The single most disconcerting thing about George W.Bush campaigning is its utter cynicism. Begin with Kenneth Lay, who more than any other individual, was responsible for electing Bush in Texas. The faux intimacy of his nickname “Kenny Boy” suddenly became Mr. Lay when the Enron swindle became evident.
He mocked a reporter with fluent French speaking to Jacques Chirac, while his own illiterate English is sprinkled with fakely demotic Cowboy Speak, dropping final “g”’s to sound demotic, all the while faking fluent Spanish as a cynical ploy for the Hispanic vote.
His professor at the Harvard School of Business Administration asserts that Bush found the movies “Grapes of Wrath” corny. Yet Jesus is his “favorite philosopher”. How much of this incoherence is due to the putative brain damage from decades of excessive drinking and snorting as opposed to callow Karl Rove maneuvers is hard to determine.
But we’re beginning to see just how compassionate his conservatism is, say 99 and 44/100ths percentage conservatism and a pinch of tactical “compassion” palaver. Molly Ivins has footnoted this hypocrisy from his days as a Governor to his ploy as President to promise the world and finance little if anything specific. We are beginning to understand what his tax cut for the rich deficit spending means.
Just as his avatar Ronald Reagan set out to dismantle the New Deal heritage of Social Security by spending billions on Space War fantasies all the while mocking Welfare Queens being driven in their Cadillacs to pick up their welfare checks. From outrageously unfair gerrymandering to blank checks for Defense, Bush’s ploy of a “privatized” Social Security system is strictly a ruse to destroy the social safety net.
Here, alas, one must confront the political innocence of most of the American electorate. The late Neal Postman argued that Americans were “amusing themselves to death”. The infantilization of our electorate began in earnest in the 1920’s when the newest media of movies, radio and tabloid journalism began to create diversionary worlds of sports heroes, movie stars, and other systematic distractions—the infrastructure of a hypercommercial society.
This so-called Jazz Age also created the structurally double education system, plenty of money for the suburbs, less and less for those who needed education most in the center cities. The vulnerability of the poor and inadequately prepared began then, and has deepened ever since. And the exploitation of religion as a legitimization of the defective status quo is the greatest corruption of Christianity in the history of that faith. Dorothy Day exemplified true compassion. Bushies don’t have a clue to the meaning of compassion.
The vulnerability of America to its own excesses did not begin on 9/11. Its absurd dependence on oil stems from the sanctification of the automobile as an emblem of “success”, the GM tactic of creating an automotive status ladder from Chevvie to Caddie embodies it all. Our profligate waste of our own resources since the beginning of country we can blame on nothing other than our freely chosen bad habits. The enduring fascination of a tiny aware minority for Ralph Nader is an earnest of how hard it will be for a majority to eschew the bad habits of two centuries.
George W. Bush is gravely disqualified to lead such a renaissance. He hustled his way into the Champagne Squadron of the Texas Air National Guard, blithely abandoning his post as an aviator, to help a friend of his father run for Senator in Alabama. A legacy Yalie, he returns as President to smirk about how far a “gentleman C” student can go. And he blew almost all the free rides his powerful father provided for him. Take his stake in the Texas Ranger.
It began as a tiny gift, suddenly transformed into a down payment on becoming a millionaire. And this great partisan of privatization had Arlington TX pay for its new stadium. With his suddenly miraculously inflated grub stake, he entered the oil business. He created a putative world record for serial bankruptcies, culminating in SEC officially disapproved “insider trading”. Poor Polish peasant Martha Stewart goes to the pokey, suggesting what uppity feminists deserve, while the Enron and other megabucksters fiddle with high priced lawyers to avoid just punishment. Bush is complacent about such outrages.
We face a much deeper, more pervasive problem if we are to successful in rehabbing a shabby electorate (generally complacent at the multiple frauds of the Florida 2000 “election”). And our media are manned by arrivistes from our best universities who dream of doing a Woodward rather than cleanse their own Augean stables. And, to the incredible consternation of our advanced peers in Europe, our executives earn up to 500 times our workers. (The European ratio is closer to 50.)
Globalization, it turns out, is the last step in the destruction of the American union movement. Wal-Marting our economy means calling workers “associates” and denying them a living wage, health insurance, and pension rights. Wal-Marting is the destruction of the American Dream of egalitarian opportunity for all. It substitutes the tacky goal of creating a few more billionaires. The Wall Street Journal recently went ga ga over the “encouraging” fact that we created 14% more millionaires this year than last.
America should be leading the world’s fight for a decent life for all six billions of our race. Instead it doubles, triples, quadruples its defense budgets, and scorns the rest of the world with impunity. We spend thirty times as much on defense than we do for education. Wonderful, eh? We destroy Iraq while our own country falls apart, outside its privileged gated communities. So even if enlightened voters change the false direction of this country, it will not be easy to compensate for the past century of eroding egalitarianism.
But God help us if we don’t soon begin to recover our heritage of true compassion, i.e.,the truly egalitarian American Dream. As long as the poor die anywhere in the world from disease and disaster, the American Dream will not have been fulfilled. And when SUV comes to shove, we are much more vulnerable to our own bad habits than from any Tom Ridge authenticated threat. At this point, we’re merely whistling in the gathering darkness, unaware of how badly we have gotten off track with our bad habits.