The Elephant in the Elephants’ Room

Presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his supporters love to boast about McCain’s military service. “He’s a war hero. He was held captive and tortured for 5+ years in Viet Nam.” Quotes similar to this are used as the primary evidence of his ability to lead the nation, or at least a nation at war.

“The ability to strategize effectively to bring about peace while minimizing the loss of human life … is not miraculously bestowed upon all those held in captivity.”

I am not so brazen as to discount either his service or his stamina. But it’s pretty easy to discount this attempted linkage between his military service and his readiness to lead the nation. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the mainstream media have not dared to question this linkage because they risk being misinterpreted as questioning his patriotism.

Military service in and of itself (and, in particular, being held captive) does not qualify one to be President or, by extension, Commander in Chief. The ability to strategize effectively to bring about peace while minimizing the loss of human life is a primary qualification. This qualification is not miraculously bestowed upon all those held in captivity. If that were the case, we could argue that Gitmo is creating the world leaders of tomorrow.

There are those who posit — and I tend to agree — that being held in captivity is instead a disqualifier for the nation’s highest position. It’s virtually impossible to escape lasting psychological damage from the type of captivity and torture that McCain endured. (There’s a special irony in the fact that our 43rd President’s policies have made it highly unlikely that the thousands of returning Iraq War veterans with PTSD and other emotional and mental problems will ever have sufficient mental health services provided for them. Do you suppose they take some comfort in the fact that a Presidential candidate shares something in common with them?)

It’s not a very long dotted line that connects his captivity to his outbursts of rage. With the kinds of pressures a President faces on a daily basis, do we dare risk electing a President who may make decisions out of anger instead of rational thinking?

The dotted line is perhaps not so direct or obvious between McCain’s Viet Nam experiences and his myopic approach to his campaign. Whatever the source of his campaign strategy, McCain is largely a single-issue candidate. He himself has chosen to make the Iraq war the centerpiece of his campaign. While he may dabble in discussions of other matters, he always comes back the favorite song in his songbook: war.

Moveover, McCain seems to be among the millions of Americans who don’t make a distinction between American history and military history. Indeed, the two are sometimes difficult to separate because generation upon generation of American men (and now women) have gone off to one war or other. War is a giant part of the American identity. The prevailing mindset is that we must somehow prove our individual and collective worth by being engaged in and winning wars. Consequently, we find ourselves cast in the role of the world’s policemen. In that role, we’re damned if we intervene and we’re damned if we don’t.

Our next president will be faced with the challenge of changing not only the world’s perception but the reality of the U.S.-military-as-global-police-force. How on earth will McCain’s perspective meet that challenge? McCain’s own war experience was in the nation’s previously most misguided war, and yet he, like so many other Republicans, have yet even to admit that Viet Nam was almost as much of a mistake as the current Iraq fiasco. To expect McCain to meet or even address this objective is like shopping for groceries at a lumberyard.

Let’s face some facts. The vast majority of the nation is opposed to the war. People are tired of having our young men and women sent off to this ill-conceived and poorly-executed venture in Iraq. People are tired of seeing our national debt escalate and our spending power dwindle. People are really tired of all other aspects of our government being hobbled because of inordinate defense spending.

John McCain is simply not capable of addressing the needs, desires, and — dare I say — hopes of America.

Outrage Overload

I guess most of us have become numb to the ‘outrage-a-day’ policies of the Bush administration. The primary tactic of this gaggle of traitors, liars, and thieves seems to have been to do at least one unbelievably stupid, arrogant, questionable, or downright illegal thing each day. While the press corps focuses (for a moment, at least) on that act, they’re already onto the next. The net result is the accrual of a sludge-pile of aberrant behavior so deep that no one can (or wants to) slog through it. It’s virtually impossible to achieve even a modicum of justice or truth. Make the scandal so dense, complex and multi-faceted that few have the time or inclination to attempt to challenge or even make sense of it.

Couple this modus operandi with the general malaise and scandal-fatigue of the American people, and you have a recipe for the deterioration of our government and our very way of life, the likes of which I believe this nation has never seen.

All that being said, there seems to be an escalation of the Bushies’ strategy of scandal bombardment. It seems like they take pride in outdoing themselves, and the events of the last few days seem to confirm that.

First, we have George once again attempting — like a broken record — to justify our continued involvement in Iraq. His entreaties have become less and less convincing, so much so that even many of those who have always marched in lockstep with him are publicly demanding a ‘change of course.’ (Unfortunately, in the Republican’s playbook, that’s not a euphemism for withdrawal of troops but rather for a change in policy. But at least it represents a small amount of progress.)

When George and his cronies realize that he’s not making any headway, welcome to the stage once again Michael ‘Mephistopheles’ Chertoff, our head of Homeland Security, informing us about his ‘gut feeling‘ that we’re about to have another attack by Al Qaeda on U.S. soil. (Am I crazy, or shouldn’t we expect better of our government than that? I seem to recall that the Department of Homeland Security was created and the rest of our government restructured around it so that we would be basing our policies and our actions on something a little bit more sound than opinions, fears, and folklore.)

But this, too, is a familiar play from the neo-con playbook: When public opinion turns against you, fill the populace with as much fear and anxiety as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s substantiated or not; in fact, the neo-cons seem to have learned that it’s actually better if it’s vague and unnamed. The more vague the fear is — using the ‘broken-clock-is-right-twice-a-day’ analogy — the better the opportunity down the line of using whatever may happen to falsely substantiate their claims.

You may want to take a deep breath here, because all of this is happening against a backdrop of Sara Taylor, the former White House political director, claiming executive privilege in order to refuse to answer any questions regarding the firings and hirings of U.S. Attorneys, in spite of a subpoena by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Then comes the news that Bush has ordered former White House counsel Harriet ‘Love Note’ Miers not only not to answer questions but also not even to appear before the Committee. On the count of three, everybody say ‘Jeezus H. Christ!’

Now add to the mix that former Surgeon General Richard Carmona told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the Bush administration demanded that he withhold medical findings from the American public when those findings weren’t in synch with the non-scientific right-wing-religion-driven agenda. For example, he was forbidden from stating that abstinence-only programs don’t work. (Don’t forget, millions of taxpayer dollars got passed along to those faith-based organizations that W loves so much to espouse the bullshit that abstinence is the only way to prevent AIDS. Worse than the loss of taxpayer money is the loss of life that results from their failure to state the truth and consequent dissemination of misinformation.)

Now, I’m still reeling from the commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence and the subsequent payment of his fine by an unnamed source. (I can’t seem to rid my brain of the image of some low-level neo-con operative going into an inside-the-beltway 7-Eleven and asking for a banana Slurpee, a pack of Marlboro lights, and a money order for $250,000. Oh, yeah, and one of them scratch tickets.)

So when things start stacking up like this, is it any wonder that most Americans simply short circuit from the overload?

Thanks, Keith

There were some rumors floating around that Keith Olbermann had been stifled and his outspoken political diatribes would be silenced because he had just signed a lucrative contract with NBC, whose parent company is GE. (Contrary to what you might believe based on their warm and fuzzy image ads, GE doesn’t just make lightbulbs and energy-efficient dishwashers. They’re also one of the largest defense contractors in the world, and they profit greatly from American involvement in warfare.)

Any suspicions will be assuaged when you view one of his recent commentaries:

Thanks, Keith.

News Flash: Senate Republicans Cut and Run

I guess I was expecting too much of the Senate Republicans. I mean, clearly by now they must have realized that they’re no longer in the majority and that the reason for that fact is that the nation was adamantly opposed to their policies, particularly their dogged support of the President and his war of choice. I had presumed that they now might behave in a manner that reflected the desires of the people they purport to represent.

I admit it. I wasn’t expecting humility because I don’t think these blowhards are capable of that. But I wasn’t expecting them to be such chickenshits that they wouldn’t even allow discussion of the issue. But that’s exactly what happened. The band of Bush loyalists used what limited power they have to block debate about their leader’s Iraq war policy. They apparently believe it’s OK to cut and run when it comes to actually allowing free and open debate on the most important issue of the day.

Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post report on this fiasco. But the Times and the Post are too responsible to speculate that this stonewalling might be a ploy by Republicans to do something so outrageous that the media might not focus so much on Bush’s proposed budget. If that was the case, they calculated incorrectly (like they have about so many things), because the media are all over the budget. Close to $700 billion (with a B) for this war, through 2009. Count up the number of people in your family, multiply it by 2,300, and that’s the number of dollars you owe the government for this war. Get out your checkbooks.

Wow! That Guy Is So Hanged!

Oh, they’ve just gone too far this time. The New York Times (and lots of other sources) are reporting that another hanging in Iraq has gone too far.

Why am I missing the nuance in all of this? Apparently, it’s OK to tie a rope around someone’s neck, drop him through a trap door, snap his neck, cut off his blood supply, and sever the nerves between his brain and the rest of his body. But if, somehow, the head pops off, that’s just too brutal.

I must have been skipping school the day they taught that logic in my Torture and Executions class.

Rumsfeld Bites the Dust

It’s all over but the laughing, now.

It’s astonishing, however, how cavalier Dubya was when he admitted — almost boasted — that he lied only a week earlier about Rumsfeld’s imminent departure because there was an election coming up. Pretty vile.

Well, at least he’s outta here. Good riddance, Don, you stubborn old coot. Don’t let the Pentagon door hit you in the ass on your way out.

Sense and Sensenbrenner

I fired this missive off to the good congressman today, in response to his bad behavior. (You can view the background information here.)

Congressman Sensenbrenner —

I hope you are ashamed of your behavior today in shutting down a duly-called committee hearing regarding the Patriot Act, although I fear from your brazenness that you may be incapable of shame. Your attempts to silence the voices that might hold opinions that differ from your lockstep party line subvert the democratic process in ways that I have never previously witnessed.

Your actions are those of a man who desperately fears that his party is losing its vice-grip on the nation, so you must resort to bullying. But your behavior also tells me that you’re not clever enough to figure out that such actions only serve to galvanize your opposition. Your strategy isn’t even very smart politically.

Worst of all, such blatantly partisan manipulation doesn’t serve the interests of the country, because if we can’t deal with situations fully and truthfully, how can legislation be crafted that genuinely serves our needs? Isn’t that what you were elected to do?

No Right To Cry

The crying has begun in the red states, with the unveiling of Bush’s new federal budget. And, yes, it’s a disaster (or a collection of disasters) waiting to happen. There are plenty of things to hate about it, all of which are being discussed elsewhere, so I won’t bore you with the details. Basically, the budget boils down to taking money away from programs that benefit the poor and middle class (education, HUD, etc.) and giving more to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.

The march-in-lockstep Bush apologists are already attempting to make a case in favor of this budget by saying, “Oh, this is a wartime budget and we all have to make sacrifices.” The hypocrisy of this, in case it already didn’t hit you in the head like a wrecking ball, is that the war in Iraq is a war of choice that Bush and his cronies got us into on totally false pretenses, and it’s now being used as the excuse for cutting social and education programs.

And, by the way, sorry, farmers. If you’re in a red state and you’re now complaining about the farm subsidies being cut, you’re not getting any sympathy from me. You had your chance. This is your guy doing this, not ours. You put this loser in office, not us.