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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2004-10-22 - 9:00 a.m.

But Bob Herbert is Probably Right, Too -- Post #2

Bush’s Blinkers

by Bob Herbert in this a.m.’s N.Y. Times said:

Does President Bush even tip his hat to reality as he goes breezing by?

He often behaves as if he sees - or is in touch with - things that are inaccessible to those who are grounded in the reality most of us have come to know. For example, with more than 1,000 American troops and more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians dead, many people see the ongoing war in Iraq as a disaster, if not a catastrophe. Mr. Bush sees freedom on the march.

Many thoughtful analysts see a fiscal disaster developing here at home, with the president's tax cuts being the primary contributor to the radical transformation of a $236 billion budget surplus into a $415 billion deficit. The president sees, incredibly, a need for still more tax cuts.

The United States was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The president responded by turning most of the nation's firepower on Saddam Hussein and Iraq. When Mr. Bush was asked by the journalist Bob Woodward if he had consulted with former President Bush about the decision to invade Iraq, the president replied: "He is the wrong father to appeal to in terms of strength. There is a higher father that I appeal to."

Last week the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University said in a report:

"During the past year Iraq has become a major distraction from the global war on terrorism. Iraq has now become a convenient arena for jihad, which has helped Al Qaeda to recover from the setback it suffered as a result of the war in Afghanistan. With the growing phenomenon of suicide bombing, the U.S. presence in Iraq now demands more and more assets that might have otherwise been deployed against various dimensions of the global terrorist threat."

There are consequences, often powerful consequences, to turning one's back on reality. The president may believe that freedom's on the march, and that freedom is God's gift to every man and woman in the world, and perhaps even that he is the vessel through which that gift is transmitted. But when he is crafting policy decisions that put people by the hundreds of thousands into harm's way, he needs to rely on more than the perceived good wishes of the Almighty. He needs to submit those policy decisions to a good hard reality check.

And then he goes on to tell about conversations with aides at the White House and their impressions of the new reality of this administration. Scary stuff!

Dreaded Deficit

I've been saying this about the deficit for months. This today's N. Y. Times editorial agrees when they note both candidates have avoided talking about it:

...That neatly avoids annoying voters during the campaign season, but it's perilously shortsighted. The United States carries the biggest deficit and debt loads among the world's advanced economies, borrowing a daily $1.7 billion from abroad, mainly from China and Japan. As a result, the economy, which is increasingly viewed by outsiders as cooling off and hobbled by deficits, runs the ever greater risk that foreigners may decide they are not willing to lend or, worse, may decide to sell off large chunks of their $10 trillion in United States assets.

Either could provoke a crisis by causing interest rates and prices to rise sharply and the economy to falter.

Economic doomsaying? Hardly. This week, the Treasury Department reported that in August, monthly investment in the United States from the rest of the world fell for the sixth time this year, with private investment falling by half and financing by central banks rising just enough to cover the American trade imbalance. Even without a sudden deterioration, the continued accumulation of foreign debt will erode prosperity over time. To grasp the problem, consider that the child credits or other tax breaks you enjoy today are in effect a loan from, say, China, through the United States Treasury to you. Your progeny will pay the interest forever.

…Of the two candidates, Mr. Kerry is more credible on deficit reduction. The tax breaks he contemplates are not as grandiose as Mr. Bush's. More important, unlike Mr. Bush, he has said that he will require Congress to pay for new tax cuts and spending increases by saving money elsewhere in the budget.

These are no small matters. The greater the president's fiscal credibility, the greater the confidence of lenders and financial markets. Still, the leader who restores the nation's fiscal health will need to do more than has been put forth during this campaign, or risk being forced to act by circumstances beyond his control.

Somehow I don't like China having this much control over our future. And the scariest part of Bush's Blinkers is outlined in Herbert's column:
In a disturbing article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, the writer Ron Suskind told of a meeting he'd had with a senior adviser to the president. The White House at the time was unhappy about an article Mr. Suskind had written. According to Mr. Suskind, "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' " The aide told Mr. Suskind, "That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality."

Got that? We may think there are real-world consequences to the policies of the president, real pain and real grief for real people. But to the White House, that kind of thinking is passé. The White House doesn't even recognize that kind of reality.

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