If the true colors of the current administration weren’t clear before this day, they should be now.  Since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, the single lesson that President Bush seemed to learn was that the single most successful tool he has at his disposal in pushing his political agenda is fear.

From conflating Iraq with 9/11 to trying to scare the populace into privatizing social security, fear has not only proven to be the only tool that works for him, but also the only tool he knows how to use.  Even when it is unsuccessful, he still comes back to it time and time again, and despite everything we’ve seen in the past, this stands as perhaps the most flagrant and cynical abuse of such a tool.

But first, we must rewind a little, to a few weeks ago when a small band of brave Democratic congressmen stood up and said that they will no longer let any Iraq funding bill pass without heavy strings attached.  At once I was both skeptical and hopeful.

Earlier this year, I was against Congress taking drastic actions such as cutting off funding, but as time went by, and it looked like nothing would force the President to change his hand, I found myself standing deeper and deeper in the camp of those who would close the purse strings.

And now, after all these months, it looks like we are finally here.

Recently, congress passed a defense appropriations bill worth about half a trillion dollars that would go to fund everything except the Iraq War.  That funding was to be passed seperately, the president asking for almost 200 billion dollars.

Only, there was a little loophole that allowed the president to divert some of the funds from the defense spending bill to the Iraq War, a move that the Weekley Standard’s Brian Faughnan labeled as duplicitous.

But now that the administration has set the terms of the game, Murtha and Obey’s gambit appears to be the stroke of genius that will at least give the Democrats the necessary leverage to pull this off.

Going back to the president, he has chosen to deal with this the only way he knows how; by engaging in the politics in fear.  This time there is no boogeyman from a foreign land, there is just him, the Pentagon, and a whole boat load of pink slips for civilian employes for the DoD.

Bush warned, just in time for Christmas, that if the Democrats do not give him the funding for the Iraq War that he has asked for, he is going to issue furloughs to 150,000 civilian employees.  The idea here is to turn the Democrats into the enemy, to try to paint them as the reason why so many people will lose their jobs just as they hope to spend their hard earned money on Christmas presents.

In fact, Press Secretary Dana Perino inadvertantly admitted as much in a presser:

QUESTION: Are you saying that these furloughs would begin before they come back from this vacation?

PERINO: The notices. I’m not sure of the date. I know that they have to notice because under the rules you have to give people, I think it is 60 to 90 days worth of notice that they could be furloughed. So that could happen.

QUESTION: So this is a way to remind Congress that you want them to pass this bill?

PERINO: That’s exactly what that was.

QUESTION: So you’re making them suffer –

PERINO: I’m making the Democrats suffer?

QUESTION: No, you’re making the civilians who work for the Defense –

PERINO: Oh, no, it is not us who are making any civilians suffer.

QUESTION: There ought to be –

PERINO: We are calling on Congress to –

QUESTION: How many billions have we spent already for the Defense Department?

PERINO: The Defense Department says that they need this funding in order to keep the war running, as well as to keep these civilians…

QUESTION: Maybe they don’t want the war to keep running.

This is where that little extra bit of change that Murtha snuck in comes into play; it makes the entire narrative that a lack of funding is on the fault of the Democrats untrue.  Rep. Murtha puts it as such:

MURTHA: Once again the president responded with more rhetoric and threats. He blames Congress for not providing him with additional funding, but flatly refused to work with us on a solution. What he fails to mention is that he could have the money in two days. As Dave Obey said, he just picks up the phone and calls the Republicans in the Senate.

While Congress is working to improve the quality of life for our troops, this administration is reversing these efforts with this political document. You talk about morale, when they make statements like, “We’re going to lay-off people,” there’s thousand of people throughout the country that don’t need to be laid-off and shouldn’t be laid-off and they’re worrying them — those folks. This reduces the morale of the people throughout the country.


I don’t like to think this, but it’s almost like a Rumsfeld-like prediction here — a Rumsfeld-like. I thought we’d gotten rid of Secretary Rumsfeld, but this really worries me that there would be such a political document.


There’s seven months’ backlog at the depots — seven months’ backlog. In other words, there’s seven months’ work still in the depots, fully funded. They talked about IEDs the other day. We already funded over $3 billion for IEDs in a big unobligated (inaudible). This is a political document. They’re scaring people. They’re scaring the families of the troops with this document. That’s the thing that’s so despicable about what they’re doing.

This sets up a game of chicken between the President and Democrats in congress, and one I think the Democrats can win, if they only stop to smell the coffee long enough to realize it.

They need to game it.  They need to remind people that the laying off of 150,000 people is wholely unnecessary.  They need to remind people of the document that the Pentagon distributed which grossly does what should never, EVER be done; politicize the military.  And they need to do this constantly, and loudly.

If Bush let’s the Democrats be turned into the boogeymen on this, the ship is sunk.  But if they drown him out, if they push him to the line, Bush will have only one choice, and this under heavy disapproval; change course and organize a withdrawal from Iraq, or follow through on his threat.

If he follows through on his threat after Democrats sufficiently waged the PR battle, the move would be fatal to his presidency.

He can’t seek reelection, but with a skosh over a year left of his tenure in the White House, he could still be impeached.  If he plays this game, if he really wants to descend into this game of fear once more, I think it’s going to backfire on him.  It’s going to turn him into the boogeyman, and whether the Democratic leadership wants it or not, you’re going to be hearing a few more people than us lunatic lefties calling for his impeachment.

Only if…

2 Responses to “Fear”

  1. xranger says:

    I don’t get the Dems logic on this – we’re finally winning the damn war!

    Why sign this surrender bill now?

  2. D white says:

    if you really think we are winning, you should read some Clauswicz and SunTzu


  1. The American Street » Blog Archive » Pressed Rat and Warthog - [...] The Politics of Fear. [...]

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