Gadfly Bytes -- June, 2002
Where's the Outrage?
The Online Gadfly
Published in The
Online Journal, June 10, 2002,
and Smirking Chimp, June 11, 2002.
The outrage is out there. It is silent and intimidated by the expert manipulations of the Bushista and media spin machines. Nevertheless, among those outraged at the Bush regime are a significant group of individuals, and when they gain their spine and sense of solidarity, and furthermore, when they find their voice –
Though the press and their surrealistic "approval rating" polls would have us believe otherwise, the dissenting liberals and the progressives have an impressive array of allies, both actual and potential.
To begin, as we all know but too easily forget, Bush lost the popular vote, after which he won the only vote allowed to count: five to four in the Supreme Court.
Which leads directly to the first class of the outraged: the lawyers and legal
Three days after the Supreme Court gave the Presidency to George Bush, 306 law professors published a letter stating in part that "by taking power from the voters, the Supreme Court has tarnished its own legitimacy. As teachers whose lives have been dedicated to the rule of law, we protest." Numerous practicing lawyers, most notably Vincent Bugliosi, have voiced their agreement. A year and a half later, they have not forgotten this assault on the rule of law. The outrage remains. Rest assured that it is being widely expressed in law schools throughout the land.
Similarly, in February, 2001, 409 Historians signed the following statement:
For two hundred and thirteen years, against formidable obstacles, democracy in American has expanded. We opened up the right to vote, securing the popular election of US senators and presidential electors, securing voting rights for the poor, women, and blacks. Now, in an act no less reprehensible than the partisan resolution of the election of 1876, a narrow majority of the Supreme Court has pulled the nation backward.... We are outraged and saddened at this wound inflicted upon American democracy. We call upon our fellow citizens, Republicans, Democrats and independents, to join us in dedicating ourselves to reform the electoral system so that the democratic will of the people is never again violated in an American election.
And Alan Brinkley, a Columbia University historian, called Bush v. Gore "the most dismaying and shocking public event of our time." These historians too remain outraged, however much the captive media have refused to acknowledge this. (Excerpts from these statements, and many more, have been collected at
"We Dissent," this site).
Immediately following the Bush v. Gore decision, numerous journalists expressed their outrage. Noteworthy among them was the anonymous writer of a New York Times editorial: "rather than ennobling the law and the Constitution, and sagaciously bringing the election to a resolution built on the ballot, the justices eroded public confidence in the court itself." Anthony Lewis of the Times wrote: "Courts have an obligation to persuade. Their power is legitimate only if they give reasoned arguments for what they do. By that standard, the decision in Bush v. Gore was a dismal failure..." And this from two conservatives: "[George W. Bush] gained office through an act of judicial usurpation. We will not 'move on,'" wrote William Kristol. "Indeed, some of us will work for the next four years to correct this affront to our constitutional order..." And from Kevin Phillips, "The dubious elements of Bush's victory are so numerous that questions regarding his legitimacy are appropriate -- even urgent..."
These sentiments were published during that brief moment of candor that followed Bush v. Gore on December 12, 2000. Soon thereafter, presumably due to stern instructions from the corporate boardrooms to "get over it," the journalistic corps fell into line – a policy sealed by John Ashcroft's equation of criticism and dissent with "treason." Then began all those silly commentaries about Bush's "Churchillian transformation."
All this must compound the outrage of those few honest journalists who, at some early moments in their education and careers, may have seen their roles as that of as that of reporters of fact rather than that of servile propagandists. How much more professional betrayal will they endure before they break loose and commit premeditated honesty? In his recent comments to a British reporter (not, apparently, intended for domestic consumption), even Dan Rather seemed to be straining at the bit.
Consider, next, the scientists. Time and again, George Bush has allowed dogma, his gut feelings, and most significantly, corporate promoted "junk science" to overrule the accumulated evidence and informed judgment of world-class scientists. The cases are too numerous to mention, but the most significant are Bush's policies regarding stem-cell research and global warming. (See
"The President of Fantasyland: Bush vs.
Science," this site). As a result, there is a serious possibility that the United States may lose its long-standing leadership in science and technology, as many key individuals abandon American universities and corporations, and migrate to Europe and Asia. Far worse are the consequences to future generations of Bush's stubborn unwillingness to face the implications of global warming and to act appropriately. Scientists throughout the United States and the world are well aware that the George Bush is a scientific illiterate, and that he is apparently proud of that fact. And they are outraged.
The outrage extends to all disciplines – the social and natural and life sciences, the humanities, and, I can personally testify, to philosophers. Obviously, not all academics and scholars disagree with Bush's policies (for instance, Phil Gramm and Dick Armey are former professors), and I am unaware of any studies that divulge just how many scholars disapprove of Bush's policies. I can report, however, that the conservatives are sufficiently provoked by the liberal heresies that are spoken and taught in the universities, that they have unleashed the likes of Lynn Cheney and Bill Bennett upon the heretics. Conservatives, it seems, do not flourish in a mileu of open critical debate and in the company of those who demand evidence and logical structure, free of rant and fallacy. And so, many have left academe for "think tanks" such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage
f\Foundation, where they can promulgate their conservative doctrines, unperturbed by intelligent rebuttal.
Prominent among the outraged are the environmentalists. Bush and Cheney have, in effect, become the Lobbyists in Chief for the energy, mining, forestry and chemical industries, as representatives of these industries meet privately and secretly to dictate policy to Administration officials. (Environmentalists need not apply). As Gregory Wetstone of the Natural Resources Defense Council correctly observed, "this is the most anti-environmental Presidential Administration, ever." Americans concerned about environmental quality, reportedly a majority, have cause for concern. Millions who are actively involved in environmental organizations are outraged.
The sense of public outrage might very well spread to unlikely groups. Even
Republicans, some of whom take seriously their aversion to "big government," and who must therefore be alarmed at the growing federal curtailment of civil liberties and privacy, and the federal interference with the autonomy of the states. "Conservatives" who revere the "rule of law" must be also be concerned with the indifference of the Bush administration to both domestic and international law. And so, many prominent Republicans have sadly concluded that their allegiance to our Constitutional principles must take
precedence over their party loyalties. The list of these Republican apostates is both significant, and growing: Jim Jeffords, of course, and also Arianna Huffington, John Dean, Kevin Phillips, and most recently, James Sensenbrenner.
Another unlikely source of discontent is among some leaders of business and finance, who are coming to appreciate Joe Lieberman's remark: "to live like a Republican, vote like a Democrat." After all, the greatest prosperity in history took place during the Clinton Administration, to be followed by the economic doldrums on Bush's watch. Wise businessmen realize that the "trickle down theory" of prosperity – the assurance that "the rising tide lifts all boats" – is a half-truth. The neglected other half is that prosperity "percolates up" from the mass of workers who produce wealth, and that "the falling tide grounds all boats." The task of the progressive is to persuade these fortunate worthies, not to act against their interests, but to recognize that their genuine interests lie in a just and integrated economy, that operates in behalf of all citizens.
Never forget that many authentic liberals and progressives are also fabulously wealthy. Shunning them would be both imprudent and unjust:
imprudent because, quite frankly, we need their support. And unjust, because many of these individuals have, in fact, been very generous with their wealth. Ted Turner, George Soros and John Corzine immediately come to mind. And even Microsoft Bill's father, William Gates Sr., CEO of the William and Melinda Gates Foundation, is leading the fight
against the repeal of the estate tax.
Finally, we must recognize that vast majority of fellow citizens who are not rich, who do not possess post-graduate degrees, and who are not professionally engaged with ideas or history or an analysis of current events. In short, this group comprises all those upon whom the nation's wealth and the integrity of our democratic institutions ultimately depend. We are told that these "ordinary folks," who produce the food, the goods and the services for the rest of us, overwhelmingly "support" George Bush. Yet this is the same Bush who, along with his political cohorts, is raiding their Social Security, denying them access to adequate medical care, mortgaging their future with massive federal deficits, and siphoning off the wealth they create and giving it to the super-rich. In short, the American people, by and large, are being suckered. If they come to realize that they've been had, then
watch out! "Beware the wrath of the American people," said John Lewis. It is the solemn task of the progressive to expose the Bushista fraud and to unleash that wrath.
Could this really happen? Nothing is assured, but much is possible. Bush's antics and atrocities are just too conspicuous for even the solicitous media to conceal, as the damaging facts and inconsistencies slip through every now and then. For example:
On September 11, as Bush was reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to the kids. Andrew Card whispered in his ear that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. Unbelievably, Bush resumed his reading. We are then offered this howling inconsistency as we are told that "The White House and Air Force One have been targeted," and yet Bush climbs aboard Air Force One, in search of a bunker.
While hundreds of heroic New York police and firemen ran into the twin towers, George Bush, as he recently confessed, was "trying to get out of harm's way." Hardly "Churchillian." In fact, Winston Churchill and King George V, it might be noted, elected to remain in London during the
Blitz, and only the insistence of the King kept Churchill from visiting the
Normandy beaches, soon after the invasion.
Americans are, by nature, very suspicious of secrecy. Cheney's dogged refusal to disclose the contents and the personnel of his energy policy meetings, Ashcroft's directive to resist the Freedom of Information Act, and Bush's defiance of the Presidential Records Act, all dramatically fail the "smell test." It is difficult for the ordinary citizen not to suspect that "they are trying to hide something."
The American people, proud of their presumed "leadership" among nations, must be troubled as they learn of the "exceptionalism" of Bush's foreign policy – violation of
treaties and refusal to sign on to still others (e.g., the Kyoto Treaty, the international criminal court, land mines, child labor, etc.). Moreover, America's declining international support and prestige can not be totally concealed from the public.. And surely, many of our fellow citizens must share our embarrassment at Bush's buffoonery during his trips abroad.
The flagrant injustice and even illegality of the business practices of Bush's friends and supporters – the fortunes of Enron executives salted away in offshore accounts, while thousands of Enron employees lose their life savings – all this must grate on the sensitivities of "average Joe and Jane" who, as they say, "work hard and play by the rules."
The gap between the wealthy who own and control the national wealth, and the 98% who produce that wealth, is growing. Paul Krugman reports that in 1980, CEOs at major companies earned 45 times as much as their average workers. (New York Times, May 21, 2002). In 2000, that number was 458, which means that the CEO earned in half a day, what his ordinary worker earned in a year. And that trend is apparently continuing. Once those workers realize that they are victims of this "reverse Robin-Hoodism," then, as Poppy Bush said in a different context, "this will not stand."
All this is plain and simple common sense, easily understood and readily appreciated by the general public. The Bush PR machine has been desperately at work to keep our collective attention away from "that man behind the curtain." The alleged "opposition party," the Democrats have, to their everlasting shame, been successfully intimidated. When one or another brave politician raises a voice in protest, those damnable "approval polls" are displayed, like a crucifix held up to the face of Dracula, and the Democrats, along with their few remaining journalistic cohorts, slink away in horror.
Is it just possible that those "approval ratings" are a mile wide and an inch deep – expressions of a national will to "stand together behind our leader, in this time of national peril?" Given
Bush's and Cheney's performance, how can it be otherwise? I suspect that below that alleged solidarity is a cauldron of seething public outrage, now disorganized, disparate, discouraged and mute. But it is potentially explosive, like a super-heated and super-pressurized magma pool below the placid landscape.
So far the Bushista spin offensive has been successful. But can they keep this up indefinitely? Don't count on it. Recent history is instructive. Remember that the two greatest Presidential landslides of the twentieth century, those of Johnson and Nixon, were followed, respectively, by their forced retirement and resignation. And as George Bush above all is aware, Poppy Bush's 80+% approval ratings evaporated within months, whereupon the voters sent him packing back to Texas after one term. In all these cases, the public was slow to respond, but when it did, the public will was irresistible . Then, as now, the malfeasance was skillfully concealed and "spun." But eventually the truth eked out, and then burst forth in a flood.
Strange to say, our greatest ally in this struggle may be George Walker Bush and his cronies, for their greed is matched by their arrogance and their ignorance. They have been thrust onto the national and international arenas, totally unprepared for Prime Time, and their manifest shortcomings may eventually prove fatal. As any politician knows, charisma can't be taught -- and Bush, unlike Reagan, is hopelessly bereft of charisma. Despite all the PR fog thrown up around him, Bush's incurable shallowness and klutziness shines through -- as we were reminded once again, during his recent trip to Europe. As Forrest Gump said, "Stupid is as stupid does." And so, this clown and his cronies are fated to stumble, again and again, and eventually the standard media/PR spin -- "its all part of his charming innocence" -- will become tiresome and hollow.
And finally, the political and economic dogmas of the Bush regime are false to the core, and thus unworkable guides in the art of governance. The Bushistas perceive public office, not as a public trust, but as a private opportunity -- and as the public comes to appreciate this at last, the public will not stand for this.
Nothing is assured. We may, as many suggest, be experiencing the twilight of American democracy, to be followed by a long night of corporate oligarchy and fascism. But we have been warned, and while the options remain, this is no time for the authentic patriot to sit on the sidelines and passively watch that dreadful tragedy unfold.
So write your Congressman. Boycott the whore media -- and tell them you are. Enlist your friends. Organize a teach-in.
Long on to the dissenting internet websites. Fill the streets. And
vote, vote, vote!
Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge