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Monday, July 21, 2008

Fool me Once . . .

Ken Kerr

Way back in those halcyon days in the fall of 2002, President Bush was speaking about the need for the United Nations to confront Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. We now know he was building a case for unilateral war. Anyway, in an effort to justify his actions, Bush told an audience at a school in Nashville, Tennessee: "We're trying to figure out how best to make the world a peaceful place." He then gave the world a classic Bushism:

“There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

For those of you who just arrived on Planet Earth, the actual Chinese Proverb reads: Fool me once, shame on you; Fool me twice, shame on me.

Early one Friday morning, October 11, 2002, the Senate voted 77-23 to authorize President Bush to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refused to give up weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions. A scant few hours earlier, the House approved an identical resolution, 296-133.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, who initially opposed the war powers resolution as too broad, decided to back it, "because we should support compelling Iraq to make good on its obligations to the United Nations."

Biden also said, "A strong vote in Congress increases the prospect for a tough new U.N. resolution on weapons inspections, which in turn decreases the prospects of war."

But a number of Democrats said the resolution set a dangerous precedent for unilateral pre-emptive strikes, that Bush had not made a case that Iraq posed an imminent threat, and that conflict in Iraq would detract from efforts to root out terrorist groups they said posed a greater threat.

Bush repeatedly and emphatically said that he had not yet decided whether to launch a military strike against Iraq. But he has sought congressional backing for possible action to strengthen his hand as he seeks U.N. Security Council approval of a tough, new resolution ordering Iraq to permit unconditional weapons inspections and disarm, or face the use of force if it does not.

See that, he didn’t actually want to go to war. All he wanted was for the UN to make Iraq let the weapons inspectors back in. That’s all.

Senator Byrd of West Virginia had argued during a failed filibuster attempt, that the resolution amounted to a "blank check" for the White House.

It seems beyond ironic now. Now that we know there were no WMD, no active nuclear program no yellow cake from Nigeria. In fact, WE were the ones being “fooled once.”

But wait. Blank check, blank check . . . . That sounds some how familiar.

Thursday, July 17, Treasury's acting under secretary for financial markets, Anthony Ryan, requested the ability for the Treasury to buy unlimited amounts of stock and provide unlimited loans to Fannie May and Freddie Mack. Ryan said repeatedly and emphatically he didn't think the troubled government-sponsored enterprises of Fannie May and Freddie Mack would need to tap unlimited credit lines but said it would help stabilize financial markets if they had it.

But lawmakers, Republicans this time, expressed strong opposition claiming it amounts to granting a "blank check."

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson defended the plan as a "bazooka" that federal officials could hold in reserve but would probably not have to use because it was so potentially potent. Its mere existence, he testified, should give confidence to the financial markets that the government was standing behind the firms.

"The stability of these institutions is very important and having this ultimate backstop -- again, we don't see that they'll have to access this -- sends a very strong message in terms of the stability of the marketplace," Ryan said.

Asked whether specifying a dollar amount would ruin the effectiveness of the plan, Ryan said "I think it limits it, and it creates additional challenges for the marketplace. It looks different than it does when it's unconditioned and unlimited."

And here is the fool me twice part:

"Let me stress that there are no immediate plans to access either the proposed liquidity or the proposed capital backstop," Paulson stated. "If either authority is used, it would be done so only at Treasury's discretion, under terms and conditions that protect the U.S. taxpayer and are agreed to by both Treasury" and the mortgage-finance companies.

When will we learn that we cannot trust this administration? Shame on us.

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