Cares What Millions of People Think?
February 27, 2003
By Dan DeLisio
In what has become a trademark exhibition of sneering contempt
for the opinions of the average person, Mr. Bush once more
demonstrated last week why he respects the will of the people
and the processes of democratic governance about as much as
King George I of old England and Marie Antoinette of that
good country France did. Giving one of his infrequent press
conferences, Mr. Bush attempted to airily dismiss the strong,
principled opinions expressed by American citizens and the
citizens of other democratic governments all throughout the
Western world who recently took to the streets in a sea of
humanity to decry Mr. Bush's seemingly insatiable bloodlust
and eagerness to wage war on Iraq.
In an expression of complete disregard for the many principled
expressions of concern by millions of people, King George
Antoinette snottily declared: "Size of protest, it's like
deciding, 'Well I'm going to decide policy based up on a focus
group.' The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon
the security - in this case - security of the people."
Would that that were truly the case.
Regrettably so near the birthday of George Washington, who
reputedly did not tell a lie, this George lied through his
teeth. If he doesn't make policy based on a focus group exactly
why then did he approve the recent "Duct Tape Alert?" This
less than helpful warning, which triggered needless public
alarm and confusion, came about in large part specifically
because his handpicked director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge
decided that advising the public to use duct tape and plastic
sheeting to protect themselves from terrorism was a good idea
because the idea was "run by" some "focus groups" (link).
Although the duct tape may have been a hit with the focus
group, safety experts roundly derided the advice, and the
average taxpayer was left to rightfully wonder why he is paying
such a handsome premium for homeland security if this is the
best that the administration can come up with to keep us safe
in a time of crisis.
The simple basic truth is that this is most assuredly a poll
driven, politically obsessed administration like few others.
In point of fact, as ex-director of faith-based initiatives
John DiIulio noted, from his personal, first-hand observation
of the how the administration truly runs, there is very little
attention paid to the details of sound policy formulation
by White House staff. Instead staffers devote the majority
of their attention and time to thinking up new ways to sell
regressive policies politically.
DiIulio aptly described this White House as one run by "Mayberry
Machiavellis." Indeed Andy, Floyd, Goober and the gang spend
close to one million dollars annually on polling to find out
how best to peddle and pitch their policies and make them
palatable to the average voter who will be hurt by them (link).
So once again, as always, the true reality stands in direct
opposition to Mr. Bush's hollow pronouncements.
However, Bush's usual hypocrisy aside, the fact of the matter
is that the recent mass protests and public action cannot
be considered by any stretch of rationality to have been "focus
groups." Focus groups are artificial creations of the modern
mercantile age. They are chiefly a marketing tool used to
measure the reaction of prospective consumers to various products
or advertising campaigns.
As such, a focus group is a purely unassertive entity, completely
directed and controlled by the corporation or organization
that created the group. The members of the focus group are
merely passive responders since all of their activities are
done in response to the preplanned and carefully scripted
formulaic directions of others. The members of a focus group
demonstrate no independent thought, passion or creativity.
By contrast, the peace rallies this past weekend were genuine
outpourings of heartfelt concern by individuals who felt compelled,
on their own initiative, to take to the streets and make their
voices heard. They did not come together as a group because
they were being paid a few measly shekels for their opinion
on a flavor of toothpaste or a better smelling brand of deodorant
or some other silly, quickly forgotten commercial purpose.
No corporation or government or politician was soliciting
the opinion of the peace marchers and asking them how they
felt or what they wanted. Indeed, the New York City mayor's
office, in conjunction with the Bush Administration, did everything
they could to thwart the largest group of Americans from ever
expressing their opinions (link).
No, the individual peace marchers did not choose their course
of action because they were following the orders or directions
of a corporation or government. They chose their because they
were following a much higher calling, namely their own personal
consciences. Theirs was the ultimate act of altruism borne
out of concern for the welfare of their fellow human beings,
not out of any crass monetary or selfish personal concern.
Each of them, of their own volition, made the choice to actively
and peacefully seek to avert this potentially horrific and
quite unnecessary war which the Bush Administration so desperately
They did so because they recognized that this was perhaps
their last chance to change a dangerously shortsighted policy
that may wreak incalculable havoc on innocent civilians and
the course of world history. In short they were acting in
accordance with the best historical democratic traditions
of mass popular, peaceful action to achieve the betterment
of mankind. They were, in the words of our First Amendment,
peaceably assembling to petition their governments for a redress
of their grievances.
Rather than acknowledge these grievances, however, and seek
to explore other peaceful avenues to end this crisis of his
own making, Mr. Bush reacted Tuesday in his usual dismissive
manner. Although most political leaders would be loathe to
dismiss an expression of popular sentiment of this size Mr.
Bush is not like most political leaders. Having attained his
present office against the will of the majority of the voters,
he has governed in a manner that demonstrates he is utterly
deaf to expressions of popular will - particularly where,
as here, they collide with his personal ambitions.
Since his appointment to the Presidency, Mr. Bush has treated
the people's representatives, Congress, with a uniquely contemptuous
scorn. His administration has hidden behind an iron curtain
of secrecy and stonewalled legitimate requests for information
on their mountain of secretive activities. To please his corporate
masters, he has gleefully gutted years of carefully crafted
environmental and worker safety protections with nary a thought
about the incalculable havoc such gutting will wreak on the
safety and health of every American.
He shamelessly raids the treasury to enrich his CEO country
club pals with no thought to the staggering burdens which
future generations will be forced to bear. He unilaterally,
without legal or moral basis, asserts the unfettered right
to detain American citizens without trial and without representation.
He can't stand the sight of protestors so he pens them up
in "First Amendment Zones" whenever he comes to a town to
speak. On the rare occasion that he does inadvertently come
face to face with someone who disagrees with his policies,
he scornfully brushes them off by telling them "who cares
what you think" (link).
He is also on record as saying that he thinks certain people
have "too much freedom," and he has expressed his fondest
wishes that the USA be a dictatorship with him as dictator
so that his job would be "a heck of a lot easier."
These are but a few of the many egregious examples of his
conduct which irrefutably demonstrate his apparently deeply
held belief that he has the divine, god-given right of a king
to govern on his personal whims and by his personal decrees
- Congress and the will of the people be damned. Thus his
statement last week is perfectly consistent with that belief.
To him protestors are an unsightly inconvenience but nothing
to be concerned about since "who cares what they think anyway."
Although Mr. Bush purports to be acting in a manner that
he thinks is best to protect the security of the American
people, the fact of the matter is that the security of the
American people is not best protected by an ill-conceived,
unneeded and costly war. Saddam Hussein has been peacefully
contained and substantially disarmed over the last decade
with an aggressive UN inspection regime. During the time that
the containment and inspection process has been followed Hussein
has not given weapons to terrorists nor has he attacked his
neighbors. There is absolutely no reason then why a sustained
aggressive inspection regime cannot destroy whatever few remaining
weapons he possesses and neutralize whatever slight military
threat his sanctions-depleted armies may still pose to his
neighbors. War is not necessary to achieve these aims, particularly
when our own intelligence people have indicated that a war
and occupation is likely to provoke more acts of terrorism
against the US (link).
The bottom line is that Mr. Bush has decided to go to war,
and like a petulant child, he has stamped his feet and told
us that he will get what he wants no matter what we say. He
has now made it abundantly clear with his Tuesday statement
that he won't be deterred or phased one iota by popular expressions
of the will of the people. Essentially he has once more thumbed
his nose at all of us and told us to "eat Texas cowpatties."
There is, of course, only one remedy for this contemptuous
disregard of the will of the people. We the people whom Mr.
Bush has scorned must continue to pressure other more reasonable
individuals in our respective governments to find a peaceful
alternative to war. We must also speak out with equal passion
and vigor to demand that that our representatives stop Mr.
Bush's pillaging of the world's environment, stop the assault
on the safety and livelihood of workers, stop the mortgaging
of our future and the wanton destruction of fundamental human
freedoms which have been enshrined in the constitution of
the United States and the charter of the United Nations. We
must turn out again and again in large numbers at public meetings,
congressional offices and, most importantly, at the ballot
Contrary to Mr. Bush's mistaken belief, our government and
the other democratic governments of the remainder of Western
world comprise more than any one single person. They are institutions
comprised of many men and women of goodwill, and, as such,
they are strong enough to discern and respond to the true
needs and concerns of the people which they exist to serve.
The age of kings ruling by fiat is long past. The recent protests
showed that government of the people by the people and for
the people has not perished from the earth, and that it remains
the single best hope for a brighter, peaceful, prosperous
future for all of us.