Karl Rove&Co., feeling themselves freed from the
bipartisan torture albatross hanging around their necks as a result of
having rolled the GOP-rebel senators, are moving toward the "October
surprises" they've been hinting at.
What those surprises might be range from announcing the capture or
death of Osama bin Laden to a surgical strike on Iran's fledgling nuclear
program to ignoring a possible major terrorist attack against the U.S. --
or, conversely, announcing that they've foiled a frightening urban bomb
plot. Or all of the above, and more.
Yes, of course Rove and his minions can count on their usual bag of
electoral stratagems and dirty tricks on Election Day: knocking hundreds
of thousands of minority voters off the voting rolls in various key
states, requiring photo-IDs (often difficult for poor and rural folks to
get -- a new kind of "poll tax") in order to cast a ballot, helping create
new Swift Boat-type organizations to slime Democratic opponents with
millions of dollars of TV ads, relying on corruptible e-voting machines
and suspect vote-counting, and so on. But they've done most of those
things for five years now.
No, my guess is that, given Bush's and the GOP's abysmally low poll
numbers, the "surprises" are going to have to be something truly stunning
if the Republicans want to avoid losing control of the House on November
AN OSAMA BIN LADEN "SURPRISE"
The Republicans have little positive to run on. Virtually every
initiative they touch turns into a disaster, from the wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan to Katrina to the EPA telling lies about air quality at Ground
Zero to Bush's ongoing plan to privatize Social Security to the stagnant
economy. So the Busheviks are left with their old standby: frighten the
crap out of the electorate on terror and taxes. That's it.
If one of the big "surprises" turns out to be a confirmation of the
French/Saudi report that bin Laden died in late-August, Americans might
well wonder why Rove and his crew, who obviously knew this news well in
advance, waited six weeks for just the right pre-election moment to have
it officially announced.
In addition, a bit of caution is in order here. In the world of
well-orchestrated psy-ops, let us remember that the convenient rumored
death of bin Laden could be of great service to the Republicans in
garnering votes and support for Election Day. But it could be less than
meets the eye.
Well, lookee here, sometime after November 7, there's another little
"surprise": It turns out the reports of bin Laden's death were greatly
exaggerated, and he's still around. Whoops, our bad.
Not saying that scenario would happen, but stranger things have.
ROLL OUT THE TERROR PLOTS
By demanding that the Brits arrest the alleged "liquid-bomb" airline
plotters immediately, way before the police there wanted, the Bush
Administration demonstrated for all to see that it had no problems
compromising a huge anti-terrorism investigation; the British authorities
were working to ensnare more cell-members and get to the higher-ups, but
Rove wanted what he wanted and he wanted it now.
In addition, as we later learned, reputable scientists showed that the
"liquid bombs" these alleged conspirators supposedly were going to use
would have been virtually impossible to mix on an airplane.
But so what? The arrests accomplished what Rove wanted: a scary
scenario that Republican candidates could point to as a
demonstration-model for why the GOP should be left in charge of the
nation's national security. Didn't matter if the alleged plot was real or
not, or hyped way beyond its true nature, or prematurely revealed for
partisan political reasons, or any of that.
The point is that the Bush-friendly corporate media ate up the
"imminent" terror scenario, and the story dominated the news cycles for
several days, thus imprinting fright back into voters' minds. In some
polls, this news plus Bush's pounding the fear theme in his 9/11 speeches
has been enough to send him up a few points. (There ARE bad guys out there
who'd love to do America great damage; that's not the issue. The issue is
to how most intelligently to handle the situation.)
Will be interesting to see how much Bush's numbers plummet after this
weekend's news that America's spying agencies unanimously have concluded,
in their top-secret
National Intelligence Estimate, that Bush's war and occupation in Iraq
have made the U.S.
not more. This is a HUGE dagger aimed at the heart of a CheneyBush
Administration that claims its wars of choice have helped make us all
PLANTING THE NEW SEEDS FOR WAR
It's "deja vu all over again." A Middle East leader is demonized as
evil incarnate; he is alleged to be eager to develop nuclear weapons; his
regime cracks down on many freedoms and handles reformers harshly; he is
threatening to Israel; he is avoiding complying with U.N. resolutions; the
U.S. is building a coalition in opposition to his policies; a special
Administration group is organized to "market" the runup to war, etc. Nope,
not Hussein in Iraq; it's Iran's President Ahmadinejad.
The Bush Administration has been laying the foundations for an attack
on Iran for many months, in a manner highly reminiscent of the run-up to
its attack on Iraq. The justification for an attack on Iran, especially
one centered on bombing that country's nuclear facilities, is that Iran
may be planning to someday move its legal civilian atomic-energy program
into a military mode by preparing to build nuclear weapons; so, reason the
Busheviks, better to attack Iran now, while its atomic program is in its
infancy. Doing so five or ten years down the line, this reasoning goes,
would be too late without facing grave damage to our own forces. The Bush
"pre-emption" policy: hit 'em while they're relatively defenseless.
Of course, Iran, unlike Iraq, is not a military paper-tiger. Even
without WMD, Iran could wield enormous military and political power in the
region, which would have ramifications around the world. Venezuela, for
instance, says if the U.S. attacks Iran, all Venezuelan oil shipments to
America will be halted.
have reported that U.S. naval forces are preparing to head toward the Iran
area. Special Forces have been trained in laying mines in the Straits of
Hormuz; that narrow bottleneck, if Iran were to sink major vessels there,
could halt Iran's supply of oil to the West. Retired Air Force Colonel Sam
Gardiner says the U.S. already has inserted special forces into Iran in
preparation for a coming attack. The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh many
months ago reported that the U.S. was gearing up for such a conflict, with
many high-ranking American officers deeply opposed and leaking the
likelihood of such an attack to the media.
In short, the Bush Administration seems to be following the neo-con
time schedule, with an attack on Iran just around the corner. It would
seem politically suicidal for the CheneyBush Administration to launch such
bombing prior to November 7, but you never know with this bunch. They
might believe that Americans would not dare to change governments in the
middle of another war -- rally 'round the President and Flag and all that.
If the attack doesn't happen pre-Election Day, then it likely will come
THE POLITICS OF TORTURE
All actions taken by the Bush Administration from about six months ago
up to November 7 have one goal and one goal only: to aid the Republicans
stay in control of the House, or, at the least, to limit the damage in
this possible Democratic-sweep year. These Bush guys will say anything, do
anything, to remain in power, even seem to be violating their ideology.
After Election Day, of course, their usual M.O. is to return to their true
selves -- a truly revolting prospect, that -- and an attack on Iran
certainly would qualify in that regard.
Back to torture. Bush&Co. would have been badly harmed politically if
the torture brouhaha continued indefinitely. Rove's intent all along had
been to force the Democrats into a terrible choice: 1) Either vote for
Bush's bill on torture/military tribunals and thus give the Administration
a blank-check while selling out their party's principles; or, 2) oppose
the bill and be tarred by Republicans as "unpatriotic" or
Democrats chose to sit on the sidelines during the initial struggle
between McCain/Graham/Warner and the White House on the language in the
bill. The Democrats hoped that the so-called Republican rebels would force
a capitulation on Bush's part, so the Dems wouldn't have to take him on
and risk any political capital. Either that or the GOP "moderates" would
stick to their guns and, joined by the Democrats, make sure the bill
stayed bottled-up in committee prior to the November election.
Well, as it turned out, it was the so-called "moderate" Republicans who
caved, and Bush got such mushy language into the agreed-to "compromise"
that basically the CIA is free to continue torturing suspects pretty much
as it has been during the past five years, and now the military
interrogators will be required to remain in the room while it happens.
Bush made a minor concession or two, but even those are open to loopholes
big enough to accommodate a large CIA truck carrying used waterboards.
DEMOCRATS BETWEEN ROCK & HARD PLACE
In short, the Democrats are on their own here on this issue -- exactly
where Rove hoped to position them. As I write this, there appears to be no
consensus among the Democrats as to how they should react to Rove's
successful ploy -- not even to attempt to delay the final vote on the bill
past Election Day. (And Sen. Specter's hissy-fit about outlawing judicial
review of these tribunal cases probably won't last more than a day or two;
why don't the Democrats jump into that fight?)
Some DLC-type leaders believe the Democrats could well take the prize
in November, and thus Dem candidates should just keep their heads down and
their powder dry and ride out the next six weeks. Why risk anything when
the signs are looking so good, especially with the Republicans constantly
shooting themselves in the feet?
The more activist Dems feel that the tactic of running out the clock is
stupid, and potentially dangerous. They are of the "best defense is a good
offense" frame of mind. The Republicans, they argue, have oodles of cash
on hand, and Swift-Boating-type PACs dedicated to smearing Dem candidates;
without a vigorous Dem offense -- especially on Iraq and Bush's
mishandling of national-security -- the momentum they've built up could
dissipate in the next six weeks and the Republicans could continue their
domination of the House, especially given some illegal fiddling with the
vote totals in certain tight races. (Question: Are the Democrats
positioning attorneys in the various states and districts where tight
races are indicated, to deal on the spot with electoral-fraud issues?)
I see the advantage of the first Democratic strategy, but lean more
toward the second. The GOP, thanks to the incompetence, recklessness and
lawlessness of the Bush Administration, is vulnerable right now. Don't let
them get off the mat and back into the fight. Hit 'em and hit 'em hard;
How Bush&Co. policies have weakened our national security.
Their disastrous "stay-the-course-over-the-cliff" strategy in Iraq
and their failure to secure Afghanistan when it could have been secured.
Their callous disregard for the lives of poor Americans, as became
clear after Katrina.
Their devoting the bulk of their tax cuts to the already wealthy
thus leaving the struggling middle-class to their own devices. (Factor
in Bush's ongoing plan to privatize Social Security after the election.)
Their not supporting the troops properly in-theatre (stretching them
way too thin, constantly renewing their tours of duty, not providing the
proper armoring and equipment, etc).
Engaging in torture at Abu Ghraib and other prisons around the
Failure of the Veterans Administration to well-serve the vets when
they come back home maimed and wounded. And on and on, certainly
including the likelihood of huge Guard and Reserve callups in Iraq and
maybe for Iran as well.
STANDING UP FOR DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES
Republican-lite is just not good enough any more. If the Democrats are
to avoid being regarded as an opposition party in name only, they must
constantly let the voters know how, and in what ways, they are different
from the Republicans.
The GOP -- as a result of its arrogance, corruption, bungling and
reckless behavior -- is ripe for a fall, and so many traditional
Republications and moderate conservatives are just looking for an excuse
to desert them at the polls. But if the Democrats don't take principled
stands on the issues, they can be demonized easily by Rove&Co, and those
wayward Republicans might well vote for the devil they know rather than
for those wishy-washy Democrats.
There isn't a helluva lot of time to play with here, friends. The
Democrats have to make their voices heard loud and clear from now until
November 7. If they choose not to, the risk is very real that Bush&Co.
will take them, and the country, down with them in the next two years.
Sound like so much partisan scare tactics? I wish it were.
Unfortunately, I think I'm being much too cautious in my conclusions. As
we've come to know more in the past year, this Bush crew is way worse than
we ever thought, or feared. November may be the best, and perhaps only,
chance in a generation to take them down. A landslide GOP defeat is what
we need, and what we must work for.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has
taught at universities in California and Washington State, worked as a
writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, and
currently is co-editor of The Crisis Papers. To comment: