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Monday, March 29, 2004

The Backfire of the Bush

by Clinton Fein

And so we end as we began.

Click to Send PostcardIt seems like yesterday when Colin Powell, at the behest of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had missile defense strategies to sell, walked away from the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa after it turned into a condemnation of Israel’s humane and forgiving policies toward the peaceful, loving Palestinians.

Simmering tensions among Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were all but ignored by the media cesspool that were far more importantly focused on the stormy divorce of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

A month later, September 11, 2001 changed everything, and America’s descent into war, terror, constitutional desecration and global bullying began in earnest, aided and abetted by a compliant, irresponsible media monster.

The last few weeks has seen a blame game of unimagined proportions. First there was the heroic decision by the President to attempt to divert attention from a domestic agenda characterized by unemployment, debt and a decline in living standards, healthcare and education. Then, a constitutional amendment was proposed to ensure marriage remain an exclusively heterosexual institution, denied to – for instance – gay servicemembers serving in silence liberating Afghanistan and Iraq.

Blame began early. During the height of the Bush Administration’s dizzying public relations blitz where the MIA (when it counted) Texas National Guard Airman donned an airforce uniform and swooped down onto the USS Lincoln, a delayed, homeward-bound aircraft carrier, for a photo op beneath a "Mission Accomplished" banner announcing the end of major combat operations as servicemembers exploded into bits and pieces over Iraq.

As the death toll climbed, despite the banning of imagery related to the homecoming of the dead, and in the wake of a disastrous "Bring ‘Em On" challenge by the President to the rapidly expanding terrorist network intensified and enhanced by Iraq’s bloody and chaotic liberation, the well oiled media machine of the President was suddenly not responsible for the “Mission Accomplished” banner so predominant above the president’s podium. Blame, instead, the servicemembers who were forced to wait longer before returning to their loved ones to facilitate Top Run’s Top Gun campaign strategy.

So blinded to the reality existing beyond the Neocon World Order paradigm, and turned on by the impressive package the President displayed in his air gear, Karl Rove, the President’s primary henchman, distastefully arranged for the Republican Convention to be held in New York in September, where an unmistakable link to the third anniversary of September 11 would remind all of the President’s heroic War on Terror -- notwithstanding his panic-stricken flight to an undisclosed location for the entire duration of what many consider America’s worst day.

And now, as National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, refuses, laughably on principle, to testify under oath or provide valuable insights that might help a commission set up to determine what went wrong leading up to September 11th and how mistakes can be remedied, we are able to look at the abject failure of an Administration’s implosion based on their inability to look beyond their own packaged – and dutifully played out – press manipulations.

Already the miscalculations are coming home to roost. Using dramatic images of September 11 in a dramatic ad campaign, the Bushies horrified and offended the families of victims and survivors of the terrorist attacks, who were sickened by the politicization of an event that was supposed to have represented -- if anything -- a non-partisan unity of American resolve. The use of actors posing as firemen in what resemble plastic helmets garnered scorn from the real firefighters who lost real men wearing real helmets. "Bush is calling on the biggest disaster in our country's history, and indeed in the history of the fire service, to win sympathy for his campaign," said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Seeking to quell the storm of criticism, Bush mobilized none other than Rudy Giuliani to defend his use of September 11 imagery in his ad campaign. In a March 7, 2004 interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press, Giuliani stated of President Bush: "…it would be impossible for me to describe in words the amount of support that that gave me when my world was falling apart. You know, New York and some of the people like Mychal Judge, who would have been my support, were gone. I had no one, you know, to really lean on. And the president gave me tremendous support, tremendous help. "

Mychal Judge, the cherished chaplain who ministered last rites to a dead firemen as the second tower collapsed on top of him, and whose slumped body being carried out of the rubble by grief-stricken firemen became the first identified victim, would have been happy to know that the President and a bunch of cowards in congress would focus on protecting Americans from further terrorist attacks by modifying America’s constitution to deny him the right to marry someone he loved who happened to be of the same gender.

Mark Bingham, the man who helped thwart another terrorist attack that day by helping attack the hijackers that had taken over United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco, would have also been grateful to his President and the pathetic, pitiful congresspersons, like Marilyn Musgrave, whose lives he probably saved, for their gracious attempts to modify the constitution to expressly deny him the right to marry, had he lived to enjoy another day.

The climate of thinly-veiled intolerance has emboldened those on the extreme to be more vocal and vociferous in their judgments and condemnations. An obese commissioner in Rhea County, Tennessee, F.C. Fugate, managed to get the Rhea County commission to pass 8-0, a resolution declaring homosexuality a “crime of nature”. (As opposed to treating his body like a temple by stuffing it with enough McDonalds burgers and fries to feed a small third world country). Gluttony, of course, representing a respectful adherence to the commandments of his homophobic, mistake-prone God.

An editorial I wrote, Matthew Shepard: A Call to Arms, following the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard and subsequent media frenzy in its wake received a lot of flak from people straight and gay. I suggested that once we allow institutionalized discrimination to advance, it won't be long before constitutional amendments follow, and Second Amendment privileges, perhaps, are revoked for certain citizens. That was 1998.

A few weeks ago, an anti-gay protestor outside San Francisco's City Hall asked me, casually, how I would respond to the notion that the men who killed Matthew Shepard were simply expressing a strong opinion. I answered, as casually, that if I was Matthew Shepard, with an AK47. I don’t advocate violence, but I’m a staunch defender of self-defense. Once there is one constitutional amendment, others will follow quickly. If self-appointed gay leadership was not so trapped in bestowing awards on celebrities (while stereotypical, self-perpetuating parodies giddily fool equally idiotic straight men into shaving themselves like plucked chickens, and bleaching their asses to become pretentious queens), they would be nurturing alliances with the NRA.

Watching the finger-pointing, blame-apportioning testimony of officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations last week was a reminder of how unsafe we really are.

The Republicans and their media bedfellows at the Wall Street Journal and News Corporation are accusing and blaming President Clinton for September 11, claiming he was distracted by Monica Lewinsky. He was not distracted by Monica Lewinsky at all. He was distracted by Kenneth Starr, Henry Hyde, Bob Livingston, Robert Barr and a bunch of other lying, philandering, whoring politicians and hypocrites who were demanding his attention and focus, characterizing an attack on Al Qaeda as a “Wag the Dog” attempt to distract America from its pursuit of pseudo-morality.

All President Bush has to run on is his and his administration’s misperceptions of his War on Terrorism. Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt, who said the campaign will not withdraw the ads using September 11th victims stated, "There is no bigger issue in this country than who is better prepared to deal with the realities that 9/11 created for this country."

Here’s a little reality check.

Should Bush choose to use the imagery containing the ridiculous "Mission Accomplished" sign, of course, put up by the members of the USS Abraham Lincoln, Americans will be reminded of the fact that not only is the mission decidedly unaccomplished, but that the White House wasted taxpayer dollars and sailors' time on nothing more than an expensive publicity stunt.

The premise for the war -- an imminent threat relating to weapons of mass destruction -- has yet to materialize. So far, not even evidence of a weapons program has been found. At a recent annual dinner of the Radio and Television News Correspondents Association, Bush provided supposedly amusing descriptions of photographs showing him looking behind furniture in the Oval Office. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere ... nope, no weapons over there ... maybe under here?," he joked, as the bodies continued to blow up in Iraq.

Of course the new rationale for the war was to have rid the world of a vicious dictator. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe must be really petrified.

Should Bush use images of victims and their families or first responders to demonstrate his resolve and leadership in the wake of the revealing September 11 commission hearings as well as Richard Clarke’s scathing criticisms, his focus on constitutional amendments and embracing of a "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy governing gay servicemembers, that has resulted in the discharge of scores of Arab speaking linguists, will be subject to scrutiny. Arab linguists, of which there is a dire shortage, might help the dangerously inadequate intelligence apparatus, the firing of whom may prove a disastrous campaign strategy. If nothing else, discharching able bodied, educated American servicemembers for being honest about who they are reflects the honesty and sincerity on which his entire campaign is based, and reveals just how truly committed to protecting Americans Mr. Bush really is.

If America wasn’t caught up in the media obsession with Whitney Houston’s rehab, Howard Stern’s indecency, and Mel Gibson’s movie making, America and the rest of the world might actually stand a chance. Fat chance.

Once more, tension among, and scrutiny of, Rumsfeld, Rice and Powell is being ignored as gay marriage and the latest Tom Cruise breakup -- this time with Penelope Cruz -- dominates the national mindset. We are once again dangerously distracted. The last time we were foolishly focused on Mr. Cruise’s tabloid-inducing love life and ignored the performance of our leadership was August 2001.

This time, we too should be held accountable.

Clinton Fein can be contacted at clinton@annoy.com


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