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Schieffer: U.S. "Losing Moral High Ground?" & Touts Gas Tax Hike --1/30/2006


1. Schieffer: U.S. "Losing Moral High Ground?" & Touts Gas Tax Hike
Bob Schieffer mostly posed unobjectionable questions on the news of the day (Hamas, Iran, etc.) to President George W. Bush in an interview conducted Friday and then excerpted on the CBS Evening News and Sunday's Face the Nation. But he did pose three inquiries from the agenda of the left which caught my attention. Schieffer wanted to know, in reference to NSA eavesdropping, if Bush thinks "there is anything that a President cannot do, if he considers it necessary, in an emergency like this?" Raising "horror stories about torture," Schieffer cited Hubert Humphrey in pressing Bush on whether he worries the U.S. is "losing the moral high ground in some way?" Moving on to dependence on foreign oil, Schieffer touted New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's advocacy of, in Schieffer's words, a "huge gas tax" because it's "the only way to cause people to change their ways." Viewers of Sunday's Face the Nation heard all three questions, with of the two questions airing in a longer form.

2. NYT Book Review: Reagan's "Wild-Eyed Lunacy" & "Far Out" Ideas
Ronald Reagan's "wild-eyed lunacy"? In a Sunday book review in the New York Times, Adrian Wooldridge, the Washington bureau chief of the Economist magazine, charged that Reagan "was a product of the conservative revival of the 1950's and 60's, a revival that was driven by a combination of free-market enthusiasm and antitax fervor, superpatriotism and anti-Communism, religious revivalism and, to be frank, wild-eyed lunacy." In the review of President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination, by Richard Reeves, Wooldridge proceeded to assert that "Reagan was a sucker for far-out conservative ideas: from the 'space lasers' that were being championed in Human Events (which his aides tried to prevent him from reading) to Arthur Laffer's supply-side economics.


Schieffer: U.S. "Losing Moral High Ground?"
& Touts Gas Tax Hike

Bob Schieffer mostly posed unobjectionable questions on the news of the day (Hamas, Iran, etc.) to President George W. Bush in an interview conducted Friday and then excerpted on the CBS Evening News and Sunday's Face the Nation. But he did pose three inquiries from the agenda of the left which caught my attention. Schieffer wanted to know, in reference to NSA eavesdropping, if Bush thinks "there is anything that a President cannot do, if he considers it necessary, in an emergency like this?" Raising "horror stories about torture," Schieffer cited Hubert Humphrey in pressing Bush on whether he worries the U.S. is "losing the moral high ground in some way?" Moving on to dependence on foreign oil, Schieffer touted New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's advocacy of, in Schieffer's words, a "huge gas tax" because it's "the only way to cause people to change their ways." Viewers of Sunday's Face the Nation heard all three questions, with of the two questions airing in a longer form.

[This item is adopted from a Friday night posting on NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Except for a brief note about the "sharp slowdown at the end of last year" in the economy with a 1.1 percent fourth quarter annualized GDP and a full story on the 20th anniversary of Christa McAuliffe's death in the Challenger disaster, CBS devoted the entire newscast to excerpts from the interview conducted both sitting down inside the White House and as the two walked around outside the West Wing. Sunday's Face the Nation will also be dedicated to excerpts from the interview.

CBSNews.com has posted a transcript of the entire interview, though it differs from mine in some areas due to its inaccuracy in a few places (I corrected it against what aired) and CBS's editing in which portions of Schieffer's questions -- in some places just a couple of words -- were cut out. The CBS Evening News Web page features video of the interview: www.cbsnews.com

For the transcript: www.cbsnews.com

Full quotations, as aired on the January 27 CBS Evening News, of the three questions which piqued my interest due to the agenda they reflected, as well as the longer version of the questions as aired on Sunday's Face the Nation:

# "Do you believe that there is anything that a President cannot do, if he considers it necessary, in an emergency like this?" (Bush: "can't order torture.")

On Face the Nation: "Let's talk a little bit about this whole idea of eavesdropping without court orders. You said very strongly, in the strongest language I've heard you use, yesterday that you believe it is not only legal, you believe it is absolutely necessary in the war on terrorism. The question I have, Mr. President, is do you believe that there is anything that a president cannot do, if he considers it necessary, in an emergency like this?"


# "I want to ask you just a sort of a philosophical question, and that is, Hubert Humphrey once said that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was America's most successful foreign policy initiative because it told people who we were and what we stand for. And I just wonder, when we see some of these horror stories about torture, about things that have happened in some of these prisons, do you worry that maybe we're losing the moral high ground in some way?" (Bush: Abu Ghraib pictures "disgraced" the U.S., but America is a "compassionate" nation that does a lot of great things for the world.)

That same question aired on Face the Nation.

# "Tom Friedman, the columnist for the New York Times, had a column today, and he said, putting on a huge gas tax is the only way to really get Detroit's attention, and he said the only way to cause people to change their ways. What's your reaction to that?" (Bush: opposed to hike of gas tax, must employ research to develop domestic energy resources.)

On Face the Nation: "Let's talk about energy independence. We remain, any way you cut it, dependent on foreign oil. I know you want to open up the Arctic Wildlife Preserve for drilling, but aren't we going to have to do more than that? And I just want to bring up one thing. Tom Friedman, the columnist in the New York Times, had a column today, and he said putting on a huge gas tax is the only way to really get Detroit's attention and get them to making other kinds of cars, and he said the only way to cause people to change their ways. He says you have to change the culture. What's your reaction to that?"



The New York Times hides its columnist behind its "Times Select" wall, but here is the portion of Friedman's Friday column Schieffer trumpeted. Friedman's column was the imaginary text of the State of the Union address Friedman dreams Bush would deliver on Tuesday. An excerpt from his January 27 column in which he advocated crushing big cars:

....I am sending Congress the Bush Energy Freedom Act. It is based on ideas first offered by the energy expert Philip Verleger and it argues the following:

Transportation accounts for most of our oil consumption. And many Americans have purchased big cars and S.U.V.'s, expecting gasoline to remain cheap. That is no longer the case. Therefore, I propose creating a government agency that will buy up any gas-guzzling car or truck in America at the original new or used price, and crush it. This national buy-back program will be financed by a $2-a-gallon gasoline tax that will be phased in by 10 cents a month beginning in 2008 -- so people know what is coming and start buying fuel-efficient cars right now....

One last thing: I have accepted the resignation of Vice President Dick Cheney, who felt he could not be a salesman for the Energy Freedom Act. I am nominating Jeffrey Immelt -- the C.E.O. of General Electric, who has focused G.E.'s innovation around "eco-imagination" -- as Mr. Cheney's replacement.

Good night, and God bless America.

END of Excerpt

The NYTimes.com page for Friedman's columns: topics.nytimes.com

NYT Book Review: Reagan's "Wild-Eyed
Lunacy" & "Far Out" Ideas

Ronald Reagan's "wild-eyed lunacy"? In a Sunday book review in the New York Times, Adrian Wooldridge, the Washington bureau chief of the Economist magazine, charged that Reagan "was a product of the conservative revival of the 1950's and 60's, a revival that was driven by a combination of free-market enthusiasm and antitax fervor, superpatriotism and anti-Communism, religious revivalism and, to be frank, wild-eyed lunacy." In the review of President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination, by Richard Reeves, Wooldridge proceeded to assert that "Reagan was a sucker for far-out conservative ideas: from the 'space lasers' that were being championed in Human Events (which his aides tried to prevent him from reading) to Arthur Laffer's supply-side economics."

An except from the January 29 review:

....One reason Reagan is so difficult to understand is the contrast between achievement and effort. Reagan was undoubtedly a "transformative" president -- arguably the most important since Franklin D. Roosevelt. He restored confidence in America after the malaise of the Carter years; re-energized the presidency after the trauma of Watergate; and revolutionized assumptions about what government could and couldn't do. His economic policies supercharged incentives for entrepreneurs, who were taking over from big companies as the engines of the economy; and his huge arms buildup put timely pressure on the crumbling Soviet system.

Yet the man who presided over such dramatic changes was frequently out to lunch. He was never exactly a Stakhanovite: he started his day with the comics and took frequent time for naps, sometimes in cabinet meetings. But as his presidency wore on, his mind began to fail, the victim, as it turned out, of incipient dementia....

Reeves argues that Reagan was a master of both imagination and delegation. He stuck firmly to a small number of clear goals -- reducing the size of government, restoring America's power and pride, and facing down Communism -- and then delegated implementation to the "fellas." He did not so much do things as persuade others to do them for him. But his preference for delegation should not be confused with passivity. He insisted on using the phrase "tear down this wall" against the advice of his underlings, for example. The arms control deals that crowned his administration would have been impossible without his mixture of sci-fi fantasy and idealism. A Russian note taker who watched him carefully at two summit meetings likened him to an aged lion. If the prey was 10 feet away, he couldn't be bothered to move; but when it wandered to within 8 feet, he suddenly came to life - and Reagan the negotiator dominated the room.

Reagan's imagination was fired by ideology but tempered by pragmatism. He was a product of the conservative revival of the 1950's and 60's, a revival that was driven by a combination of free-market enthusiasm and antitax fervor, superpatriotism and anti-Communism, religious revivalism and, to be frank, wild-eyed lunacy, and he possessed a rare gift for rendering conservative ideas into emotion-laden rhetoric. Even as a senior citizen in the White House, Reagan was a sucker for far-out conservative ideas: from the "space lasers" that were being championed in Human Events (which his aides tried to prevent him from reading) to Arthur Laffer's supply-side economics.

Yet this ideological zeal coexisted with a canny pragmatism. The man who slashed the top rate of tax in 1981 later raised taxes and fees by more than $80 billion a year; the man who championed "creative destruction" introduced "voluntary" export restraints on Japanese cars; and the man who denounced the Soviet Union as an "evil empire" ended up traveling to Moscow to visit his "friend" Mikhail Gorbachev. This provoked a growing rumble of criticism from the right during his presidency. As Reeves writes about the Moscow summit meeting: "The president threw an arm around Gorbachev's shoulder as they walked along like a couple of guys coming off the field after the big game. That was just too much for America's anti-Communist establishment." But most of these former critics have long ago forgotten their complaints -- and Reagan memorials are now springing up as fast as Wal-Marts. Among the many arts that conservatives have mastered is the art of fabricating heroes....

END of Excerpt

For the review in full: www.nytimes.com

-- Brent Baker