The Art of Slip-Sliding
July 21, 2004
By Bernard Weiner, The
most folks, I hate getting caught out and having to admit my errors.
But, after observing the current political and legal scene, I've
figured out how in the future to avoid paying a penalty for any
misdeeds I may commit.
What got me thinking about this was listening to George Bush and
Martha Stewart. Martha told reporters outside the courthouse - after
her sentencing for lying to federal investigators - that she felt
terrible for the 200 employees in her company who had to be laid
off "because of the situation."
Yep, it was "the situation" who told those lies and brought the
wrath of federal investigators down on those employees' heads, and
jobs. Martha, you see, had nothing to do with it. She, too, must
have been sucked in by "the situation."
The political version of this avoidance technique, popularized
by Bush and his cohorts, involves the use of passive verbs. "Mistakes
were made," for example. Yes, indeedy, there were dreadful "mistakes"
that were "made" - including thousands of deaths and maimings in
Iraq - but no human made them. Apparently, mistakes pop out of the
ether, from behind bushes, up from manhole covers when you least
expect them. They grab you by the throat and demand to be made.
Bush insures that he never gets close to a mistake. He knows how
ruinous they can be to a career. So he just never goes there. If
"mistakes were made," they were carried out by others, never him.
He's perfect, you see, because he and God converse regularly, and
God tells him what to do. (Just the other day, he expressed the
belief again: "God speaks through me.") And, since God is perfect,
whatever happens can not be a mistake. And since Bush is God's messenger,
he is absolved of any responsibility. Always somebody else to blame,
either lowly "rotten apples" or the Ultimate Apple-Tree Maker.
RESPONSIBLE BUT NOT ACCOUNTABLE
At least Tony Blair, also blasted by a high-level commission investigating
pre-war intelligence failures, assumed "responsibility"
for all the "mistakes" that were "made."
But neither Blair, nor Bush, nor Stewart - even if they accept
"responsibility" or utter the "mistakes were made" mantra -
ever, ever, get anywhere close to accountability.
In the old days, long ago in a galaxy far away, those held "responsible"
for "mistakes made" were forced to endure some sort of penalty for
their lies or maladministration or lack of proper supervision of
underlings or whatever euphemism was used to paper over their misdeeds.
In short, someone was made accountable; those responsible resigned
or were censured or disciplined or were fired or otherwise dealt
In the Bush Administration, nobody ever assumes responsibility,
or, if they do utter that "R" word (such as Rumsfeld with regard
to the torture scandal on his watch), that's the end of it. No accountability.
Here, we've got more than 1000 young coalition men and women dying
for the lies and deceptions and cooked intelligence that took the
country into war - and more than 16,000 U.S. wounded, and more than
that number of Iraqi civilians killed - and nobody has been fired
by Bush for their shoddy work. Just those nasty "mistake" gremlins
popping up again. Indeed, several officials most responsible for
the Iraq debacle have received promotions.
The only conclusion one can draw is that the "mistakes were made"
line and the asumption of "responsibility" mantra devoid of accountability
are regarded by celebrities and high officials as simply public-relations
spin. They do it to protect their underlying policies and reputations,
and simply carry on the same disastrous behavior, using the same
incompetent officials, and hope nobody will notice or call them
IMPEACHMENT BY BALLOT
But successful use of the "mistakes were made" dodge will work
for some people and not for others. Because the Bushistas control
the Congress, courts, White House and most of the mass-media, Dubya
gets a free ride. If Bill Clinton had behaved in similar fashion,
he would have been back in the impeachment dock in a minute, called
all sorts of names ("liar," "deceiver," "playing fast and loose
with the lives of our soldiers," "blood on your hands," "traitor"
and so on).
The long and short of our current situation is that the Republican-controlled
Congress is not about to impeach Bush and Cheney - at least not
before the election. If Bush, by hook or by crook, is back in the
White House in January, but the Dems have taken over the Congress
- a circumstance that once looked totally imposible but now is at
least conceivable - impeachment and criminal investigations might
So if the GOP will not initiate impeachment proceedings against
members of the Bush/Cheney team before the voting begins, it is
left to the people, you and me, to remove these extremists via the
ballot box. Which means every day from now until November 2, less
than four months away, must be dedicated to increasing the anti-Bush
EROSION IN THE CONSERVATIVE BASE
Since the liberal Democratic base is, and has been for quite a
while, pretty well united in its determination to effect regime
change in November, one expects momentum-build there. But where
one is seeing more and more movement these days is within the ranks
of traditional Republicans, and even conservative Democrats.
I've been traveling around the country a good deal this year and
last, talking to folks in the South, in the West, Southwest and
Pacific Northwest. Wherever I go, I have found numerous Republicans
who say they cannot and will not vote again for Bush. These are
conservatives Republicans - in the "old" sense of the word: small
government, suspicious of government intrusion in their lives, reluctant
to go to war except when attacked, allergic to deficit spending,
etc. - who are appalled at the extremist policies and behaviors
of those in control of their party.
The Bushies are not "conservative," they assert, but greedy, power-hungry
radicals who have taken us to a war of choice, have greatly overexpanded
the size and role of government, are running roughshod over the
Constitution's restrictions on central government power, and ruining
the longterm economy of the country by running up trillions in debt.
Some have said they'll vote for the Democratic candidate; many
lifelong Republicans can't bring themselves to do that, but have
vowed they simply will not participate on Election Day, thus depriving
Bush of their votes and, ipso facto, making it easier for Kerry
Similar expressions can be found more and more each day in newspapers
in Kansas and Idaho and Texas and elswhere in the heartland. The
center is not holding for the Bushistas and so, to compensate, Rove
must spend time and money shoring up the more fundamentalist, rabid,
social-conservative base. This prevents Bush from tacking to the
center in search of independent voters. In order to seduce those
independents, the radical right and neo-con GOP leaders must be
hidden at the convention, while more moderate speakers such as Arnold
Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giulianni are showcased.
NOTABLES ARE ABANDONING SINKING SHIP
What is even more significant in terms of news value are those
highly-placed, influential Republicans who have abandoned Bush&Co.
When William F. Buckley, the founding editor of National Review,
the bible of rockhard conservatism, can denounce Bush's Iraq adventure
and competence in print, you know a turning point has been reached
on the right.
So many diplomats, retired generals, corporate leaders, ex-officials
in the Reagan and Bush 1 administrations likewise have gone public
in recent weeks with their reservations about Bush&Co. It's clear
these elite Republicans believe that their financial and political
interests are jeopardized by the radical, bumbling crew currently
in charge, and that they, and the country as a whole, will be better
served by getting those guys out of the White House, even if it
means putting a more centrist candidate like Kerry into power.
Karl Rove and his minions are not stupid. They see what is happening
across the country, the steady erosion of fed-up conservatives from
the Bush camp, the loss of public support for the war, the lackluster
job situation, the poll numbers showing Kerry slowly pulling ahead
in one toss-up state after another. They know their time in power
could be limited, and that criminal indictments may well follow
SLIME-TIME BIG TIME
They are unable to convince voters that more of the same is the
way to go; the jobs situation is still pretty desperate for millions
of folks, and despite the "hand off of sovereignty" to the Iraqis,
the situation is a disaster there, and the lies and deceptions that
got us there are more evident each day. So, unable to run on their
record (and have you noticed that they have not said a word about
initiatives and programs they'd mount in a second term?), they're
doing what they've always done - digging into their bag of dirty
tricks, big time:
- Supporting Nader's independent bid, for example - with time
and operatives and lots of money - knowing that he'll take votes
from the Democrats.
- Catching immigrants and new citizens (many of whom are minorities
who normally vote overwhelmingly for Democrat candidates) before
they register to vote; in Florida recently, hundreds emerging
from just having taken their oath of citizenship were signed up
by helpful citizens (GOP operatives), who gave them voter-registration
papers to sign, with the party affiliation already checked as
- Or sliming the Dem candidates with the worst kind of demagoguery.
In a test-run, in one state, the GOP campaign is distributing
bumper stickers asserting that Kerry is bin Laden's candidate.
(Drawing links between Osama and Senator Max Cleland worked for
them in Georgia in 2002, so why not try it again on a national
- If and when the expected al-Qaida attack occurs in the U.S.
before the November election, Rove, taking his cues from 9/11,
is gearing up to use that horror against the Democrats - who will
have been demonized in the period before that expected attack
as "soft on terrorism." (Which may explain why Kerry is taking
great care to cover his ass with regard to support for the original
war resolution and the overall "war on terrorism.")
- If, just prior to the election, or maybe on Election Day itself,
the polls indicate Bush is facing an overwhelming defeat, Bush&Co.
can postpone the balloting - either across the entire country
or in, say, the West - due to a terrorist attack or "credible
threats" of an impending terrorist attack; the rationalization
would be to "protect the right of the citizens to vote." Already,
Ridge and Ashcroft are moving forward to set up the mechanisms
that would permit this to happen legally.
NEEDED: ONE ROARING AVALANCHE
All of the above scenarios provide further reasons why Bush&Co.
must be swept away by an enormous avalanche of Kerry votes on November
2nd. Unless there is a huge Kerry landslide, there would be too
many possibilities for electoral mischief - including fiddling with
computer-voting results in those states that do not insist on voter-verified
ballots that can be rechecked.
So those of us dedicated to a restoration of our democratic republic's
best values, and to Constitutional protections of due process of
law, must make sacrifices to help that landslide happen in November.
That means giving money, that means donating our time to walk
precincts and stuff envelopes and make phone calls, that means educating
our neighbors and friends with the implications of a Bush second
term, that means getting involved directly at the grass roots party
level, that means organizing, organizing, organizing.
Friends, if we don't do it now, we may not have another chance
for decades, or ever, to take our government back from the extremist
forces currently in control of the levers of power. If we want more
responsible leadership in the White House, let's look at our own
house and see what we all can do. It takes many villages to save
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught government at various universities,
worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle
for nearly two decades, and currently co-edits The
Crisis Papers. He is a contributing author to the recently-released
Big Bush Lies book, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com
and local bookstores.