The Republicans are coming 

Something has to be wrong with our brain waves. My theory is that space aliens have poisoned the nation’s water supply.

Why? Well, think of it: For one thing, next week’s Republican National Convention should be the most exciting one in memory. Their sitting president is not only the biggest threat to freedom and the Constitution the nation has ever had, his administration is an abject failure.

Had the media done their job, or had the nation’s political elite exercised as much brainpower as the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, we’d be waiting to see who the GOP would nominate instead.

But no. Many years ago, there was a baseball pitcher who had a great arm, but was feeble-minded. He might have been one of the best of all time, but his opponents quickly found out he could be easily distracted if they held up shiny objects while he was on the mound.

That’s what the news media are like today. The nation is in grave crisis at home and in worse shape abroad, and what is being treated like the most important issue in this campaign? Whether or not John Kerry exaggerated his military record in Vietnam.

Here’s what nobody disputes: Kerry went to Vietnam; was wounded, even if slightly, several times; won a Bronze Star and other medals; then came back and denounced the war. Bush’s father helped get George W. into the National Guard, where he may or may not have shown up all the time. Kerry went and fought and could easily have died; Bush didn’t.

However, the Republicans have gotten some anti-Kerry veterans to blatantly lie, something that was clearly demonstrated in last Friday’s New York Times. But the real question for our moronic media is why are they obsessing so much about Vietnam? I am not happy with our policies during the Mexican War of 1846 either, but we need to worry about today.

Frankly, the Democrats themselves were too slow to say let’s get off ancient history, where our guy looks better anyway, and back to the issues of 2004. So since they are having trouble keeping their eyes on the ball, I guess I’ll have to do it for you. So let’s survey the big picture:

First of all: We are mired in a war more hopeless than Vietnam, bogged down in an expensive occupation of a country whose citizens are united only in hating us. Why are we in Iraq?

Well, the official explanation varies, but the facts are that we were lied to both about Iraq’s ties to our real enemy, al Qaeda, and Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” (there weren’t any). What is clear is that Bush wanted to avenge his daddy’s humiliation, while his vice president, dirty-mouth Dick Cheney, used to be head of Halliburton.

Halliburton is the multinational firm that has been allowed to overcharge the government billions for “reconstructing” Iraq. The only question sane Americans should have about our Iraq policy is who should be charged with what crimes, and when.

Nearly 1,000 Americans have died in the desert, for no good reason. Many more will die, if these policies continue, and die for nothing. Thousands, uncounted thousands, of Iraqis have died. We have alienated millions of Muslims across the Middle East and elsewhere.

Turning to the home front, things are nearly as bad. The Clinton-era surpluses, which were to have stretched as far as the calculator could measure, are gone, replaced by record deficits, which are structurally much worse than the Reagan-era deficits and will be much harder to overcome.

We have something called the “Patriot Act” that enables the government to snoop into our lives in a terrifying fashion. We are frightened nearly every week with dire warnings that another major terrorist attack is imminent, yet nothing ever happens.

American citizens have been held incommunicado without access to the legal system, and we are operating a concentration camp on a military base on Cuba. Yet six months after the worst terrorist attack in history, our vigilant government issued a new student visa to Mohammad Atta, the man who flew the first plane into the World Trade Center.

Unemployment has skyrocketed, and increasing millions have no health insurance at all. We are recklessly endangering the environment but we have given billions and billions of dollars in tax cuts to the richest few.

These things are what the campaign needs to be all about. Next week, the Republicans will wrap themselves in the flag, shamelessly exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11, and make it seem that if we are patriotic and oppose Osama, we owe it to Jesus, Muhammad and King David to re-elect George W. Bush. Never mind that he let Osama get away.

Democrats likely will find their man behind in the polls after the convention, even though mercifully little of it will be shown on television.

Here’s what John F. Kerry has to do:

Make us believe he can lead us to a better future. Tell us how he will make things better; show how he will get us out of Iraq, show how he and his party will make it possible for the sick and the seniors to afford their medications and for the young to afford college.

Show us that he is a leader we can believe in. Nobody can compete with the Republicans in appealing to our most animal fears. Kerry loses if he tries to play that game. He can’t afford to blow this.

Molly Ivins, who has been writing about Dubya longer than anyone on the planet, is actually optimistic. “Rejoice, beloveds,” she says in her wonderful new book, Who Let the Dogs In? (Random House).

“We’ll weather this brush with fascism and come out as noisy and as badly behaved as ever.” Yet if they win, I am not so sure. For the first time in my life, I worry. I really do.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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