It's crunch time, folks.
The Bush Administration is quite aware that lame-duck, second-term
presidents have a very brief window of opportunity during which they can
push through their agendas with a likelihood of success. So Karl Rove,
seeing the window starting to close, is not waiting for the
midterm-election runup in 2006. He's going for it all now.
Having taken advantage of that initial window-opening, Bush&Co. pushed
through bills involving estate taxes and bankruptcy aimed to aid their
wealthy supporters at the expense of the rest of us, and made sure to get
their most loyal lapdogs placed firmly into the key positions -- Gonzalez,
Rice, Negroponte, Chertoff, Rumsfeld, Abrams, Goss, Hadley, Wolfowitz, et
bunker crew is still not quite complete. That's why Bush and Cheney
are strongly supporting Tom DeLay and John Bolton; they are counting on
The Hammer and Mad Dog being there to help bully and neutralize the
opposition and keep potentially friendly forces from getting weak-kneed
and thus uncontrollable.
The second-term rush syndrome also explains why the Administration is
moving toward the so-called "nuclear option" in the Senate with regard to
judicial appointments to the appeals courts. Of course, they'd love to get
their handful of previously-rejected HardRight nominees through the
Senate; accomplishing that would be a bonus.
But what they're really after is to eliminate the Democrats' only weapon,
the filibuster/60-vote cloture rule, when it comes to judicial
nominations, thus setting a majority-vote precedent for the likely Supreme
Court vacancies that Bush expects to fill shortly.
And so, come hell or high water, the GOP is determined to break the
Democrats on this one, regardless of the consequences to political comity,
the Senate, the Constitution, the nation.
For the Busheviks, apparently it's not enough to control the Congress, the
White House, a good share of the judiciary, and the mass-media. They want
the world and they want it now. Especially as their veneer of
invincibility is starting to wear a bit thin these days.
Similarly, the Christian-Taliban wing of the Republican Party is making
its move at the same time to enforce strict fundamentalist rule; more on
THOSE MYSTERIOUS MUSHROOM CLOUDS
Internationally, the Bush Administration is getting its ducks lined up in
a row in preparation for a major move, maybe as early as June, either
against Iran or Syria. It'll be deja vu all over again, to use Yogi's apt
phrase, with a "pre-emptive" attack against an enemy that allegedly has
committed a major international insult and needs to be put in its place
immediately. The U.S. can't wait, we'll be told, otherwise the mushroom
clouds may appear at any moment.
It is not clear whether the U.S. move will be a full-scale "shock&awe"
invasion or merely (!) a major missile attack from the air -- perhaps
knocking out a nuclear or military facility. But the aim will be to either
effect "regime change" in those countries by the use of force or to
frighten their leaders into giving in to whatever demands the Bush
Administration will exact for leaving them in power.
The short- and medium-term goal is to have effective control of the
oil/gas fields in the greater Middle East, at a time when "peak" oil
production is being reached in the face of increasing demand for that
energy worldwide, especially from China and India. The longe-range goal
was outlined in various Project for The New American Century manifestos
that became official U.S. policy: to preclude any national or
international rival from even getting close to challenging U.S. global
Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer").
AMERICAN TALIBANI MAKE THEIR MOVE
While the Earth itself is in dire global-warming jeopardy, with
temperatures rising and Arctic and Antarctic glaciers melting away at
alarming rates, the traditional politics of greed and power-hunger seem
absolutely petty in comparison. And yet that's where the focus is in the
U.S. in general and in the nation's capital in particular.
The American public clearly seems to be getting more nervous and fed up
with some of Bush&Co.'s more extreme positions; for example, the Social
Security privatization "reform" plan is going nowhere fast, and their
crass attempt to hijack the Schiavo family's tragedy for political gain
backfired badly. Despite these embarrassments, or maybe because of them,
the HardRightists like Cheney, Frist, DeLay and Rove are happy to
encourage their supporters on the fundamentalist Right to energize this
force on behalf of a strict, Taliban-like interpretation of law and
If some of these desires can be effected into law, all the better for the
Republicans, but even if they can't get their extreme views enacted, those
controversial fights -- on the Ten Commandmants, evolution, abortion, gay
rights and so on -- serve as mighty distractions, forcing the Democrats to
scatter their energies. This keeps them from focusing on the major battles
involving the disaster in Iraq, the neo-con plans to initiate more wars,
Bush's tax and tort "reform," the corrupt vote-counting system, and so on.
While the Bush Administration is doing everything possible to keep the
Iraqi government from adopting "Sharia" (Islamic Law) into its new
Constitution, it seems eager to encourage its fundamentalist base in
America to insert Christian "Sharia" into U.S. law and custom, despite the
Constitutional prohibition on mixing church and state.
JUDGES AN ENDANGERED SPECIES
The most frightening example along these lines is the way the
Bush/fundamentalist forces are taking aim at the judiciary, and individual
judges, whose opinions they don't find strict or "Christian" enough. Some
are calling for impeachment of judges they don't like, including Supreme
Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, but others are going even further.
"Taking aim" may not be merely a figure of speech; several key
politicians, including House GOP Majority Leader DeLay and Republican
Senator John Cornyn, have moved perilously close to enciting violence
against judges, all in the name of "Christian" principles, of course. (Let
us not forget that in recent months a judge was shot and killed in
Atlanta, another judge's husband and mother were murdered in Chicago, and
more threats of bodily harm against jurists are coming in all the time.)
Far-right lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told a recent meeting of conservative
leaders that Anthony Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy,
evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds
Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." According
to a story by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank:
Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his 'bottom line'
for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. 'He had a
slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into
difficulty: "no man, no problem", Vieira said. The full Stalin quote,
for those who don't recognize it, is 'Death solves all problems: no man,
no problem.' Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than
Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are
scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm
President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to
So partisan and incendiary have the
rightwing-anarchist statements been that even died-in-the-wool
conservatives have felt obliged to speak out, trying to ratchet down
extremist hate speech. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in a
talk recently at Goucher College that she is surprised at all the violent
threats she's receiving. "I don't think the harsh rhetoric helps," she
told the crowd. "I think it energizes people who are a little off base to
take actions that maybe they wouldn't otherwise take."
IMPEACHMENT & DEFUNDING OPTIONS
Even some staunch conservatives are trying to defuse the impeachment bomb.
Theodore Olson, the Bush Administration's former HardRight
Solicitor-General wrote in the Wall Street Journal that impeachment could
put the country on a dangerous, slippery slope:
Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular
decisions are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would
undermine the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial
systems. If a judge's decisions are corrupt or tainted, there are lawful
recourses (prosecution or impeachment); but congressional interrogations
of life-tenured judges, presumably under oath, as to why a particular
decision was rendered, would constitute interference with -- and
intimidation of -- the judicial process. And there is no logical
stopping point once this power is exercised.
But the fundamentalist Right, so pumped up with its
supposed electoral clout in the 2004 election, is not about to go silently
into the night. They feel their political power, they are convinced that
their wrath is mandated by God, and they are making their theocratic
voices heard, loudly.
Peter Wallsten of the Los Angles Times reports that at a March conference
in Washington between Frist and DeLay and key evangelical leaders James
Dobson and Tony Perkins -- dealing with finding ways to remove certain
judges from the bench -- the strategy of stripping funding from certain
courts was "prominently" discussed.
"What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts
go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them," said
Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. He said that instead of
undertaking the long process of trying to impeach judges, Congress could
use its appropriations authority to "just take away the bench, all of his
staff, and he's just sitting out there with nothing to do." These curbs on
courts are "on the radar screen, especially of conservatives here in
Congress," he said.
Wallsten writes that Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, who emerged last
year as one of the evangelical movement's most important political
leaders, named one potential target: the California-based U.S. 9th Circuit
Court of Appeals. "Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply
disenfranchise a court," Dobson said. "They don't have to fire anybody or
impeach them or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the 9th
Circuit doesn't exist anymore, and it's gone."
In short, friends, the Bush Administration, by cozying up to Christian
Talibanists like these and others around the country -- browbeating school
boards on evolution and sex-education, threatening teachers who refuse to
treat creationist points of view as equal to those of scientists,
censoring textbooks, etc. -- indicates that America, at least broad
swatches of it, are moving back into a cultural Know-Nothing era that is
truly frightening. All this at the same time we're fighting battles with
Islamist fundamentalists because they have the "wrong" God and want to
battle the forces of modernity in their own cultures and in ours as well.
We imitate what we fear.
LET'S ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND ACT
I could go on and on listing the scary things done or encouraged by the
Bush Administration in its partisan zeal to get what it wants, and to set
the table for future Rightwing administrations by decimating or
eliminating its political opposition. But I think you get the point:
The big Bush&Co. push for power and greed is happening right now. We in
the opposition can't sit around and think we'll mobilize a few months
before the 2006 midterm election. This IS the 2006 election. We have to
activate our troops and strategies immediately. If we don't push back, and
fight them now, we will have lost that election before it even begins, and
thus a chance to start to turn this country around. More importantly, if
we choose not to act, we risk losing our self-respect and our political
It's time to organize, mobilize, agitate, to donate money to the
politicians and organizations that are out there taking the fight to the
forces of regression. It is time for each of us to organize and fight for
the Constitution, the separation of powers, the sanctity of the division
between church and state, to ally ourselves with traditional and moderate
Republicans and Libertarians. These alliances are being made to correct
the worst aspects of the Patriot Act, so we should be able to find other
areas where we might be able to agree -- on the wrong-headed nomination of
John Bolton, on Bush's Social Security scam, on privacy rights, on
extremist judges, etc.
In short, 2005 is 2006. And, for the sake of our country, we can't afford
to lose this election battle. We may not be able at the moment to
guarantee that our actual votes in 2006 will be counted honestly, but we
can win the current election campaign in the court of public opinion, in
the halls of the Congress, in our churches and synagogues and mosques.
The Bush agenda is vulnerable in a number of key areas -- the general
perception of the GOP as arrogantly over-reaching, the public not buying
the administration's reckless Social Security scheme, the general feeling
that John Bolton is not the right man for the U.N. job, the revulsion
against how the GOP used the Schiavo family's tragedy for political ends,
the continuing disaster that is Iraq, etc., etc.
It's time to crank it up, and send this amoral, greedy, control-hungry
administration a message that their lame-duck power has run out. If we do
our political and ethical/spiritual homework with due diligence, our
progressive/moderate opposition could well be accepted as among the key
moral forces of this nation. Let's get to work.