May 17, 2002
By Michael Shannon
If September 11th had been nothing more than a gorgeous late
summer day even the most staunch Republicans would by now
be realizing that George W Bush would be in mortal danger
of having One Termer stamped on his resume. It is only because
of the perfectly understandable tendency of an aroused and
aggrieved people to rally around their political leader that
has saved him to this point from being clearly seen as inept
as he truly is. That cloak of protection however is wearing
thinner by the day.
How Do You Define Conservatism? There were very few
of us on the non-Republican side of the political spectrum
that had any faith in the credibility of the first half of
Mr. Bush's campaign slogan: "compassionate conservatism".
The vast majority of his executive decisions, as well as the
various pieces of legislation proposed since he has taken
office, do nothing but support that skepticism. Lately though
it is those who actually bought into that cheap sloganeering
that have been coming around to the fact that this is not
a man who has strong beliefs in a conservative based political
philosophy. Rather he is a man who believes only in those
actions and policies which support the rich and powerful interests
from which he was born and bred and to whom he owes his entire
professional and political existence.
The first real eye opener for those on the right came when
Mr. Bush announced protectionist tariffs in favor of American
steel companies -- a major no no for those who place undying
faith in the wisdom of open and free markets. However, it
was the signal from the White House that Mr. Bush was ready
to sign a grotesquely bloated farm bill which has just recently
worked its way through Congress that really got the conservative
crowd questioning their boy's legitimacy. No one put their
shocked indignation more forcefully or more eloquently than
that well known borderline libertarian, and big time Bush
apologist, Andrew Sullivan, who commented that this bill is
a "shameless, unjustified, vast handout to rich corporate
farmers" approved by "a spineless president, who recently
seems like the kind of guy who never saw a big government
spending bill he didn't want to sign". Ouch.
Thank you Andrew, I couldn't have said it any better myself.
Mutiny on the Potomac. This rumbling on the right
has manifested itself in more places than on websites and
editorial pages. It boiled to the surface recently in the
halls of Congress. What was so startling about it was that
this time it was not a domestic issue but rather one of the
most explosive issues facing the international community that
rocked the Republican boat.
In vote of 94-2 in the Senate and 352-21 in the House of
Representatives the members of Congress not only passed resolutions
of support of Israel in their fight against the tyranny of
terrorism, they publicly defied the President on a matter
of the utmost importance.
While some will argue -- with much validity -- that these
resolutions were non-binding and merely a headline grabbing
effort, they were also more than that. There was a time not
so long ago when dissent was supposed to stop at the water's
edge. When it was clearly understood that members of the opposition
were not supposed to criticize a President's conducting of
foreign policy too harshly -- particularly during times of
overseas hostility involving American troops -- for fear that
it would show our enemies a less than united front. By voting
so lopsidedly in favor of Israel when the President was struggling
to maintain at least the appearance of impartiality the Congress
let the world know that presidential pronouncements aside,
they will vote as they damn well please.
What is even more surprising about all of this is that the
entire process was initiated by a Republican, Tom DeLay, of
Texas of all places.
I can only imagine that Lyndon Johnson -- a master of riding
herd over a recalcitrant Congress -- must be rolling over
in his grave that a member of the president's own party would
so publicly buck him on such a marquee issue.
Might Does Not Make Right. The American experiment
has been built upon two fundamental and irrevocable principles:
First, governments draw their power from the consent of the
governed and secondly, a just and honorable society is one
whose actions are defined by a clear and concise framework
based squarely on the rule of law. It is this latter tenet
that has been so shamelessly violated by the announcement
by the Bush Administration that the United States is nullifying
the Clinton Administration's signing of the treaty creating
the International Criminal Court.
While this change of heart flies directly in the face of
both long established precedent as well as basic common sense
-- the damage to our national credibility if every time we
change Presidents we have to renegotiate every treaty the
United States is party to is incalculable -- but that doesn't
seem to have caused the Bush team much trouble at all. As
quoted by CNN, one senior administration official said the
removal of the signature "removes any argument that if you
sign a treaty, you are obligated to it." He's right. Why would
anyone think that just because we signed the darn thing that
we were going to pay any attention to it? This unnamed official
goes on to say, "Some people think it is not possible to unsign
a treaty under international law, we think it is wrong, and
we just did it."
That statement is the geopolitical equivalent of, " It's
my ball and if you don't play by my rules I'm going to take
The administration's central complaint against the Court
is that it would curtail the ability of the United States
to conduct military operations on a worldwide basis. It would
take a much more learned legal mind than mine to explain the
nuances of the treaty's many clauses so pardon me if I am
being naive by asking; wouldn't our soldiers and their political
leaders be shielded from charges being brought against them
as long as they adhered to the already well established rules
of war? Or would that be asking too much?
Dancing with Arafat. We need to clarify a central
point here. As is plainly evident from the above, the Bush
administration is arrogant and unabashedly unilateralist.
And Mr Bush himself may very well be guilty of waiting far
too long to fully engage the power of his office specifically
and the assistance and influence of US government in general
in the matter of the Israeli / Palestinian conflict. The Bush
team is also undeniably guilty of gross hypocrisy in that
they insist that the Israelis negotiate with a man, Yassir
Arafat, whom if he had perpetrated one tenth the violence
against Americans and our interests that he has against the
Israelis would be summarily branded as an enemy of the state
with no questions asked. Mr Bush is further guilty of permitting
himself to be made to look totally ineffectual by his repeated
public insistence that the two parties take actions that neither
has any intention of taking, and then failing to do anything
about it when they don't. Not to mention the vacillation from
one position to the next which so muddies the message that
no one is exactly sure what the message is.
All these transgressions however are ephemeral in nature.
They involve flaws of judgment, strategy and execution. What
Mr Bush is not guilty of is the endorsement, either tacit
or direct, of murder. Only those twisted, vile men who permit
their children to be so immersed in a climate of hatred that
they willing go forth to their deaths believing that the wanton
slaughter they commit will further their cause, are guilty
of that. These futile sacrifices are not only a despicable
waste of the lives of the those who actually strap belts of
explosives to their bodies but the very future of their entire
society they so misguidedly seek to advance.
It is a shame that our present government does not appear
up to the challenge of convincing these people of the egregious
error of their ways.
Summary. As your grandmother used to say; actions
speak louder than words. Mr Bush may have given a good speech
or two in the months immediately following the events of last
September but the bloom has most definitely come off the rose.
It is now all too apparent that not only is he in way over
his head but that that fact doesn't seem to bother him all
It is imperative that we have a change of leadership if we
are to meet the daunting challenges of the days and years
ahead. We have six months to prepare for that change to begin.
Contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org