Monday, January 02, 2006

We Won't Get Fooled Again - Will We?

Originally published on, in the Kentucky subsection

By Rich Miles

January 2, 2006

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

- Old country saying

Fool me three times…you must be one of George Bush’s people.

I mean, the scandals and the snowjobs just come too hot and heavy to keep up with.

We should be afraid. Very afraid

Why, you may ask? Should we fear that Osama bin Laden is plotting another 9/11-style attack? It’s crossed my mind, but no, that’s not it. I’m pretty sure Osama is so happy sitting in his designer-decorated cave somewhere, laughing his head off at how we’ve been running around like headless chickens for the past 4+ years EXPECTING him to mount such an attack that he doesn’t feel he has to bother - we’re defeating ourselves.

Should we fear that some of those WMD’s we couldn’t find in Iraq have made their way to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi or Ayman al-Zawahiri, and that they’re making plans to deliver them to central Kentucky or some other mainland location? No, that’s not really it either. That’s just so unlikely that it doesn’t bear worrying about. We all have too many other things to make us lose sleep at night, like no health care for the poor and middle class, and tax cuts for the wealthy in wartime, and our children who are dying in that war.

I don’t know about you, but here’s what I’m most afraid of these days: that the Bush administration’s insane rhetoric, recently losing ground in making us afraid enough to kiss their collective backsides and hand them the country and our civil liberties, will “take” again, and that our spineless Congress will sidestep the crimes they and the Bushies have committed on the people of Iraq and America, and that by November 2006, we will have forgotten what completely evil-minded screw-ups George W. Bush and his neocon pals are, and we’ll re-elect his sycophants to Congress and the Senate because they’re incumbents and it’s easier to vote for the devils we know than to actually THINK about who to vote for, and nothing – NOTHING – will have been learned or changed.

Remember the London (England) Guardian headline in November ’04: “How Can 59,000,000 People Be So Dumb?” You s’pose that question will seem current again soon?

There is ample evidence that many of our representatives in Congress who have spent the past 5 years with their noses up Bush’s arse are starting to distance themselves from The War President, to wit:

- That old reliable hawk John Murtha was equated with the evil Michael Moore for daring to say that things are pretty bad in Iraq, and we need to look for the exits.

- John McCain is getting his revenge on Bush for the 2000 campaign by forcing George to eat crow at least 2 meals a day, but hey, at least we don’t torture any more.

- Four Republicans joined in the filibuster to keep the Patriot Act from being made permanent.

- The ANWR drilling initiative was snatched from madman Ted Stevens’ feeble claw yet again (what is this, 20, 25 times now?) by a bipartisan effort.

- A Bush-appointed judge and Supreme Court short-lister, J. Michael Luttig, angrily denied the White House the right to transfer Jose Padilla to civilian custody because Luttig saw through the effort as an attempt to evade Supreme Court review of the case.

- And Even Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the most reliably non-reality-based supporters of anything Bush says or does, had to plead a “prior engagement” on Veterans’ Day when Bush was in his home state. Never mind that, if one supports the president, one changes one’s Vet’s Day plans when that prez shows up – Santorum clearly didn’t care to bask in the glow of a rapidly failing president.

These are but a few of the more visible recent defections from the Bush miasma, but there are many more, and the ones who aren’t bailing out are actually having to justify remaining on-board with Bush, when it was axiomatic not too long ago.

(Warning: I’m about to do something that even I consider scummy - I’m about to link our troops’ sacrifices in Iraq with politics - because that is surely what the conscienceless monsters in the Bush administration are already doing.)

As we could have predicted, Rumsfeld announced troop drawdowns on Dec. 23, just in time for Christmas, and less than a year before that red-letter day, Nov. 7, 2006. We’re going to see a lot more of this sort of thing, despite the fact that NOTHING has changed in the military situation in Iraq, except that it’s gotten worse. We’re not winning, we haven’t gotten things under control, or gotten the Iraqi forces trained enough to take care of their own country – we’re just going to “declare victory and leave”. Just in time for the mid-term elections.

And while I am thrilled at any development that might bring our troops home as soon and as safely as possible, this is not what it appears to be. Not even close. What’s really happening is that they’re gearing up the process of fooling us again. And we’re in dire danger of letting it happen. Again.

The reasons for this new chapter in the Republican campaign of deceit are as cynical as they are obvious: All of the House and 1/3 of the Senate are up for re-election next year, and Bush is not. And despite Bush’s insistence that he doesn’t care about polls, that he doesn’t govern based on what the American people think is right but what HE thinks is right (and consider the subtext of THAT concept for a minute), what is unmistakably clear is that all those folks who have to face the scrutiny, and perhaps the wrath, of their constituents next year are starting to feel the hot breath of challengers charging up behind them. In fact, Santorum is already looking up the distant backside of his principal rival and has been for months.

So in what I sincerely hope will be merely another misguided attempt to sway the opinions of the American people with lies rather than leadership, Bush and Cheney and the rest of the criminals in the administration are going on the offensive again, and manipulating us with troop drawdowns – politicking on the corpses of dead soldiers, and over the faces of living ones. They reckon that voters will no more vote against the people who are bringing our brave soldiers home than they would against the folks who repeatedly lowered their taxes in the first Bush term. They reckon we’re just that stupid, that we won't remember that THEY were the ones who got the soldiers over there in the first place.

And there is some little evidence that some portion of America is buying it – again.

Let’s look at what the ubiquitous polls are telling us, since their findings are actually starting to exhibit a bit of consistency: it would appear that there is a small percentage of Americans who simply cannot be swayed from their slavish support of anything Bush does. If Bush and his Secret Service entourage showed up at their back door, came inside and peed in their cornflakes, this small group would somehow twist their thinking around to believe that it was vital for national security, and perhaps even God’s will, that the cornflakes be urine-soaked. My admittedly unscientific estimate of the size of this cohort is around 23-25% of voters. NOT a mandate or majority – just a small but solid slice of the electorate that apparently cannot be swayed from their opinions by facts. The anti-reality segment of America.

It also seems clear that there is a roughly equal number of people on the exact opposite end of the spectrum, who have come to view Bush’s administration and all that it entails as incapable of doing anything that does any good for America - unless, of course, there are cronies and wealthy contributors to be enriched from such acts, and even then, any benefit to the American people at large is pretty much accidental. In some ways, this left end of the spectrum ignores reality almost as much as the right end, only for less magical reasons.

This leaves, if one takes the middle numbers in both cases above, something like 50-52% of the American populace who are willing and able to synthesize wide-ranging information and come up with a reasoned opinion about what Bush et al. are doing and whether those things are good for America.

The good news is that this middle half of America seems to be awakening from its 9/11-induced stupor and starting to recognize that not only is what Bush is doing to us not good, it is actively bad, and that all those in government who continue to support him and his policies ought to be gotten rid of at the earliest opportunity – which, in our system, is November 2006.

So in recognition of these challenges to their perks and their power bases, and in the long Bush tradition of perpetual campaigning (without often dirtying one’s hands with actual governing), Bush, Cheney, the radical right-wing media, the spineless mainstream media, and the decreasing number of members of Congress who can’t see the handwriting on the wall have once again gone on the offensive: portraying their opponents as unpatriotic, weak on national security, willing and eager to “cut and run”, unsupportive of our troops’ sacrifice, and just altogether not to be trusted to keep those stolen nukes and Islamic radicals out of our towns in middle America.

And there is some sad evidence that it’s working. Here’s why:

Back in 2000, and arguably long before, Bush and his handlers stumbled on a formula for political success that has proven all too useful to their purposes: appeal to Americans’ basest beliefs about ourselves.

In sum, this has meant sword-rattling patriotism, chest-thumping arrogance on the international scene, the bloodthirstiness that not so subtly underlies our national image of ourselves, and most of all – fear.

Fear! Keep the rubes afraid, remind them continually that YOU, personally, are the only one who can keep them safe from what they fear, tell them that we must fight pre-emptive wars against our enemies real and imagined (including gays and non-Christian-evangelicals, women who dare to demand control over their own bodies, and – ugh – liberals), and they’ll keep voting for you because they don’t want their hometowns overrun with crazed Muslim suicide bombers, homosexual couples, abortion clinics, or Michael Moore.

Recent evidence of this approach is everywhere, but if one recent example serves to make the point as to how much fear figures into the Bush strategy, go on the Internet and look at the tape of Bush’s press op in Panama after his recent trip to South America. In answer to a reporter’s question, he did everything but form his hands into fake claws and shout “Boogah boogah!!!” to tell us how afraid we still must be. And based on a small up-tick in his job approval ratings shortly after that trip (which was in all other regards a near-total failure) there are still people in this country who buy it. Likewise the people who are willing to overlook a little thing like unwarranted phone taps on American citizens on American soil, in essence because if it ain’t happenin’ to them, it isn’t important.

Now let me be clear: I don’t wish to suggest that there are no problems for America either at home or abroad. That would be just as unreality-based as the people against whom I’m railing here. What I’m saying is that the things we need to fear as Americans are not always the things our leaders are telling us to fear.

What we as Americans need to fear most is a government which has not, after all this time, really made us safer, and has almost unquestionably put us in greater peril; a president who seeks to subvert and subsume all the things that have historically made America great for his own political gain or that of his party; a Congress that, in the misguided belief that Americans are so stupid we will believe anything, has continued until very recently quietly to do Bush’s bidding while playing at serving the people who elected them; and the continued support by all these people of a war that simply will not ever be won, that irreparably harms our standing in the world, that weakens our military’s real ability to protect us here at home, and that may decimate a generation of Americans if left unchecked.

Do we need to fear Islamic radicalism and terrorism? Yes, with sane and sensible reasoning, and actions that will produce results, not just more fear.

Do we need to fear gay marriage, or a “war on Christmas”?

Please. Get a grip.

Do we need to fear that our own government, those folks we hired to make our lives safer and better, will use this very real threat against us to forward an agenda that is at base un-American?

We shouldn’t have to fear this. But we do. In fact, we fail to do so at our peril.