2. Russert: "If You Froze the Tax Cut for the Top One Percent..."
Post: "87 Billion Reasons to Revisit Those Tax Cuts"
4. CNN: "Soviet-Style Purge" in Alabama, U.S. "Imperialism" in Iraq
On the debut of the newly formatted This Week on Sunday, George Stephanopoulos proposed a comparison between George Bush's Iraq and Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam. Stephanopoulos announced: "We begin our morning briefing examining something that's being heard more and more -- that Iraq is starting to look like Vietnam." He insisted, before George Will was allowed to undermine the premise: "There are also some striking similarities between the speeches of Lyndon Johnson and George Bush."
The "this week BRIEFING" with the Vietnam analogy came in the midst of the show now broken up into gimmicky segments, each with their own heading: "this week HEADLINES" followed by the "this week HEADLINER," this time Stephanopoulos and Will interviewing Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Myers. Then Stephanopoulos went "ON THE TRAIL" with a taped piece on Howard Dean. Next, the "this week THE LIST," which was divided into three sub-categories in which Stephanopoulos played soundbites or showed pictures: "IMAGES," "VOICES" and "FUNNIES" -- which was made up of clips of jokes by Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, Craig Kilborn and David Letterman.
Next, two "this week BRIEFING" segments. In the first, Stephanopoulos laid out his Vietnam case and then Will reacted to it. In the second, Michel Martin outlined why women don't like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The program ended with Stephanopoulos reading some "E-MAIL."
For a look at the show's new logo: abcnews.go.com
ABC developed the new format to try to boost the show which under Stephanopoulos lost 16 percent of its audience between 2001-2002 and 2002-2003, dropping to 2.6 million viewers, USA Today reported last week. Over the same time, CBS's Face the Nation fell 7 percent to 2.7 million viewers, NBC's Meet the Press was down 5 percent to 4.3 million viewers. Pulling up the rear, Fox News Sunday actually gained 10 percent to attract 1.6 million viewers.
Back to Stephanopoulos and Vietnam, he set up the segment: "We begin our morning briefing examining something that's being heard more and more -- that Iraq is starting to look like Vietnam." Stephanopoulos cited comments from former Army Secretary Tom White and retired General Anthony Zinni before playing a clip from Senator Tom Harkin on the Senate floor: "This may not be Vietnam, but boy it sure smells like it" and "it's costing like Vietnam too."
Stephanopoulos asserted: "There are also some striking similarities between the speeches of Lyndon Johnson and George Bush."
This Week viewers were treated to a series of back-to-back clips of Presidents Johnson (in black and white) and Bush, with no dates noted for either set of clips, in order to suggest eerie similarities. Most likely, the Johnson clips came at least two years into his presidency -- and thus four-plus into the Vietnam war -- that itself undermining any comparison to Iraq after a few months of involvement.
Stephanopoulos prompted Will, who countered: "Historical analogies can serve our thinking or they can be a substitute for thinking. For years, when America seemed to be too accommodating, the specter of Munich was invoked, a failed attempt to appease Hitler by giving him bits of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Then when America seemed to be for years too assertive in the world, a cautionary example was Vietnam. But there's a third example, a third analogy which worries the Pentagon. It's Algeria, the Battle of Algiers..."
Will then showed a clip of the Battle for Algiers movie in which a commander warns his troops about daily deadly incidents, committed by a small minority of residents, in an urban area.
Don't cut other spending, rescind the tax cut to pay for Iraq, Part 1. On Sunday's Meet the Press, NBC's Tim Russert once again displayed his obsession with blaming tax cuts, not spending hikes, for any deficit.
Picking up on a liberal proposal pushed by Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, Russert proposed to Vice President Dick Cheney: "If you froze the tax cut for the top one percent of Americans, it would generate enough money to pay for the $87 billion for the war." A bit later, when Cheney blamed the economic slowdown and 9-11 for the rising deficit, Russert interjected: "And tax cuts."
Those exchanges in full from the September 14 Meet the Press in which Cheney was the sole guest for the hour:
-- Russert: "If you froze the tax cut for the top one percent of Americans, it would generate enough money to pay for the $87 billion for the war, if you did it for just one year. Would you consider that?"
-- Cheney: "The deficit that we're running today, after we get the approval of the $87 billion, will still be less as a percentage of our total capacity to pay for it, our total economic activity in this country, than it was back in the '80s or the deficits we ran in the '90s. We're still about 4.7 percent of our total GDP. So the notion that the United States can't afford this or that we shouldn't do it is, I think, seriously flawed. One of the reasons the deficit got as big as it did, frankly, was because of the economic slowdown, the fall-off in deficits, the terrorist attacks. A significant chunk was taken out of the economy by what happened after the attacks of 9/11."
Don't cut other spending, rescind the tax cut to pay for Iraq, Part 2. In a Sunday "Outlook" section cover story in the Washington Post, "There Are 87 Billion Reasons to Revisit Those Tax Cuts, Mr. President," Steven Mufson, who used to cover economics for the Post, charged that President Bush "chose to surrender some of the fiscal weapons" at the government's "disposal through massive tax cuts."
Mufson, now Deputy Editor of the "Outlook" section, conceded that "the President's request last week for another $87 billion for the occupation in Iraq is chump change in the context of what has been given away in the Bush tax cuts," yet he pleaded that it "should make people stop and wonder whether President Bush's 2001 and 2002 tax cuts significantly compromised America's ability to respond vigorously to problems at home and abroad in the future."
Later, Mufson, who covered economics for the Post from 1990 to 1993, regretted the impact, of the rejection of Walter Mondale in 1984, on the current crop of Democratic candidates: "The Democratic presidential candidate who in 1984 laid out a detailed tax plan and asked of Ronald Reagan 'Where's the beef?' was pummeled for his forthrightness. Who wants beef when you can have chocolate?"
An excerpt from Mufson's September 14 piece in which he accurately recounts Bush's unfortunate zest for higher spending across the board:
Imagine an army massing directly in front of you. Your own forces are having some supply line problems. And enemies are hiding on either side, waiting to ambush you. So what do you do? Dismantle your own arsenal?
If you're talking about the fiscal battles the United States is facing, and if you're the Bush administration, the answer seems to be: Yes. Call it fiscal disarmament. In its first two years, the Bush administration -- faced with a swelling army of retirees, unknown costs of lurking national security dangers and challenges to its supply of tax revenues because of fixes needed with the alternate minimum tax -- chose to surrender some of the fiscal weapons at its disposal through massive tax cuts.
The president's request last week for another $87 billion for the occupation in Iraq is chump change in the context of what has been given away in the Bush tax cuts. It comes to about 5 percent of the cost of the president's tax cuts over 10 years. In the mountain of U.S. borrowing, it amounts to a hill of beans. It will add only a little more than 2 percent to the national debt.
Yet the request, which could push the federal budget deficit to more than $500 billion during the next fiscal year, should make people stop and wonder whether President Bush's 2001 and 2002 tax cuts significantly compromised America's ability to respond vigorously to problems at home and abroad in the future. Bush's two swift and deep cuts changed the tenor of American politics, probably for the next decade. Instead of debating about whether or how to shore up Social Security, invest in our cities, expand prescription drug coverage and back up our military might abroad with reconstruction and aid packages, we will lapse back into the politics of relative scarcity, dominated by haggling over cuts in government spending and a game of chicken over who proposes tax increases....
Of course, tax cuts alone do not make big deficits. We can spend ourselves into debt, too. And Republicans have made smaller government a central part of their ideology. On this, Bush is packaging himself one way, legislating another. "We passed budget agreements to bring much-needed spending discipline to Washington, D.C.," Bush said last Monday at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., fundraiser. Discipline? What discipline? Bush has embraced costly proposals on homeland security, education and prescription drugs without making a stand on spending cuts that would bring the budget closer to balance. Everything from Amtrak subsidies to expensive weapons programs to agriculture subsidies are alive and well.
Robert Reischauer, former director of the CBO and now head of the Urban Institute, says, "This is the first war we've been in where the president and the Congress seem unwilling to sacrifice. Bush won't sacrifice the Democrats' priorities, let alone any of his own."
The situation is even worse than it looks, because the government is raiding Social Security surpluses. Social Security isn't being treated as a lock box. It's a cookie jar. Without using extra Social Security tax revenues, the government would run a deficit of $600 billion or more next year....
Democrats might like to think that there will be a comeuppance for Bush. Not likely. Even after a second Bush term, U.S. debt levels as a percentage of GDP would still be lower than most of Europe's and much lower than Japan's. As of now, it's hard to discern any impact the revived deficit is having on interest rates (although that will change). Barry Anderson, former deputy director of the CBO and now a consultant to the International Monetary Fund, calls it the "free pass" phenomenon: Bush can avoid tough choices on spending and taxes, and cruise through his presidency without facing the consequences....
But the delay in the economic effects of deficit spending renders the political spirit unwilling. Did any of the Democratic presidential hopefuls say anything about tax increases during the last debate? A little bit. Rep. Richard Gephardt called for repealing the Bush tax cuts, and Sens. John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and John Edwards condemned tax cuts for the rich. Not much was said about broader taxes or spending cuts. Does the name Walter Mondale ring a bell? The Democratic presidential candidate who in 1984 laid out a detailed tax plan and asked of Ronald Reagan "Where's the beef?" was pummeled for his forthrightness. Who wants beef when you can have chocolate? Bush, by comparison, has been feeding on fiscal sweets. Sooner or later the whole country will get a stomachache. But it sure tastes good for a while. Maybe through November 2004.
Perhaps Democrats will find a way to frame the issue of fiscal priorities differently from the way Mondale did. Bush is asking for money for national security. This isn't some liberal Democratic social program. This isn't waste. (Certainly those contractors in Iraq aren't wasting any money. Perish the thought.) This is essential. So if Bush wants agreement and it's important, shouldn't he show the toughness to make choices? Even raise taxes in post-recovery years....
Our presidential political cycle does not correspond to our economic cycle. Reagan did not pay the full consequences of his tax cutting and big military spending. The first Bush did not get the full benefits of signing a tough 1990 budget deal. Clinton got the benefits of tough choices made in 1993 at the outset of his presidency. But he didn't face the economic downturn that followed him closely out the White House door.
Bush seems to be counting on this delay. He isn't betting his ranch, but he's wagering that some other administration will have to clean up the fiscal mess he's left behind.
END of Excerpt
For Mufson's piece in full: www.washingtonpost.com
CNN's imperial empires: Anti-tax hike Republicans in Alabama and U.S. troops in Iraq. At the top of Friday's Inside Politics, over video of older men in uniforms marching in what looked like a communist-era military parade in Moscow, the CNN announcer declared: "Back in the USSR? Find out how a Soviet-style purge with a Southern accent translates into the 'Political Play of the Week.'"
And last Wednesday night, in a piece for CNN's NewsNight recounting his time with a U.S. Army unit in Iraq, Walter Rodgers made repeated allusions to past empires and how the U.S. is repeating history: "In what some have called a new American imperialism, Iraqis are trained to patrol borders, just as the British trained Indians and Pakistanis to patrol theirs." Rodgers also asserted: "Many Arabs recall the European empire's use of force to control regional factions. And some see these U.S. troops as the ramrods of a new imperialism."
On Friday's IP, after the loaded opening quoted above, CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, in Los Angeles, gave his "Play of the Week" to the "GOP purge" in Alabama a state in which voters last week, by an overwhelming 68 to 32 percent, rejected the Republican Governor's call for a $1.2 billion tax hike.
Schneider's first few words were cut off by CNN, but picking up from where his audio could be heard: "purges when officials strayed from the party line. But this is America. Purges here can be brutal but they are more democratic. Like the GOP purge, make that the GOP 'Play of the Week' in Alabama. How do you convince Alabama voters to approve a $1.2 billion tax hike? Maybe if there's a severe state fiscal crisis and a conservative Republican Governor like Bob Riley leading the campaign. The perfect storm."
Schneider played a soundbite of Riley warning: "What's more important, foster care or education? What's more important, prescription drugs or nursing home care? Because we are going to have to make some brutal decisions next week if this does not pass."
Schneider reported: "It looked like Riley had support from teachers, business interests, and legislative leaders. And, one would suppose, the loyalty of his party. That's where Riley miscalculated."
Anchor Judy Woodruff picked up on Riley's dire warning: "We'll have to see what happens to education in the state of Alabama, too. All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much."
Two nights before, on the September 10 NewsNight, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, Walter Rodgers made several references comparing U.S. troops in Iraq to the military of 19th century British Empire:
-- "Lieutenant Colonel Hank Arnold, whose wife calls him the viceroy of Sinjar. He tours frontier outposts opposite the Syrian border, much as a British viceroy might have in Queen Victoria's empire 150 years ago. Drinking tea with an Iraqi major in an old fort, the parallels do not escape the colonel."
-- "In what some have called a new American imperialism, Iraqis are trained to patrol borders, just as the British trained Indians and Pakistanis to patrol theirs."
-- "With but six to eight days training, this is who U.S. forces hope can patrol Iraq's frontier to stop al Qaeda terrorists from crossing and attacking coalition forces. Many Arabs recall the European empire's use of force to control regional factions. And some see these U.S. troops as the ramrods of a new imperialism."
-- "...19th century empires exploited natural resources. So far, however, Iraqi oil is being used for Iraqis. This oil will go to Syria, which, in turn, ships the Iraqis desperately needed electrical power."
-- "Still, U.S. troops here do not see themselves as soldiers of empire. Most say they're here to make America safer. Walter Rodgers, CNN, Sinjar province, Iraq."
-- Brent Baker