Thursday, February 17, 2005

Evidence Is Mounting: Bush Was Right

Here are a trio of articles, with link (as always) for all you "fact-checkers" out there. I copied the articles here verbatim to make it easier on you.

The news isn't all sunshine and roses, mind you, but the tide is definitely turning.

Here's the first article:
Jobless Claims Drop to Four-Year Low
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2005
(AP) The number of laid-off workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell for a third straight week, dropping to the lowest level in more than four years, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

A total of 302,000 Americans filed applications for jobless benefits last week, down by 2,000 from the previous week on a seasonally adjusted basis. The level was the lowest since Oct. 28, 2000, in the closing months of the country's record 10-year long economic expansion.

The decline in jobless claims caught analysts by surprise. They had been forecasting an increase of around 12,000, reflecting a predicted bounce up after the impressive declines of 9,000 and 12,000 in the previous two weeks.

Analysts said the decline in claims provided further evidence that the labor market is continuing to show improvements with fewer layoffs and more companies deciding to hire new workers.
The four-week moving average for unemployment claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, also fell last week, dropping to 311,750, the lowest level since Nov. 4, 2000.

In a second report, the Labor Department said that prices for imported goods rose by 0.9 percent in January as foreign petroleum prices jumped 4.6 percent and the price of non-petroleum imports edged up 0.2 percent. Import prices are expected to continue rising this year as the weaker dollar makes foreign products more expensive for American consumers.

The January increase in import prices was the biggest jump since a 1.6 percent rise in October. In November and December, import prices had fallen as petroleum prices declined from record highs set in October.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, delivering the central bank's latest economic forecast to Congress, said on Wednesday that the economy was growing at a solid pace with inflation pressures remaining low.

Even though the last recession ended in November 2001, companies kept laying off employees until the summer of 2003 as they succeeded in getting more output from their existing work force. That effort gave the country strong gains in productivity but also contributed to a sustained jobless recovery.

However, in 2004, payroll jobs increased by 2.2 million, after three years of job losses, and last month's job gains allowed President Bush to escape the dubious distinction of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to experience a net job loss during his first term in office.
Somewhere John Kerry is at the bottom of pint of Jack Daniels...................
Here's the second article:
Europa: Is it possible that Bush wasn't entirely wrong?
BERLIN Probably it's a bit too much to say, on the eve of President George W. Bush's fence-mending trip to Europe next week, that a specter is haunting Europe, but let's say it anyway: A specter is haunting Europe and it is the possibility, after the elections in Iraq, that perhaps Bush is less of a dangerous bungler than so many Europeans previously believed him to be..Why a specter? Because, let's face it, even though Europeans were gracious enough not to gloat during the darkest days of the Iraqi conflict, you could almost smell the schadenfreude here over the American plight..Certainly there has been no seismic alteration of the European view.
Yet there are at least some strong anecdotal signs that Europeans are struggling with the difficult proposition that there might even be in the Bush doctrine of messianic democracy a dollop of what the other President Bush famously called "the vision thing.".
Here in Berlin over the past couple of weeks, for example, a spirited debate has taken place at the German daily Der Tagesspiegel, the issue of which was just how far to go in acknowledging that some good might now be coming out of the Bush foreign policy. According to Christoph Marschall, the editorial page editor of the paper, there was little opposition on the part of the assembled staff to a comment he wrote before the election, to the effect that there was going to be something inspiring about Iraqis going to the polls..But after the election, when the paper's Washington correspondent suggested on Page 1 that maybe, after all, Bush sniffed out a truth about the "axis of evil," the staff strenuously objected. "The idea that Bush might actually have been right - that was a little much for our staff," Marschall said.
Still, opposition or not, the paper in yet another editorial, spoke of "the sublime nature of this day," meaning Jan. 31, when the election was held, and criticized Europeans for failing to admit that "even a wrong war can have some positive consequences." In a similar vein, there was the article in Corriere della Sera by Marta Dassu, the director of programs for the Aspen Institute in Italy, to the effect that Europeans need to allow their judgment to catch up with the facts on the ground.."Most Europeans think that improvements in the Middle East - elections in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq - have come about because Bush is lucky, that it was because of chance," Dassu said in a telephone conversation. "My comment was: 'Maybe it was a choice. Let's help it, despite the mistakes that were made in Iraq."' .
This does not mean that the public opinion gulf is about to disappear. A recent poll by the German Marshall Fund, conducted after the election in the United States but before the election in Iraq, shows vividly how deep the European distrust of America is. Among the findings: 65 percent of the French and 57 percent of the Germans found strong American leadership in world affairs to be either somewhat or strongly undesirable..Still, it does seem as if at least some former European opponents of American policy are taking on a more nuanced view of things. There's a willingness, as Pierre Hassner, the French political scientist put it, to incorporate some bright spots in the Iraq situation into what has until now been a uniformly dark framework.
The election seems to have conveyed the message that even the initial decision to go to war - rather than pursue the European option of unending diplomacy - was not a simple wrong but a tough choice with strong arguments both for and against.."The pictures of the people voting, even though it's hard to say it was worth two years of war, psychologically it was a turning point," Hassner said..Again, this does not mean that Europeans have suddenly become converts to the American position. Private people like Hassner and government officials in France and Germany, the countries most vociferously against the war, point out that there is still the question of cost: were all those lost lives, all that chaos, the kidnappings, the suicide bombings, the vicious and unending insurgency a price worth paying for what has been gained? ."
The general concern is that when there is a vote in a former dictatorship, the vote goes very much along ethnic and religious lines," said Karsten Voigt, the coordinator of German-American relations in the German Foreign Ministry, describing a common European analysis. "Yugoslavia was an obvious example where the advent of democracy led to sectarian chaos, and there is not yet any guarantee, despite the heartening participation of Shiites and Kurds in the Jan. 31 election, that Iraq will not go the same way." .It wouldn't be a bad thing, as he travels in Europe, for Bush to keep in mind that these objections, like the earlier ones in Europe, are often quite cogent and deeply felt. Still, here on this side of the divide, it is no doubt good that Europeans might be modifying their cartoonish image of the Bushies.
As the French paper Libération said the other day, suddenly there are three new Muslim places where hope-inducing elections have been held - Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. Maybe Bush's idea of falling democratic dominoes isn't so simple-mindedly utopian after all..In any case, a more nuanced and tolerant view of the others' position would be a good thing to sustain, because no doubt trouble lies ahead for trans-Atlantic relations.
On the vexing question of Iran and nuclear proliferation, for example, it would probably be a good thing if the Americans showed more than a grudging nonopposition to the European diplomatic initiative.
And the Europeans need to do what they haven't so far, which is to agree on concrete punitive steps to take against Iran if their preferred soft diplomacy doesn't work.."What happens come May or June when Bush turns to Condi and says, 'What have I gotten out of this?"'
Gary Smith, director of the American Academy in Berlin, said, referring to Condoleezza Rice's promotion of warmer trans-Atlantic ties. ."The Europeans need to know that it's more than about being right or wrong, but about taking responsibility, and not just responsibility but coordinated responsibility, working out the priorities in coordination with the Americans. Because if everything is uncoordinated - training in Iraq, soft diplomacy on Iran, arms to China - the alliance still falls short."
For those of you keeping score, Bush 2, Nay-sayers 0
And now, behind curtain numer three:
What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?
Maybe you're like me and have opposed the Iraq war since before the shooting started -- not to the point of joining any peace protests, but at least letting people know where you stood.

You didn't change your mind when our troops swept quickly into Baghdad or when you saw the rabble that celebrated the toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue, figuring that little had been accomplished and that the tough job still lay ahead.
Despite your misgivings, you didn't demand the troops be brought home immediately afterward, believing the United States must at least try to finish what it started to avoid even greater bloodshed. And while you cheered Saddam's capture, you couldn't help but thinking I-told-you-so in the months that followed as the violence continued to spread and the death toll mounted.
By now, you might have even voted against George Bush -- a second time -- to register your disapproval.
But after watching Sunday's election in Iraq and seeing the first clear sign that freedom really may mean something to the Iraqi people, you have to be asking yourself: What if it turns out Bush was right, and we were wrong?
It's hard to swallow, isn't it?
Americans cross own barrier

If you fit the previously stated profile, I know you're fighting the idea, because I am, too. And if you were with the president from the start, I've already got your blood boiling.
For those who've been in the same boat with me, we don't need to concede the point just yet. There's a long way to go. But I think we have to face the possibility.
I won't say that it had never occurred to me previously, but it's never gone through my mind as strongly as when I watched the television coverage from Iraq that showed long lines of people risking their lives by turning out to vote, honest looks of joy on so many of their faces.
Some CNN guest expert was opining Monday that the Iraqi people crossed a psychological barrier by voting and getting a taste of free choice (setting aside the argument that they only did so under orders from their religious leaders).
I think it's possible that some of the American people will have crossed a psychological barrier as well.
Deciding democracy's worth

On the other side of that barrier is a concept some of us have had a hard time swallowing:
Maybe the United States really can establish a peaceable democratic government in Iraq, and if so, that would be worth something.
Would it be worth all the money we've spent? Certainly.
Would it be worth all the lives that have been lost? That's the more difficult question, and while I reserve judgment on that score until such a day arrives, it seems probable that history would answer yes to that as well.
I don't want to get carried away in the moment.
Going to war still sent so many terrible messages to the world.
Most of the obstacles to success in Iraq are all still there, the ones that have always led me to believe that we would eventually be forced to leave the country with our tail tucked between our legs. (I've maintained from the start that if you were impressed by the demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad when we arrived, wait until you see how they celebrate our departure, no matter the circumstances.)
In and of itself, the voting did nothing to end the violence. The forces trying to regain the power they have lost -- and the outside elements supporting them -- will be no less determined to disrupt our efforts and to drive us out.
Somebody still has to find a way to bring the Sunnis into the political process before the next round of elections at year's end. The Iraqi government still must develop the capacity to protect its people.
And there seems every possibility that this could yet end in civil war the day we leave or with Iraq becoming an Islamic state every bit as hostile to our national interests as was Saddam.
Penance could be required

But on Sunday, we caught a glimpse of the flip side. We could finally see signs that a majority of the Iraqi people perceive something to be gained from this brave new world we are forcing on them.
Instead of making the elections a further expression of "Yankee Go Home," their participation gave us hope that all those soldiers haven't died in vain.
Obviously, I'm still curious to see if Bush is willing to allow the Iraqis to install a government that is free to kick us out or to oppose our other foreign policy efforts in the region.
So is the rest of the world.
For now, though, I think we have to cut the president some slack about a timetable for his exit strategy.
If it turns out Bush was right all along, this is going to require some serious penance.
Maybe I'd have to vote Republican in 2008.
Can I play Pope long enough for Hillary to crawl up and kiss my ring??????


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