Getting out of this mess

I thought that Johnson was the devil,
I thought we couldn’t do no worse,
Now the White House stands,
in Disneyland
This country must be under a curse.

—Phil Ochs, “Ten Cents a Coup,” 1970


Nobody is talking about this, but there have to be thousands of people who once attacked Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan who are now feeling vaguely guilty.

That’s because there was a day when we really thought they were the most awful leaders we could imagine. Democrats made ads proclaiming that the country, or the world, or something, would fall apart if they were elected.

However, they were elected and re-elected, and the republic survived. Trouble is, now we’ve got the real deal: An administration that really does threaten — no, promise — to do serious and likely permanent violence to our own democracy, to our economy, and most of all to the world and our place in it.

They’ve already badly damaged our image abroad in a way guaranteed to give help and comfort to our enemies. But how do we get people to realize that it’s not just us hysterical liberals screaming “the sky is falling” one more time?

That’s precisely the problem. Years ago, there was a protest button that said “If you aren’t outraged, you are not paying attention.” That’s a thousand times truer now. The Democrats, and all of those who are intelligent and decent, have to figure out how to get the nation to pay attention.

For our selected president is counting on us not to think too much. “History?” the chucklehead-in-chief said earlier this year when Bob Woodward asked him how future generations would judge his Iraqi war.

“We won’t know. We’ll all be dead,” he said with a smile.

That’s a fair example of thinking-outside-the-box, Dubya style. You can find it in Woodward’s new book, Plan of Attack, a crucially important work for understanding how Team Cheney does foreign policy.

Woodward, few now remember, may have been one of the two Watergate reporters who brought Nixon down, but he now is often sort of a verbal court painter of the Washington establishment. His first book about this bunch in power, Bush At War, was largely an admiring look at the steely resolve of the people around the Shrub, mainly Condoleezza Rice.

However, Plan of Attack paints a much more accurate picture of the power structure and, especially, of the president’s mental processes, which is why its subjects have been screaming since it hit the bookstores. What it reveals is a president who is convinced that he is on a mission from God.

Regardless of your theology, Bush Two is right indeed to point out that someday we will all be dead; what he left out is that thanks to his idiot policies and political cowardice, many of us are likely to be impoverished first.

The deficits this administration rolls up every year are vastly different from the ones Ronald Reagan and Dubya’s daddy inflicted on us in the 1980s, and not just because they are larger. For one thing, the baby boomers were just coming into their prime then. Now, the boomers are approaching retirement, which means that instead of paying taxes in, they will be draining benefits out, and there are far more of ’em than Generation Xers and Yers to take their place.

More ominously, 80 percent of the Dubya deficits have been financed by foreign money, and we haven’t exactly been behaving on the world stage in a way that would make most foreigners inclined to do us any favors, have we?

Then there is the war. Forget, for a moment, that for the first time in history, we launched an unprovoked war of conquest against another nation on another continent. Forget that our government lied and misled us as to why.

What really matters is … what do we do now? How do we get out of this mess? Make no mistake about it — in comparison with the Iraqi war, Vietnam was a brilliant idea. In Vietnam we had a government, weak and corrupt to be sure, but an allied government that asked us in to help fight an invading government.

But in Iraq, we don’t have a coherent enemy, we don’t have any functioning puppets, we don’t have an army we can defeat or even lose to. Just 25 million people who hate our guts more every day.

The other day, David Bonior, the man who should have been House Majority Leader, told me he thought we ought to work toward setting up a loose federation with areas for the Kurds, Sunni and Shiites and then turn administration of it over to the United Nations as soon as possible.

Whether or not that would work I don’t know. But a man named John Forbes Kerry needs to put forth an honest and realistic plan to end this madness. Do that, and we’ll have something to fight for and judge him by. Do it not, or give us some Richard Nixon “secret plan” nonsense, and the voters are likely to stay with the devil they think they know.


Up yours, Mickey: Michael Moore, as most of the conscious world knows, last week won the Palme d’Or, the Cannes film festival’s highest award, for his new documentary Fahrenheit 911. This is sweet revenge, given that the dreadful Disney Corp. has tried to prevent the film from being released in this country. The jury said that politics had nothing to do with this, and I will believe that as soon as I get a French kiss from the tooth fairy. Moore is a sometimes untidy thinker and filmmaker, but artistic freedom was at issue here. And if you thought this was just those nassssty frogs getting even, four of the nine jurors were Americans. Le jour de gloire est arrive.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
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