Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The President is not your Daddy

Here's a message too many people need to hear:

The President cannot protect you from being killed by a terrorist.

It's just the simple fact. If a terrorist decides to kill you, there's an incredibly good chance that he will succeed. All the President can do is create an atmosphere where your death at the hands of a terrorist is as unlikely as possible.

You can wear your seat belt. You can scrupulously follow traffic rules. You can avoid stopping on train tracks. You can give up the keys when you're too drunk to drive. All of these things will greatly decrease your chances of serious injury or death in your car. But along comes the wild swerve across the yellow line, and you're six feet under.

That's life. That's the risk we take being alive.

But too many people, since 9/11, seem to look at the President as some sort of combination father figure, on-call fireman, and security blanket. I heard a Republican delegate interviewed on Democracy Now who said, "I'm voting for President Bush because he will protect me."

Wrong, baby. And the more you cling to that, the less safe you become.

The fact is, George W. Bush has done a deplorable job with the "safety-belt issues" on terrorism. He's done little with domestic security, neglecting borders, container ships and securing chemical and nuclear plants. Meanwhile, he rushes into a war where there were no terrorists, and creates thousands more, over multiple future generations, in the process. He lets one of the biggest terrorist-sponsoring states, Saudi Arabia, off scot-free. He's alienated allies who we need in the long run to squelch terrorists.

If Bush were your neighborhood fireman, he'd be testing explosives outside your burning house. Not helping, and most likely making it worse.

Bush is not your Daddy. And the sooner you realize that, the better.

Who is Bush's base?

Since this is the Republican National Convention week, I've been thinking about the traditional role of conventions - rallying the base. But who, exactly, is George W. Bush's base?

-Right-wingers, who never met a gay person they liked or a fetus they didn't, don't like Bush. He's not conservative enough for them. He pays lip service to their causes, but the payoff just isn't there. Abortion is still legal, and those pesky gays seem to be getting more and more people to agree that yes, maybe they should be equal citizens of the United States after all.

-Fiscal conservatives don't like Bush. He's spending like a drunken sailor. It must really chap the hides of those fiscal conservatives that Bill Clinton, aka "The Evil One," actually racked up a sizeable budget surplus.

-Moderate Republicans, who think of themselves as such mainly because they believe Democrats just want to tax them to death, are much more liberal on social issues than the media understands. Many of them are turned off by Bush's anti-gay stance, and by the folly that was/is the Iraq War.

-Do veterans like Bush? Really? Because why are they going to rally around a guy who thought his National Guard service was less important than working on a campaign (or partying with ambitious secretaries, for that matter); who has cut services for them during wartime; and who has recklessly led the country into an unprovoked war? Will Bush's smears on Kerry's record really be a net gain for GWB? Or will the net effect of John McCain, Max Cleland and Kerry send the mud swinging back into Bush's face?

-Blue-collar workers seem to like Bush, despite his severely anti-union administration, and despite huge tax breaks for the richest Americans. "What's the Matter with Kansas?" by Thomas Frank deals with this topic in depth. I wonder if this part of the base is as strong as it seems. Still, there's always the "Terrorists are coming to kill you NOW! And I'm the only one who can protect you!" angle.

So who's left?

-The insanely rich.
-Military-industrial-complex CEOs, and those who hope to become them.

Is that enough of a base? We'll see.

BONUS LINK: 100 Mistakes

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Shiny things

I've grown increasingly angry with the Swift Boat Liars "controversy." They get debunked with both the official record and their own statements time after time, but yet the train rolls on. And on and on.

But if I'm being honest with myself, mostly why I'm upset about this tactic is its evil brilliance. Bush gets to attack Kerry on one of his biggest strengths, keep his own hands clean, and simultaneously distract attention from one of Bush's biggest weaknesses in our terror-obsessed world - his own non-service in Vietnam. Plus, it's time not taken up with talking about, oh, I don't know, the mess in Iraq and the mess of our domestic economy.

And people buy it, because they are pretty much willing to follow any shiny thing that's waved in front of their faces. Karl Rove knows this, of course. He knows a smear can be debunked utterly, but it still remains.

The minute people turn away from one shiny thing, they've got another to wave in your face: Gay marriage! Theresa Heinz's money! John Kerry looks French! Michael Moore is fat! Eliminate the IRS!

It's sickening, but it works. And say what you will about the Republicans, they know what works. And the only way it's going to stop working is if we learn to turn our heads away from the shiny things.

I'm not holding my breath.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A simple question

A question to all the Swift Boat Liars, their enablers in the media and on the web:

Is there anything you actually like about George W. Bush? Or are you just supporting him because he's "Not John Kerry"? Pretty flimsy rationale, I'd say.

Monday, August 23, 2004


I don't intend this to be a standard "link and comment" sort of site. There are thousands out there, and they do it better than I ever could. I want to write about what matters to me - a short-form columnist, if you will.

But Paul Waldman's column in the Gadflyer is just too good to pass up. I particularly loved this part, which speaks to how I'm feeling these days:
But today, something different grips liberals, particularly those ensconced in enclaves like Manhattan, Madison, or San Francisco. Even though they live in an environment in which almost everyone is progressive, they believe that such places are few and far between, and the vast majority of Americans are conservatives whose values and political choices couldn't be more different from theirs.
Read the whole thing, as they say. It's worth it. And a soothing balm to embattled liberals like me.

Shut up and sing, Jessica

Apparently everyone's favorite no-longer-a-virgin newlywed, Jessica Simpson, has joined the august ranks of Bush-supporting celebrities, finding a place alongside Larry Gatlin, Toby Keith, Wayne Newton and Ted Nugent. Welcome, Jessica!

Oh, and then there's that little matter of a major concert tour designed to unseat Bush. But that's not news. Nothing to see here. Damn those celebrities and their platforms!

My irrepressible cynicism tells me that if there were cadres of right-wing celebrities willing to make movies, write books, attend premieres, dedicate songs and go on tour in support of the administration and other conservative candidates, the whole "Shut up and sing!" campaign would not exist.

Jealousy is a bitch.

Through the Looking Glass

I'm still trying to get my bearings in this new world we're living in. And just when I think I'm finally on solid ground, something new comes along to make me queasy and unsure again.

On this side of the Looking Glass, George W. Bush is a war hero. He bravely protected Alabama from the Viet Cong, when he could have gone to England like that sleazeball Bill Clinton. On the other hand, John Kerry is an amoral bastard, who only volunteered for Vietnam so he could arrange some superficial self-inflicted flesh wounds, get an early out, and then betray his country alongside Hanoi Jane Fonda.

On this side of the Looking Glass, John Kerry's 20-year career in the Senate is "undistinguished." Meanwhile, George Bush is a regular guy, a self-made man, despite failing upward his entire life, and being bailed out every step of the way. When John Kerry entered the Senate, GWB was an admitted alcoholic and probably drug addict, running every business he worked on into the ground. But it's John Kerry's Senate record that's the issue.

On this side, Joe McCarthy is a national hero and internment of Japanese U.S. citizens during World War II was a fantastic idea.

On this side, George W. Bush - who presided with cowardliness over the greatest attack on U.S. soil in history, let the perps go, and then ran headlong into a conflict with a nation with no connections to that attack - is the better choice to defend this country against terrorists.

Saddam Hussein was instrumental in the 9/11 attacks.

Bush continuing to read to children while the country was under attack showed admirable restraint, while Howard Dean's "scream" at a campaign event proved that he was unbalanced and unfit to run for dogcatcher, much less President.

Fox News is "Fair and Balanced."

Dean Esmay is a "liberal" and a "citizen journalist."

Deficits don't matter. (My credit card company, alas, feels otherwise.)

All of this may seem laughable to those of us on the left side of the aisle in this country. But why are these things accepted as fact by such wide swaths of the U.S. population? This side of the Looking Glass is a scary place.

Send me back, please.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Why do conservatives hate America?

(I originally wrote "reactionaries" instead of conservatives. But who can tell the difference these days?)

We all know (because Bill "Shut up! Shut up!" O'Reilly tells us so) that "Liberals hate America!" But if that's the case, we learned it from the masters of America-hating, the conservatives/neocons/reactionaries that dominate the American political landscape today. They can't decide if they want it to be 1950 or 1850, but either would be preferable to the ugly truth of America as it is.

They hate an America where gay people's relationships could be considered equal to theirs.

They hate an America where a family could consist of something other than June Cleaver, vacuuming in heels and pearls; Ward Cleaver, standoffish career man; and several well-behaved moppets.

They hate an America where guns make people less safe, not more.

They hate an America where the public schools might possibly mention the messy world that exists outside the schoolhouse doors.

They hate a world where America is not the strongest bully on the playground, but rather an exceptional student who needs to "play well with others" to get along.

They hate an America where people might be more offended by violence than by sex.

They hate an America where people they disagree with still have freedom of speech and press.

Liberals love America for its possibilities and its future. Conservatives fear and hate America for those same traits, and long to return to an America that never was.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

What the hell is wrong with John McCain?

Looking at that widely-distributed photo of John McCain embracing George W. Bush, I felt the gorge rise in my throat. Here's a man who spent years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, while the guy he's stumping for was avoiding his drug-test-including physical and playing water polo with "ambitious secretaries." Here's a man who was attacked viciously by Bush's surrogates in 2000 ("Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had a black baby?"), but now appears in campaign ads for Bush. Here's a man who can't contain his contempt for the President when he's on The Daily Show, but says of him at a campaign rally, "He has not wavered in his determination to protect this country and to make the world a better, safer, freer place." Here's a man who jokes on Jay Leno about his purported standing as John Kerry's first choice for VP, " I spent all those years in a Vietnamese prison camp, kept in the dark, fed scraps. Why would I want to that all over again?”

What the hell is he thinking? If this is what passes for integrity among Republicans, they can have it.