As a follow-up to his administration’s not-so-subtle efforts to blame state and local officials in Louisiana for the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans, the President announced today that he would lead an investigation into “what went wrong and why” on the federal end. This astonishing news raises several interesting questions:1) Does this mean Bush is now going to admit his administration did screw things up, contributing to an avoidable loss of life and untold damage to New Orleans and its people? 2) If so, doesn’t it sorta kinda violate the idea of objective investigations for the chief executive of the erring enterprise to head up the probe?3) Is Bush open to the idea that maybe his friend “Brownie,” whom he praised after the worst screw-ups as having done a “heck of a job,” actually did not do a “heck of a job” after all? 4) And how’s about the leadership of the Department of Homeland Security, the organization that employed and directed ol’ Brownie?5) While Bush hunts high and low for incompetents in his administration, will he leave the most likely suspects in charge of the relief and recovery effort in the Gulf Coast? Is ol’ Brownie, dismissed not long ago from his crushing responsibilities as a show horse enforcement official, the indispensable man in the operation? And insofar as Bush himself raised concerns about the implications of the botched recovery for homeland security, does he really want to keep DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff in overall direction of the massive project? This whole thing is incredibly bizarre. The president who has never, ever, in more than four years, admitted a single mistake, and never fired anyone for anything other than the sin of admitting mistakes, is going to investigate his own administration for mistakes that he has yet to admit other than at the highest level of abstraction. Maybe that’s the whole idea: he’ll find someone who admitted a mistake, and blame the mistakes he won’t admit on them. Talking heads will roll.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I’m certainly old enough to remember lots of these pre-election “agenda” documents, and couldn’t help but mock the latest one at New York:
In Thomas Pynchon’s 1965 cult novel The Crying of Lot 49, a character who has taken too much LSD decides that if everyone on earth repeats the marketing phrase “rich, chocolatey goodness,” it will represent the voice of God. With or without drugs, a lot of people in politics have a similar delusion that getting candidates to make the same noises like chirping cicadas will produce electoral victories. It’s a particularly strong belief among congressional Republicans, who share the dubious conviction that Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” is what flipped control of Congress in 1994.
With the assistance of Gingrich and former Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, the House Republican Conference has released a new “agenda” document, entitled “Commitment to America.” The document, clearly designed for online consumption, has lots of bells and whistles and factoids about the hellish reign of Joe Biden and his “Democrat” Party. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot of specificity, unlike the unfortunate “agenda” that Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Rick Scott released earlier this year to the near-universal horror of his colleagues, who don’t want to be identified with the proposed sunsetting of Social Security and Medicare.
The relatively anodyne character of Kevin McCarthy’s pet project doesn’t mean it is entirely useless. Candidates mouthing the approved pieties will presumably not be expressing their pithy views on Jewish space lasers or repeating QAnon slogans.
Still, it’s hard to take seriously an agenda for the nation that does not mention climate change, Russia, or extremist threats to democracy — or one that suggests the sole cure for inflation is to cut “wasteful government spending” without explaining what that means (in the indictment of Democrats that accompanies the agenda, there is much criticism of direct stimulus payments, which Donald Trump preferred to virtually every other form of government spending).
Most interesting was how House Republicans handled a red-hot issue they dare not ignore completely, given the obsession it commands among a very big chunk of the GOP party base: abortion. You have to look pretty hard to find it, nestled as it is under the unlikely heading of “A Government That’s Accountable,” and the downright misleading subheading of “a plan to defend America’s rights under the Constitution.” And it simply says Republicans will “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” So they checked off a box for anti-abortion activists in the manner least likely to draw curious or unfriendly attention to the extreme abortion views so many of them have expressed, which don’t poll well. Perhaps voters will be too mesmerized by the overall party message to notice. Repeat after me: rich, chocolatey goodness.