Much as I like

Much as I like the folks at the Washington Monthly, it’s a small operation. They don’t have a behemoth publicity operation like a Time or a Newsweek to push my new article (in the upcoming issue) on the myth of Republican competence. But somehow they’ve enlisted the White House itself in the effort to flack my piece. How else to explain the White House decision to ax this $5.1 billion?

Let’s be honest, all else aside, this couldn’t be more stupid — purely in political terms. Set aside the fact that the president’s own policies have busted the budget. Put all that aside. Let’s just look at how dumb this hastily conceived ploy actually was.

Even I figured that this $5.1 billion would turn out to be mainly well-intentioned but not pressing funding projects, with a few homeland security things tossed in — like money to monitor the health of the rescue workers at ground zero. But look at some of the other examples provided in this new AP article.

$82 million to enhance the FBI’s counterterrorism technology.

You can sort of understand this one. I mean, the FBI did such a bang up job with those 386s and 3×5 notecards they currently use.

$165 million to strengthen security around food and water supplies.

Why spend money on this? Who’s ever heard of terrorists attacking water supplies?

$100 million to improve the communications systems of firefighters, police officers and other emergency personnel nationwide. Radio problems hindered rescue workers’ response to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 because the various agencies’ radios could not communicate with each other.

This one I can actually understand, I guess. With our crack intelligence agencies, when are we ever going to need local law enforcement as first responders to terrorist attacks?

Now there are a few instances of funding priorities you can sort of imagine the president may have wanted to cut. Like the $400 million for election reform. Or the $275 million for Veterans’ medical care (as we reported a little while back, the White House is already trying to rein in costs at the VA by ending efforts to sign vets up for their health care benefits.)

For laughs, the president ridiculed the $2 million included for what he called “a new facility for storing the government’s collection of bugs and worms.” It does sound pretty lame. Until you find out that the president himself asked for it in his February budget request. (Memo from George to Mitch: Work with the speechwriters on this stuff. Stuff making look like such a goof!) And the reason is pretty clear. The current set up has the collection in 730,000 gallons of alcohol just a few blocks from the White House. “The issue is that, in theory, we have a potential bomb sitting there and it’s in the middle of the mall in Washington,” a spokesman for House Budget Committee Democrats told the AP.

Let’s be honest. Set aside the White House’s cynical dishonesty in trying to shift the blame for the return to deficit spending. The real story here is the folks running the White House were so desperate and panicked about what to do on the economy and so eager to come up with some way to salvage the Economic Forum that they came up with this joke which is sure to backfire.

As I’ve been saying, the gang that can’t shoot straight.