Bush Is So Weak, Why Is He So Strong?
By Ernest Partridge, The
primary rule in any contest is "know your adversary."
Study his strengths and his weaknesses. Strengths can, judo-like,
be turned against the foe. Weaknesses, if skillfully exploited,
can subdue the enemy. This is especially true when the enemy
is himself unaware of his own weaknesses.
All these are elementary precepts of gamesmanship and military
science. And yet, the Kerry/Democratic strategists appear
to be disregarding these basic rules, as they take on old
habits and tactics that have failed them in the past.
"On the merits," the Bush candidacy should be
one of the weakest and most vulnerable in historical memory.
Through a constant stream of demonstrable lies, he has hoodwinked
the public, impoverished their social services, mortgaged
their future, and besmirched the reputation of our country
among the community of nations, as he has sacrificed the lives
of hundreds of our soldiers, and thousands of Iraqi civilians,
to his delusions and folly. Yet, somehow, he remains a formidable
contender in the pending election.
This should not, and need not, be so.
The strength of the Bush candidacy is supported by a "tripod"
of factors: (1) a huge "war chest" of campaign funds,
(2) a compliant media, and (3) a failure of the Democrats
to exploit the weaknesses of Bush and his associates. There
is little that the Democrats can do about the financial resources
of the GOP except to make an issue of that very opulence,
and the corporate sellouts of the public interest that enabled
the party to accumulate those funds. Similarly, the corporate
media has been solidly enlisted into the Bush camp. Defections
will be difficult to obtain, but not impossible. If the media
find that they are losing their audience, their partisanship
may be muted. Even now, there is an erosion of media credibility
with the public, as awareness of the betrayals, iniquities
and lies of the Bush administration seeps through the media
curtain and into the public awareness. Read the public opinion
polls: the sleeping giant is beginning to stir.
The best means for the Democrats and the progressive opposition
to topple the Bush regime, is to cut off the third leg of
the tripod: recognize and exploit the intellectual incapacities
and moral turpitude of the Bush administration. Space will
allow little more than an enumeration. I hope to spell out
these deficiencies in more detail in later essays.
Dogmatic and fixated thinking. The Bushistas have
a tenuous "reality principle." Instead of being
open and adaptive to incoming data, they project their dogmas
outward. The world is what they "know" it to be,
a priori. Evidence be damned!
Budget surpluses? Cut taxes. Budget deficits? Cut taxes.
Has "trickle-down" economics failed under Reagan,
and was it refuted by the Clinton prosperity? No way! Try
it again! The CIA tells them Saddam is no threat? Then they
install the Office of Special Plans - their own in-house intelligence
group that will supply the answers they want. What, you can't
find WMDs in Iraq? No matter: "absence of evidence is
not evidence of absence" (Rumsfeld). In general: "that's
the wrong answer! Don't come back to us until you have the
answer we want."
Accordingly, Bushistas are arrogant and supremely sure of
themselves. It is an unusually myopic opponent who fails to
recognize these qualities as acute vulnerabilities. Arrogant
and inflexible individuals can be led to their downfall. "Pride
goeth before the fall."
An inability to publicly admit error, combined with a
readiness to blame others. Remember Bush's mangled aphorism:
"fool me once, shame on you - fool me... you can't get
fooled again." The correct completion, of course, is
"fool me twice, shame on me." Mark Crispin Miller
suggests that this flub reveals a deep moral defect in George
Bush: an inability to acknowledge, and thus to articulate,
personal error. Instead, blame is attached to any available
individual - such as Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, and perpetually,
Bill and Hillary Clinton. The buck flows unimpeded through
and past the Oval Office. Buck-passing is not an endearing
quality among the general public, which appreciates heart-felt
apologies. Witness the public response to Richard Clarke's
apology before the 9/11 Commission.
Unscrupulous lying. All politicians lie, or at least
distort and mislead - everyone knows that. What is truly remarkable
about this pack of politicians, is both the quantity of the
lies and their disposition to lie about trivial matters, and
about matters that can readily reveal the lying. For example,
the Bush team insisted that the "Mission Accomplished"
banner was spontaneously put up by the ship's crew. That was
readily shown to be false. And now we have the "Letterman
Lie." When David Letterman showed the hilarious footage
of the yawning kid at a Bush speech, the White House shot
back with a charge that the footage was faked. And when Letterman
held his ground, the White House compounded their lie by then
denying that they ever suggested that the footage was faked
was CNN's fault (buck-passing again). The plot thickens:
the latest word is that Letterman has countered by citing
an "indisputable" and "highly placed" (if anonymous) source
that verifies that the White House did, in fact, contact CNN.
- search "Letterman").
What's remarkable about both the banner and Letterman incidents
is their triviality - both could be dealt with by simply asserting
the plain truth, with little harm done. But no, the first
impulse was to lie, and so they did. And that kind of disposition
is not trivial, for it reveals a fundamental moral flaw. For
if the Busheviks lie without qualm about such trivial matters,
they are all the more capable of lying about portentous matters.
And, of course, there is abundant evidence that they have
done just that. As for these more serious lies, space constraints
forbid elaboration. But elaboration is not necessary, since
several books have been written exposing hundreds of authenticated
The Bush gang lies and passes the buck because they are
thin-skinned and ruthless. They are readily provoked to anger
and retaliation. Witness the abuse and personal injury piled
upon such dissenters as Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, and
most acutely, upon Joseph Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame.
The blind spite and viciousness of the Bush gang can be counter-productive.
As Marc Cooper points
out, when Richard Clarke's book was published:
All the White House had to do ... was say that Dick
Clarke - who had been named crisis manager the morning of
September 11 - was a great guy, a loyal public servant, that
he has, indeed, a few policy differences with the president,
but his critique enriches the public debate. Thank you very
much and, gosh, all of us, like our old friend Dickie, are
sorry we didn't better anticipate al Qaeda's attacks.
Instead, the Republican attack machine went on tilt.
The always execrable Dick Cheney went so low as to use the
Limbaugh show as a venue to discredit Clarke. Majority Leader
Bill Frist made an ass out of himself on the Senate floor,
hysterically calling for Clarke to be busted for perjury (though
he admitted he had not read his book). The White House vehemently
denied the decisive post-9/11 meeting between Rice and Clarke
(and later had to recant).
Bush and his coterie have a grotesque and cruel sense of
humor. Consider Bush's performance while Governor of Texas,
as he mimicked the pleas of the condemned Karla Faye Tucker:
"Please don't kill me!" Consider too his skit this
past month at the Correspondents Association dinner, at which
he pretended to look under the desk and chairs of the Oval
Office for the missing WMDs. At that dinner, The Nation
correspondent, David Corn, reflected:
"Over 500 Americans and literally countless Iraqis are dead
because of a war that was supposedly fought to find weapons
of mass destruction, and Bush is joking about it." Yet
Bush, and astonishingly, most of the correspondents, somehow
felt that this performance was funny.
Finally, the Bush regime displays traits that border on
the sociopathic; they appear incapable of recognizing, much
less caring about, the humanity of others, or of the pain
that they cause these other human beings: the impoverished,
the wage-earners who lose their jobs, the investors who lose
their savings to corporate criminals . They will not count
Iraqi casualties. Bush will not attend military funerals.
The Bush policies betray little thought about the human costs
of cutbacks in social services, or burdens placed upon future
generations. Furthermore, the Bushistas apparently have a
"tin ear" when it comes to anticipating the moral
responses of others. Somehow, they failed to perceive the
inappropriateness of using for political advantage an advertisement
depicting scenes of the 9/11 Ground Zero, including an image
of a flag-draped body being carried out from the wreckage.
When most of the public was properly offended, that political
ad fell with a thud and was promptly withdrawn.
The above account describes the personal qualities of a
group of individuals intellectually and morally unfit to lead
a great nation. That unfitness is borne out by the disasters
that have befallen and will yet befall this country and the
unfortunate nations it has dealt with, as a consequence of
the policies adopted and enacted by this regime.
How, then, does an opposing party and an opposing candidate
It must draw public attention to these unsavory qualities
and make the unscrupulous campaign methods of the Bush gang
a campaign issue. If the public's moral sense is effectively
addressed, it will not respond favorably to the ruthlessness
and bullying of Bush and his associates.
The arrogance, dogmatism and cruelty of the Bush gang could
prove to be their undoing. The Democrats might be well advised
to tease, taunt and provoke the Bushistas to extreme and self-
defeating behavior. More by accident than by design, arrogant
excesses led to the downfall of Senator Joe McCarthy, Lyndon
Johnson, and Richard Nixon. The decline and fall of these
three were facilitated by the initiative of courageous individuals
such as Edward R. Murrow, Daniel Ellsberg, and John Dean.
Similarly, George Bush is not invulnerable, for Johnson and
Nixon were both far more capable and intelligent politicians
Finally, Kerry and the Democrats must make abundantly clear
to the public that the stakes in this election transcend partisanship.
The libertarians recognize that the emerging theocracy and
moral police state violates their most fundamental principles.
The business community must appreciate that when the economy
collapses, as it surely will if these policies persist, no
one will escape the devastation which follows. Where the Bush
Administration leads, no American aware and appreciative of
his political heritage, should want to follow.
An opposition party and candidate, sufficiently intelligent
and creative to recognize and exploit the opportunities afforded
by the weaknesses of the Bush regime, and sufficiently inspired
and inspiring to revive in the public our traditional American
sense of justice and devotion to liberty, would, by so doing,
display precisely those leadership qualities so desperately
needed in these difficult times.
By recognizing the intellectual and moral failings of the
Bush administration, and utilizing these traits as weapons
against that administration, the Democrats can disarm their
opulently funded GOP propaganda machine and then direct the
voters' attention to essential public issues: education, health
care, jobs, equitable taxation, the environment, political
reform, international peace and security, etc.
The Bush-Cheney team regards the American public as an unorganized
aggregate of passive dolts who can be led to believe whatever
misinformation they are fed, and thereafter may be exploited
as the privileged few gather wealth and power from the labor
and skill of the rest of us.
There is another view: that the American nation is a community
whose domestic tranquility and economic product arises from
a foundation of cooperation, trust, mutual respect, and shared
civic values. This view, the traditional American view, is
articulated in our founding document which affirms that "governments
are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from
the consent of the governed." And so we have established,
in Lincoln's words, a government "of the people, by the people
and for the people."
The behavior of the American public during next eight months
will determine which view of America will prevail.
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