Monday, November 01, 2004

Random Thoughts From The Bus From Vegas

I was reading the Economist endorsement of Kerry on the bus back from Vegas tonight and I was struck by how evenhanded it is. It is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement. In fact, this magazine endorsed Bush in 2000 and does feel that the invasion of Iraq was the right thing, albeit handled incompetently. It criticizes Kerry for many things but ultimately endorses him with these words:

After three years of necessarily tumultous and transformative years, this is a time for consolidation, for discipline and for repairing America's moral and practical authority. Furthermore, as Mr. Bush has often said, there is a need in life for accountability. He has refused to impose it on himself, and so voters should, in our view, impose it on him, given a viable alternative. John Kerry, for all the doubts about him, would be in a better position to carry on with America's great tasks.
What the endorsement really got me thinking though was of what a waste George Bush's presidency has been. In these extraordinary times, Bush really could have been one of the great presidents. As often has been written, this country was united after 9/11. I believe it was the case in the nation if not among its politicians and Bush could have chosen to use this unity to push for majority rule, considering he did have control of both houses of Congress. But instead, he appealed to the worst in our natures. He appealed to the nation's fears after 9/11 to pursue nation building in Iraq, which was an unnecessary enterprise considering the lack of connection to our attackers and has been revealed to be merely a wargame of an extremist cabal of neocons that took Bush under their wing, perhaps even appealing to his own fears and insecurities.

But Bush also governed based on hate and anger. He appealed to the immense anti-liberal fervor fomented among the right-wing media against so-called liberal social programs, Roe v. Wade and the prospect of the legalization of gay marriage, as well as a supposed pre-9/11 appeasement foreign policy, even though Bush's very own Secretary of Defense served as appeasement's poster boy when seen on video shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.

Instead of relegating the social conservative movement to the margins where it belongs, Bush has pandered to this extremist minority and in so doing, marginalized himself as a radical president. But unfortunately, the media doesn't see it this way. Because they have such a fear of confronting him, the media has perpetuated the idea of this president as a mainstream figure. They gave him a total pass post-9/11 for fear of being seen as unpatriotic, and, being the optimistic institution that is is, the media truly trusted that the president was being straight with us. When the opposite became apparent, they have covered the president with slightly more intellectual honesty, but with the cult of evenhandedness the media is engaged in, wherein they will only express or cover a criticism of the president if they can uncover a criticism of John Kerry to balance it out, often taking a talking point straight from the Bush campaign and treating it as news, the result has been that the mainstream has moved right and the "left" has grown bigger. It has also grown united. As Hillary Clinton said in Boston, we do have this president to thank for one thing, bringing us together as we have never been brought together before. As I say often, the fact that my brothers and I are all on the same page vis a vis this president is a great feat, considering our views range wildly over the spectrum of the left.

The disappointment the Economist expresses in this president seems typical of many institutions that previously supported him and now see him for the radical leader that he is. It's a shame that it had to take such a dangerous figure as Bush to give courage and motivation to an emerging progressive movement in this country, but it might be just what we needed. And so while there is some regret for the wasted presidency that has been that of George W. Bush, a waste of time, money and human life, I feel that ultimately, the polarization that he has created will benefit the country, because President John Kerry will unite the nation with his appeals to our better natures. And if he doesn't, I'll be the first to write of my disappointment in 4 years.


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