Thought you’d appreciate a little political humor break. This animation was forwarded by an alert reader, and I thought it was hilarious.
Thought you’d appreciate a little political humor break. This animation was forwarded by an alert reader, and I thought it was hilarious.
I’d imagine that most of you have, at one time or another, come across the wicked satire of the comic strip called Get Your War On. The publisher recently put up an RSS feed, so blogs can automagically include links to their new content. I’ve added it as a permanent block to the right hand side of GRL’s Humor section. Check it out.
True patriots who are disgusted with the lies and misdeeds of the Bush administration, and its betrayal of traditional Republican values, are coming out of the woodwork to support John Kerry. We’ve had a much-circulated essay by conservative columnist Charley Reese (Vote for a Man, Not a Puppet). Then we saw an excellent essay by Ron Reagan, son of President Ronald Reagan, detailing his case against George Bush (The Case Against George W. Bush). And now we have another son of a revered Republican president following suit: the son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Just for laughs, I have included today’s Doonesbury comic, which references this essay. Thanks to an alert reader for forwarding it!
John Eisenhower: Why I will vote for John Kerry for President
By JOHN EISENHOWER
Originally published Sept. 9, 2004.
Source: The Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News
The Presidential election to be held this coming Nov. 2 will be one of extraordinary importance to the future of our nation. The outcome will determine whether this country will continue on the same path it has followed for the last 3½ years or whether it will return to a set of core domestic and foreign policy values that have been at the heart of what has made this country great.
Now more than ever, we voters will have to make cool judgments, unencumbered by habits of the past. Experts tell us that we tend to vote as our parents did or as we “always have.” We remained loyal to party labels. We cannot afford that luxury in the election of 2004. There are times when we must break with the past, and I believe this is one of them.
As son of a Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, it is automatically expected by many that I am a Republican. For 50 years, through the election of 2000, I was. With the current administration’s decision to invade Iraq unilaterally, however, I changed my voter registration to independent, and barring some utterly unforeseen development, I intend to vote for the Democratic Presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry.
The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today’s whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.
Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance.
In the Middle East crisis of 1991, President George H.W. Bush marshaled world opinion through the United Nations before employing military force to free Kuwait from Saddam Hussein. Through negotiation he arranged for the action to be financed by all the industrialized nations, not just the United States. When Kuwait had been freed, President George H. W. Bush stayed within the United Nations mandate, aware of the dangers of occupying an entire nation.
Today many people are rightly concerned about our precious individual freedoms, our privacy, the basis of our democracy. Of course we must fight terrorism, but have we irresponsibly gone overboard in doing so? I wonder. In 1960, President Eisenhower told the Republican convention, “If ever we put any other value above (our) liberty, and above principle, we shall lose both.” I would appreciate hearing such warnings from the Republican Party of today.
The Republican Party I used to know placed heavy emphasis on fiscal responsibility, which included balancing the budget whenever the state of the economy allowed it to do so. The Eisenhower administration accomplished that difficult task three times during its eight years in office. It did not attain that remarkable achievement by cutting taxes for the rich. Republicans disliked taxes, of course, but the party accepted them as a necessary means of keep the nation’s financial structure sound.
The Republicans used to be deeply concerned for the middle class and small business. Today’s Republican leadership, while not solely accountable for the loss of American jobs, encourages it with its tax code and heads us in the direction of a society of very rich and very poor.
Sen. Kerry, in whom I am willing to place my trust, has demonstrated that he is courageous, sober, competent, and concerned with fighting the dangers associated with the widening socio-economic gap in this country. I will vote for him enthusiastically.
I celebrate, along with other Americans, the diversity of opinion in this country. But let it be based on careful thought. I urge everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, to avoid voting for a ticket merely because it carries the label of the party of one’s parents or of our own ingrained habits.
John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, served on the White House staff between October 1958 and the end of the Eisenhower administration. From 1961 to 1964 he assisted his father in writing “The White House Years,” his Presidential memoirs. He served as American ambassador to Belgium between 1969 and 1971. He is the author of nine books, largely on military subjects.
Not only was the election of 2000 a charade; not only is our current election process fatally flawed; not only has the Help America Vote Act actually worsened the prospects of a free and fair election; not only have all sorts of Republican shenanigans come to light over the last few months, such as immigrant voter registration forms pre-checked with Republican party affiliation, voter intimidation, and voter roll manipulations in key states, not to mention gerrymandering in Texas and elsewhere; but now we have so-called “debates” that are little more than carefully controlled news conferences.
I have to echo Michael Moore: “Dude, Where’s My Country?” Read on.
Connie Rice: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates
NPR Commentary: Connie Rice
The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004
The Tavis Smiley Show, September 29, 2004 · After weeks of political wrangling, Sen. John Kerry and President Bush will square off for the first of three key presidential debates. Both camps have agreed to an elaborate, 32-page contract that spells out everything from the size of the dressing rooms to permitted camera angles.
But the controversy over the debates threatens to overshadow the events themselves. Some citizen groups complain that the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) isn’t as non-partisan as it should be, and that Kerry and Bush won’t be pressed on urban issues. Commentator Connie Rice says that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and she’s got another Top 10 list — this time: Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates.
(10.) They aren’t debates!
“A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue,” Rice says. “Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent’s points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions — that’s not a debate, that’s a news conference.”
(9.) The debates were hijacked from the truly independent League of Women Voters in 1986.
“The League of Women Voters ran these debates with an iron hand as open, transparent, non-partisan events from 1976 to 1984,” Rice says. “The men running the major campaigns ended their control when the League defiantly included John Anderson and Ross Perot, and used tough moderators and formats the parties didn’t like. The parties snatched the debates from the League and formed the Commission on Presidential Debates — the CPD — in 1986.”
(8.) The “independent and non-partisan” Commission on Presidential Debates is neither independent nor non-partisan.
“CPD should stand for ‘Cloaking-device for Party Deceptions’ — it is not an independent commission on anything. The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan. Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an ‘unconscionable fraud.’”
(7.) The secretly negotiated debate contract bars Kerry and Bush from any and all other debates for the entire campaign.
“Under what I call the Debate Suppression and Monopolization Clause of the contract, it is illegal for the candidates to debate each other anywhere else during the campaign,” Rice says. “We need a new criminal law for reckless endangerment of democracy.”
(6.) The debate contract effectively excludes all other serious presidential candidates from participating in the debates.
“This is what I call the Obstruction of Democratic Debate Rule, which sets an impossibly high threshold for third-party candidates… Where are we, Russia? Isn’t Vladimir Putin wiping out democracy in Russia by excluding all opposing candidates from the airwaves during his re-election campaigns? Most new ideas come from third parties — they should be in the debates.”
(5.) All members of the studio audience must be certified as “soft” supporters of Bush and Kerry, under selection procedures they approve.
“It’s not enough to rig the debate — they have to rig the audience, too? The contract reads: ‘The debate will take place before a live audience of between 100 and 150 persons who… describe themselves as likely voters who are soft Bush supporters or soft Kerry supporters.’ We should crash this charade and jump up in the middle to declare ourselves hard opponents of this Kabuki dance.”
(4.) These “soft” audience members must “observe in silence.”
“Soft and silent… In what I’m calling the Silence of the Lambs Clause of this absurd contract, the audience may not move, speak, gesture, cough or otherwise show that they are alive and thinking.”
(3.) The “extended discussion” portion of the debate cannot exceed 30 seconds.
“Other than the stupidity of the debate contract, what topic do you know that can be extendedly discussed in 30 seconds?”
(2.) Important issues are locked out by the CPD debate rules and party control.
“Really important but sticky or tough issues get axed, because the parties control the questions and topics,” Rice says. “For example, in 2000, Gore and Bush mentioned the following issues zero times: Child poverty, the drug war, homelessness, working-class families, NAFTA, prisons, corporate crime and corporate welfare.”
(1.) Fortune 100 corporations are the main funders of the CPD-sponsored debates, and the CPD’s co-chairs are corporate lobbyists.
The CPD is run by Frank Fahrenkopf, a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, and Paul Kirk, a top gambling lobbyist,” Rice says. “And the biggest muliti-national corporations write the checks that fund the CPD — Phillip Morris, Anheuser-Busch and dozens more. The audience may have to be silent and motionless, but the corporate sponsors can have banners, beer tents, Budweiser girls handing out pamphlets protesting beer taxes — a corporate-sponsored circus to go along with the Kabuki Debates. Could we get a more fitting description of our democracy?”
Today I’m featuring a small selection of the many recent articles about the growing chasm between Bush’s claims about our progress in Iraq and the War on Terror, and the reality.
First, ya gotta love it when one of your heroes appropriates your theme! In his new article, “Let’s Get Real,” Krugman takes on Bush for his happy talk. (As Jon Stewart cleverly pointed out last night, perhaps Bush’s appearance with Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi to promote their successes in Iraq was held in the Rose Garden in order to match the color of Bush’s glasses.)
Next, the Guardian’s Sidney Blumenthal pursues the same theme in “The Hollow World of George Bush.”
Then, from the Los Angeles Times, we have “Violence Belies Positive Picture.”
And finally, from the New York Times, “Kerry Attacks Bush’s Handling of Campaign Against Terror” covers John Kerry’s plans on what to do about it when he’s president. Kerry deserves special recognition for his comments, making it clear that he intends to do something about our deadly embrace with the Saudi royal family. Despite their absymal record as a ruling force, allowing none of the democratic freedoms we take for granted, and despite the fact that most of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and despite the fact that much of al Qaeda’s funding comes indirectly from the Saudi royal family, Bush sees no reason to stop being such cozy bedfellows with them (while simultaneously decrying the “dictators” he has chosen to oppose…wouldn’t you love to hear him explain the logic of splitting that hair?). John Kerry intends to wrestle that bear, and more power to him.
Yes, let’s get real, shall we? Can we dispense now with the hollow claims about Iraq’s success as a democracy? Can we admit to our lack of a winning strategy, let alone an exit strategy? Or are we going to deny right up it to breaking point, like we did in Vietnam? Can we put down our savage pride and start grappling with reality here?
[OK, one more: for a good rundown on the differences between claim and reality in Iraq, try this one: Bush at the U.N.: Sugarcoating Failure]
Let’s Get Real
By PAUL KRUGMAN
The New York Times
September 24, 2004
Never mind the inevitable claims that John Kerry is soft on terrorism. What he must address is the question of how his policy in Iraq would differ from President Bush’s. And his answer should be that unlike Mr. Bush, whose decisions have been dictated at every stage by grandiose visions and wishful thinking, he will get real – focusing on what is really possible in Iraq, and what needs to be done to protect American security.
Mr. Bush claims that Mr. Kerry’s plan to secure and rebuild Iraq is “exactly what we’re currently doing.” No, it isn’t. It’s only what Mr. Bush is currently saying. And we have 18 months of his administration’s deeds to contrast with his words.
The actual record is one of officials who have refused to admit that their fantasies about how the war would go were wrong, and who have continued to push us ever deeper into the quagmire because of their insistence that everything is going according to plan.
There has been a lot of press coverage of the administration’s failure to do anything serious about rebuilding Iraq. Less attention has been given to its parallel failure to take the security problem seriously until much of Iraq had already been lost.
Long after it was obvious to everyone else that we were engaged in an escalating guerrilla war, Bush appointees clung to the belief that they were fighting a handful of dead-enders and foreign terrorists.
As a result, they casually swelled the ranks of our foes – remember, Moktada al-Sadr was never going to be our friend, but he didn’t have to be our enemy. They even treated Iraqi security forces with contempt, not bothering to provide them with adequate training or equipment.
In an analysis titled “Inexcusable Failure,” Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies details how the U.S. “failed to treat the Iraqis as partners in the counterinsurgency effort.” U.S. officials, he declares, are “guilty of a gross military, administrative and moral failure.”
That failure continues. All the evidence suggests that Bush officials still think that one more military push – after the U.S. election, of course – will end the insurgency. They’re still not taking the task of fighting a sustained guerrilla war seriously.
“Three months into its new mission,” The New York Times reported, “the military command in charge of training and equipping Iraqi security forces has fewer than half of its permanent headquarters personnel in place.”
At the root of this folly is a continuing refusal to face uncomfortable facts. Confronted with a bleak C.I.A. assessment of the Iraq situation – one that matches the judgment of just about every independent expert – Mr. Bush’s response is that “they were just guessing.” “In many ways,” Mr. Cordesman writes, “the administration’s senior spokesmen still seem to live in a fantasyland.”
Fantasyland extended to the Rose Garden yesterday, where Mr. Bush said polls asking Iraqis whether their nation was on the right track were more positive than similar polls asking Americans about their outlook – and he seemed to consider that a good sign.
Where is Mr. Bush taking us? As the reality of Iraq gets worse, his explanations of our goals get ever vaguer. “The security of our world,” Mr. Bush told the U.N., “is found in the advancing rights of mankind.”
He doesn’t really believe that. After all, he continues to praise Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, even as Mr. Putin strangles democratic institutions. The subtext of Mr. Bush’s bombast is that because he can’t bring himself to admit a mistake, he refuses to give up on his effort to turn Iraq into a docile client state – an effort that is doomed unless he can figure out a way to come up with a few hundred thousand more troops.
We don’t have to go there. American policy shouldn’t be dictated by Mr. Bush’s infallibility complex; our first priority must be our own security. And in Iraq, that means setting realistic goals.
On “Meet The Press” back in April, Mr. Kerry wasn’t as forthright about Iraq as he has now, at long last, become, but he did return several times to a point that shows that he is on the right track. “What is critical,” he said, “is a stable Iraq.” Not an Iraq in our image, but a country that isn’t a “failed state” that poses a threat to American security.
The Bush administration has made such a mess of Iraq that even achieving that goal will be very hard. But unlike Mr. Bush’s fantasies, it’s still in the realm of the possible.
The Hollow World of George Bush
By Sidney Blumenthal
The power of positive thinking is the president’s shield from reality.
The news is grim, but the president is “optimistic”. The intelligence is sobering, but he tosses aside “pessimistic predictions”. His opponent says he has “no credibility”, but the president replies that it is his rival who is “twisting in the wind”. The UN secretary general speaks of the “rule of law”, but he talks before a mute general assembly of “a new definition of security”. Between the rhetoric and the reality lies the campaign.
In Iraq, US commanders have plans for this week and the next, but there is “no overarching strategy”, I was told by a reliable source who has just returned after assessing the facts on the ground for US intelligence services. The New York Times reports that an offensive is in the works to capture the insurgent stronghold of Falluja – after the election. In the meantime, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other terrorists linked to al-Qaida operate from there at will, as they have for more than a year. The president speaks of new Iraqi security forces, but not even half the US personnel have been assigned to the headquarters of the Multinational Security Transition Command.
George Bush’s vision of the liberation of Iraq has melted before harsh facts. But reality cannot be allowed to obscure the image. The liberation is “succeeding”, he insists, and only pessimists cannot see it.
In July, the CIA delivered to the president a new national intelligence estimate that detailed three gloomy scenarios for Iraq’s future, ranging up to civil war. Perhaps it was his reading of the estimate that prompted Bush to remark in August that the war on terrorism could not be won, a judgment he swiftly reversed. And at the UN, Bush held a press conference where he rebuffed the latest intelligence.
Bush explained that, for him, intelligence is not to inform decision-making, but to be used or rejected to advance an ideological and political agenda. His dismissal is an affirmation of the politicisation and corruption of intelligence that rationalised the war.
In his stump speech, which he repeats word for word across the country, Bush explains that he invaded Iraq because of “the lesson of September the 11th”. WMD goes unmentioned; the only reason Bush offers is Saddam Hussein as an agent of terrorism. “He was a sworn enemy of the United States of America; he had ties to terrorist networks. Do you remember Abu Nidal? He’s the guy that killed Leon Klinghoffer. Leon Klinghoffer was murdered because of his religion. Abu Nidal was in Baghdad, as was his organisation.”
The period of Leon Klinghoffer’s murder in 1985 on the liner Achille Lauro (by Abu Abbas, in fact) coincided with the US courtship of Saddam, marked by the celebrated visits of then Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld. The US collaborated in intelligence exchanges and materially supported Saddam in his war with Iran, authorising the sale of biological agents for Saddam’s laboratories, a diversification of his WMD capability.
The reason was not born of idealism, but necessity: the threat of an expansive Iran-controlled Shia fundamentalism to the entire Gulf.
The policy of courting Saddam continued until he invaded Kuwait. But realpolitik prevailed when US forces held back from capturing Baghdad for larger, geostrategic reasons. The first Bush grasped that in wars to come, the US would need ad hoc coalitions to share the military burden and financial cost. Taking Baghdad would have violated the UN resolution that gave legitimacy to the first Gulf war, as well as creating a nightmare of “Lebanonisation”, as secretary of state James Baker called it. Realism prevailed; Saddam’s power was subdued and drastically reduced. It was the greatest accomplishment of the first President Bush.
When he honoured the UN resolution, the credibility of the US in the region was enormously enhanced, enabling serious movement on the Middle East peace process. Now this President Bush has undone the foundation of his father’s work, which was built upon by President Clinton.
Bush’s campaign depends on the containment of any contrary perception of reality. He must evade, deny and suppress it. His true opponent is not his Democratic foe – called unpatriotic and the candidate of al-Qaida by the vice-president – but events. Bush’s latest vision is his shield against them. He invokes the power of positive thinking, as taught by Emile Coue, guru of autosuggestion in the giddy 1920s, who urged mental improvement through constant repetition: “Every day in every way I am getting better and better.”
It was during this era of illusion that TS Eliot wrote The Hollow Men: Between the idea/ And the reality/ Between the motion/ And the act/ Falls the Shadow.”
Violence Belies Positive Picture
By Patrick J. McDonnell
The Los Angeles Times
Friday 24 September 2004
Baghdad – Large swaths of Iraq remain outside the control of the interim government, major highways are fraught with attackers, and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi – along with the U.S. Embassy and much of the international community – must conduct business in fortified compounds guarded by tanks, blast walls and barbed wire.
In Washington, Allawi gave Congress an upbeat assessment Thursday, but the situation in Iraq is more complicated.
Allawi said the Iraqi people were making steady progress in taking control of the nation’s affairs. His interim government had assumed sovereignty from the U.S.-led occupation. It had reopened schools and hospitals damaged in the war. Despite attacks, hundreds of Iraqis were still volunteering to join the police and army. And he pledged that the country would hold elections in January.
Widespread anxiety engulfed much of Iraq this month as a wave of car bombings, kidnappings and gun battles killed scores of American soldiers, Iraqi civilians and hostages.
The continuing violence has overshadowed signs of progress and put a damper on the prospect of democratic elections.
“How can we hold elections when they will bomb every polling booth?” asked Husham Mahdi, a 29-year-old communications engineer in Baghdad, echoing a common sentiment.
In a question and answer session after his speech to Congress, Allawi described Baghdad as “very good and safe.”
In the city of Samarra, Allawi noted, a new police chief had been appointed and Iraqi forces were patrolling the city “in close coordination” with the U.S.-led coalition. But U.S. commanders say the insurgent stronghold, which the Army recently entered for the first time in months, remains far from pacified.
“Samarra is not over with,” said Lt. Col. James Stockmoe, intelligence officer with the 1st Infantry Division, which patrols Samarra.
The police chief appointed this month, at least the 12th since Saddam Hussein’s ouster, resigned within a few days after receiving death threats.
Some U.S. military officials fear that the city’s police force is largely in cahoots with insurgents, giving them access to weapons and vehicles. In July, a suicide bomber used a police vehicle to plow into the Army base outside Samarra, killing five U.S. soldiers and injuring 18.
Allawi blamed the American media for failing to report some of the positive steps his government had taken with the help of the U.S.-led coalition. He cited social programs such as polio vaccinations and other efforts. He said thousands of Iraqis had gotten jobs, salaries had increased dramatically and the economy “has finally started to flourish.”
Allawi praised efforts to train more soldiers and police and said the performance of the new Iraqi security forces was “improving every day.”
U.S. commanders credit Iraqi forces for helping to rid Najaf of fighters loyal to radical cleric Muqtada Sadr. But it remains questionable whether they can take on insurgents without U.S. help. Shortages of equipment and personnel continue to plague the forces.
On a recent visit to Baqubah, where police have often been targeted, Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus – who is overseeing the training of Iraqi forces – listened as local police and national guard officers said they desperately needed more trained officers and equipment. His visit came a few days after 11 provincial police officers were killed in a drive-by attack.
“We’ve got to create a training academy here,” said Petraeus, who also offered to ship new armored vehicles, body armor and other gear from Baghdad.
The continued inability of Iraqi forces to secure areas after U.S. offensives has been a major reason such operations have been put on hold in places like Samarra and Fallouja.
“We have got the tactical ability to do just about anything, but what I don’t want to do is create a vacuum,” Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, operational chief for U.S.-led multinational forces, said in a recent interview.
Allawi said that in the city of Tall Afar, in northwestern Iraq, the interim government had “reversed” an attempted insurgent takeover.
Reports from the city indicate that masked rebels no longer control the town. But the city’s Turkmen majority, regarded a U.S. ally, is resentful after what it views as excessive American force and bombing, which was approved by Allawi’s government.
Allawi also cited “success” in Najaf and Kufa, where residents celebrated the ouster of Sadr, the militant cleric.
Although the militia was routed in both cities, many fighters appear to have moved to Baghdad’s Sadr City neighborhood. Daily firefights and roadside bombs have plagued the U.S. there.
Allawi said it was “a fact” that elections could be held in 15 of Iraq’s 18 provinces “tomorrow.” But few experts would agree. The consensus among poll-watchers is that holding nationwide elections by January, as scheduled, will be difficult.
Apart from the widespread violence, the provinces lack electoral infrastructure – which some view as a greater challenge than security.
And critics say it is hard to argue that security is a problem in only three provinces of a nation where suicide bombers have struck from Basra in the south to Irbil in the north.
Allawi cited the renovation of schools and clinics and the restoration of many services as signs of progress. But many Iraqis note that the schools were open before Hussein’s ouster, and power blackouts and gasoline shortages remain major irritants.
Allawi’s upbeat assessment did not mention a core problem – the disenfranchisement of the Sunni Muslim minority.
Sunni Muslims, who lost their preferred status after Hussein’s defeat, launched the insurgency that has managed to hold off the world’s most powerful military.
“They are the key to the population here,” said Col. John C. Coleman, chief of staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, which patrols the Sunni heartland to the west and north of Baghdad. “Many of them look to the central government not as their advocateÅ . There are many who would just like a seat at the table and don’t quite understand how to get there just yet. They are frustrated by the process.”
Allawi’s overtures to the residents of Samarra, Fallouja and Ramadi – Sunni-dominated cities still far from government control – have yielded no lasting breakthroughs.
In his speech Thursday, the interim prime minister did not highlight Fallouja, which has become a sanctuary for insurgents and the target of intense U.S. bombings supported by his government. City leaders who have met with representatives of the interim government say it has lost credibility because of close U.S. ties.
“There were some promises made,” said Ahmad Hardan, a physician from Fallouja who has been in talks with Allawi’s envoys. “But we started to realize that whenever our delegation would go back to Baghdad, the city of Fallouja would be bombed. And we would start asking, ‘Why is this happening? Where are the promises?’ ”
Kerry Attacks Bush’s Handling of Campaign Against Terror
By MARIA NEWMAN
The New York Times
September 24, 2004
Senator John Kerry assailed President Bush today for going after Saddam Hussein when he should have been focused on hunting down Osama Bin Laden, and said that the Bush administration was “in confusion” about how to combat the growth of terrorism.
The senator also said that the West must reach out to Islamic youth around the world and convince those inclined to militancy that “there is more to life than salvation through martyrdom.”
Mr. Kerry, continuing to hammer, as he has all week, at the president’s policies on Iraq and terrorism, said that “we have to refocus our energies on the war on terror.”
“The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, Al Qaeda,” Mr. Kerry said in a speech at Temple University in Philadelphia. “There’s just no question about it. The president’s misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win.”
Mr. Kerry said that because Mr. Bush had focused the military’s might and money on fighting Mr. Hussein’s regime, “Iraq is now what it was not before the war — a haven for terrorists.”
The Democratic presidential candidate offered up a detailed strategy to contain terrorism, and called for more attention to the politics, culture and economics of the broad Islamic world, and more cooperation with allies to fight the growth of terrorism within some Islamic factions and communities.
“We have to win the war of ideas,” he said, pointing out that more than 50 percent of the population in the Arab and Muslim world is under age 25.
“If all they get to do is go to radical Islamic madrassas and learn how to hate and learn how to strap themselves with explosives, we have a problem for years to come, my friends,” he said. “New generations have to believe that there is more to life than salvation through martyrdom.”
“The war on terror is the monumental struggle of our time, it is as monumental a struggle as the cold war,” Mr. Kerry said. “Its outcome will determine whether we and our children will live in freedom or in fear. It is not, as some people think, a clash of civilizations. Radical Islamic fundamentalism is not the true face of Islam.”
With many polls showing that voters have more confidence in Mr. Bush’s approach to the war in Iraq and terrorism, Mr. Kerry has tried all week to convince them that an exaggerated focus on Iraq has led the president to ignore the broader issue of growing terrorism around the world.
Senator Kerry said that the president was “living in a fantasy world of spin” even as some senior advisers and fellow Republicans, privately and publicly, express concern over the growing violence in Iraq and elsewhere.
“We hear the president, the commander in chief, proclaiming one day that this war can’t be won, and then saying something different the next day,” Mr. Kerry said. “And we hear the secretary of defense himself wondering whether the radicals are recruiting, training, and deploying more terrorists than we are capturing or killing.”
Senator Kerry’s remarks came a day after the interim Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, paid Washington a visit, which served to reinforce the starkly differing views of the Bush and Kerry campaigns on the situation in Iraq.
On Thursday, President Bush said, “You can understand it’s tough and still be optimistic,” and Mr. Allawi vowed that elections would be held in January even though “they may not be perfect” because of the rising violence in parts of Iraq.
Senator Kerry responded by saying that the prime minister was contradicting himself, alternately saying that terrorists were pouring into the country and that they were on the defensive.
Today, the president, who was in Wisconsin to talk about education, veered from his message of the day to say that Mr. Kerry should not be criticizing Mr. Allawi.
“You can’t lead this country if your ally in Iraq feels like you question his credibility,” the president said.
And while he continued to sound optimimistic about the war in Iraq, he also acknowledged some of the recent violence, including the beheading of two American engineers this week.
“You know, we weep when we see a person be beheaded on our TV screens,” he said, adding, “We value human dignity in our society.”
“That’s why it’s very important for us to not send mixed signals to the world, not embolden these people,” he added.
Today, Mr. Kerry set forth a detailed seven-point proposal for how he would fight terrorism, a plan that includes going after those who finance terrorist operations, including those in Saudi Arabia.
“I will do what President Bush has not: I will hold the Saudis accountable,” Mr. Kerry said, in a discussion that drew a standing ovation and his loudest applause.
He said that since 9/11, there had been no prosecutions of terrorist financial backers in Saudi Arabia, and only a few in other places. Mr. Kerry vowed to work with American allies, with the World Bank and international financial institutions “to shut down the financial pipeline that keeps terrorism alive.”
“And I will pursue a plan to make this nation energy independent of Mideast oil,” he said. “I want an America that relies on our own innovation and ingenuity, not the Saudi Royal Family.”
Mr. Kerry also said he would increase by 40,000 the number of troops “not for Iraq, but so that we have more soldiers to actually fight and find the terrorists in the places that they are.” He would also strengthen intelligence systems and shut down the supply route of deadly weapons to the terrorists from other countries.
He further said he would beef up domestic security, including better protection at the nation’s ports and more security in vulnerable areas like subways “so that what happened in Madrid doesn’t happen here in the United States of America.”
Mr. Kerry also said that any plan to fight terrorism had to go beyond just sending in American troops. He said his plan included initiatives to keep terrorists from increasing their ranks and to promote the development of free and democratic societies in the Islamic world.
In order to keep the ranks of terrorists from growing, he said, Americans must become smarter about countering the efforts of Al Qaeda to win “the heart and soul of the Muslim world.”
“We will win this war only if the terrorists lose that struggle,” he said. “We will win when ordinary people from Nigeria to Egypt, to Pakistan, to Indonesia know that they have more to live for than to die for.”
He said that many of the terrorists’ recruits were coming from poor Muslim communities. Under his plan, the United States could use its economic power to help poor Muslim countries in exchange for “them living up to goals of social and economic progress.”
Lastly, Mr. Kerry said that the United States would have to work harder to win allies in its struggle against terrorism. “We will not succeed in destroying freedom’s adversaries if we are divided from freedom’s friends,” he said.
“The terrorists certainly understand that,” he said. “They’re making a special effort to set off bombs in Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia. They want to keep other countries from standing with us in the war on terror. They know what the Bush administration has been so reluctant to admit — that we are weaker when we fight almost alone.”
He said that the Bush administration had said that the United States must act alone because the Europeans “won’t help us, no matter what.”
“I have news for President Bush,” Mr. Kerry said. “Just because you can’t do it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”
“I believe we can win the war on terror,” he said.
In keeping with my current focus on strong statements from the Left, today’s message from Michael Moore is just what the doctor ordered. Buck up, folks. Get out there and DO something.
Put Away Your Hankies…a message from Michael Moore
September 21, 2004
Enough of the handwringing! Enough of the doomsaying! Do I have to come there and personally calm you down? Stop with all the defeatism, OK? Bush IS a goner — IF we all just quit our whining and bellyaching and stop shaking like a bunch of nervous ninnies. Geez, this is embarrassing! The Republicans are laughing at us. Do you ever see them cry, “Oh, it’s all over! We are finished! Bush can’t win! Waaaaaa!”
Hell no. It’s never over for them until the last ballot is shredded. They are never finished — they just keeping moving forward like sharks that never sleep, always pushing, pulling, kicking, blocking, lying.
They are relentless and that is why we secretly admire them — they just simply never, ever give up. Only 30% of the country calls itself “Republican,” yet the Republicans own it all — the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the majority of the governorships. How do you think they’ve been able to pull that off considering they are a minority? It’s because they eat you and me and every other liberal for breakfast and then spend the rest of the day wreaking havoc on the planet.
Look at us — what a bunch of crybabies. Bush gets a bounce after his convention and you would have thought the Germans had run through Poland again. The Bushies are coming, the Bushies are coming! Yes, they caught Kerry asleep on the Swift Boat thing. Yes, they found the frequency in Dan Rather and ran with it. Suddenly it’s like, “THE END IS NEAR! THE SKY IS FALLING!”
No, it is not. If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can’t win… Dammit, of COURSE he’s a lousy candidate — he’s a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don’t run — and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.
Yes, OF COURSE any of us would have run a better, smarter, kick-ass campaign. Of course we would have smacked each and every one of those phony swifty boaty bastards down. But WE are not running for president — Kerry is. So quit complaining and work with what we have. Oprah just gave 300 women a… Pontiac! Did you see any of them frowning and moaning and screaming, “Oh God, NOT a friggin’ Pontiac!” Of course not, they were happy. The Pontiacs all had four wheels, an engine and a gas pedal. You want more than that, well, I can’t help you. I had a Pontiac once and it lasted a good year. And it was a VERY good year.
My friends, it is time for a reality check.
1. The polls are wrong. They are all over the map like diarrhea. On Friday, one poll had Bush 13 points ahead — and another poll had them both tied. There are three reasons why the polls are b.s.: One, they are polling “likely voters.” “Likely” means those who have consistently voted in the past few elections. So that cuts out young people who are voting for the first time and a ton of non-voters who are definitely going to vote in THIS election. Second, they are not polling people who use their cell phone as their primary phone. Again, that means they are not talking to young people. Finally, most of the polls are weighted with too many Republicans, as pollster John Zogby revealed last week. You are being snookered if you believe any of these polls.
2. Kerry has brought in the Clinton A-team. Instead of shunning Clinton (as Gore did), Kerry has decided to not make that mistake.
3. Traveling around the country, as I’ve been doing, I gotta tell ya, there is a hell of a lot of unrest out there. Much of it is not being captured by the mainstream press. But it is simmering and it is real. Do not let those well-produced Bush rallies of angry white people scare you. Turn off the TV! (Except Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers — everything else is just a sugar-coated lie).
4. Conventional wisdom says if the election is decided on “9/11″ (the fear of terrorism), Bush wins. But if it is decided on the job we are doing in Iraq, then Bush loses. And folks, that “job,” you might have noticed, has descended into the third level of a hell we used to call Vietnam. There is no way out. It is a full-blown mess of a quagmire and the body bags will sadly only mount higher. Regardless of what Kerry meant by his original war vote, he ain’t the one who sent those kids to their deaths — and Mr. and Mrs. Middle America knows it. Had Bush bothered to show up when he was in the “service” he might have somewhat of a clue as to how to recognize an immoral war that cannot be “won.” All he has delivered to Iraq was that plasticized turkey last Thanksgiving. It is this failure of monumental proportions that is going to cook his goose come this November.
So, do not despair. All is not over. Far from it. The Bush people need you to believe that it is over. They need you to slump back into your easy chair and feel that sick pain in your gut as you contemplate another four years of George W. Bush. They need you to wish we had a candidate who didn’t windsurf and who was just as smart as we were when WE knew Bush was lying about WMD and Saddam planning 9/11. It’s like Karl Rove is hypnotizing you — “Kerry voted for the war…Kerry voted for the war…Kerrrrrryyy vooootted fooooor theeee warrrrrrrrrr…”
Yes…Yes…Yesssss…He did! HE DID! No sense in fighting now…what I need is sleep…sleeep…sleeeeeeppppp…
WAKE UP! The majority are with us! More than half of all Americans are pro-choice, want stronger environmental laws, are appalled that assault weapons are back on the street — and 54% now believe the war is wrong. YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM OF ANY OF THIS — YOU JUST HAVE TO GIVE THEM A RAY OF HOPE AND A RIDE TO THE POLLS. CAN YOU DO THAT? WILL YOU DO THAT?
Just for me, please? Buck up. The country is almost back in our hands. Not another negative word until Nov. 3rd! Then you can bitch all you want about how you wish Kerry was still that long-haired kid who once had the courage to stand up for something. Personally, I think that kid is still inside him. Instead of the wailing and gnashing of your teeth, why not hold out a hand to him and help the inner soldier/protester come out and defeat the forces of evil we now so desperately face. Do we have any other choice?
This essay by Ron Reagan may be the best argument yet about why we cannot afford to give Dubya another term. It’s a month old now, so maybe you’ve seen it already, but I thought it definitely worth recirculating. It’s eloquent, accurate, and balanced enough for any Republican (or son of a Republican president) to see the peril that this administration has gotten us into. Read it. Ask yourself if it’s not true. And especially, forward it to any non-voters you know, for it is likely in their hands that the outcome of the next election rests.
Dubya’s record is long with lies, and we the people must put a stop to it. They have never admitted a single one of them, even when faced with incontrovertible facts. Instead, they have focused all of their energy on tearing apart John Kerry, as if their four years of failed policy could just be forgotten.
John Kerry may not be the perfect candidate that we’d all like to have, but at least he’s honest, and offers a strong set of realistic policies that can help to turn this country around. With one of the longest and strongest records of anyone in Congress on protecting the environment and the rights and basic needs of our citizens, we know that we can can trust him. Dubya has lied to us about so many things, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he cannot be trusted, and cannot be believed.
Enough with the lies. Enough with the spin. It’s time for the presidency to get real, and join the rest of us.
The Case Against George W. Bush
By Ron Reagan
September 2004, Volume 142, Issue 3
It may have been the guy in the hood teetering on the stool, electrodes clamped to his genitals. Or smirking Lynndie England and her leash. Maybe it was the smarmy memos tapped out by soft-fingered lawyers itching to justify such barbarism. The grudging, lunatic retreat of the neocons from their long-standing assertion that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama didn’t hurt. Even the Enron audiotapes and their celebration of craven sociopathy likely played a part. As a result of all these displays and countless smaller ones, you could feel, a couple of months back, as summer spread across the country, the ground shifting beneath your feet. Not unlike that scene in The Day After Tomorrow, then in theaters, in which the giant ice shelf splits asunder, this was more a paradigm shift than anything strictly tectonic. No cataclysmic ice age, admittedly, yet something was in the air, and people were inhaling deeply. I began to get calls from friends whose parents had always voted Republican, “but not this time.” There was the staid Zbigniew Brzezinski on the staid NewsHour with Jim Lehrer sneering at the “Orwellian language” flowing out of the Pentagon. Word spread through the usual channels that old hands from the days of Bush the Elder were quietly (but not too quietly) appalled by his son’s misadventure in Iraq. Suddenly, everywhere you went, a surprising number of folks seemed to have had just about enough of what the Bush administration was dishing out. A fresh age appeared on the horizon, accompanied by the sound of scales falling from people’s eyes. It felt something like a demonstration of that highest of American prerogatives and the most deeply cherished American freedom: dissent.
Oddly, even my father’s funeral contributed. Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June, items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans’ eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush’s advantage for the fall election. The familiar “Heir to Reagan” puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison—Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush—and it’s no surprise who suffered for it. Misty-eyed with nostalgia, people set aside old political gripes for a few days and remembered what friend and foe always conceded to Ronald Reagan: He was damned impressive in the role of leader of the free world. A sign in the crowd, spotted during the slow roll to the Capitol rotunda, seemed to sum up the mood—a portrait of my father and the words NOW THERE WAS A PRESIDENT.
The comparison underscored something important. And the guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can’t be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees—Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn’t quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him—these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too—a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That’s so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.
Politicians will stretch the truth. They’ll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken “normal” mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.
None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a “hater,” and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It’s one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.
Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that’s not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy’s critique of George W. Bush.
THE MOST EGREGIOUS EXAMPLES OF distortion and misdirection—which the administration even now cannot bring itself to repudiate—involve our putative “War on Terror” and our subsequent foray into Iraq.
During his campaign for the presidency, Mr. Bush pledged a more “humble” foreign policy. “I would take the use of force very seriously,” he said. “I would be guarded in my approach.” Other countries would resent us “if we’re an arrogant nation.” He sniffed at the notion of “nation building.” “Our military is meant to fight and win wars. . . . And when it gets overextended, morale drops.” International cooperation and consensus building would be the cornerstone of a Bush administration’s approach to the larger world. Given candidate Bush’s remarks, it was hard to imagine him, as president, flipping a stiff middle finger at the world and charging off adventuring in the Middle East.
But didn’t 9/11 reshuffle the deck, changing everything? Didn’t Mr. Bush, on September 12, 2001, awaken to the fresh realization that bad guys in charge of Islamic nations constitute an entirely new and grave threat to us and have to be ruthlessly confronted lest they threaten the American homeland again? Wasn’t Saddam Hussein rushed to the front of the line because he was complicit with the hijackers and in some measure responsible for the atrocities in Washington, D. C., and at the tip of Manhattan?
As Bush’s former Treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, and his onetime “terror czar,” Richard A. Clarke, have made clear, the president, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, was contemplating action against Iraq from day one. “From the start, we were building the case against Hussein and looking at how we could take him out,” O’Neill said. All they needed was an excuse. Clarke got the same impression from within the White House. Afghanistan had to be dealt with first; that’s where the actual perpetrators were, after all. But the Taliban was a mere appetizer; Saddam was the entrée. (Or who knows? The soup course?) It was simply a matter of convincing the American public (and our representatives) that war was justified.
The real—but elusive—prime mover behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, was quickly relegated to a back burner (a staff member at Fox News—the cable-TV outlet of the Bush White House—told me a year ago that mere mention of bin Laden’s name was forbidden within the company, lest we be reminded that the actual bad guy remained at large) while Saddam’s Iraq became International Enemy Number One. Just like that, a country whose economy had been reduced to shambles by international sanctions, whose military was less than half the size it had been when the U. S. Army rolled over it during the first Gulf war, that had extensive no-flight zones imposed on it in the north and south as well as constant aerial and satellite surveillance, and whose lethal weapons and capacity to produce such weapons had been destroyed or seriously degraded by UN inspection teams became, in Mr. Bush’s words, “a threat of unique urgency” to the most powerful nation on earth.
Fanciful but terrifying scenarios were introduced: Unmanned aircraft, drones, had been built for missions targeting the U. S., Bush told the nation. “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice deadpanned to CNN. And, Bush maintained, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.” We “know” Iraq possesses such weapons, Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney assured us. We even “know” where they are hidden. After several months of this mumbo jumbo, 70 percent of Americans had embraced the fantasy that Saddam destroyed the World Trade Center.
ALL THESE ASSERTIONS have proved to be baseless and, we’ve since discovered, were regarded with skepticism by experts at the time they were made. But contrary opinions were derided, ignored, or covered up in the rush to war. Even as of this writing, Dick Cheney clings to his mad assertion that Saddam was somehow at the nexus of a worldwide terror network.
And then there was Abu Ghraib. Our “war president” may have been justified in his assumption that Americans are a warrior people. He pushed the envelope in thinking we’d be content as an occupying power, but he was sadly mistaken if he thought that ordinary Americans would tolerate an image of themselves as torturers. To be fair, the torture was meant to be secret. So were the memos justifying such treatment that had floated around the White House, Pentagon, and Justice Department for more than a year before the first photos came to light. The neocons no doubt appreciate that few of us have the stones to practice the New Warfare. Could you slip a pair of women’s panties over the head of a naked, cowering stranger while forcing him to masturbate? What would you say while sodomizing him with a toilet plunger? Is keeping someone awake till he hallucinates inhumane treatment or merely “sleep management”?
Most of us know the answers to these questions, so it was incumbent upon the administration to pretend that Abu Ghraib was an aberration, not policy. Investigations, we were assured, were already under way; relevant bureaucracies would offer unstinting cooperation; the handful of miscreants would be sternly disciplined. After all, they didn’t “represent the best of what America’s all about.” As anyone who’d watched the proceedings of the 9/11 Commission could have predicted, what followed was the usual administration strategy of stonewalling, obstruction, and obfuscation. The appointment of investigators was stalled; documents were withheld, including the full report by Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the Army’s primary investigation into the abuses at Abu Ghraib. A favorite moment for many featured John McCain growing apoplectic as Donald Rumsfeld and an entire tableful of army brass proved unable to answer the simple question Who was in charge at Abu Ghraib?
The Bush administration no doubt had its real reasons for invading and occupying Iraq. They’ve simply chosen not to share them with the American public. They sought justification for ignoring the Geneva Convention and other statutes prohibiting torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners but were loath to acknowledge as much. They may have ideas worth discussing, but they don’t welcome the rest of us in the conversation. They don’t trust us because they don’t dare expose their true agendas to the light of day. There is a surreal quality to all this: Occupation is liberation; Iraq is sovereign, but we’re in control; Saddam is in Iraqi custody, but we’ve got him; we’ll get out as soon as an elected Iraqi government asks us, but we’ll be there for years to come. Which is what we counted on in the first place, only with rose petals and easy coochie.
This Möbius reality finds its domestic analogue in the perversely cynical “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” sloganeering at Bush’s EPA and in the administration’s irresponsible tax cutting and other fiscal shenanigans. But the Bush administration has always worn strangely tinted shades, and you wonder to what extent Mr. Bush himself lives in a world of his own imagining.
And chances are your America and George W. Bush’s America are not the same place. If you are dead center on the earning scale in real-world twenty-first-century America, you make a bit less than $32,000 a year, and $32,000 is not a sum that Mr. Bush has ever associated with getting by in his world. Bush, who has always managed to fail upwards in his various careers, has never had a job the way you have a job—where not showing up one morning gets you fired, costing you your health benefits. He may find it difficult to relate personally to any of the nearly two million citizens who’ve lost their jobs under his administration, the first administration since Herbert Hoover’s to post a net loss of jobs. Mr. Bush has never had to worry that he couldn’t afford the best available health care for his children. For him, forty-three million people without health insurance may be no more than a politically inconvenient abstraction. When Mr. Bush talks about the economy, he is not talking about your economy. His economy is filled with pals called Kenny-boy who fly around in their own airplanes. In Bush’s economy, his world, friends relocate offshore to avoid paying taxes. Taxes are for chumps like you. You are not a friend. You’re the help. When the party Mr. Bush is hosting in his world ends, you’ll be left picking shrimp toast out of the carpet.
ALL ADMINISTRATIONS WILL DISSEMBLE, distort, or outright lie when their backs are against the wall, when honesty begins to look like political suicide. But this administration seems to lie reflexively, as if it were simply the easiest option for busy folks with a lot on their minds. While the big lies are more damning and of immeasurably greater import to the nation, it is the small, unnecessary prevarications that may be diagnostic. Who lies when they don’t have to? When the simple truth, though perhaps embarrassing in the short run, is nevertheless in one’s long-term self-interest? Why would a president whose calling card is his alleged rock-solid integrity waste his chief asset for penny-ante stakes? Habit, perhaps. Or an inability to admit even small mistakes.
Mr. Bush’s tendency to meander beyond the bounds of truth was evident during the 2000 campaign but was largely ignored by the mainstream media. His untruths simply didn’t fit the agreed-upon narrative. While generally acknowledged to be lacking in experience, depth, and other qualifications typically considered useful in a leader of the free world, Bush was portrayed as a decent fellow nonetheless, one whose straightforwardness was a given. None of that “what the meaning of is is” business for him. And, God knows, no furtive, taxpayer-funded fellatio sessions with the interns. Al Gore, on the other hand, was depicted as a dubious self-reinventor, stained like a certain blue dress by Bill Clinton’s prurient transgressions. He would spend valuable weeks explaining away statements—”I invented the Internet”—that he never made in the first place. All this left the coast pretty clear for Bush.
Scenario typical of the 2000 campaign: While debating Al Gore, Bush tells two obvious—if not exactly earth-shattering—lies and is not challenged. First, he claims to have supported a patient’s bill of rights while governor of Texas. This is untrue. He, in fact, vigorously resisted such a measure, only reluctantly bowing to political reality and allowing it to become law without his signature. Second, he announces that Gore has outspent him during the campaign. The opposite is true: Bush has outspent Gore. These misstatements are briefly acknowledged in major press outlets, which then quickly return to the more germane issues of Gore’s pancake makeup and whether a certain feminist author has counseled him to be more of an “alpha male.”
Having gotten away with such witless falsities, perhaps Mr. Bush and his team felt somehow above day-to-day truth. In any case, once ensconced in the White House, they picked up where they left off.
IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH and confusion of 9/11, Bush, who on that day was in Sarasota, Florida, conducting an emergency reading of “The Pet Goat,” was whisked off to Nebraska aboard Air Force One. While this may have been entirely sensible under the chaotic circumstances—for all anyone knew at the time, Washington might still have been under attack—the appearance was, shall we say, less than gallant. So a story was concocted: There had been a threat to Air Force One that necessitated the evasive maneuver. Bush’s chief political advisor, Karl Rove, cited “specific” and “credible” evidence to that effect. The story quickly unraveled. In truth, there was no such threat.
Then there was Bush’s now infamous photo-op landing aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and his subsequent speech in front of a large banner emblazoned MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. The banner, which loomed in the background as Bush addressed the crew, became problematic as it grew clear that the mission in Iraq—whatever that may have been—was far from accomplished. “Major combat operations,” as Bush put it, may have technically ended, but young Americans were still dying almost daily. So the White House dealt with the questionable banner in a manner befitting a president pledged to “responsibility and accountability”: It blamed the sailors. No surprise, a bit of digging by journalists revealed the banner and its premature triumphalism to be the work of the White House communications office.
More serious by an order of magnitude was the administration’s dishonesty concerning pre-9/11 terror warnings. As questions first arose about the country’s lack of preparedness in the face of terrorist assault, Condoleezza Rice was dispatched to the pundit arenas to assure the nation that “no one could have imagined terrorists using aircraft as weapons.” In fact, terrorism experts had warned repeatedly of just such a calamity. In June 2001, CIA director George Tenet sent Rice an intelligence report warning that “it is highly likely that a significant Al Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks.” Two intelligence briefings given to Bush in the summer of 2001 specifically connected Al Qaeda to the imminent danger of hijacked planes being used as weapons. According to The New York Times, after the second of these briefings, titled “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,” was delivered to the president at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August, Bush “broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing.” This was the briefing Dr. Rice dismissed as “historical” in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission.
What’s odd is that none of these lies were worth the breath expended in the telling. If only for self-serving political reasons, honesty was the way to go. The flight of Air Force One could easily have been explained in terms of security precautions taken in the confusion of momentous events. As for the carrier landing, someone should have fallen on his or her sword at the first hint of trouble: We told the president he needed to do it; he likes that stuff and was gung-ho; we figured, What the hell?; it was a mistake. The banner? We thought the sailors would appreciate it. In retrospect, also a mistake. Yup, we sure feel dumb now. Owning up to the 9/11 warnings would have entailed more than simple embarrassment. But done forthrightly and immediately, an honest reckoning would have earned the Bush team some respect once the dust settled. Instead, by needlessly tap-dancing, Bush’s White House squandered vital credibility, turning even relatively minor gaffes into telling examples of its tendency to distort and evade the truth.
But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has “never fully inhabited” the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can’t speak but because he doesn’t bother to think.
GEORGE W. BUSH PROMISED to “change the tone in Washington” and ran for office as a moderate, a “compassionate conservative,” in the focus-group-tested sloganeering of his campaign. Yet he has governed from the right wing of his already conservative party, assiduously tending a “base” that includes, along with the expected Fortune 500 fat cats, fiscal evangelicals who talk openly of doing away with Social Security and Medicare, of shrinking government to the size where they can, in tax radical Grover Norquist’s phrase, “drown it in the bathtub.” That base also encompasses a healthy share of anti-choice zealots, homophobic bigots, and assorted purveyors of junk science. Bush has tossed bones to all of them—”partial birth” abortion legislation, the promise of a constitutional amendment banning marriage between homosexuals, federal roadblocks to embryonic-stem-cell research, even comments suggesting presidential doubts about Darwinian evolution. It’s not that Mr. Bush necessarily shares their worldview; indeed, it’s unclear whether he embraces any coherent philosophy. But this president, who vowed to eschew politics in favor of sound policy, panders nonetheless in the interest of political gain. As John DiIulio, Bush’s former head of the Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, once told this magazine, “What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm.”
This was not what the American electorate opted for when, in 2000, by a slim but decisive margin of more than half a million votes, they chose . . . the other guy. Bush has never had a mandate. Surveys indicate broad public dissatisfaction with his domestic priorities. How many people would have voted for Mr. Bush in the first place had they understood his eagerness to pass on crushing debt to our children or seen his true colors regarding global warming and the environment? Even after 9/11, were people really looking to be dragged into an optional war under false pretenses?
If ever there was a time for uniting and not dividing, this is it. Instead, Mr. Bush governs as if by divine right, seeming to actually believe that a wise God wants him in the White House and that by constantly evoking the horrible memory of September 11, 2001, he can keep public anxiety stirred up enough to carry him to another term.
UNDERSTANDABLY, SOME SUPPORTERS of Mr. Bush’s will believe I harbor a personal vendetta against the man, some seething resentment. One conservative commentator, based on earlier remarks I’ve made, has already discerned “jealousy” on my part; after all, Bush, the son of a former president, now occupies that office himself, while I, most assuredly, will not. Truth be told, I have no personal feelings for Bush at all. I hardly know him, having met him only twice, briefly and uneventfully—once during my father’s presidency and once during my father’s funeral. I’ll acknowledge occasional annoyance at the pretense that he’s somehow a clone of my father, but far from threatening, I see this more as silly and pathetic. My father, acting roles excepted, never pretended to be anyone but himself. His Republican party, furthermore, seems a far cry from the current model, with its cringing obeisance to the religious Right and its kill-anything-that-moves attack instincts. Believe it or not, I don’t look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation’s history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don’t trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them?
Fortunately, we still live in a democratic republic. The Bush team cannot expect a cabal of right-wing justices to once again deliver the White House. Come November 2, we will have a choice: We can embrace a lie, or we can restore a measure of integrity to our government. We can choose, as a bumper sticker I spotted in Seattle put it, SOMEONE ELSE FOR PRESIDENT.
I thought it appropriate to commemorate this 500th GRL entry by reposting an excellent speech by Bill Moyers. I have to agree with him 100%. This is the fight of our lives. We simply cannot afford to let this country be driven any further into the ground.
We have seven weeks left until the election. You can make a difference, especially by talking to friends and family in swing states. If you want some suggestions on other things you can do, from hosting house parties to volunteering to help get out the vote, Moveon.org has a host of suggestions and materials you can use. In particular, you might want to forward around some of the ads that MoveOn has created for the final 10 week push to the election. View them here.
Get out there and make a difference.
“The middle class and working poor are told that what’s happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand.’ This is a lie. What’s happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us.”
– Bill Moyers, Keynote speech, June 3, 2004
It is important from time to time to remember that some things are worth getting mad about.
Here’s one: On March 10 of this year, on page B8, with a headline that stretched across all six columns, The New York Times reported that tuition in the city’s elite private schools would hit $26,000 for the coming school year — for kindergarten as well as high school. On the same page, under a two-column headline, Michael Wineraub wrote about a school in nearby Mount Vernon, the first stop out of the Bronx, with a student body that is 97 percent black. It is the poorest school in the town: nine out of ten children qualify for free lunches; one out of 10 lives in a homeless shelter. During black history month this past February, a sixth grader wanted to write a report on Langston Hughes. There were no books on Langston Hughes in the library — no books about the great poet, nor any of his poems. There is only one book in the library on Frederick Douglass. None on Rosa Parks, Josephine Baker, Leontyne Price, or other giants like them in the modern era. In fact, except for a few Newberry Award books the librarian bought with her own money, the library is mostly old books — largely from the 1950s and 60s when the school was all white. A 1960 child’s primer on work begins with a youngster learning how to be a telegraph delivery boy. All the workers in the book — the dry cleaner, the deliveryman, the cleaning lady — are white. There’s a 1967 book about telephones which says: “when you phone you usually dial the number. But on some new phones you can push buttons.” The newest encyclopedia dates from l991, with two volumes — “b” and “r” — missing. There is no card catalog in the library — no index cards or computer.
Something to get mad about.
Here’s something else: Caroline Payne’s face and gums are distorted because her Medicaid-financed dentures don’t fit. Because they don’t fit, she is continuously turned down for jobs on account of her appearance. Caroline Payne is one of the people in David Shipler’s new book,’ The Working Poor: Invisible in America’. She was born poor, and in spite of having once owned her own home and having earned a two-year college degree, Caroline Payne has bounced from one poverty-wage job to another all her life, equipped with the will to move up, but not the resources to deal with unexpected and overlapping problems like a mentally handicapped daughter, a broken marriage, a sudden layoff crisis that forced her to sell her few assets, pull up roots and move on. “In the house of the poor,” Shipler writes “…the walls are thin and fragile and troubles seep into one another.”
Here’s something else to get mad about. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives, the body of Congress owned and operated by the corporate, political, and religious right, approved new tax credits for children. Not for poor children, mind you. But for families earning as much as $309,000 a year — families that already enjoy significant benefits from earlier tax cuts. The editorial page of The Washington Post called this “bad social policy, bad tax policy, and bad fiscal policy. You’d think they’d be embarrassed,” said the Post, “but they’re not.”
And this, too, is something to get mad about. Nothing seems to embarrass the political class in Washington today. Not the fact that more children are growing up in poverty in America than in any other industrial nation; not the fact that millions of workers are actually making less money today in real dollars than they did twenty years ago; not the fact that working people are putting in longer and longer hours and still falling behind; not the fact that while we have the most advanced medical care in the world, nearly 44 million Americans — eight out of ten of them in working families — are uninsured and cannot get the basic care they need.
Astonishing as it seems, no one in official Washington seems embarrassed by the fact that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it’s been in 50 years — the worst inequality among all western nations. Or that we are experiencing a shift in poverty. For years it was said those people down there at the bottom were single, jobless mothers. For years they were told work, education, and marriage is how they move up the economic ladder. But poverty is showing up where we didn’t expect it — among families that include two parents, a worker, and a head of the household with more than a high school education. These are the newly poor. Our political, financial and business class expects them to climb out of poverty on an escalator moving downward.
Let me tell you about the Stanleys and the Neumanns. During the last decade, I produced a series of documentaries for PBS called “Surviving the Good Times.” The title refers to the boom time of the ’90s when the country achieved the longest period of economic growth in its entire history. Some good things happened then, but not everyone shared equally in the benefits. To the contrary. The decade began with a sustained period of downsizing by corporations moving jobs out of America and many of those people never recovered what was taken from them. We decided early on to tell the stories of two families in Milwaukee — one black, one white — whose breadwinners were laid off in the first wave of layoffs in 1991. We reported on how they were coping with the wrenching changes in their lives, and we stayed with them over the next ten years as they tried to find a place in the new global economy. They’re the kind of Americans my mother would have called “the salt of the earth.” They love their kids, care about their communities, go to church every Sunday, and work hard all week — both mothers have had to take full-time jobs.
During our time with them, the fathers in both families became seriously ill. One had to stay in the hospital two months, putting his family $30,000 in debt because they didn’t have adequate health insurance. We were there with our camera when the bank started to foreclose on the modest home of the other family because they couldn’t meet the mortgage payments after dad lost his good-paying manufacturing job. Like millions of Americans, the Stanleys and the Neumanns were playing by the rules and still getting stiffed. By the end of the decade they were running harder but slipping behind, and the gap between them and prosperous America was widening.
What turns their personal tragedy into a political travesty is that they are patriotic. They love this country. But they no longer believe they matter to the people who run the country. When our film opens, both families are watching the inauguration of Bill Clinton on television in 1992. By the end of the decade they were no longer paying attention to politics. They don’t see it connecting to their lives. They don’t think their concerns will ever be addressed by the political, corporate, and media elites who make up our dominant class. They are not cynical, because they are deeply religious people with no capacity for cynicism, but they know the system is rigged against them. They know this, and we know this. For years now a small fraction of American households have been garnering an extreme concentration of wealth and income while large corporations and financial institutions have obtained unprecedented levels of economic and political power over daily life. In 1960, the gap in terms of wealth between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was 30 fold. Four decades later it is more than 75 fold.
Such concentrations of wealth would be far less of an issue if the rest of society were benefiting proportionately. But that’s not the case. As the economist Jeff Madrick reminds us, the pressures of inequality on middle and working class Americans are now quite severe. “The strain on working people and on family life, as spouses have gone to work in dramatic numbers, has become significant. VCRs and television sets are cheap, but higher education, health care, public transportation, drugs, housing and cars have risen faster in price than typical family incomes. And life has grown neither calm nor secure for most Americans, by any means.” You can find many sources to support this conclusion. I like the language of a small outfit here in New York called the Commonwealth Foundation/Center for the Renewal of American Democracy. They conclude that working families and the poor “are losing ground under economic pressures that deeply affect household stability, family dynamics, social mobility, political participation, and civic life.”
Household economics is not the only area where inequality is growing in America. Equality doesn’t mean equal incomes, but a fair and decent society where money is not the sole arbiter of status or comfort. In a fair and just society, the commonwealth will be valued even as individual wealth is encouraged.
Let me make something clear here. I wasn’t born yesterday. I’m old enough to know that the tension between haves and have-nots are built into human psychology, it is a constant in human history, and it has been a factor in every society. But I also know America was going to be different. I know that because I read Mr. Jefferson’s writings, Mr. Lincoln’s speeches and other documents in the growing American creed. I presumptuously disagreed with Thomas Jefferson about human equality being self-evident. Where I lived, neither talent, nor opportunity, nor outcomes were equal. Life is rarely fair and never equal. So what could he possibly have meant by that ringing but ambiguous declaration: “All men are created equal”? Two things, possibly. One, although none of us are good, all of us are sacred (Glenn Tinder), that’s the basis for thinking we are by nature kin.
Second, he may have come to see the meaning of those words through the experience of the slave who was his mistress. As is now widely acknowledged, the hands that wrote “all men are created equal” also stroked the breasts and caressed the thighs of a black woman named Sally Hennings. She bore him six children whom he never acknowledged as his own, but who were the only slaves freed by his will when he died — the one request we think Sally Hennings made of her master. Thomas Jefferson could not have been insensitive to the flesh-and-blood woman in his arms. He had to know she was his equal in her desire for life, her longing for liberty, her passion for happiness.
In his book on the Declaration, my late friend Mortimer Adler said Jefferson realized that whatever things are really good for any human being are really good for all other human beings. The happy or good life is essentially the same for all: a satisfaction of the same needs inherent in human nature. A just society is grounded in that recognition. So Jefferson kept as a slave a woman whose nature he knew was equal to his. All Sally Hennings got from her long sufferance — perhaps it was all she sought from what may have grown into a secret and unacknowledged love — was that he let her children go. “Let my children go” — one of the oldest of all petitions. It has long been the promise of America — a broken promise, to be sure. But the idea took hold that we could fix what was broken so that our children would live a bountiful life. We could prevent the polarization between the very rich and the very poor that poisoned other societies. We could provide that each and every citizen would enjoy the basic necessities of life, a voice in the system of self-government, and a better chance for their children. We could preclude the vast divides that produced the turmoil and tyranny of the very countries from which so many of our families had fled.
We were going to do these things because we understood our dark side — none of us is good — but we also understood the other side — all of us are sacred. From Jefferson forward we have grappled with these two notions in our collective head — that we are worthy of the creator but that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Believing the one and knowing the other, we created a country where the winners didn’t take all. Through a system of checks and balances we were going to maintain a safe, if shifting, equilibrium between wealth and commonwealth. We believed equitable access to public resources is the lifeblood of any democracy. So early on [in Jeff Madrick's description,] primary schooling was made free to all. States changed laws to protect debtors, often the relatively poor, against their rich creditors. Charters to establish corporations were open to most, if not all, white comers, rather than held for the elite. The government encouraged Americans to own their own piece of land, and even supported squatters’ rights. The court challenged monopoly — all in the name of we the people.
In my time we went to public schools. My brother made it to college on the GI bill. When I bought my first car for $450 I drove to a subsidized university on free public highways and stopped to rest in state-maintained public parks. This is what I mean by the commonwealth. Rudely recognized in its formative years, always subject to struggle, constantly vulnerable to reactionary counterattacks, the notion of America as a shared project has been the central engine of our national experience.
Until now. I don’t have to tell you that a profound transformation is occurring in America: the balance between wealth and the commonwealth is being upended. By design. Deliberately. We have been subjected to what the Commonwealth Foundation calls “a fanatical drive to dismantle the political institutions, the legal and statutory canons, and the intellectual and cultural frameworks that have shaped public responsibility for social harms arising from the excesses of private power.” From land, water and other natural resources, to media and the broadcast and digital spectrums, to scientific discovery and medical breakthroughs, and to politics itself, a broad range of the American commons is undergoing a powerful shift toward private and corporate control. And with little public debate. Indeed, what passes for ‘political debate’ in this country has become a cynical charade behind which the real business goes on — the not-so-scrupulous business of getting and keeping power in order to divide up the spoils.
We could have seen this coming if we had followed the money. The veteran Washington reporter, Elizabeth Drew, says “the greatest change in Washington over the past 25 years — in its culture, in the way it does business and the ever-burgeoning amount of business transactions that go on here — has been in the preoccupation with money.” Jeffrey Birnbaum, who covered Washington for nearly twenty years for the Wall Street Journal, put it more strongly: “[campaign cash] has flooded over the gunwales of the ship of state and threatens to sink the entire vessel. Political donations determine the course and speed of many government actions that deeply affect our daily lives.” Politics is suffocating from the stranglehold of money. During his brief campaign in 2000, before he was ambushed by the dirty tricks of the religious right in South Carolina and big money from George W. Bush’s wealthy elites, John McCain said elections today are nothing less than an “influence peddling scheme in which both parties compete to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder.”
Small wonder that with the exception of people like John McCain and Russ Feingold, official Washington no longer finds anything wrong with a democracy dominated by the people with money. Hit the pause button here, and recall Roger Tamraz. He’s the wealthy oilman who paid $300,000 to get a private meeting in the White House with President Clinton; he wanted help in securing a big pipeline in central Asia. This got him called before congressional hearings on the financial excesses of the 1996 campaign. If you watched the hearings on C-Span you heard him say he didn’t think he had done anything out of the ordinary. When they pressed him he told the senators: “Look, when it comes to money and politics, you make the rules. I’m just playing by your rules.” One senator then asked if Tamraz had registered and voted. And he was blunt in his reply: “No, senator, I think money’s a bit more (important) than the vote.”
So what does this come down to, practically?
Here is one accounting:
“When powerful interests shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they often get what they want. But it’s ordinary citizens and firms that pay the price and most of them never see it coming. This is what happens if you don’t contribute to their campaigns or spend generously on lobbying. You pick up a disproportionate share of America’s tax bill. You pay higher prices for a broad range of products from peanuts to prescriptions. You pay taxes that others in a similar situation have been excused from paying. You’re compelled to abide by laws while others are granted immunity from them. You must pay debts that you incur while others do not. You’re barred from writing off on your tax returns some of the money spent on necessities while others deduct the cost of their entertainment. You must run your business by one set of rules, while the government creates another set for your competitors. In contrast, the fortunate few who contribute to the right politicians and hire the right lobbyists enjoy all the benefits of their special status. Make a bad business deal; the government bails them out. If they want to hire workers at below market wages, the government provides the means to do so. If they want more time to pay their debts, the government gives them an extension. If they want immunity from certain laws, the government gives it. If they want to ignore rules their competition must comply with, the government gives its approval. If they want to kill legislation that is intended for the public, it gets killed.”
I’m not quoting from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital or Mao’s Little Red Book. I’m quoting Time magazine. Time’s premier investigative journalists — Donald Bartlett and James Steele — concluded in a series last year that America now has “government for the few at the expense of the many.” Economic inequality begets political inequality, and vice versa.
That’s why the Stanleys and the Neumanns were turned off by politics. It’s why we’re losing the balance between wealth and the commonwealth. It’s why we can’t put things right. And it is the single most destructive force tearing at the soul of democracy. Hear the great justice Learned Hand on this: “If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: ‘Thou shalt not ration justice.’ ” Learned Hand was a prophet of democracy. The rich have the right to buy more homes than anyone else. They have the right to buy more cars than anyone else, more gizmos than anyone else, more clothes and vacations than anyone else. But they do not have the right to buy more democracy than anyone else.
I know, I know: this sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago, in a powerful paperback polemic by William Simon, who was soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. He called on the financial and business class, in effect, to take back the power and privileges they had lost in the depression and new deal. They got the message, and soon they began a stealthy class war against the rest of society and the principles of our democracy. They set out to trash the social contract, to cut their workforces and wages, to scour the globe in search of cheap labor, and to shred the social safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control. Business Week put it bluntly at the time: “Some people will obviously have to do with less….it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”
The middle class and working poor are told that what’s happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand.” This is a lie. What’s happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us.
To create the intellectual framework for this takeover of public policy they funded conservative think tanks — The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute — that churned out study after study advocating their agenda.
To put political muscle behind these ideas they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class — Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post — wrote: “During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area.” Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right — Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition — who mounted a cultural war providing a smokescreen for the class war, hiding the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the cause of privilege.
In a book to be published this summer, Daniel Altman describes what he calls the “neo-economy — a place without taxes, without a social safety net, where rich and poor live in different financial worlds — and [said Altman] it’s coming to America.” He’s a little late. It’s here. Says Warren Buffett, the savviest investor of them all: “My class won.”
Look at the spoils of victory:
Over the past three years, they’ve pushed through $2 trillion dollars in tax cuts — almost all tilted towards the wealthiest people in the country.
Cuts in taxes on the largest incomes.
Cuts in taxes on investment income.
And cuts in taxes on huge inheritances.
More than half of the benefits are going to the wealthiest one percent. You could call it trickle-down economics, except that the only thing that trickled down was a sea of red ink in our state and local governments, forcing them to cut services for and raise taxes on middle class working America.
Now the Congressional Budget Office forecasts deficits totaling $2.75 trillion over the next ten years.
These deficits have been part of their strategy. Some of you will remember that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us 20 years ago, when he predicted that President Ronald Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Reagan’s own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as such. Now the leading rightwing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to “starve the beast” — with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the United States Government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.
There’s no question about it: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and religious right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children’s children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war.
And they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of practicing journalism I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t have made up the things that this crew have been saying. The president’s chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy. The president’s Council of Economic Advisers report that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president’s Federal Reserve Chairman says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in social security – but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway. The president’s Labor Secretary says it doesn’t matter if job growth has stalled because “the stock market is the ultimate arbiter.”
You just can’t make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing.
But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans — and to the workings of American democracy — is no laughing matter. Go online and read the transcripts of Enron traders in the energy crisis four years ago, discussing how they were manipulating the California power market in telephone calls in which they gloat about ripping off “those poor grandmothers.” Read how they talk about political contributions to politicians like “Kenny Boy” Lay’s best friend George W. Bush. Go on line and read how Citigroup has been fined $70 Million for abuses in loans to low-income, high risk borrowers – the largest penalty ever imposed by the Federal Reserve. A few clicks later, you can find the story of how a subsidiary of the corporate computer giant NEC has been fined over $20 million after pleading guilty to corruption in a federal plan to bring Internet access to poor schools and libraries. And this, the story says, is just one piece of a nationwide scheme to rip off the government and the poor.
Let’s face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs — if this isn’t class war, what is?
It’s un-American. It’s unpatriotic. And it’s wrong.
But I don’t need to tell you this. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t know it. Your presence at this gathering confirms that while an America with liberty and justice for all is a broken promise, it is not a lost cause. Once upon a time I thought the mass media — my industry — would help mend this broken promise and save this cause. After all, the sight of police dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators forced America to recognize the reality of racial injustice. The sight of carnage in Vietnam forced us to recognize the war was unwinnable. The sight of terrorists striking the World Trade Center woke us from a long slumber of denial and distraction. I thought the mass media might awaken Americans to the reality that this ideology of winner-take-all is working against them and not for them. I was wrong. With honorable exceptions, we can’t count on the mass media.
What we need is a mass movement of people like you. Get mad, yes — there’s plenty to be mad about. Then get organized and get busy. This is the fight of our lives.
I ran across a pretty interesting series of articles, written last week by Jeffrey St. Clair, editor of CounterPunch.org and the author of several books, including Imperial Crusades. I’d encourage you to read them. Though I’ve read most of the material elsewhere, Mr. St. Clair did a pretty good job of hitting the high points with an ascerbic wit, and a sometimes over-the-top meaness, that, when viewed in the context of the Bush administration’s tactics, seem unfortunately appropriate. As sad as that is to say. Note: Be sure to scroll down once the page loads. There is a subscription section at the top that may take up the full page at lower browser resolutions. The articles are below that section.
There were two rather shocking quotes in Part One. Barbara Bush on Good Morning America, about the escalating
body count in Iraq: “Why should we hear about body bags and deaths and how many,” the Presidential Mother
snapped.” It’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” In this
article, Mr. St. Clair spares no venom for the elder Mrs. Bush.
George Soros was one of the wealthy investors (as was Mohammad bin Laden, father of Osama) that bailed out Harken Oil (one of Bush’s early business failures). Interesting tidbit, when viewed in the light of how desperately Mr. Soros now is to get Bush out of the White House. One of the investors in Harken was George Soros, who explained the bail out of Bush in frank terms. “We were
buying political influence. That was it. Bush wasn’t much of a businessman.”
(Cheney) later rationalized the decision not to depose Saddam (in the first Gulf war) or support uprisings by
Iraqi and Kurdish rebels, predicting that the fall of the Ba’athists would destabilize the entire region. How
right you were, Dick.
This administration’s Iran/Contra doppleganger could be the alleged leaking of state secrets to Israeli
intelligence by members of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, namely Larry Franklin and Douglas Feith.
Here’s something I didn’t know: “Feith himself is no stranger to such inquiries into leaking classified
information to the Israelis. In 1982, Feith was fired from his position as an analyst on Middle East issues in
the Reagan administration’s National Security Council on suspicion of leaking material to the an official with
the Israeli embassy in Washington.” Wow. Didn’t know that. I just hope this story gets the coverage it
The maintenance of this creepy state of affairs depends on the mainlining of anxiety, inculcating an
ever-tender sense of trauma in the psyche of the populace. Thus, the color-coded terror alerts, issued with the
precision of a metronome.
Look for Part Five: The House Rules on Tuesday, at http://www.counterpunch.org.
An alert reader sent this in last night, and highlighted her favorite parts. It’s Jimmy Carter’s speech to the Democratic Convention of 1980. I (sorta) remember that speech, his last great speech before losing to Ronald Reagan. What’s worthy about it today is that it’s stunningly accurate and applicable to the situation in which we find ourselves today. Chillingly so. The Republican aims are the same, and their tactics are the same. Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House; Reagan had them torn down because he didn’t like the way they looked.
Tonight the Republicans trot out their biggest guns, and Bush makes his case for another term. So far, the convention has been utterly devoid of any talk about energy policy. The Progress Report’s analysis of the convention last night did a great job of reviewing the many hyprocrisies and flat-out lies that it included, and did this word count on Cheney’s speech, which of itself offers a good profile of the convention as a whole:
In a 2,800-word speech, Cheney devoted just 50 words of his speech to health care, 92 to the economy and 102 to education. There was no mention of energy policy, trade or the environment. Even Iraq, undoubtedly the focus of Cheney’s term in office, merited just 34 words. Number of words Cheney devoted to personally attacking and distorting the record of John Kerry: 671.
Contrast that with Carter’s speech in 1980, which was completely about policy. (Maybe that’s why Reagan beat him with happy talk.)
I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that this election is a defining moment in the history of Man. By the time of the next election in 2008, we will have reached the global peak of oil production and we will be beginning our descent to a post-carbon world. If the Republicans win this election, with their hydrocarbon-based energy policy and their illegitimate wars of hegemony against oil-producing nations, we are sunk. As goes the U.S. with its energy policy, so will go the world. The party who wins will determine whether we have a chance to use our precious little remaining time and energy to execute a rapid transition to energy effiency and renewable generation, or whether we will squander it while denying scientific fact and maximizing profits for the energy companies. Literally, everything is on the line here.
As we wrap up a week of listening to the GOP carrying on about 9-11 and their endless war on “terror,” while the elephant of energy policy makes itself comfortable in the living room, Carter’s warnings and assessment of the world in 1980 are a good jolt back to reality.
Of course we’re at a different point with energy now than we were 24 years ago. Increasing domestic drilling won’t help us out of this mess any more–it’s but a drop in the bucket. And we know that increased coal use has cost us dearly in damage to our health and the environment. But Carter was generally pointing us in the right direction: energy independence. If we had only used the last 24 years to keep going in that direction, we’d be in a very different place today. Indeed, in all likelihood, 9-11 would have never even happened.
Thanks to the alert reader for digging this up and highlighting the best parts.
Fritz and I will mount a campaign that defines the real issues, a campaign
that responds to the intelligence of the American people, a campaign that talks
sense. And we’re going to beat the Republicans in November.
We’ll win because we are the party of a great President who knew how to get
reelected–Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And we are the party of a courageous
fighter who knew how to give ‘em hell–Harry Truman. And as Truman said, he just
told the truth and they thought it was hell. And we’re the party of a gallant
man of spirit–John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And we’re the party of a great leader of
compassion–Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the party of a great man who should have
been President, who would have been one of the greatest Presidents in
history–Hubert Horatio Hornblower–Humphrey. I have appreciated what this
convention has said about Senator Humphrey, a great man who epitomized the
spirit of the Democratic Party. And I would like to say that we are also
theparty of Governor Jerry Brown and Senator Edward Kennedy.
I’d like to say a personal word to Senator Kennedy. Ted, you’re a tough
competitor and a superb campaigner, and I can attest to that. Your speech before
this convention was a magnificent statement of what the Democratic Party is and
what it means to the people of this country and why a Democratic victory is so
important this year. I reach out to you tonight, and I reach out to all those
who supported you in your valiant and passionate campaign. Ted, your party needs
and I need you. And I need your idealism and your dedication working for us.
There is no doubt that even greater service lies ahead of you, and we are
grateful to you and to have your strong partnership now in a larger cause to
which your own life has been dedicated.
I thank you for your support; we’ll make great partners this fall in whipping
the Republicans. We are Democrats and we’ve had our differences, but we share a
bright vision of America’s future–a vision of a good life for all our people, a
vision of a secure nation, a just society, a peaceful world, a strong
America–confident and proud and united. And we have a memory of
Franklin Roosevelt, 40 years ago, when he said that there are times in our
history when concerns over our personal lives are overshadowed by our concern
over “what will happen to the county we have known.” This is such a time, and I
can tell you that the choice to be made this year can transform our own personal
lives and the life of our country as well.
During the last Presidential campaign, I crisscrossed this country and I
listened to thousands and thousands of people-housewives and farmers, teachers
and small business leaders, workers and students, the elderly and the poor,
people of every race and every background and every walk of life. It was a
powerful experience–a total immersion in the human reality of America.
And I have now had another kind of total immersion–being President of the
United States of America. Let me talk for a moment about what that job is like
and what I’ve learned from it. I’ve learned that only the most complex and
difficult task comes before me in the Oval Office. No easy answers are found
there, because no easy questions come there.
I’ve learned that for a President, experience is the best guide to the right
decisions. I’m wiser tonight than I was 4 years ago. And I have learned that the
Presidency is a place of compassion. My own heart is burdened for the troubled
Americans. The poor and the jobless and the afflicted-they’ve become part of me.
My thoughts and my prayers for our hostages in Iran are as though they were my
own sons and daughters.
The life of every human being on Earth can depend on the experience
and judgment and vigilance of the person in the Oval Office. The President’s
power for building and his power for destruction are awesome. And the power’s
greatest exactly where the stakes are highest–in matters of war and peace.
And I’ve learned something else, something that I have come to see with
extraordinary clarity: Above all, I must look ahead, because the President of
the United States is the steward of the Nation’s destiny. He must protect our
children and the children they will have and the children of generations to
follow. He must speak and act for them. That is his burden and his glory.
And that is why a President cannot yield to the shortsighted demands, no
matter how rich or powerful the special interests might be that make those
demands. And that’s why the President cannot bend to the passions of the moment,
however popular they might be. That’s why the President must sometimes ask for
sacrifice when his listeners would rather hear the promise of comfort.
The President is a servant of today, but his true constituency is the
future. That’s why the election of 1980 is so important.
Some have said it makes no difference who wins this election. They are wrong.
This election is a stark choice between two men, two parties, two sharply
different pictures of what America is and what the world is, but it’s more than
that–it’s a choice between two futures.
The year 2000 is just less than 20 years away, just four Presidential
elections after this one. Children born this year will come of age in the 21st
century. The time to shape the world of the year 2000 is now. The decisions of
the next few years will set our course, perhaps an irreversible course, and the
most important of all choices will be made by the American people at the polls
less than 3 months from tonight.
The choice could not be more clear nor the consequences more crucial. In one
of the futures we can choose, the future that you and I have been building
together, I see security and justice and peace.
I see a future of economic security-security that will come from
tapping our own great resources of oil and gas, coal and sunlight, and from
building the tools and technology and factories for a revitalized economy based
on jobs and stable prices for everyone.
I see a future of justice–the justice of good jobs, decent health care,
quality education, a full opportunity for all people regardless of color or
language or religion; the simple human justice of equal rights for all men and
for all women, guaranteed equal rights at last under the Constitution of the
United States of America.
And I see a future of peace–a peace born of wisdom and based on a
fairness toward all countries of the world, a peace guaranteed both by American
military strength and by American moral strength as well.
That is the future I want for all people, a future of confidence and hope and
a good life. It’s the future America must choose, and with your help and with
your commitment, it is the future America will choose.
But there is another possible future. In that other future I see
despair–despair of millions who would struggle for equal opportunity and a
better life and struggle alone. And I see surrender–the surrender of our energy
future to the merchants of oil, the surrender of our economic future to a
bizarre program of massive tax cuts for the rich, service cuts for the poor, and
massive inflation for everyone. And I see risk–the risk of international
confrontation, the risk of an uncontrollable, unaffordable, and unwinnable
nuclear arms race.
No one, Democrat or Republican either, consciously seeks such a
future, and I do not claim that my opponent does. But I do question the
disturbing commitments and policies already made by him and by those with him
who have now captured control of the Republican Party. The consequences of those
commitments and policies would drive us down the wrong road. It’s up to all of
us to make sure America rejects this alarming and even perilous destiny.
The only way to build a better future is to start with the realities of the
present. But while we Democrats grapple with the real challenges of a real
world, others talk about a world of tinsel and make-believe.
Let’s look for a moment at their make-believe world.
In their fantasy America, inner-city people and farm workers and
laborers do not exist. Women, like children, are to be seen but not heard. The
problems of working women are simply ignored. The elderly do not need Medicare.
The young do not need more help in getting a better education. Workers do not
require the guarantee of a healthy and a safe place to work. In their fantasy
world, all the complex global changes of the world since World War II have never
happened. In their fantasy America, all problems have simple solutions–simple
It’s a make-believe world, a world of good guys and bad guys, where
some politicians shoot first and ask questions later. No hard choices, no
sacrifice, no tough decisions–it sounds too good to be true, and it is.
The path of fantasy leads to irresponsibility. The path of reality
leads to hope and peace. The two paths could not be more different, nor could
the futures to which they lead. Let’s take a hard look at the consequences of
You and I have been working toward a more secure future by rebuilding our
military strength–steadily, carefully, and responsibly. The Republicans talk
about military strength, but they were in office for 8 out of the last 11 years,
and in the face of a growing Soviet threat they steadily cut real defense
spending by more than a third.
We’ve reversed the Republican decline in defense. Every year since I’ve been
President we’ve had real increases in our commitment to a stronger Nation,
increases which are prudent and rational. There is no doubt that the
United States of America can meet a threat from the Soviet Union. Our modernized
strategic forces, a revitalized NATO, the Trident submarine, the Cruise missile,
the Rapid Deployment Force–all these guarantee that we will never be second to
any nation. Deeds, not words; fact, not fiction. We must and we will continue to
build our own defenses. We must and we will continue to seek balanced reductions
in nuclear arms.
The new leaders of the Republican Party, in order to close the gap between
their rhetoric and their record, have now promised to launch an all-out nuclear
arms race. This would negate any further effort to negotiate a strategic arms
limitation agreement. There can be no winners in such an arms race, and all the
people of the Earth can be the losers.
The Republican nominee advocates abandoning arms control policies which have
been important and supported by every Democratic President since Harry, Truman,
and also by every Republican President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. This radical
and irresponsible course would threaten our security and could put the whole
world in peril. You and I must never let this come to pass.
It’s simple to call for a new arms race, but when armed aggression threatens
world peace, tough-sounding talk like that is not enough. A President must act
When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan, we moved quickly to take action. I
suspended some grain sales to the Soviet Union; I called for draft registration;
and I joined wholeheartedly with the Congress and with the U.S. Olympic
Committee and led more than 60 other nations in boycotting the big propaganda
show in Russia–the Moscow Olympics.
The Republican leader opposed two of these forceful but peaceful actions, and
he waffled on the third. But when we asked him what he would do about aggression
in Southwest Asia, he suggested blockading Cuba. [Laughter] Even his running
mate wouldn’t go along with that. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with the
Russians. He’s not sure if he wants to feed them or play with them or fight with
As I look back at my first term, I’m grateful that we’ve had a country for
the full 4 years of peace. And that’s what we’re going to have for the next 4
years-peace. It’s only common sense that if America is to stay secure
and at peace, we must encourage others to be peaceful as well.
As you know, we’ve helped in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia where we’ve stood firm for
racial justice and democracy. And we have also helped in the Middle East.
Some have criticized the Camp David accords and they’ve criticized some
delays in the implementation of the Middle East peace treaty. Well, before I
became President there was no Camp David accords and there was no Middle East
peace treaty. Before Camp David, Israel and Egypt were poised across barbed
wire, confronting each other with guns and tanks and planes. But afterward, they
talked face-to-face with each other across a peace table, and they also
communicated through their own Ambassadors in Cairo and Tel Aviv. Now that’s the
kind of future we’re offering–of peace to the Middle East if the Democrats are
reelected in the fall.
I am very proud that nearly half the aid that our country has ever given to
Israel in the 32 years of her existence has come during my administration.
Unlike our Republican predecessors, we have never stopped nor slowed that aid to
Israel. And as long as I am President, we will never do so. Our
commitment is clear: security and peace for Israel; peace for all the peoples of
the Middle East.
But if the world is to have a future of freedom as well as peace,
America must continue to defend human rights.
Now listen to this: The new Republican leaders oppose our human rights
policy. They want to scrap it. They seem to think it’s naive for America to
stand up for freedom and democracy. Just what do they think we should stand up
Ask the former political prisoners who now live in freedom if we should
abandon our stand on human rights. Ask the dissidents in the Soviet Union about
our commitment to human rights. Ask the Hungarian Americans, ask the Polish
Americans, listen to Pope John Paul II. Ask those who are suffering for the sake
of justice and liberty around the world. Ask the millions who’ve fled tyranny if
America should stop speaking out for human principles. Ask the American people.
I tell you that as long as I am President, we will hold high the banner of human
rights, and you can depend on it.
Here at home the choice between the two futures is equally important.
In the long run, nothing is more crucial to the future of America
than energy; nothing was so disastrously neglected in the past. Long after the
1973 Arab oil embargo, the Republicans in the White House had still done nothing
to meet the threat to the national security of our Nation. Then, as now, their
policy was dictated by the big oil companies.
We Democrats fought hard to rally our Nation behind a comprehensive
energy policy and a good program, a new foundation for challenging and exciting
progress. Now, after 3 years of struggle, we have that program. The battle to
secure America’s energy future has been fully and finally joined. Americans
‘have cooperated with dramatic results. We’ve reversed decades of dangerous and
growing dependence on foreign oil. We are now importing 20 percent less
oil–that is 1 1/2 million barrels of oil every day less than the day I took
And with our new energy policy now in place, we can discover more,
produce more, create more, and conserve more energy, and we will use American
resources, American technology, and millions of American workers to do it with.
Now, what do the Republicans propose? Basically, their energy program has two
parts. The first part is to get rid of almost everything that we’ve done for the
American public in the last 3 years. They want to reduce or abolish the
synthetic fuels program. They want to slash the solar energy incentives, the
conservation programs, aid to mass transit, aid to elderly Americans to help pay
their fuel bills. They want to eliminate the 55-mile speed limit. And while they
are at it, the Republicans would like to gut the Clean Air Act. They never liked
it to begin with.
That’s one part of their program; the other part is worse. To replace
what we have built, this is what they propose: to destroy the windfall profits
tax and to “unleash” the oil companies and let them solve the energy problem for
us. That’s it. That is it. That’s their whole program. There is no more. Can
this Nation accept such an outrageous program?
AUDIENCE. No !
THE PRESIDENT. No! We Democrats will fight it every step of the way, and
we’ll begin tomorrow morning with a campaign for reelection in November.
When I took office, I inherited a heavy load of serious economic problems
besides energy, and we’ve met them all head-on. We’ve slashed Government
regulations and put free enterprise back into the airlines, the trucking and the
financial systems of our country, and we’re now doing the same thing for the
railroads. This is the greatest change in the relationship between Government
and business since the New Deal. We’ve increased our exports dramatically. We’ve
reversed the decline in the basic research and development, and we have created
more than 8 million new jobs–the biggest increase in the history of our
But the road is bumpy, and last year’s skyrocketing OPEC price increases have
helped to trigger a worldwide inflation crisis. We took forceful action, and
interest rates have now fallen, the dollar is stable and, although we still have
a battle on our hands, we’re struggling to bring inflation under control.
We are now at the critical point, a turning point in our economic history of
our country. But because we made the hard decisions, because we have guided our
Nation and its economy through a rough but essential period of transition, we’ve
laid the groundwork for a new economic age.
Our economic renewal program for the 1980′s will meet our immediate need for
jobs and attack the very same, long-range problem that caused unemployment and
inflation in the first place. It’ll move America simultaneously towards our five
great economic goals–lower inflation, better productivity, revitalization of
American industry, energy security, and jobs.
It’s time to put all America back to work–but not in make-work, in real
work. And there is real work in modernizing American industries and creating new
industries for America as well. Here are just a few things we’ll rebuild
together and build together:
–new industries to turn our own coal and shale and farm
products into fuel for our cars and trucks and to turn the light of the sun
into heat and electricity for our homes;
transportation system of railbeds and ports to make American coal into a
powerful rival of OPEC oil;
–industries that will provide the convenience
of futuristic computer technology and communications to serve millions of
American homes and offices and factories;
–job training for workers
displaced by economic changes;
–new investment pinpointed in regions and
communities where jobs are needed most;
–better mass transit in our
cities and in between cities;
–and a whole new generation of American
jobs to make homes and vehicles and buildings that will house us and move us
in comfort with a lot less energy.
This is important, too: I have no doubt that the ingenuity, and dedication of
the American people can make every single one of these things happen. We are
talking about the United States of America, and those who count this country out
as an economic superpower are going to find out just how wrong they are. We’re
going to share in the exciting enterprise of making the 1980′s a time of growth
The Republican alternative is the biggest tax giveaway in history. They call
it Reagan-Kemp-Roth; I call it a free lunch that Americans cannot afford. The
Republican tax program offers rebates to the rich, deprivation for the poor, and
fierce inflation for all of us. Their party’s own Vice Presidential nominee said
that Reagan-Kemp-Roth would result in an inflation rate of more than 30 percent.
He called it “voodoo economics”. He suddenly changed his mind toward the end of
the Republican Convention, but he was right the first time.
Along with this gigantic tax cut, the new Republican leaders promise to
protect retirement and health programs and to have massive increases in defense
spending-and they claim they can balance the budget. If they are serious about
these promises, and they say they are, then a close analysis shows that the
entire rest of the Government would have to be abolished, everything from
education to farm programs, from the G.I. bill to the night watchman at the
Lincoln Memorial–and their budget would still be in the red. The only
alternative would be to build more printing presses to print cheap money. Either
way, the American people lose. But the American people will not stand for it.
The Democratic Party has always embodied the hope of our people for justice,
opportunity, and a better life, and we’ve worked in every way possible to
strengthen the American family, to encourage self-reliance, and to follow the
Old Testament admonition: “Defend the poor and the fatherless; give justice to
the afflicted and needy.” We’ve struggled to assure that no child in America
ever goes to bed hungry, that no elderly couple in America has to live in a
substandard home, and that no young person in America is excluded from college
because the family is poor.
But what have the Republicans proposed?–just an attack on everything that
we’ve done in the achievement of social justice and decency that we’ve won in
the last 50 years, ever since Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first term. They would
make social security voluntary. They would reverse our progress on the minimum
wage, full employment laws, safety in the work place, and a healthy environment.
Lately, as you know, the Republicans have been quoting Democratic Presidents.
But who can blame them? Would you rather quote Herbert Hoover or Franklin Delano
Roosevelt? Would you rather quote Richard Nixon or John Fitzgerald Kennedy?
The Republicans have always been the party of privilege, but this year their
leaders have gone even further. In their platform, they have repudiated the best
traditions of their own party. Where is the conscience of Lincoln in the party
of Lincoln? What’s become of their traditional Republican commitment to fiscal
responsibility? What’s happened to their commitment to a safe and sane arms
Now, I don’t claim perfection for the Democratic Party. I don’t claim that
every decision that we have made has been right or popular; certainly, they’ve
not all been easy. But I will say this: We’ve been tested under fire. We’ve
neither ducked nor hidden, and we’ve tackled the great central issues of our
time, the historic challenges of peace and energy, which have been ignored for
years. We’ve made tough decisions, and we’ve taken the heat for them. We’ve made
mistakes, and we’ve learned from them. But we have built the foundation now for
a better future.
We’ve done something else, perhaps even more important. In good times and
bad, in the valleys and on the peaks, we’ve told people the truth, the hard
truth, the truth that sometimes hurts.
One truth that we Americans have learned is that our dream has been earned
for progress and for peace. Look what our land has been through within our own
memory–a great depression, a world war, a technological explosion, the civil
rights revolution, the bitterness of Vietnam, the shame of Watergate, the
twilight peace of nuclear terror.
Through each of these momentous experiences we’ve learned the hard way about
the world and about ourselves. But we’ve matured and we’ve grown as a nation and
we’ve grown stronger.
We’ve learned the uses and the limitations of power. We’ve learned the beauty
and responsibility of freedom. We’ve learned the value and the obligation of
justice. And we have learned the necessity of peace.
Some would argue that to master these lessons is somehow to limit our
potential. That is not so. A nation which knows its true strengths, which sees
its true challenges, which understands legitimate constraints, that nation–our
nation–is far stronger than one which takes refuge in wishful thinking or
nostalgia. The Democratic Party–the American people-have understood these
All of us can sympathize with the desire for easy answers. There’s often the
temptation to substitute idle dreams for hard reality. The new Republican
leaders are hoping that our Nation will succumb to that temptation this year,
but they profoundly misunderstand and underestimate the character of the
Three weeks after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill came to North America and
he said, “We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the
oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar
candy.” We Americans have courage. Americans have always been on the cutting
edge of change. We’ve always looked forward with anticipation and confidence.
I still want the same thing that all of you want–a self-reliant
neighborhood, strong families, work for the able-bodied and good medical care
for the sick, opportunity for our youth and dignity for our old, equal rights
and justice for all people. I want teachers eager to explain what a civilization
really is, and I want students to understand their own needs and their own aims,
but also the needs and yearnings of their neighbors.
I want women free to pursue without limit the full life of what they want for
I want our farmers growing crops to feed our Nation and the world, secure in
the knowledge that the family farm will thrive and with a fair return on the
good work they do for all of us.
I want workers to see meaning in the labor they perform and work enough to
guarantee a job for every worker in this country.
And I want the people in business free to pursue with boldness and freedom
And I want minority citizens fully to join the mainstream of American life.
And I want from the bottom of my heart to remove the blight of racial and other
discrimination from the face of our Nation, and I’m determined to do it.
I need for all of you to join me in fulfilling that vision. The
choice, the choice between the two futures, could not be more clear. If we
succumb to a dream world then we’ll wake up to a nightmare. But if we start with
reality and fight to make our dreams a reality, then Americans will have a good
life, a life of meaning and purpose in a nation that’s strong and secure.