Online Debate: The Bush Legacy
by Rod D. Martin and Robert Bryce
September 10, 2004
NOTE: The following text is taken from Robert Bryce’s website, the original Washington Post link having expired.
In his new book, Thank You, President Bush: Reflections on the War on Terror, Defense of the Family, and Revival of the Economy, author Rod D. Martin argues that Bush has not only made America safer and stronger, but that he will go down in history as one of our greatest presidents. At the same time Robert Bryce, author of Cronies: Oil, the Bushes, and the Rise of Texas, America’s Superstate, looks at President Bush as an integral part of the Texas oil machine out to enrich both him and his “cronies.”
Both Martin and Bryce are online to take your questions and comments on their books, President Bush and politics.
The transcript follows.
Robert Bryce: Hello everyone. First of all, let me say that I think George W. Bush is going to win in November. Since 1994, when I went to Bush’s first press conference in Austin, I’ve never bet against him. I’m not going to start now. Bush has too many advantages: He’ll win the South, he’s from Texas, he’s the incumbent and he’s got loads of cash. Unfortunately for the Dems, John Kerry’s looking a lot like Dukakis Jr.
That said, unlike Mr. Martin, I think Bush has been a bad president, perhaps the worst of the modern era. He has squandered so many opportunities to advance America’s interests around the world that it’d take more than an hour to recount all of them.
I don’t hate the president. I haven’t — and won’t — call him a big fat liar. I am not a Democrat. I’m an independent. I’m a radical centrist. I’m a church-going gun owner who home schools my children.
And while I think Bush will win, I have hope. My mom, a lifetime Republican, will vote for anybody but Bush.
Rod D. Martin: First of all, I want to thank Mr. Bryce, Mr. Bragg, and the Washington Post for this opportunity. Particularly with all the inflamatory charges swirling about today regarding both candidates’ military service, it is clear that America needs a lot more light and a lot less heat.
Our book, Thank You, President Bush, sought to accomplish just that. We do not attack Mr. Kerry. Rather, we gather together the leading lights of conservatism, each speaking to their own area of best expertise, to address what we think George Bush has done right, what he’s done wrong, what we think he will do in a second term, and why we think he deserves that chance. If I do say so myself, it is concise, clear, entertaining, and upbeat. It also addresses basically every material issue in this campaign.
Again, it’s very good to be here, and I sincerely hope we can through this discussion help people make informed decisions which best reflect their own worldviews and beliefs about the direction America ought to go. Let the games begin!
Alexandria, Va.: To what extent is Bush’s greatness (or lack thereof) a result of his remarkably anti-establishment approach to the Executive Office?
Robert Bryce: Are you serious? George W. Bush as anti-establishment? This president is the quintessence of the establishment. Yale, Skull & Bones, Harvard, and then the Texas energy crony club. The average net worth of Bush’s first several cabinet appointments was nearly $11 million. That doesn’t smack of anti-establishment to me.
Parkville, Md.: The 1990’s saw the fleecing of some of americas best known corporations by top executives — corporations such as Enron, MCI, Adelphia etc. The current budget deficit, which is running at historical highs (in constant dollars the 2004 deficit is the highest since World War II, and ajusted for GDP it’s the sixth highest and, tellingly, exceeds all the budget deficits of the Vietnam war years) reminds me of what was going on with those corporations I’ve mentioned. The top rank of executives mismanaged, drained and banrupted those companies while enriching themselves to fabulous extremes. Likewise, the current Administration’s unwise fiscal policies are enriching the richest 1 percent of Americans while miring the rest of us in debt. Finally, both George W. Bush while at Harken Energy and Dick Cheney, while at Hallibruton clearly participated in insider trading schemes and questionable accounting methods designed to hide losses from investors.
Robert Bryce: No arguments from me on any of these points. We live in the golden age of fraud. I will say that the Bush Administration has provided more funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Dept of Justice has also done a pretty good job with the rascals at Enron. (Though I agree with Ken Lay that he should get a speedy trial, that is, before the election. For some reason, the DOJ opposes that. ;->)
As for the tax cuts, why should I — or any other member of the middle class — thank President Bush for giving a tax break to the richest people in America? According to the Congressional Budget Office, one-third of Bush’s tax cut went to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. The amount of taxes the rich are paying went down. The amount of taxes the middle class is paying went up. Worse yet, the millions of jobs that Bush promised would result from his tax cut are — it appears — hiding somewhere alongside Osama bin Laden.
Rod D. Martin: First of all, every American who pays taxes got a tax cut. Maybe if you’re some rich Democrat fat-cat like John Kerry that doesn’t mean much, but for those of us who work for a living, even a few hundred dollars can mean the difference in where our kids go to school, whether our wive’s cars get the service they need, etc. So discounting this stuff frankly smacks of an elitism which is a large part of why Mr. Kerry’s going to lose in November.
As far as the scandals, I reject your premise out of hand. These scandals went on in the Clinton years. They got prosecuted and cleaned up in the Bush years. What more can be said than that? The fact that they were headline news under Bush — after years of graft and fraud in an earlier era — pretty well tells the story. A free market has to be honest to work, and George Bush is committed to just that.
Virginia: How do each of you read the new polling numbers showing Bush surging ahead after the Republican National Convention? Do either of you care to predict how the election will go in November? Thank you.
washingtonpost.com: Polls Suggest War Isn’t Hurting Bush (Post, Sept. 10)
Rod D. Martin: With Mr. Bryce, I do think the President is going to win. I think it will be close, of course. But to a degree, I think the biggest single factor affecting the outcome of this election is mechanical. Historically, the Republican Party has fielded virtually no ground-war (by which I mean serious precinct organization and get-out-the-vote efforts), whereas the Democrats have focused on this to a very high degree. This year, the Democrats are doing all the same things they’ve always done — as well they should — but the Republicans (who obviously have won even without such efforts pretty consistently) are finally playing the same sort of game. I think what you’ll see as a result is a pretty significant shift in what a “likely voter” model has to look like, particularly as several million previously non-voting Evangelicals turn out because someone finally got after them to vote (like, for instance, union members have had for a century). This will likely be the margin of victory in Florida and Ohio in particular.
That all said, if Bush’s apparent bounce — especially among undecideds — is all it appears to be, that’s very bad news indeed for Mr. Kerry.
Robert Bryce: Gee, I hate to agree with Rod, particularly on the first question, but I just don’t see how Kerry wins.
Lyme, Conn.: Let me please pose these related questions to both authors: do you think President Bush considered a war with Iraq before September 11, 2001? Do you think the war in Iraq diverted any resources from our operations in Afghanistan?
Robert Bryce: I think it’s clear that Bush was spoiling for a fight with Saddam. President Clinton has said that when he met with Bush right before Bush was sworn into office, that Bush disregarded the threat posed by bin Laden, and instead said that he was going to take care of Saddam.
Second, there’s no question that the war in Iraq not only diverted critical resources from Afghanistan, the Iraq war also hurt the war on terror. Look at James Fallows’ current piece in the Atlantic. By fixating on Saddam, Bush and the Pentagon let bin Laden escape. Furthermore, and most dangerous, is that the Iraq war has created a breeding ground for terrorists. Bush has put us into a decades-long war with Islamic fundamentalists and that war will cost America trillions of dollars.
Our situation in Iraq could not be any worse: we can’t leave and we can’t stay.
Rod D. Martin: I agree with Mr. Bryce to the degree that Iraq was a serious consideration prior to 9/11 — as indeed it was for the Clinton Administration! Bill Clinton has said repeatedly — even as late as a month ago — that though he disagreed with the timing and exact details of Mr. Bush’s actions, he thought all along that Saddam was a dire threat to this country and that regime change was ultimately necessary. Needless to say, the Kerry campaign doesn’t like to quote Mr. Clinton on this issue.
I disagree with Mr. Bryce regarding any supposed diversion of resources. Vladamir Putin tells us that his intelligence service uncovered at least 6 separate terror plots against the United States by Saddam’s intelligence service between 9/11 and the war. ‘Nuff said: Saddam was after us, and needed taking out. But what’s more, on our Axis-of-Evil list, taking out Saddam eliminates one source of terrorism, and outflanks an even bigger one, Iran. Look at a map: we now surround Iran. And as we deal with their imminent nuclear threat, that’s going to matter. It will matter even more as their youth look to the successful creation of a democracy in Baghdad as a model for revolution in Tehran.
Alexandria, Va.: To what extent is Bush’s greatness (or lack thereof) a result of his remarkably anti-establishment approach to the Executive Office?
Rod D. Martin: Mr. Bryce earlier answered this kind of laughingly, and I tend to agree: how can a Skull-and-Bones guy from Yale be called anti-establishment? But on the other hand, you do have a real point. Bush has stepped out into completely new territory on a number of sacred-cow issues — Social Security privatization, for instance — where very few people had dared go before. He’s also taken the GOP in a completely new direction organizationally. He’s really shaken things up, and he’s greatly disturbed and annoyed a lot of the Republican establishment in the process. I say good for him!
Arlington, Va.: Bush repeatedly says the Iraq war was a good idea because we are safer without Saddam Hussein in power. But is that correct choice? Wouldn’t we be even safer leaving Hussein in power, and instead putting all of our government’s attention, more than $200 billion in cash, and the service of the armed forces into: (1) strenghtening first responders, (2) increasing security at ports, chemical plants, shopping malls and so forth, (3) using diplomacy to isolate ALL regimes that support terrorism and (4) creating a truly professional, comprehensive Homeland Security service?
Robert Bryce: Absolutely correct. Read my reply to question #16. We are now spending $1 billion per week in Iraq and yet George W. Bush — for all his swagger and tough talk — has not told us how the heck we are going to get out of that country. Nor has he shown how his plan now being espoused by Condi Rice that we need to make a “generational commitment to democracy” in the Mideast is even remotely achievable.
Quagmire. Disaster. Vietnam. All of those are correct analogies. Only worse. Bush has ignited a culture war. And there’s no end in sight.
Rod D. Martin: This is not an either-or: it’s a both-and. You have to defend at home, you have to fight the enemy abroad. And this country definitely has the means to do both simultaneously. Failure to do so, in fact, will ensure that we don’t have such resources much longer. At least that’s Bill Clinton’s view, which George Bush and I support.
Allentown, Pa.: Kerry just doesn’t seem very Presidential. After tumbling in the polls, he starts squeaking about shooting Bush in a debate, establishing a cabinet-level Department of Wellness (his wife’s wacky idea), and shovels faked documents to his media supporters. Is this guy for real? It looks like he’s melting down. After all, this isn’t Massacusetts which is so reflexively liberal that it takes a truly atrocious Democratic candidate to lose. Can he really come back from this?
Robert Bryce: Nope. John Kerry is Michael Dukakis Jr. It’s not pretty. JFK was the last senator elected to the White House. That was 44 years ago. Unless or until the Dems can turn out huge blocs of minority votes — specifically Hispanics — the GOP has them.
Rod D. Martin: Kerry has been a poor candidate for the Democrats, and frankly, I find that sad. America deserves a real debate between these differing ideologies, and Mr. Kerry’s obsessive focus on non-issues (like a war completed 35 years ago) deprives us all of that. The real issues we face today deserve real reflection, and they aren’t getting much of any.
Washington, D.C.: Could you guys stop talking past each other in platitudes like typical political hacks. For example, in response to a question about the Bush tax cuts one of you implied that the middle class got absolutely no tax break, while the other ignored the fact that the tax cuts disproportionately favored very wealthy taxpayers. How about focusing on more relevant questions — (1) is there any sign that the tax cuts have helped the economy at all, and (2) assuming so, do the benefits to the economy justify the distributional impacts of the tax cuts?
(I know you guys aren’t economists, so it’s OK to say that you don’t know the answers to these questions. But we should at least admit that those are the proper questions).
Robert Bryce: You’re right, I’m not an economist. But it’s clear that the middle class did not benefit to the same proportion that the wealthy did. Second, the tax cut did not produce many jobs. In particular, it didn’t produce anything near the millions of jobs that Bush promised.
That said, it’s clear that the tax cuts helped the stock market. And a healthy stock market is critically important to the psyche of the consumer. So perhaps the “psychic” impacts — which as every economist knows are important — of the tax cuts were beneficial. In my opinion, we’re just seeing a bubble. The huge federal debt, lousy balance of trade and the war tax are going to hurt the economy over the long run. I don’t think it matters who wins in November when it comes to tax policy because the next president will have no choice but to get behind a massive tax bill.
Rod D. Martin: I don’t think we’re really talking past each other: we just have different perspectives. But to answer your question, it’s a no-brainer that in our system any tax cut of this sort is going to end up with more actual money in the hands of the wealthy, because the wealthy pay vastly more of the taxes. Heck, even if you had a flat tax that would be true. No matter how you cut it, x% of $1,000,000 is more than the same percentage of $30,000. This is the dirty little secret the left’s propaganda always manages to miss.
It’s also a red herring. At $30,000 a year, my tax cut goes to fixing my wife’s car — absolutely vital for me, no question. But at $1,000,000, my tax cut goes to creating jobs. It’s just that simple. And no amount of envy will ever change that basic economic fact.
Chapel Hill, N.C.: Apart from his administration’s tendency to be light on the truth, I’m puzzled by strong support for Bush in view of his failure to adhere to the GOP norms of fiscal conservatism and smaller government. How is it that Republican voters do not feel these are central issues? Are they simply outweighed, in their eyes, by the ‘moralistic’ line that Bush speaks (but doesn’t live, I find) and the ‘fear’ aspect that Bush/Cheney have made a central position of their campaign — that to change horses mid-stream would be to increase the risk (miniscule, in any real sense) of damaging American ‘security?’
Robert Bryce: Amen. Amen. Amen. Oops. I’m starting to sound like an evangelical. I mean to say that I agree wholeheartedly.
I don’t see any reason to thank President Bush for running up a deficit of several trillion dollars while in office. The Congressional Budget Office just reported that this year’s federal budget deficit will be a record $422 billion.
I see no reason to be thankful for one of the biggest entitlement programs ever conceived by the federal government: the Medicare prescription drug benefit package. That’s a massive unfunded liability of something like $8 trillion. It’s equivalent to one percent of GDP for the foreseeable future. As a father of three young children, I see no reason to thank a president who has recklessly mortgaged their futures, and mine.
Pete Peterson’s new book, Running on Empty, makes all of these points clear. Peterson, by the way, is a real Republican. He’s also a person who I greatly admire. I always like people who speak the truth — and as far as I can tell, that group does not include GW Bush.
I love conservatives. I just wish they could balance a checkbook.
Rod D. Martin: The question assumes that “fiscal responsibility” is entirely measured in terms of deficits. But of course that’s not true. And deficits always have to be understood in terms of the times in which they exist. We live in a time of war, we’ve just come through a recession, and pumping money into the private sector through tax cuts (a very Keynesian idea, by the way) has been absolutely essential to reigniting job growth.
In answer to this, Bush has done an exceptional job of navigating this in a truly supply-side manner, and moreover one which plants the seeds for much longer-term economic growth (HSAs, PRAs, end of the death tax, etc.) as well as much less long-term government dependency. That’s why we can and do support him: he’s addressing the short term issues while laying a tremendous foundation for the future.
Long Beach, Calif.: Since 2001 the U.S. has averaged the highest rate of growth of all industrialized nations. With unemployment down to 5.5 percent (the same level that the country enjoyed when Bill Clinton won reelection in 1996), how can John Kerry and the Democrats criticize George Bush’s economic policies?
Robert Bryce: I don’t think Kerry has much he can do on the economic front. The guy is hitting every issue in the book. He might do better to really focus on the jobs issue. But the tax cuts have helped the stock market. Kerry simply has too many positions. Bush is sticking with the “bold leader who’ll protect us from the bad guys” posture. It seems to be working.
Rod D. Martin: I agree with Mr. Bryce. I would also submit that even the jobs issue is a partial red herring, because the measure-of-choice for the media and the Democrats is the payroll number, which measures only old-economy jobs. Nearly all the economic growth in this country for years has been in the entreprenureal sector, and that has dramatically accelerated in the past decade. You see this turn up in the household survey, which shows us with millions more jobs than the payroll survey indicates. That trend will only strengthen with time, and it’s good for everyone.
Moderate Centrist, Calif.: My question to you both is about tax cuts. We all love them and can’t get enough of them. In fact, most Americans would probably prefer not to pay for big government programs at all.
How can George Bush claim to be cutting taxes on one hand, when government spending has increased under his watch and he’s running massive debts? I would rather have Clinton’s fiscal policy than one that allows big government to go wild! Is George Bush really cutting our taxes, or is it a charade?
Rod D. Martin: He’s really cutting taxes. Once again, the fact that we have large deficits right now (deficits smaller as a percentage of GDP, by the way, than many others we’ve run in the past) is largely attributable to war and recession. And of course, the godfather of liberal economics, John Maynard Keynes, taught us to cut taxes and run deficits in times such as these as a way to stimulate the economy, so I have a hard time seeing why anyone on the left would be upset at Bush for same.
Of course, Bush isn’t doing it for Keynesian reasons. But the point is simple enough: economists across the board — when they’re speaking theoretically and not just supporting a candidate they like — agree on what needs doing, regardless of ideology. And Bush has done it well.
Robert Bryce: I’m having an out of body experience…A Republican is arguing that deficits don’t matter. He’s also saying that the big entitlement programs pushed by his party — the same party that has argued for years, rightly, that small government is the best government — are just fine. Why do these same GOP operatives now argue that this massive debt, when everything is figured in, of $75 to $100 trillion, is not a huge cause for concern?????
When the World Bank warns the US that it is borrowing too much money from foreign countries and that it needs to put its financial house in order, I think that’s a serious wake up call.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Kerry isn’t running to the right of Bush on this issue.
Wilmington, N.C.: Mr. Martin — How can you possibly believe that George W. will go down in history as one of our greatest presidents? On what criteria do you base this assumption?
Rod D. Martin: Well, like most things, it depends on your definition. If you’re a socialist, he’ll go down as one of the worst. On the other hand, sitting where I am, he has the makings of a truly extraordinary historical figure on numerous counts, and I hope he gets the second term chance to fulfill that promise. Obviously he’s taken our foreign policy in a completely new direction, one vastly better tailored to the post Cold War world we live in than the drift supervised by both Clinton and Bush Sr. But aside from that, the most amazing thing I could possibly point to is this whole idea of the Ownership Society. Giving people a chance to own their own pool of heath care money — and even transfer the remainder when they die tax-free to their heirs — is just amazing. It solves all the issues of bureaucracy, portability, who decides on payment, etc. It also creates a vast pool of private-sector capital available for investment. Ditto Social Security, wherein Personal Retirement Accounts would just transform America. Example: in Britain, after just a few years of private accounts, British private pension assets exceed the total government pension assets of ALL other European countries COMBINED. This means the elimination of poverty among the elderly, and the creation of real intergenerational wealth to boot.
So in short, Bush is fulfilling the promise of the New Deal and the Great Society, but through free market means which will actually work. And that certainly qualifies him for greatness by any measure.
Amsterdam, Netherlands: I’m from DC, living abroad. The pervasive opinion here, offered as self-evident, is that since Iraq distracted attention from the war on al Qaeda, not only is al Qaeda offered the time to regroup around the next elections, but that the appearance of American imperialism and cultural insensitivity has given them more recruiting material. Do people back home understand the roots of terrorism (Israel, troops in Saudi, etc.) and whose responsibility is it to make sure the candidates are truthful?
Robert Bryce: The Israeli question is critical. The Arab world sees the US as Israel’s unquestioning servant. That was perception was given more credence recently when Bush called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a man whose entire career has been marked by aggression a “man of peace.”
Now we find that AIPAC and the Israelis are spying on the US. And these guys are supposed to be our allies.
A more moderate stance on Israel would really help the US. But neither Bush nor Kerry have indicated any desire to be more moderate.
The other fundamental issue here is energy. After 9-11, Bush should have delivered a clear message: the US must chart a new course on energy conservation and efficiency. If we do not, we’ll continue buying oil from the regimes — including the Saudis — who are financing the terrorists who want to kill us.
As a Texan, as an oil man, Bush had — and maybe still has — a unique opportunity to ignite fundamental change in America’s energy policy. He hasn’t done it. And over the long term, I believe that may be the single biggest failing of his presidency.
Rod D. Martin: Israel — the only democracy in the Middle East except Turkey (and now Iraq) — deserves defending, and not least because there is no more brutal, no more murderous, and no more persistent terrorist group in the world than Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. All the UN ceremonies in the world won’t change that, and we would be total hypocrites to call for the elimination of al Qaeda while ignoring that obvious truth. So while I realize the Europeans are indulging their historic anti-Semitism in ever-greater blatancy, that’s no excuse for us to do so.
As to cultural insensitivity and so forth, I think the school “incident” in Russia this week shows us about how “culturally sensitive” our enemies are. More to the point, they aren’t just our enemies. This is a war of civilization versus barbarism. And we darn sure better win.
Los Angeles, Calif.: This comment is intended primarily for Dr. Martin: although there is probably too much foaming at the mouth among liberals about W, I think your assertion that is one of this nation’s great presidents is laughable, not to be taken seriously and insulting to guys like FDR who took this nation through the Depression and a World War.
What has Bush done to distinguish himself so? The war in Afghanistan was a no-brainer, any president would have taken that course of action (although Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Cheney almost talked him out of it). I think we can agree that Iraq has not been a rousing success and his domestic policies at home have been mediocre at best.
How could anyone with a shred of integrity and objectivity come to believe that W is “one of our great presidents”?
Rod D. Martin: I answered this question at great length earlier, and so won’t try to duplicate that answer here (since you can just scroll up in the transcript); nor am I going to pull a Kerry and refight the Second World War. However, it is pretty obvious you’re out of touch when you say “any president would have fought in Afghanistan”. Heck, I wouldn’t have fought in Afghanistan! Who the heck would have??!! Be honest! After the Soviets spent ten years getting their heads handed to them? Bush showed tremendous vision and courage in that instance, freed 25 million people who are now about to have their first-ever free election, and killed or imprisioned 70% of all the al Qaeda leaders and operatives in the world as a result of his decision. That would qualify him for greatness all by itself. It isn’t all by itself.
Robert Bryce: One of our greatest presidents? Hmmm.
Looks to me that to know George W. Bush is to dislike him. Look at the number of people who used to work for him who’ve written books attacking him and his policies.
I am just wondering why Mr. Martin couldn’t get essays for his book from Richard Clarke, Paul O’Neill or maybe Anthony Zinni? Clarke and O’Neill were close to President Bush. No other president in American history has had close advisers defect to the other side and turn on their former boss.
Richard Clarke, told us Bush decided to declare war on Iraq right after 9-11 even though there was no apparent connection between Saddam and the hijackers. Clarke and Paul O’Neill both told us that Bush wasn’t intellectually curious and that he was being manipulated by the claque of eager-for-war-neoconservatives.
Anthony Zinni didn’t serve under Bush. But he excoriates Bush’s war in Iraq and the leadup to it, saying ‘at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption.” He’s also said that US policy in Iraq is ”headed over Niagara Falls.”
This greatest president stuff is hogwash.
Rod D. Martin: We have not claimed that Bush is one of our greatest presidents. We have said that he has the makings of such. We are very much interested in seeing what he does in a second term to fulfill that promise.
Oak Hill, Tex.: Why are there so many anti-Bush books in the bookstores? It’s ridiculous. The election is still pretty much dead even. Why then isn’t my local bookstore divided into a red state and blue state section?
Robert Bryce: As the author of a book that discusses the Bushes, let me say that I agree. I believe they should get rid of those inferior books and jsut sell mine.
Rod D. Martin: Hahaha! I know just how Mr. Bryce feels: everybody go buy my book!!! But seriously, I think conservatives really dropped the ball on this. Liberals understood that the implications of campaign finance reform were pretty clear and they needed to get out there in every possible medium once the traditional forms were curtailed or ended. They’ve done it with books, with 527s, and with lots of other things as well. We’ve been much slower to react (and indeed, my Thank You, President Bush is about the only substantive treatment of the range of Bush policy positions available right now).
Anonymous: Wake up, Robert! I know Mr. Martin lives in fantasyland, but you at least have your feet on the ground.
What do the Democrats need to do between now and November to win? The country is full of people like your mother — but a lot of them will be too scared to tell anyone until they enter the voting booth.
Your current disouragement projected into the future doesn’t become you.
Robert Bryce: Ouch. You got me. I’m optimistic by nature, but what I see for the future of America scares my pants off.
What should Americans do?
1. Abolish the Electoral College. It’s an anachronism that has totally skewed presidential elections.
2. Demand the fairness doctrine. If we are ever going to get honest debate about issues like the deficit or taxation, or the bloat and waste at the Pentagon, candidates have to be able to get time on the airwaves. That means access.
Baltimore, Md.: Yes, they happened while Mr. Clinton was in office but, the people involved are friends and cronies of Bush and Cheney.
Robert Bryce: Thank you Baltimore! for Mr. Martin to say that these scandals “went on in the Clinton years” is absurd. Is he reading the paper? What about Hollinger? That’s the company that allowed Conrad Black and his cronies to loot it for $400 million. Who was on Hollinger’s board? Richard Perle, the pro-Israel neoconservative who was a critical proponent of the war on Iraq. Perle became a confidant of Black and made millions from serving on the Hollinger board.
Did someone mention Enron?
No president in the modern era has had more — and deeper — connections to what was a criminal enterprise, than GW Bush had to Enron.
Look at the list of former Enron lobbyists/employees who are now close to Bush:
Robert Zoellick, the US Trade Rep., was an Enron lobbyist.
Ed Gillepsie, the head of the RNC, was an Enron lobbyist.
Marc Racicot, Gillespie’s predecessor at the RNC, was an Enron lobbyist.
Ralph Reed, Bush’s organizer of evangelicals, was an Enron lobbyist.
Tom White, Bush’s former Army Secr., was a top wheel at Enron.
Gee. Sure looks like a pattern to me.
Rod D. Martin: And all these guys had plenty of ties to every politician who could help them in the Clinton Administration too. The difference is that the Bush Administration prosecuted them. Not something you’d normally do to your “buddies” unless you really meant to clean things up.
Lubbock, Tex.: To what extent do you believe that social issues will play a roll in the election? For examaple, Bush’s support for a constitutional amendment which would define marriage as a relationship solely between a man and a woman.
Rod D. Martin: I think they’re essential. The one really great untapped pool of potential voters out there is still Evangelical Christians. Of 60 million who are elligible to vote, only 15 million really do. By any reasonable standard, 30 million *should* be voting in a Presidential year. So when you have inflamatory issues like same-sex marriage, it definitely makes a difference, because if a lot of these folks show up who otherwise wouldn’t, it blows all the conventional electoral math out of the water.
Rod D. Martin: Well thank you, Robert, and I too am sorry we have to end this. I’ve sure appreciated you, and I hope we can sit down together and have a beer sometime! 🙂
Again, thanks to everyone, and especially the Washington Post. As Mr. Bryce points out, I do have a PAC, and our website is http://www.theVanguard.org There’s lots and lots of stuff there — much of it quite inflamatory — so everyone should be sure to check it out. And again, I’ve very much enjoyed everyone’s questions. Thank you all.
Robert Bryce: Well, rats. I was just getting warmed up. Now Meredith tells me we’re out of time. Well, I’ll end with a bit of crass self-promotion. Unlike Mr. Martin who has his own political action committee, I just have a humble web site. My latest articles are on it, along with reviews of Cronies and Pipe Dreams. If you are interested go to: robertbryce.com.
Good luck with your book, Rod.