By Ernest Partridge, The
The Bush gang has dropped the keys to the White House into
the laps of John Kerry and the Democrats.
Is it possible that the Kerry campaign will simply not notice
this opportunity and will pass it by? Unfortunately, the Democrats
have a deplorable habit of snatching defeat from the jaws
of victory, and it appears altogether likely that they are
about to do it again.
The "keys" are the Bush administration's open and incontrovertable
record of lies, a record documented repeatedly by a steady
succession of best-selling books - books by Al Franken, David
Corn, and Joe Conason, among others, with several more in
press and soon to be released. (Among them, Big Bush Lies
edited by Jerry Barrett, with three chapters by The Crisis
Papers editors - due for release within two weeks).
Credibility is the wellspring from which flows all the weight
and substance of political persuasion. If that well is corrupted,
and is known by the public to be corrupted, the prospects
of that party and of the candidate drawing from that well
will be seriously, and perhaps fatally, damaged.
Bush and the GOP propaganda machine have polluted that well,
and thus have given Kerry and the Democrats an outstanding
opportunity - if only they can succeed in making the mendacity
of the Bush regime the fundamental issue of the coming campaign.
In short, credibility is the keystone issue which, if skillfully
and effectively exploited, is quite capable of bringing down
the House of Bush - despite, and perhaps even due to, the
formidable campaign "war chest" accumulated by the Bushistas.
The Bush lies are well known to the American public. Bush
lied about Saddam's alleged "weapons of mass destruction."
He lied about the budget and the deficits, about his educational
and environmental policies, about his personal military service,
and on and on. And most significantly and conspicuously, he
lied about his justifications for the Iraq war.
"But all politicians lie," reply Bush's die-hard defenders.
And indeed, they do. But rarely at such a scale. Bush seems
incapable of admitting to any mistakes or personal flaws,
and will fib without a second thought, to avoid embarrassment
or admission of fallibility. Witness Bush's feeble attempts
to explain away his unauthorized absence from the Air National
Guard, and the Bush boosters' claim that the sailors of the
Abraham Lincoln put together, at their own initiative, the
"Mission Accomplished" banner.
Credibility, as many have quipped, is like virginity: once
lost, it is impossible to regain. And the America people,
while all too easily duped, will, once they come to realize
they have been suckered, turn with fury upon those who have
lied to them. And so, once the message finally gets through
to the public at large that a politician can't be trusted,
he is finished. This was the fate of Senator Joe McCarthy
and of Richard Nixon. If the Democrats exploit Bush's public
record of lies, both skillfully and relentlessly, this can
be the fate of George Bush as well. God only knows, he has
given his political foes and abundance of ammunition.
And now, the mighty $150 million GOP bandwagon has begun
to roll, as the woefully underfunded Democrats dread the imminent
onslaught, like the unfortunate Japanese soldiers on Iwo Jima.
That dread may not be warranted - not if the GOP propaganda
machine is countered with skillful responses and, still better,
Consider: in 2000, we all heard, over and over, the slanders
that Al Gore had claimed to have "invented the internet" and
to have "discovered Love Canal" - in general, that Gore was
a "serial exaggerator" and shameless self-promoter. These
false charges and caricatures were repeated so often, that
they soon were widely accepted as truths. (The Goebbels "Big
But note: never did we hear such embarrassments come out
of the mouth of Al Gore himself, for in fact he never said
And there's the difference. With the Bushistas, there is
no need to simply "report" their lies to the public - far
better, because they have been recorded, they can be seen
and heard issuing from the lips of the Bushista liars themselves:
"There is no question we have evidence
and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,
biological and chemical." (Bush, March 17, 2003)
"We found the weapons of mass destruction.
. . . [F]or those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing
devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them."
"[W]e do know, with absolute certainty,
that he is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment
he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon."
"Saddam Hussein 'had an established relationship
with al Qaeda.'" (Cheney)
"I'm absolutely sure that there are weapons
of mass destruction there and the evidence will be forthcoming.
We're just getting it just now." (Powell)
These lies, and many more, can be found and validated in
Rep. Henry Waxman's excellent database, "Iraq
on the Record."
All the above assertions have been shown to be demonstrably
false - i.e., lies. But there is no need to merely report
these lies. Far better to show the liars on the TV screen,
"caught in the act."
And they should be shown, over and over and over again -
a "Big Truth" whereby it will finally sink into the public
consciousness, that nothing that issues from the propaganda
"wells" of the White House or the Bush campaign can or should
be taken at face value. The Mighty GOP Campaign Wurlitzer
will be fatally disabled, and the way will be cleared for
the Democrats to get their message to the public.
Impossible? Not at all. We've seen it happen in our own
time. When the organs of Soviet propaganda, Pravda, Izvestiya
and Gostelradio, lost their credibility with the Russian public,
that public looked to foreign sources for their news and information.
Neither state monopoly of the media, nor suppression of "unofficial"
sources, could restore that credibility.
It can happen here to the lavishly funded GOP campaign.
But if that is to happen, the Democrats must strike forcefully
and immediately. Sadly, they are not.
In the New York Times last week, Jim Rutenberg wrote
an account of a "90-day
Media Strategy by Bush's Aides to Define Kerry."
The Democrats believe they can weather this storm, and then
fight back. As Rutenberg writes:
This early drive by the Bush campaign is in marked contrast
to the approach of the Kerry organization, whose strategists
say they believe the period before June is important but not
as crucial as Mr. Bush's team asserts. Calling the Bush campaign's
depictions of their candidate "distortions," Mr. Kerry's strategists
said the labels would not stick. Mr. Kerry is on vacation
in Idaho this week.
"The notion that you have a one-sided definition that takes
hold five months before an election is ridiculous," said Bob
Shrum, a senior advisor to Mr. Kerry. "I don't think the Bush
campaign's caricatures are going to stand up to the reality.
Voters are smarter than that."
Apparently Mr. Shrum and his associates have forgotten that
wise old maxim: "There is no second chance to make a first
impression." Karl Rove and his seasoned GOP campaign fully
appreciate that the first public image of John Kerry is the
one most likely to "stick," and so they are, at this very
moment, hard at work constructing that image. Amazingly, the
Democrats are allowing their opponents to draw, unopposed,
that image of their candidate.
Unless the Democrats get off their butts and Mr. Kerry gets
off the Idaho ski slopes and back to work, post haste, historians
may note that the 2004 election was lost to the Democrats
at the outset of the campaign.
That's how it happened in 2000. Just ask Al Gore.
When will they every learn?
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer
in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He
publishes the website, The
Online Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website, The