Not long ago, one of my students came to me, perfectly baffled. “How can anyone who’s not a rich Nazi support re-electing George Bush?” she said.
This wasn’t a gag. She had been researching the implications of his policies, and had been striving hard to learn about the world. There was no way even intelligent amoral greed-heads could support Bush, she had concluded, unless they wanted their children to grow up in a dangerously unstable world.
What she didn’t realize, of course, is that most people don’t stop to do what she did, and have only the vaguest sense of what is going on, depending on what set of members of the chattering class they half-listen to. She was, sadly, absolutely right in her analysis of the current administration. We haven’t had a president so radical, or so reckless, in modern history.
We have a leader who combines the worst features of an ignorant imperialist with the moral certainty of a reformed drunk who is convinced that he can do no wrong, because Jesus guides his actions. He is surrounded and shaped by older, more adept politicians who are in some cases far more ruthless and cynical, or as narrow and deeply flawed, as he.
Yet, slowly, it is all coming apart. Lee Iacocca, a relentless salesman best known for successfully persuading the government to bail out the Chrysler Corp. in 1979, did TV spots for George W. Bush four years ago. This year, he is backing John Kerry. No, the cigar-chomping former auto baron hasn’t become a left-wing liberal. He loves the establishment as much as ever. He is the establishment — and he knows that Dubya’s crazy economic and foreign policies are a serious threat to his security.
More telling was the astonishing joint declaration of a group of the nation’s most distinguished diplomatic and military figures, many of whom were appointed to high-level jobs by Ronald Reagan and the present George Bush’s father.
The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, includes dozens of former generals and ambassadors, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under Bush I, and Jack Matlock, Reagan’s ambassador to the former Soviet Union.
They have called on the American people not to elect Kerry, but to defeat Bush, period, which, when you think about it, is even more damaging. The top guardians of our diplomatic and military policy for years are breaking their normal silence to say, please, America, get these incompetent maniacs out of there.
My guess, however, is that you never heard about this. Which isn’t surprising. One of the best things going for Bush is a media establishment, mostly based in Washington, so afraid of losing access, or being called “biased” or “liberal,” that they have abandoned their basic duty to report intelligently and, especially, to try to figure out what is the truth.
Imagine, for a moment, how our current set of highly paid lapdogs might have reported from Nazi Germany (“To be sure, administration sources say many Jews are pushy and obnoxious and a security threat.”)
Today’s media, almost certainly, would never have pushed hard enough to uncover Watergate. That, after all, was a silly break-in and attempted bugging of the offices of a hopeless political campaign. Had Howard Hunt’s gang of fools succeeded, the world wouldn’t have been affected one bit.
What the reporters uncovered that sunk Richard Nixon was, remember, his attempts to cover up his clumsy attempts to cover up Watergate. Nobody was killed, no troops were mobilized, and Nixon’s attempts to save himself didn’t produce massive and crippling budget deficits. And when the jig was up, and his government pension was at risk, he went quietly into the night.
Nor, even in his worst ravings on the tapes, did he say anything like this: “I’m the commander, see — I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
But those are the actual words of George W. Bush, telling Bob Woodward how he saw his job. Other presidents would have been ripped apart for saying anything like that, but the press essentially lets this preening little buffoon get away with it, every day. What is baffling is why.
Nixon went down after being re-elected by a record margin. Bush is a barely legitimate president, if that. Forget the controversial recount and the politically outrageous Supreme Court decision: Even Bush’s own people admit he lost the popular vote and would have lost the election altogether except for defective voting procedures in Florida. High-profile journalists have admitted they know he is an ignorant dunce. But they justify their willingness to let him get away with outrageous behavior because he is a “wartime president.”
Yes, he is. That is, if you count starting an aggressive war of conquest in Iraq after lying openly to the American people about why, and having no plan for occupation or what the ultimate consequences might be.
What John Kerry stands for isn’t exactly clear, though it needs to be, especially on the war. However, that really doesn’t matter very much. He is a decent if cautious man who is not in favor of world conquest, suspending civil liberties or destroying the sacred separation between church and state.
That’s good enough this time. Kerry was a hero in Vietnam, if that matters, while the Shrub, like Bill Clinton before him, ducked service. Kerry indeed has “flip-flopped” on many issues. I would be more frightened of a man who didn’t sometimes change his mind. This nation is in enormous trouble. I can’t think of a clearer choice, and it is, dear reader, entirely up to you.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org