Making the Grade?

Since we're subjecting our children to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, it seems only fair to do periodic grading of the Administration in order to prevent it from falling victim to the "soft bigotry of lowered expectations".

In order to assure fairness in grading, one must look to the original charter (or mission) the Administration set for itself. There are a number of factors involved in the grading process. If, for instance, pure, unadulterated greed and the plundering of the Treasury were its open and stated goal, then it could receive a grade for just that and no other factor would require a grade.

If however, the Administration couched the greed under some "ideology", then it would have to receive a goal for the greed and one for how it governed (and how the nation fared) under the new ideology.

Lastly, if the Administration simply applied the ideology and did not have greed in mind, then it would again receive only one grade- that of how the nation fared under the stated goals of the applied ideology.

The Administration, by all accounts, is using what is now commonly referred to as the "neo-con" ideology. That set of beliefs on how to govern is memorialized in a letter dated June 3, 1997 and made public by The Weekly Standard which is published and edited by Bill Kristol (not to be confused with Billy Crystal as the former specializes in black comedy and the latter specializes in comedy which does not involve empire building, social safety-net deconstructing, and/or war). Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard is financed by Rupert Murdoch for whom Mr. Kristol appears often on FOX as an "expert" (on whatever an expert is needed for). He served in the first Bush (Poppa) Administration and was nicknamed "Dan Quayle's brain" by The New Republic upon being appointed the Vice President's chief of staff.
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The letter in The Weekly Standard is signed by some of the main architects of our current "governing" style and reads, in part, as follows:

Project For The New American Century- Statement of Principles
June 3, 1997

American foreign and defense policy is adrift. Conservatives have criticized the incoherent policies of the Clinton Administration. They have also resisted isolationist impulses from within their own ranks. But conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy. They have allowed differences over tactics to obscure potential agreement on strategic objectives. And they have not fought for a defense budget that would maintain American security and advance American interests in the new century.

We aim to change this. We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.

As the 20th century draws to a close, the United States stands as the world's preeminent power. Having led the West to victory in the Cold War, America faces an opportunity and a challenge: Does the United States have the vision to build upon the achievements of past decades? Does the United States have the resolve to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests?

We are in danger of squandering the opportunity and failing the challenge. We are living off the capital -- both the military investments and the foreign policy achievements -- built up by past administrations. Cuts in foreign affairs and defense spending, inattention to the tools of statecraft, and inconstant leadership are making it increasingly difficult to sustain American influence around the world. And the promise of short-term commercial benefits threatens to override strategic considerations. As a consequence, we are jeopardizing the nation's ability to meet present threats and to deal with potentially greater challenges that lie ahead.

Elliott Abrams, Gary Bauer, William J. Bennett, Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Eliot A. Cohen, Midge Decter, Paula Dobriansky, Steve Forbes, Aaron Friedberg, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, Fred C. Ikle, Donald Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis Libby, Norman Podhoretz, Dan Quayle, Peter W. Rodman, Stephen P. Rosen, Henry S. Rowen, Donald Rumsfeld, Vin Weber, George Weigel, Paul Wolfowitz

The letter also castigates the country for forgetting "the essential elements of the Reagan Administration's success" and concludes with, "Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next."

The Reagan nostalgia is an apparent reference to the overpowering U.S. military defeat of Grenada (in Operation Urgent Fury- aptly named as Reagan's poll numbers were down prior to the mission) and the fall of the Berlin Wall (without attribution to Lech Walesa, Solidarity, John Paul II, The International Labor Organization- the first specialized agency of the U.N., and Mikhail Gorbachev, who was unwilling to use military power to keep communist parties in satellite states in power).

As an aside, the letter also calls upon American domination of the world. Apparently, the domination part is to be overseen by Bill Kristol (Dan Quayle's brain) as the Chairman of The New American Century.

The best way to grade the performance of the Administration is to look at individual portions of the letter, make some judgements as to performance, and then determine an overall grade.
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1) "American foreign and defense policy is adrift. Conservatives have criticized the incoherent policies of the Clinton Administration."

The Administration's reasons for invading Iraq have been: WMD's, Terrorism links, Torture and Rape Rooms, Freedom (to Iraqis), Freedom for the world, etc. There is also the matter of being part of the "Axis of Evil" and just plain old vanilla "evil". Whether this is coherent or not depends on the partisan baggage one brings to the table. One thing not at issue is the sheer number of reasons given for a policy far outnumber that given by any Administration for a policy failure at any time in our history. This may be seen favorably (i.e. "A" for effort) or it may be deemed evasive "i.e. my dog ate my, no, it was your dog that ate my , no, come to think of it, the neighbor's dog ate my homework".
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2) "But conservatives have not confidently advanced a strategic vision of America's role in the world. They have not set forth guiding principles for American foreign policy."

The Administration and its cadre of neo-cons weren't just upset with the Clinton Administration- they were upset with traditional conservatives as well.

Since taking the helm of our ship of state and banishing Clintonites and traditional conservatives from power, the Administration's (and neo-con's) "strategic vision" and "guiding principles for American foreign policy" have resulted in:

U.S. Killed - 1,702

U.S. Wounded - 12,855

Iraqi Civilians Killed (that could be accounted for) - Minimum: 22,248 Maximum 25,229

One can add to those "strategic vision" numbers what the Arab world thinks of U.S. "guiding principles" under the neo-cons and the Administration. This is best seen through opinion polls and summarized in the following report from the Washington Post on polling in the Arab world:
"Arab views of the United States, shaped largely by the Iraq war and a post-Sept. 11 climate of fear, have worsened in the past two years to such an extent that in Egypt -- an important ally in the region -- nearly 100 percent of the population now holds an unfavorable opinion of the country, according to two polls due out today.

Both surveys were conducted in June by Zogby International and polled Arab men and women in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

The findings reflect the concerns raised in the Sept. 11 commission report released yesterday, which emphasized a losing battle for public opinion. 'Support for the United States has plummeted,' the commissioners wrote.

'What we're seeing now is a disturbing sympathy with al Qaeda coupled with resentment toward the United States, and we ought to be extremely troubled by that,' said Shibley Telhami, a University of Maryland professor who commissioned one of the surveys.

The other survey, titled 'Impressions of America,' charts a dramatic overall decline in positive views by comparing current attitudes with those sampled in April 2002.

'In 2002, the single policy issue that drove opinion was the Palestinians; now it's Iraq and America's treatment, here and abroad, of Arabs and Muslims,' said James Zogby, who commissioned the report with the Arab American Institute."

Polling results from the rest of the world post- 2003 regarding the U.S. foreign policy vision and leadership as seen through the prism of the Iraq invasion weren't much better.
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3) "Cuts in foreign affairs and defense spending, inattention to the tools of statecraft, and inconstant leadership are making it increasingly difficult to sustain American influence around the world."

Through their actions, the Administration and the neo-cons seem to consider foreign affairs and the military as being one and the same. If that is so, they have certainly increased funding in this category (according to the defense bill and supplemental requests). Appointing John Bolton as the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. seems to be their solution to America's statecraft problem and goes along quite well with the "pre-emption" doctrine and the huge expenditures on the military. Lastly, the problem Of "INCONSTANT" rather than "inconsistent" leadership seems to have been remedied by Bill Kristol's (the black comedy guy and Dan Quayle's brain) elevation to Chairman of the New American Century- that's 100 years of CONSTANT leadership.
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4) "And the promise of short-term commercial benefits threatens to override strategic considerations."

There's plenty of evidence that this Administration is not letting any commercial benefits (on behalf of middle class and poor Americans) get in the way of its' vision. In fact, there are volumes of studies that contain information such as the following to prove that fact:

Study Documents Negative Impact of U.S. Trade Deficit with China
Job losses hit all states, high-tech industry, U.S.-China commission says:
A new study has found that the United States' growing trade deficit with China has had an increasingly negative impact on the U.S. economy, causing job losses that reach into the most technologically advanced industries in the manufacturing sector and affect every state, according to a January 11 press release by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC).

The Administration has gone to some lengths to downplay the "commercial benefits" part of the equation. One of the Administration's top economists, N. Gregory Mankiw, stated, "Outsourcing American jobs overseas is good for the U.S. economy in the long run." Apparently, this was said to pre-empt the famous quote of noted economist John Maynard Keynes who said, "In the long run, we'll all be dead." All of us except for Bill Kristol, who will still be Chairman of the Project For The New American Century until the year 2099.

For those who still didn't get that this Administration was intent on leadership and those pesky commercial issues like jobs can't stand in the way, Susan Sheybani, assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt, had a message (also reported by Reuters, July 29, 2004) for dislocated workers in very clear terms, "Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy--or go on Prozac?"
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That's enough for now, although there is so much more. Assign a grade at your own peril. After all, the Administration has repeatedly said that people (Americans) need to watch what they say.

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