Democratic Underground

Open Secret—Utter Failure

September 18, 2004
By Mark Drolette

You’ve got to hand it to the Republicans (if they haven’t taken it already): they’re aces at playing the fear card. According to an Associated Press poll as reported by Will Lester, “Americans today are as fearful of becoming a victim of terrorism as they are of losing their job or having their home burglarized.” Or of being forced to watch Madonna in Swept Away, or even Shanghai Surprise. Or, well, hell, just about anything she’s been in, really. Except, of course, for Desperately Seeking Susan and, maybe Evita.

And we can all thank the Karl Rove School of Flying Monkeys and Straw Dogs. No, not for Madonna, silly, because even Madonna has better taste in men, or even just human-like creatures, than to associate with Rove for any reason. Besides, she’s had her own career for a long time now, or at least she did before Swept Away.

No, I’m talking partly about our long-running national fearfest. The initial GOP campaign gambit (which has actually been ongoing since 9/11) has been to scare hell out of enough voters to persuade them only George Bush can keep their families safe from the terrorists hiding in their refrigerators. (Never mind the absurdity of the concept of the very same folks on whose watch the most atrocious attacks on U.S. soil occurred then turning around to use it to convince voters to keep them in power.)

Rove’s not just an expert at terrifying people, of course; he’s also a master of misdirection. Nowhere is this more evident than in the way he keeps throwing lies-encrusted bones toward the John Kerry campaign to see if the Kerryites will go fetch (which, so far, they have), thus keeping them from retrieving the one, big, juicy, chew toy that holds the key to Kerry’s success: Bush’s file, stamped in big red letters, “OPEN SECRET—UTTER FAILURE.”

It’s downright weird: Dubya is the only man in American history whose duplicity and record of “accomplishments” could make Richard Nixon look not so bad, and yet it’s almost like Kerry’s advisers are going: “Hmm, boy, how can we defeat Bush? There’s gotta be something on him somewhere.”

Phase two of the Rovian lesson plan coming right up: impugning Kerry’s patriotism, and by extension, that of anyone who supports him. The GOP is about to paint Kerry as un-American (if it hasn’t already by the time this is published) for his anti-war activities after he returned from Vietnam, specifically his testimony before the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971.

I’ve read Kerry’s testimony—all twenty-nine pages of it. Throughout his appearance, Kerry fields tough questions and provides tough answers, all in a very annoying accent straight from Martha’s Vineyard. (Obviously, this is not noted in the Congressional Record; I have heard some of that accent while watching film of the event, though--ow!)

The transcript shows a highly intelligent, articulate, compassionate, patriotic man who has thought through complex issues to which he offers sensible solutions. He wants his fellow soldiers home now. He wants them cared for “because so many…have returned as quadriplegics and amputees, and they lie forgotten in Veterans’ Administration hospitals…” He discusses soldiers’ anger about how the fighting in Vietnam, essentially a “civil war,” has instead been packaged as “the mystical war against communism,” and how the troops have seen “first hand how money from American taxes [has been] used for a corrupt [South Vietnamese] dictatorial regime.”

Kerry is rightly worried about the future of a troubled America: “I don’t see another system other than democracy, but democracy has to remain responsive,” yet is doing his utmost to work within the system to help fix it. He also addresses racism in America, unprompted--not once, but several times.

This is a man who deeply loves his country and is extremely pained at what its young citizens are being asked to do: to die for nothing but political gain and face-saving. He’s figured it out and is taking concrete actions to address the relentless Vietnam disaster while many Americans still haven’t a clue (maybe they’re out getting stoned or missing physicals or something).

Was Kerry’s appearance that day self-serving? Perhaps on some level it was, but self-interest plainly was not his overriding motivation, though it is possible, I guess, that even then he may have had a desire to someday become president.

But what’s wrong with that?

Who wouldn’t want a guy who’s been grooming himself for years to occupy the highest office in the land? Isn’t that one of the primary American dreams—perhaps the main one, behind appearing on Oprah—to become president someday? Frankly, I’d much prefer someone in the White House who has intelligently prepared himself to get there over some underachiever whose rich, good ‘ol boy pals of Dad, after knockin’ back a few after a hard day of shootin’ jack rabbits out at the ranch, look over at him nodding off in the corner and say, “Hey, there, little feller. How’s about us runnin’ you fer president and once y’all get in, you kin return the favor by openin’ up them treasury doors fer us?”

Especially if this handpicked, politically tone-deaf, intellectually-challenged front man had prepared for the role primarily by partying down (and snorting up) as much as possible. (In fairness, I am not totally innocent of such behavior myself during a certain time in my life, but I’m not running for president, nor will I accept my party’s nomination.)

In typical Rove shell game fashion, though, Bush is touted as Mr. Super American and Kerry (is about to be slimed) as unpatriotic malcontent. Call me crazy, but I’ve always kind of thought an American exercising his or her First Amendment right of free speech--as did Kerry before the Senate committee and in his tireless efforts to help Vietnam vets--is as basically American as it gets.

What, then, in my book, would be un-American? Funny you should ask, ‘cause I’ve kind of put a list together. Not that any of these things would ever happen, mind you, but I would think it un-American if an administration were to, say: attack a non-threatening country under false pretenses in a cynical bid to secure power and profits; stand by while business cronies jumped on the dead backs of, just picking a number here, a thousand American soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign citizens to engage in as much war profiteering as possible; authorize the use of terrible weapons, like, oh, depleted-uranium shells and cluster bombs so the needlessly-invaded country would be one big death trap in countless ways for decades to come; lie to Americans by telling them they would receive a phony “average” $1083 in tax savings and that the new tax cuts would help the “vast majority” of lower-income citizens when in fact the vast majority of the benefits would go to the wealthiest Americans; compile record deficits, the main contributing factor to which would be those very same tax cuts; undermine democracy by appointing a House majority leader to push through an incredibly sleazy mid-term redistricting in an unabashed grab for more congressional seats; direct the Environmental Protection Agency to falsely inform residents of an American city the size of, say, New York, that their air was safe to breathe within days after a devastating attack there; deliberately withhold cost information from Congress about legislation involving prescription drug benefits—maybe something to do with, oh, I don’t know, Medicare--until the law was passed by the barest of margins; fail to produce a coherent, intelligent US energy policy, thereby unforgivably hampering America’s national security by forcing us to continue licking the oil-soaked sandals of the Saudis and others of questionable ilk; uncover a CIA agent and then cover up the whole sordid episode; seek “legal” ways to engage in torture; choose religious doctrine over scientific research; “disappear” American citizens; and just generally treat the Constitution like one big sheet of Charmin.

I came up with a lot more, too. These are pretty wild examples, I realize, that stretch the very bounds of believability. It’s hard to imagine an administration doing even just one of these things, I know, but on the incredibly off chance it were to happen, then that is what I would truly consider to be un-American.

But testifying before a Senate committee at its invitation on how to best stop the hideous Vietnam War? If this were a test, I think I’d have to circle that one (or check the little box, or fill in the circle completely with a number 2 pencil; in other words, I would follow the instructions) as being unlike the others.

Here’s my advice, then, to Kerry: Reach down into your belly and re-ignite the fire that drove you in your younger days. Get pissed--very, very pissed. Then, get even—very, very even, or even more even than that, even. If you need a little help finding some anger, there are a few million of us out here who can help you out with that.

And then beat the drum, non-stop and quite loudly, on Bush’s dismal record, lie by lie. Right after you roll out each falsehood, present its countering truth. Offer your plan on what you will do in each of these areas as president. Make it snappy, make it easily understandable, and make it your mantra. Your campaign has wasted valuable time trying to defend against incessant GOP dung balls, and with the Republicans’ beetle-like operatives, it’s guaranteed the s--ts will just keep on comin’.

Time’s a-tickin’, and you need to get ticked at these ticks playing politics with your unquestionable patriotism, all the while holding about seventeen hundred wartime deferrals between them in their tick-like little claws (OK, maybe I’ve taken that one a tick too far). Fire when ready, Mr. Kerry (and you better bloody be ready now), with unremitting, unerring shots.

After all, the target—Bush’s record—couldn’t be bigger, and the ammo—the truth—is stacked up like a mountain of cannon balls.

Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator living in Sacramento, California.

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