It puzzles many people that George W. Bush continues to enjoy the support of the Republican base. What is it that these twenty per cent or so of stalwarts see in this man whose administration has been so dysfunctional? Do they still believe that Saddam Hussein posed a serious threat to our nation despite all evidence to the contrary? Are they content to ignore the Bush lies about Hussein refusing to allow unfettered inspections; a claim refuted by both UN envoy Hans Blix and our own David Kay who had in fact been granted unlimited access and had to be recalled when the president decided to begin bombing.
And have faithful supporters yet to come to grips with the fact that this White House chose to ignore warnings from many quarters about the validity of intelligence from such questionable sources as a person called of all things, “Curveball” and other Iraqi ex-patriots who had their personal reasons for wishing to overthrow Hussein? Further, since there was absolutely no connection to 911, why hasn’t some sense of betrayal and outrage played out among the base as it has in the rest of the country? Distressingly, Senator Charles Grassley, in answer to a caller’s question on Washington Journal regarding the enormous sums requested by the president for the war compared to the relatively small allotments for the SCHIP program, reiterated the same tired mantra about 911 and fighting “radical Islam” over there instead of on our own shores – – and just when he was sounding so reasonable too.
In the terrible mix of failed policies is there no sense by the base even now that the country has been poorly served by the president’s choice of cabinet members and agency appointees or, more accurately put, disastrously served? Condoleezza Rice was a terrible National Security Advisor who failed to address, at even the most basic level, threats that were coming across her desk before 911. Nevertheless despite her inadequacies in that post she became Secretary of State – – prompting cartoonist Gary Trudeau to comment that this was the only administration in which ‘screwing up was a career move’.
And while many supporters and a benumbed electorate bought into the spin of fear and unfounded accusations regarding the efficacy of invading Iraq, there were dissenting voices, warning that the Rumsfeld-dictated troop numbers would be woefully inadequate. But when honest reservations were expressed, e.g. from General Shinseki, they weren’t just ignored; a military career came to a sudden ignominious conclusion. Wasn’t it clear that a hard-headed group of ideologues were going to have their way no matter what the facts and dissenting opinions suggested? What exactly did Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the rest of the ever present neo-con sidekicks know that military experts and Mid-East experts had overlooked – – as it turns out less than nothing.
So despite misgivings about the war itself the finishing touches of a devastating foreign-policy blunder augured the negatives that would come to define our occupation. For starters, the only ministry that Rumsfeld deemed fit to protect when the looting of art treasures, and businesses began was the oil ministry – – a not-so-subtle hint about where our interests lay. The coup de gras though came with the appointment of J. Paul Bremer on whose watch millions of dollars disappeared and Saddam’s army was sent packing with no funds but in firm possession of their weapons. Added to the bungling and lack of accountability of Bremer himself was his staff of young interns from right-wing think tanks who were tasked with setting up programs for which they had neither experience nor training.
But without belaboring all the obvious missteps surrounding the invasion and occupation it should have become obvious by now that, far from achieving democratic reform and stability, the entire Middle East has been de-stabilized. And the president’s goal for the foreseeable future in Iraq is ‘something a little less violent’. When the base tries to rally the country with cries of “support the troops”, is ‘a little less violence’ to be the measure of their sacrifice?
And are they comfortable with the huge contingent of Blackwater and other security forces who operate in Iraq without accountability and who in fact patrolled the streets of New Orleans after Katrina? Are private mercenary forces acceptable to the American people at home or on foreign assignment? Do most people actually feel safer today than they did after 911 and does the prospect of attacking Iran make sense to them?
Apparently the base does like tough talk, though, no matter how mindless and short-sighted; they have embraced Rudy Giuliani in large numbers, a man Joe Biden describes as having no foreign policy experience but whose remarks include a noun, a verb and “911” as if that qualified him for the presidency. And Jimmy Breslin, once described Giuliani as “a small man in search of a balcony”, an image that evokes some unpleasant images, not softened by his musings after 911 that he might call off the election and stay on as mayor. That did not happen of course – – that he considered such a course of action, however, provides some insight into the workings of his mind.
Or is the base motivated mostly by support of lower taxes for the wealthy, that group they like to call “achievers”? Have they no problem with offshore tax-dodging corporate headquarters or low tax rates for hedge-fund operators? Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men has commented on the absurdity that his tax rate is lower than some of his employees. Is the clarity of Buffet’s observation and the well-documented policy failures of the Bush administration lost on his supporters or are they just not paying attention?

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