Just As I Thought

The president who cried wolf

He’s at it again:

President Bush had great success in his first term by defining crises that demanded decisive responses. Now, as he begins a second term, Bush is returning to the same tactic to accomplish three longtime conservative goals.

Warning of the need for urgent action on his Social Security plan, Bush says the “crisis is now” for a system even the most pessimistic observers say will take in more in taxes than it pays out in benefits well into the next decade.

He calls the proliferation of medical liability lawsuits a “crisis in America” that can be fixed only by limiting a patient’s right to sue for large damages. And Bush has repeatedly accused Senate Democrats of creating a “vacancy crisis” on the federal bench by refusing to confirm a small percentage of his judicial nominees.

This strategy helped Bush win support for the war in Iraq, tax cuts and education policies, as well as reclaim the White House. What is unclear is whether the same approach will work, given the battering to the administration’s credibility over its Iraq claims and a new Democratic campaign accusing Bush of crying wolf.

“This White House has made an art of creating crisis where a crisis does not exist,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

They then go on to debunk a few of the “crisis” declarations, such as:

Bush says greedy trial lawyers are driving up health care costs for consumers and driving good doctors out of business by filing frivolous lawsuits. “It’s crisis because it affects lives and health care,” said Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman.

… In 2002, the last year for which complete figures are available, malpractice costs amounted to less than 2 percent of health care costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. “A reduction of 25 percent to 30 percent in malpractice costs would lower health care costs by only 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent, and the likely effect on health insurance premiums would be comparably small,” according to the CBO study. Still, several areas are suffering from a shrinking number of doctors.

Reid said the insurance companies, which set the rates for physicians, are to blame, not the trial lawyers.

Finally, Bush accuses Democrats of creating a “vacancy crisis” on the courts by opposing his nominees. Republicans claim Democrats have abused the Senate filibuster by blocking 10 of the president’s 229 judicial nominees in his first term — although confirmation of Bush nominees exceeds, in most cases, the first-term records of presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. “Does that sound like a crisis? Only if you failed math really badly,” Reid said.

Well, we all know by now that math is not this president’s strong point.

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