Let's cut to the chase: CityBeat supports John Kerry for president. It's not because he's exactly what this country needs. He's not the charismatic, compassionate, independent-thinking visionary we'd create if we were building a president. No, it's because he's running against George W. Bush-the most dangerous man in America.
Bush is not dangerous because he's evil, as his most hyperbolic critics on the left seem to suggest. The danger comes as a result of his black-and-white, born-again religious ethic coupled with the small inner circle of insiders with whom he's evidently surrounded himself during the last four years: neoconservative foreign-policy ideologues, trickle-down economic theorists and energy industry executives and lobbyists.
He might not exactly be the village idiot, but not even his supporters could say with a straight face that Bush is a deep thinker, either. To some of us on the outside, he appears particularly vulnerable to the influence of people who we'd argue don't have the best interest of the American people in mind. It's a Machiavellian picture, to be sure-a puppet president, perhaps, easily co-opted by those who can exploit his good-versus-evil worldview.
Bush's presidency started down a path of environmental degradation and a return to early-Reagan supply-side economics. The beneficiaries: the ultra-wealthy corporate elite and the oil, coal and gas industries. His term has concluded with a convoluted moral crusade against "terror" and a misadventure in Iraq that has thus far needlessly killed 1,106 American military men and women, 140 foreign soldiers and an estimated 13,000 to 15,000 Iraqis. Through it all, he has set forth a political agenda that has alienated gays and lesbians (support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage), stunted certain scientific advancement (opposition to stem-cell research) and imperiled basic civil rights (USA Patriot Act).
Taken together, it's a record that would seem to galvanize economic-justice liberals, secularists, social moderates and anyone who gives a damn about the environment. Add to that the record federal deficit he's caused, which should bring fiscal conservatives into the camp of critics, and the danger a second term would pose to Roe vs. Wade, and it's difficult to fathom how his supporters could include anyone other than the religious right, the corporate elite and the "my country, right or wrong" set.
But, miraculously, at least half the country (well, "likely" voters, at least) stands behind this administration. Polls suggest that the reason for that is because voters by and large believe Bush is the man when it comes to fighting terrorism and dealing with Iraq, which means Bush has effectively blurred the lines between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda and confused the nation about how and why he invaded Iraq and about the parameters of the war on terror.
Now let's cut to the case-the lowlights of George W. Bush in four critical areas:
How's this for disturbing: A recent Newsweek poll showed that as of the middle of September, 42 percent of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was "directly involved" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. It's absolutely astonishing. Furthermore, another recent survey revealed that 35 percent of us believe that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded. Amazing.
Look no further, my friends, for we have found the reason Bush is slightly ahead in the polls. He gets low marks for job performance overall and on the economy specifically. He "lost" all three debates in the minds of the public. Yet, a composite analysis of the various polls, according to the online magazine Slate, shows that if the election were held last Sunday, Bush would have 271 electoral votes, one more than necessary for reelection-because the largely misinformed public trusts him on the whole Saddam-Osama-Iraq-terror mishmash.
History tells us the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with terrorism. The invasion was a Dick Cheney production through and through. Cheney is a leader of the so-called "neoconservatives," who think the first President Bush should have finished the Iraq job during the Gulf War of 1991. Along with Cheney, the neocons include the top three men in the Department of Defense-Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith-and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. It was Cheney and Wolfowitz, who, in the last days of the first Bush administration, supervised the drafting of a defense-policy document that argued for an expanded U.S. military presence around the world to thwart any emerging threat to U.S. global military and economic dominance. That policy went nowhere.
The neocons renewed their call for unilateral military action abroad, including against Iraq, during the Clinton administration. But it wasn't until Sept. 11, 2001, that they found a willing host in George W. Bush, who until then had stuck to his father's position on Iraq-that toppling Saddam Hussein wasn't worth the cost-and who, during the 2000 campaign, said he wasn't into "nation-building."
The terrorist attacks gave Cheney and Co. the excuse they needed to invade Iraq, topple Saddam and help install a U.S.-friendly regime that would become an ally in a fight, in defense of Israel, against hostile nations like Syria and Iran. In the run up to war, Condoleeza Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and, especially, Cheney began making claims that Iraq's certain WMDs posed harm to the United States, and they repeatedly raised the specter of "mushroom clouds," planting renewed fears of nuclear annihilation in the hearts and minds of Americans. They pressured CIA analysts to come up with intelligence evidence that supported a case for war. They engaged in "data mining," which is gathering old intelligence and forming new conclusions from it. They misled a compliant Congress, which then abdicated its responsibility and gave Bush carte blanche to invade Iraq. And they made wild claims of cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaeda in order to build public support for an invasion-when, in reality, Saddam and bin Laden were enemies. Bin Laden called Saddam "the socialist infidel." The terrorists the Bush people claimed were "operating" in Iraq were doing so in a northern region of the country out of Saddam's control.
We now know there were no WMDs. There was no nuclear threat. The 9/11 Commission concluded clearly that there was no evidence of Iraq-al Qaeda cooperation. Thousands of people are dead. The U.S. military is overextended. Osama is still on the loose. There's no end of the U.S. occupation of Iraq in sight. We've already spent more than $120 billion on the war. And, far from fighting terrorism, Bush has allowed terrorists to fill the vacuum created when he toppled Iraq's government.
The U.S. national debt, as of Oct. 25, was more than $7.4 trillion-$25,241 for every American-and rising fast. Pete Peterson, a respected Republican, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and former U.S. secretary of commerce, has predicted that the debt could be upwards of $12 trillion in the next years. And we're experiencing the largest foreign trade deficit in the nation's history.
In an interview with journalist Bill Moyers, Peterson said Bush's three major tax cuts-totaling billions of dollars-will do little but worsen the burden on future generations of Americans, who will not only have to pay off the domestic debt but also pay back the foreign countries that are, essentially, loaning us money.
"A tax cut isn't really a tax cut long-term unless you reduce spending," Peterson told Moyers. "Because then it becomes a tax increase on your children. So we're inflicting this awful bill not simply on ourselves but most importantly on our kids. And it is that phenomenon that is very troublesome when we have to consider that 10 years from now, 77 million Boomers are retiring."
When Bush could have been using what had been a budget surplus to pay off the debt or shore up social security, he was doling out tax cuts that have largely benefited the country's wealthiest citizens. This country is currently burdened by a $25 trillion unfunded liability in social security and Medicare. We have no plan to pay social security for the tens of millions of Baby Boomers who are about to retire with no savings, and all Bush has done is recommend we pin our hopes on the stock market.
Lost in all the talk of terrorism, war, tax cuts and fiscal crises is the Bush administration's systematic assault on the environment and the nation's landmark environmental protections. Some examples:
* A Washington Post investigation found that the Bush administration has waged a campaign to "rewrite the rules governing millions of acres of undeveloped federal lands in the West. With few exceptions, the changes decisively favor energy development at a cost of reduced protections for some of the country's last wild spaces." The Post reported that "more than 60 million acres-an area twice the size of Virginia-are more vulnerable to logging or drilling as a result of policies that weakened federal restrictions on their development." Sources told the newspaper that the Interior Department and Bureau of Land Management offer rewards for agency personnel who effectively speed up drilling permits on federal land for oil companies.
* During the Bush years, the average fuel economy of automobiles fell to a 22-year low of 20.4 miles per gallon, thanks to our love affair with SUVs, which contribute to our dependence on foreign oil. This makes sense, given that in 2001, Bush officials vowed not to increase fuel-efficiency standards. Also, when the state of California went to court against Daimler-Chrysler and General Motors to protect the state's zero-emission vehicle rule, the Bush administration filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the car companies.
* In February, a former top official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told a Senate committee that the Bush administration's changes to the Clean Air Act have hindered efforts to investigate electric utility air polluters and undermined settlement negotiations with industry violators. Bush's Clear Skies program is widely seen by environmentalists as an industry-friendly compromise that's less stringent on reducing air pollution than recommendations by Bush's own EPA.
* Earlier this year, 60 scientists accused the Bush administration of distorting scientific fact and misleading the public regarding global warming in order to achieve its political goals. The scientists charged that the administration had censored government studies, gagged government scientists, ignored independent experts and appointed industry-connected people to federal advisory committees. Indeed, when Bush took office, he was widely vilified by environmentalists for filling top energy and environment posts with people from the energy industry.
Roe vs. Wade
Advocates for women's right to an abortion charge that Bush has waged a systematic campaign to weaken abortion rights, by whittling away at the margins of those protections and by appointing anti-choice judges to the federal bench. Bush's reference to the Dred Scott case in one of the debates was seen by many to be code for his promise to nominate judges to the Supreme Court, if vacancies occur, who believe that Dred Scott, a slavery-related decision, protects the rights of the unborn. Three Supreme Court justices are 74 years old or older; two are octogenarians.If you know anyone in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New Hampshire or Maine, please make sure they're voting, and they're voting for John Kerry.