A poll on History News Network (hnn.us) recently found that 61% of responding historians agree with TPP that George W. Bush is the Worst President Ever. (We gave Dubya the title in the 10/15/05 TPP, so our new slogan will be “Tomorrow’s History Today.”) Robert S. McElvaine, who teaches history at Millsaps College, got responses from 109 historians who participate in HNN, a nonpartisan affiliate of George Mason University. Bush’s main competition for worst president comes from James Buchanan, who failed to act when Southern states threatened secession, formed the Confederate States and seized federal forts and arsenals in the South, leaving the Civil War as Abraham Lincoln’s first order of business. McElvaine reported (4/1) that another 35% of the historians surveyed rated the Bush presidency in the 31st to 41st category, so that 96% of the respondents place the Bush presidency in the bottom tier of American presidencies, while only four historians ranked the current presidency as even among the top two-thirds of American administrations. And 98% label the Bush presidency a “failure.” That’s more resounding than the 81% of Americans who, according to a recent New York Times poll, believe Bush has taken the country on the wrong track. Scott Horton noted at Harpers.org that’s the highest number ever registered.

Among the comments McElvaine received from historians who participated: “No individual president can compare to the second Bush,” wrote one. “Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world’s goodwill. In short, no other president’s faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large.”

“With his unprovoked and disastrous war of aggression in Iraq and his monstrous deficits, Bush has set this country on a course that will take decades to correct,” said another historian. “When future historians look back to identify the moment at which the United States began to lose its position of world leadership, they will point—rightly—to the Bush presidency. Thanks to his policies, it is now easy to see America losing out to its competitors in any number of areas: China is rapidly becoming the manufacturing powerhouse of the next century, India the high tech and services leader, and Europe the region with the best quality of life.”

WHO’S A WARMONGER? Syndicated radio talker Ed Schultz got the attention of the national media when he called John McCain a “warmonger” (4/4) at a fundraiser for the North Dakota Democratic party in Grand Forks. At a campaign appearance in Arizona (4/5) McCain said Barack Obama, who later spoke at the fundraiser, should condemn Schultz’s use of warmonger. Obama’s campaign released a statement: “John McCain is not a warmonger and should not be described as such. He’s a supporter of a war that Senator Obama believes should have never been authorized and never been waged.” But Schultz told the Associated Press he stood by his use of the term. “He voted for this war. He’s a perpetrator of the war. He’s an advocate of the war,” Schultz said. “In my personal definition, that’s a warmonger.” The following Monday (4/7), Schultz told CNN host John Roberts, “Labeling a candidate is not being disrespectful. ... McCain’s policies fit the description, there’s no question about that. ... John McCain has no end game in Iraq. ... (He) is saber rattling with Iran. ... The man is a warmonger.” For the record, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines “warmonger” as “one who urges or attempts to stir up war.” The American Heritage Dictionary calls it, “One who advocates or attempts to stir up war.”

CAN’T REPAY VETS DEBT, SO WHY BOTHER? At the Veterans of Foreign Wars meeting in Kansas City, Mo. (4/7), John McCain spoke at length about the sacrifice paid by US soldiers in Iraq, acknowledging “how little has been asked of others compared to their service” and declaring that the nation owes veterans “a debt that we can never fully repay.” Veterans should have access to “the highest quality health … care in the world” upon returning, he said. “As president, I will do everything in my power to ensure that those who serve today and those who have served in the past have access to the highest quality health, mental health and rehabilitative care in the world. The disgrace of Walter Reed must not be forgotten. … Whatever our commitments to veterans cost, we will keep them, as you have kept every commitment to us. The honor of a great nation is at stake.”

But ThinkProgress.org noted (4/7) that not only has McCain refused to support Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.)’s 21st Century GI Bill, which the VFW endorsed last June, he has consistently voted against increasing funding for the Veterans’ Administration, which oversees medical care for veterans: He voted against an amendment providing $20 bln to the VA’s medical facilities (5/4/06); voted against $430 mln to the VA for outpatient care and treatment for veterans,” one of only 13 senators to do so (4/26/06); voted against increasing VA funding by $1.5 bln by closing corporate loopholes (3/14/06); voted against increasing VA funding by $1.8 bln by ending “abusive tax loopholes” (3/10/04); voted against a $650 mln increase in veterans’ medical care funding (8/1/01).

Though McCain has derided progressive universal health care plans as “a government takeover,” he is mum on the success of the VA, a government-run, integrated approach that, as the New York Times’ Paul Krugman put it, is “one of the few clear American success stories in the struggle to contain health care costs.” McCain would privatize the VA and reduce state regulation of insurance companies.

COURT ORDERS SIEGELMAN RELEASE. A federal appeals court ordered former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman released from prison on bond (3/27), pending his appeal of a bribery conviction last June. Siegelman (D) had been taken to prison immediately following his sentencing last year, an unusual move by federal authorities in a white-collar case. The 11th Circuit US Court of Appeals said Siegelman’s appeal had raised “substantial questions,” and so the former governor should be released from the federal prison where he has already served nine months of a seven-year sentence. The politically charged case has been cited by Democrats and Republicans as an example of politics influencing decisions by the Department of Justice. (See “Justice Off the Tracks” by Glynn Wilson, 10/1/07 TPP, and “Political Trial of Siegelman: It Does Happen Here” by Paul Craig Roberts, 4/1/08 TPP.) The House Judiciary Committee has announced that it wants to hear Siegelman’s views in May when it probes claims of selective prosecution by the Justice Department.

In an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley aired 4/6, Siegelman described the jailhouse reaction to a 60 Minutes report on his case in February: “Well immediately people were standing up, sayin’, ‘You got screwed.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, you know, I think there were a lot of y’all that got screwed.’ And then, one guy stood up and said, ‘No, I was guilty. You got screwed.’”

SENATE OUTLOOK FAVORS DEMS. The GOP is defending nine Senate seats in this fall’s elections. Democrats are defending one. That’s the conclusion Eric Kleefeld of TPMElectionCentral.com reached (4/8) after a close look at the map of Senate races this year. “The presidential race has sucked up so much media oxygen that it’s easy to forget that there’s another bitter and high-stakes electoral showdown looming this fall: The Congressional races.” The GOP has largely struck out in terms of recruiting candidates to run for Dem-held seats, even in usually-contested states like Iowa and South Dakota, while first-term Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is running unopposed entirely. Republican senators retiring in Virginia, New Mexico and Colorado leave them as ripe pickup opportunities for strong Democratic candidates. (Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is also retiring, but the GOP managed to get a strong candidate there, former Gov. Mike Johanns.)

Just about the only strong candidate that the GOP has recruited for a Dem seat is in Louisiana, where state Treasurer John Kennedy was enticed into switching parties and running against two-term Dem Mary Landrieu, who has never won by big margins and is in a state going more and more to the Republicans. This is their best pick-up opportunity, but even this one isn’t a sure thing—a SurveyUSA poll in December put Landrieu narrowly ahead.

Meanwhile, the Dems have recruited good candidates in states like New Hampshire, Virginia, New Mexico and even the long-time GOP bastion of Alaska. Dems also are enjoying a big financial advantage—through February, the DSCC had $32.8 mln on hand, compared to only $15.3 mln on hand for the GOP.

Dems also are poised to gain from the national political environment, as recent polling shows the president’s approval rating is only 32%, the GOP self-identification number is 14 points lower than Dem self-identification and the favorable/unfavorable rating of the Republican party right now is 34%-49%, far lower than the 45%-35% for the Dems.

Kleefeld’s bottom line: “Even if the Democrats win only a few of their targeted races, which is a pessimistic prediction, a 55-45 Senate majority is not unrealistic. If they nearly run the table, then Dems can conceivably get almost 60 seats.”

LETTUCE-PICKING JOBS LOOK GOOD. With recent job losses, Atrios noted at Atrios.blogspot.com (4/7), “plenty of people will be thrilled to pick lettuce for $50/hour.” He referred to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)’s claim to union leaders in April 2006 that immigrants were taking jobs nobody else wanted. At the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades meeting McCain threatened to leave when he was booed. Then, when he offered $50 an hour to pick lettuce in Arizona, some of the hard-hats accepted the job offer but McCain insisted none of them would do such menial labor for a complete season. “You can’t do it, my friends.” Some in the crowd told the Associated Press they didn’t appreciate McCain questioning their work ethic. “I was impressed with his comedy routine and ability to tap dance without music. But I was impressed with nothing else about him,” said John Wasniewski of Milwaukee. “He’s supposed to be Mr. Straight Talk?”

LONG DAYS FRAY TEMPER. A new book, The Real McCain by Cliff Schecter, reports an angry exchange between McCain and his wife that happened in view of aides and reporters during a 1992 campaign stop. According to RawStory.com, which received an advance copy, Schecter wrote that in his 1992 Senate campaign, McCain was joined on the campaign trail by his wife, Cindy, as well as campaign aide Doug Cole and consultant Wes Gullett. “At one point, Cindy playfully twirled McCain’s hair and said, ‘You’re getting a little thin up there.’ McCain’s face reddened, and he responded, ‘At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you c**t.’ McCain’s excuse was that it had been a long day.” Schecter added, “If elected president of the United States, McCain would have many long days.”

Schecter, who also blogs at Agonist.org, told Raw Story the anecdote was confirmed by three reporters and is “an early example of his uncontrollable temper.” In the book he outlines several other examples of McCain losing his cool and raises the question of how that would affect a McCain presidency. The exchange between McCain and his wife was not reported anywhere when it happened, Schecter said. Raw Story noted that a LexisNexis database search confirmed this. In 1992, McCain’s mention in the national media revolved mostly around his involvement in the Keating Five scandal.

OBAMA BACKS GUN RIGHTS. Sen. Barack Obama is making a play for pro-gun voters in rural Pennsylvania. Politico.com noted (4/5) that the Obama campaign sent an e-mail to the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, saying it would “appreciate all sportsmen taking time to learn the facts: Our candidate strongly supports the right and traditions of sportsmen throughout Pennsylvania and the United States of America.” Polls show four in 10 Pennsylvania voters own guns, with higher rates in rural areas. Obama has backed gun-control measures, including a ban on semiautomatic weapons and concealed weapons, and a limit on handgun purchases to one a month. He has declined to take a stance on the legality of the handgun prohibition in Washington, D.C., which the US Supreme Court is reviewing, although Obama has voiced support for the right of state and local governments to regulate guns. In the Senate, he and Clinton broke on one vote, in July 2006. Siding with gun-rights advocates, Obama voted to prohibit the confiscation of firearms during an emergency or natural disaster. Hillary Clinton was one of 16 senators to oppose the amendment.

Making his case as a gun-rights protector might still be a tough sell, Carrie Budoff Brown wrote, quoting Melody Zullinger, executive director of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs who received the Obama campaign e-mail on his gun record. Zullinger was at a county meeting and mentioned the Obama outreach to federation members. “Everyone basically blew it off and weren’t buying it,” Zullinger said.

NADER TO HILLARY: KEEP RUNNING. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader (3/28) urged Hillary Clinton to reject advice from Democrats such as Sen. Patrick Leahy to drop out of the presidential race. “Believe me. I know something about this. Here’s my advice: Don’t listen to people when they tell you not to run anymore. That’s just political bigotry. Listen to your own inner citizen First Amendment voice. This is America. Just like every other citizen, you have a right to run. Whenever you like. For as long as you like. It’s up to you, Hillary. Just tell them—It’s democracy. Get used to it.” (Votenader.org/blog/)

DEMS’ FIGHT SPURS HIGHER TURNOUT. Conventional wisdom says that a prolonged race for the Democratic presidential nomination between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton is bad news, but Dan Balz noted in the Washington Post (3/26) that Dems have topped 4 mln registered voters, the first time either party in the state has crossed that threshold. Dems have gained about 4%; Republican registration dipped 1%, to 3.2 mln. That is consistent with the pattern since the beginning of the year: Democratic turnout in primaries and caucuses has topped Republican turnout, often by huge differences. In Ohio, 2.2 mln voters participated in the Dem primary, compared with 1.1 mln in the GOP. In Texas, 2.9 mln voters turned out for the Dems and 1.4 mln for the GOP. Even in Florida, where the GOP primary was one of the most hotly contested of the year and the Dem primary featured no active campaigning by candidates, GOP turnout was only marginally higher: 1.9 mln vs. 1.7 mln.

The Pew Research Center found that 36% of respondents nationwide identified themselves as D’s and 27% called themselves R’s, a drop of 6 percentage points since the 2004 election. This is the lowest GOP identification in 16 years of surveys. Far more independents also say they tilt toward the Dems than toward the GOP. When party identifiers and independent “leaners” are put together, Dems have an edge of 51% to 37%, and that’s up 3 points just in the last year.

INDIES CAN’T KEEP TRUCKING. Independent truckers are increasingly idling their rigs as high diesel fuel prices, topping $4 in some areas, make it hard to break even hauling goods. “With fuel so high, you can’t make nothing,” said, Harlan Becraft told the Orlando Sentinel’s Mark Chediak (4/7). It costs Becraft more than $700 to fill his semi’s 180-gallon tank, compared with $400 more than a year ago. Most jobs pay at most $1 a mile, while it costs 72 cents a mile to operate his truck. He grossed $121,000 last year, but after expenses, including about $23,000 to lease his truck and $54,000 for fuel, he only netted about $14,000. Other drivers claim higher operating costs but get the same amount—less than $1 a mile—from brokers. Drivers across the nation participated in protests idling rigs and slowing traffic in some areas. Truckers, especially smaller operators, say the high diesel is driving them out of business and call for the government to help.

Barbara Ehrenreich noted at TheNation.com (4/7) that 70% of the nation’s goods—from Cheerios to Chapstick—travel by truck. “As Donald Hayden, a Maine trucker put it to me: ‘If all the truckers decide to shut this country down, there’s going to be nothing they can do about it.’” On 3/29, Hayden surrendered three rigs to be repossessed by Daimler-Chrysler—“only he did it publicly, with flair, right in front of the statehouse in Augusta. ‘Repossession is something people don’t usually see,’ he says, and he wanted the state legislature to take notice.” He said the representative of Daimler-Chrysler told him “I don’t see why you couldn’t make the payments.” To which Hayden responded, “See, I have to pay for fuel and food, and I’ve eaten too many meals in my life to give that up.”

The American Trucking Associations, which represents 37,000 members (not necessarily independent operators), is calling on the Bush administration to release oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve; establish a national diesel-fuel standard; and open potential oilfields in the US that are off-limits. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade group representing about 162,000 independent truckers, wants Congress to force brokers to pass on all fuel surcharges to drivers. Some truckers also are calling for a cap on diesel fuel prices to prevent price gouging; temporary relief from federal and state fuel taxes, which average 48.4 cents per gallon; mandatory fuel surcharges; a limit on broker percentages; and payment for time spent waiting for loads or loading. See theamericandriver.com/files/TruckersAndCitizensUnited.html/.

LABORERS EXPOSE HOMEBUILDER HANDOUTS. The Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) is escalating efforts to expose the multi-billion-dollar handout for corporate homebuilders and those on Wall Street who helped cause the mortgage and housing crisis. LIUNA represents workers of the construction industry. More than 350,000 construction workers have lost jobs due to the crisis, including 51,000 in March alone. In addition, members are among the 3 million Americans facing foreclosure and seeing their retirement security threatened by tainted mortgage investments.

LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan said at least a third to more than half of the cost of the bipartisan Senate foreclosure “prevention” bill is a taxpayer-funded handout for those at fault. The act has a “carry-back” provision that would allow homebuilders to apply losses from 2008 and 2009 as far back as four years against taxes paid on profits, even though much of the builders’ profit came from their own subprime lending and speculative over-heating of the market. The largest corporate homebuilders, who pushed subprime loans through their mortgage subsidiaries, will gain the most. For example, Lennar could get back $573 mln, D.R. Horton could get $607 mln and Pulte could get $598 mln. Other corporate homebuilders, such as Centex, NVR, KB Home, Toll Brothers, Ryland, MDC, Beazer and Standard Pacific, stand to gain over $100 mln as well.

See “A Multi-Billion Bailout for Those at Fault: Corporate Homebuilders, the Housing Crash and the Mortgage Crisis,” a state-by-state look at the mortgage and housing crisis impact on jobs and foreclosures, at www.liuna.org.

OBAMA’S BOWLING BIGGER THAN TORTURE MEMO. In a recent two-week period, Glenn Greenwald noted at Salon.com (4/5), the following events transpired: A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to “domestic military operations” within the US. The US attorney general appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. And Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past 30 days:

“Yoo and torture” — 102

“Mukasey and 9/11” — 73

“Yoo and Fourth Amendment” — 16

“Obama and bowling” — 1,043

“Obama and Wright” — More than 3,000 (too many to be counted)

“Obama and patriotism” — 1,607

“Clinton and Lewinsky” — 1,079

As Eric Boehlert documents at mediamatters.org, even Iraq—that little five-year US occupation with no end in sight—has been virtually written out of the media narrative in favor of mindless, stupid, vapid chatter of the type referenced above. “The Clintons are Rich!” will undoubtedly soon be at the top of this heap within a matter of a day or two.

As Charles Pierce wrote at MediaMatters.org/altercation (4/4): “This should have been John Yoo’s week for being roasted on the public spit. His memos came out. There’s an interview in *Esquire* where he attempts (badly) to get out from under his role as the waterboarding consigliere. He stands—behind a podium at a respected law school—revealed as the almost perfect apparatchik, a guy who would have found a way to make the trains to the internment camps run on time. The [PBS] *Frontline* series on Bush’s war demonstrates pretty clearly that moral courage was in short supply in and around the Avignon Presidency. (Secretary Powell? Isn’t this your soul in the sink? Hello? Bueller?) But the people who really are astonishing are people like Yoo, who sprang with such alacrity to the task of dismantling America. A guy picks up the phone at the DOJ over a weekend and he’s blue-penciling the Bill of Rights, and the respective role of the Congress and the president, and the integrity of international treaties, and virtually everything that differentiates the United States from East freaking Germany? Too bad the janitor didn’t pick up the phone. Is there any doubt that, if C-Plus Augustus had wanted a legal opinion that allowed him to pick off pedestrians at random from the Truman Balcony, Yoo would have written a memo to that very effect? He should be pumping gas in the Imperial Valley for a living. He should be kept away from the law for the same reason we keep Charlie Manson out of the cutlery drawer. He should have been the story but, of course, Barack Obama went bowling.”

REOPEN THE COURTS. Three years after being drugged and gang raped by co-workers while on contract for KBR/Halliburton in Iraq, American civilian Jamie Leigh Jones has been told, time and again, that if she’s looking for justice for the crimes perpetrated against her, she need neither look to her employer, the Justice Department, nor our court system, Kia Franklin noted (12/19/07) at tortdeform.com, because a binding arbitration clause in her employment contract stops her from pursuing the case in civil courts. “She may be forced into arbitration, a privatized justice system with no public record, no discovery, and no meaningful appeal,” Jones’ Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said.

The Wall Street Journal reported that 15%-20% of businesses now require employees to arbitrate disputes, up from less than 10% back in 1995; companies can fire—or refuse to hire—workers who decline to sign arbitration agreements; and parts of arbitration agreements are often found ‘unconscionable’ by courts, but whole agreements are rarely tossed out. Mother Jones reported (March/April) that 30 mln Americans have signed similar employment contracts, but most credit card agreements, all cellphone contracts, some computer purchasing contracts and some insurance agreements also include mandatory arbitration clauses that have you signing away your rights to take disputes to a judge.

Natasha Chart noted at OpenLeft.com (4/4) that California is the only state that requires arbitration firms to perform any public reporting. A recent report on arbitration in credit card disputes by Public Citizen (citizen.org), based on examining the records of the National Arbitration Forum, showed NAF gets 53% of its business from consumer credit cases with MBNA. NAF found in favor of their corporate clients and against consumers in 94% of the California cases available for review, and they actively cooperate with businesses to avoid saddling them with ‘problem’ arbitrators. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., introduced the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2007 to ban arbitration in an employment, consumer, franchise or civil rights dispute, or transactions between parties of unequal bargaining power.

WHAT 100 YEARS? Republicans are trying to stuff into the Memory Hole John McCain’s forecast that US troops might remain in Iraq for 100 years or more. Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com noted (4/8) that the Republican House campaign committee had issued a press release claiming Dems were “distorting the words of the Republican presidential nominee” and “intentionally disseminating falsehoods as ‘talking points’ in order to stem the perceived political fallout of positive news coming out of Iraq.” The only problem for the GOP is that McCain’s repeated references to 100 years in Iraq (or 1,000 years or 10,000 years) are on tape.

WHO’S EXPENDABLE? Chris Hayes writes at TheNation.com blog (4/7), “Imagine a country where CEOs live in fear. In just the past five years, 400 CEOs — from manufacturing, banking, real estate—have been shot down in cold blood. (Thousands over the past 15 years.) Almost none of these murders have been solved. Indeed, over the past five years the percentage of CEO murders simply brought to trial has declined from 30% to zero. CEOs now more or less live in fear.

“Can you imagine the US have friendly relations with such a place? Can you imagine a president expending political capital to treat that country favorably in an international agreement? Right. Of course not.

“Of course, such a place does exist, but they’re not murdering CEOs.” Instead, Hayes cited a (2/26) report by Tony Avirgan of Economic Policy Institute (epi.org) that Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists, with more than 2,534 unionists assassinated over the past 21 years. President Alvaro Uribe was elected in 2002 and again in 2006 promising a crackdown on violence. His policies have resulted in a decrease in guerrilla violence, but there has been an increase in extrajudicial executions perpetrated by right-wing death squads and security forces. Assassinations of trade unionists have decreased, but so have prosecutions of the assassins. For the past two years, none of the killers of trade unionists has been brought to trial in Colombia.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2008

Home Page

Subscribe to The Progressive Populist

Copyright © 2008 The Progressive Populist.