From Liberty Street: Lame Lame-Duckness
Abraham Lincoln's warning comes to mind: you can't fool all the people all the time.
There's a great deal of speculation that the White House is in so much trouble it can't recover. Last week, my local newspaper sported this headline: "Poor Leadership Has Pushed Bush Toward the Brink of Irrelevancy." A recent article in Slate by John Dickerson says it doesn't matter if Bush shakes up his staff. He doesn't have enough time to make a difference. Republican leaders outside the administration are trying to protect themselves by saying it's not the party and its programs that are the problem, it's the White House. The courts have just told Bush that one of his signal initiatives, relaxing emission standards for coal-fired plants, is illegal. Nothing positive seems to happening in Iraq. Things aren't looking up in Bushland.
How could it not be this way? This is not a matter of mistaken tactics. It is not a matter of inept leadership. Nor is it a dip in the effectiveness of publicity. We are now in the sixth year of a blatant attempt to loot the nation, to destroy the middle class, to make the richest one percent so rich their dominance can't be challenged, to reward a a small group with so much borrowed money the nation will require decades to get out from under a nearly unmanageable debt, to use the military forces of the United States as an instrument of imperialism, and perhaps most deadly of all, to deny scientific truth in order to make money off of a degraded environment.
The astounding thing is not that the president's influence is waning. Rather, it's that his influence could have been maintained as long as it has been. What does it tell us about the American political system that a man as empty of concern for the well-being of the nation could have been elected and have got way with so much for so long?
The first thing, of course, is that the people are asleep. Evidence for this is overwhelming. The ignorance of the majority of the people about how government works and what government is doing is so deep it has pushed us to the brink of being a non-democratic nation. When the people know nothing it's farcical to say that the people are ultimately directing the affairs of the nation. We have not yet reached the point where there is no democratic force in the nation. But, we are close. Finding a way to begin rectifying this disgrace is the most important task now facing the country. It may be that the internet is rousing enough people that a majority will be raised to a minimal level of concern. For those who want the country to remain a democratic republic the multiple voices the internet has unleashed is the biggest hope they have.
A second degenerative force has been the transmogrification of the Republic Party. It has gone from being a mixed bag of this and that, all generally leaning towards the production of widespread wealth and the protection of established groups to being, pure and simple, an engine of greed and nothing else. The nation cannot afford to have one of its major political parties devoted solely to raking in money for a tiny minority. The country genuinely needs a conservative party, and those who remember and respect what the Republic Party once was, who can recall figures like Robert Taft, and Wendell Wilkie, and Everett Dirkson and Nelson Rockefeller, and Dwight Eisenhower had best rouse themselves and make more than a token effort to regain their party from usurpers in the stripe of Karl Rove and Tom DeLay.
The third major brain rot the Bush administration has relied upon is the myth of American exclusivity. The idea that the people of one nation are so superior to those of all the rest of the world that the great people don't have to respect anybody else or pay attention to anybody else is not only naively juvenile, it's lethal. Deliberately to cause one's own citizens to be despised by everyone outside its borders is virtually suicidal, and when we recollect it has been done only for the sake of strutting it becomes a stupidity that's hard to fathom. And, yet, we have put up with it too.
The fatuities of public ignorance, Republican degeneracy, and insane chauvinism may be combining to puncture the Bush balloon. They have not yet been fully recognized or accepted -- particularly by the news media. But the conflation does seem to be working, in a fashion we have not yet analyzed, to implode upon itself. If that deflation continues, we may, once again, begin to hope that Mr. Lincoln was right.
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