Saturday, September 04, 2004
Election 2004 suddenly is not just about whether John Kerry or George W. Bush will lead the United States the next four years. It’s not even about which of the candidates has better policies or is more competent.
This election has become a test of whether reality still means anything to the American people, whether this country has moved to essentially a new form of government in which one side is free to lie about everything while a paid “amen corner” of ideological media drowns out any serious public debate.
For weeks now, George W. Bush’s campaign has been radically testing the limits of how thoroughly one party can lie, misrepresent and smear without paying any price and indeed while reaping rewards in the opinion polls. Bush personally capped off this binge of dishonesty with his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, continuing his pattern of lying about how the war in Iraq began.
Before a national television audience, Bush repeated his false account of the run-up to the Iraq War, asserting he had no choice but to invade because Saddam Hussein refused to disarm or to comply with United Nations inspection demands. The reality is that not only did Hussein say publicly – and apparently accurately – that Iraq no longer possessed stockpiles of banned weapons but he allowed U.N. inspectors into Iraq in November 2002 and gave them free rein to examine any site of their choosing.
Frankly, I don't expect to see a "normal" American election ever again. Following this phase in which the right wing gains total power by constantly lying, I think we will settle into a Soviet-style system where "elections" are held, but Republicans always win the important races. Dissent will be completely suppressed (happy, Zell?). The re-making of America as a theocratic corporate fascistic state will be complete. Thank God!
Hey, delegates, open your wallets!
That's the unvarnished advice from tip-starved concierges in hotels where GOP delegates and their families are staying.
They say Republicans are the certainly the party of fiscal restraint — at least with their own money.
"I wouldn't call them bad tippers — I'd call them non-tippers!" said Thomas Potesak, a concierge at the Sheraton Manhattan, where the Alaska, Iowa, South Dakota and Virgin Islands delegates are bunking.
"It's like they're completely unfamiliar with the concept of tipping."
"It's strange. It's not that they're not friendly. They're always saying 'God bless you.' I guess I'm used to something more tangible."
This reminds me of the stories about what a tiny amount Vice President Dick gave to charity while he was raking in the millions at Halliburton.
The Los Angeles Times noted yesterday that a report by the respected Royal Institute of International Affairs in London has concluded that Iraq will be lucky if it avoids a breakup and civil war. The often-stated U.S. goal of a full-fledged Iraqi democracy is beyond unlikely.
In Afghanistan, a legitimate front in the so-called war against terror, much of the country remains in the hands of warlords, and the opium trade is flourishing. Experts believe substantial amounts of money from that trade is flowing to terrorist groups.
In Israel, 16 people were killed by suicide bombers who blew themselves up on a pair of crowded buses on Tuesday. In Russia, a series of horrific terror attacks, in the air and on the ground, have cast a pall across the country.
Despite all the macho posturing and self-congratulating at the Republican convention, the wave of terror that's been unleashed on the world is only growing. The American-led war in Iraq is feeding that wave, causing it to swell rather than ebb.
Any serious person who looked around the world this week would have to wonder what the delegates at the G.O.P. convention were so happy about.
The Republican conventioneers spent the entire week reminding America that we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. But interestingly, there was hardly a mention by name of those actually responsible for the attacks - Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.
Discussions about the nation's real enemies were taboo. We don't know where they are or what they're up to. The over-the-top venom of some of the speakers and delegates was reserved not for Osama, but for a couple of mild-mannered guys named John.
What Americans desperately need is a serious, honest discussion of where we go from here. If we're going to be in Iraq for 10 or 20 more years, the policy makers should say so, and tell us what that will cost in money and human treasure. The violence associated with such a long-term occupation is guaranteed to be appalling.
And the Republicans bellow, "Four more years!"
Let us imagine you had a corporation with annual gross revenues of about $2 trillion. And let's say that in 2000, it had profits of $150 billion. So you bring in a new CEO, and within four years, the profit falls to zero and then the company goes into the red to the tune of over $400 billion per year. You're on the Board of Directors and the CEO's term is up for renewal. Do you vote to keep him in? That's what Bush did to the US government. He took it from surpluses to deep in the red. We are all paying interest on the unprecedented $400 billion per year in deficits (a deficit is just a loan), and our grandchildren will be paying the interest in all likelihood.
And what if you had been working for America, Inc. all your life, and were vested in its pension plan (i.e. social security)? And you heard that the company is now hemorrhaging money and that the losses are going to be paid for out of your pension? What if you thought you were going to get $1000 a month to retire on, and it is only going to be $500? Or maybe nothing at all? Because of the new CEO whose management turned a profit-making enterprise into an economic loser? Would you vote to keep him on?
What if the CEO convinced himself that the Mesopotamia Corp. was planning a hostile takeover? What if he had appointed a lot of senior vice-presidents who were either incompetent boobs or had some kind of backroom deal going with crooked brokers, and fed him false information that Mesopotamia Corp. was making a move and had amassed a big war chest for the purpose? And what if, to avoid this imaginary threat, he launched a preemptive hostile takeover of his own, spending at least $200 billion to accomplish it (on top of the more than $400 billion he is already losing every year)? Remember, it was a useless expenditure.
What will it be?
Will it be the three, or is it four or five, drunken driving arrests that Bush and Cheney, the two most powerful men in the world, managed to rack up? (Bush's Texas record has been sealed. Now why would that be? Who seals a perfect driving record?)
After Vietnam, nothing is ancient history, and Cheney is still drinking. What their records suggest is not only a serious problem with alcoholism, which Bush but not Cheney has acknowledged, but also an even more serious problem of judgment. Could Dick Cheney get a license to drive a school bus with his record of drunken driving? (I can see the ad now.) A job at a nuclear power plant? Is any alcoholic ever really cured? So why put him in the most stressful job in the world, with a war going south, a thousand Americans already dead and control of weapons capable of destroying the world at his fingertips.
It has been said that in the worst of times, Kissinger gave orders to the military not to obey Nixon if he ordered a first strike. What if Bush were to fall off the wagon? Then what? Has America really faced the fact that we have an alcoholic as our president?
Or how about Dead Texans for Truth, highlighting those who served in Vietnam instead of the privileged draft-dodging president, and ended up as names on the wall instead of members of the Air National Guard. I'm sure there are some mothers out there who are still mourning their sons, and never made that connection. It wouldn't be so hard to find them.
Or maybe it will be Texas National Guardsmen for Truth, who can explain exactly what George W. Bush was doing while John Kerry was putting his life on the line. So far, all W. can do is come up with dental records to prove that he met his obligations. Perhaps with money on the table, or investigators on their trail, we will learn just what kind of wild and crazy things the president was doing while Kerry was saving a man's life, facing enemy fire and serving his country.
Or could it be George Bush's Former Female Friends for Truth? A forthcoming book by Kitty Kelly raises questions about whether the president has practiced what he preaches on the issue of abortion. As Larry Flynt discovered, a million dollars loosens lips. Are there others to be loosened?
Here's the new definition of chutzpah.
One presidential candidate joins the Navy and volunteers to serve in Vietnam. He serves two tours. On his second tour, he volunteers for the most hazardous assignment in the Navy, commanding a swift boat in the Mekong Delta. In the space of a few months of duty, he earns a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts before he is sent home and goes on to become an eloquent opponent of the war.
The other presidential candidate has his father help get him into an Air National Guard unit that has no chance of being called to active duty in Vietnam. Even though he scores only one point above the minimum qualifying score on the flight school exam, he is accepted ahead of other qualified candidates. He honorably serves the first four years of his six-year enlistment, but his record of service becomes quite sketchy in the final two years. He is eventually granted an early discharge to go to Harvard Business School.
Logic would tell you that the candidate that didn't volunteer to serve in Vietnam and who has major, unexplained gaps in his National Guard service record wouldn't dare to attack the patriotism of the decorated war veteran. But logic hasn't been a part of American politics for decades, particularly in the Republican Party.
The spectacle of watching a political party filled with people who avoided military service during the Vietnam era attack the military record of a man who served heroically in the war now stands as the textbook example of chutzpah.
Arizona Rep. John Shadegg got a standing ovation from his delegation Wednesday when he announced that, partly because of their complaints, USA Today had withdrawn convention credentials for film maker Michael Moore.
Shadegg had instructed delegates to call USA Today to protest the paper's decision to hire Moore for the week. When a top executive called him to ask why he was mad at the paper, Shadegg said he responded: "You're just nuts if you think we're going to buy your paper, when you credentialed kind of the anti-Christ."
As delegates rose to their feet, Shadegg said he got a return call a few hours later saying Moore's credentials had been revoked.
Shadegg referred to "Fahrenheit 911" as a "crockumentary."
He also said Kerry voters "have mental health problems," adding: "I'll probably get in trouble for that."
Actually, I doubt it. Remember how, in the old Soviet Union, dissenters were declared "crazy" and sent to mental hospitals in Siberia? And by the way, if Michael Moore is the anti-Christ, what does that make George Bush?
Friday, September 03, 2004
Bush's acceptance speech Thursday night conveyed facts that told only part of the story, hardly unusual for this most political of occasions.
He took some license in telling Americans that Democratic opponent John Kerry "is running on a platform of increasing taxes."
Kerry would, in fact, raise taxes on the richest Americans but as part of a plan to keep the Bush tax cuts for everyone else and even cut some of them more. That's not a tax-increase platform any more than Bush's plan for private retirement accounts is a platform to reduce Social Security benefits.
And on education, Bush voiced an inherent contradiction, dating back to his 2000 campaign, in stating his stout support for local control of education, yet promising to toughen federal standards that override local decision-making.
"We are insisting on accountability, empowering parents and teachers, and making sure that local people are in charge of their schools," he said, on one hand. Yet, "we will require a rigorous exam before graduation."
On Iraq, Bush derided Kerry for devaluing the alliance that drove out Saddam Hussein and is trying to rebuild the country. "Our allies also know the historic importance of our work," Bush said. "About 40 nations stand beside us in Afghanistan, and some 30 in Iraq."
But the United States has more than five times the number of troops in Iraq than all the other countries put together. And, with 976 killed, Americans have suffered nearly eight times more deaths than the other allies combined.
Bush aggressively defended progress in Afghanistan, too. "Today, the government of a free Afghanistan is fighting terror, Pakistan is capturing terrorist leaders ... and more than three-quarters of al-Qaida's key members and associates have been detained or killed. We have led, many have joined, and America and the world are safer."
Nowhere did Bush mention bin Laden, nor did he account for the replacement of killed and captured al al-Qaida leaders by others.
Some speech, huh?
More distortion: consider what Cheney does with a portion of a speech by Kerry at the UNITY 2004 Conference in Washington, D.C. Here is Kerry’s actual statement:
John Kerry: I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history. I lay out a strategy to strengthen our military, to build and lead strong alliances and reform our intelligence system. I set out a path to win the peace in Iraq and to get the terrorists, wherever they may be, before they get us.
In context, the word "sensitive" means "sensitive to the concerns of other nations we should be trying to recruit as allies." The whole context is about waging a strong and effective war on terrorism. Here is Cheney’s rendition:
Cheney: Even in this post-9/11 period, Senator Kerry doesn't appear to understand how the world has changed. He talks about leading a "more sensitive war on terror," as though Al Qaeda will be impressed with our softer side.
At the Democratic Convention, Kerry said he would not only use force against terrorists, but if necessary, preemptive force. Cheney distorts the real position:
Cheney: He declared at the Democratic Convention that he will forcefully defend America — after we have been attacked. My fellow Americans, we have already been attacked, and faced with an enemy who seeks the deadliest of weapons to use against us, we cannot wait for the next attack. We must do everything we can to prevent it — and that includes the use of military force.
There we have the anti-Kerry frame: We are in a historic war to defend freedom itself. The war absolutely requires every possible advanced-weapons system. Kerry, by voting against a single 1991 appropriations bills, has shown that he is against national defense and the defense of freedom.
Late Thursday, Miller and his wife were removed from the list of dignitaries who would be sitting in the first family’s box during the president’s acceptance speech later in the evening. Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said Miller was not in the box because the campaign had scheduled him to do too many television interviews.
There was no explanation, however, for why Miller would be giving multiple interviews during Bush’s acceptance speech, or what channels would snub the president in favor of Miller. Nor was it made clear why Miller’s wife also was not allowed to take her place in the president’s box 24 hours after his deeply personal denunciation of his own party’s nominee.
Miller's angry, untruthful sermon was truly horrifying. Much worse than Buchanan's speech in 1992, because Buchanan didn't come across as a religious nut, which Zell certainly did. A new low point in American politics.
On the bright side, a woman called in to NPR yesterday and said that she had planned to vote for Bush until she heard Zell. She expressed fear that the "Christian Right" was taking over the government. (Gee, really?)
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Arnold Schwarzenegger told adoring Republican delegates this week that the Democrats should have called their Boston convention "True Lies." But in speech after speech inside Madison Square Garden, Schwarzenegger's Republican colleagues have shown themselves to be truth-challenged. On big points and small, in policy arguments and personal anecdotes, Republican convention speakers have misrepresented, misconstrued, dissembled and dipsy-doodled. You can argue that they weren't lying, exactly, but you can't say they told the whole truth, either.
Democratic Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia delivered the Republicans' keynote address Wednesday night, and he spent a good portion of it railing against Kerry for voting against the "very weapons system that won the Cold War and that is now winning the war on terror." What Miller didn't say: Many Republicans voted against those same weapons systems.
"America needs to know the facts," Miller said, but he failed to mention a few of them. Miller told the delegates that Kerry voted against production of the F-14 and F-15 fighters and the Apache helicopter, but he didn't say that Dick Cheney, as defense secretary, proposed eliminating both of them, too. Miller criticized Kerry for voting against the B-2 bomber, but he didn't say that President George H.W. Bush also proposed an end to the B-2 bomber program. In his 1992 State of the Union Address, Bush said he supported such cuts "with confidence" based on the recommendations of his Secretary of Defense: Dick Cheney. With the Cold War over, Bush said, failing to cut defense spending would be "insensible to progress."
That's not how Miller described the cuts Wednesday night. He said Kerry's record on defense spending suggests that he wants to arm U.S. troops with "spitballs." Miller, who was introduced as the "conscience of the Democratic Party," didn't see fit to mention that he and Kerry both voted in 2002 for the largest military spending increase in two decades - a defense bill that Republican Senator John Warner said would "help to ensure that our military has the tools it needs to defend our nation."
With Democrats like Zig Zag Zell, who needs Republicans?
Koch told Talon News and other media organizations that it is "regrettable" that Democrats are not stronger on fighting terrorism. The former mayor attributed this sentiment to the Democratic Party being "taken over" by politicians on the far left of the political spectrum.
"I'm a Democrat, and I will remain a Democrat, and I believe I represent more Democrats than Sen. Kennedy or a whole host of people like him," Koch said. "He doesn't represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party philosophy. He's an arch, ultra liberal. He doesn't represent a majority philosophical point of view."
"The fanatics - not all Muslims - but hundreds of millions of them want to kill us," Koch added. "I don't want to be killed. I'd rather kill them over there than have our people killed over here."
Sounds like the Mayor is another Zell Miller Democrat. But the more interesting point involves Koch's invocation of the familiar Republican talking point that we are fighting the terrorists "over there" (i.e. in Iraq) so that we don't have to fight them "over here". But does this make sense? Casting the argument this way seems to assume that the terrorists are all lined up single file, with the head of the line in Iraq and the tail off to the east somewhere. By blocking the front guy in Iraq, nobody else can get through, since it's not their turn. But, um, how does our being in Iraq stop a terrorist from coming in across the Mexican border? And how can we be "safe" when many of our policemen and firemen who are Guard members have been pulled out of our cities and sent to Iraq?
It reminds me of a phenomenon that occurs here in Columbus on the day of a big OSU Buckeyes home game (actually, every home game is big here). What happens is that up to 100,000 people voluntarily take themselves off the streets and out of the stores to gather in the OSU Stadium, leaving the city free and uncrowded for the rest of us. The terrorists should have it so good!
Wednesday, September 01, 2004
It's downright strange that the U.S. presidential election campaign — easily the most important in decades — has come to focus on what happened in a faraway boat during the course of a few minutes more than 30 years ago.
That such a crucial election isn't more focused on the many pressing current issues is remarkable enough.
But if the election is to hinge on what happened decades ago during the Vietnam War, it's truly astonishing that the candidate in the hot seat is the one who actually went to Vietnam and was injured in the line of duty, rather than the one who used family connections to do his service at home and then didn't bother to show up for duty.
It's not surprising that Republicans have tried to smear Democratic candidate John Kerry's impressive war record.
It's clear that no smear is beneath them. They proved that in 2002, when they attacked Senator Max Cleland for lacking patriotism — when all he really lacked were the three limbs he lost in Vietnam.
But in what sense is this even-handed? If someone were to charge that Kerry is a cannibal, would fair coverage involve giving equal time to those who support the cannibal allegation and those who think there's no merit to it, leaving the public to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle — that Kerry probably at least bites people?
The radical collapse of all distinction between church and state and the promotion of an angry "Christianity" as the USA's official state religion have grown increasingly apparent as the Bush regime has turned more grandiose and reckless after 9/11. That revolutionary program has gradually come into view despite the press's failure to expose it, and despite the random efforts of the White House to conceal it ("Well, I – first of all, I would never justify – I would never use God to promote policy decisions," Bush said, without conviction, to Brit Hume in an interview on September 22, 2003).
A cursory survey of Bush/Cheney's foreign and domestic innovations will make clear that from the start, this regime has been hard at work transforming the United States into a theocratic system, and, globally, at the gradual creation of a nominally Christian New World Order.
Thus the White House has an "Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives," while each of the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Health and Human Services, et al., boasts a departmental "Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives" – a grand administrative stroke that blurs the crucial line dividing church and state. This move has served both to legitimize the political activism of pro-Bush churches and denominations and to further propagate the view that social services should be performed not by the government but by religious groups, whose charity should take the place of federal programs. Although advertised as purely altruistic, and as an equal boon to the communities served by churches, synagogues, and mosques alike, this innovation is primarily intended to abet the proselytizing efforts of the Christian right, whose "armies of compassion" can now save souls under the auspices of Uncle Sam.
[This excerpt is from Miller's book, Cruel and Unusual: Bush/Cheney's New World Order.]
You're going to hear a lot about America's new "Ownership Society" and the "Investor Class" between now and the election. Too much. But you gotta admit, those slogans have great marketing pizzazz, like "The Great Society" or "The New Deal."
Unfortunately there's a slight problem folks: The "Ownership Society's" balance sheet is all hype, bogus, focused on assets, with little talk about the massive liabilities!
Karl Rove's focus groups must have discovered that today's "Investor Class" is so myopic they've stopped doing mundane things like balance-sheet analysis.
Wake up folks! The "Ownership Society's" balance sheet looks worse than Enron's scam back in the go-go days of the '90s. When the smoke clears after the election and reality sets in -- no matter who wins -- America's so-called "Investor Class" could be left holding a bag full of worthless illusions for their retirement accounts.
The only thing new is that it now has a new brand name, a fabulous marketing slogan that hypemeisters and spin doctors will bore us with for the next couple months, before conveniently forgetting like they did with "Roadmap for Peace," "No Child Left Behind," and other slick slogans.
Politics and marketing seem to have merged.
Missouri schoolchildren are being left behind by President Bush's failure to fully fund his education program, which is intended to close the achievement gap among students, three Springfield educators charged Tuesday.
The Bush administration has underfunded its No Child Left Behind program in Missouri by millions of dollars, leaving taxpayers and the state to make up the shortfall, said Phil Grafft, president of the Springfield chapter of National Education Association.
"Public education should not be a partisan issue," said Grafft, who has taught special education for 17 years in Springfield Public Schools. "Public education should not be an issue where your socio-economic background makes a difference. I do not see this administration doing anything to uplift public education and to make it better."
We will shortly hear from the president himself, but the outlines of his domestic program for a second term are already all too clear. Take five key areas of economic policy - health, Social Security, energy, taxes, and the deficit.
All five have this in common: In each case the administration program doesn't really address the underlying problem. Rather, the purpose is either to help an industry ally, stir up the party base, or advance an ideological goal (or all three).
It's a remarkable commentary on the ability of the administration to wave the flag and change the subject that Bush isn't held more accountable for the huge gap between his policies and their results. As the president himself so memorably attempted to say, "Fool me once, shame on you . . ."
The article details Bush's destructive plans in five important policy areas. It's pretty depressing. Here's my question: if a president for some reason wanted to harm his own country, what would he do differently?
Miguel Ganipa's accusations of hypocrisy require a response ("Bush condemned all shenanigans," letter, Aug. 30).
Yes, President Bush commended John Kerry's war record, but only after the smear by the Swift boat vets started to become the story rather than their lies. Yes, Moveon.org produces ads critical of Bush. But do they have any official link to Kerry's campaign? The Bush campaign lawyer advised the Swift boat vets.
Yes, Moveon.org had an ad on its website comparing Bush to Adolph Hitler for a few days! It was part of a competition for ads, and wasn't produced by Moveon.org, which removed it as quickly as possible. How long have the ads from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth been running?
There's hypocrisy and then there's hypocrisy!
And then there's more hypocrisy.
Sunday, August 29, 2004
And isn't it hilarious how the absolute worst thing the Right has been able to dredge up about John Kerry is that he might sort of maybe have exaggerated some facts about his various Vietnam medals and acts of and valor and deeds of astounding heroism, which is sort of like saying well sure you saved 10 babies from that burning building, but jeez, you were wearing special shoes at the time and by the way couldn't you have saved 11? Traitor!
And how hard should we guffaw while we note that, as Kerry was volunteering in Vietnam and earning his medals and risking his life in the most volatile and ugly and pointless and lethal and hideous war in American history unless you count Iraq, which you really really should, Dubya was "serving" in the Air National Guard, which we all know translates to mean "hangin' down in Tijuana slamming tequila shooters and annoying the waitresses, all while praising Jesus that he had a daddy who could keep him away from scary complicated violent stuff."
This is not, apparently, a hallucination. Kerry really is being forced to defend his well-documented war record, despite how all the proofs are there, in public view, on the candidate's own Web site, with nothing to hide and for all to see, whereas Dubya was (and still is) a famously inept embarrassment to the military, and is being forced to defend nothing about his own spoiled spoon-fed life, as he humiliates the nation at every utterance and attacks Kerry (and, by extension, John McCain) via GOP-sponsored henchmen while large chunks of his own embarrassing records have just, um, "disappeared."
Any comparison between Bush and Kerry is simply laughable, as we see here.
A Babe Ruth story comes to mind. It was in the midst of the Great Depression, and the Babe was demanding a whopping $80,000 salary - which, a reporter noted, was more than President Herbert Hoover made. "I know," Ruth famously responded, "but I had a better year than he did."
This year, most gainfully employed Americans can say the same about Bush. He's turned a robust surplus into record deficits; he's lost more jobs than any president since Hoover. He's miraculously transformed global goodwill after 9/11 into fear and loathing of the U.S.A. He's watched his justifications for his Iraq war - WMD, an al-Qaeda-Baghdad link - vanish like a dream, leaving him clinging to a we're-liberators line just in time for the Abu Ghraib horror show.
Even capturing Saddam Hussein only briefly stalled his sliding public approval, as flag-draped coffins keep coming home from the mission he deemed "accomplished" over a year ago. That Fahrenheit film hasn't helped either. Never mind the caustic voiceover by Michael Moore (like the Babe, a large, hard-swinging lefty) - that classroom clip, Bush looking befuddled for seven long minutes after learning the nation was under attack, is damning enough. Hey: got a work crisis, deal with it. Excuse me, children... How hard is that? As for his credibility - what can you say about an administration when people even doubt its terror alerts?
Little wonder that, last spring, 80 per cent of respondents to an informal survey of historians rated Bush's presidency an overall failure. Yes, historians tend to be liberal, and maybe it's too early to pass judgment. But their indictments - on integrity, foreign relations, fiscal policies, civil liberties, health care, the environment - are striking nonetheless. Bush, said one, "is by far the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been."
I am so tired of feeling ashamed of my country for its arrogant behavior in the world. We have never needed a regime change so badly. Ever.
Whether you agree or disagree with the words pouring from the [convention] podium over Americans who see reflections of themselves in George W. Bush, the real issue of this election will not be mentioned. The core issue is this: Our president is incompetent. He is not a good president.
Let me count the ways:
(1) He has divided the country; we are all part of a vicious little hissing match.
(2) He has divided the world.
(3) He is leaving no child or grandchild without debt.
(4) He campaigns as a champion of smaller government, but is greatly increasing the size and role of government.
(5) He is diminishing the military of which he is so proud now as commander in chief.
(6) He is diminishing scientific progress, the great engine of the 20th century.
(7) He is diminishing the Constitution of the United States.
(8) He has surrounded himself with other incompetents.
(9) He has been unable or unwilling to deal with declining employment and the rising medical costs of becoming an older nation.
(10) He is, as if by design, destroying the credibility of the United States as a force for peace in the world - an honest broker - particularly in the Middle East.
This all seems so obvious to me. Yet the race is close. Why?
[The article expands on these points and is well worth reading.]
Only a few years ago, it seemed the slightest suggestion of malfeasance by a presidential administration - allegations of tampering with a minor administrative office, say, or indications that a cabinet secretary might have understated the amount of money given to a former girlfriend - could trigger a formidable response from the other two branches of government: grand juries, special prosecutors, endless congressional hearings, even impeachment proceedings. Some of that auditing, especially during the Clinton administration, went too far. Yet now the country faces a frightening inversion of the problem. Though there is strong evidence of faulty and even criminal behavior by senior military commanders and members of President Bush's cabinet in the handling of foreign detainees, neither Congress nor the justice system is taking adequate steps to hold those officials accountable.
What's particularly troubling about this breakdown of checks and balances is that some of the most disturbing behavior by senior officials has yet to be thoroughly investigated. For example, Mr. Rumsfeld is now known to have approved, in December 2002, the use of dogs to frighten detainees under interrogation. That technique, which was immediately adopted in Afghanistan and later in Iraq, was described by Army Maj. Gen. George R. Fay as "a clear violation of applicable laws and regulations." Mr. Rumsfeld has also publicly acknowledged that he ordered that some prisoners in Iraq not be registered with the International Red Cross, an unambiguous violation of Army regulations and the Geneva Conventions. Yet Mr. Rumsfeld has never been called upon to explain these actions to legal investigators or to Congress.
[Washington Post, 8/29/04]
Perhaps the most galling thing about the Bush administration - and I acknowledge there are many such to choose from - is the ongoing total lack of accountability of anyone for anything, ever. Well, he did promise to run the country like a corporation. Mission accomplished!
Bush appears determined to force Americans to pay almost any price so that he can be a world savior. He declared in December 2003: "I believe we have a responsibility to promote freedom [abroad] that is as solemn as the responsibility is to protecting the American people, because the two go hand in hand." But the Constitution does not grant the president the prerogative to dispose of the lives of American soldiers any place in the world he longs to do a good deed. Though Bush is adept at destroying freedom in America, he has yet to demonstrate any ability to create it in foreign lands.
Bush greatly exaggerates the benefits of his conquests. After the Afghan war, Bush repeatedly told Americans that they had liberated Afghan women and that Afghan girls were now going to school. Yet, women are still heavily oppressed in most of Afghanistan and most Afghan girls still do not attend schools. While Bush portrays Afghanistan as a liberated new democracy, most Afghans are brutalized either by warlords or the resurgent Taliban. But the Bush White House rarely allows cold facts to impede a warm and touching story line.
For Bush, the right to rule apparently includes the right to lie. In his 2004 State of the Union address, Bush proclaimed that, as a result of actions such as the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "No one can now doubt the word of America." A year earlier, in his 2003 State of the Union address, Bush rattled off a long list of biological and chemical weapons that he claimed he knew that Iraq possessed. No such weapons have been found. Bush has never shown a speck of contrition for his false prewar statements. Instead, he acts like a clumsy magician who assumes his audience is too feebleminded to recognize the elaborate trick that fell to pieces in front of their eyes.
It is a time of frustration for America's allies and enemies. They wish they had a say in the election. Usually, foreign governments hope a first term President will be re-elected, because they have learned to like him or at least gotten used to him. This year is different.
If the Germans or the French could vote in our election, at least 90 per cent would go for Kerry. And the same is probably true for most of the rest of Europe. In the Middle East and the Muslim world, President Bush is even less popular.
Mr. Bush is the most disliked American president abroad in living memory, perhaps in all of American history. I won't go into the reasons why. I simply note that what goes down well in Texas doesn't sit well in the most of the rest of the world.
The question is which candidate would it help? Some of the smartest observers seem to feel that a last minute terrorist attack would have the opposite effect of the Madrid train bombs and would help ensure a Bush victory.
Why would Bin Laden want more of the same from Washington? Because, say these observers, the war in Iraq has been a recruiting ground for al Qaeda supporters. And anything that furthers Bin Laden's grand plan for a clash of civilizations between Islam and the infidels is worth supporting. Even a Bush re-election.
From what I've heard of opinions overseas (not to mention in Canada and parts of America), I think it's possible that George W. Bush is disliked by more human beings than any other individual in the history of our species. I know, I know, Hitler, but there are a lot more people in the world now, and Mr. Bush is pretty widely known. And Hitler did have his supporters (Bush's grandfather did business with him, for example). My understanding is that the only two countries in the world that give Bush "high" approval ratings (i.e. about 50%) are America and Israel.
In political campaigning, sleaze works. The Bush-campaign proxy group savaging John Kerry's Vietnam record with outrageous lies should never have been taken seriously by either the news media or the public. But many voters are gullible, and most of the organs of information in the United States are less interested in facts than in "evenhandedness" - i.e., giving two sides to every story, no matter how idiotic one of the sides is.
The ruthless Bush campaign operatives understand this, much like the candidate for a Texas county sheriff's job in the Lyndon Johnson era who ordered campaign workers - in more colorful terms than would appear here - to spread the word that the incumbent lawman fornicated with farm animals. When the workers demurred, the candidate acknowledged that the charge against the sheriff was false. "But," the challenger said, "let's make him deny it."
Nowhere has the idea promoted by the right that the U.S. news media tilts leftward been shown to be more cockeyed than in the media's dimwitted complicity in the Bush surrogates' baseless campaign to destroy the character and credibility of John Kerry. It's a shameful breach of journalistic responsibility, and it does terrible damage to the country.
So we've got the government and the media working against us. Thank goodness for the Internet!
The spin propagated by the Bush camp immediately after Kerry became the Democratic presidential candidate was that he was the number one liberal in the senate and Edwards, number four. This is also a lie - the truth is far different. The truth is ten current senators have a lifetime voting record more liberal than Kerry’s. As for Edwards, his scoring puts him in the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. In the year before he missed 22 votes due to campaigning, he numbered 40th most liberal senator.
The Bush spin that Kerry would weaken our defense is pure fantasy and dismisses his record entirely. Dick Cheney, while Secretary of Defense for the first George Bush, slammed the then Democratically controlled Congress for refusing to cut weapons programs:
Congress has let me cancel a few programs. But you've squabbled and sometimes bickered and horse-traded and ended up forcing me to spend money on weapons that don't fill a vital need in these times of tight budgets and new requirements. …You've directed me to buy more M-1s, F-14s, and F-16s—all great systems - but we have enough of them.
The claims by the Republican campaign that Kerry voted against defense appropriations are disingenuous at best and a flagrant distortion for sure. The facts are that 14 years ago Kerry, along with 5 Republican senators, and 11 other Democratic senators, voted against a defense appropriations bill. Nine years ago, he was one of an unspecified number of senators to vote against a conference report on a defense bill.
Another flagrant distortion of the truth is RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie’s claim that Kerry voted to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget. As it turns out, the funds were appropriated for a spy satellite that never launched. The Senate passed an amendment rescinding the money. Kerry, along with the majority of Congress, voted for the amendment.
So many lies, so little time.