Hopeful Cracks in the Bush Facade
December 6, 2002
By Bernard Weiner, The
Don't know about you, but I find myself caught right in the
middle of the glass half-empty/half-full way of looking at
our current political situation.
In my last piece ("Shining Our Light on the Shadow Forces:
Open Letter to the Fledgling 'Movement'"), I talked about
how things are going to get worse before they get worse, and
then even more worse, and then things will start to get better.
In my darker periods -- which these days is most of the time
-- I still believe this, that what is about to come down from
Bush&Co. in the next few years is going to be horrendous,
both for Americans domestically and for those in the way of
U.S. imperial moves abroad.
Domestically, due-process Constitutional protections, already
in shreds thanks to Bush & Ashcroft, will nearly disappear.
Big Brother government will invade our privacy in virtually
every area of our lives, thanks to technological breakthroughs
and the magic word "terrorists." More citizens will be yanked
off to the American gulags, cut off from judicial review or
even their attorneys. Internationally, Bush&Co. will continue
to march forward belligerently, arrogantly and theateningly
in their desire to bring "benevolent hegemony" to those areas
of the world rich in minerals and energy sources, thus stirring
up anti-U.S. rebellions and fueling more terrorism.
But rather than dwell on that awful picture, and what it
presages for the future -- the glass half-empty scenario --
let's search for any hopeful signs that point to a way out
of our current morass.
In this glass-half-full approach, consider these:
1. Big Brotherism. A number of anti-big-government
conservatives, appalled at the Constitutional excesses of
the Bush Administration and its Big Brother approach to snooping
on American citizens, have begun to rebel. A bit late, of
course -- since many of them supported those very excesses
in helping get the USA PATRIOT Act and the Homeland Security
bill passed -- but better late than never.
It almost boggles the mind to read that such rightwing stalwarts
as Dick Armey, Bob Barr, and Henry Hyde are about to join
forces with the American Civil Liberties Union, as consultants,
to try to rein in the police-state tactics of the Bush Administration.
Politics does indeed put one in the sack with the strangest
bedfellows. (Incidentally, the ACLU -- which is running TV
ads in selected markets showing Ashcroft taking scissors to
the Constitution -- reports that it is being inundated with
new members, up 12% from last year at this time, and rising
In addition, such conservative/libertarian columnists as
William Safire and Pat Buchanan likewise are taking frontal
potshots at the excesses of this arrogant Administration and
its approach to the Constitution. Good on them!
If the civil libertarian wing of the Democratic party, and
the anti-war movement in general, are wise, they will welcome
these lapsed brethren into the anti-Bush&Co. fold and try
to utilize their conservative credentials to lure more such
disaffected Republicans to the cause of restoring Constitutional
balance and due-process to our polity. (I think the Democrats
may have leaders with that kind of wisdom; I'm not sure about
some of the segments of the anti-war movement, still locked
into slogans and behaviors that are sure to alienate the great
middle-class of Americans, without whom no political movement
can make much progress.)
2. The Jeffords example. Given this relatively slight
but growing conservative opposition to Bush&Co. excesses,
there may be more leverage for leaning on such moderate GOP
senators as Snowe, Collins, Specter and Chaffee to "do a Jeffords"
and become Independents, thus blocking Bush&Co.'s total control
of the U.S. Congress. It would be a miracle if some or all
of them were to bolt the party -- those GOP moderates stand
to benefit from the perqs of being part of the winning side
-- but if they did, it would make it easier for Democrats
to head off the more egregious policies of the Bush Administration.
Surely these GOP moderates are uneasy with (or even revolted
by) some of those policies and, with enough pressure from
inside and outside the Senate, they might be willing to consider
such a patriotic move. There is talk amongst some Democrats
of trying to lure them over by promising them key leadership
positions and other blandishments -- not a bad strategy, if
a bit obvious.
3. The Supreme Court. One can expect that some of
the more outrageous provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and
the Homeland Security Act will make their way to the U.S.
Supreme Court, perhaps as early as next year. Given the growing
revolt by conservatives against the more extreme aspects of
those bills with reference to civil liberties and privacy,
it is possible that the Supreme Court, with a conservative
majority, might rule that some of those provisions are unconstitutional.
(One can imagine that Rehnquist, Scalia and Thomas would always
rule for Bush&Co. -- they are, in a way, charter members of
that Co. -- but Kennedy and O'Connor, a shade more moderate,
might join the more liberal four on questions such as these.
Let us not forget, many conservatives are worried about the
martial-law-type precedents established under Bush that would
still be in place were liberal Democratic administrations
to retake the government some day.)
Already, we've seen several key court cases recently where
Bush&Co. have had their hands slapped. An appeals court has
ruled that the feds can not violate California law and turn
over the oil-rich coastline to companies wishing to drill.
And the judge hearing the case against Cheney's continuing
refusal to make public who participated in shaping the Administration's
energy policies once again has ordered him, in no uncertain
terms, to turn over those papers and quickly. That's one courageous
judge. (It's not clear what penalties could be exacted against
Cheney if he chooses to ignore the court's order -- contempt-of-court
proceedings are not likely, but it's conceivable they could
be ordered; it's even possible that impeachment could loom
somewhere down the line. But, once again, the true face of
Bush&Co, arrogantly deciding for themselves what information
should be seen by the American public will be made manifest,
and electoral consequences could ensue.)
4. The Esquire Article. In case you haven't heard,
a Bush Administration insider -- John DiIulio, who was Bush's
head of the faith-based initiative program -- sent a long
memo to Esquire writer Ron Susskind that takes a vivid peek
behind the corrupt, power-hungry mob in the White House. Among
his bombshells: "There is no precedent in any modern White
House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of
a policy apparatus. What you've got is everything, and I mean
everything, being run by the political arm. It's the reign
of the Mayberry Machiavellis...On social policy and related
issues, the lack of even basic policy knowledge, and only
a casual interest in knowing more, was somewhat breathtaking..."
DiIulio made the obligatory public backtracking a few days
ago, after coming under heavy fire from the Bushistas, but
what he wrote stands as a most important critical attack,
all the more effective because it's not from a Democratic
heavy or an online progressive writer but from a conservative
who continues to support Bush as a leader.
What he's saying is what many of us have been asserting for
quite awhile: that the extremist HardRight agenda is what
is driving the Bush&Co. engine, not policy that is intelligently
vetted in terms of what is good for the American people. And
Karl Rove, the Rasputin behind the throne, runs that domestic
24/7 political operation -- just as Cheney runs the foreign
policy wing, and probably much more.
In short, a major fissure has opened up in the Bush facade,
and through it the American people can get a clearer view
of the ambitious, power-hungry zealots in charge. Score one
for our side.
5. "The Republican" charge. Chuck Baldwin writes in
"The Republican," a newsletter for the GOP faithful: "Back
in August, columnist Paul Craig Roberts asked the question,
'Is a vote for Republicans a vote for a police state?' The
answer seems to be a resounding yes! The Bush administration
seems determined to turn our country into the most elaborate
and sophisticated police state ever devised."
"Things are so bad," Baldwin goes on, "that outgoing house
majority leader Dick Armey said that under Bush the [Justice
Department] is 'out of control.' In fact, the conservative
congressman is reported to be seriously considering taking
a position with the ACLU in order to help fight the federal
government's usurpation of constitutionally protected liberties.
Does that mean one must leave the Republican Party in order
to fight for liberty? Maybe so...The tyrannical tendencies
of old King George III of England cannot hold a candle to
the Machiavellian machinations of King George XLIII of the
United States. Unfortunately, there are few Paul Reveres around
to sound an alarm. Unless contemporary patriots act quickly,
Republicans, not Democrats, will be the ones that ultimately
dismantle our constitution and trample our liberties."
Again, this invective was not spewed by the partisan enemies
of the Bush Administration, but by a fellow Republican, thoroughly
angered by his realization that his beloved party has been
hijacked by far-right extremists, hell bent for leather to
turn this country into the exact opposite of what small-government
conservatives have been supporting for decades. Grounds for
6. Kissinger. This one is a bit convoluted, so hang
with me here. It would appear on the surface that Bush appointing
Kissinger to chair the blue-ribbon commission on how 9/11
happened means the results will be a whitewash for Bush&Co.
The ex-Secretary of State & National Security Advisor -- with
blood all over his hands for his policies, and notoriously
secretive in defending all regimes from public scrutiny --
is regarded as a Bush toady who will see no evil and report
no evil in terms of what the Bush Administration knew and
when they knew it, and why they did nothing to protect American
citizens from the coming terrorist attackers on 9/11.
But one friend suggests the following, and though it's hard
to swallow, it is a possibility. The shorthand version is:
payback. Kissinger, in this reading, is not totally Bush's
man. Kissinger, who is like an elephant that never forgets,
may want to revenge himself on old enemies, most notably Rumsfeld
and, perhaps subconsciously, even the Bush family. And so,
with his own private resentments active, and with Democratic
vice-chairman George Mitchell prodding him from the sidelines,
Kissinger -- anxious to resurrect his image from that of potential
war-criminal back to the days of the brilliant, courageous
Nobel Prize-winning statesman -- may let some of the dirt
reach the light of day.
If and when that smelly truth hits the fan, watch out! The
American people, even in their terrorist-fright, would not
take kindly to leaders who, to further their own political
agenda, chose inaction in the face of knowledge of what was
coming -- leading to 3000 innocent American civilians dying.
Out of that kind of rage and disappointment are impeachment
7. Town Hall politics. Bush&Co. are trying to make
war with Iraq an inevitability, a fait accompli, a juggernaut
that supposedly can't be stopped by anyone, not allies, not
the American citizenry. To accomplish this end domestically,
they pushed the USA PATRIOT Act and the Homeland Security
Act through Congress. But in town after town, city after city
-- 22 at last count, and 40 more pending -- municipal governments
are voting not to recognize the validity of unconstitutional
behavior on the part of the feds.
As Nat Hentoff reported about the growth of the work of these
Bill of Rights Defense Committees, by and large these resolutions
are similar to the one passed unanimously by the Northampton
City Council on May 2, 2002, which required that:
"Local law enforcement continue to preserve residents' freedom
of speech, religion, assembly and privacy; rights to counsel
and due process in judicial proceedings; and protection from
unreasonable searches and seizures even if requested or authorized
to infringe upon these rights by federal law enforcement acting
under new powers granted by the USA Patriot Act or orders
of the Executive Branch.
"Furthermore, Federal and state law enforcement officials
acting within the City are asked to 'work in accordance with
the policies of the Northampton Police Department . . . by
not engaging in or permitting detentions without charges or
[using] racial profiling in law enforcement.'
Also, "the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Office of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, and Massachusetts State police [are
to] report to the Northampton Human Rights Commission regularly
and publicly the extent to and manner in which they have acted
under the USA Patriot Act, new Executive Orders, or COINTELPRO-type
regulations." This includes "disclosing the names of the detainees
held in western Massachusetts or any Northampton residents
This is grassroots democracy at its finest, telling the over-reaching
Ashcrofts and Bushes that they've gone way beyond the line
of legal, or even decent, human behavior. Not a good omen
for Bush&Co. (Why not try to get something similar going in
your town or city?)
8. Snoops in Bed. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed
to hear a case concerning the sodomy laws. The hopeful reasoning
here goes something like this: If the court holds that the
Southern law making sodomy illegal is an unconstitutional
invasion of privacy in the bedroom, the maddog fanatics in
the Bush base of fundamentalist Christians will be outraged
and consider withdrawing support from Bush. If the court rules
in favor of such laws -- which, remember, have reference to
heterosexual as well as homosexual behavior in the bedroom
-- there will be a mobilization within the libertarian right
as well as in the incensed gay community to have Congress
pass laws overturning the court's ruling. Bush will then have
to take a stand on this hot issue, and whichever way he goes,
it doesn't bode well for him in 2004.
9. The Bush "mandate." Bush&Co. spokesmen and supporters
claimed after the results of the midterm elections were announced
that they would continue to use their "mandate" given them
by the voters in 2000 to push their programs through Congress.
But there was no mandate in 2000 -- since the will of the
voters, who chose Gore, was superceded by five members of
the U.S. Supreme Court, who halted the counting of citizens'
ballots and installed Bush into the White House -- and neither
was there a mandate on November 5th of 2002.
Only 40% of eligible voters actually cast ballots, and just
slightly more than half chose the GOP candidates. In other
words, 21% of eligible American voters chose the GOP. A swing
of a few thousand votes here, and another few thousand there,
and the Democrats would be in control of the Congress. (I've
written elsewhere about the possibility of vote-tampering
in those key states where touch-screen voting was employed,
with no paper ballots and no exit polls to check those results
In short, even if one believes the election results were
on the up-and-up, the victory for Bush&Co. was razor-thin.
There is no "mandate" to do anything but govern from the middle,
but, figuring this is their one chance to fashion the political
scene for the next decade or two, Bush&Co. are pretending
that they won a massive victory that permits them to push
through their extreme greed-and-power agenda, and to hell
10. The Sin of Pride. Finally, and following from
the last one: There is in the post-election behavior of Bush&Co.
no humility, no concession to decency, only a mad dash for
the goodies of profit and power. Domestically and internationally,
there is little but the willingness, even an eagerness, to
push anyone aside who gets in their way.
There is, in this behavior, what the ancient Greek dramatists
called "hubris," a tempting of the gods, who are prone to
visit bad things on the heads of those mortals who pretend
they are like gods themselves. The punishment for those who
evidence overbearing pride and arrogance is to be brought
low by their own excesses, by their belief that they can get
away with anything.
Pride goeth before the fall. Let it be so.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., is co-editor of the new progressive
website The Crisis Papers, www.crisispapers.org,
where this article first appeared. He has taught American
politics and international relations at various universities,
and was with the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 20 years.