The elements of this administration’s failures are not just its mindless policy decisions, its inept management of the war in Iraq or its disengaged response to the crisis that was Katrina; these are merely the symptoms of deeply embedded factors masking a partisan mindset that colors and takes precedence over all other judgments.
You know your president is insignificant because if he were actually working on the ponderous problems of the world he wouldn’t have endless hours to spend running around the country stumping for various candidates, riding his mountain bike or making speeches about staying the course and spreading democracy in regions where ho-hum or a round of artillery fire is the first response from the locals. But just because he seems ridiculous and incompetent doesn’t mean he isn’t extremely dangerous as a figurehead in an administration of ideologues whose party’s congressional majority has provided him with powers and rights nowhere to be found in the Constitution.
In fact it is, ironically, weakness rather than strength that governs the conduct of this administration. Only by cloaking its decision-making process in secrecy and ostracizing those who offer dissenting views have the president and his supporters been able to curry favor with the general public for so long. Were it not for the horrendous and obvious debacle in Iraq and the corruption it has spawned, voters would still be held in thrall to the tactical overload of terror alerts and false patriotism the White House offers on a regular basis – – give us our daily dose of fear.
But as the congressional elections approach the president can still find cheering crowds in some parts of the country. And what does he choose to talk about when his party is riddled with corruption and many of its members in Congress are under investigation, or indictment or tucked away in re-hab until after the elections? He targets his base, that group of enablers who would rather vote for people who rail against gay marriage, abortion and embryonic-stem-cell research than for candidates who address those larger issues affecting the future of the country and the world.
And he behaves most un-presidentially when he disparages Democrats as a party that would coddle terrorists and endanger the nation. Always in the end, though, after savaging about half the electorate, he rallies the crowd by reiterating the need to elect ideologically-driven candidates who will make sure that only conservative activist judges will serve on our courts. His are not the words of a leader for our time but are rather the inflammatory rhetoric of one who puts partisanship above all else yet pretends to stand for the “values and priorities of the American people.” It is clear what he wishes to convey to those eager partisans in the crowd but unclear what they regard as his greatest accomplishments besides his Rove-directed “values” agenda and tax-cutting policies. In some cases, apparently, that satisfies their electoral requirements.
Without reservation, the president supports any Republican candidate no matter how lame or ethically challenged. There he is trying to makes things work for Conrad Burns, a man who the more one sees of him the more bumbling and arrogant he appears. Responding to his opponent in a debate Burns suggested that Republicans had a plan for a new effort in Iraq but they weren’t going to tell Democrats because they’d blow the deal, his comments drawing well-deserved laughter from the audience. Yet for the president Burns is just the guy to represent his district in Congress.
And as is its habit, The White House continues trying to silence as many critical voices as possible hoping, no doubt, that its subterranean efforts will go unnoticed. The NY Times noted 11/3/06 that the auditor’s office overseeing Iraqi reconstruction is to close in 2007 according to a last-minute insertion in the defense authorization bill. Republican Senator Susan Collins, who worked on the bill, said she was unaware of the addition and, with a bi-partisan committee, intends to produce legislation to reverse the closing of the office. Oversight of any kind has been almost totally absent in a Congress led by the president’s party – – a cause for alarm at a time when, in addition to domestic corruption in New Orleans and elsewhere, billions of dollars have been misspent or ‘lost’ in Iraq.
Most important to the outcome in the upcoming elections is that voters understand the true nature of this administration’s botched policies and its betrayal of the faith Americans have placed in them. As Tom Friedman in the NY Times (11/3/06) put it: “…if the Bush team can behave with the level of deadly incompetence it has exhibited in Iraq – – and then get away with it by holding on to the House and the Senate… it means our democracy is in tatters because it is so gerrymandered, so polluted by money, and so divided by professional political hacks that we can no longer hold the ruling party to account. It means we’re as stupid as Karl [Rove] thinks we are. I, for one, don’t think we’re that stupid. Next Tuesday we’ll see.”
Time to step up, America.

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