Ochenski: The wheels come off 

The Bush solution: spend until it's gone

The wheels are coming off Bush’s presidency, just like they did for his father a decade ago. After Desert Storm, Daddy Bush’s sky-high approval ratings seemed certain to ensure his re-election. But that didn’t happen because an ex-Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton wound up booting him out of the White House. Like a cocaine cowboy, partying hard until his stash is gone, George W. Bush now faces a horrific crash as intelligence failures, a record-deficit budget, a jobless economy and two wars abroad combine to pull him down.

Roiled in the waves of a stormy political sea, the much-feared Loose Cannon broke free and rumbled across the deck last week when David Kay, the lead investigator hired by the CIA to find Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, quit his job and bluntly admitted: “We were all wrong.” Kay then concluded that, for the sake of its international credibility, the United States must immediately launch an independent investigation to determine how America’s top intelligence agencies got it so wrong on Iraq.

Predictably, President Bush reverted to his well-used strategy of denial right out of the chute, saying no conclusions could be drawn until the investigations of the Iraq Survey Group were finalized. The next day, our noble leader did a complete about-face and declared that he would appoint a committee to investigate “pre-war intelligence failures” in Iraq. The results of the investigation, however, will not come until well after this year’s elections.

Democrats, simultaneously stunned at their complicity in sending the country to “preemptive” war and dancing with glee at finally having The Great Evader on the ropes, demanded a fully independent investigation and—no great surprise here—a report prior to the elections.

Politics aside, the enormity of the task at hand, as well as the believability of any finding, present the nation with a daunting task. To figure out how and where America’s very expensive and very secretive intelligence agencies left the tracks, one would have to be privy to the very basics of intelligence gathering and then go through every step of collection, analysis, interpretation and conclusion. In other words, any credible investigation must seek to shine a very bright light into the hidden corners of a dark and sinister world.

But here’s the big question: “Who will spook America’s spooks?” Since little if any of the information necessary to determine how and if American intelligence agencies failed, or were politically manipulated, can be released to the public, we will likely be presented with conclusions coming from behind the same closed-door briefings of the White House and Congressional intelligence committees who told us we absolutely had to go to war in the first place because of the looming threats posed by Iraq. The citizenry, however, will have absolutely no way of knowing whether they’re full of beans yet again—which creates a credibility quandary from which Bush isn’t likely to emerge unscathed.

But even without the intelligence failures hanging around his neck like an albatross, Bush is being blasted by both Republicans and Democrats for his proposed $2.4 trillion budget, which plunges the nation into a record-setting $521 billion deficit.

The Washington Post ripped Bush in an editorial titled “Bogus Budget,” saying: “The Bush administration’s 2005 budget is a masterpiece of disingenuous blame-shifting, dishonest budgeting and irresponsible governing.”

The New York Times, in its own editorial titled “The Pinocchio Budget,” concludes that “The president’s new budget proposal is an exercise in election-year cynicism…Mr. Bush’s talk of proposing mandated budget controls on Congress is the final fairy-tale element.”

For those who might think these editorial comments are just the blatherings of the so-called “liberal press,” the spokesman for Taxpayers for Common Sense said the Bush budget was “long on promises, short on reality, and incapable of taking our nation’s fiscal health off of life support.”

Even Bush’s own conservative base is starting to tremble at the path down which their president is leading them. While they are happy to see Bush’s budget slash spending on the Environmental Protection Agency and low-income housing assistance, they are stunned at the massive increase in military spending, which includes billions for new submarines, fleets of jet fighters, and the Star Wars missile defense system. Conservatives have long railed against liberals for what they call “throwing money” at the nation’s problems. But liberals can’t hold a candle to President Bush when it comes to runaway spending, and he obviously believes throwing money at the military will solve our security problems.

As if to emphasize this administration’s outrageously expensive and totally outmoded concept of what the nation needs to be secure, three Senate office buildings were evacuated this week when a slim envelope containing the deadly poison ricin was delivered to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. It was delivered not by a missile, but by the U.S. Postal Service, and needless to say, submarines and jet fighters once again proved totally useless against such low-tech methods.

Nonetheless, in an attempt to disguise the true cost of our ongoing wars, the administration says $50 billion more must be spent on Afghanistan and Iraq, which moneys are not included in the budget, but which will be sought in “supplemental spending” after the election.

And finally, Bush’s budget seeks to make his tax cuts for the wealthy permanent—even though such a move would be directly responsible for fully half of the $521 billion deficit. While Bush’s budget cuts virtually all domestic spending, it makes sure his rich buddies get their tax breaks.

If there’s a silver lining in the bad news, it may be Bush’s wildly unpractical and expensive proposal to send a manned mission to Mars. Although it was left out of his State of the Union speech because it flopped in opinion polls, Bush stuck it in his budget.

Should the Mars mission survive the Congressional budget knife, it might be just the thing for ex-President Bush when he leaves the White House—after all, he’s already got the flight suit.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent.

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