Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Party of Bash and Bush Flexes for the Next Election


It's a playbook that's worked time and time again. So with Karl “I dodged an indictment” Rove back to his typical pre-election shenanigans, it's hardly surprising to see the Republican attack dogs unleashed and snarling.

First came the carefully staged, post-Zarqawi, Congressional debate. The Republicans used their power in both chambers to manipulate news coverage as they pilloried the "cut and run" Democrats for deserting the cause and our troops in Iraq. (Forgotten, it seemed, was just who got the troops there to start with. Ignored, a week later, was the distinct similarity between Gen. George W. Casey’s phased withdrawal plan and the one the majority of Democrats had supported.)

Next the Republicans ratcheted up their efforts to pass a Constitutional Amendment to ban flag burning (a truly pressing national issue in that .... in that .... huh?). Stay tuned. The vote will be close and, whichever way it goes, every Democrat against tinkering with the Constitution over this utterly vacuous issue will be bashed mercilessly in the next election.

Then, this Monday, President Bush and Vice-President Cheney issued choreographed attacks against -- you got it -- the news media (and especially that evil New York Times) for having the audacity to report on yet another of their domestic "monitoring" programs -- this one to track financial transactions of terrorists (but, mind you, only terrorists).

"For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it is of great harm to the United States," W. said, reportedly jabbing a finger for emphasis. "We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America .. What we're doing was the right thing."

Republican business as usual, you say. Perhaps. But I believe one way or another, this time around could prove a turning point in the steady erosion of civil and open debate over policy in this country. Things could get better – or, they could get a whole lot worse. The answer, ultimately, lies with the hard-working, heavily-spun, and too-often scared men and women of America – unless the election process is already so corrupted, as some have charged, that public political campaigning in this country is just a distraction.

Let’s assume for a moment that the outcome is not preordained. Will the public this November tolerate the same attack and terrify tactics it has fallen for time and time again? Or will voters pick a new tune to replace that long-running Republican hit, "There is a reason: fear, fear, fear?"

Only this is no joke. Just listen to U.S. Rep. Peter King, Republican of New York and yesterday's hit man for his party.

"We're at war, and for The Times to release information about secret operations and methods in treasonous," he told the Associated Press.

For the record: (1) The Wall Street Journal, that much-reviled left-wing rag, ran the same story and (2) this is not the first time in recent months that the Republicans have not merely bad-mouthed the media but implicitly or explicitly threatened news organizations or reporters with prosecution.

It's not surprising. The Republicans control Congress. They're getting close to controlling the highest court (seven of the justices were appointed by Republican presidents). And they’ve done their part to try to bludgeon the “liberal” press into self-censorship. So as we pursue liberty and justice and freedom in our unending war against terror around the globe, why not dispatch a few sorted scribes behind bars? Would anyone mind? And, if not, will anyone, in fact, notice when our own democracy is that in name only?

As much or more than the end game in Iraq, these questions should be on the minds of citizens as they prepare to vote in November’s midterm elections. Whether voters will, in fact, notice the erosion of First Amendment rights is tough to gauge. It hasn’t been part of the pollster’s repertoire. New polls, however, do show some signs that the "hit and run over" tactics of the Republicans may be wearing thin.

Even in the shadow of the orchestrated Congressional debate on Iraq, a USA Today/Gallup Poll taken last weekend found Bush’s approval rating had plateaued at 37 percent after rising in recent weeks. It also round that a majority of Americans support a resolution outlining a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and that 50 percent of those surveyed would like all U.S. forces out within 12 months (Sen. John Kerry’s amendment to do just that managed to get 13 votes in the U.S. Senate).

In the end, of course, polls this week, next month and Nov. 1 won’t matter a whit come election day. I just hope the same can’t be said years from now by historians studying the story of ballots actually cast Nov. 7.

In an opinion piece the Boston Globe ran this Monday, the authors of the book, “Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen?” again raised a question that has never been answered to my satisfaction: Just how could a 25-question exit poll survey of 114,559 voters that November day have been so wrong as to predict a Kerry victory by a margin of 51 to 48 percent?

Noted the authors, Steven F. Freeman and Joel Bleifuss, “In that election, 64 percent of Americans voted on direct recorded electronic voting machines or optical scan systems, both of which are vulnerable to hacking or programming fraud.”

Without an audit, they continue, and without any means of verifying the official count, “a reasonable person could … argue that a well-conducted exit poll that confirmed the official count would be about the only reason we would have to believe the results.”

Let’s hope someone conducts such a poll this November – and that the media pay attention if it doesn’t reflect the recorded vote. If not, it won’t be long before a newly molded system of American justice begins to heed Rep. King’s calls for action against the “treasonous” press.


Blogger Michael said...

Jerry, I’m sure you’ve heard more Regime supporting bs concerning the Times since you posted this article. More than one Regime supporting talking head and more than one Regime supporting public official have called what the Times printed “treasonous”. There should be very little doubt that word was chosen carefully and purposely to lead a confused American public down the road about which you warn us.

You’ve also nailed the pre election games. They should be obvious to the most casual of observer by now. I fear they’re not, however.

I wish I didn’t understand why The Democrats still engage The Regime in these games, but I think I know why. As someone once said to me, “The Democrats and The Republicans drink from the same trough.”

Nonetheless, this is an insightful column and we can only hope that people begin finding these kinds of messages, the kind that contain truth, as they pass through cyberspace.

Thanks for this, Jerry, and don't ever give up.

To friendship,

8:19 PM  
Blogger Jerry Lanson said...

Thanks for all the comments and encouragement. What concerns me is the growing divide between those who do follow the news closely and those who never get beyond the spin. If there's hope it's that the number of those who strongly oppose Bush is hovering at right around 50 percent now. In the end, though, as I wrote, the number will mean nothing unless the ballots are allowed to be cast and are counted.

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