Learning from George & Martha:
The Art of Slip-Sliding
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
July 19, 2004
Like most folks, I hate getting caught out and having to admit my errors. But,
after observing the current political and legal scene, I've figured out how in
the future to avoid paying a penalty for any misdeeds I may commit.
What got me thinking about this was listening to George Bush and Martha
Stewart. Martha told reporters outside the courthouse -- after her sentencing
for lying to federal investigators -- that she felt terrible for the 200
employees in her company who had to be laid off "because of the situation."
Yep, it was "the situation" who told those lies and brought the wrath of
federal investigators down on those employees' heads, and jobs. Martha, you
see, had nothing to do with it. She, too, must have been sucked in by "the
The political version of this avoidance technique, popularized by Bush and his
cohorts, involves the use of passive verbs. "Mistakes were made," for example.
Yes, indeedy, there were dreadful "mistakes" that were "made" -- including
thousands of deaths and maimings in Iraq -- but no human made them.
Apparently, mistakes pop out of the ether, from behind bushes, up from manhole
covers when you least expect them. They grab you by the throat and demand to
Bush insures that he never gets close to a mistake. He knows how ruinous they
can be to a career. So he just never goes there. If "mistakes were made," they
were carried out by others, never him. He's perfect, you see, because he and
God converse regularly, and God tells him what to do. (Just the other day, he
expressed the belief again:
through me." And, since God is perfect, whatever happens can not be
a mistake. And since Bush is God's messenger, he is absolved of any
responsibility. Always somebody else to blame, either lowly "rotten apples" or
the Ultimate Apple-Tree Maker.
RESPONSIBLE BUT NOT ACCOUNTABLE
At least Tony Blair, also blasted by a high-level commission investigating
pre-war intelligence failures, assumed "responsibility" for all the "mistakes"
that were "made."
But neither Blair, nor Bush, nor Stewart -- even if they accept
"responsibility" or utter the "mistakes were made" mantra -- ever, EVER, get
anywhere close to "accountability."
In the old days, long ago in a galaxy far away, those held "responsible" for
"mistakes made" were forced to endure some sort of penalty for their lies or
maladministration or lack of proper supervision of underlings or whatever
euphemism was used to paper over their misdeeds. In short, someone was made
accountable; those responsible resigned or were censured or disciplined or
were fired or otherwise dealt with.
In the Bush Administration, nobody ever assumes responsibility, or, if they do
utter that "R" word (such as Rumsfeld with regard to the torture scandal on
his watch), that's the end of it. No accountability.
Here, we've got more than 1000 young coalition men and women dying for the
lies and deceptions and "cooked" intelligence that took the country into war
-- and more than 16,000 U.S. wounded, and more than that number of Iraqi
civilians killed -- and nobody has been fired by Bush for their shoddy work.
Just those nasty "mistake" gremlins popping up again. Indeed, several
officials most responsible for the Iraq debacle have received promotions.
The only conclusion one can draw is that the "mistakes were made" line and the
assumption of "responsibility" mantra devoid of accountability are regarded by
celebrities and high officials as simply public-relations spin. They do it to
protect their underlying policies and reputations, and simply carry on the
same disastrous behavior, using the same incompetent officials, and hope
nobody will notice or call them to account.
IMPEACHMENT BY BALLOT
But successful use of the "mistakes were made" dodge will work for some people
and not for others. Because the Bushistas control the Congress, courts, White
House and most of the mass-media, Dubya gets a free ride. If Bill Clinton had
behaved in similar fashion, he would have been back in the impeachment dock in
a minute, called all sorts of names ("liar," "deceiver," "playing fast & loose
with the lives of our soldiers," "blood on your hands," "traitor" and so on).
The long and short of our current situation is that the Republican-controlled
Congress is not about to impeach Bush and Cheney -- at least not before the
election. If Bush, by hook or by crook, is back in the White House in January,
but the Dems have taken over the Congress -- a circumstance that once looked
totally impossible but now is at least conceivable -- impeachment and criminal
investigations might well occur.
So if the GOP will not initiate impeachment proceedings against members of the
BushCheney team before the voting begins, it is left to the people, you and
me, to remove these extremists via the ballot box. Which means every day from
now until November 2, less than four months away, must be dedicated to
increasing the anti-Bush momentum.
EROSION IN THE CONSERVATIVE BASE
Since the liberal Democratic base is, and has been for quite a while, pretty
well united in its determination to effect "regime-change" in November, one
expects momentum-build there. But where one is seeing more and more movement
these days is within the ranks of traditional Republicans, and even
I've been traveling around the country a good deal this year and last, talking
to folks in the South, in the West, Southwest and Pacific Northwest. Wherever
I go, I have found numerous Republicans who say they cannot and will not vote
again for Bush. These are conservatives Republicans -- in the "old" sense of
the word: small government, suspicious of government intrusion in their lives,
reluctant to go to war except when attacked, allergic to deficit spending,
etc. -- who are appalled at the extremist policies and behaviors of those in
control of their party.
The Bushies are not "conservative," they assert, but greedy, power-hungry
radicals who have taken us to a war of choice, have greatly over-expanded the
size and role of government, are running roughshod over the Constitution's
restrictions on central government power, and ruining the long-term economy of
the country by running up trillions in debt.
Some have said they'll vote for the Democratic candidate; many lifelong
Republicans can't bring themselves to do that, but have vowed they simply will
not participate on Election Day, thus depriving Bush of their votes and, ipso
facto, making it easier for Kerry to win.
We get many letters of similar intent here at The Crisis Papers from
disaffected Republicans, conservatives and moderates. Similar expressions can
be found more and more each day in newspapers in Kansas and Idaho and Texas
and elsewhere in the heartland. The center is not holding for the Bushistas
and so, to compensate, Rove must spend time and money shoring up the more
fundamentalist, rabid, social-conservative base. This prevents Bush from
tacking to the center in search of independent voters. In order to seduce
those independents, the radical right and neo-con GOP leaders must be hidden
at the convention, while more moderate speakers such as Arnold Schwarzenegger
and Rudy Giulianni are showcased.
NOTABLES ARE ABANDONING SINKING SHIP
What is even more significant in terms of news value are those highly-placed,
influential Republicans who have abandoned Bush&Co. When William F. Buckley,
the founding editor of National Review, the bible of rock-hard conservatism,
can denounce Bush's Iraq adventure and competence in print, you know a turning
point has been reached on the right.
So many diplomats, retired generals, corporate leaders, ex-officials in the
Reagan and Bush1 administrations likewise have gone public in recent weeks
with their reservations about Bush&Co. It's clear these elite Republicans
believe that their financial and political interests are jeopardized by the
radical, bumbling crew currently in charge, and that they, and the country as
a whole, will be better served by getting those guys out of the White House,
even if it means putting a more centrist candidate like Kerry into power.
Karl Rove and his minions are not stupid. They see what is happening across
the country, the steady erosion of fed-up conservatives from the Bush camp,
the loss of public support for the war, the lackluster job situation, the poll
numbers showing Kerry slowly pulling ahead in one toss-up state after another.
They know their time in power could be limited, and that criminal indictments
may well follow their defeat.
SLIME-TIME BIG TIME
They are unable to convince voters that more of the same is the way to go; the
jobs situation is still pretty desperate for millions of folks, and despite
the "hand off" of "sovereignty" to the Iraqis, the situation is a disaster
there, and the lies and deceptions that got us there are more evident each
day. So, unable to run on their record (and have you noticed that they have
not said a word about initiatives and programs they'd mount in a second
term?), they're doing what they've always done -- digging into their bag of
dirty tricks, big time:
* Supporting Nader's independent bid, for example -- with time and operatives
and lots of money -- knowing that he'll take votes from the Democrats.
* Catching immigrants and new citizens (many of whom are minorities who
normally vote overwhelmingly for Democrat candidates) before they register to
vote; in Florida recently, hundreds emerging from just having taken their oath
of citizenship were signed up by helpful citizens (GOP operatives), who gave
them voter-registration papers to sign, with the party affiliation already
checked as Republican. (www.news4jax.com/politics/3495828/detail.html).
* Or sliming the Dem candidates with the worst kind of demagoguery. In a
test-run, in one state, the GOP campaign is distributing bumper stickers
asserting that Kerry is bin Laden's candidate. (Drawing links between Osama
and Senator Max Cleland worked for them in Georgia in 2002, so why not try it
again on a national campaign?)
* If and when the expected al-Qaida attack occurs in the U.S. before the
November election, Rove, taking his cues from 9/11, is gearing up to use that
horror against the Democrats -- who will have been demonized in the period
before that expected attack as "soft on terrorism." (Which may explain why
Kerry is taking great care to cover his ass with regard to support for the
original war resolution and the overall "war on terrorism.")
* If, just prior to the election, or maybe on Election Day itself, the polls
indicate Bush is facing an overwhelming defeat, Bush&Co. can "postpone" the
balloting -- either across the entire country or in, say, the West -- due to a
terrorist attack or "credible threats" of an impending terrorist attack; the
rationalization would be to "protect the right of the citizens to vote."
Already, Ridge and Ashcroft are moving forward to set up the mechanisms that
would permit this to happen "legally."
NEEDED: ONE ROARING AVALANCHE
All of the above scenarios provide further reasons why Bush&Co. must be swept
away by an enormous avalanche of Kerry votes on November 2nd. Unless there is
a huge Kerry landslide, there would be too many possibilities for electoral
mischief -- including fiddling with computer-voting results in those states
that do not insist on voter-verified ballots that can be rechecked.
So those of us dedicated to a restoration of our democratic republic's best
values, and to Constitutional protections of due process of law, must make
sacrifices to help that landslide happen in November.
That means giving money, that means donating our time to walk precincts and
stuff envelopes and make phone calls, that means educating our neighbors and
friends with the implications of a Bush second term, that means getting
involved directly at the grass roots party level, that means organizing,
Friends, if we don't do it now, we may not have another chance for decades, or
ever, to take our government back from the extremist forces currently in
control of the levers of power. If we want more responsible leadership in the
White House, let's look at our own house and see what we all can do. It takes
many villages to save a country.