George W Bush also has created such widespread
dissatisfaction among Americans who are political independents that they
want change by numbers approaching 80 percent. Disapproval is even
growing among conservatives.
But the way that Bush and Rove are responding to
their predicament is proof of the core reason that Bush may be
remembered in history for a catastrophically failed Presidency and a
long-term disaster for the Republican Party.
With half of America in a state of outrage, with
independent America turning 80 percent against the status quo, and with
growing unrest among conservatives, what is the Bush-Rove response?
Well, it’s their old standby: Let’s demonize the gays!
I challenge any honorable conservative to disagree
and debate even one of these points: The George Bush Republican Party is
the Party of Big Government, Big Spending, Big Budget Deficits, Big
Trade Deficits, Big Current Account Deficits, Big National Debt, Big
Brother, Big Oil and Big Scandal.
Is there even one honorable and genuine fiscal
conservative and libertarian conservative who is not deeply and
profoundly appalled by this? It has been said that Karl Rove is “Bush’s
Brain.” The more important question is: Who is Bush's conscience?
And, I would challenge any conservative to disagree
and debate any of this: Whatever the merits of the Iraq War, George Bush
has done major damage to the readiness, recruitment and morale of the
Army, Marine Corps, National Guard, Reserves and CIA.
As hurricane season arrives, we remember that four
years after 9-11, Bush’s disaster preparedness was so incompetent that
an outraged Nation watched good people die in New Orleans because they
were too poor, too elderly, too young, too handicapped and too weak to
protect themselves – and those who should have protected them did not.
We will soon commemorate the fifth anniversary of
9/11, the tragedy that the Bush partisans have endlessly tried to
exploit when they should have used it to bring the Nation together. Yet,
port security remains disastrously negligent, while border security has
been so neglected for the five years after 9-11 that yet another
divisive issue tears apart the Nation while a politically desperate
President is reduced to criticizing patriotic Americans who sing our
national anthem in Spanish.
Is this the pride of Republican conservatism?
Franklin Roosevelt said, “we have nothing to fear
but fear itself.” John Kennedy spoke of “profiles in courage.” Which
conservative is proud of George W. Bush’s legacy of fear – those days of
endless terror warnings that coincidentally began right before the 2002
Congressional elections and mysteriously ended, almost literally to the
day, on the eve of the 2004 Presidential election?
Remember that week in 2003 when a President who
shamelessly plays the politics of fear and a Vice President who
repeatedly disappears to undisclosed locations created a panicked run on
duct tape, bottled water and gas masks? Is this the pride of
Which of the punk Bush-supporting smear artists –
virtually none of whom has ever served in uniform and who parade to the
talk shows to accuse other Americans of being traitors – even cares
about this question: What kind of leaders send our troops to battle so
lacking in armor protection and equipment that the Marine Corps
pathologist concludes, in the third year of the war, that 70 percent of
the casualties were preventable?
Or this question: What kind of leaders allow some
of our wounded troops to return home and be charged for expenses
relating to their sacrifice, and then to be pursued by debt collectors
because they cannot afford to pay, and then to be victimized by a
Veterans Administration led by a former Republican Party chairman who
oversees a mammoth security breach that threatens the privacy of
millions of our heroes?
Think about this chilling fact: America is engaged
in a great battle of ideas against an enemy that murders children in
houses of worship and cuts off the heads of the innocent, and our
leaders have failed to win this battle for hearts and minds even against
an enemy so hideously evil.
And what is the response of Bush and Rove? When
they are not demonizing the gays, they are waving the flag, preparing to
challenge the patriotism of political opponents who prefer supporting
those who wear that flag on their shoulders to using the flag as a
partisan weapon in the endless political wars that will be the sad
legacy of those who never learned that we are, indeed, in this together.
The reason America stands on the brink of an epic
election in November is that this President, his party and his
apologists have let loose dark forces of division and dishonor that have
divided our country, alienated much of decent opinion around the world,
hurt our military, abused our freedoms in the name of a politics of fear
and let loose in the land a kind of politics that violates the cardinal
rules of 200 years of the American family.
In this dark and demeaning vision of political war,
anything goes, winning is everything. A heroic U.S. senator, who will
spend his life in a wheelchair as the price of his heroism, is slandered
by a guy who never served. A recipient of the bronze and silver stars is
smeared because he is in the wrong political party. A Marine Corps hero
who is one of strongest supporters of the troops who ever served in
Congress is called a coward on the floor of Congress. A Chief of Staff
of the Army is demeaned by ideologues and partisans who were hell bent
for a war they knew nothing about.
Six courageous retired Generals speak out with
conscience and the editorial page of the Washington Times prints the
statute on sedition. The cable talkers run segments with titles such as
Hollywood Hates America.
Then, when the topic shifts to the atrocity of
Haditha, one of America's leading right-wing mouthpieces says these
kinds of things always happen in war and cites, as examples of war
criminals, the Marines who took Iwo Jima and the Army heroes who took
Normandy. He slanders them with the unsupported charge that they
committed acts comparable to Haditha, where some 24 civilians –
including women and children – were allegedly murdered. Shame, shame,
shame, shame and infamy on Bill O’Reilly. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Is
O'Reilly a Nazi? Just Asking."]
Who in the hell do these bums think they are? The
infamy of Abu Ghraib, the wrongs of Guantanamo, secret government
abusing secret prisons with secret injustice are not part of the
American tradition. The Attorney General of the United States saying the
Geneva Convention is some quaint and outmoded relic ranks in my humble
opinion as the most dishonorable, despicable and ignorant words ever
uttered by anyone entrusted to preserve, protect and defend justice in
Wasteful Heir to Greatness
The man who sits where Washington sat, where
Jefferson sat and where Lincoln sat now claims he has the unilateral,
inherent power to abrogate even the Bill of Rights. The man who put his
hand on the Bible and swore to ensure that the laws are faithfully
executed claims he has the unilateral, inherent power to violate the
laws at his personal whim. At this writing, there are more than 700 laws
that he asserts he has the right to violate.
The man entrusted with the legacy of the Founding
Fathers, who were among the greatest and most timeless visionaries who
ever walked the earth, claims he can operate beyond the reach of courts,
beyond the reach of Congress, without the knowledge of the American
Here is our answer to this litany of outrages: The
Founding Fathers were right. They knew America – this land we love, this
land we share, the land of freedom and democracy – was based on timeless
truths that were brilliant and profound because they were so simple and
We Americans are all part of a great family, coming
together from different backgrounds, with different viewpoints.
Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin and the others knew that in our
America, we begin with an attitude of mutual respect, shared patriotism,
a willingness to put our small differences aside to stand together for
the more important things that constitute our common trust.
Then, the Founders created institutions that were
built from that attitude of shared Americanism, separation of powers,
divided government, a free press based on the right to know and on the
judgment that an informed citizenry will ultimately take the right
course whatever our differences and debates of the moment.
But today we see those entrusted with the Founders’
vision employing partisan extremism, demeaning treatment of others,
divisive strategies, disrespectful contempt of the spirit of unity and
soiling the institutions of democracy. Instead of the Founders’ vision
of an informed electorate leading to the best outcome, there is George
W. Bush’s vision of one-party rule leading inexorably, inevitably, to a
continuing series of catastrophic disasters that will only end, when the
cardinal rules of Americanism are restored.
That is what the 2006 election is all about. Across
the Nation and around the world today, we now know, for whom the bell
A recent TV special about Gary Cooper, who embodies
the spirit of a quiet and respectful patriotism, included a segment in
which his daughter said that Cooper’s favorite work of literature was
“For Whom the Bell Tolls.” The phrase, originally written in the 1600's
by John Donne, became the title of the famous novel by Ernest Hemingway
and a movie starring Cooper, Hemingway’s close friend.
'Part of the Main'
Here is another part of Donne’s
poem that Gary Cooper loved so much: “No man is an island, entire of
itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
These words, written a century before Jefferson’s
Declaration of Independence, embody the true spirit of the American
idea, the roots of our 200-year-old democracy. The heroes of our great
history understood that, but it was something George W. Bush never
It was Thomas Paine calling us to rise together not
as “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” but as Americans in a common
cause; it was Abe Lincoln trying to end a bitter and divisive war by
healing wounds and binding the nation back together; it was the
“Greatest Generation” that won World War II to save the world for
freedom; and it was those brave and heroic men and women who five years
ago charged with courage and honor into burning buildings from lower
Manhattan to Northern Virginia, not for the petty cash of cheap-shot
politics, but for the honor and goodness of the America that we all
share, to save the lives of our brothers and sisters, for a good and
great and decent nation that stood together as one with these words:
United We Stand.
This is the message the American people are calling
out for Washington to hear. In 2008, we will have a presidential
election with competing candidates offering detailed programs and plans.
But 2006 will be an election on Americanism, on the kind of country we
are, on the kind people we aspire to be, on the kind of democratic
values and institutions we must honor, on the spirit of mutual respect
and tolerance and shared purpose and patriotism that is the common trust
of every man and woman gifted by God to be born in this land we
genuinely and passionately love.
Our answer to the status quo is this: this land is
truly the land of us all, it is the land not of Republicans or Democrats,
not of liberals or conservatives, not of partisans or ideologues.
America is the land of that Lady who holds up the torch, and there is
one ticket to admission: that we honor and cherish how fortunate we are
to be here, and that each of us commits, in our way as best we can, when
our number is called, when our America needs us, to ask what we can do
in return for all we have been blessed to be given.
George Bush should learn from – and even in anger
his opponents should remember – that Jefferson, if he were with us
today, would be telling us, as he said in his Age: we are all Democrats
and we all Republicans. Isn’t it amazing and incredible and dare I
suggest perhaps even a message from God, that exactly 50 years to the
day from the signing of the Declaration, Jefferson and Adams, who in
their lives were the closest of brothers and the harshest of opponents,
died within hours together, half a nation apart, thinking of that
Declaration, whispering of each other in their final breaths of life.
Today’s Washington insiders don’t get it, but it’s
really simple: this election is not about ten-point plans, or public
relations, or competing sets of consultants dishing baloney and calling
it leadership. This election, which I believe will be an epic moment
that will be written about by historians for generations to come, is
about restoring our faith in each other, restoring that spirit that we
all share, a common purpose and a common patriotism.
When we get that spirit right, we will get our
institutions right, with a renewed respect for our Bill of Rights,
reviving our checks and balances, remembering that truth is reached when
an informed citizenry engages all three branches of government as the
Personally, when I think of all we have been
through, and all that remains, I think of two of my current heroes; one
is Jessica Lynch, the other a Marine I will tell you about, but not
I was at a bar near the Naval Academy on that cold
night when news came that Jessica had been rescued. There we were,
military families, Naval midshipmen, young Marines and we stood and
cheered and high-fived at the news. Then, remember those tall tales
about Lynch that were told by spinners dishing propaganda to drum up
support for the war. They made her sound like she had taken Iwo Jima
single-handedly. Well, she was brave, but it was exaggerated, and that
is not the true story of her heroism.
Some time later, given the opportunity to exploit
the tale, she said something to the effect that well, it was hard, but I
didn’t do all those things. And I thought then, and now: “Wow, that
woman really is a hero.” She didn’t want the exaggeration. There was a
higher truth, a higher heroism, a higher honor to Jessica Lynch.
Someone once said that moral courage is a rarer
commodity than bravery in battle or great skill, And Jessica’s modesty
and integrity and respect for truth and honor, now that is the kind of
heroism that no politician or spinner can fake. God Bless you, Jessica,
wherever you are. I salute you.
And here is a story about a Marine. He’ll be for
our purposes the man with no name, but trust me, he’s real, and there
are many like him.
Not many weeks ago, his body was blown to shreds in
Iraq. Through the incredible work of the emergency ER, his life was
miraculously saved. Both of his legs were amputated, and when he
returned home he was greeted by applause from those who love the troops
– and a bill from Uncle Sam that expected him to pay for his own armor,
which he neglected to save when was laying unconscious as his legs were
This is the kind of shabby treatment and scandalous
wrong that should be investigated in both Houses of Congress, ended by
our self-named “war president,” and never again tolerated in America.
But his story gets even better...
This Marine is still on active duty, has every
right to be angry, has paid an enormous price for his patriotism, and
what is his driving mission as you read these words? He wants to return
to Iraq, to stand by the side of his buddies for the duration, not
because he supports the war, he won’t discuss his views on the war, but
because this battle-scarred man with no legs wants to be with the men
and women in his personal Marine Corps, his band of brothers and
I predict that somehow, in some way, this guy’s
gonna make it and somewhere in heaven I suspect more than two centuries
of American heroes are giving him a standing ovation.
The bell has begun to toll for the dark and
partisan vision of one-party government in America. I predict the
experts and pundits will be stunned and shocked when the voice of the
American people – which is not heard or heeded at the dinner parties,
gala dinners and insider lunches in official Washington – is fired like
a cannon announcing the revival of the American idea.
In conclusion, I offer one plea to those who are
the most liberal, the most Democratic, the most angry and resentful of
the injustices and wrongs and arrogances of recent years. I am with you,
and I am one of you, but all of us, I hope, will remember this:
The message of the American people today, and the
lessons of 200 years of our history, is that the case we take to the
country before the election, and our aspirations for America after the
election, is not to let our opponents take us down to their level,
making our anger and vindictiveness answer theirs, no matter how right
or deserved our feelings might be.
We love our country. We love our freedom. Whether
we take positions of opposition or support on certain issues, we do so
with a fervent spirit of patriotism, a respect for those of differing
views, the love of truth and honor that was shown by Jessica Lynch, the
indescribable courage and fidelity shown by the Marine with no name, the
checks and balances, the Constitution, the rule of law, the spirit of
the great American family and the timeless truth that none of us is an
island, and each of us is an indispensable part of the main.
Against each other, we are nothing. Together, we
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence
issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when
he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky
can be reached at [email protected]..