For years, we have been told most Americans are conservative — and that is probably true. Nobody calling himself a “liberal” has been elected president in 40 years. The situation now is so desperate that anyone who loves this country and cares about the world has to do everything in their power to see that the conservative candidate wins the presidential election in November.
That would be John F. Kerry, of course.
No, that’s not a trick answer. What we have in power now is a dangerous right-wing radical faction. Kerry is, by every possible measure, the conservative candidate this year. For proof, I turn to the highest possible authority, one William Safire, former Nixon speechwriter-turned-columnist and author of the acclaimed Safire’s New Political Dictionary (Random House).
That book, the authority on such terminology, defines conservative as “a defender of the status quo who, when change becomes necessary in tested institutions or practices, prefers that it come slowly, and in moderation.”
That description fits Kerry to a K, even though you are about to be subjected to a schiesssturm of lies in the form of GOP attack ads. To the best of my knowledge, Kerry is a normal, 60-year-old guy who has done very well as a member of the establishment. He went to Yale, went to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and later married a very wealthy widow. He is an accepted member of the governing class. I am sure he doesn’t dream about commune life or scheme to turn over the levers of power to gay welfare mothers.
What we have now is a presidency which is being run instead by a far-right clique that is ideological in a sort of non-thinking way, but that mainly operates on the basis of feeling and emotion rather than any well-thought-out plan.
They don’t care much about precedent, history or the delicate balancing act of diplomacy that has kept this nation and the earth from another world war.
Last week provided a perfect illustration. For years and years the United States has attempted to persuade both Jews and Muslims that Washington can function as an “honest broker” in the region. That meant using our powers to help the parties negotiate peace agreements aimed at stopping the slaughter.
Jimmy Carter did that in 1978, when he got Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to agree to start talking and stop killing. Much the same thing happened in 1993, with the peace accords between Yassir Arafat and the Israelis.
But Dubya threw that all away last week, by in effect declaring that we were the puppets of Israel, our client state in the region. Astonishingly, he gave blanket approval to Ariel Sharon’s unilateral declaration that he would withdraw from the Gaza Strip, a wretched sandspit of land the Israelis don’t want anyway, but hold on to much of the West Bank, apparently permanently.
What’s worse, our president endorsed the hard-line view of his fellow right-wing radicals that the Palestinian refugees from the occupied areas have no right of return. They ought to go look for a new separate Palestinian state in which to live. Can’t find one? Tough goat’s cheese.
What that did was instantly destroy our credibility throughout the region. To be sure, the Palestinians haven’t always dealt rationally. In my opinion, Arafat threw away the best chance for peace his people are likely to have in their lifetimes.
But Bush now has thrown away something far more valuable. That was shocking, but it came after a series of the worst foreign and domestic policy decisions by any president since James Buchanan. Thanks to his war of conquest, we are stuck with occupying a chaotic nation of warring elements — all of whom hate us — for as long as the mind can imagine.
Americans are dying every day, and we have no plan for how this might end. We have record budget deficits which have severely hurt the economy’s chances of recovery. (Bill Clinton, arguably the most conservative president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, left us with large surpluses.)
Our civil liberties are threatened; there is still vague talk about “privatizing” Social Security, a move which could endanger the very lives of millions of seniors; and the only remedies Dick Cheney seems to be able to prescribe are ever-larger tax cuts for the richest Americans.
Then there is the plain fact that — how can we say this — George W. Bush is too ill-informed, too rigid, and probably not bright enough to be president of the United States. The New York Times, that conservative gray lady of journalism, doesn’t glibly throw around charges. But appalled by the president’s halting performance in what was only his third press conference, the NYT’s lead editorial noted, “his responses to questions were distressingly rambling and unfocused.”
Yes, they know. We all know. The world knows. Once, to be sure, many of us old enough to remember thought the same of Ronald Reagan. Mostly, in fact, I still think that. Yet when a new and different kind of Soviet leader appeared on the scene, Reagan, to his enormous credit, shifted his rhetoric and response.
Does anyone see any sign that Bush minor is capable of growth?
Forget the 9-11 Commission: Now, for an amazing second, I am actually going to defend the administration. The media has been obsessing over the 9-11 commission, which has been obsessing over whether Sept. 11 could have been prevented. The answer is … no. The commission has pointed out communication and security lapses that need to be fixed.
But Sept. 11 would have happened under any president. The steps needed to prevent it would have been politically impossible in the easy, spoiled world we lived in, and the press — including me — would have attacked anyone who tried to make traveling more difficult. Let’s concentrate on the future.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org