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The 2006 Election is Happening Right Now

April 26, 2005
By Bernard Weiner, The Crisis Papers

It's crunch time, folks.

The Bush Administration is quite aware that lame-duck, second-term presidents have a very brief window of opportunity during which they can push through their agendas with a likelihood of success. So Karl Rove, seeing the window starting to close, is not waiting for the midterm election run-up in 2006. He's going for it all now.

Having taken advantage of that initial window-opening, Bush & Co. pushed through bills involving estate taxes and bankruptcy aimed to aid their wealthy supporters at the expense of the rest of us, and made sure to get their most loyal lapdogs placed firmly into the key positions - Gonzalez, Rice, Negroponte, Chertoff, Rumsfeld, Abrams, Goss, Hadley, Wolfowitz, et al.

But this bunker crew is still not quite complete. That's why Bush and Cheney are strongly supporting Tom DeLay and John Bolton; they are counting on The Hammer and Mad Dog being there to help bully and neutralize the opposition and keep potentially friendly forces from getting weak-kneed and thus uncontrollable.

The second-term rush syndrome also explains why the Administration is moving toward the so-called "nuclear option" in the Senate with regard to judicial appointments to the appeals courts. Of course they'd love to get their handful of previously-rejected Hard Right nominees through the Senate; accomplishing that would be a bonus.

But what they're really after is to eliminate the Democrats' only weapon, the filibuster/60-vote cloture rule, when it comes to judicial nominations, thus setting a majority-vote precedent for the likely Supreme Court vacancies that Bush expects to fill shortly.

And so, come hell or high water, the GOP is determined to break the Democrats on this one regardless of the consequences to political comity, the Senate, the Constitution, the nation.

For the Busheviks, apparently it's not enough to control the Congress, the White House, a good share of the judiciary, and the mass-media. They want the world and they want it now. Especially as their veneer of invincibility is starting to wear a bit thin these days.

Similarly, the Christian-Taliban wing of the Republican Party is making its move at the same time to enforce strict fundamentalist rule; more on that below.

THOSE MYSTERIOUS MUSHROOM CLOUDS

Internationally, the Bush Administration is getting its ducks lined up in a row in preparation for a major move, maybe as early as June, either against Iran or Syria. It'll be deja vu all over again, to use Yogi's apt phrase, with a "pre-emptive" attack against an enemy that allegedly has committed a major international insult and needs to be put in its place immediately. The U.S. can't wait, we'll be told, otherwise the mushroom clouds may appear at any moment.

It is not clear whether the U.S. move will be a full-scale "shock & awe" invasion or merely (!) a major missile attack from the air - perhaps knocking out a nuclear or military facility. But the aim will be to either effect "regime change" in those countries by the use of force or to frighten their leaders into giving in to whatever demands the Bush Administration will exact for leaving them in power.

The short- and medium-term goal is to have effective control of the oil/gas fields in the greater Middle East, at a time when peak oil production is being reached in the face of increasing demand for that energy worldwide, especially from China and India. The longe-range goal was outlined in various Project for The New American Century manifestos that became official U.S. policy: to preclude any national or international rival from even getting close to challenging U.S. global hegemony. See "How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer."

AMERICAN TALIBANI MAKE THEIR MOVE

While the Earth itself is in dire global-warming jeopardy, with temperatures rising and Arctic and Antarctic glaciers melting away at alarming rates, the traditional politics of greed and power-hunger seem absolutely petty in comparison. And yet that's where the focus is in the U.S. in general and in the nation's capital in particular.

The American public clearly seems to be getting more nervous and fed up with some of Bush & Co.'s more extreme positions; for example, the Social Security privatization "reform" plan is going nowhere fast, and their crass attempt to hijack the Schiavo family's tragedy for political gain backfired badly. Despite these embarrassments, or maybe because of them, the Hard Rightists like Cheney, Frist, DeLay and Rove are happy to encourage their supporters on the fundamentalist Right to energize this force on behalf of a strict, Taliban-like interpretation of law and morality.

If some of these desires can be effected into law, all the better for the Republicans, but even if they can't get their extreme views enacted, those controversial fights - on the Ten Commandments, evolution, abortion, gay rights and so on - serve as mighty distractions, forcing the Democrats to scatter their energies. This keeps them from focusing on the major battles involving the disaster in Iraq, the neo-con plans to initiate more wars, Bush's tax and tort "reform," the corrupt vote-counting system, and so on.

While the Bush Administration is doing everything possible to keep the Iraqi government from adopting "Sharia" (Islamic Law) into its new Constitution, it seems eager to encourage its fundamentalist base in America to insert Christian "Sharia" into U.S. law and custom, despite the Constitutional prohibition on mixing church and state.

JUDGES AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

The most frightening example along these lines is the way the Bush/fundamentalist forces are taking aim at the judiciary, and individual judges, whose opinions they don't find strict or "Christian" enough. Some are calling for impeachment of judges they don't like, including Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, but others are going even further.

"Taking aim" may not be merely a figure of speech; several key politicians, including House GOP Majority Leader DeLay and Republican Senator John Cornyn, have moved perilously close to inciting violence against judges, all in the name of "Christian" principles, of course. (Let us not forget that in recent months a judge was shot and killed in Atlanta, another judge's husband and mother were murdered in Chicago, and more threats of bodily harm against jurists are coming in all the time.)

Far-right lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told a recent meeting of conservative leaders that Anthony Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." According to a story by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank:

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,'" Vieira said. The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly.

So partisan and incendiary have the rightwing-anarchist statements been that even dyed-in-the-wool conservatives have felt obliged to speak out, trying to ratchet down extremist hate speech. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in a talk recently at Goucher College that she is surprised at all the violent threats she's receiving. "I don't think the harsh rhetoric helps," she told the crowd. "I think it energizes people who are a little off base to take actions that maybe they wouldn't otherwise take."

IMPEACHMENT & DEFUNDING OPTIONS

Even some staunch conservatives are trying to defuse the impeachment bomb. Theodore Olson, the Bush Administration's former Hard Right Solicitor-General wrote in the Wall Street Journal that impeachment could put the country on a dangerous, slippery slope:

Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular decisions are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would undermine the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial systems. If a judge's decisions are corrupt or tainted, there are lawful recourses (prosecution or impeachment); but congressional interrogations of life-tenured judges, presumably under oath, as to why a particular decision was rendered, would constitute interference with - and intimidation of - the judicial process. And there is no logical stopping point once this power is exercised.

But the fundamentalist Right, so pumped up with its supposed electoral clout in the 2004 election, is not about to go silently into the night. They feel their political power, they are convinced that their wrath is mandated by God, and they are making their theocratic voices heard, loudly.

Peter Wallsten of the Los Angles Times reports that at a March conference in Washington between Frist and DeLay and key evangelical leaders James Dobson and Tony Perkins - dealing with finding ways to remove certain judges from the bench - the strategy of stripping funding from certain courts was "prominently" discussed.

"What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them," said Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. He said that instead of undertaking the long process of trying to impeach judges, Congress could use its appropriations authority to "just take away the bench, all of his staff, and he's just sitting out there with nothing to do." These curbs on courts are "on the radar screen, especially of conservatives here in Congress," he said.

Wallsten writes that Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, who emerged last year as one of the evangelical movement's most important political leaders, named one potential target: the California-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. "Very few people know this, that the Congress can simply disenfranchise a court," Dobson said. "They don't have to fire anybody or impeach them or go through that battle. All they have to do is say the 9th Circuit doesn't exist anymore, and it's gone."

In short, friends, the Bush Administration, by cozying up to Christian-Talibanists like these and others around the country - browbeating school boards on evolution and sex-education, threatening teachers who refuse to treat creationist points of view as equal to those of scientists, censoring textbooks, etc. - indicates that America, at least broad swatches of it, are moving back into a cultural Know-Nothing era that is truly frightening. All this at the same time we're fighting battles with Islamist fundamentalists because they have the "wrong" God and want to battle the forces of modernity in their own cultures and in ours as well. We imitate what we fear.

LET'S ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES AND ACT

I could go on and on listing the scary things being done or encouraged by the Bush Administration in its partisan zeal to get what it wants, and to set the table for future rightwing administrations by decimating or eliminating its political opposition. But I think you get the point.

The big Bush & Co. push for power and greed is happening right now. We in the opposition can't sit around and think we'll mobilize a few months before the 2006 midterm election. This is the 2006 election. We have to activate our troops and strategies immediately. If we don't push back, and fight them now, we will have lost that election before it even begins, and thus a chance to start to turn this country around. More importantly, if we choose not to act, we risk losing our self-respect and our political souls.

It's time to organize, mobilize, agitate, to donate money to the politicians and organizations that are out there taking the fight to the forces of regression. It is time for each of us to organize and fight for the Constitution, the separation of powers, the sanctity of the division between church and state, to ally ourselves with traditional and moderate Republicans and Libertarians. These alliances are being made to correct the worst aspects of the Patriot Act, so we should be able to find other areas where we might be able to agree - on the wrong-headed nomination of John Bolton, on Bush's Social Security scam, on privacy rights, on extremist judges, etc.

In short, 2005 is 2006. And, for the sake of our country, we can't afford to lose this election battle. We may not be able at the moment to guarantee that our actual votes in 2006 will be counted honestly, but we can win the current election campaign in the court of public opinion, in the halls of the Congress, in our churches and synagogues and mosques.

The Bush agenda is vulnerable in a number of key areas - the general perception of the GOP as arrogantly over-reaching, the public not buying the administration's reckless Social Security scheme, the general feeling that John Bolton is not the right man for the U.N. job, the revulsion against how the GOP used the Schiavo family's tragedy for political ends, the continuing disaster that is Iraq, etc., etc.

It's time to crank it up and send this amoral, greedy, power-hungry administration a message that their lame-duck power has run out. If we do our political and ethical/spiritual homework with due diligence, our progressive/moderate opposition could well be accepted as among the key moral forces of this nation. Let's get to work.

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught politics and international relations at various universities, worked as a writer/editor with the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers. Send comments to crisispapers@comcast.net.

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