Democratic Underground  

Whose Presidency is This, Anyway?
January 7, 2003
By Sheila Samples

Last month, actor Robert Redford got me to thinking. Actually, every time I see Robert Redford, I get to thinking--but that's another story...

Redford, long an environmental activist, pointed out in the Dec. 8 New York Times Magazine that "nearly every statement coming from this administration includes the phrase The American People." Redford says when he hears these words, he just substitutes "industrial interests" so that he can understand what's really going on. Redford has a point. Peel away the tangled layers of inane verbage that flow effortlessly from Geedubya Bush as he erratically steers the Good Ship U.S. Lollypop through troubled waters toward menacing, craggy shoals, you ultimately end up with Redford's "industrial interests," or The Corporate American People.

Other phrases that Dubya tirelessly repeats are so imprecise they have no meaning whatever. Empty phrases such as "called by history to do battle," "war on terror," "seize the opportunity," and "all options are on the table" are each so amorphous they defy analysis. Many Dubya supporters go to great lengths to explain what he "probably means" when he babbles incoherently. Some just grin like idiot inbred kids on a bridge in Deliverance, and maniacally wave their dueling flags. Others, to their credit, have the decency and intelligence to merely shrug and move on rather than attempt to decipher or defend such childish, belicose blather.

But back to Redford... Dubya literally brandishes The American People phrase like a patriotic shield, which not only cloaks what he's doing to the American people on virtually every Constitutional front, but gives him license to do it. How does a massive tax cut to the top 1 percent of the population benefit Americans? How does trashing centuries of international treaties, slashing regulatory controls on corporations, smashing the environmental protections protect Americans--make the homeland more secure?

In the aftermath of the atrocity of Sept. 11, Dubya--under the tutelage and control of an invisible but still really really scary Dick Cheney--seized the opportunity to cripple the legislative branch, ridicule and neuter the investigative arm of government, manipulate and control the judicial branch, shred the Constitution and Bill of Rights and terrify the rest of the world with impulsive threats of annihiliation...I have no idea where the voices in Dubya's head originate, but I daresay they're not hissing at him through the annuals of history. They're more likely being channeled through him from some dank, dark, secret undisclosed location--all, of course, in the name of The American People.

Author Tim Dickinson, obviously on the same wave length with Redford, listed some of the more obvious references in a Dec. 23 Mother Jones article. Dickinson shows that the tendency to use Americans as human shields began on inauguration day when Dubya magnanimously acknowledged, "The presidency does not belong to any one person... It belongs to The American People."

After a good night's sleep, however, the lure of all that surplus money lying around and increasing pressure from corporate lobbyists to "pay up" jerked Dub to his senses and, scarcely a month into his presidency, he was out hawking for his trillion-dollar tax cut..."My budget will fund our priorities, from education to defense to protecting Social Security and Medicare. It will pay down our national debt. And when we have done all that, we will still have some money left over. I strongly believe we should return that money, the leftover money, to you, The American People, in the form of tax relief."

Three months later, tax-cut in hand, Dubbie crowed, "This is a historic day... We have done right by The American People today..." Few noticed that, as the history of the Reagan era called Dubya to seize the tax-cut opportunity, he had but one option on the table--raiding the treasury and transferring this country's resources to corporate wolves who were snarling and scratching at the door. From that moment, Dub was loath to share the office--or its power--with anyone, and certainly not the American people...

Dubya sailed through the first two years of his unelected regime, safe as a frolicking cub under the protective and watchful eye of its media mama bear. Under the auspices of protecting the American people, he seized every opportunity and used every option on the table to enrich corporate America, from a second massive tax cut (now called a stimulus plan), to a mean-spirited faith-based initiative, to an astonishing expansion of the defense industry, to the destructive and intrusive Homeland Security Bill.

In the mid-terms, after an all-out intimidation assault on voters, voting machines skewing the numbers to the right, Blacks and other minorities encouraged to vote two- to five-days after the election, personal-destruction advertising, and blocking release of exit-poll information, Republicans managed to eke out a 2-percent (21%-19%) edge over the whimpering, please-don't-kill-me-I'll-do-anything Democrats. At last! A landslide victory--a mandate from The American People--the keys to the kingdom!

Now, as Dubya prepares to set sail on the second leg of his executive journey, he rules via Executive Order and Congressional sleight-of-hand over domestic America from the Little White House of Horrors--literally preying on the most vulnerable among us. Who will tell the American people that nearly a half-million families will be without heat this winter because Dubya cut $300 million from the federal subsidy program? How many parents would allow their children to be vaccinated if they knew the possible medical problems that could result; if they knew that, thanks to Dubya--they have no legal recourse against his pharmaceutical donor, Eli Lily, in the event of damage or death? How many Americans know that Poppy sat on the Lily board in the 1970's...that Budget Director Mitch Daniels is a former Lily executive...that the current Lily CEO sits on Dubya's Homeland Security Advisory Council? Two of us--three, tops?

Dubya goes to great lengths, aided and abetted by a willing and adoring media, to protect Americans from the truth. He has every reason to be confident that the media will continue to run interference for him--will continue to "protect" Americans by keeping them diverted by war and distracted by fear. National security is far too important to be concerned about minutiae such as Congress giving itself a raise, cutting a pay raise for 1.8-million government employees, giving top political appointees annual bonuses and refusing to extend unemployment benefits of 780,000 Americans which expired three days after Christmas... Considering the safety of the homeland, does it really matter that Dubya has forced nearly half the federal civilian workforce--850,000 people--under his direct control in order to reduce their pay and benefits, to "contract" their jobs to private business and to rob them of job security and union protections? Aw, c'mon--would you rather be safe and patriotic, or opt for a job, food, and a roof over your head?

Sadly--frigheningly--Dubya's "strategery" at home and abroad consists of little more than reckless coup attempts fired with gusto from behind the protective shield of The American People. It is time for the media to rise from their knees and realize that "assuming the position" refers to the traditional journalism position of government watchdog for the American people. It is time for the media to toss aside White House blast faxes and refuse to serve as a right-wing echo chamber. It's time journalists did some good, old-fashioned reporting before the loss-of-freedom flood water laps at their own doorstep. And it will, you know.

We must stop this madness--regime change or containment, it doesn't matter--it must stop. We've had enough. We are tired of being used. We are outraged. One way or another, Geedubya must be reminded again that the presidency does not belong to any one person...It also belongs to you and me--The American People...

Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma freelance writer and former Public Information Officer for Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

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