David Broder, the “dean” of the Washington press corps, makes a point today that I think has been obvious for some time - that George Bush’s 2004 election is not going to be the cakewalk that so many Republicans have thought it would be.
He cites a lot of negative stories topping the evening newscasts, but just skimming the headlines in today’s papers makes the same point.
The Washington Post is reporting that the federal budget deficit may surpass $455 billion - a remarkable turnaround in just three years.
War, tax cuts and a third year of a flailing economy have pushed this year's budget deficit to $455 billion, the Office of Management and Budget announced today. That is 50 percent higher than the Bush administration forecast five months ago.
The deficit projection is nearly $55 billion more than economists anticipated just last week, and it underscores the continuing deterioration of the government's fortunes since 2000, when the Treasury posted a $236 billion surplus. That represents a fiscal reversal exceeding $680 billion.
"It's shock and awe," said a senior Republican Senate aide yesterday as early details about the size of the deficit were first reported.
Let me summarize - The war is now costing $4 billion a month; the tax cuts have depleted our treasury and wiped out our surplus; and the economy is not looking like it will turn around any time soon.
Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan’s latest assessment is not very promising, according to the AP:
The Federal Reserve stands ready to reduce interest rates even further if necessary to boost the sluggish economy and guard against a destabilizing fall in prices, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Tuesday.
Greenspan said that the Fed was prepared to leave interest rates at low levels "for as long as it takes" - even though rates are at a 45-year low.
It is no wonder that the Bush administration wants to keep our focus on foreign affairs. But they don’t want us to think too long and hard about this story from the NY Times:
North Korean officials told the Bush administration last week that they had finished producing enough plutonium to make a half-dozen nuclear bombs, and that they intended to move ahead quickly to turn the material into weapons, senior American officials said today.
So while we’ve been flailing about in Iraq looking for non-existent nuclear weapons programs based on forged documents, North Korea has been moving right ahead with its very real nuclear production capabilities.
Meanwhile, Bush is quoted today in the Washington Post making statements that directly contradict what his aides said just last week about the bogus uranium intelligence.
Bush said the CIA's doubts about the charge -- that Iraq sought to buy "yellowcake" uranium ore in Africa -- were "subsequent" to the Jan. 28 State of the Union speech in which Bush made the allegation. Defending the broader decision to go to war with Iraq, the president said the decision was made after he gave Saddam Hussein "a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in."
Bush's position was at odds with those of his own aides, who acknowledged over the weekend that the CIA raised doubts that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger more than four months before Bush's speech.
The president's assertion that the war began because Iraq did not admit inspectors appeared to contradict the events leading up to war this spring: Hussein had, in fact, admitted the inspectors and Bush had opposed extending their work because he did not believe them effective.
Talk about revisionist history!