Like Dogs in the Night
September 25, 2004
By Sheila Samples
passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting
and reasoning as fear" Edmund Burke
Politics used to be fun. Especially in Texas where zany, God-fearing
politicians really knew how to "get down." That was back when you
could destory an opponent without really hurting him -- tell lies
so unbelievable and outlandish that giggling voters flock to the
polls to vote for you just because you're so dadgumed creative.
In his heyday, nobody was better at gettin' down politically than
Lone Star Lyndon. In 1948, after 11 years in the House of Representatives
where he proved to be a formidable, power-hungry campaigner, LBJ
hit fellow Democrat and popular former Texas governor Coke Stevenson
with everything he had as they squared off for a run at the Senate.
Legend has it Johnson told one of his aides -- "Go out there and
tell 'em Coke was caught having sex with a farm animal."
"But, Lyndon," the aide protested, "you know that's not true!"
"Of course it's not true!" Johnson responded impatiently. "That's
not the point. Tell it anyway -- and make him deny it..."
In politics, going from down to down-and-dirty is no distance at
all. The battle between Stevenson and Johnson was the closest senatorial
race in the nation's history, and Johnson -- who initially lost
-- managed a "comeback" that created the model used in Florida 52
years later by the Bush team. Stevenson's victory lap was brought
up short when an amended return appeared miraculously from Jim Wells
County, giving Johnson 201 votes and Stevenson only 2, putting Johnson
ahead by 87 votes. Not to be outdone -- Duval County, in its eagerness
to help Johnson -- was caught with its hands in the ballot box.
Stevenson protested all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court but,
wouldn't you know, while the case was wending its way to that august
body, Jim Wells inadvertently "lost" its voting lists, and Duval
made the only prudent choice -- it burned the entire county's returns.
Well, naturally, the Supremes refused to hear a case with no evidence.
But, hey -- no harm done -- just another glitch in run-of-the-mill
Texas politics. It isn't like the shudder that rippled through the
nation was the beginnings of momentum that would ultimately carry
a couple of Texas cowboys to the Oval Office or anything. No way
a few dirty tricks in Texas could change the course of history...
There is a vast difference between those two who did make it to
the top -- Lyndon Johnson and George Bush. For starters, Johnson
was a bona fide, card-carrying Texan, while Bush can only prance
around playing dress-up in his boots and cowboy hat. Johnson lusted
for the power of the Oval Office so obsessively that he spent his
entire adult life relentlessly preparing himself for it. Bush was
not only breathtakingly unprepared for the job, but proves more
and more with each passing day to be totally unfit for it, and he
apparently had no concept of what the job entailed. Just three months
before the 2000 selection, Bush breezily told reporters in the critical
state of Iowa -- "I don't know whether I'm going to win or not...If
not, that's just the way it goes."
Johnson is responsible for his state's sprawling network of roadside
parks -- each one an oasis that still offers respite to weary travelers
-- which he created in the wake of the Great Depression to provide
work for impoverished Texas youth, many of them Hispanics and Blacks.
Bush is responsible for his state's sprawling prison network --
each one housing far too many Texas youth, far too many Hispanics
and Blacks -- from which, as governor, he cold-bloodedly chalked
up the nation's highest execution rate...
Both men will be remembered for the significant changes they made
in how government functions. Johnson, a devoted supporter of Franklin
Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, brought us the Civil Rights Act of
1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and put the social safety net
firmly in place with his Great Society Program. Bush, a devoted
supporter of Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz's Global Empire deal,
brought us the largest deficit in the nation's history, the USA
Patriot Act of 2001 and -- like a rabid jackal -- tore into
the social safety net immediately upon taking office. Verily, no
children are being left behind...
Both Johnson and Bush will be remembered for floundering around
in the hopeless quagmire of bloody wars. They will be remembered
for the needless injury and death of millions of military and civilians,
and for thrusting US citizens into environments where they were
desensitized into doing shameful and vicious things they would never
have dreamed they were capable of doing. Johnson recognized his
folly, made a feeble attempt at damage control with a half-hearted
attempt at negotiation, and exited public life -- a broken man.
Bush brazenly refuses to admit he made a mistake even though his
lies for rushing to war have long been exposed throughout the world.
He stands there, a clownish "Baghdad Bob," insisting he is winning
the war, that his will is firm no matter how many US citizens perish,
and blathers that "freedom is on the march." He stands there resolute
-- while body parts of the innocent sail through the air behind
him and American's sons and daughters are slaughtered at a clip
of three a day and sneaked back to the US in flag-draped coffins.
He stands there -- a shameful and hollow man.
Dirty politics didn't start in Texas, but flourished there like
nowhere else, and has since spread its tentacles throughout the
nation. In 1964, Johnson had moved on from sex with farm animals,
and introduced fear into dirty politics when he sucker-punched both
Barry Goldwater and the entire nation with an ad mirroring a giant
mushroom cloud in the eyes of an innocent little girl. Johnson won
in a landslide.
Republicans -- especially those named Bush -- sat up and took notice.
They eagerly entered what Adlai Stevenson had described a decade
earlier as "Nixon Land -- a land of slander and smear, of sly innuendo,
of the poison pen, the anonymous phone call, and hustling, pushing,
shoving, the land of smash and grab, anything to win."
They never looked back. Their crusade to destroy President Bill
Clinton created an entire class of cruel, steely-eyed right-wing
pundits whom the media covered like rock stars; even joined their
ranks, until they were interchangeable -- all feeding like swarms
of maggots on the soft underbelly of democracy.
Clinton refused to play Texas politics and, to their bitter consternation,
was the last man standing at the end of their embarrassing eight-year
24/7 onslaught. The harshest public criticism of the right-wing
media/pundit cabal Clinton has made to date is a recent comment
on CNN's Larry King show about the reception Special Counsel Robert
Ray's report got when it was released showing the Clintons were
innocent after a $70 million Whitewater investigation -- "They were
on him like dogs in the night," Clinton said ruefully, then chuckled
-- "they called him everything but a Blue Goose..."
However, unlike Clinton, most opponents who dare to "get down"
politically with Karl Rove rarely get up again. Rove opened the
political door for the vacuous, mean-spirited George W. Bush by
steamrolling popular former Texas governor Ann Richards --painting
her as a drunk and a lesbian. And, in 2000, Rove proved far too
wily for even a political veteran like John McCain when he roiled
the campaign waters by questioning McCain's honor, integrity, patriotism
-- even his mental stability. McCain's wife was a drug addict. For
good measure, Rove threw in an illicit affair that resulted in an
illegitimate African-American child.
McCain's recent performance on the campaign trail and at the Republican
National Convention leaves little doubt that he has "sold his soul
to the company store," and calls to mind the 1776 admonition of
Samuel Adams to those like McCain who quivered before those in power
-- "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of
servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home
from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down
and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon
you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
By the time Republicans saddled up and headed into the 2000 election,
the total breakdown and betrayal of fundamental journalistic principles
by the mainstream media had occurred, AM radio was spewing hate
like an East Texas gusher, and Karl Rove, with a string of tooth-and-claw
victories under his belt, was riding shotgun on the entire herd.
Rove's plan for Bush opponent, Vice President Al Gore, was simple
-- "We will fuck him. Do you hear me? We will fuck him! We
will ruin him. Like no one has ever fucked him!"
Karl Rove is out of control. He has gone beyond the pale and, quite
possibly, beyond the law in leaks and attacks on those perceived
to be a threat to the current regime. It's time for Americans --
both Democrat and Republican -- to wake up and face the truth --
we are struggling under the heel of a morally bankrupt, rabid right-wing,
pre-World War II Germany facist cult. Trust me. They have no intention
of voluntarily giving up the power for which they have lusted so
They are coming at us. Coming for us. Like dogs in the night.
I can think of at least 1,178
reasons why we need to meet them more than half way. We have no
choice. We have one last shot at salvaging democracy as we know
it. On November 2, we must jump on the John Kerry campaign Swift
Boat, turn that baby around and blast headlong into them.
It's too late to put the fun back into politics. However, because
our young men and women are needlessly dying, and will continue
to die if we remain silent, we must put fear aside and at least
make the effort.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former US
Army Public Information Officer. She is a proud member of the Order
of Saint Barbara -- the Field Artillery's Patron Saint. She will
accept praise and atta-boys at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complaints and death threats should be directed to her cousin, Junior
Samples, at BR-549.