A donkey in elephant’s clothing

I read an interesting article today about our nation’s projected deficit over the next decade. The Congressional Budget Office had estimated a deficit of $2.01 trillion for 2005-2014, but that’s going to fall short. The updated estimate is $2.29 trillion. For those of us keeping score at home, that’s $2,290,000,000,000. I believe the official term for that is A Lot&#153.

It’s been awhile since I mentioned the presidential election, but I haven’t forgotten. There are many issues involved, of which I’m sure I’ll bitch about most of them over the next two months, but our fiscal crisis is what needs attention now. President Bush has no rational reason to praise himself as much as he has for our economic situation. Based on the promises of more federal spending in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, I fear it’s only going to get worse.

I’m not going to babble about the economy because I don’t believe the President has as much control over the economy as most people believe. Alan Greenspan’s opinion matters more to me. But I do care about the deficit. As much as this may surprise you, I’m a fiscal conservative. I don’t believe the government can solve all of our problems. I don’t believe in throwing more money at problems. I don’t believe in wealth redistribution. The tax code is unfair and the government is too large. Every one of those is a reason why I’ll be voting for John Kerry in November.

Reading Andrew Sullivan recently, I read his comment that sums this up as succinctly as I could, so I’ll quote him here:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry – especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending – easily the choice for fiscal conservatives.

Bill Clinton, in conjunction with the bi-partisan Congress, balanced the budget. President Bush, with the support of the fully Republican Congress, has returned us to Reagan-era deficits. Granted, the economy was better under President Clinton, but my argument loses little significance. President Bush believes the government can better than we can. He doesn’t want us to pay for it, though, which is why we get tax breaks. Yet, I can’t help feeling that, since he so obviously treats us as though he’s our father, it’s bad parenting of the worst kind that he wishes to pass our debts to our children and grandchildren. This is compassionate conservatism?

He ain’t heavy, he’s my keeper

President Bush spoke these words yesterday:

“This broad agenda we will carry into the new term comes from a basic conviction: Government should never try to control or dominate the lives of our citizens,” Bush said. “Yet government can and should help citizens gain the tools to make their own choices and to improve their own lives.”

A censor’s fat pen and a political party’s Constitutional amendment are tools, I guess, but they don’t strike me as empowering President Bush’s sudden epiphany…

I learned how to spell “fahrenheit”

Last week, Danielle and I saw Fahrenheit 9/11. Everyone who has read RollingDoughnut.com knows or can decipher the basics of my political philosophy. I’ve been clear about my feelings regarding the upcoming election, so no one is surprised that I believe President Bush isn’t fit to be President of the United States. I knew going into Fahrenheit 9/11 that Michael Moore wouldn’t change my mind because I already “agreed” with him. He’s aiming for those undecided voters who can be swayed. Like I said, not me. I went into the theater hoping that Fahrenheit 9/11 would sway undecided voters away from President Bush.

Too bad Fahrenheit 9/11 is a piece of shit.

Walking out of the theater, I felt as though I’d been treated to a live-action Jackson Pollack painting. A dab of red here, a dollop of blue there, a dose of yellow on top of all of it. This isn’t what a film should aspire to… lots of pretty pieces but thematically incoherent. No individual part added to a single, obvious revelation. President Bush is “stupid” and “arrogant” and “corrupt”, but what does that have to do with soldiers not knowing why they’re fighting and dying? I can make the connection, but I shouldn’t have to work extra hard to do it with the presented information.

I’m going to ignore the factual misrepresentations and lies because I don’t know the validity of Mr. Moore’s truths. I’ve read enough information on both sides of his arguments to understand that Mr. Moore slants the facts with misrepresentations and/or lies. This is a shame, because I think he could’ve made a great film. At least one that would withstand even a minimum level of scrutiny, which is what I hope anyone would apply when seeing a political propaganda film.

Before seeing Fahrenheit 9/11, I’d had friends and various media recommend it as important. When deciding which movie to see (we also considered Before Sunset, which we saw tonight), a man came up to us and asked if we’d seen it. We said no, so he told us we didn’t need to think any longer, that we needed to see it. His reaction was exactly what I expected from the “I don’t question facts, I only see something that confirms my view” crowd Mr. Moore panders to, especially with this film.

Mr. Moore’s thematic failing with Fahrenheit 9/11 is obvious. The movie consists of three “acts”, with no glue to hold each act with the one before or after. First, he opens with Election 2000 in an effort to show that Al Gore won the election but Bush became president because of influential friends on the Supreme Court. Next, he considers the war in Afghanistan. Last, he addresses the war in Iraq.

I know that Mr. Moore’s theme is supposed to be “the failings of George W. Bush as president”, or something similar. What he shows is anecdotal evidence that President Bush is a puppet for Saudi Arabia, that President Bush didn’t use enough force in Afghanistan (Mr. Moore opposed this war), and that America is a bully to innocent Iraqi civilians. Mr. Moore ignores anything that supports a different view of his beliefs and doesn’t bother to discredit opposing views. To his credit he doesn’t claim to be “fair and balanced” so that he can sway you away from President Bush. That doesn’t make his film’s failing excusable.

While waiting for something compelling to wrap up the movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 lost me when Mr. Moore started Act 3. His presentation of Iraq in Fahrenheit 9/11 is manipulative. He never attempts to put the buildup and eventual war in Iraq in any context. What he does is show U.S. soldiers as militant mercenaries; callous, unfeeling human beings who listen to rock ‘n roll before going into battle. We are to believe they take glee in shooting and killing innocent civilians. Mr. Moore intends for us to hate them and laugh at them for being lower life forms.

A few minutes later, Fahrenheit 9/11 shows dead soldiers as Mr. Moore introduces his tale of a mother who taught her children that the military is the viable option for getting out of lower class life. From the beginning of this segment, we know that her story will not turn out well, so she’s the victim of President Bush’s “crimes”.

I might accept that if Mr. Moore hadn’t followed this with images of soldiers disrespecting Iraqi captives. Again we’re shown that soldiers are bad. We’re supposed to hate these vile soldiers but feel bad for the poor mothers left behind. That doesn’t work for me.

Fahrenheit 9/11 left me feeling incomplete. I knew what I was supposed to believe, but if I’d just flown in from another planet, I wouldn’t understand why I’d sat for two hours watching scene after scene thrown at me. Fahrenheit 9/11 is like an Italian chef who throws boiling spaghetti (real Italians bend and taste the spaghetti) against a wall to see if it’ll stick. When something sticks, it’s done. Until then, keep boiling and throwing.

Michael Moore throws, but none of Fahrenheit 9/11’s spaghetti sticks.

Teaching more than skills and knowledge

From today’s weekly radio address by President Bush:

As yesterday’s report shows, we are making progress in changing the culture of America from one that said, “if it feels good, do it; and if you’ve got a problem, blame somebody else,” to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.

That line is in the middle of a paragraph, so I admit that I’m extracting a piece of his speech to prove a separate point. But I’m not twisting the meaning. President Bush said that and it applies.

How am I trying to apply it to another issue? The CIA offered inaccurate evidence to prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which led to the war in Iraq on a false pretense. When the prison abuse scandal appeared, President Bush swept it away. Everyone in his administration took a “get over it” posture.

I’d give more examples, but that’s enough in the recent past to prove what I’m about to say. I’m not saying President Bush lied to America because I’m not privy to any information that would make me think that. I don’t think he’s sinister and evil as many others believe. He’s human and makes mistakes like the rest of us.

I do believe that, as the Commander-in-Chief, he is responsible for what happens within the government. By acting on the information from the CIA, he accepted it as truth. When it became clear that the CIA was wrong, President Bush did nothing. When we learned that Abu Ghraib was not an isolated incident, President Bush did nothing. (On both examples, when I say “nothing”, I mean “nothing public with any substance”.)

I offer a wiser example of presidential responsibility with this quote from Harry Truman:

“The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

That applies to the consequences of his decisions, as well. While admitting mistakes as a politician can be dangerous to a re-election, as the President, George W. Bush is granted an amazing power over the reputation of the United States. He must represent that well, regardless of the personal outcome to himself. President Bush can’t encourage teenagers to accept responsibility for their actions when he won’t take responsibility for his own. If he wishes to be the true leader of “traditional values”, he’ll teach through his example rather than his rhetoric words.

(For the full speech that contains the above quote, click here. Please decide for yourself.)