Friday, September 30, 2005

Bin Laden's little helper

Bin Laden's little helper
Posted on Friday, September 30 @ 10:12:55 EDT

US administration lectures about God delivered to Muslims are a dangerous folly

By Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian

President Bush has no adviser more loyal and less self-serving than Karen Hughes. As governor of Texas, he trusted the former Dallas television reporter-turned-press secretary with the tending of his image and words. She was mother hen of his persona. In the White House, Hughes devoted heart and soul to Bush as his communications director until, suddenly, she returned home to Texas in 2002, citing her son's homesickness. There were reports that Karl Rove, jealous of power, had been sniping at her.

From her exile, Hughes produced Ten Minutes from Normal, a deeply uninteresting and unrevealing memoir. Long stretches of uninformative banality are broken by unselfconscious expressions of religiosity - accounts of how she inserted Psalms 23 and 27 into Bush's speeches after 9/11, the entire sermon she delivered aboard Air Force One on Palm Sunday. Hughes quotes the then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice: "I think Karen missed her calling. She can preach."

When two undersecretaries of state for public diplomacy resigned this year in frustration, in the face of the precipitous loss of US prestige around the globe, Bush found Hughes a new slot. She may be the most parochial person ever to hold a senior state department appointment, but the president has confidence she can rebrand the US.

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is, of course, the most populous Arab country... Saudi Arabia is our second stop; it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, and yet is proud of the saying that 'All are Turks'."

Hughes appeared as one of the pilgrims satirised by Mark Twain in his 1869 book Innocents Abroad, on his trip on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans - Americans!"

Hughes's simple, sincere and unadorned language reveals the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." That is: somehow, magically, these evil-doers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve.

"Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why Mr Bush mentions God in his speeches, Hughes asked him whether he was aware that "previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our constitution cites 'one nation under God'."

"Well, never mind," he said.

With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted extensive research into the motives of suicide terrorists and is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he says, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."

Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain, independent of certain highly specific circumstances.

"Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there first must be the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals.

"If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the US occupation of the Arabian peninsula driven by our religious goals and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims but also secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."

The undersecretary's blundering tour of the Middle East might be the latest incarnation of Innocents Abroad. "The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them," Twain wrote. "We bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them."

But the stakes are rather different from those on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "It would be a folly," says Pape, "were it not so dangerous."

Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bill Maher's closing words from Friday's show:

"Mr. President, this job can't be fun for you any more. There's no more money to spend--you used up all of that. You can't start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people. Listen to your Mom. The cupboard's bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one's speaking to you. Mission accomplished."

"Now it's time to do what you've always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It's time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you're saying: there's so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in.
Please don't. I know, I know. There's a lot left to do. There's a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And, Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote."

"But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You've performed so poorly I'm surprised that you haven't given yourself a medal. You're a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a shitty president, but even he never
conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes."

"On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you're just not lucky. I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side. So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is:

Action Alert: Funding for the Arts

Funding for the arts faces two serious threats.

First, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill to eliminate FY 2006 funding for federal Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Departmernt of Education. The Senate, however, is poised to approve a slight increase. You can help ensure that the Senate position prevails by taking two minutes to write your Member of Congress urging support for arts education funding. At stake is approximately $35 million in annual grants that support model programs in arts education.

Second, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Republican Study Committee (RSC) has called for eliminating all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The RSC is a policy body that advises conservative Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Needless to say, cutting this funding would not even make a dent in the need for hurricane relief, and at the same time it would deprive the affected areas of much-needed help in rebuilding their vital cultural sectors. The Americans for the Arts E-Advocacy Center has “talking points” on this threat that you can include in the message you send to Congress.

Thank you for your interest and advocacy for the arts!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bush's Depression

Bush's Depression: Been There, Reported That
Sep 28, 2005, 06:38
Capital Hill Blue

Depressed and demoralized White House staffers say working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is “life in a hellhole” as they try to deal with a sullen, moody President whose temper tantrums drive staffers crying from the room and bring the business of running the country to a halt.

“It’s like working in an insane asylum,” says one White House aide. “People walk around like they’re in a trance. We’re the dance band on the Titanic, playing out our last songs to people who know the ship is sinking and none of us are going to make it.”

Increasing reports from the usually tight-lipped staff of the Bush Administration talk of a West Wing dominated by gallows humor, long faces and a depression that has all but paralyzed daily routines.

“If POTUS (President of the United States) is on the road you can breathe a little easier for the day, knowing that those with him are catching hell and the mood will be a little easier in the Wing (West Wing) until he returns,” says another aide.

Capitol Hill Blue began reporting on Bush’s mood swings and erratic behavior in June 2004 but the stories of an erratic, moody President circulating within the White House were ignored by the “mainstream media” until recently. Now more and more outlets have begun to report on what many administration staffers say is a President out of control....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

September 27, 2005

The Times

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'
By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its “spiritual capital”. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills.

The paper, published in the Journal of Religion and Society, a US academic journal, reports: “Many Americans agree that their churchgoing nation is an exceptional, God-blessed, shining city on the hill that stands as an impressive example for an increasingly sceptical world.

“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies.

“The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.”

Gregory Paul, the author of the study and a social scientist, used data from the International Social Survey Programme, Gallup and other research bodies to reach his conclusions.

He compared social indicators such as murder rates, abortion, suicide and teenage pregnancy.

The study concluded that the US was the world’s only prosperous democracy where murder rates were still high, and that the least devout nations were the least dysfunctional. Mr Paul said that rates of gonorrhoea in adolescents in the US were up to 300 times higher than in less devout democratic countries. The US also suffered from “ uniquely high” adolescent and adult syphilis infection rates, and adolescent abortion rates, the study suggested.

Mr Paul said: “The study shows that England, despite the social ills it has, is actually performing a good deal better than the USA in most indicators, even though it is now a much less religious nation than America.”

He said that the disparity was even greater when the US was compared with other countries, including France, Japan and the Scandinavian countries. These nations had been the most successful in reducing murder rates, early mortality, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion, he added.

Mr Paul delayed releasing the study until now because of Hurricane Katrina. He said that the evidence accumulated by a number of different studies suggested that religion might actually contribute to social ills. “I suspect that Europeans are increasingly repelled by the poor societal performance of the Christian states,” he added.

He said that most Western nations would become more religious only if the theory of evolution could be overturned and the existence of God scientifically proven. Likewise, the theory of evolution would not enjoy majority support in the US unless there was a marked decline in religious belief, Mr Paul said.

“The non-religious, proevolution democracies contradict the dictum that a society cannot enjoy good conditions unless most citizens ardently believe in a moral creator.

“The widely held fear that a Godless citizenry must experience societal disaster is therefore refuted.”

Monday, September 26, 2005

'New Orleans,' sponsored by Disney?

E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Washington Post Writers Group

'New Orleans,' sponsored by Disney?
Citizenry must be involved with rebuilding to avoid corporate cash grab

PORTLAND, Ore. -- If the rebuilding of New Orleans is to be something other than a new government disaster, a coalition of the skeptical and the visionary will have to stand together and confront the lobbyists and the corporate welfare artists.

Fiscal conservatives in Congress are right to worry about the potential for -- yes -- waste, fraud and abuse if the federal government throws off tens of billions of dollars in a haphazard and ill-planned spending fest. If the goal is to spend as much money as quickly as possible, the benefits will flow primarily to the well-connected and the result will be a new mess built upon the old.

But because the rest of us are morally obligated to those whose lives have been damaged by natural calamity and government failure, it's a fact that the federal government will be spending a lot of money. That's why the fiscal conservatives need the visionaries. The visionaries are insisting that we put in the time to make New Orleans a model for a better kind of city and the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast a model for a better approach to governing. The people of the region, not the lobbyists, need to lead in creating an environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically viable region.

These thoughts are inspired by one of Congress' rare visionaries. Rep. Earl Blumenauer not only represents his beloved city of Portland, but is also evangelical in spreading Portland's gospel of "livability." That odd but increasingly popular word embodies the idea that if governments plan right (and in cooperation with local citizens), they can safeguard the environment, create more agreeable lives for families and individuals, and let loose sustainable private sector growth.

Blumenauer, a Democrat always seeking to put together left-right coalitions on behalf of his eclectic mix of ideas, is both worried and excited by the prospect of rebuilding the Gulf. Speaking for the fiscally conservative, he describes himself as "a little scared by how fast they're doing all this stuff because I don't think there's anybody in charge."

But his excitement burns through during a discussion at a restaurant in Portland's Pearl neighborhood, an old warehouse district near an abandoned rail yard that is now thriving. "I've been in Congress for nearly 10 years and I've never been so optimistic that we have a chance not just to engage in the gargantuan task of helping people in the Gulf, but also of healing the body politic." There is an opportunity, he says, for government to ask the basic questions: "How do you build a community? How do you get people involved? You've got to build a citizen infrastructure along with all the roads and bridges."

Blumenauer has more standing than most on this subject. On Jan. 26, after returning from a congressional visit to areas devastated by the Asian tsunami, he rose to the House floor to ask: "What would have happened if, last September, Hurricane Ivan had veered 40 miles to the west, devastating the city of New Orleans?"

"The city has always been at risk because of its low-lying location," Blumenauer warned, "but that risk has been increased because of rising sea levels, groundwater pumping and the erosion of coastal Louisiana... it is hard to imagine what would happen if a disaster of that magnitude hit the United States." Now, alas, we know.

Blumenauer is ecumenical in his criticisms of past practices, including the actions of Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers, and he even likes to think that President Bush might become an ally for the large packet of proposals he is peddling.

Why shouldn't the president want to leave a legacy of a New Orleans built on economically mixed neighborhoods and a thriving public transit system? Blumenauer sees new parks and buffer zones in areas where homes shouldn't be, and economic projects designed to put local people back to work. He wants to revisit past policies that encouraged development in dangerous places.

Above all, he wants to turn the hurricane's victims into decision-makers. In the rebuilding, "people should have a role in what it should be like, rather than have it done to them." One of his biggest fears is that outsiders will simply turn New Orleans into a new Disneyland.

There will be time to debate all of Blumenauer's ideas. But one thing is certain: if the fiscal conservatives and the visionaries don't come together quickly, the special-interest/lobbyist complex that doesn't care about planning and seeks only cash in the hands of its friends will dominate the reconstruction effort. That would be a disaster for all of us, and especially for the people of the Gulf.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

How the U.S. Senate Can Obtain Information From Former Federal Government Employees Who Are Now Supreme Court Nominees

How the U.S. Senate Can Obtain Information From Former Federal Government Employees Who Are Now Supreme Court Nominees:
A New, More Direct Approach that Won't Require Fighting Over Records
Friday, Sep. 23, 2005

I've read a few odd, inaccurate accounts of the testimony I delivered during Judge Roberts' confirmation hearing. So, to set the record straight, I am publishing, below, my prepared statement, which was placed in the record of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, September 16, 2005, when it became clear that the hearings would be completed that day. (Had they extended to Friday, the 17th, I would have arrived then to testify.)

As witnesses go, Judge Roberts was one of the most impressive. As I suspected when I prepared my statement, the Senate Judiciary Committee needed a way to get information, for Roberts himself was volunteering nothing.

As readers will see below, I have suggested a way to get information from, and regarding, other nominees - to the Supreme Court, and other seats on the federal bench, in the future. This method doesn't require lengthy fights over records - just questions directed at the nominee.

While I informally suggested such an approach to the committee's counsel this time around, there is nothing like live testimony to bring it out. One hopes it may be used in the next go-round, with respect to the next nominee.

If Attorney General Albert Gonzales is nominated for Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Court, we will, once again, be facing a quarrel over government records -- one not unlike the quarrel over Judge Roberts's records in the Office of the Solicitor General. My solution means that, even if the record-seekers lose the battle, the reasons for the President's choice of nominee can nonetheless be probed.

What follows is my statement to the Committee:

Prepared Statement

Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to appear. I have accepted the invitation for several reasons.

First, I am not here as a partisan on whether Judge Roberts should or should not be confirmed. My partisan days are behind me. I represent no organization or group or cause. Rather than persona or philosophy, I'd like to focus on process. My only interest is in good government, and process is often overlooked.

After forty years of observing the workings of the federal government, as both an insider and outsider, I am startled by the remarkable shift from open government to secret government during the past five years, a shift that has little to do with national security but everything to do with a White House that insists on secrecy. That secrecy is playing out in these hearings.

The Senate is being stonewalled. In fact, the refusal to provide materials from Judge Roberts's days in the office of the Solicitor General is not unlike what occurred during the nomination of the late Chief Justice, William Rehnquist, when he was nominated as an associate justice in 1971.

At that time I thought I knew Bill Rehnquist rather well. I had worked with him for several years. First, as a colleague at the Department of Justice. Then again when I was White House Counsel and he was the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel, which is sometimes known as "the President's law firm."

Bill Rehnquist had a wonderful droll sense of humor, a powerful work ethic and a remarkable intellect. So at a critical point in the selection process, when President Nixon was searching for a "strict constructionist" to place on the Supreme Court, I recommended Bill Rehnquist. To make that story very short, much to his surprise, Bill Rehnquist learned that he would be appointed to the Supreme Court only hours before the announcement was made.

At that time, in 1971, two people were responsible for vetting Supreme Court nominees: Bill Rehnquist and myself. Bill Rehnquist, however, was never vetted by anyone before his nomination was sent to the Senate in 1971. Nor, it appears, was he vetted when nominated to become Chief Justice in 1986.

Attorney General John Mitchell invoked attorney-client privilege on Rehnquist's work of as an Assistant Attorney General during his 1971 confirmation hearing, and President Reagan invoked executive privilege -- with limited exceptions -- on the same information during the 1986 confirmation. Thus, the Senate twice confirmed a nominee they knew little about, and who was not merely less than candid with the committee, but sadly he dissembled.

Please understand that I have not come forward at this time to raise issues when the late Chief Justice cannot defend himself. To the contrary, I first raised these matters while he was very much alive, when I wrote about them in 2001. Because I happened to publish in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, only a few became aware of these charges. To be certain Bill Rehnquist was aware of them, however, I arranged for a copy of my book to be sent to him directly (by my editor). It was my sincere hope that either he, or one of his many able law clerks, would for the sake of history correct or enlighten what I knew about him. Unfortunately, that never happened. While the late Chief Justice's public service was long and distinguished, suffice it to say that for many Americans -- women, Black Americans, and other minorities -- his conservatism was often without conscience.

Why is this relevant to these proceedings?

Regrettably, the judicial confirmation process has increasingly become a "hide and seek" game, particularly when the nominee's public service record is found in government files and archives of the Executive Branch, thus controlled by the president.

Two questions serve as examples to make my point: Would Miguel Estrada be on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today if his records had been made available? Probably. Would Judge Jay Bybee be sitting on the 9th Circuit today if his legal opinion authorizing the use of torture had been available to the Senate? Probably not.

In raising process problems, I would like to suggest a potential solution. A recommendation that I informally conveyed earlier to the committee's counsel. I have never understood why the Senate does not thoroughly cross-examine nominees about what they know of their vetting, particularly any interviews they have given. Occasionally a confirmation hearing can touch on vetting, but to my knowledge the subject does not receive serious attention.

If a nominee has not been properly vetted, then the president does not really know the nominee either, and the Senate should proceed accordingly. And if the nominee has been properly vetted (as should be the case), the Senate is entitled to know everything that nominee has told those in the Executive Branch about his or her thinking and work. A nominee enjoys no privilege in what they have told others involved in their selection process. Based on my experience, I believe questions about vetting could be very revelatory to the Senate.

Thank you.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

From Gulf to Shining Gulf

From Gulf to Shining Gulf
By Sidney Blumenthal

Thursday 22 September 2005
Bush's responses to the crisis in Iraq and the aftermath of Katrina are jarringly repetitive. Are his speechwriters using a computer's copy-and-paste function?

Even the words are the same. On Iraq, President Bush declared on Feb. 4, 2004, "We will do what it takes. We will not leave until the job is done." On post-Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, on Sept. 15, he eerily echoed, "We will do what it takes. We will stay as long as it takes." It was reassuring for the nation to be told by the president in his televised address that he intends to "stay" in the United States and not cut and run. Perhaps a White House speechwriter hit the copy-and-paste function on his computer or the word "stay" simply popped into the president's mind as he contemplated the crisis, straying into improvisation.

The jarring reverberation of repetitive rhetoric suggested a presidency on a feedback loop. Analogies, of course, are imperfect. Bush's speech, which junked the whole of conservative ideology and channeled the spirit of Lyndon Johnson, might be taken as evidence that his frequent trips to New Orleans have worked some voodoo on him. But there are enough elements in common between the catastrophes in Iraq and New Orleans to be able to grasp the underlying similarities in the Bush approach from Gulf to shining Gulf.

Just as the Iraq war was predicated on the distortion, falsification and suppression of intelligence, so was the administration's preparation for Katrina marked by the refusal to register information contrary to its prefabricated beliefs. Bush's censoring and dismissal of science on global warming helped lull him about the growing severity of hurricanes as a consequence. It was a possibility he did not want to know because it ran contrary to his dogmas. But his passivity extended to the eve of Katrina's landfall, when Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, briefed him by teleconference video about the likelihood that the raging storm would breach the levees of New Orleans. Under Bush, the Federal Emergency Management Agency had been reorganized from a professionally proficient operation into a political dumping ground, and since 2001 FEMA had been studiously ignoring precise warnings of a potentially disastrous hurricane hitting New Orleans.

Before the invasion of Iraq, Bush refused to listen to senior military commanders that the light force poised for attack would be insufficient to secure the country under occupation. Then Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki's Senate testimony on the dangers of the Bush planning earned him a publicly humiliating rebuke from then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz (since rewarded by elevation to the presidency of the World Bank). Wolfowitz, a prominent neoconservative who had been advocating an invasion of Iraq from the earliest days of the administration, before Sept. 11, and who entertained theories that Saddam Hussein might have been behind the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, was acting as a point man for Bush in denying difficulty. Wolfowitz, along with the president, the vice president and the secretary of defense, subscribed to the notion that the invasion would be a "cakewalk," a smiley face of a word affixed by Wolfowitz friend and fellow neoconservative Ken Adelman. Dick Cheney waxed rhapsodic about the flowers that would be strewn in the path of our soldiers.

Similarly, Bush, still on his monthlong vacation in August, during which he devoted press availabilities to explaining why he would not meet with Gold Star Families for Peace mother Cindy Sheehan ("I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life"), greeted Katrina as a cakewalk. "When that storm came through at first, people said, Whew. There was a sense of relaxation," he said. The record, however, reveals Gov. Kathleen Blanco of Louisiana frantically and unsuccessfully attempting to reach him or his chief of staff, and the levees being breached before Katrina's eye passed over New Orleans. Four days afterward, Bush's staff considered him so ill-informed on the basic facts that they prepared a video of network news reports for him to watch as Air Force One carried him back to Washington.

Going in light with the military in Iraq was replicated in New Orleans - to similar effect. "Stuff happens," remarked Donald Rumsfeld in response to the looting of Iraqi government ministries and the Iraqi National Museum. From the electric grid to oil pipelines, the infrastructure was trashed. In New Orleans, the National Guard was belatedly sent into the looted city, where the infrastructure had been wrecked by the storm. Unlike the Iraqi army, which was disbanded, the New Orleans Police Department was overstressed and undermanned. Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the top commander of the National Guard, told USA Today, "We were underequipped. We don't need tanks and attack helicopters and artillery, but we must have state-of-the-art radios and communications." The equipment needed was deployed in Iraq and the administration had not planned for its use in natural disasters at home.

Amid the ruins, Gen. Jay Garner was appointed the first head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. From the start the Pentagon curbed his authority while raising expectations of instant results in conformity with its scenario of liberation. When Garner was incapable of producing the desired pictures, he became the fall guy. Garner was poorly prepared for his mission, but he was not a thorough incompetent like recently resigned FEMA director Michael Brown. While Bush defended "Brownie" as doing "a heck of a job," Garner was undercut. But both became scapegoats for the misfeasance of higher-ups - in Garner's case, the Pentagon, and in Brown's his superior, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Throwing Garner and Brown overboard were attempts to foster impressions that they alone were responsible for the failures of policy.

Onto these fresh post-invasion, post-hurricane scenes of wreckage, the president swooped down dressed in appropriate costumes. He alighted on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003 attired as a fighter pilot while a banner arranged by the White House advance team gleamed behind him: "Mission Accomplished." That Thanksgiving, wearing an Army jacket, a jovial president turned up at a mess hall in Baghdad, hoisting a large turkey with all the trimmings for the troops. Only later was it reported that the turkey was a decoration. In New Orleans' Jackson Square to deliver his major speech, Bush appeared in an open-collared shirt, sleeves rolled up, as the man of the people ready for work. The square was brilliantly lit for his speech, but when he left the electricity was turned off and the deserted city plunged again into darkness.

In 1787, Prince Grigori Potemkin, the chief minister of Catherine the Great of Russia, supposedly built façades of prosperous towns in the Crimea to impress her with his management. Historians now regard this story as apocryphal. But Bush's Potemkin villages are not legends. To the extent that he believes they represent his actual surroundings, his faith-based system of belief triumphs over the reality based, and the president who poses in Potemkin villages has become the Potemkin villager.

Behind the high-flown rhetoric of "freedom on the march," the Coalition Provisional Authority imposed conservative nostrums such as the flat tax and broke Iraqi labor unions. The CPA also served as a political clubhouse for right-wingers. It called upon the Heritage Foundation as a resource for youthful (and inexperienced) applicants. Now, the Iraqi government has issued an arrest warrant for its former defense minister for stealing $1 billion, and an additional $8 billion is said to be missing. On HBO's Bill Maher show last week, the comedian interviewed Dan Senor, the former CPA press secretary, and asked him where the money went. "We didn't have first-world accounting standards when we distributed that money," Senor explained. He did not mention who exactly was in charge of the finances: Michael Fleischer, the brother of Ari Fleischer, Bush's former press secretary.

Like former CPA chief L. Paul Bremer, Karl Rove, Bush's senior political advisor and deputy chief of staff, who has been appointed as head of the hurricane reconstruction effort, has drawn on the Heritage Foundation for ideas. The conservative think tank's hastily slapped-together policy compendium for the occasion, "From Tragedy to Triumph," has become one of Rove's playbooks. Under the cover of Bush's sudden acknowledgment in Jackson Square that "poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination" and a sweeping promise to "rise above the legacy of inequality," the administration has promulgated a series of reactionary acts, from suspending affirmative action in granting contracts to cutting prevailing wages for construction to proposing to use federal funds for vouchers to enable Katrina evacuees to reenroll in parochial and private schools.

Rove's appointment as reconstruction czar puts him in charge of distributing federal largess. The budget for reconstruction is estimated to run at about $1 billion a day, for a total of at least $200 billion. With that treasure chest, Rove directs a gigantic K Street project, combining lobbyists and the administration. Already, firms with intimate ties to the Republican Party, such as Halliburton and Bechtel, are major beneficiaries, as they have been in Iraq. And Joe Allbaugh, the former FEMA director, Bush's chief of staff as governor of Texas and his 2000 campaign manager, acts as the middle man in the Gulf states.

With every speech, appearance and policy announcing his good intentions, Bush accelerates the law of diminishing returns. After his speech in Jackson Square, support for his reconstruction efforts fell by 4 percent. Every promise of a new government program angers his right; every hollow pledge alienates everyone else. The incredible shrinking domestic president can find no safety in reassuming his outfit as the "war president." Less than one-third of the American public now supports his policy in Iraq, according to a CNN/Gallup poll. The poll also reports that Americans have become bitterly pessimistic, with 54 percent saying they believe the United States "won't win."

In response, the Pentagon publicizes body counts of insurgents killed, the metric from the Vietnam War that Rumsfeld once said he would never use. Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office reports that since the beginning of the cakewalk the U.S. military has used 1.8 billion rounds of small-caliber ammunition.

None of these reality-based measurements discourages Rove, "the architect" of stretches of Potemkin villages. Last week, he attended a private conference of high rollers in Aspen, Colo., where he reportedly dismissed Bush's current standing as a problem of communication. "We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don't mean anything," he was quoted as saying on the Huffington Post. On the hurricane, while Bush was accepting "responsibility," Rove was conceding no error: "The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government." And on public disillusionment with the Iraq war, he said: "Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real antiwar movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an antiwar rally."

Another minister of state perhaps best captured the state of mind reflected by Rove's comments. On the Bourbon kings, Talleyrand said, "They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing."


Sidney Blumenthal, a former assistant and senior advisor to President Clinton and the author of The Clinton Wars, is writing a column for Salon and the Guardian.

Bush's Hard Fall

Bush's Hard Fall
By Garrison Keillor

Wednesday 21 September 2005
His career was based on creating low expectations and then meeting them, but Katrina brought a cold blast of reality.

These are hard times, but then life is hard, as it says in Ecclesiastes: "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong nor riches to men of understanding; but time and chance happeneth to them all." And now scientists have found that football fans experience a 20 percent drop in testosterone after their teams lose a game. Your team goes down to bitter defeat and you sit on the couch, crushed, almost in tears, and your wife snuggles up next to you and blows in your ear and you think, "Oh no, not that again."

Which is one more reason to give up watching football. So instead you write poems and spend a year doing that and gradually realize that they are hopeless, unreadable, a verbal goulash of no interest to anybody. And your wife calls you to come to bed and you think, "Why is she wearing that sheer lingerie? What if someone sees?" Ambition gets in the way of the simple joy of passion, which is in your head. You and she may have been married for a dog's age and despite all the aches and bruises of matrimony you look at each other and get excited. Nobody else understands this and nobody else needs to. But vanity can break the spell.

"Vanity of vanities, all is vanity," said Solomon. Or, to put it a slightly different way, a guy takes his son deer hunting and as they're creeping through the woods, the man says, "Son, this is your first deer hunt, an ancient and sacred tradition marking your passage into manhood, do you have any questions?" and the boy says, "Yes. If you die of a heart attack, how do I get home?"

It's a hard fall for George W. Bush. His career was based on creating low expectations and then meeting them, but Katrina was a blast of reality. The famous headline said, "Bush: One of the Worst Disasters to Hit the US" and many people took that literally. Poor black people huddled together in the Superdome were seen on national TV, people stretched out asleep between the goal lines, and a 911 operator broke into sobs telling what it was like to talk to little kids in flooded houses and two weeks later the president had become a New Deal liberal and was calling for a major anti-poverty program in the Gulf and hang the expense. The annual deficit is running around $300 billion, but the president says we can afford a few hundred billion in hurricane repair without a tax increase, even if we call it a "hurricane impact fee."

Meanwhile we are pushing a large deception down the road - the idea that the war in Iraq is to defend us against terrorism - at enormous expense to our armed services and also to the Treasury, and for Americans who remember the last time a Texas president told us we must "stay the course," there is a certain sinking feeling.

But that's life. It happened to the Romans and the Mayans and the Sumerians and it's happening to us. In our society, as in those, the Grand Poobah gives the orders and the lackeys, minions, henchmen and stooges carry them out, and when the experimental plane with the lead-covered wings crashes, the minions return to His Eminence and lick his boots and he dispatches a yes man to chastise the fall guy, and then the fall guy whips the whipping boy, and then both of them pound on the goat. And construction begins on a new lead-covered airplane, except this time the lead is twice as thick. It's a supply-side theory: The greater the weight, the greater the buoyancy.

Solomon said, "The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: There is nothing new under the sun." Or, to put it a slightly different way, a man walked into the house with a handful of dog waste and said, "Look what I almost stepped in."

Which reminds me: There is a power plant being built here in Minnesota that will burn turkey manure to make electricity. We have in custody 14 million turkeys, a non-flying bird bred for gigantic breasts, like porn stars, and now, thanks to some bold entrepreneur (perhaps a teenage turkey) who put match to poop and discovered its volatility, Minnesota is sitting on a gold mine. As Solomon said, "The rivers run into the sea and yet the sea is not full." In other words, what's the problem?

Friday, September 23, 2005

What to do about the Bush problem

Robert Parry: 'What to do about the Bush problem'
Posted on Friday, September 23 @ 10:12:32 EDT
This article has been read 915 times.
By Robert Parry, Consortium News

Disaster experts will tell you that a key to surviving a catastrophe is to quickly discard the old paradigm of normalcy and to act with urgency and creativity in facing the new reality. There is no time for fretting or wishful thinking; decisiveness and imagination are crucial.

The same holds true for nations. History has taught us that sometimes when a leader has made catastrophic choices, others - from within the ruling elite or from without - must do something to shatter the old paradigm of normalcy and protect the nation.

The United States may have found itself in such a predicament. Figuratively at least, the flood waters are surging through the first floor and - while some say the water won't rise much more - others think it's time to grab the kids and seek higher ground.

The stark question now before the country is: Should it sit still for the next three-plus years of George W. Bush's presidency or demand accountability, including possibly the removal of him and his political team from office?

Though it's true that impeachment of both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would be an extreme step, this constitutional option must be judged against the alternative of a continued national leadership that is facing worsening crises while known for a trademark refusal to admit mistakes or to make meaningful adjustments to its policies.

Over and over, Bush has made clear that he has no intention to reverse himself on any of his core decisions, which include the Iraq War, tax cuts weighted toward the upper incomes, tolerance of record budget deficits and rejection of the chief international agreement on global warming, the Kyoto Treaty. (Bush even questions the overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming.).....

Thursday, September 22, 2005

To Rebuild Or Restructure?

To Rebuild Or Restructure?

As Democrats begin to recognize that the devastation from and the response to Hurricane Katrina has exposed the insidious failings in the conservative project, they must do more than revive the post-1964 debate between the left and the right on the role of government and how best to stimulate the economy.

The reason is simple. Setting aside the bungled emergency planning and response, the major issues at play in the Gulf Coast reconstruction are local manifestations of national problems. To rebuild the Gulf Coast and do nothing to address national-level root causes will only ensure that the goodwill flowing into the region will be twisted by forces more powerful than today's outpouring of national sympathy.

What are those issues? Three come to mind immediately. Ecosystem depletion, suburban sprawl and federal deficits. Ecosystem depletion is driving both the threat of stronger storms and our increased vulnerability to storms. As The Economist noted this weekend, a researcher from the Georgia Institute of Technology has just made it clear that global warming is responsible for the increasing severity of hurricanes. Meanwhile, the nation's coastlines and wetlands—which should act as storm barriers and flood-control systems—are instead used for high-rise hotels or landfill, putting more Americans at risk. Unless we address both of these massive problems we are condemned to harsher storms and more devastation—year after year.

Suburban sprawl is our national pattern of land use, made possible by 50 years of federal transportation and mortgage policies. By subsidizing the costs of automobile commuting (roads, parking, pollution, gasoline, mortgages), the federal government has undermined our cities, leaving more behind in poverty than many Americans would like to believe. To rebuild the greater New Orleans metro region with a full measure of equity, the regional incentives for rebuilding sustainably and equitably will have to overwhelm the national incentives for sprawl. In an borderless national economy, that can happen only by reform at the national level.

Of course, federal deficits put the lie to George Bush's entire agenda, but even more so in regards to rebuilding the Gulf Coast. Promises of $200 to $300 billion added onto a negative federal budget balance mean that America must finance the reconstruction of the Katrina-affected areas through more national debt. Faced with $66 trillion in Medicare deficits alone, what good is it to reconstruct New Orleans if it means the national economy will collapse all the sooner?....

Kerry's roads not taken

Kerry's roads not taken
By Thomas Oliphant
Boston Globe
September 22, 2005

SUPPOSE WE had a president, with barely seven months in office, pushing Congress to confront the energy crisis and stop the insane importing of oil from the Middle East.

That was the road not taken before Katrina, remember?

Suppose we had a president who had challenged the lobbyist-run Congress long before Katrina produced gargantuan costs that cannot be paid honestly: His veto would block the extension of those juicy tax cuts for wealthy investors that expire in a few years in order to force a reestablishment of the best Social Security reform of all -- fiscal sanity.

That was another road not taken, remember?

And imagine a restoration of Bill Clinton's simple proposition that recovery from disasters, natural or terrorist, is too important to be left to incompetent political cronies, and is led by a guy who is delightfully ignorant of patronage politics.
Still another road not taken.

As John Kerry had the temerity to say this week in Rhode Island: ''Today more than ever, when the path taken last year and four years earlier takes us into a wilderness of missed opportunities, we need to keep defining the critical choices over and over, offering a direction not taken but still open in the future."

Or, as he also said, ''Katrina reminds us that too often the political contests of our time have been described like football games with color commentary: One team of consultants against another, red states against blue states, Democratic money against Republican money; a contest of height versus hair -- sometimes. But the truth is democracy is not a game; we are losing precious time each day in a different America than the one we can inhabit if we make different choices....."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Spineless President

The Spineless President

by SteinL

Mon Sep 19th, 2005 at 06:38:02 PDT

It's been touched upon before, yet deserves to be revisited, now that we are seeing the aftermath of Katrina wreaking havoc with the White House.

This image will have seared itself into the eyes of many, following the president's speech last week.

It is far removed from how the president likes to see himself, as the man in charge. Yet we've seen repeated evidence that he is not in charge. Positions he states are immovable suddenly shift, once Cheney and his cronies get to explain things to him.
Or when his pollsters sense a shift in public opinion.
Bush, who would never nationbuild and never use the US military to engage in dangerous adventures in foreign lands - did exactly that, once he became president.

Bush is gutless. He has no vision. He lacks the skills and abilities to create positive change.
We term politicians visionary when their goals and ambitions turn into action and tangible progress. They are delusional when everything they state they will do crumbles into dust, or ends in calamity.

This is what he wants to be.
Trouble is, he's always AWOL when it comes to the crunch.
And then he wants others to sort things out for him. The reason no one is made accountable in the Bush presidency is because his officials aren't working for him, he is their prop, and they are doing what they damn well please. Rumsfeld would have been given a gun and been told to shoot himself in any other nation by now - he's still there, ruining the military and the reputation of the U.S. abroad.

A man who manages to write two conditionals, "I think" and "I may", as well as wondering whether he could possibly go to the bathroom, in a short note to his Secretary of State - is not in command, he is being commanded....

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Fundamentalist Shadow of George W. Bush

The Fundamentalist Shadow of George W. Bush
Monday, 19 September 2005, 2:34 pm
Opinion: John D. Goldhammer
Dr. Bush and Mr. Hyde:
The Fundamentalist Shadow of George W. Bush

By John D. Goldhammer

A mouth that prays, a hand that kills.
— Arabian proverb

“How do you find a lion that has swallowed you?” asked Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, commenting on the moral dilemma posed by the “shadow,” his insightful term for the dark, hidden side of the human psyche. The answer to Jung’s questions is “you can’t find or see that lion”—not as long as you are inside the beast. And therein resides the essential dilemma of a group’s dark side or shadow: it is nearly impossible for those caught inside a group’s belief system to see their own dark side with any clarity or objectivity. This hidden side grows over time, regressing, becoming more and more aggressive. It’s the “long bag we drag behind us,” says poet Robert Bly—where, as individuals, we dispose of all those things that are too uncomfortable to look at. “The long-repressed shadow of Dr. Jekyll rises up in the shape of Mr. Hyde, deformed, an ape-like figure glimpsed against the alley wall.”[1] Now imagine millions of Mr. Hydes and you have a sense of the group shadow of fundamentalist, right wing extremists dressed up as “compassionate conservatives,” led by George W. Bush. It’s like shifting from a hand gun to a nuclear bomb. And it began long ago in both the Moslem and Christian worlds.

The invasion of American Democratic institutions by fundamentalist, historically militant (as in crusades,[*] witch hunts, inquisitions, and support of slavery) Christianity has significantly increased the stench coming from the already disturbing dark side of U.S. politics. It’s like a nightmarish replay of the Christian crusades—politics with a militant, convert-the-heathens dark side. Potent, cult-like group dynamics combine with unacknowledged and unseen shadow qualities to easily overwhelm the individual’s sense of right and wrong, often unleashing pure evil en masse.

As the political world and the media divided the U.S. into red and blue states, I found myself feeling uncomfortable even thinking about driving through one of those “red” states. I would imagine that every red-state person must be a card-carrying, right wing fundamentalist. From the other side of the mountain, those “blue” states are full of liberal, soft-on-terrorism, big government socialists. Both are examples of projecting our group’s shadow onto the “enemy.” And both views prevent us from “seeing” individual human beings. We see only that group, those people. With remarkable ease, we slide into a “programmed,” either-or, group-think: we’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys. The group mind set is pulling the levers, directing individual reasoning and logic. It’s like seeing everything through red or blue-tinted glasses that color all we see and think—we’ve been swallowed. The blind lead the blinded with ludicrous comments like this: “I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq,”[2] Paul Wolfowitz declared, clearly not seeing his missionary, neoconservative dark side—the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Fundamentalists use labels as weapons, dialogue-diverting smokescreens that reveal a lot about their own shadow. For example, they have demonized Liberal Democrats using phrases like “the Liberal elite,” repeated over and over, who they claim are part of some “vast liberal media conspiracy.” In fact, there is an actual conspiracy underway and it is the fundamentalist Christian cult’s shadowy, carefully planned, two-decade-long infiltration and gradual takeover of the Republican Party from the grassroots-up. “Elitism,” in reality, is at the core of the Bush administration’s dark side, especially their pretentious, religious and political elitism.

George W’s elite base includes the wealthy and the powerful. They are the hidden people he really represents, those economically “elite,” special interest bosses he described so accurately in a speech at one of his private, campaign fund raising dinners: “You’re my base: the haves and the have mores.” They must have been some of the people he was referring to at a 2002 meeting with his economic squad about a second round of tax cuts: “Haven’t we already given money to rich people?”

The Bush administration’s obsession with “activist” judges is a bona fide tar pit; it’s their own projected shadow transforming judges (and “trial lawyers”) into another “evil enemy.” Again, the dark side is so obvious: project our own “activism” onto the justice system. Bush and his religious cohorts are in-deed fundamentalist political “activists” in the truest sense of the word. Consider the Lawless, unjust treatment of U.S. citizens, suspected terrorists and prisoners, justified by scary group jargon like “national security” or “we’re in a war”—Bush’s “war” that is at once everywhere and nowhere, making a mockery of the inscription above the entrance to the United States Supreme Court: “Equal Justice Under Law.” In a remarkable statement, James Dobson, the fundamentalist, right wing Christian chairman of Focus on the Family, clarified this agenda (quoted in The Washington Post): “The courts majority,” Dobson said, “are unelected and unaccountable and arrogant and imperious and determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they’re out of control.” Now that’s pure group shadow speaking!

Activist (fundamentalist), right wing politicians are promoting moral and economic agendas we are all too familiar with: loading the courts with right wing religious extremists, eliminating women’s right to freedom of choice, preventing equal rights for gays, using the “Patriot Act” to destroy our constitutional rights to privacy and freedom from unlawful search and seizure, undermining our democracy’s essential liberties including the “rule of law,” the cornerstone of a civil society.

Shadow dynamics can shift the focus of our beliefs with stunning speed to another “evil” enemy. Petty dictators are convenient “hooks” on which groups can hang their shadow, their dirty laundry; a perfect example being Saddam Hussein who, in 1990-1991 magically transitioned from being a relatively obscure U.S. ally (receiving military aid, weapons, satellite intelligence, and high tech equipment)[**] into an incarnation of evil and a dire threat to humanity that we had to eliminate. Such is the hypnotic power of group paranoia combined with propaganda in stirring up a nationalistic, lynch mob mentality. [3]

Once a belief system gains control, those beliefs are much more likely to move us to action, propel us into roles and conduct we would never contemplate on our own. Voltaire warned, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Moreover, under the influence of any fundamentalist ideology, beliefs (often paranoid and delusional) tend to override facts—a very dangerous mental environment for making life and death decisions, or declaring war. Independent critical thinking and logic—qualities that are most threatening to any destructive group—expose absurdities. Consider this excerpt from a speech by the Nazi Party leader Rudolph Hess on June 30, 1934: “The National Socialism of all of us is anchored in uncritical loyalty…” (my italics). “What good fortune for those in power that people do not think,” observed Hitler, knowing that thinking citizens were a real danger to his political ambitions.

Ignorance of the group shadow and its destructive consequences locks us into a mutually destructive embrace with our “enemies.” In a perverse way each side needing the other—an ironic, group co-dependency on the others “evil” in order to perpetuate themselves. Thus the twisted rationale for a never-ending “War on Terror”[***] (recently recast by the Bush administration as a “struggle against violent extremism”) that is the mirror image of the never-ending Islamic Jihad against the West. The president made this unending mission clear when he announced, “There’s no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland.” The notion of permanent war against a designated “evil” or “tyranny” is a classic dark side of Christian fundamentalism that mimics the Moslem worlds’ fundamentalist doctrine that declares non-Moslem countries as “Dar-al-Harb,” which means “The Home of War.”[4] It’s no surprise to realize that George W’s fundamentalist dark side also echos Islamic fundamentalism’s oft-stated goal of a global Moslem theocracy, which, the words of one prominent Iranian ayatollah make perfectly clear: “It will . . . be the duty of every able-bodied adult male to volunteer for this war of conquest, the final aim of which is to put Koranic law in power from one end of the earth to the other.”[5]

Sounding a lot like a description of our current world situation, Erasmus (d. 1536), a peaceful, educated, psychologically savvy, Catholic humanist observed: “There is no injury, however insignificant it may be which does not seem to them [Christians] sufficient pretext to start a war. They suppress and hide everything that might maintain peace; they exaggerate excessively everything that would lead to an outbreak of war.”[6] In his book, People of the Lie, author M. Scott Peck explains the slippery nature of good and evil. He points out that “evil people are often destructive because they are trying to destroy evil. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves.” This paradox is similar to Jung’s observation that “a so-called good to which we succumb loses its ethical character,” meaning that we paradoxically facilitate evil when we become one-sided, when we believe our group is on the side of goodness and virtue. When one-sided, a so-called quest for peace inevitably produces a group shadow filled with aggression and violence.

You know a group’s shadow is active when “…our belief is in the republic and the republic is declared endangered,” explains author and psychologist James Hillman. “Whatsoever the object of belief—the flag, the nation, the president, or the god—a martial energy mobilizes. Decisions are quick, dissent more difficult. Doubt which impedes action and questions certitude becomes traitorous, an enemy to be silenced.”[7] “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today… is my own nation,” observed Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who practiced nonviolent social and political change. Shakespeare (in Julius Caesar) eloquently described the bright facade of this fundamentalist, political shadow in his play about another “super power”: And let us bathe our hands in . . . blood up to the elbows, and besmear our swords. Then we walk forth, even to the market place, and waving our red weapons o'er our heads, let's all cry "peace, freedom and liberty!"

“There will never be world peace until God’s house and God’s people are given their rightful place of leadership at the top of the world,”[8] proclaimed Christian fundamentalist Pat Robertson. The Treaty of Tripoli (1797), carried unanimously by the Senate and signed into law by John Adams, contained this statement: “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation.” What’s really scary is the politicizing of religious intolerance in the form of the Bush administration’s evangelical[****] crusade to spread our political and economic beliefs around the globe, to conquer the lesser political gods, to save and convert democratically and economically unenlightened countries.

Fundamentalism in politics has resurrected a nightmarish apparition in the form of Wilsonian political monotheism. We could summarize Wilson’s foreign policy as “the imperative of America’s mission as the vanguard of history, transforming the global order and, in doing so, perpetuating its own dominance,” guided by “the imperative of military supremacy, maintained in perpetuity and projected globally”[9] —all thinly veiled religious elitism and hubris, missionary theology masquerading as “peace, freedom and liberty.” Similarly, in a much applauded speech in 1899, Theodore Roosevelt (just before becoming President) proposed “righteous war” as the sole means of achieving “national greatness.”[10] And, speaking through his group’s fundamentalist “mouth that prays,” Bush made his paranoid mission quite clear: “We will rid the world of the evildoers.”[11]

Like it or not we are stuck in a psychological dilemma fueled by the collision of two toxic groups—groups with deadly shadows created by literalized Christian monotheism and literalized Islamic monotheism—both fundamentalist, both virulent strains of group-think, both after mental territory, economic and political power. When one group’s god is the only god, all other gods must be inferior. When one group’s political view is the only view, all other political systems must be inferior. Consequently, intolerance is one of the chief characteristics of the fundamentalist political shadow. In this manner monotheistic religions, like a contagious disease, spread violence and immoral behaviors. The fact that fundamentalist cults, whether Christian, Islamic, or any other denomination are able to recruit and brainwash legions of followers illustrates a confounding global illiteracy about rudimentary group dynamics.

One of the symptoms of fanaticism is the belief that one’s mission has been “blessed or even commanded by God,” says Dr. Norman Doidge, professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. George W. Bush, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, told Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, “God told me to strike at Al Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.” For most psychologists, Bush’s “God made me do it” sounds a lot like schizophrenia, a malady defined as “a group of psychotic disorders usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations.” In every sense of the word, destructive, group-based beliefs are the real weapons of mass destruction that we all need to be very worried about.

“God wanted me to be President,” said George W. Bush. “God is my co-pilot,” went a World War II slogan. In World War I, “Clergymen created posters showing Jesus dressed in khaki and firing a machine gun.” The bishop of London urged his fellow Christians to “kill the good as well as the bad… kill the young men as well as the old… kill those who have shown kindness to our wounded as well as those friends…”[12] —Christianity’s militant shadow! Regarding Iraq, Lieutenant General Boykin declared that our “spiritual enemy will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus.”[13] “We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name,” Bush declared when announcing his “strategy” for his evangelical crusade”[14] Thus, warfare is applied theology. And from either side of the bloody plain, “every war is a just war, a battle between the forces of good and evil,”[15] a ghastly, incurable, repetition—the darkness of utter evil created by what appear to be the noblest of ideals.

Caught in the consequences of this shadow boxing, we find ourselves compelled to live in a constant state of hypocrisy, burying more and more of our own individual sense of real compassion and charity in the graveyard of our collective dark side, covering our self-deception and shame with the rags of hollow slogans from “mouths that pray.” Ironically, “hypocrisy,” as Hillman points out, “holds the nation together so that it can preach, and practice what it does not preach. It makes possible armories of mass destruction side by side with the proliferation of churches, cults, and charities”[16] —the bright “good” side covering a very destructive dark side.

This fundamentalist, political shadow has become ever more insidious as their ideological assault erodes the constitutional separation of church and state—a separation that marked a stunning acceleration of individual human freedom, establishing a nation that respected the tension between two old enemies: Enlightenment rationalism and organized religion. Americans lived no longer under religious totalitarianism. Instead they lived in an age of religious freedom and an age of reason. America embodied the revolutionary notion that only a clean separation of church and state can guarantee freedom from religious tyranny and true religious freedom.

Religious fundamentalist incursions into American political life as well as persistent attacks on individual freedom are not new. In 1776 “conservatives” around the world— priests, state-supported religion, Monarchy, aristocracy,—vigorously denounced and attacked the Declaration of Independence. In 1962 Supreme Court Justice Black described the intent of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause: History had demonstrated time and again that “a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.”[17] The American historian, Clinton Rossiter wrote: “The twin doctrines of separation of church and state and liberty of individual conscience are the marrow of our democracy, if not indeed America’s most magnificent contribution to the freeing of Western man.”[18]

Psychological projection of a group shadow tends to make the enemy appear to be far more dangerous and “evil” than actual reality. The U.S. is “the Great Satan,” and they (terrorists) are going to “destroy civilization.” For example, consider our declaration of a “War” on Terror that has created a shadow-inflation enormously elevating the status and celebrity of Bin Laden and Al Qaeda to that of a nation state or even a world power when in actuality we are dealing with scattered cells of cult victims who have been brainwashed by militant, fundamentalist Islamic cult leaders into believing that mass murder is the way into Paradise. Terrorists are what they are, no less, no more: extremely dangerous, criminal psychopaths manufactured by a set of powerful, destructive group dynamics.

One of the best ways to observe a group’s dark side is to look at what is particularly upsetting to our group—what “we” (or they) are accusing someone else or some other group of doing. Take the political storm over Newsweek’s report about the Koran being flushed down the toilet at Gitmo. The Bush cadre was suddenly VERY “upset” that Newsweek printed an allegedly inaccurate story as a result of supposedly faulty information from one of their “trusted sources”—a story that “seriously damaged” our image in the Arab world. Of course it follows that Islamic fundamentalists’ reaction to our disrespect for the Koran also exposes their group shadow, a dark side crawling with their own savage disrespect for human life as in killing innocent people and their violent intolerance for different beliefs and views.

Now we can see more of the George W. Bush group’s dark underbelly, fundamentalist politics’ long heavy bag. The Bush administration—we were told—went to war in Iraq because of allegedly “faulty intelligence” from trusted sources. Eight months before the invasion of Iraq the Downing Street Memo (“…But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”),[19] provided even more proof that the U.S. and Britain “fixed” intelligence in order to support the Bush administration’s war plans. The REAL damage to America’s image, the REAL destruction of innocent lives began when George W. Bush and a handful of hired mercenaries unnecessarily invaded an already impoverished Arab nation that had nothing whatsoever to do with the September 11th tragedy.

Fundamentalist politicians consistently blame and accuse other individuals and other groups, projecting their own disowned darkness: they are part of the “Axis of Evil,” they are mass murderers; they are undemocratic; those people don’t value life, they “hate freedom,” it’s a “Liberal conspiracy.” Saint Augustine’s directive comes to mind: “All diseases of Christians are to be ascribed to demons”—a perfect characterization of fundamentalism’s group-think that insures infantile irresponsibility while spreading mass paranoia. Faced with probing questions about the Patriot Act, John Ashcroft (a devout member of a Pentacostal sect) told a senate panel, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends.”[20] Mark Twain would have seen right through all this shadow-speak, language intended to “demonize” and kill any serious criticism. Twain once wrote: “Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutation of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”[21]

When someone shines a spotlight into a group’s dark side it arouses, almost without fail, righteous indignation along with virulent, “kill-the-messenger” attacks. That is also why it is so utterly frustrating to have any meaningful, rational discussion or collaboration with such people; you can never quite reach the real person. Instead you are stonewalled; you keep getting programmed, predictable, group-speak responses and jargon designed to abort any real scrutiny of the group’s always secretive dark side. Exposing torture and gross violations of the Geneva Convention means we are guilty of “not supporting our troops.” In his famous book On Liberty, John Stuart Mill maintained that silencing an opinion is a “particular evil.” If the opinion is right, we are “robbed of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth”; and if it’s wrong, we are deprived of a deeper understanding of the truth in “its collision with error.”

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders,” said Hermann Goring, at his trial in Nuremberg. He added: “This is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” George W. Bush brings up Bin Laden and 9/11 over and over: “The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September 11.”[22] Constant repetition of certain ideas is a common method of indoctrination used in destructive cults. “It is the absolute right of the state to supervise the formation of public opinion,” declared Josef Goebbles, the Nazi propaganda minister, who knew that tyrannical governments require brainwashed followers. And here’s George W’s not quite so articulate fundamentalist equivalent: “See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda,” quipped our self-titled “War President” in a 24 May 2005 speech.

So the Bush administration “fixes” intelligence reports, “fixes” scientific data on climate change and greenhouse gases,[*****] “fixes” reality on the ground in Iraq for the unthinking, uncritical, patriotic, loyal, citizens. These so-called “fixes” are really “lies”—the Bush group’s program to “supervise the formation of public opinion,” as Goebbles stated. Indeed, the purpose of all propaganda is to program individuals to act according to group beliefs and aims.

Turn these hypnotic phrases around and we can again see into our own shadow: two fundamentalist cults locked in another lethal embrace, an “adversarial symbiosis,” a system that guarantees that neither side will have to face their own shadow, reminiscent of the “cold war”—Russia and the United States—the latter having created nuclear weapons technology while the former copies it and both proceed to manufacture and infect the planet with over 60,000 nuclear weapons—enough destructive power to end all life on the planet many times over. Never mind the fact that the United States actually dropped two atomic bombs on civilian populations in Japan during the Second World War. Bush precisely articulated his own treacherous dark side when he announced, “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”[23]

Presidential scholar, Michael Genovese suggests that 9/11 helped to create a mass illusion: “The public needed to believe that [Bush] had grown,” so “we chose to see him …as bigger, better and different than he was.”[24] You could say that we temporarily projected a “savior” image onto the president; psychologists call this the “halo effect,” the same sort of illusion that can make quite ordinary people suddenly appear to be superhuman, until the truth rattles our projections and reality returns.

The most insidious face of the ever-darkening shadow of evangelical, fundamentalist politics and its bright, shining slogan, “compassionate conservatism,” is the in-humane, COMPASSIONLESS disregard for the suffering of others. Of course war is not compassionate for either side. So-called “compassionate” conservatives ignore preventable human tragedies like the ongoing genocide in Darfur, mass starvation in Nigeria, or the recent genocide in Rowanda, which was ignored by the entire world but for a few U. N. peacekeeping remnants. George W’s “Compassion” for the corporate world is a big part of fundamentalism’s economic shadow. “Compassionate” conservatives care more about the welfare of corporate America than for human suffering. Hypocritical, shadow-laden “compassion” is not new. Hitler and Stalin were two of the most vigorous “pro-lifers” of all time, as were numerous other tyrants. They (Hitler and Stalin) also criminalized previously legal abortions immediately upon taking power.[25]

Looking closely at the whitewashed rhetoric of the fundamentalist shadow, we hear more black magic—oft-repeated mantras like, “family values,” the “right to life,” and a “culture of life.” But what about a trickle of compassion for the estimated 29,000 children under five who die on our planet each day from preventable neglect, starvation, disease, and abuse—a horrific “slaughter of innocents.”[26] What about their “right to life?” Hey, it’s OK—we have a “no child left behind” policy—just a global, bloody sea of dead, ignored children in small coffins.

What we really have under the Bush puppet theocracy is a horrific example of the fundamentalist shadow that has created a heartless culture governed by what is really a “pro-birth,” anti-life doctrine—a consistent erosion of basic human and civil rights—all utterly un-American! In Iraq (at this writing), over 1,893 American soldiers have been killed and another 13, 000 wounded, many horribly crippled and disfigured for life. Incredibly brave young men and women—yet in reality victims of a fundamentalist/political cult’s deadly shadow. The independent public database,, reports over 24,000 innocent civilian deaths in Iraq resulting directly from military action by the United States and its allies—definitely not good for our “image.” But this barely-seen slaughter by a “compassionate,” hide-the-coffins Republican cult must be kept in the shadows because, as our President recently explained: “Those people (Iraqi insurgents) kill innocent civilians… women and children.”

Then we have the shadow travesty of religious fundamentalists’ attempts to stop stem cell research.[******] George W. Bush, replying to questions about proposed stem cell legislation, said “…the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life -- I'm against that.”[27] Here’s the shadow: No life-saving stem cell research but immense, treasury draining, scientific research into anti-missile systems, nuclear bunker-busting weapons and a whole new arsenal of mini-nuclear weapons—sounds a lot like “using science which destroys life in order to save life!” I hear that lion roaring!

Over time, dictators and other cult leaders tend to become increasingly paranoid, unpredictable, and treacherously impulsive. Throw nuclear weapons into this toxic mix of fundamentalism, politics and explosive shadow dynamics and we have a planet in serious jeopardy at best—a doomsday scenario at worst. Robert J. Lifton, the author of Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, explains that fundamentalism exists “always on the edge of violence because it ever mobilizes for an absolute confrontation with a designated evil, thereby justifying any actions taken to eliminate that evil.”[28]

So what can you and I do about this group shadow dilemma? We can expose the fundamentalist, group-based lies that are redefining and reshaping both political parties. We can insist that our government and its leaders focus on solutions instead of forcing everyone to swallow dogma saturated with one religious group’s “truth,” one group’s concept of “moral values.” And we can demand that zealots and ideologues keep their self-righteous claws off our democracy. Real solutions that promote free and open societies will never come from fundamentalist groups dragging their long heavy bags of intolerance and “tyranny over the minds of men.”

Shadow work begins with brutally honest self-examination, the courage to admit one’s errors and mistakes, and the moral integrity to change policies, ideas, and opinions that have proven to be fallacious or harmful to others. Corrupt leaders and governments have always feared independent, critical-thinking, informed, skeptical, free, educated citizens. It’s time we withdrew our overly “educated,” thinking, informed psyches from Bush’s war—his great crusade “to end tyranny in the world,” that paranoid, militant, fundamentalist misadventure that sees anyone who is not conforming to their world view as the enemy. It’s time for civilized, compassionate, courageous people everywhere to refuse to participate in sanctifying a morally bankrupt administration with patriotic doublespeak. James Madison warned, “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

Looking honestly at our own dark side as individuals, as members of groups, and as a nation does something quite remarkable; it gives us a healthy dose of humility and empathy for others. It also exposes the ghastly consequences of power abused, of corruption and secrecy in high places. In his book, Faces of the Enemy, Sam keen explains the “first rule” for understanding our own shadow: “Listen to what the enemy says about you… Borrow the eyes of the alien, see yourself from afar. …Look with suspicion on the rhetoric of your nation.”[29]

We need leaders who are skilled at encouraging constructive, even harsh criticism and healthy skepticism, which Jefferson believed was essential for responsible citizenship. We need leaders who understand the value of different ideas and opinions, who understand that it is often the opposite point of view that enriches our perspective and inspires a creative solution that transcends warfare between opposite positions.

The shadow enables us to deny responsibility for our actions; evil is always “out there.” But at some point, so-called moderate, non-violent Christians and Moslems must take responsibility for the militant consequences of their beliefs systems. Like the German peoples’ denial of Nazi death camps or the world’s ongoing blindness toward genocide, every peace-loving Christian and every peace-loving Moslem who remains silent, has the blood of innocents on his or her hands, as does each and every politician who has cowardly fallen to their knees before the brutal gods of religious fundamentalism, fanaticism and war.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, as a soldier and then as the thirty-fourth President of the United States, knew the savage, inhumane consequences of warfare. “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”[30] We need to change our national priorities from a culture of existence in the shadowy wastelands of war and increasing military expenditures to a culture of creating what scientist and philosopher, Buckminster Fuller called “livingry,” a culture of compassion that actually values and protects all life, a culture that respects learning, supports scientific research, invention, free inquiry, and acknowledges our common humanity.

I would like to see the United States return to being an inspiring role model, to helping others improve their quality of life—a nation known for real compassion and benevolence instead of an arrogant, threatening, military-industrial leviathan that inspires increasing revulsion, contempt, and fear from the world community. But people make a nation and real change begins with each individual. As for religious groups, the Dalai Lama has a straightforward strategy: “This is my simple religion,” he says. “There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

Looking at our world and religious extremists on both sides, I’m hopeful that all the killing and savaging of life will finally wake people up to the awesome destructive power of groups and belief systems that have become more important than human life, simple compassion, and love for one another. But realistically, unless we change, I also see a very dangerous world, a dark side that poets describe best: “And we are here as on a darkling plain…Where ignorant armies clash by night.”[31]


* Christians torturing Christians who were different and plundering their villages was quite common during the crusades. Battles over different interpretations of religious texts exemplify what Freud referred to as the “narcissism of small differences.” See: A History of the Crusades: The First Hundred Years, ed. Marshall W. Baldwin (Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 1955).

** In 1986, an article about Don Rumsfeld in the Chicago Tribune listed helping “re-open U.S. relations with Iraq” when he served as Reagan’s special envoy to the Middle East as one of his career achievements. The State Department reported that while Rumsfeld was opening relations with Iraq, Saddam Hussein was murdering thousands of Kurds using chemical weapons.

*** When Moslems and Christians fought during the crusades (1096 – 1204), both sides believed the other was the enemy of their one, true, God.

**** I use the term “evangelical” as “relating to, or being a Christian church believing in the sole authority and inerrancy of the Bible.”

***** More than 10,000 reputable, peer-reviewed climate scientists believe the evidence that shows rapid shifts in global temperature are caused by human activity. Reported by Johann Hari in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 29, 2005, p. D1.

****** According to the British government’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) report on stem cell research (in China, South Korea, Great Britain, Israel, and Singapore), China is “at or approaching the forefront of international stem cell research.” China also engages in “significant recruitment” of U.S. and other Western scientists, the DTI report noted, luring them with promises of greater freedom and well-funded research centers. Reported by Micah Morrison in Parade Magazine, July 10, 2005, pp. 4-5.

1. Robert Bly, A Little Book on the Human Shadow (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988), p. 2.
2. Paul D. Wolfowitz, qtd. in The New York Times, 22 July 2003.
3. For more information on group shadow dynamics in political and religious organizations, see: Under the Influence: the Destructive Effects of Group Dynamics, by John D. Goldhammer. (New York: Prometheus Books, 1996).
4. Basil Davidson, Africa in History (New York: Touchstone, 1991), p. 219.
5. Khomeini, Sayings of the Ayatollah Khomeini, 4.
6. José Chapiro, Erasmus and Our Struggle for Peace (Boston: Beacon, 1950), pp. 158, 171.
7. James Hillman, A Terrible Love of War (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004), p. 182.
8. Pat Robertson, The New World Order (Word Publishing, 1991), p. 227.
9. Andrew Bacevich, American Empire, pp. 215ff. His emphasis.
10. Theodore Roosevelt, cited in: Carl Sagan, Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), p. 185.
11. George W. Bush, quoted in: “London Bombings: Good police work,” The Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 14, 2005.
12. Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (New York: Doubleday, 1990), p. 236.
13. Lieutenant General Boykin, cited in: Arianna Huffington, Fanatics & Fools: The Game Plan for Winning Back America (New York: Hyperion, 2004), p. 47.
14. George W. Bush, “Commencement Address at the United States Military Academy in West Point,” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (June 1, 2002), 944-48.
15. Keen, Ibid., p. 27.
16. Hillman, Ibid., p. 197.
17. Supreme Court decision: Engle v. Vitale, 1962.
18. Clinton Rossiter, Seedtime of the Republic (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1953). Excerpted in Rossiter, The First American Revolution (San Diego: Harvest).
19. “The Secret Downing Street Memo.” The Sunday Times – Britain: May 1, 2005.
20. John Ashcroft, cited in: Arianna Huffington, Ibid., p. 63.
21. Mark Twain, “The Mysterious Stranger,” pp. 726-27.
22. George W. Bush, cited in: “Bush on Iraq War: Don’t Forget 9/11,” The Seattle Times, p. A1.
23. George W. Bush, “State of the Union Address,” Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (Jan. 29, 2002), 133-39.
24. Michael A. Genovese, “The Transformations of the Bush Presidency: 9/11 and Beyond,” The Presidency, Congress, and the War on Terrorism: Scholarly Perspectives, University of Florida Conference (Feb. 3, 2003). See:
25. Carl Sagan, Ibid., p. 199.
26. According t the World Health Organization, more than 10.6 million children per year die before their fifth birthday. WHO attributes almost half (48 percent) of deaths under the age of 5 to diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, and measles, which would mostly be preventable given appropriate care and treatment. A further 37 percent reflect neonatal causes, many of which might be avoidable, and a third of which are infection related. Thus, probably two-thirds of global deaths under the age of 5 could be averted, if the necessary resources for basic health care were in place and accessible. WHO report for 2000-2003.
27. “Bush On Life,” from: Bush's remarks with the Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Air America Radio, April 14, 2005.
28. Robert J. Lifton, The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation (New York: Basic Books, 1993), p. 202.
29. Keen, Ibid., p. 95.
30. Dwight D. Eisenhower, “The Chance for Peace.” Speech given to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953.
31. From the poetry of Matthew Arnold.


John Goldhammer, Ph.D., is a Seattle, Washington (USA) psychologist and author of three books including, “Under the Influence: The Destructive Effects of Group Dynamics” (Prometheus Books). He created and taught these university classes:
The Psychology of Hate and The Psychology of Groups. This essay is adapted from a book in process as yet untitled. Email:

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Plan forward

Leon Fuerth
Political Animal

....a system that doesn’t think forward can’t plan forward. As reconstruction proceeds along the Gulf Coast, we need to ask whether we are just going to protect against lessons-learned, or against lessons-anticipated; what’s likely to happen in the future. Global warming, rising sea-levels, increasing frequency and severity of storms are examples of the latter.

Other forces are gathering in the world. Read the National Science Foundation’s reports on the social, economic and physiological effects of onrushing new sciences and technologies, such as nanotechnology, genetics, and informatics, for a wake-up call about what is perhaps only twenty years away. Twenty years seems long for us individuals, but is not much time at all for us as a society to think about where we are going and how to shape the outcomes. In a democracy, we need time to register emerging issues; time to debate what to do about them; and time to do it.

The breathing spaces between major shocks are getting ever shorter – we need to anticipate them rather than just react to them. We have the analytic capacity to think about these things, but our political leadership doesn’t use it. For that to happen, we need a public which will push leaders to take the risk of preparing for problems early on, when it counts. I think blogs and blogging can be a part of that public argument, and would appreciate your comments as to how this might work.
—Leon Fuerth

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

September 18, 2005

Message: I Care About the Black Folks

New York Times

ONCE Toto parts the curtain, the Wizard of Oz can never be the wizard again. He is forever Professor Marvel, blowhard and snake-oil salesman. Hurricane Katrina, which is likely to endure in the American psyche as long as L. Frank Baum's mythic tornado, has similarly unmasked George W. Bush.

The worst storm in our history proved perfect for exposing this president because in one big blast it illuminated all his failings: the rampant cronyism, the empty sloganeering of "compassionate conservatism," the lack of concern for the "underprivileged" his mother condescended to at the Astrodome, the reckless lack of planning for all government operations except tax cuts, the use of spin and photo-ops to camouflage failure and to substitute for action.

In the chaos unleashed by Katrina, these plot strands coalesced into a single tragic epic played out in real time on television. The narrative is just too powerful to be undone now by the administration's desperate recycling of its greatest hits: a return Sunshine Boys tour by the surrogate empathizers Clinton and Bush I, another round of prayers at the Washington National Cathedral, another ludicrously overhyped prime-time address flecked with speechwriters' "poetry" and framed by a picturesque backdrop. Reruns never eclipse a riveting new show.

Nor can the president's acceptance of "responsibility" for the disaster dislodge what came before. Mr. Bush didn't cough up his modified-limited mea culpa until he'd seen his whole administration flash before his eyes. His admission that some of the buck may stop with him (about a dime's worth, in Truman dollars) came two weeks after the levees burst and five years after he promised to usher in a new post-Clinton "culture of responsibility." It came only after the plan to heap all the blame on the indeed blameworthy local Democrats failed to lift Mr. Bush's own record-low poll numbers. It came only after America's highest-rated TV news anchor, Brian Williams, started talking about Katrina the way Walter Cronkite once did about Vietnam.....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Breach of a myth

Breach of a myth
After Katrina, the country no longer believes in Bush the protector. His presidency is ruined.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Sidney Blumenthal

.....It was easier for Bush to renounce alcohol at age 40 than ideology at almost 60. Bush had radicalized Ronald Reagan's conservatism, but never has Reagan's credo from his first inaugural rung so hollow: "Government is not the solution to our problem." Yet social Darwinism cannot protect the homeland. That 20,000 mostly poor blacks were locked in the New Orleans Convention Center without food and water for several days without the knowledge of federal officials is not an urban legend.

Poverty, previously unmentionable, has increased about 9 percent since Bush assumed office. The disparity between the superpower's evangelical mission to democratize the world and its indifference at home is a foreign policy crisis of new dimension. Can Iraq be saved if Louisiana is lost? Bush's credibility gap is a geopolitical problem without a geopolitical solution. Assuming a new mission, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wears her racial identity to witness for Bush's purity of heart. So long as Bush could wrap himself in 9/11 his image was shielded; he could even justify Iraq by flashing the non sequitur to his base. But once another event of magnitude thundered over his central claim as national defender, the Bush myth crumbled. It would take another event of this scale to begin to restore it. But it would also require a different set of responses from Bush. Now his evocation of 9/11 only reminds the public of his failed promise.

The rest of the Bush presidency will consist of his strained efforts to cobble his myth together again while others cope with the consequences of his damage. The hurricane has tossed and turned the country but will not deposit it on firm ground for at least the three and half years remaining of the ruined Bush presidency.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

End of the Bush Era
End of the Bush Era

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005; A27

The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this.

The Bush Era did not begin when he took office, or even with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It began on Sept. 14, 2001, when Bush declared at the World Trade Center site: "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." Bush was, indeed, skilled in identifying enemies and rallying a nation already disposed to action. He failed to realize after Sept. 11 that it was not we who were lucky to have him as a leader, but he who was lucky to be president of a great country that understood the importance of standing together in the face of a grave foreign threat. Very nearly all of us rallied behind him.

If Bush had understood that his central task was to forge national unity, as he seemed to shortly after Sept. 11, the country would never have become so polarized. Instead, Bush put patriotism to the service of narrowly ideological policies and an extreme partisanship. He pushed for more tax cuts for his wealthiest supporters and shamelessly used relatively modest details in the bill creating a Department of Homeland Security as partisan cudgels in the 2002 elections.

He invoked our national anger over terrorism to win support for a war in Iraq. But he failed to pay heed to those who warned that the United States would need many more troops and careful planning to see the job through. The president assumed things would turn out fine, on the basis of wildly optimistic assumptions. Careful policymaking and thinking through potential flaws in your approach are not his administration's strong suits.....