policy is pretty obvious--war, the Poppy approach is not without limitations: "In hindsight, the Bush national security team was often too cautious and lacking in imagination to do much more than react--belatedly--to events."
Young George likes to dance with the folks who brung him. His big bucks backers, including his Dad's friends, are generally more interested in fighting for their economic interests than for "romantic" humanitarian interests. So it's not surprising that Bush is leaning towards the Poppy-Scowcroft-Rice approach. And with Poppy and Scowcroft in deep cover, helping Bush to pretend that his administration would not be a foreign policy re-hash of his Dad's, it's up to the Bush strategists to push Rice into the media spotlight, which is presently being done. Aside from the numerous "star profiles" that have been done on her over the months, less than two weeks ago she was interviewed about Russian corruption and the International Monetary Fund. At about the same time, Richard Armitage, another Bush foreign policy adviser, called on the Australian Prime Minister to help prevent a war with China over Taiwan. In theory, Bush could have made these statements, himself. But then he would have been questioned by the media, and you know how ill-tempered he gets when a reporter refuses to accept a vague response to a follow-up question. 9/14-16/99
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