FEBRUARY 4, 2004 – "Suskind writes that O'Neill warned Vice
President Dick Cheney of the consequences of a growing budget
deficit, only to be told that Ronald Reagan's two-term presidency
showed "deficits don't matter." – CNN (see article:
Cabinet members defend Bush from O'Neill)
This statement, widely reported after Suskind’s book detailing
former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil’s charges against the Bush
administration came out, was a big surprise to many people. Could
the Vice President have really said that? And what, if so, could he
possibly have been thinking?
But for anyone familiar with Republican politics, the statement was
not only not shocking, but a commonplace one you had heard many
It was just after the Florida recount. The Supreme Court had just
finished things off, it had been declared official that George W.
Bush and Dick Cheney would be President and Vice President of the
I was watching the news with a friend of mine who is familiar with
Republican politics. First he seemed to take it in stride, but
within a minute his face grew really somber and he put a hand on his
forehead like he either might cry or suddenly had a headache.
"Maybe it won’t be that bad," I told him. "All we can do now is wait
and see – maybe he will really act like the moderate he says he is."
My friend – and favorite Republican source – shook his head.
"You don’t understand," he said. "Now we’re going to be at war
within the next four years. And not just a launching a few
Tomahawks at Saddam. I mean a broad, widely-themed war like the
Cold War that will last for years and years."
No, my friend was not a prophet. And no, he did not have any
specific information about a plan to let terrorists hit the US in
order to create a war.
Rather, he was just familiar with the people who were about to take
office, how their minds worked, and the plan they were about to run,
something he called, "The Ronald Reagan playbook."
The Clinton years were very tough on these Reagan/Bush Republicans.
They are the military complex that Eisenhower warned us all to
That point is lost on a lot of people: it was Eisenhower, a
conservative Republican four-star General and President of the
United States – not some obscure hippie – who said to us, in
his farewell speech from the Oval Office:
"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a
large arms industry is new in the American experience.
"The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual --
is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the
Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this
development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave
implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all
involved; so is the very structure of our society.
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the
acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or
unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for
the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our
liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for
granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel
the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery
of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security
and liberty may prosper together."
Can you imagine any President – never mind a Republican one – saying
this now? This is yet another reminder that the truth and spirit of
truth is neither Republican nor Democrat but simply American.
In any case, this brings us to the Cold War. Through fear of Russian
nukes, the American citizenry came to accept – even embrace – the
growth and expansion of what had, in its infantile stages,
frightened President Eisenhower so much that he felt compelled to
say something about it in his farewell address, his last words to
the nation after a lifetime of service in official capacities.
Then the Cold War ended.
Little by little the excuses for such massive military spending
began to fade. Clinton was elected and made setting the financial
house in order by paying down the debt a priority. For most of the
next decade, peace and prosperity existed for many.
For the Cold Warriors of the Reagan era, the men (and a small number
of women) who were used to living high on the hog, getting
multi-million dollar government contracts on a regular basis, there
But that is just the beginning. There was something much larger
Dick Cheney, in the Vice Presidential debate in Kentucky, held on
October 5, 2000 said (C-SPAN:
Presidential Debates 2000), with regard to our military and
the morale of our troops:
"When we don't give them the kind of
leadership that spells out what their mission is and lets them
know why they're there and what they're doing, why they're
putting their lives at risk, then we undermine that morale."
This was a regular refrain among the
Cold Warrior types. Who was going to be the next Soviet Union? With
whom were we going to have the next Cold War? Without such an enemy,
there was a basic void in their existence. Their world centered on
rallying people around fear and hatred of a massive, permanent
enemy. While much of the world was happy to have the Cold War end,
the Cheneys and Rumsfelds were absolutely lost and demoralized –
much like the supposed troops without a mission mentioned above.
China often surfaced in top defense
circles as a likely candidate to have our "next Cold War" with, as
they referred to it. Indeed, Bush/Cheney moved to make China an
issue in the 2000 election, and not from a trade standpoint.
Look at how then-Governor Bush talked
about China at the
Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA, on November 19, 1999:
"This is different from the trumpet
call of the Cold War. We are no longer fighting a great enemy,
we are asserting a great principle: that the talents and dreams
of average people – their warm human hopes and loves – should be
rewarded by freedom and protected by peace. We are defending the
nobility of normal lives, lived in obedience to God and
conscience, not to government.
"The challenge comes because two of Eurasia’s greatest powers –
China and Russia – are powers in transition. And it is difficult
to know their intentions when they do not know their own
futures. If they become America’s friends, that friendship will
steady the world. But if not, the peace we seek may not be
"China, in particular, has taken different shapes in different
eyes at different times. An empire to be divided. A door to be
opened. A model of collective conformity. A diplomatic card to
be played. One year, it is said to be run by "the butchers of
Beijing." A few years later, the same administration pronounces
it a "strategic partner."
You can see how the Cold War still
dominated their mindset, and how "China, in particular," was front
and center when they talked about the Cold War, even though China
was not part of the Cold War. But in the Reagan/Bush Republican
mind, China was the cause they held out hope they could rally the
nation around to get back to what they considered the good old days
of the Cold War, when money flowed freely and there was a
hate-focusing mission to rally the nation around.
Don’t let the comment at the start of
these quotes, "This is different than the trumpet call of the Cold
War," fool you. It is a common rhetorical device, in particular for
the Reagan/Bushies, to claim they are not about to say exactly what
they are about to say, and the fact that the Cold War is mentioned
with regard to China is just a function of their mindset which had
already started a sort of pre-Cold War against the Asian nation.
President Bush made this clear just a
few sentences later:
"We must see China clearly -- not
through the filters of posturing and partisanship. China is
rising, and that is inevitable. Here, our interests are plain:
We welcome a free and prosperous China. We predict no conflict.
We intend no threat."
Like we said, pretending they are saying
exactly the opposite of what they are about to say. Now, get ready
for the, "Yet…"
Um hmm. Now he is about to actually say
something he means:
"Yet the conduct of China’s
government can be alarming abroad, and appalling at home.
Beijing has been investing its growing wealth in strategic
nuclear weapons... new ballistic missiles… a blue-water navy and
a long-range airforce. It is an espionage threat to our country.
Meanwhile, the State Department has reported that "all public
dissent against the party and government [has been] effectively
silenced" – a tragic achievement in a nation of 1.2 billion
people. China’s government is an enemy of religious freedom and
a sponsor of forced abortion – policies without reason and
"All of these facts must be squarely faced. China is a
competitor, not a strategic partner. We must deal with China
without ill-will – but without illusions."
Yes, this sounds eerily like the charges
President Bush would go on to make in rally the nation to war
against Saddam Hussein.
But wait, he wasn’t done:
"By the same token, that regime must
have no illusions about American power and purpose. As Dean Rusk
observed during the Cold War, "It is not healthy for a regime
... to incur, by their lawlessness and aggressive conduct, the
implacable opposition of the American people."
Yes, immediately after saying the case
with China is "not like the… Cold War," the President, in talking
about China, first builds it up into a Soviet-level sounding risk
and then, right on cue, starts dishing out quotes from "during the
Cold War," using them directly to draw parallels with China.
First look at the sickness of this
commentary. "It is not healthy for a regime…" Notice the word
‘regime’ in there? Continuing, "It is not health for a regime… to
incur… the opposition of the American people."
In other words, "China would not be
smart to make the American people angry," because a ‘regime’ that
makes the American people angry… well, just look at what happened to
the Soviet Union, the place this quote was originally directed
So back to my friend.
When he said with simple realization
that with Bush elected we would be involved in a long, Cold War-type
conflict within the next four years, he was originally thinking it
would be with China. He did not profess to be certain of that, but
he was certain they would come up with a Cold War.
Why? Because it is one of the keys to them being able to keep a hold
on power, one of the first steps in the Ronald Reagan playbook.
RONALD REAGAN PLAYBOOK RULE #1: Create a
long-term war that won’t take place on American soil.
It is not difficult to see why they want
this set up. It is because all the games they use to keep their hold
on power – which we have seen played out ad nausea during the Iraq
conflict – depend on having such an enemy in a state of continuing
war. The patriotism card, the "Dems are weak on defense" card, the
"the military is Republican" card, only we can keep you safe card,
Many people blamed former President
George H. W. Bush’s failure to get re-elected on his failure to deal
with the economy. But not the Reagan/Bush Republicans. They blamed
it on the fact that he let the war end, and they know enough not to
do that again. Bush, Sr. gave the nation peace, let them feel
secure, the line of thinking goes, and so the American people were
free to vote for someone else.
And they were not going to make that
mistake this time. They needed a good ‘ol Cold War-style, generation
When I have broached the topic of Iraq
and 9/11, asking if there was any pre-mediation, if the War On
Terror was part of what was planned, if Iraq was planned ahead of
time and 9/11 was used as an excuse, my friend just laughs.
The issue of Iraq is irrelevant, he
says. The issue of whether the President could have prevented 9/11
or used it as an excuse to attack Iraq is irrelevant. The simple
reality is that this these people – the Cold Warriors of the Bush
administration - were going to have America involved in a
broad-based, long term war of one brand or another. September 11th
simply gave them that opportunity. If it wasn’t for September 11th,
we would still be fighting either the Axis of Evil or a Cold War
with China or some other endless, relatively cold on the homefront
type war. It is central to who the Bush/Limbaughians are, how they
think. Without such a war, they feel weak, lost, and impotent.
Without war, they are not sure how to keep a hold on power or sell
themselves to the American people.
RONALD REAGAN PLAYBOOK RULE #2: Pass a
tax cut you know is too big, intentionally creating deficits.
There are a couple of reasons for this
move, which both Reagan and George W. Bush did.
The main idea is to set up the old blame
and lie game whereby the Republicans create deficits with their
intentionally oversized tax cuts and then proceed to claim the
Democrats are creating them with their "tax and spend" mentality.
When the budget was balanced, as it was at the end of the Clinton
years, that sort of hate talk against the Democrats wasn’t possible.
So immediately President Bush set out to
right that problem – the problem of a balanced budget. By passing
his budget-busting tax cuts, he put back in play the setup that
allows him to divert attention from anything he is doing by focusing
constant, dishonest attacks on the Democrats based on the fact that
there are deficits. This is vital in the Reagan playbook.
Some people have wondered if 9/11 was
allowed to happen so the President had an excuse to create his
massive War On Terror. While that seems not too likely, it is clear
that he absolutely intended to create our current economic 9/11.
Each of his tax cuts was an enormous blow to the World Trade Center
of the American economy.
And true to form, they created the
disaster and then told us we should be thankful we have them their
to save us from it. This is actually originally taken from the
Harold Hill playbook: "I’m going to solve this town’s problems,"
says Hill when he arrives in a small, calm Iowa town. "This town
doesn’t have any problems," his friend replies. "Well," says Hill,
"then I’m going to have to make one."
We witness exactly the clear awareness
that they are just carrying out the Ronald Reagan playbook in the
comments of Dick Cheney reported by Paul O’Neil.
When Cheney said, "that
Ronald Reagan's two-term presidency showed "deficits don't matter,"
as reported in Suskind’s new book, The Price Of Loyalty, Cheney
showed exactly this mindset in action. Reagan, by getting
re-elected, showed not only that deficits don’t matter to the
American public, but that they can be used as a great weapon to help
keep your popularity up by using them to blame the Democrats. And so
Cheney told then-Treasury Secretary O’Neil not to bother bringing up
sound, conservative fiscal ideas like not running massive debts, but
instead to sit there and shut up, because, for political reasons,
they were going to go with the debt ballooning policies that worked
politically for Reagan.
The problem President Bush is having at
this point comes from something not accounted for in the Ronald
Reagan playbook – that they would actually be so successful that
there wouldn’t be any Democrats around to blame for things. This was
supposed to be the part where the President, as Reagan did, sends a
massive, deficit-ballooning budget to Congress but quickly blames
the Democrats for it. However, now the Congress is now entirely
controlled by Republicans. As a result, the fire he created is
starting to burn his own butt.
So there are two plays from the Ronald
Reagan playbook. The Bush administration came into office determined
not to suffer the fate of his father, but instead to recreate the
Reagan days of old. They set out to set up a new Cold War and to
send the nation back into massive deficit spending.
Their potential downfall is that this is
a different time. There are no Democrats to blame for the deficits –
plus the current Democrats did a good job of making clear to the
public that any deficits would be the result of Bush’s tax cuts. And
this time, the call to war is not so believable or compelling.
But in addition, just like happens in
the mafia, sometimes the new generation gets too greedy. Bush/Cheney
et. al have gone after America with the blatant disregard of cold
corporate raiders. They have spent too long in the corporate world
and haven’t been able to distinguish between the American nation and
America as the American Corporation. And so, as we detailed earlier,
we see their actions directly parallel a hostile corporate takeover.
The Bush Administration’s
Actions Directly Parallel A Hostile Corporate Takeover)
And while the Bush/Limbaughians are
imitating a number of Reagan’s steps, Ronald Reagan was actually in
touch with his times and did not set out to implement his policies
with the reckless disregard for America that President Bush and Dick
Cheney have. Ronald Reagan above all seemed to truly care about
America, even if he did so in a partisan way.
And so the Bush/Limbaughians are really
missing the central play of the Ronald Reagan playbook – to care
about America and do what you think is best for the nation. Their
blatant disregard for the nation and its people – as well as the
other nations and people of the world – are what is making even
their once solid base start to stand up and say, "This Bush is no
Ronald Reagan," and that he is weakening and bankrupting our great nation
for no other reason but to stuff the pockets of his friends and
In any case, this was the plan:
to, upon taking office, create massive deficits and begin a massive,
cold-on-the-homefront war that can't be ended any time soon.
Two plays taken straight from the Ronald Reagan playbook.