Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Credibility crisis
Editor's note: CNN political contributor Paul Begala joins us tonight as a guest-blogger

President Bush began by calling for greater civility in politics. That's like Paris Hilton calling for chastity. Mr. Bush has allowed his allies to attack his opponents -- from John McCain to John Kerry -- with rare and raw savagery. His calls for civility are as phony as his posing as a rancher.

The President said troop levels will be determined by military commanders, not politicians. That would be a welcome shift from Mr. Bush's decision to overrule Gen. Eric Shinseki, the top general in the Army, who said occupying Iraq would take hundreds of thousands of troops. Gen. Shinseki was insulted and shipped out.

And does anyone believe the president who allowed Enron and Exxon to write his energy plan in secret is the man who can break America's addiction to oil? That's like asking the neighborhood crack dealer to run the local detox clinic.

The president faces a credibility crisis. In 2002, 71 percent of Americans said Mr. Bush was honest and trustworthy. Today, 53 percent say he is neither honest nor trustworthy -- because he's not.
Posted By Paul Begala, Democratic Strategist: 10:34 PM ET
Your counter blooger, Mr. Watts debates in a civilized, polite manner. You do not. My highlights of Mr. Bush's fine address:

1. Americans, DO NOT fear, do not give in to retreat and isolationism

2. The way to break Addiction to Oil is through technology

3. We will not find security if we retreat within our borders

4. Americans love our freedom and will fight to keep it

5. US Soldiers in Iraq faced death with the secure knowledge that we would not have to.
Posted By Anonymous Tina -Chicago, IL : 2:52 PM ET
His calls for civility are as phony as his posing as a rancher.

Oh brother, you said it. The Potemkin Presidency, as symbolized by the rent-a-cows at the Brush-Clearing Dude Ranch and Spa.

But it's true - you can fool some of the people all of the time. It's called the GOP Base.
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 3:21 PM ET
Watts and Tina both score on the civility scale.

Begala and Arachnae both fail to score on the civility scale.

A small sample I grant you, but does this say something about who in America is serious about civility in political discourse?
Posted By Anonymous Glen--Grand Rapids, MN : 4:29 PM ET
who in America is serious about civility in political discourse?

You're simply precious, Glen. Don't ever change. I want to preserve this moment in amber.
Posted By Anonymous Arachnae, Sterling VA : 4:39 PM ET
I am a simple citizen of 62 years and watched the entire speech and found it to be weak and full of 'misleading' statement. We are not in a war, and we are not winning. A war is fighting a country, we see our soldiers doing guerilla warfare against insurgence.............has ANY reporter taken the time to investigate how many terrorist attacks (car bombs, roadside bombs, etc) happened in Iraq PRIOR to the US invading it............have never heard it so I don't think anyone has bothered. The US Invasion created the terrorism in Iraq.
Bush's statement of so many created jobs fails to mention # of jobs lost and the 4% unemployment can only be counted by those collecting benefits...........so what is the percentage that RAN OUT of benefits.
As usual if you can't write a fat check to Bush, he is not going to help you out (Seniors, kids) so his speech was same old same old.
Posted By Anonymous Pat Grants Pass, Oregon : 4:40 PM ET
Posted By Anonymous ANGELO ATLANTA, GA : 4:41 PM ET
I found your blog to be very amusing and dead on. Although Bush has improved his speaking skills through the years, I've found myself increasingly distrusting this guy as he seems to preach one thing while doing the exact opposite.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Windsor CT : 4:58 PM ET
I agree with Angelo. I am a Democrat but I find this negative tone and ridiculing of the GOP to be unhelpful and frankly, not very compelling. Americans are sick of the tone in Washington. Can we find a way to have a civil discourse?
Posted By Anonymous Jill, Chicago IL : 5:04 PM ET
I'm not sure what everyone else was hearing during the Sate of the Union address. All I was hearing was BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Lord PLEASE help us get through these next two years.
Posted By Anonymous Greg Causey - Atlanta, GA : 5:06 PM ET
How on Earth is, "the fact that Cindy Sheehan was arrested...another sign to the American people that Democrats are not serious about national security."

Surely the fact that she was arested for wearing a protest shirt is a sign that freedom of speech is not really a right after all.

In any event, what does Ms. SHeehan have to do with the Democrat's position on anything? I bet she'd be pleased to know she has been attributed with so much power!
Posted By Anonymous hilary, washington, DC : 5:10 PM ET
I whole heartedly agree. I just wish enough Americans had figured this out before the last election.
Posted By Anonymous Nadine, Kingsland, GA : 5:22 PM ET
Paul it takes a true Texan to recognize a soda pop cowboy and boy is GWB a soda pop cowboy! Instead of attending public schools in Midland,TX and played football he went to Andover( wherever that's at)and wa a CHEERLEADER ! Compare that to John F. Kennedy who also came from a wealthy Eastern family; his military service also differs from JFK's. If GWB had really grown up in small town Texas or La. I guarantee he would've lost that little smirk but fast! Keep on plugging away at GWB's John Wayne image because it can still be blown full of holes.
Posted By Anonymous Alex D. Chapman,Jr. Ville Platte,La. : 5:25 PM ET
Hopefully you were just as strongly opinionated when President Clinton was lying to the American people. Democrats are very quick to point fingers and announce liars to the world unless it's someone from their party.
Posted By Anonymous Anonymous : 5:25 PM ET
...A stern judgemental statement from an absolute icon of trustworthy behavior. Enlightening. Mr Begala, thrives in the smelly mire that is bounded by the Beltway yet says Pres. Bush has an odor...please. Mr. Begala, you are a strategist, rather than insulting rhetoric, put forth a winning strategy--and by all means, cling to those polls. Polls are what carried you through to victory in the last presidential election.
I served as a Marine Officer working closely with the White House for four years. Maybe my old Commanding Officer was correct-the hardest thing to find in DC is the truth.
Posted By Anonymous "Goody" Brookfield, WI : 5:32 PM ET
bush is going to start moving to the left now, and the independents are going to fall for it. sigh. they really are smarter than the democrats.
Posted By Anonymous cc, san jose, ca : 5:45 PM ET
I whole heartedly agree with you Paul. He is the ultimate bait and switch artist. The devil is in the details and that's what we won't be told until it's too late to turn back.
I find it sad that so many Americans bought his act in the last election
Posted By Anonymous NoAudio, San Diego, CA : 6:23 PM ET
Addicted to oil Huh? Gotta get off this stuff huh? I wonder how Dubya's big shot Texas oil baron backers think of that comment.

ps. Why are the Bush girls not serving in the military in Iraq and leading by example?
Posted By Anonymous Gord M Toronto Canada : 6:28 PM ET
As a Democrat and someone who agrees with the sentiments in Mr. Begala's piece, I want to know why they can't be said in a way that shows more respect for the opposition. Wouldn't it be nice if people could have civilized political discussions and not resort to simply calling people names?
Posted By Anonymous Kristen, Los Angeles, CA : 6:32 PM ET

When will you learn?
Attacking without proposing a coherent alternative will continue to keep your party outside looking in.
Posted By Anonymous Bert C. Torres Scotts Valley, CA : 6:47 PM ET
The problem is, lots of people besides the President, including some posting here, mistake disagreement for incivility.

Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
Posted By Anonymous Noah Vale, New York, NY : 6:50 PM ET
Very well spoken..Fight Fight Fight BACK! Thank you
Posted By Anonymous Trisha, Jupiter Florida : 7:26 PM ET
So Bush is in a credibility crisis. What does that mean exactly - that he's not popular? The bottom line is that we're stuck with him for the duration. We will make fun of him and point out his shortcomings (of which there are many) but we still have to put up with him. So Bush being in a credibility crisis means nothing to anyone. That's the least of this country's problems.
Posted By Anonymous Karen, Phoenix, AZ : 7:29 PM ET
Keep speaking truth to power, Paul. Civility means bupkiss in this day and age of rampant Republican corruption and control of the major news channels. The people on here who are whining about Democrats "not playing nice" are the same ones who criticize Democrats for being weak and not standing up for themselves. And they surely had no problem making uncivilized comments about Clinton, I'm sure.

And "Angelo in Atlanta" - do us all a favor and head back over to the NewsMax/Free Republic forums. That "I'm a moderate/independent/Democrat and I hate the Democrats" in ALL CAPS response simply screams wing-nut.

If the neocons hate snarky... then by all means, fellow Dems, let's get our snark on.
Posted By Anonymous Traci, Newport Beach, CA : 8:09 PM ET
Comments regarding "addiction to oil" are regarding our dependence on foreign oil. Having ExxonMobil and the other DOMESTIC oil producers help carve energy policy is, believe it or not, the right way to go as that will help stimulate investment DOMESTICALLY and help ease our need to import oil from abroad. You can't curb the appetite for oil overnight (take a step back and look at how many products you use a day depend on petroleum in the manufacturing process), but you can try to increase domestic production while at the same time finding alternative sources of fuel/manufacturing inputs. Attacking domestic oil companies is equivalent to shooting ourselves in the foot, and much of the political rhetoric is the same way when it comes to energy policy.
Posted By Anonymous Jake, Boston, MA : 8:39 PM ET
The president is using the same old tactics. Talk about civility. Send other people out to do the dirty work. Never intending to cooperate with anyone who disagrees, making sure they get trashed. He only serves the people who bought him the election, Big Business, Wealthy Conservative Constituents, and the Religious Right.
The administration's use of words are so Orwellian. The only reason I think majority of Americans put up with it is because they are so frightened by 9/11. Wake up. This administration is responsible for being asleep at the wheel when we were attacked and with Katrina. Will we survive this maniac we call a president and his cadre of other evil doers.
Posted By Anonymous Michael Honolulu, HI : 8:53 PM ET
I do believe that Bush is doing the best that he can do and anyone in the U.S. that thinks that they have a right to put down the U.S. Government has a problem. Your country stands for freedom. And for the most part it always has been free. This crap everyone is saying about Bush (true or not) is crap. In some way it is showing all of the terrorist out there that not everyone agrees with what your president is doing. I believe that in order for you to stay a strong country we all need to stick together (Including Canada). Stand by the one that was elected into presidency for his second term,------ by the people. If everyone disagreed so much with what he was doing then he should not have been re-elected. Since he has been, every one needs to shut-up and deal with it.
I am sick of the war just as much as the next person but we are over there for a reason and I am also going to back your president fully. So just give it up would you
Posted By Anonymous Lewis, Vancouver, Canada : 9:41 PM ET
I am getting sick and tired of the Republican corruption and lies. This State of the Union message delivered absolutely nothing to the American people, just another game with the head cheerleader giving a speech. How any American can believe the propaganda being given out by this administration is a mystery to me! This is the most corrupt and outright lying administration to every hold office. I, for one, would like to see King George impeached.
Posted By Anonymous ML, Liverpool, NY : 10:09 PM ET
I find it funny that Bush makes his millions IN OIL, then turns it around on americans! WE are dependant on oil because him and all his rich fat cat friends want us to be, it keeps them in their huge houses!

And by the way, our troops are not his concern if they were he would not have attacked the wrong country!!
Posted By Anonymous Melis SLC, UT : 12:39 AM ET
Paul, you are listed as a Democratic Strategist. What strategy did you design for your party concerning a unified position on the war in Iraq? Nancy Pelosi says there will be no one Dem position.

Paul, can you honestly expect to launch criticism at the White House without getting criticism back? What planet do you live on anyway? Do you think Teddy Kennedy is a mild-mannered voice of reason while he seems to attack the character of people who do not hold his point of view?

Try this on for size. Stop attacking people-it makes you look little. Ideas should be critiqued and alternatives offered. You need to lead your party toward original concepts to deal with the hard issues this nation is facing.

Paul, when your Dem leaders call the President a liar it resonates with all people, no matter the party. The question is, does it turn off more people than it invigorates. My suspicion is that it does.

Paul, what is your strategy for:

1. Protecting the nation from terror?

2. Energy independence?

3. Social Security reform?

4. Iran and North Korea?

5. Illegal immigration?

If your answer to all these issues and more is that Bush is a liar then you have no substance.

Think of it this way, if your party extends a hand in George Bush's direction with a wagging finger full of accusations, how much of an offereing can that hand carry to the nation.

You are long on opinions and short on options. As a result you relegate your party to a minority position.
Posted By Anonymous Joe Carroll, Media, Pa : 12:53 AM ET
I do appreciate this blog , it speaks my mind ....I wonder how America can boast of her intelligence and at the same time elect someone like George Bush for 2 terms to rule this Great country .
Posted By Anonymous Rupa Dhar , Boston ,MA : 10:08 AM ET
Thanks for speaking up. I agree with you on your points. When Exxon can post the largest windfall profits ever before the SOU speech, I find it very disingenuous to hear Dubya try to state that he is the man who can break America's addiction to oil.
Posted By Anonymous Laura, Cumberland RI : 10:51 AM ET
Mr Begala always speaks his mind. I wish other Democrat politicians would too. We have got to stop being apologetic for our beliefs. The president has gotten this country into a terrible mess and the only people benefiting from it are the rich. There has been no trickle down.
Posted By Anonymous alma simmons, Kansas City MO : 2:31 PM ET
And Bill or Hillary Clinton are credible? Give me a break....being a strategist you might want to find one that works before the election because your tired speech is losing interest with the American public eagerly waiting for handouts from the Democrats
Posted By Anonymous Bob Carlisle , Ilinois : 3:52 PM ET
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