Steven Jonas (211)
George W. Bush left us many toxic messes on the policy side. They have been reviewed endlessly by many others and myself. What he left us on the political process side, the current GOP, may prove be even more toxic in the future. Many analysts say that this Party is "searching for its identity." That is not true. It has an identity, put firmly in place by Karl Rove and his political puppet George W. Bush.
First of all, the GOP has become the only major political party in the non-Muslim world for which a principal plank is homophobia. The "anti-gay marriage" theme sung again and again is just a symbol for the promotion of hatred of the identity group that the German Nazis, once gaining power, went after with a vengeance even before they went after the Jews. And they get away with it. Part of the fault for this lies at the feet of the Democrats, who out of fear for being "labeled" (who knows what, like devoted to the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment?), continue to let them do it unchallenged. Part of it also lies at the feet of the gay and lesbian community that numbers among some its wealthiest members Republicans, who simply will not allow it to raise as an issue the fact that the GOP runs on homophobia.
Second, the GOP has become the party that would deny of the freedom of religious belief as to when life begins. And gets away with it. Part of the fault likewise lies at the feet of the Democratic Party that continues to fall back on the half-measure of "protecting Roe v. Wade." Part of the fault also lies with the "pro-choice" movement itself, which a) has only fairly recently moved to make abortion-rights a political as well as a legal issue, b) continues to frame the issue in terms of a "woman's right to choose," nothing broader, c) has only half-heartedly and relatively lately made abortion the health issue that it truly is, and d) has never attacked the Republicans on the fact that a central platform plank of theirs is the criminalization of the belief that life beings at the time of viability, for everyone, regardless of gender. The criminalization of a religious belief. A major plank of a major party's platform. Imagine that!
"The Democratic candidates have major differences on policy. . . . As they have done in the past, the center-right Democratic Leadership Council is this time around running what in Standard-Breed (trotters and pacers) horse racing terminology is known as an "entry." In these races, one owner can enter two horses and bettors can bet both as if they were one. If either horse wins, places, or shows, the bettor collects. In 2004 the DLC entry was John Edwards and Richard Gephardt. . . . Neither won, of course, but the DLC was able to project the perennial loser Bob Shrum into the Kerry Campaign and we all know what happened. . . This time the DLC has an entry as well . . . Clinton and Obama. They don't like each other much, and each does indeed want to be President. But their central philosophy is much the same and many of their policies are rather similar too."
Oh yeah. How wrong could one be?
When I was a boy, back in the 40s and 50s, when the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus came to my hometown, New York City, every April, it was a big deal. The circus trains would pull into the Sunnyside Yards in Queens and unload their cargo. Then a huge parade was organized, going from the Yards, through the Queens-Midtown tunnel, across 35th Street to 8th Avenue, then north on 8th to the old Madison Square Garden, which occupied the full block between 8th and 9th Avenues, 49th and 50th Streets. (That Garden was the third building in New York City to have the same name. The first two had actually been located on Madison Square at 26th Street. The present Garden, the fourth, is at 32nd St. and 7th Ave.)
George W. Bush apparently really believes in the "alternate realities" that he presented to our nation and the world over and over again during his Presidency. Bush was a uniter, not a divider; Saddam really did have weapons of mass destruction (until it was absolutely proven otherwise); cutting taxes for the rich really would boost the economy; as president, he really did have all of those powers that Dick Cheney, Richard Addington, and John Yoo pretended to find for him in the Constitution; abolishing Social Security really would benefit everyone whose Social Security was thereby abolished as well as the country as a whole; he really did as president have the authority to say "I'll follow this Act of Congress but not that one, at my own discretion;" he could, on his own authority, abrogate treaties if his White House Legal Counsel thought they were "quaint;" Saddam really did buy "yellow cake" in Niger. And George Bush really is an undereducated, both ignorant and dumb, person. No, he was not a secret voracious reader, as "Turdblossom," otherwise known as Karl Rove, was so fond of telling us. There were never any references to such readings except on the occasions that such were written into speeches for him. But he probably thought that he was, given that Rove told the world he that was. That fit right into his alternate reality.
Poor Ann Coulter. Here she was, invited back to the 2009 American Conservative (sic) Union's annual Conservative Political Action Committee's (CPAC) conference after a one-year exclusion. She got a featured Saturday slot, but was she featured? Ah, no. I could not find the text of her remarks despite diligent searching with Google. There were plenty of videos of her talk, but who has time for that? Then one would have to type out the juicy quotes oneself, instead of just cutting-and-pasting them.
The GOP is indeed terrified of Obama; it is now becoming patently obvious. In the debate over the (first) stimulus package and especially in the aftermath of its passage, they could barely talk about the real issues themselves. (And there surely were some real ones, about stimulus, not tax cuts, to talk about. This was evidenced by some-to-much unhappiness about in various progressive to left-wing quarters.) All GOPers could do was moan and groan about "the failure of bipartisanship" that was, of course, all the President's fault.
McCain's crocodile tears, for example, were so voluminous that one became concerned that the poor old guy might be biting them. Once again, as is their wont, Republicans cried about process, while leaving the substance, what their policies of the last eight years have done to the country, and what needs to be differently to fix the mess, virtually unmentioned by them. Unfortunately for the nation, their wailing not only predictably was echoed evermore loudly in the Republican Scream Machine, but also dominated the discussion in the mainstream media. They discussed the supposed "failure of bipartisanship," Obama's fault of course, much more than they did the real problems, and how we are going to solve them in ways that can work.
One of Ronald Reagan's first acts on his first full day in office, January 21, 1981, was to completely shut down the alternate/renewable energy program that Jimmy Carter established in the late 1970s. At that time, a few scientists were already predicting global warming, but there was little data and most of what was going on was in the realm of hypothesis. What was known for sure at that time was that however much more oil and other fossil fuels were eventually discovered, they would eventually run out. There is only a finite supply of the stuff in the Earth. The only variable is that we don't know just how much there is or how much it would cost to extract every last ounce of it. At some time, if civilization were to be preserved, other sources of energy had to be developed. Furthermore, if all of the petrochemicals were burned up, much of the stuff of modern life, from plastics to pharmaceuticals, would disappear as well.
A major plank of President Obama's presidential campaign was the promise to "change the atmosphere in Washington." That meant, in part, to engage in true bipartisanship on policy development. Now true bipartisanship, whether because of desire on both sides or for political necessity, has not been seen since the days of the Reagan/Bush I Presidency. During the latter, the Democrats controlled the Congress and if Reagan/Bush wanted to get anything done, they had to deal with that reality. Of course, being the usual kind of post-Lyndon Johnson-before-Vietnam Democrats, the latter pretty much gave Reagan/Bush what they wanted. And when the latter went around the Congress, as they did with Iran-Contra secret trading Ollie North style and aid to the Nicaraguan rebels (both illegal acts), Democrats in Congress let them get away with it. The last era of true bipartisanship on foreign policy was during the Cold War, when both parties were fully supportive of what came to be the last 45 years of the 75 Years War on the Soviet Union.
Virtually everyone who follows politics to even a very limited extent (and even some folks who don't at all) has by now heard the quote in the title of this Commentary. It is from Rush Limbaugh, the (politely) "right-wing radio talk show host," or (more accurately) the leading Right-Wing Republican Screamer (although Sean Hannity might take exception to the word "Leading" in the above description.). In fact, Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. (Boy. What does that tell you about the depths to which what some of its more self-deluded political figures still refer to as "the Party of Lincoln" has sunk?) For those of you who for one reason or another might not have heard, this is what Rush has been saying about President Obama shortly after his election. For once in his radio life (and who knows, may be in his real life as well), Rush is telling the truth. He really does want Obama to fail.
This is an amazing statement. It comes from a man who labeled every one of us who charged that the Georgite Iraq and so-called "anti-terrorism" policies as ineffective and counter-productive and called for major changes in them, as traitors. Many of us described the Georgite War on Iraq and the so-called "war on terror" as self-defeating and incapable of achieving their stated objectives. But no one I know or have read ever called for the defeat of the U.S. in Iraq. We never said that we "hoped Bush/Cheney would fail." Many of us predicted that his policies would fail, again to meet the stated Georgite objectives. Many of us predicted that if he kept going, Bush/Cheney would bring the U.S. to its present parlous state. But none of us, to my knowledge at least, hoped that Bush/Cheney would fail. I, for one, in numerous writings here and there, expressed the hope that the country would somehow make it to 2009 without the utter collapse of our domestic society. For I felt that such an occurrence, if it lead to an outbreak of serious domestic violence in protest, would give Bush/Cheney the opportunity to usher in the outright fascist state for which so many of their policies were obviously preparing.
The current debate on our side as to whether President Obama should "go after" the Georgites, right up to, or perhaps starting with, BushCheney echoes the debate on possible impeachment that occurred when the last Congress came to power. At the time, I put forth the view that it might be a good idea, despite the political risks, if one started on the mundane, such as corruption. One could start with it rather than with the truly important, such as the use of torture by the Administration, ordered/approved (depending upon how you read the known words) from the top. Among other things, violating the Geneva Conventions automatically violated Article Six of the Constitution (which makes ratified treaties part of the supreme law of the land). Given the incoming personnel at the top levels of the Justice Department, I do think the Administration will get there, sooner or later. But it has other priorities now, such as the economy, health care, and Israel/Palestine. And Congress, led by Rep. John Conyers, is already starting in on the top level Georgites, on the matter of violating the Constitution. So what might the Administration do right away?
Well, why not start small (or relatively small) and go after corruption and possible other law violations, other than the Big T, in the Bush Administration. It was there, all over the place, from Iraq to Katrina to the Department of the Interior (and sex stuff always sells). There would be lots of actors to ensnare in any broad-based investigation of the Georgites and corruption. But particularly sweet would be to go after Cheney on it. In aid of that effort, here's just some of the stuff one could start with, dating back to the beginning of that debate on impeachment.
This Commentary was written on January 19, 2009, the day before President Obama (my, now, those two words have a nice sound, don't they?) delivers his Inaugural Address. It is likely that you will be reading it after the event. By that time we will both know whether I got my wish(es) in whole, in part, or not at all. But here they are, and here's hoping.
A couple of weeks ago, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent out a questionnaire to its contributors (of which, I must admit, I am one). It asked for one's top pick for the must-deal-with problems. The list consisted of the usual suspects, beginning with what can be called "The Five 'E's' " (with liberties taken): Economic stimulus, Education, Environment, Ealth Care, and Eraq (well some people do pronounce it that way), as well as Tax Reform (?!) and somewhere on the list "national defense/security." My answer, had I answered, would have been "None of the above." One will likely hear some version or another of the list above in Pres. Obama's address. But I am really hoping, oh boy am I hoping, that some significant percentage of the time in what will, we are told, be a relatively short speech (20 minutes or so, so we have been told) will be devoted to the Big "C:" the Constitution, and the restoration of Constitutional Democracy (C.D.) in the United States.
Many observers on the Left have been concerned with signals coming out of the Obama Transition team that may indicate the political and policy directions in which he may be going and from our own Mark Karlin (1/11/09): "Message to Barack - You are Carrying Things a Bit Too Far with This "Bipartisan" Nonsense. The Repubs are Just Going to Betray You, So Start Punching and Stop Trying to be "Liked" by Everyone. "Obama to honor McCain on inauguration eve." Yuch!") I have shared those concerns, for example in regard of the abominable choice of Rick Warren to do the inaugural invocation.
Many folks on the Left (U.S. and otherwise) were sure that the Georgites were going to spring an "October Surprise" just before the 2008 election. It would be "something big" to aid McCain's chances which, especially with the Wall Street collapse that started in September 2008, needed some pretty big aiding. It would have something to do with "national security," and it would come in October, that is if it had not come already. As examples of the latter were those absolutely firm predictions by authorities on the Left "in the know" that there would be a U.S. attack on Iran, "for sure," as far back as June 2006. Certain other not-so-authoritative sources for a variety of reasons thought at the time that this was nonsense. For one thing, once Jim Baker had installed Bob Gates in the Defense Department, with a strong chorus of support for a "no" from the Joint chiefs, that one just wasn't going to fly.
So OK, if there was to be no U.S. attack on Iran, how about an Israeli attack on Iran. Well, that would require Israeli flights over Iraqi airspace, controlled by, you guessed it, the U.S. Defense Department. At the same time, the original mission in Iraq, which was either oil and bases, permanent war, or both had come undone. The Georgite-negotiated Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) itself provides for a U.S. withdrawal by some time certain. (Now there's a "Mission Accomplished," isn't there? Why, by golly, on January 1, 2009, the Iraqi government took control of even the Green Zone in Baghdad.)
Gee whiz. Talk about measuring for new furniture in the White House. Bush's SOFA looks pretty much like what Obama was proposing during the Presidential Campaign, and really got skewered for by the O'RHannibaugh "Victory [without ever defining it] At All Costs" wing of the Republican Party, along with ol' Catch-up McCain. So Iraq was not good for an October Surprise either, at least not the kind of one that Republican supporters had in mind. They would hardly be trumpeting the 180 that Bush did on "no timetable for withdrawal, ever, ever, ever, that's just giving into the terrorists" within a period of weeks.
So what to do? Well, they couldn't get one in before the election. And anyway, after the failure of the years-long efforts of Treasury and the Federal Reserve to put off until AFTER the 2008 election the financial collapse that every informed observer knew was coming, McCain was pretty much a lost cause anyway. But that did not mean that Pres.-elect Obama could not be presented with a nice housewarming present, a really good foreign policy imbroglio to take up much time and political capital that the incoming Administration would otherwise need to deal with the domestic economic crisis.
And so, on November 5, the day after the election, Israel launched an assault on the tunnels leading from Egypt to Gaza, through which Hamas funneled small arms and ammunition, parts for their mainly homemade rockets and other material, under the very effective land, sea, and air blockade that Israel has imposed upon Gaza for many months now. Rearming? Sure. But after all, throughout the same six-month ceasefire, Israel was rearming as well, with weapons from the U.S. just slightly (sic) more powerful than Qassam rockets. That was the first breach in the cease-fire. Now the full-scale invasion of Gaza is underway, preceded by the methodical destruction of its civilian infrastructure by the Israeli air force, artillery, and naval forces. The world demands a cease-fire. Israel says "no." Hamas fires some more rockets (and some more sophisticated ones as well) and the carnage continues.
It is not my purpose here to get into who is "right" and who is "wrong." There are plenty of both to go around on all sides in this multi-sided conflict. But what can Israel's objective possibly be? For an indication, one can turn to a document produced in 1996 called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." It was produced by those inestimable authorities on peace in the Middle East, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, et al. You know, the folks from the Project for the New American Century who gave us the Iraq War. Their goals for Iraq were some combination of oil-and-bases, Permanent War, and "bringing Democracy to the Middle East" (out the barrel of a gun). Number one for "A Clean Break" was to end the "Oslo Peace Process" (which had already come pretty much to a halt with the convenient assassination of Yitzhak Rabin). Number two was to encumber any future negotiations with so many preconditions as to make success of same highly unlikely, and so continue Israeli military dominance of its immediate neighborhood.
Accompanied by the continual Settlement Movement for the Occupied West Bank, it was a recipe perhaps not for Permanent War but surely for Permanent Non-peace. And funnily enough, even during the Bush years, whenever there was some glimmer of hope that something might push the parties into a negotiation based on the original 1967 UN resolutions, by golly there was an "outbreak of terrorism" emanating from the Palestinian side. Even authorities in Israel thought that these coincidences might not be so coincidental, but that's another story.
And so, here comes Obama. His principal foreign policy advisor for the Middle East is Zbigniew Brzezinski, who advocates a "two-state solution" roughly based on the 2003 Geneva Accords negotiated between unofficial but formerly highly placed foreign policy experts on both sides, plus the 2002 proposal from, of all places, Saudi Arabia. The day after his election, Israel starts a process that must lead inexorably towards the present situation, which is anything but conducive to finding a workable two-state solution. The question arises, why should that be? To paraphrase the Fox "News" Channel (oh my gosh, I'm really doing that), we present, you decide.
Right-wing commentators such as the sometimes hard-to-categorize Pat Buchanan, comedian Bill Kristol, still-trying-to-shake-her "Reagan Hagiographer" label Peggy Noonan, and so-called "even-handed" cable news personalities such as "Morning Joe and Mika" are all het-up about why the "left" (these folks wouldn't know a real Left if they saw one) is so het up about Obama's choice of Rick Warren for the Inauguration Invocation. "It's a free country," they say. "There's a wide range of views on gay marriage" (which happens to be Rick Warren's least odious on-the-gay-question position), they say. "Obama is showing himself to be tolerant," they say. Obama is looking for "common ground," they say.
"You'se guys" (which is what they would say to us lefties if they spoke Noo Yawk) are just a bunch of whiners. Or worse, you are just as bad as the Christian Fundamentalists (except I cannot remember when any of the above listed "authorities" ever criticized the latter group for anything. But that's another story.)