Thursday, November 04, 2004

Kerry Teaches a Lesson

Bush’s election victory came as a bit of a surprise to me; I had expected him to tank with the American public by now, brought down by his accumulated falsehoods, failures, felonies, and fakery. That reckoning will come.

But for those of us who are not enthusiastic about Bush, equanimity is in order: some things are beyond one’s control, and now is a time to prayerfully build inner strength, to connect with the light in others, to live artfully, and to be grateful for the good things we have. Even if Kerry had squeaked out a win, given all the Americans out there who identify so strongly with Action-Man Bush’s “toughness” and “moral values,” it is clear that there are historical processes that our nation needs to work through. We are now on one particular path through those changes. Frankly, I think that, one way or another, the adherents of Bush’s brand of “conservatism” will need to wise up to a clearer realization of humanity’s inexorable interdependencies (some of which are beneficial to us, others hard to accept). I think that that growth process is going to be painful for both of the two Americas, red and blue. And I do not think that a Kerry victory would have done much to assuage those challenging, inevitable dynamics.

I hope the reader will remember my call for equanimity now while I indulge in recounting my thoughts as I crawled into bed late last night. The tone was anger, and it will not help if we only hold onto that anger; we must draw its lessons, and move on.

Anger at Kerry. Anger that he failed to understand his enemy. If I could have advised him, I would have told him to take every page out of Karl Rove’s playbook, and attack Bush relentlessly, viciously, dirtily, below the belt (pick your flavor of the week: dynastic heir masquerading as good old boy, daddy’s silver-spoon-protected draft dodger, moron student, brain-compromised booze-soaked cokehead, AWOL guardsman, bin Laden family business beneficiary, selected not elected, asleep at the switch on 9/11, master of justice-department-buried Administration felonies, war-manipulating demagogue, unfeeling death-dealing coward, etc, etc, etc).

Why this unseemly strategy? Because, when historians look back on this campaign, they’ll see that there was only one chess move that mattered: the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads, brought to you, with the slightest veneer of deniability, by Karl Rove. Bearing his mark of Zorro: attack the opponent at his point of greatest strength. Kerry the war hero became Kerry the unpatriotic wimp, and there, debates be damned, he remained in the minds of enough voters to bear him off into the land of pathetic political footnotes.

Kerry’s Swift Boat Waterloo reminds us of the way he set up his own ambush. He invited the attack by ducking at the Democratic convention, portraying himself simply as the gung-ho war hero, dreaming that he could somehow avoid any presentation of his subsequent anti-war protest activities. Please. He brought the fatal blow upon himself. Mr. Electability should have known before the convention that his best strategy was to take – gasp – a risk. He should have come clean and succinctly told America that in his youth The Hero saw both sides of war: the duty to serve and the duty to speak your conscience. In that way, Kerry would not only have staked out a position of real, defensible moral courage, he – and he alone, and this too is his historic failure – could have gone a long way to healing the wounds of the Vietnam era. At the same time, he could have set up a mature national discussion about what our present open-ended war commitment really means. And initiated an effective critique of Bush’s war leadership.

Oh well, missed a chance.

I hate to say I told you so, but this Deaniac saw the flaws long ago. My convictions on the manner of winning a campaign haven’t changed since well before the Gore debacle. The risk-averse Democratic strategy of the polite cave-in, of acting Bush-lite, has always been and will remain a loser until the last miserable fool of the likes of McAuliffe, Lieberman, Daschle, Gephart, Gore, and Kerry – is out of politics. How many pathetic losses will it take before the Democrats just try showing the courage of their convictions, taking some risks, differentiating themselves from their conservative opponents, giving some genuine inspiration, and, at the same time, for pity’s sake, playing dirty?

Look, Kerry defined himself for all time when he voted for the war in Iraq. If you thought that was a good idea at the time, don’t tell me now that the only problem is Bush’s incompetent handling of the occupation. You broke it, you own it.

If you thought that was a bad vote, you should have known a long time ago that you were buying a lemon in John Kerry.

But what’s done is done. My bedtime blaming session is limited to those sorry souls inside the Washington vortex who should know better. For the rest of us, I hope that anger and disappointment will be replaced by a simple, clear sense of what our strategy needs to be next time around. Spell out your compelling, inspiring progressive American values like caring, protecting, cooperating and lifting up; and attack your adversary with great cunning and equal or greater force than he, inevitably, will heap upon you.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Prediction: Bush will lose, and it won't be close

I feel more sure now than ever before that Bush will tank by election day ’04 – in the end, it won’t even be close. Economic spluttering, disappearing healthcare, oil prices, deficits, overwhelming evidence that our middle east/antiterror/you-break-Iraq,-you-own-it policy has gone off a cliff, a few more mini-scandals to come (more prisoner abuse; Halliburton, etc), and the Farenheit 911 effect (enough Americans seeing the emperor with no clothes) will combine to ensure his ouster.

Here’s why: the anti-Bush voters are already totally locked in; more undecideds will break to Kerry when they add up all the bad news; and here’s the decisive part: there’s a slice of the Bush voters who are NOT rock-solid – their Reagan-Republican loyalty is being stretched to the breaking point by Shrubbie’s assininity, and once the momentum moves just far enough against W, that wobbling slice will let him down. Some will abstain; some might even vote for Kerry. Count on it.

Yes, we can expect the terror card to be played with increasing intensity up til election day, and that will pin down the great majority of Bush’s supporters, but it won’t be enough to give him the numbers he needs.

The ONLY way Bush can win is if Kerry asses up his campaign as badly as Gore did four years ago. Well, I shouldn’t put it past him – just yesterday, he out-Bushed Bush by parroting Bush’s dumb certainty: singing in harmony with the outrageous comments Bush made a few days ago, Kerry said that even knowing what he knows now, he still would have voted to authorize the pre-emptive war. This when the Washington Post and New York Times have both issued grand mea culpas, admitting that they should have taken a harder look at the war sales pitch. So, Kerry can be a worm, but still I think he has just enough moxie to use the opportunity before him.

Anyway, I’m on an effort to limit my political obsession: it’s a broken world, and I can’t fix it by dwelling on it. I’m trying to limit my news intake to only those things I don’t already know – and you’d be surprised how that shrinks the field. And I find that news intake is best counterbalanced by some daily form of peace-inducing meditation, to prevent a buildup of excessive bile. I WILL attend the RNC protests in NYC, and I WILL do some voter registration work, but I’m trying not to carry this stuff around with me. Not easy, I admit – but let’s be sure to have fun with our outrage, cuz we’re gonna win.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

No terrorism in Haiti, right?

Any Democrat presidential candidate worthy of my support will immediately be denouncing from the rooftops the recent US chess moves in Haiti. How is this not terrorism? Heavily armed bands pounce on defenseless city populations and attack the police stations. Thuggish, shadowy, unaccountable actors announce that they will topple the duly elected democratic government.

I’ll make a deal with the Bushsters: you get me footage, within 24 hours of the summation of this “war,” of a falling statue of President Aristide in Port au Prince. Then I’ll have to admit this is not actually a victory for Bush’s preferred face of terrorism, but rather a glorious liberation of the Haitian people from evil. Somehow I think that statute will be hard to find, given that Aristide is a normally elected president with just two years until his term ends and he leaves office for good.

How is this not terrorism? To at least show some legitimacy for the project of ousting Aristide, I’d like somebody to explain to me specifically what laws he has broken, how the constitution has been violated, or even what norms recognized in international law he might have contravened, making him unfit for office. I know a few things about the flaws of Aristide, but I’ve never yet seen legal specifics of his apparently assumed illegitimacy addressed in the mainstream American media.

This is terrorism, yet with it, the US and France have finally found something to agree upon: Haitian democracy is not worth defending.

To Haiti, France has 400-plus years of villainy to answer for. But the transgressions of the US are immediate, and should obviously be condemned right now by the leading Democrat in such devastating terms that Bush cannot defend himself. The leading Democrat should going in for the kill now, attempting to turn this into Bush’s policy-hypocrisy Waterloo.

Aristide is a broken figure. Once he was a man who raised a hopeful grassroots democratic ferment in Haiti, on the back of which he was legitimately elected by a landslide. But he was a decade ago illegally ejected from the presidency by thuggish armed forces. He was only returned to office after his will was broken during exile in the US. Aristide re-entered the presidency (he was duly elected again by the people) willing to sign Haiti up for a new round of economically catastrophic debt deals with the global financiers from the G-7 and its arm, the IMF – something he never would have done before. The economy has since grown more dismal than ever. Lacking an army, he brought with him new methods of repressing people with paramilitary gangs. He learned a few things during his exile in the US, corruption among them, but one thing he didn’t learn was how to be lovable.

So with his support withered, perhaps now’s a better time to make a move than later, when the people get closer to the next election and begin to envision the possibility of a peaceful electoral transfer of power to somebody unknown, somebody who might do things differently, might not accept the IMF’s terms. So it’s time to pull the plug. Too bad for Jean-Bertrand Aristide – now he’s become another of the US’s presidential-assets-gone-bad – another in the line of ex-presidents – Noriega, Saddam...

Could it be that Bush is sending a signal flare in February that will land in President Hugo Chavez’s oil-rich Venezuela by, oh, say September? Or maybe December? Maybe that’s crazy – but we’re certainly sending “hate me” messages to the world outside again.

Where’s my Democrat, the guy who forcefully pulls the rug out from under such naked duplicitousness?