Thursday, November 10, 2005

When Voting For is Voting Against

I pulled the lever for Freddy Ferrer on Tuesday.  I know that he didn’t run a very compelling campaign and that Mayor Mike (as the billionaire-everyman likes to be called) has done a pretty good job.  He is also much more appealing than the astoundingly bigger-than-life Mayor Rudy Ego whom he succeeded.  I’ll confess it, had Abe Lincoln or Fiorello LaGuardia been on the ballot, my fingers still couldn’t pull down the lever in the line headed Republican.  So I didn’t really vote for Freddy, but against the party of George W. Bush.  I was not alone in that.  I’m sure many in New Jersey (where I grew up and first voted including a vote for Cliff Case a Republican) held their noses and helped elect Jon Corzine governor.  Not that Corzine is a bad man – he’ll probably make a very good chief executive, but the campaign was despicable one load of garbage after another, an embarrassment not merely for the Garden State, but for America and democracy.  There was of course a sad consistency in this election that transcends my voting for Freddy.  Why couldn’t I find a Robert Rubin running for mayor of my great city instead?  Why couldn’t I for once vote for someone who excited me, someone who gave me a reason to really vote yes when I was voting no?  But that's another story.

With regard to where we are, I’m not sure we have yet turned the corner in this country, that my fellow citizens are finally waking up.  Polls exhibit massive displeasure with the administration which is both faulted for its policies and no longer trusted.  But the Democrats can’t crow, because while considered more honest, they aren’t held in high esteem.  Let’s face it, the state of our Union and the people who lead it is not good.  Scratch that, it’s horrible.  And we still don’t see anyone in the administration or out of it (that includes my party) taking responsibility.  Ahmad Chalabi is back in town and being warmly greeted by his good friends Dick Chaney and the neocons.  They don’t really like him that much, they belatedly claim, but hell he is a high ranking official of the sovereign government of Iraq so what can you do?  The lesson here is that liars in office are still liars, but they are our liars.  That’s a relief.

I pulled the lever for Freddy Ferrer, but George Bush will be sitting in the White House for three more years – so much for the power of representative government.  Jimmy Carter has written a new book suggesting that this administration has broken from all of its predecessors regardless of party (that includes dear old Dad) in disregarding international agreements, in its aggressive unilateral foreign policy and in breaking down the Jeffersonian barriers between church and state.  We are all suffering for these departures and thousands are dying in their wake.  The casualties in Iraq, our own and theirs must be laid at the doorstep of this misguided high noon shootout with weapons of truly substantial, if not massive, destruction.  People in Africa are getting and dying of AIDS because we’ve stopped funding condom use based solely on religious grounds, not science or modern medicine.  It’s bad enough that they want our children to be disinformed about how we all got here; it’s a crime to be culpable in these avoidable deaths.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Senate of the United States held an impeachment trial for a President who lied about his marital infidelity.  Don’t expect to see it hold one for a President who probably lied (unknowingly of course) about why he was taking the country to war or a Vice President who may well have been the key player in outing a CIA operative.  But what do we do about an administration that uses 9/11 for its own propagandistic purposes and that in the name of fighting a war against terrorism has in fact undermined your and my security?  I pulled the lever for Freddy Ferrer.  Perhaps he didn’t deserve it, perhaps Mayor Mike should have gotten a non-partisan nod from me, but if either one of them wonders why, let them look south to the banks of the Potomac.  My vote just couldn’t support that.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

No Response

A number of thoughtful Republicans were hoping that their standard bearer would respond to the first indictment of a sitting white house official since Ulysses S. Grant by cleaning house.  Apparently someone mislaid the Mr. Clean and Lysol over there on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Just as I found the charge of lying symbolically appropriate, Bush defenders (two different interviews at separate times on the same Chris Mathews Hardball broadcast) saw it as a vindication; Valerie Plame was not a covert operative.  You read that right, the fact that Mr. Libby (rhymes with Liddy of another White House) was not charged with outing her proves there was nothing to out.  Astounding!  As I remember it, this investigation was based upon a complaint by the CIA that one of its agents had been compromised.  I also don’t remember Mr. Fitzgerald saying anything about Ms. Plame-Wilson’s status, only that Mr. Libby’s lying made it impossible to determine if his were the prime lose lips.  Wonder what these same people will say if someone else is actually charged with the outing?

Meanwhile, like all presidents in trouble, George W made a quick exit and traveled south, unfortunately not to his beloved Crawford, but to South America.  People have been lamenting that this buttoned up White House has been showing a little skin of late, but who could have made a worse choice (both in timing and destination) than to dispatch the chief to Latin America.  Surely other presidents have also been less than welcome in those environs, but it seems this one adds insult to injury.  Sadly, our country has long been seen as the neighborhood bully and the aggressive Bush foreign policy only reinforces that image.  When President Chavez says the US has plans to invade his country, who can say that could never happen?  It has been pointed out that, despite his largely self inflicted troubles at home, Bill Clinton could always count on friendly crowds overseas to give him moral support, even adulation.  The problem is that, despite all those stories about how likable George II is, he seems to universally rub people around the world the wrong way.

Things are really a mess.  But part of the problem is that we have unrealistic expectations.  Even if we dislike the policies of this administration and even George Bush personally, our instincts are to hope that somehow he will prove us, if not wrong, then to have exaggerated.  It’s common dilemma we share in facing certain relationships.  We want people who always fail us to be different and thus keep on getting disappointed.  Bush hasn’t cleaned house because this is a man who is constitutionally incapable of admitting mistakes large or small, not to mention someone with misplaced loyalties.  Even Brownie, as many different columnists have pointed out, is still on the FEMA payroll.  If the guy who helped unmask the president’s callousness and self indulgence in the wake of Katrina – contributing to ever declining poll numbers and the perception that the once trusted CEO is untrustworthy – is still on the team how can we expect Bush to turn any significant corner.

Like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon before him (this is not a partisan thing), Bush is receding into his fortress.  Talking to himself, which means talking to Karl and Dick, he is in the full throws of denial.  What does this little blip matter when things are going so well in Iraq, when we’re on our way to winning the war on terrorism and doing so without most of us even making the slightest sacrifice?  Sure the oil companies are making a bundle, but look at the taxes they will contribute (unless of course their incomes are subject to loophole or shelter).  Look at how we’re turning the whole Middle East to democracy, or was that theocracy I can never get those words straight.  Yes, things are really going well.

Remember the title of that show – “stop the world, I want to get off”?  Sometimes, no oft times, I want to do just that.