Saving the nation

Oct 27, 2004 at 12:00 am

Nobody among the intellectual and power elites was overwhelmed by the Democratic candidate for president; the only thing they agreed on is that he would be marginally better than the alternative, who was a disaster.

And while they wanted him to win, they worried about whether he was decisive enough. They regarded him as a rich guy with a high society wife who liked hanging out with the beautiful people as well as the movers and shakers. While they didn’t expect great things, they thought he’d be pretty safe, at least.

That’s what they’re saying now about John Forbes Kerry.

Which makes me smile, because that’s exactly what they said back in the day about John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Pardon me, but I’m very optimistic about the prospect of a president who is intelligent, tested in battle, has a lifetime record of public service, and who, unlike any other chief executive in decades, actually knows how Congress works.

Incidentally, the record shows that presidents who actually fought in a war are less likely to send young men into half-baked military adventures. I actually have a growing feeling that Kerry might surprise us all and be a superior president. I thought I was out there alone on this until The New York Times, in one of the best editorials I can remember reading, said the same thing last week, praising “his wide knowledge and clear thinking, and adding that “he strikes us, above all, as a man with a strong moral core.”

But what if I’m wrong? What if Kerry is merely another establishment politician? Well, at the very least, it will be nice to have a president who’s not actively hostile to science and intelligent thought. It will be nice not to have to worry that he’ll name Useless P. Claypool to the U.S. Supreme Court, or try to dig up Yellowstone National Park if Halliburton thinks it might have oil.

That is, if John Kerry makes it.

What is dismaying beyond belief is the thought that the smirking chimp, the worst president we’ve had since at least the Civil War, might still win. The polls are neck and neck, many with a slight edge for Bush. This election ought to have been over the moment it was demonstrated that the Democratic nominee could read, write and wasn’t an al Qaeda spy.

The mess is such that Kerry, if he wins, is likely to have to make rapid decisions that will make enemies and disillusion some. You could, in fact, make a powerful case that the best thing that could happen to the Democratic Party would be to have Dubya narrowly re-elected next week.

So monumental are the looming disasters that the Democrats would be a cinch to win both houses of Congress two years from now, and then reclaim the presidency, possibly with John Edwards as the candidate, in two years more.

But I don’t especially care about the Democrats; I care about this country. George W. Bush has been a disaster in nearly every way, and a second term would be disaster beyond belief for this nation.

It’s not so much that the man’s policies are ridiculously and dangerously wrongheaded, although they are. It isn’t even that he’d be in a position to do far more damage to our rights and liberties for decades by naming a bunch of new Supreme Court justices, although that is a hugely legitimate fear.

What’s most frightening about George W. Bush is his seemingly total inability to admit error, let alone change course. Asked repeatedly during press conferences and during a debate to name a mistake he has made, he refused.

Worse, he seems to think any admission of error is a weakness. Whether this is because of his own insecurity or, ominously, because he thinks that God talks directly to him, that’s a potential prescription for the end of the world.

This column doesn’t contain enough space to recite all the appalling deeds of the Bush administration, from running up huge deficits that our children will pay for to needlessly creating new enemies for our nation. Social Security is a mess; public education is getting there, and the national health system is worse.

Cheerfully ignorant of legal and political traditions, Bush has angered even true conservatives with the pseudo-fascist portions of the Soviet-sounding “Department of Homeland Security,” and the truly Orwellian “Patriot Act.” The Patriot Act, by the way, is so bad that the right-wing Detroit News said it “trashed personal privacy protections, suspended due process safeguards and upset the balance between the power of the government and the rights of the individual.”

The full effects of the incompetence and the recklessness of the Bush administration’s policies are unlikely to be realized for many years to come. You can count for sure on high inflation, growing unemployment and a health care crisis that will take resources we can’t even imagine to solve, not to speak of new waves of terrorism created by our ham-handed actions in the Middle East.

Yet even if the nation were prosperous, if we had caught Osama bin Laden, if thousands of jobs weren’t continuing to be shipped offshore, we’d have to vote out George W. Bush for the biggest reason of all: Iraq.

This nation never before launched a pre-emptive attack on another nation that hasn’t attacked us. Nor have we gone into war based on a complete lie — that the “enemy” had weapons he never had at all.

Nor have we ever so blown the aftermath of combat. Our occupation of Iraq has been perhaps the worst failure in our nation’s modern history. We have lost the peace. The other night I saw a shaken Martha Raddatz, the veteran ABC correspondent who covered Bosnia, discussing a recent visit to Iraq.

While she was there, the “insurgents” put a dozen Iraqi National Guard (our puppets) against a wall and blew them away. It didn’t even make the papers here; things like that are too common. We’ve lost the occupation; Iraq is, by any rational measure, worse off than under Saddam, and it will get worse still.

Does anyone really believe the American people will tolerate our staying there for much longer? Whoever wins will have to withdraw our troops sooner rather than later, and likely leave the place to civil war and an eventual Shiite strongman. We’ve taken a baseball bat to the hornet’s nest that is the Middle East, and there’s no sign that Bush has a clue about what the long-term effects of what he’s done are likely to be. The fact is, Osama couldn’t have asked for better.

The Detroit News has never — repeat, never — endorsed a Democrat for president of the United States. Yet Sunday, in the strongest language possible, they told their readers that George W. Bush was a monumental failure who doesn’t deserve another term. (They didn’t endorse Kerry either. Apparently afraid that its editorial writers’ fingers would fall off if they endorsed a Democrat, The News bizarrely declared Kerry an enemy of the auto industry, and took the weasel course of endorsing nobody, though it’s impossible to read its editorial as anything but a call to transplant the Shrub.)

Anyone who sits this one out deserves what they get. And if the wrong man wins this election, we’re all terribly likely to get it good and hard.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]