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The daily view from the oasis

December 12, 2003 PERMALINK
Neocon Ships Passing In The Night
(posted Dec. 12 12:15 AM ET)

An interesting twist in the „No Contracts For You!š debacle.

In this exchange with reporters yesterday, The Petulant One seemed to close the door on any policy reversal:

BUSH: Let me make sure everybody understands that men and women from our country, who proudly wear our uniform, risked their life to free Iraq.

Men and women from other countries, in a broad coalition, risked their lives to free Iraq.

And the expenditure of U.S. dollars will reflect the fact that U.S. troops and other troops risked their life.

REPORTER: You seem to be saying that the boots on the ground are the only qualifications for -- but what about the forgiveness of debt? Isn't that a fairly substantial --

BUSH: It is, it would be a significant contribution, for which we would be very grateful.

What I'm saying is, in the expenditure of taxpayer's money -- and that's what we're talking about now.

The U.S. people, the taxpayers, understand why it makes sense for countries that risk lives to participate in the contracts in Iraq.

It's very simple. Our people risk their lives...friendly coalition folks risk their lives.

And, therefore, the contracting is going to reflect that. And that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect.

A few observers plucked out the „gratefulš line and thought that may be sending a signal: write off debt, then get contracts.

But to LiberalOasis, that looks like reading way too much into it.

In context, it looks far more like:

Debt relief would be swell! Aaaand you still don‚t get contracts. Maybe some Xmas Crawford Beef Jerky. Run along now.

In and of itself, more destructive stubbornness from the Administration is not surprising.

What is surprising is that they did it just a few hours after two leading neocons told them to listen to the critics.

At The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan (two co-founders of the Project of the New American Century) wrote:

∑this particular effort by the Pentagon to reward friends and punish enemies is stupid, and should be abandoned∑

∑A truly wise American administration would have opened the bidding to all comers, regardless of their opposition to the war -- as a way of buying those countries into the Iraq effort, building a little goodwill for the future, and demonstrating to the world a little magnanimity.

But instead of being smart, clever, or magnanimous, the Bush Administration has done a dumb thing.

(Ack! Political hate speech! Bush is dumb! You heard it! Call Ed Gillespie!)

More important, it has made former Secretary of State James Baker's very important effort to get these countries, among others, to offer debt relief for the new government of Iraq almost impossible∑

∑This decision is a blunder. We trust it will be reversed.

Ouch.

On top of that, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said he directly expressed his „concernš about the policy to the Administration.

Yesterday, LiberalOasis suggested that the political risk of reversing course was pissing off such folks on the Right.

Yet after they gave Dubya the needed political cover, Dubya ignored it and dug his hole deeper.

In turn, he missed a rare opportunity to end an unnecessary, substantively damaging, dispute gracefully.

Why? Apparently because we „U.S. taxpayers expectš our money to go to companies that overcharge us and waste our money.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 11, 2003 PERMALINK
When Fear No Longer Frightens
(posted Dec. 11 12 AM ET)

These Bushies must be scratching their heads.

„We told the world you‚re either with us or against us,š they must be thinking.

„Didn‚t these chocolate-making countries realize that meant: őno troops, no goodies‚?š

„Why aren‚t they shuddering at our awesome, unilateral power?š

Because even an unmatched superpower is not omnipotent.

When Dep. Defense Sec. Paul Wolfowitz publicly signed off on a policy limiting the nations that can compete for prime Iraq contracts to those which have contributed troops or supported the war, he probably assumed them EuroBitches would shut up and take it.

But even lesser powers can have cards to play.

And if you piss them off over and over again, they will play them, oh so happily.

The big card in this case is the debt card.

Iraq is seriously in the hole, with an estimated $125 billion of debt.

Since Iraq‚s massive debt is now Dubya‚s massive debt, he wants as much debt forgiven as possible, hiring famed Bush family fixer James Baker to do the sweet-talking.

(And as Talking Points Memo reminds us, Baker is also enemy to the neocons.)

And in some ill-timed scheduling, Bush made a round of calls yesterday to the jilted France, Germany and Russia on this very subject.

According to the NY Times:

A senior administration official described Mr. Bush as "distinctly unhappy" about dealing with foreign leaders who had just learned of their exclusion from the contracts.

Of course, it‚s some scheduler‚s fault, not your dumb-ass policy, Mr. Responsibility and Accountability.

But we digress.

The point is, once again, just like with the steel tariffs, short-sighted arrogance has created what looks to be a lose-lose situation.

They can stick to their „Our Contracts, Our Money, Our Wayš policy.

That would play well to the right-wing base, but you‚d be on the hook for a whole lot of debt.

Which would surely hit the taxpayers, in some form, down the line.

Or they can cave. (The door is open slightly, as the final decision has been delayed for an unspecified reason.)

Halliburton and Bechtel might lose a few contracts, but the debt could be dealt with and deeper international strains would be alleviated.

That would anger the Right -- who have already begun sticking their necks out in defense of the policy, and who would then blame Baker as an undermining influence. (More distracting catty gossip!)

This would also be the second cave to the Europeans in recent days, following the steel tariffs fiasco.

That time, it was the unions who accused them of blinking, a constituency the Bushies were trying to woo.

A cave this time would hit the base. And the humiliation of backing down doesn‚t make you look good to the swing either.

If there was a better relationship with these countries (and perhaps Baker can help on that front), finding a creative way out so all could save face would be easier to come by.

That‚s why multilateralism exists. So you have relationships that help avoid debilitating disputes.

But increasingly, harsh reality and fed-up nations are proving Dubya‚s petulant unilateral policies to be quite costly.

Not just for the country‚s stability. But for him, politically.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 10, 2003 PERMALINK
No Fight Left
(posted Dec. 10 1 AM ET)

At the last scheduled Dem debate last night, Sen. John Edwards said „I'm certain [that] we're not going to have a coronation.š

But by the actions of him and other major rivals of Howard Dean, that‚s exactly what is almost certain to happen.

Dean‚s opponents showed no fight last night. None.

And as noted here yesterday, whether or not there was any fighting spirit was the big indicator if anyone was really going to try to stop the bandwagon effect for Dean.

They had their opening right away.

At the top of the debate, moderator Ted Koppel said:

[Dean] got the endorsement of former Vice President Al Gore.

Things are going very well for him in the polls∑in terms of raising money.

So I would like all of you up here∑to raise your hand if you believe that Governor Dean can beat George W. Bush.

No one but Dean did.

But did anyone then follow up and make the case why Dean can‚t? Even when asked point blank?

No.

For example, watch Sen. John Kerry flinch:

KOPPEL: Tell me, Senator Kerry, why didn't you raise your hand?

KERRY: For the very simple reason, Ted, that I believe in my candidacy and I believe in my vision for the country, and because every indication is that I can beat George Bush.

Then Rep. Dick Gephardt did the same:

KOPPEL: Congressman Gephardt, you didn't raise your hand, either. None of you did.

I'm not really asking you∑whether you think you're the better candidate. I was simply asking you whether you thought that Howard Dean could beat George W. Bush∑

GEPHARDT: Well, I'm sure that all of us think that we have the best chance to beat George Bush. But I think we're all united in wanting to replace George Bush∑

∑I think I have more experience than anyone on the stage∑fighting for the values of the Democratic Party, fighting for middle-class families -- something that I came from and something that I feel very strongly about.

Very quickly, what at first seemed like a united judgement that Dean was a sure loser, now looked like a high-schooler‚s wimpy unwillingness to raise a hand.

If these guys really believed, deep in the hearts, that Dean was that awful for the party, then why not passionately say why?

Either they don‚t really believe it, or they just have no fight left.

A partial exception to this goes to Joe „Cry Me a Tigris Riverš Lieberman, who at least responded to Koppel‚s question directly:

I'll tell you why I didn't raise my hand in response to that question.

This campaign for the Democratic nomination is fundamentally a referendum within our party about whether we're going to build on the Clinton transformation in our party in 1992 that reassured people we were strong on defense, we were fiscally responsible, we cared about values, we were interested in cutting taxes for the middle class and working with business to create jobs.

Howard Dean -- and now Al Gore, I guess -- are on the wrong side of each of those issues.

But Lieberman stepped on his own message later on.

Reacting to Dean‚s statement that some troop presence would be needed in Iraq „over a period of a few years, until the Iraqis really are able to have a democracy,š Lieberman said:

I'm glad to hear Howard Dean confirm, because I've seen such confusing statements by him before, that he agrees we can't pull out of Iraq now.

Backhanded? Sure.

But not quite a throwdown on the future of the entire party, or even a serious attack on Dean‚s consistency.

What was odd about the lack of attacks is that in the beginning, they all were willing to at least dump on the Gore endorsement, often to applause.

Edwards had his „coronationš comment.

Wesley Clark pulled a sly, „I think elections are about the people, not about the powerful.š

Sharpton likened it to „Tammany Hallš and „bossismš.

Kerry even went as far to say:

I was sort of surprised today, actually, by the endorsement, because I thought that Joe Lieberman had shown such extraordinary loyalty in delaying his own campaign.

(Has everyone forgotten that Lieberman is the disloyal one here? He burned the bridge last year, publicly trashing Gore‚s campaign strategy and rhetoric, for his own political purposes.)

But despite all that criticism, they ended up following Gore‚s instructions Ų „We don't have the luxury of fighting among ourselvesš -- practically to the letter:

No direct shots at Dean‚s gubernatorial record, the sealed records, the old Medicare comments, or the lack of foreign policy experience. Everyone pretty much clammed up.

As also noted here yesterday, this isn‚t necessarily the best scenario. Dean could probably use a few more tests.

But in the end, to beat Dubya, it is absolutely essential that the party be united.

With the others keeping their barbs in check, that looks to be a near certainty.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 9, 2003 PERMALINK
Running Hard, Running Smart
(posted Dec. 9 12:30 AM ET)

Whatever weaknesses Dean has (which he does have, as they all do, including Dubya), it is indisputable that he has run the hardest and smartest campaign.

The big Al Gore endorsement scheduled for this morning is just the latest evidence.

When you run a campaign this hard and this smart, it bodes well for the future.

And when you don‚t, it‚s hard to argue that you‚re so much more electable.

Every time Dean made transcendent news Ų the early fundraising numbers, the first poll leads, the union endorsements Ų rivals would float that he risked peaking too early.

That has yet to happen.

Why? Because Dean doesn‚t let up.

He constantly makes news for himself: big endorsements, gimmicky displays of grassroots support, daring policy ideas, splashy (if risky) sound bites.

Could some of this bite him in the ass down the line? Possible.

But Dean shows no fear.

Check out this exchange yesterday with CNN‚s Judy Woodruff, as she pressed about how he switched Christian denominations after a dispute over a proposed bike path:

WOODRUFF: You don't believe, Governor, the Republicans are going to have a field day with comments like these?

DEAN: The Republicans always have a field day with things like this.

That's the reason Democrats lose∑because they're so afraid of the Republicans having a field day with comments like this or like that, that they never make any comments.

Such fearlessness is not a license to be an idiot, of course. Dean can still stand to be a little more careful in some of his unscripted remarks.

But the kind of confidence that he has been alone in showing is part of why he is winning.

It's part of why he has scooted by the potshots. And it‚s part of why you can‚t easily dismiss him as unelectable.

On Fox News Sunday this week, neocon pundit Bill Kristol railed against the other Dems‚ lack of fight:

The Democrats aren't attacking him. It's really been an astounding∑the way that you defeat a front-runner is by attacking the front-runner∑

∑it does require nerve because you are taking on a huge number of activists and a lot of the energy in the Democratic Party.

But the only way you're going to beat it is by trying to keep Dean at 40 percent and get the other 60 percent∑

Kristol overstates the case, since there certainly have been attacks. But they have been far from relentless.

Kristol also underplays the risks of attacking in a multi-candidate race.

But perhaps that is the problem.

Fierce attacks would be a risk, and the non-Dean field, like too many of their Beltway Dem colleagues, is risk-averse.

Now it‚s too late for Dean‚s rivals to control their destiny.

Dean has too much political cover, too much money, too much organization for attacks alone to do the job.

For Dean to lose, he has to blow it big on his own, though the pressure of relentless attacks can increase the chances of that happening.

The big question now, going into the last scheduled Dem debate tonight (7 PM ET on C-Span, excerpts later on ABC‚s Nightline), is:

Do the gloves truly come off tonight, because it‚s „do or dieš time?

Or do Dean‚s rivals let him off easy, because they are deflated, don‚t want a major intra-party battle, or want to get on Dean‚s good side for later?

There‚s a benefit with stepped-up attacks.

Either Dean gets to address and dismiss more negative stuff, minimizing the possibility of nasty surprises later.

Or he collapses early, which is far better than collapsing later.

There is also a benefit for keeping things relatively nicey-nice, essentially assuring a Dean coronation.

That would help Dean conserve financial resources for the general election.

But Dean is a relative fresh-face, and all fresh-faces run the risk of a „crash-and-burn.š They need tests.

So making Dean earn the nod serves us all. Might as well give it your best shot.

QUICK HIT

Bush In a Medicare Hole

A side benefit of the Gore-Dean news is that it bumped Dubya‚s signing the Medicare bill, in an elaborate hyped ceremony, as the top news story on many shows.

(NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CNN‚s Paula Zahn Now, Fox News‚ Special Report, to name a few).

And Bush needs all the free PR he can get, because more polls came out today showing the Medicare bill is a political loser.

From the ABC/W. Post poll:

Do you approve or disapprove of the Medicare changes voted on by Congress last month?

All Adults
Approve Ų 32%
Disapprove Ų 38%

At first blush, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll showed more support for the drug benefit:

Do you favor or oppose∑the new prescription drug benefit for Medicare recipients?

65 and Over
Favor Ų 46%
Oppose Ų 39%

But other questions showed how soft the support is for the overall bill:

Do you favor or oppose∑the changes made in Medicare coverage?

65 and Over
Favor Ų 38%
Oppose Ų 44%

How concerned are you that the new changes to Medicare will∑not go far enough to help seniors pay for prescriptions?

65 and Over
Very concerned Ų 56%
Somewhat concerned Ų 29%
Not too concerned Ų 7%
Not concerned at all Ų 3%

How concerned are you that the new changes to Medicare will∑benefit prescription drug companies too much?

65 and Over
Very concerned Ų 58%
Somewhat concerned Ų 20%
Not too concerned Ų 11%
Not concerned at all Ų 4%

It‚s tough to step on a presidential news story. But Gore did, making Bush‚s sell job, already uphill, just a little bit harder.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

December 8, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Dec. 8 12 AM ET)

The big headliners on Sunday were WH Chief of Staff Andy Card and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Card hit three shows, CBS‚ Face The Nation, Fox News Sunday and CNN‚s Late Edition.

With no single dominant issue, and with Card seemingly having nothing to proactively push, Card ended up on the defensive in all three interviews.

FTN hit him right out of the box with Newt‚s head-turning quotes from this week‚s Newsweek.

Specifically, after major combat operations were finished, „we go off a cliffš in terms of Iraq policy.

All Card could do was put on a game face:

Well, first of all, I think things are going very well in a very tough situation in Iraq.

Then, he dismissed Rumsfeld‚s best Defense Policy Board buddy:

Newt Gingrich is not all-knowing, and I'm sure he has opinions, and he's always expressed them.

But I can tell you from the perspective of the generals who are on the ground and Ambassador [Paul] Bremer∑things are going better than they could have been expected to go at this time, and we're making great progress.

(Newt elaborated on his views on NBC‚s Meet The Press.)

The subject was mainly Iraq over at CNN as well.

But Wolf Blitzer was less focused on the current security problems, choosing to press Card on lingering issues such as the Phantom WMD and the „Mission Accomplishedš photo-op.

Most notably, after being asked, „was U.S. intelligence going into the war faulty?š, Card effectively said, who cares:

Well, intelligence -- I think, first of all, there was plenty of justification to go to war.

[Saddam] had stiffed the United Nations many, many times. He was a threat to his own people and a threat to the region. He was a threat to our interests∑

∑But when you go there today and you see some of the mass graves that are there∑you just can't help but think that we are much better off with Saddam there.

So, I think that's a moot point.

That weak cop-out was seized on by the Associated Press, which will win him no plaudits in his office today.

And at Fox, new host Chris Wallace was reasonably tough on Card as he squirmed over steel and increased federal spending.

Wallace was calmly incredulous as Card tried to claim the lifting of steel tariffs had nothing to do with trade war threats:

WALLACE: The administration maintains that there was no connection between the decision to lift the tariffs and the fact that Europe and Japan were poised, within days, to slap tariffs on $2 billion in U.S. exports.

I've got to tell you, Mr. Card, it sounds like quite a coincidence.

CARD: Well, first of all, the president said that he was going to institute these safeguard measures for the steel industry to allow the steel industry a chance to reorganize.

And they did that∑And we did see positive changes.

WALLACE: But why wouldn't you care that Europe and Japan were about to put tariffs on $2 billion in U.S. products?

CARD: Well, first of all, those tariffs are minuscule when you consider the size of the U.S. economy. So it wasn't as if those tariffs were a great threat∑

Billions, schmillions.

Wallace also skewered him with the comments from the head of the steelworkers union:

WALLACE: He said that ų he called it a "sorry betrayal of American steelworkers."

And he said, "Our trading partners obviously engaged the administration in a game of guts poker. The president blinked."

CARD: Well, I disagree with him. He doesn't have his facts right∑

∑I would point out that the value of the steel industry in America has actually increased over the past several months.

And so I think that means that the people who are investing in the steel industry are demonstrating more confidence than maybe the steelworkers are.

After having to resort to condescension towards steelworkers, it‚s safe to conclude that the Rove plan to convert those union members to loyal Bushites is now inoperative.

Wallace also hit Card from the Right, carrying the water of those complaining that Bush spends too much:

WALLACE: A number of conservatives∑are upset with the president for not taking a tougher line on spending∑

∑[according to] the Heritage Foundation∑non-defense, non-9/11 spending has increased 11 percent on Mr. Bush's watch, which is considerably higher than the Clinton years.

CARD: Well, first of all, if you take a look at all the non- defense and non-homeland-security spending, our budgets have grown by 6 percent, 5 percent and, then the fiscal year that we're in right now, 3 percent.

That compares with a 15 percent growth in that same definition of budget under the Clinton administration. So we've certainly --

WALLACE: Well, you know, there is an argument that there have been some emergency bills that you've approved that put the number up.

In any case, you know...that a number of conservatives are unhappy that this president has not taken a tougher line on spending.

CARD: Well, he is taking an appropriate line on spending.

What‚s Wallace was referring to regarding „emergency billsš was explained in this Sat. W. Post piece:

The issue came to a boil this week, when White House economic aides summoned conservative economists to allow them to vent their rage. But according to participants, the session did little to dampen their anger.

Joel D. Kaplan, the deputy director of the White House budget office, displayed a chart showing that, outside homeland security and defense, spending was falling.

But under tough questioning, one participant recounted, Kaplan conceded that his figures did not include the series of "emergency" supplemental measures requested by Bush each year.

In sum, on Sunday, Card did nothing to resolve that small but growing problem on Dubya's right flank.

Nothing to repair the political damage done in the Rust Belt.

And nothing to reassure Americans that they have their act together on Iraq.

Hillary

Sen. Clinton also hit three shows, FTN, MTP and ABC‚s This Week, following her return from Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Might Card have been hastily dispatched to the shows to overshadow her, even though he had nothing much to say?)

Clinton‚s steady, self-assured appearances may cause more political buzz today than Card‚s, but here‚s all you need to know:

1. She‚s (still) not running in ‚04.

2. The interviews most likely are another link in an ő08/‚12 strategy, to get past her polarizing rep, burnish her centrist cred (for better or for worse), and display presidential gravitas.

She succeeded on all fronts.

3. Kerry, Gephardt, Clark and Edwards must have been kicking themselves watching Hillary effortlessly defend her vote for war while criticizing Bush‚s handling of it.

4. She would neither praise nor bag on Howard Dean, when asked about him on all three shows.

But she did say she would „support the nominee.š

And she had a message for the pessimists, on This Week:

Back in December of 1991, we had candidates, including my husband, who were barely breaking the surface∑2 percent nationally, 4 percent. I mean, it was nothing.

Then, even when he finally clinched the nomination in June∑people were saying, „It‚s a disaster. He‚ll never win. Can‚t do this.š

This is an extremely volatile, fast-changing situation. And I think our goal should be to stand behind whoever the nominee turns out [to be].

5. Following Card on FTN, she helped undercut his message:

I think rosy scenario is alive and well in the White House these days based on what Mr. Card had to say.

6. She wisely, and succinctly, got to the heart of the case against the Bushies, on MTP:

∑they‚re taking aim at the New Deal.

They really do have a mission in mind to radically restructure the social safety net, the kind of consumer and worker protections that have been at the base of building the American middle class.

I don‚t think anybody voted for that in 2000, and I regret that it has been pursued so relentlessly.

Not bad at all.

*** Share your thoughts at The LiberalOasis Soapbox ***

The Sandbox
Humor Column by Mark Spittle

The New American Devil's Dictionary: Part 1

AIR FORCE ONE: A vehicle designed to protect the President from events that require his presence.

ARGUMENT: A war between two or more parties, none of whom can afford weaponry.

BILL OF RIGHTS: An invoice for services not yet rendered.

CALVINIST: One who expresses his or her political beliefs by way of a urinating cartoon character affixed to their vehicle.

CATHOLIC: A long-lived religious faith that believes in sustaining the Laws of God by breaking the Laws of Man.

CHAD: The thin difference between democracy and totalitarianism.

COLONIALISM: Valet parking for tanks.

CONGRESS: The opposite of EGRESS, or more accurately a place where men go and never leave.

CONSERVATIVE: One who energetically defends the liberties of the individual through the passage of laws that restrict the liberties of others.

COULTER: One who is the victim of one‚s own stupidity, despite the intelligence of one‚s hairstylist.

DASCHLE: In popular children‚s lore, the name of one of Santa Claus‚ reindeer. By extension, a person whose influence is only effective in the realm of make-believe.

DeLAY: Wasting time on activities that would be better performed by people with greater integrity.

DEMOCRACY: A system of government whereby the will of the people is executed by people without will.

DUBYA: A contemporary slang shortening of the medieval phrase „I dub thee∑,š typically spoken during rites of coronation, when an undeserving figure was granted unlimited powers over his subjects, purely by nature of his relations.

FLAG: An article of clothing typically worn draped over one‚s entire body, obscuring the view of the wearer. See BURKA.

FRIST: A word used to describe the sudden, uncomfortable feeling of a doctor‚s cold hand probing one‚s anus, usually with the intent of finding loose change.

GEPHARDT: A contemporary name for the ancient Greek mythological figure Sisyphus, who was condemned for all eternity to struggle uphill, only to fall back before reaching the summit, victim to the weight of his own inadequacies.

GINGRICH: Properly spelled „G‚ingrich,š the word is a slang contraction for the term „getting rich.š

GOD: The source of all inspiration, and the cause of all desperation.

GORE: The offal that remains after a particularly nasty battle.

HELL: The place one goes after a lifetime of condemning others to it.

HETEROSEXUALITY: The love between a man and the object of his affections, usually mammalian.

HOMOSEXUALITY: Brotherly love between unrelated persons.

ILLIBERAL: One who must temporarily postpone the concern of others due to the flu.

ISLAM: A religion that shares much of the history and beliefs of Christianity, but lacking its influence in retail.

JEWISH: In the US, typically used to describe a comedian or one with a good sense of humor; in the rest of the world, the exact opposite.

LARRY KING: A famous ballplayer who threw underhand, or not at all.

LIBERAL: Formerly a word used to describe one who was concerned with the welfare of others over the welfare of himself; now generally considered a vulgar profanity meaning „one who eats live, human babies.š

LIBERTARIAN: A Scientologist whose wardrobe and fluency allow him to occasionally appear on CNN.

LIEBERMAN: A man free to do anything, but who chooses to do nothing of importance.

MARRIAGE: The period of time two people spend together in between their divorces.

METHODIST: A Catholic whose sense of charity prohibits him from wearing silk.

MINIMUM WAGE: The means by which human beings maintain the standard of living of animals.

NUGENT: One who is dedicated to the causes of freedom, nature and drunken whores.

ORGASM: A form of currency used by Western civilizations when the value of the dollar is particularly low.

PATRIOTISM: The act of ignoring the principles of a doctrine while admiring the paper upon which it is printed.

PERVERT: A respected and revered politician who got caught.

POLITICS: A party game played by elder gentlemen whose age prevents them from partaking in more useful entertainments, like croquet or golf.

POOR, THE: Name given to the great, unwashed masses that generate wealth for others through their judicious use of resources, such as soap and water.

POPULISM: An antiquated belief based on the concept that what people say they want is actually what they want; now replaced by the more widely accepted concept of DEMOCRACY, where it is understood that what people want is often the opposite of what they ask for, and therefore never what they get.

POVERTY: A debilitating physical side effect resulting from the toxic combination of petroleum, coca, gold and uranium.

PRESIDENT: One who presides solely by virtue of precedent.

PRESS: What journalists are loathe to do to contemporary politicians.

PUNDIT: The name given to a speaker who has run out of intelligent things to say at the fourth down with nine yards to go.

RELIGION: The superstition of oneself, as opposed to CULT, which is the superstition of one‚s neighbors.

REPUBLICAN: A failed publican who was forced to repeat the course.

SCIENTOLOGY: A scientific approach that utilizes religion to eschew science, thereby leaving its adherents with nothing whatsoever.

SENATE: A gathering of public speakers who, it is rumored, only make sense when speaking in private.

SUV: A troop transport for those who failed entry into the armed forces.

TAXES: The means by which those who fight against government fund their insurgencies.

VOTING: The act of selecting a representative tasked with ignoring one‚s wishes.

WAR: A contemporary recreation of the Grand Guignol, but presented with a larger cast, improved special effects and night vision, the latter used to offset the dim lighting of the theater.

Mark Spittle is one half of the political satire duo Spittle & Ink. He is a former Washington lobbyist and congressional assistant.

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