George Bush and The Shrinking of America
by Stew Albert
Conventional wisdom once had it that there was positive magic in the Oval
Office and that sitting Presidents automatically grew in spirit and wisdom
giving them the capacity to serve well, and beyond whatever expectations we
might have had from from them when they were merely candidates.
Harry Truman^^s reign was responsible for this myth. Before ascending to
the Office he had been viewed as little more than a hack machine politician.
But after dropping two atom bombs on Japan and starting the Cold War, Truman
graduated to the status of folk hero, and the belief grew that there really
was something special in the White House drinking water.
The myth^^s power was greatly weakened when it was obvious that Lyndon
Johnson was a far better Senator than a President and it collapsed completely
when Richard Nixon imploded all over Watergate.
Now in the era of Bush, our first unelected President, a new myth may be
taking hold. That America shrinks to the level of its Chief Executive.
Previous to his seizure of the White House Bush proved one thing as
Governor of Texas. He demonstrated a positive joy in killing people. Texas
easily lead the nation in executions. Other than death Bush gave off the
vibes of an undereducated petty rich brat, with some ugly secret in his past,
who always had to get his way and although he was inarticulate and seemed
stupid, he mostly did get what he wanted. His vision of utopia was a country
in which rich white people like himself felt and had no restraints placed on
their capacity to grow even wealthier and less restrained.
The Supreme Court of the United States may have given the Presidency
to Bush when it refused to order an honest recount of Florida^^s voters but it
was Osama bin Laden^^s bloody hands that delivered the American people to his
Since Sept. 11 Bush has decided that it^^s fun to be President. The mass
murder carried out by the terrorists and the fear and rage that this
reasonably produced gave cart blanche to his ugliest moods and needs. The
main source of Bush^^s joy was that once again he could kill people. And by
the thousands, as many as he wanted, if could somehow be framed as protecting
American lives. The freaked out U.S. population wanted revenge and not grand
moral visions and who better to serve their need than the grand executioner
Bush^^s very crude way of speaking became a bonus. When he told soldiers
to bring back bin Laden ^^dead or alive,^^ that he didn^^t care which, his
remarks were initially criticized by the pundits, but when polls showed that
were playing well in the living rooms, Bush was hailed as having developed an
unexpected eloquence. If a Bush comment was considered just too impolitic,
like calling for a new ^^Crusade,^^ than it could simply be dropped from his
repertoire and the obedient media would pretend it never happened.
As 15 thousand pound bombs exploded on one of the weakest, poorest and
most destroyed nation^^s in the world, Bush started to ride tall in the saddle
of pollster popularity. The media began claiming that we were somehow
liberating Afghan woman by killing thousands of civilians and destroying
whatever was left of their country^^s pathetic infrastructure. Bush the
Avenger was pulling down 90 per cent support ratings and even his former
political enemies Blacks and Jews were now lining up by the fistful to
enlist in his Crusade.
Americans seemed to lose interest in anything but kicking butt. Concerns
about ecology, education, the death penalty, social justice, gun control,
campaign finance reform, and racial profiling evaporated, along with any
serious support for civil liberties.
As the American people grew as small and nasty as their President,
thousands of Middle Easterners and Moslems were rounded up, including and
inexplicably, 60 Israeli Jews, and held in a secretive and cruel manner, that
reminded some of General Pinochet in his heyday. While embassies complained
about any lack of information about the prisoners, the country endorsed the
jailings as well as Bush^^s promise to overlook the Constitution and try
terrorists in special military courts.
Jay Leno joked that ^^if your want to fly someplace on a plane, and your
first name is Muhammad, your last name better be Ali.^^ And indeed Arabs, and
anyone looking a little weird or reading an off beat book were subject to
being pulled off a plane without apology. The practice hit its crescendo when
a Secret Service officer with an Arab name was kicked off a plane. He is one
of Bush^^s body guards. And now, we are told that there are 6,000 additional
Moslems in this country that the INS is going to deport. No claims are made
that they have anything to do with terrorism. Like 300,000 other foreigners
they are just over staying their visa, but they are Moslems.
When the American Civil Liberties Union asked the usually liberal Jewish
establishment organizations to sign a simple pro Constitution petition they
all refused. They haven^^t even come to support of the jailed Israeli^^s.
And just what was supposed to happen after September 11? Obviously the
criminal assault on innocent people required forceful response. Justice
needed to be done. But a path had to be found that would lead us to this
desired outcome without reducing us to the level of thuggery, reverse
terrorism and domestic racism. It would be an incredibly difficult task to
find this political/military way. Naturally the spoiled rich Bush hadn^^t the
slightest interest in making the effort. He had no desire to heal our wounds
with large redemptive visions of law, democracy and a generous version of
Bush saw his task as reducing the country to his permanent level of
anger and narrow meanness. Was there a way to fuck up bin Laden and his
network of death^^s head ^^born to die^^ terrorists without wiping out whole
villages in poor Afghanistan? There ought to have been, and sophisticated
strategists should have been given the task of making decent and effective
proposals. But going that route wouldn^^t have been fun. Listening to boring
and highly complex approaches would have required that Bush had some kind of
attention span. After the Twin Tower catastrophe it was just so easy to be
popular by dropping very big bombs and otherwise letting Afghans kill each
And that meant dealing once again with our friends, the Afghan warlords,
thieves and drug dealers. We heard again that bit of ^^streetwise^^ pragmatic
reason that it was a tough world and that to get the vengeance job done ^^we
needed to work with some very unpleasant people.^^ Play that again Uncle Sam,
during our next heroin epidemic.
Bush got the flags waving and the people singing God Bless America.
Interestingly, Wood Guthrie so hated that song that it prompted him to write
^^This land is your land.^^ We haven^^t heard Guthrie^^s number lately. it
doesn^^t quite fit the the national mood. The current temperament is one in
which some guy in a San Francisco gym shoots off his mouth about Bush and the
papers report he gets a visit from the FBI. An iconoclastic art exhibit in
Texas receives similar attention. A woman in the midwest gets a G-man visit
because of posters she has up in her own apartment. And the editor of the
Sacramento Bee is booed off a commencement stage when she speaks up for the
Bill of Rights.
In this paranoid climate the young and hopeful movement against the
exploitive excesses of global capitalism seems to disappear. Fewer and
smaller demonstrations are taking place. The new activists are guarded about
radical tactics and properly frightened of neo-Cointelpro outcroppings.
The war in Afghanistan is sort of winding down and bin Laden and his
best pals may have escaped to kill another day. The warlords are back in
charge, food supplies are being stolen by bandits and poor people are starvin
g to death. Some call it a great victory. But Bush is getting moody and
testy. He needs another war.
The President^^s tax proposals and general policies are so blatantly pay
back to his wealthiest supporters that he will run out of popularity if they
can not hide behind flag waving and blood letting. He lives in terror of
being discovered and known for his true character. He fears it is a family
The Bush years require a permanent war fought against those who haven^^t
the least means of fighting back. Our standard of living will go down and our
freedom and life style will contract to the size of Bush^^s soul. But what do
his fabulous victories mean for our safety and security? Besides the anthrax
easy way of killing us, a guy recently got a shoe bomb on an international
flight and a 15 year old pro-bin Laden weird kid in Florida heisted a plane
and flew it into a building. So much destruction in the name of security has
taken place but are you feeling any safer?
And yet there are ^^60^^s progressives who are, with some reluctance
supporting Bush. They see it as sort of like World War 2 where we are the
good guys fighting the bad Nazi^^s. And yet, benighted Afghanistan and Somalia
and even Iraq just seem too sad and pitiful to be compared to Hitlerite
Germany and Imperial Japan. The Islamic fundamentalists are clerical
fascists but their breeding ground is third world misery. A different
approach to global economics and a more progressive and compassionate foreign
policy is a better, if not sufficient way to fight terrorism. A radical
movement that does not stand for this alternative is one that has shared in
the national moral shrinkage.
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