March 15, 2004, 9:00 P.M.
Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards spoke eloquently and passionately about what he referred to as the “two Americas.” The focus of his message was on the juxtaposition of obscene wealth and abject poverty across our country, and he talked about the need to balance our society so that all Americans could share in the American dream. What struck me is that Edwards shied away from the time worn references to “the American People.”
To me, Edwards stayed away from references to “the American People” because there is no longer a monolithic group to which that moniker applies. There are truly two Americas: one with healthcare, one without; one with jobs and education and opportunities, one without; one with a belief that they can do better for their children than their parents could do for theirs, one with no such hope of a prosperous future. Of course, the divisions run deeper and wider than the examples given here, but our society is polarizing and the middle class is vanishing.
Rather than acknowledging the growing social and economic gulf slicing across our society, the Bush administration continues to use the same time-worn platitudes to create the illusion of unity and support. The fact that Bush continues to attempt to tailor his message to the “American People” shows just how out of touch he and his advisors are. Bush has said that he relies on his advisors, people who agree with him, for the information he needs to make critical decisions. It is obvious that these people don’t get out enough. Recent polls suggest that public opinion in this country is split. Neither Kerry nor Bush commands any sort of majority; a small percentage of the population correctly called “undecideds” will decide who the next president will be. The question, then, is who are the American people to whom the president refers; those who have jobs, or those who don’t; those who can afford healthcare and college for their kids and retirement for themselves, or those who can’t.
The same lack of understanding applies to national security, which is sure to be a major campaign issue. Bush says that Kerry can’t protect us from terrorists, but that he can. Lest we forget, 9/11 happened on his watch. Granted, regardless of who was president, our intelligence and domestic security systems failed to protect us, but the Homeland Security Department Bush touts as the answer to our security concerns was Joe Lieberman’s idea, and it was Bush who initially opposed it.
Osama bin Ladin is still at large, but it’s easy to imagine that this country is utilizing its massive resources, manpower and international influence to capture its Public Enemy Number One, just in time for the election. This process and the efforts of the Bush administration are referred to as the “War on Terror.” This is another overused and simplistic phrase. Terror is a method, a tactic, a tool, not a country or a definable enemy. Terrorism is not a tangible or identifiable entity, place or group.
To say that we are waging a war on terror is meaningless because what we are not doing is waging a war on the cause of terror. There is no talk of addressing the loathing for our country by those who wage a campaign of terror against us and our allies. The propensity of our government to see the world in black and white terms surely does not help. Likewise, our actions and words in setting up an approach to the Middle East that looks a lot like a religious crusade only gives legitimacy to the cause of those who would use terror as a weapon against us. The General Boykins of the world do a lot to fuel the religious aspect of global anti-Americanism.
Terrorism is a thing, not a country or a political system. It transcends national borders as a method intended to neutralize the awesome military, technological and economic power of America. That is what makes it such an effective tool. One terrorist attack on a train in Madrid killed 200 people and swept a pro-U.S. government from power in a matter of days. Evidence suggests a link to bin Ladin, and retaliation for Spain’s support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Saudis bombed the Pentagon, Moroccans bombed the train in Madrid and multinational insurgents attack American troops in Iraq. All the while, the Bush administration maintains its simplistic world view; either you’re with us or again’ us. The result of these recent attacks will be to cause those formerly with us to examine their commitment to the thin coalition supporting the occupation of Iraq. Just like there is no longer an identifiable monolithic group known as “the American People,” there is no identifiable enemy on which to declare war, so all we can have is a war on terror. This concept allows a broad use of military power, with little or no accountability and little effect.
March 15, 2004, 8:50 P.M.
There are striking similarities between the Bush and Benson administrations, and none of them are very flattering. For example, the Bush administration has doled out a passel of no-bid contracts to its friends at Bechtel and Halliburton for the “reconstruction” of the Iraqi infrastructure. These companies have come under fire for their administration of these contracts and Halliburton was even forced to disgorge some of the huge gains it made off of gouging the U.S. government for motor fuel used by troops in Iraq. There have also been reports of filthy kitchens and badly prepared meals being served to the troops by Halliburton’s subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root.
On the home front, Governor Benson has put “volunteers” in place throughout his administration where they are free to loot and plunder with impunity. Of course, the recent example is Linda Pepin, who negotiated a new insurance program that included $187,000 in commissions for herself. In all fairness, the commissions were arranged by her partner and fellow Benson administration official, Lou D’Alessandro. The best part is that the savings promised by Pepin in the no-bid deal with ChoiceLinx to provide the insurance has not performed and will not perform as promised.
Both Bush and Benson have demonstrated an arrogant disregard for the public to whom they claim to bring a businesslike approach to government, however, they only bring the greed and corruption, and not the private sector expertise promised.