Sunday, April 01, 2007

George Bush’s America.

I have reached the following conclusions about Bush and his followers. “Democracy” is only a word that means there are elections held every so often. How one goes about winning them, and keeping in power once one wins them, is not the prevue of a democracy. The rule of thumb seems to be “anything goes, just don’t get caught doing it”. And when someone does get caught, the order of the day is Attack, Attack, Attack! Never admit wrongdoing, always find someone else to blame. Democrats and liberals are the best targets, but if that doesn’t work, find anyone you can to throw under the bus, even if it happens to be someone that has been “the loyal party member” for as long as anyone can remember.

I am not the only one that has been thinking along these lines this past week. Here is just a sampling of some other posts that go into this subject at a greater depth than I am able.

From Glenn Greenwald in (Free site, although you have to watch a commercial to get a free day pass.)

THURSDAY MARCH 29, 2007 08:59 EST

Neoconservative radicalism has reshaped our political spectrum
David Brooks' column in The New York Times this morning contains several important observations. It would maximize clarity in our political discussions if journalists could just ingest Brooks' central point: the dominant right-wing political movement in this country that has spawned and driven the Bush presidency has nothing to do with -- it is in fact overtly hostile to -- the ostensible principles of Goldwater/Reagan small-government conservatism. Though today's so-called "conservatives" exploit the Goldwater/Reagan mythology as a political prop, they don't believe in those principles in any way. That movement is the very antithesis of those principles.

Brooks comes out and explicitly declares the twin icons of "conservatism" to be every bit as quaint and obsolete as the Geneva Conventions: "Goldwater and Reagan were important leaders, but they're not models for the future."

Brooks admits what has been crystal clear for some time -- namely, that so-called "conservatives" (meaning the contemporary political "Right") no longer believe (if they ever did) that government power should be restrained in order to maximize freedom. That belief system, says Brooks, is an obsolete relic which arose out of the the 1970s, and has been replaced by the opposite desire -- for expanded government power on every front.

Deceitfully purporting to speak on behalf of what he calls "normal, nonideological people" (the dishonest tactic he constantly uses), Brooks says:
In short, in the 1970s, normal, nonideological people were right to think that their future prospects might be dimmed by a stultifying state. People were right to believe that government was undermining personal responsibility. People were right to have what Tyler Cowen, in a brilliant essay in Cato Unbound, calls the "liberty vs. power" paradigm burned into their minds — the idea that big government means less personal liberty.

But today, many of those old problems have receded or been addressed. Today the big threats to people’s future prospects come from complex, decentralized phenomena: Islamic extremism, failed states, global competition, global warming, nuclear proliferation, a skills-based economy, economic and social segmentation. . . .
Normal, nonideological people are less concerned about the threat to their freedom from an overweening state than from the threats posed by these amorphous yet pervasive phenomena. The "liberty vs. power" paradigm is less germane. It's been replaced in the public consciousness with a "security leads to freedom" paradigm. . .

The "security leads to freedom" paradigm doesn't end debate between left and right, it just engages on different ground. It is oriented less toward negative liberty (How can I get the government off my back?) and more toward positive liberty (Can I choose how to lead my life?).

That is exactly what the right-wing movement in this country is now -- an authoritarian movement animated by the Orwellian slogan that "security leads to freedom" which embraces and seeks ever-expanding government power based on the claimed need to protect people from all the scary, lurking dangers in the world -- dangers which are constantly stoked and inflammed in order to maximize the craving for "security," derived by vesting more and more power in the hands of our strong, protective Leaders.

And it's notable that Brooks specifically cites the limited-government views of Cato to disparage, since Cato itself has amply documented that there are few, if any, factions more hostile to limited government principles than the Bush-supporting right-wing movement that has dominated our country. As Cato's comprehensive report concluded:

Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. . . . President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.

But neoconservatism -- which is really what the right-wing pro-Bush movement has become -- doesn't believe in any of that, and Brooks' column demonstrates that they are admitting that more and more explicitly. Instead, it touts a radical and authoritarian nanny-statism that seeks, at its core, to provide feelings of protection, safety, and moralistic clarity -- "security leads to freedom" -- all delivered by political leaders using ever-increasing federal government power and limitless militarism. Whether one believes in that radical and warped vision of the American federal government is, more than any other factor, what now determines one's political orientation.

I have argued several times before that the radicalism of the Bush presidency and the neoconservatism on which it is based has resulted in a fundamental political re-alignment. As Brooks points out, the issues that shape our political spectrum and determine one's political orientation have changed fundamentally -- Brooks contrasts today's predominant issues with those of the 1970s in order to demonstrate this shift, but the shift is just as drastic even when one compares today's predominant political issues to those that drove the key political dispustes as recently as the 1990s.

There is one principal reason for this shift -- the Bush presidency and the political movement that supports it is not driven by any of the abstract political principles traditionally associated with "liberalism" or "conservatism." Whatever else one wants to say about the Bush presidency, it has nothing to do with limiting the size, scope and reach of the federal government. The exact opposite is true.
On every front, the Bush administration has ushered in vast expansions of federal power -- often in the form of radical and new executive powers, unprecedented surveillance of American citizens, and increased intervention in every aspect of Americans' private lives. To say that the Bush movement is hostile to the limited-government ends traditionally associated (accurately or not) with the storied Goldwater/Reagan ideology is a gross understatement.

But none of this expansion of government power has been undertaken in order to promote ends traditionally associated with liberalism either -- none of it is about creating social safety nets or addressing growing wealth disparities or regulating business. Instead, federal power is enlisted, and endlessly expanded, in service of an agenda of aggressive militarism abroad, liberty-infringement domestically, and an overarching sense of moralistic certitude and exceptionalism. This movement is neither "liberal" nor "conservative" as those terms are understood in their abstract form, but instead, is radical in its attempt to fundamentally re-define the American government and the functions it serves.

That is the central point of our current political predicament: the Bush presidency, and more importantly the right-wing movement which created and sustained it (and which will survive Bush's departure), are not adherents to any mainstream American political ideology. And many people, including neoconservatives themselves, have acknowledged this, and that is also the critical insight of Brooks' column today.

George Will previously called the "neoconservatism" which drives the right-wing movement in this country "a spectacularly misnamed radicalism." One of America's most influential neoconservatives, Robert Kagan, previously admitted -- just like Brooks -- that the current right-wing ideology has nothing to do with the Goldwater/Reagan limited government mythology; in fact, it is overtly hostile to it:

This is where Bush may lose the support of most old-fashioned conservatives. His goals are now the antithesis of conservatism. They are revolutionary.
That is the whole point of Andrew Sullivan's book, and Pat Buchanan founded The American Conservative based principally on the same observation: namely, that the right-wing, Bush-supporting movement has nothing to do with the political principles they manipulatively tout (of course, the federal-government-expanding, rule-of-law-ignoring Reagan presidency itself frequently deviated from these lofty, abstract "Goldwater/Reagan" conservative principles, but those deviations, for the Bush-led right-wing, have become the animating principles themselves).

And now here is Brooks, very explicitly repudiating the Goldwater/Reagan template and admitting that this movement is devoted to large expansions of federal power -- justified in the name of "protecting" Americans -- all devoted to what that movement claims is promotion of some objective Good. The central tenets of the right wing movement in this country -- which has seized and now defines the term "conservative" -- are easy to see. They're right there in plain sight -- they want to expand government power in pursuit of mindless, bloodthirsty warmongering and empire-building abroad, and the accompanying liberty-infringement at home.

As a result, to be considered "liberal" or "leftist" now means, more than anything else, to oppose that agenda. All of the people now deemed to be on the "left" -- including many who have quite disparate views about the defining political disputes of the 1990s -- have been able to work together with great unity because all energies of those "on the left" have been devoted not to any affirmative policy-making (because they have had, and still have, no power to do that), but merely towards the goal of exposing the corruption and radicalism at the heart of this extremist right-wing movement and to push back -- impose some modest limits -- on what has been this radical movement's virtually unlimited ability to install a political framework that one does not even recognize as "American."

Regardless of what other beliefs one might have, opposition to endless warmongering in the Middle East (and the wonderful tools used to promote it, such as rendition, torture and indefinite detentions) -- combined with a belief in the rule of law, along with basic checks and balances, as a means of modestly limiting the power of the federal government over American citizens -- is now sufficient to render one a "liberal" or "leftist." That's because the political movement that dominates our country is radical and authoritarian -- "security leads to freedom." Our political spectrum is now binary: one is either a loyal follower of that movement or one is opposed to it.

That is the re-alignment of our political landscape brought about by the extremism of the right-wing political movement in our country. Brooks' column (like those of Will and Kagan before it) makes clear just how radical it is, how unmoored it is to any principles which previously defined the political mainstream. The terms "left" and "right" do not mean what they meant even ten years ago, though they still have meaning. At least for now, until this movement is banished to the dustbin, those terms have come to designate whether one is loyal to, or whether one opposes, this government-power-worshipping, profoundly un-American right-wing cultism that has been the dominant political faction in America for many years.

-- Glenn Greenwald

From the Los Angeles Times:

Bush's long history of tilting Justice

The administration began skewing federal law enforcement before the current U.S. attorney scandal, says a former Department of Justice lawyer.

By Joseph D. Rich, JOSEPH D. RICH was chief of the voting section in the Justice Department's civil right division from 1999 to 2005. He now works for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

March 29, 2007

THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.

This pattern also extended to hiring. In March 2006, Bradley Schlozman was appointed interim U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo. Two weeks earlier, the administration was granted the authority to make such indefinite appointments without Senate confirmation. That was too bad: A Senate hearing might have uncovered Schlozman's central role in politicizing the civil rights division during his three-year tenure.

Schlozman, for instance, was part of the team of political appointees that approved then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's plan to redraw congressional districts in Texas, which in 2004 increased the number of Republicans elected to the House. Similarly, Schlozman was acting assistant attorney general in charge of the division when the Justice Department OKd a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls. These decisions went against the recommendations of career staff, who asserted that such rulings discriminated against minority voters. The warnings were prescient: Both proposals were struck down by federal courts.

Schlozman continued to influence elections as an interim U.S. attorney. Missouri had one of the closest Senate races in the country last November, and a week before the election, Schlozman brought four voter fraud indictments against members of an organization representing poor and minority people. This blatantly contradicted the department's long-standing policy to wait until after an election to bring such indictments because a federal criminal investigation might affect the outcome of the vote. The timing of the Missouri indictments could not have made the administration's aims more transparent.

This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.

Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.

At the same time, career staff were nearly cut out of the process of hiring lawyers. Control of hiring went to political appointees, so an applicant's fidelity to GOP interests replaced civil rights experience as the most important factor in hiring decisions.

For decades prior to this administration, the Justice Department had successfully kept politics out of its law enforcement decisions. Hopefully, the spotlight on this misconduct will begin the process of restoring dignity and nonpartisanship to federal law enforcement. As the 2008 elections approach, it is critical to have a Justice Department that approaches its responsibility to all eligible voters without favor.

This is just so disheartening. Everything in our government is just a tool in which to further the aims of the Republican party; the FBI, the Constitution, the Department of Justice, everything. Karl Rove’s very nature is to politicize absolutely everything. Governing is a concept that is beyond him. All he knows is how to manipulate every single arm of the government into a tool that can be used to further the aims of the Republican party, and to cement its hold on power forever.

If Bush, Rove and Cheney were allowed to follow their dream to its logical conclusion, this country would very much resemble the Soviet Union or Communist China. There would be a single party, where dissent is not allowed, must less an opposition party. All facets of the media would be a propaganda tool for the Republicans. The police and the FBI would be used to control the population. The elite class would flourish while the great majority of the country would toil away for their benefit, and a larger and larger percentage of this country would find themselves encased in crushing poverty. And we would be at constant war, which would mostly serve to keep the economy on its feet, however artificially.

I just cannot understand how these supposedly intelligent men can devote such a large part of the being into changing our system of government that has worked so well for over two centuries. It has survived a civil war, an invasion in which the White House was burned, two world wars, the civil rights movement, and countless other strains on the fabric of our government. And here we now have a handful of fanatics determined to foist off their particular view of our country and the world on the rest of us, regardless of what we think about it.

How have we even gotten to this point? How did these people hijack this country? Did the events of Sept. 11, 2001 scare us that badly? Are our minds now so numbed that we cannot see anything beyond video games and the latest episode of American Idol?

If that is the case, maybe this country does indeed deserve the kind of government that it will get.

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