What’s Up With GC&F?

Admit it. You’re addicted. You’ve visited the site a couple of times these past two weeks, but there hasn’t been a peep from your favorite presidential chubster. So what’s up with that? Is Grover gone for good?

Actually, I’ve started law school, and have been tied up with that whole transition, plus the general work that comes with the classes. Plus, I've been hosting visits over the past few days from the family, from da girlfriend, and from fellow blogger Chevron. But never you fear, I’ll make every effort to keep GC&F alive. I’m guessing that my posts for this coming year will be significantly reduced, with the exception of maybe December, when I’ve got some time off. Hopefully, I’ll convince some of the other bloggers out there to toss in a few random posts from time to time. Actually, I was going to post something random and silly tonight, but with the amazing string of bad news these past few days, I wasn’t quite up to it. I will try to make an effort to get some posts up in the near future, though.

So now you know – Grover might be hibernating for a little bit, but he’s here for good. See you around the blogosphere!


A Sacrificial Jam

With President Bush hunkered down in Crawford, Congress still on break, and the sudden onset of silence among the Plame-related leakers, journalists (and bloggers like me) are mostly left to navel-gaze this August. But just when we were beginning to get some really cool meditation vibes going, joins (begins?) the fray with a well-timed and well-executed P.R. campaign against Bush. That’s all well and good for her, and she may even have a legitimate point (although I don’t think that withdrawing from Iraq immediately is the solution to our current problems, or past injustices). Unfortunately for most, though, Sheehan’s protests arrive amid the backdrop of today’s failure to ratify an Iraqi constitution – the latest in a string of signs that Iraqis aren’t ready to make it on their own, and that our troops will be sticking around. After a short bit of thinking, though, I realized that there isn’t too much to contemplate on Iraq. Sure, we can (and should) dig into how we got to where we are today. But as far as how to deal with Iraq, almost every politician is in agreement: it’s a crappy situation, American troops need to stay in Iraq insignificant numbers to keep the country from becoming crappier, and Iraq shows no encouraging signs of becoming less crappy anytime soon.

So while Sheehan has a compelling story, really only one of her demands could legitimately be met. She could meet with President Bush, if he permitted, to vent her feelings (her wish to pull troops immediately out of Iraq won’t happen). So why doesn’t Bush meet with Sheehan? Placating her would take the wind out of her sails, and frankly make it a much less interesting story. I suppose that the Bush Administration is concerned that it might send a signal that it can be influenced by the protesting public (“if we give in now, then the voters have won!”). I’m more of the opinion, though, that Bush is just too plain lazy to change his recreational habits to be bothered meeting with a nobody like Sheehan. After all, Bush has no public appearances this week, and all reports indicate that he will be dedicating significant amounts of time to riding his bike and clearing brush. Is there time to meet with an angry war mother? Nope. "I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say," says President Bush. "But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

There you go. There’s his problem. Presidents aren't supposed to lead balanced lives – that’s why getting the job requires spending millions of dollars, an army of operatives, and months of campaigning (and Freemason membership).This is exactly why Bush doesn’t understand America’s predicament, and exactly why his efforts against terrorism are flagging. He just doesn’t understand sacrifice. When United States (and the world) was moved by September 11, every American was ready to sacrifice, to do his part to defeat Al-Qaeda. Instead, we were assaulted with bizarre entreaties to be “extra-vigilant” while trying to be normal, and of course to go shopping. When the invasion and occupation of Iraq took place, everyday America barely even changed, except for military families. Even the funding for Iraq was removed from scrutiny, through emergency appropriations instead of the regular budget. In short, the Bush administration wanted as few Americans to feel any sacrifice as possible. What a huge mistake. Now Americans don’t feel like they have any stake in Iraq, even though now our security is tied somewhat to Iraq’s future (though it may not have been in 2003).

I, for one, think that this astounding lack of shared sacrifice in America stems back to Bush’s own attitudes. Clearly, even as President, Mr. Bush does not feel that his responsibilities should infringe upon having considerable recreational opportunities. It shouldn’t surprise anyone. The man has never sacrificed for the common good before, defeating candidates like John Kerry (three purple hearts) and John McCain (over five years as a POW in Hanoi). Now I’m not advocating the position that we should try to elect only war heroes to high office. After all, most war heroes have really proven that they’re adept at killing fellow humans. But these heroes have also demonstrated an understanding of personal sacrifice, and an understanding of the need to work towards the common good, even at personal expense. Besides, these soldiers were asked to use force on behalf of their nation, which presumably is using said power for good. Now this brings us full circle, back to Iraq, and back to Sheehan’s son.

It would be awfully sad to imagine that a family member died, not for the common good, but for what you perceive as against the world’s interest. If this is Sheehan’s view, and it seems like it is, she has every right to be angry. Moreover, Ms. Sheehan probably has a thing or two to teach President Bush about sacrifice, and every American would benefit if the president was more dedicated to his county. Perhaps in the end, Mr. Bush will take some time away from biking with Lance to talk to Cindy Sheehan. She certainly won’t change US policy, but perhaps she could change one man’s outlook.


GC&F Goes Mainstream

While my posting has recently slowed somewhat, there was a fairly good stream of traffic last week at GC&F. I first attributed this good news to my inherent awesomeness, but further investigation showed that a Newsweek/MSNBC webpage has a referring link to Grover Cleveland! Sure, this is part of the endless self-references that plague both the blogosphere and every song written by James Taylor. After all, GC&F got the link from Newsweek by opining on recent Newsweek commentary. And sure, this is really just an automatic page, generated by Technorati. Nevertheless, it looks like we’re on the map.

In other shameless, self-promoting news, the next post on GC&F will be number 50, and this blog is about to turn 3 months old. Here’s to many more fat presidential musings!


Fit to Bike, Fit to Serve?

One of our president’s most salient characteristics, other than his strong moral principles, is his devotion to fitness. Throughout his presidency, journalists have profiled George Bush’s non-traditional schedule (for a president at least), noting that Bush often works close to an eight-hour day with a long lunch break (so that he could exercise). Recent accounts have president Bush meeting with John Roberts to ask him about his fitness regimen before nominating him for the highest court in the land, bristling that Roberts was not following a physician's advice to substitute cross-training for jogging to save Roberts’ knees. This spring, reporters profiled the president’s Ipod playlist so that the public would get a better idea of exactly to what Bush rocks out whilst tearing it up on his mountain bike. More famously (at least in my neck of the woods), it was revealed after a plane scare at the White House this May, that while the evacuation procedures were underway at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president was happily biking in the Patuxent Research Refuge in suburban Maryland (in a section not open to the public). The Secret Service detail protecting Bush did not stop the president to inform him of the situation at the White House, which took place around noon on a Wednesday. (As an aside, local columnist Marc Fisher pointed out the irony of Bush recreating in a refuge whose funding he was slashing). The WP also scored a picture of the president returning to his residence that afternoon to learn of the incident, while grasping a copy of the juicy novel I am Charlotte Simmons.

Of course, Bush’s detractors use his famously light schedule as another excuse to skewer him, while the GOP faithful claim that it reflects Bush ability to effectively delegate and to set an example of fitness for a fattening America. As for me, I’m not sure that the president is the best person to lead the fitness charge. After all, as much as voters value a politician’s ability to connect with ordinary citizens, we would never truly want an everyman in the office (we’re not exactly in danger of that happening – Bush and Gore were both sons of politicians, and Bush, Gore, and Kerry were all silver spooners). I don’t think that Clinton’s heart problems were solely the result of his love of McDonald’s, nor do I think that Franklin Roosevelt died solely from Rheumatism. The truth is that the Presidency kills (let’s not forget the more obvious examples of Kennedy, Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) – that’s part of the sacrifice of public service. True dedication to the job and to the country would take an enormous amount of energy, and an enormous toll on any man. Just look at photos of any president by the time that he leaves office, and you’ll see that responsibility and stress that it imparts on Commander-in-Chief must surely shorten life. In other words, the president can do more for his country by dedicating himself to his job than by showing the world another example of a healthy lifestyle. There are already more effective fitness gurus-turned-politicians, and politicians-turned-fitness gurus. Besides, the Body Fat Lab website shows no correlation between the body mass index and the success of a president (fans of Grover Cleveland already knew this, to be sure).

I think that president Bush’s five-week stint at his Texas Ranch shows that he is not about to change his lifestyle and/or workout schedule, regardless of the state of America or the world (this habit was first skewered, fairly effectively, by Michael Moore. While his documentary was mostly shrill, the footage of Bush urging the world to fight “terrorist killers” whilst on the golf course was effective, because it used Bush’s own words). It seems to me that Bush has never demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice personally for the sake of his country. I’m sure that Bush supporters will disagree with me here, but while that attitude may be fine for some of us, it shouldn’t be common among our leaders, and can’t be prevalent among our citizens. If so, we’ll have a harder and harder time finding soldiers to populate our military, politicians to stand up for principles, and citizens willing to pitch in for the national interest. In short, I believe that Bush’s interest in fitness is a selfish one, the same kind of attitude the stifled the patriotic feelings Americans felt in 2001, when were informed that patriotism meant shopping in our malls, not volunteering for public service. Think about that while you work this summer, and while your president is clearing brush from his ranch.


Robert's Rules of Anger

I really don’t get this. After all of the (pointless) barbs that has tossed out on CNN’s Crossfire and all of the (needless) vitriolic abuse that he received in return, it looks like a relatively mild comment made by fellow Crossfire alum James Carville took Mr. Novak over the edge on CNN’s Inside Politics yesterday afternoon. The ever-helpful Media Matters website posted a video of the relevant section of the interview.

What’s strange about it is that both men are so calm during the exchange. Novak tosses out a comment “Just let me finish what I'm going to say, James, please. I know you hate to hear me,” which is sarcastic, but pretty mild in Novakian terms. So Carville responds with an equally calm, but clearly sarcastic tone: "He's gotta show these right-wingers that he's got backbone, you know. The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show 'em you're tough." I’ll let you watch Novak’s reaction, but clearly Carville hit a nerve.

Huh? Was this just the proverbial last straw? By Crossfire standards, this exchange is downright bland. It probably qualifies as holiday banter on the old set. And surely Novak has received (and turned down) innumerable requests for interviews – and how could he expect otherwise? After all, the man makes a living by telling other people what he thinks, and by letting anchor people lob questions at him. I, for one, couldn’t believe that Novak was continually on pontificating on air, often to journalists, while receiving so few questions relating to the CIA leak case and his possible involvement. So you've got to wonder if Novak is feeling pressure from somewhere else, somewhere other than from journalists. Let's face it, Carville didn't really say anything particularly offensive. He certainly wasn't being nice, but that's not exactly how either of these commentators made his reputation (or money). Anyhow, with so little going on with the actual case (well, that’s been leaked to the media, at least), I’m sure that this clip will be making the rounds. Also, it appears the CNN has now (temporarily) suspended Novak. After all, he did swear on TV. Conservaties don't like that, right? I’m not sure that this rises to the level of a “Dean Scream,” so I wouldn’t expect this to be a career-ender. After all, it's not like Novak yelled out a laundry list of states followed by an angry yodel. I would, however, recommend setting your VCR/Tivo to record the next installment of the Daily Show.


Hot Town, Summer in the City

No, this post isn’t a tribute to the Lovin’ Spoonful. It’s actually just been ridiculously hot in Washington, DC this summer. As if to add to the summer doldrums, the town pretty much empties of important people when August rolls around. My favorite columnists from the Washington Post are all on vacation, and their main subjects have also skipped town. The President headed down to Texas for five weeks, and Congress has adjourned for a month. There was even an article in the Post today (probably written by a lowly intern), about how only us regular shlubs are left in DC for the dog days of summer.

On the plus side, we Plebeians do get to hit up the fancier restaurants during Washington’s semiannual “Restaurant Week.” And you've got to assume that the risk of a terror attack must be lower - most of the important people aren't around to intimidate. So I'll take my consolation where I can get it this August. The movers and shakers may not be making news (or inspiring as many blog posts) this summer, but at least I can afford to eat at David Greggory without fear of running into Ann Coulter. Plus I’m sure that there will be plenty of tickets available this weekend, so I can go see the Nationals get crushed by the Padres. I guess that the dog days could be worse. Besides, I was getting pretty sick of running into Alan Greenspan whenever I tried to have a quiet night out on the town. That guy is so high maintenance. . .


No Votin' on Bolton

This doesn’t come as a shock to anyone, I suppose, but President Bush appointed as ambassador to the U.N. yesterday. While some Democrats might feign outrage, I think that the whole affair ended well for everyone.

On the plus side for the Democrats, they proved that Bolton’s views, which almost everyone acknowledges are hard-line, are somewhat undercut by the fact that he doesn’t enjoy the official support of the Senate. On the other hand, Bolton can advance Bush’s (and more likely Cheney’s) views that because the United States currently enjoys immense power, the U.N. should be used as a useful ally when needed, and ignored when convenient. Effectively, it gives Americans an escape valve: we can see how much smoke-screen, realism diplomacy we can get away with, and if Bolton ever pushes us too far, Americans can cry foul, honestly protesting that mainstream voters never supported Bolton. There is a similar dynamic to our recent police actions/wars. For both the Vietnamese and Iraqi conflicts, there was a sizable enough portion of the population that was against military action that most Americans could have it both ways. The peaceniks (who were a fairly small portion of the population in March 2003) could chant “not on our watch,” while essentially free-riding off of any national security gains. America’s moderate mainstream, on the other hand, capitulated to war, but knew that the fledgling anti-war movement would provide cover if the war turned effort sour. Americans have found a fairly useful compromise: we can always be aggressive, while simultaneously claiming to be against aggression.

I thought that in the Bolton situation, the Democrats handled themselves quite well, as an effective minority party. You'll notice that there weren't very many foreceful denunciations of the roadblocks put up in the Sentate Foreign Relations Committee. Commentator David Broder volunteered this Sunday that "[t]he truth is I think that if you had a secret vote in the United States Senate there would be a very small number of votes at this point for Mr. Bolton, Republican or Democratic. But it is the president's choice. " After all, nominations have been stalled with much less justification. Let me betray my New England roots by revealing that I remember well Bill Weld's ill-fated nomination to become the Ambassador to Mexico in 1997. Jesse Helms, who was then chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee single-handedly blocked Weld’s nomination from receiving any hearing (or, in today’s idiotic nomenclature, an up or down vote). Helms was adamantly against his fellow Republican because he believed that Weld was too soft ("liberal!") on issues like the use of medical marijuana and gay rights. A CNN article at the time stated “A combative Helms declared that if Weld, also a Republican, wants to start a war between the GOP moderates and conservatives, ‘Let him try.’” The former Massachusetts Governor (who quit his post to lobby for the ambassadorship) was left without a job, all because of the views of one adamant senator. (As an aside, this seems to have been the beginning of the GOP tendency to completely disparage the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Bush referred to John Kerry in the 2004 as “the senator from Massachusetts,” spitting out Massachusetts as though it was a curse word. More recently, sanctimonious Rick Santorum has been disparaging the state, too.) In the Bolton case, though, every Democrat on the committee, plus at least Senator Voinovich, was willing to publicly withhold support for Bolton.

So in the end, everybody got to claim partial victory in the Bolton matter. In actuality, I think that the American public gets the best of both worlds with Bolton at the United Nations. Perhaps Bolton will be able to reform the U.N., which is admittedly corrupt, without permanently alienating its members from the U.S., since Bolton isn’t 100% endorsed by the American public. And after all, how much more pissed at us can the world get anyhow? Best ‘o luck Bolton.


NASA’s Cannibalized Funding

With all of the problems that NASA has had in recent years, citizens and government officials have begun wondering aloud about the direction of the program. NASA’s FY 2005 budget was about $16.2 billion. In response, NASA officials (and the astronauts themselves) were on the air defending their funding and their successes (on almost every Sunday show), despite the fact that our shuttle fleet hasn’t performed as reliably as the Russians’ older models. In spite of their best efforts, though, NASA officials will soon discover that Congress is making other plans for much of that massive budget; after all, there are a lot of expensive priorities. After some research here at GC&F, we’ve obtained a double super secret list of some of the funding priorities for those billions of dollars that is currently circulating through the halls of power:

1) Adding purple to Homeland Security’s Threat Level System
2) Funding for bipartisan-supported Congressional Waterslide
3) Trust fund for the inevitable Gulf War III
4) Whatever pork projects Ted Stevens hasn’t already gotten approved
5) One-year contract to sign Derek Jeter as a Congressional Page
6) Research to complete Dick Cheney’s transition into a full cyborg
7) Punch and pie for upcoming Congressional mixer with Canada’s House of Commons
8) Begin work on GOP’s long-desired laser-guided prayer system
9) Acquire Alberta and name the new state after Ronald Reagan
10) Pay off Satan to terminate contract with Rick Santorum