The Age of Embarrassment
                    The price America pays for putting an underachiever in the White House
                     By Jill Nelson         MSNBC

               Jan. 3 —  Forget all the rhetoric during the campaign from George W. Bush about morals,
               virtue, honor and restoring America to her former glory. The Age of Embarrassment is upon us,
               and if you think you were humiliated by Bill Clinton’s shenanigans in the Oval Office,
               baby, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
                               THIS IS the era to cringe as you see the latest Republican
                        retread nominated for a cabinet post. You can’t help but blush
                        when a right-wing, racist, Republican senatorial candidate from
                        Missouri loses the election to a dead Democratic opponent and
                        then is rewarded by the president-elect by being nominated
                        U.S. Attorney General. Not to mention the déjà vu all over
                        again that struck when Donald Rumsfeld was nominated for
                        Secretary of Defense, one mo’ time. If you can remember back
                        that far, this is the man who began his political career with
                        Richard Nixon and graduated to being Secretary of Defense in
                        the Ford Administration, is a supporter of space-based defense
                        systems — remember the joke that was Star Wars?
                        NO VISIONARIES HERE

                               Watching Bush announce his cabinet choices over the last
                        few weeks, I suppose it’s possible for those who did not vote
                        for him to avoid feeling sick, disgusted, or outraged. But it’s
                        been totally impossible to avoid being embarrassed.
                               It’s as if we’re watching some bad national sitcom, very
                        loosely based on Oedipus, in which the First Son tries to prove
                        himself to his ex-commander-in-chief father. And how does he
                        go about doing this? By surrounding himself with aging father
                        surrogates — first and foremost Daddy’s main man, Dick
                        Cheney, who, heading the vice-presidential search committee,
                        ended up having himself chosen for the job.
                        Taking charge
                        Jan. 3 —President-elect Bush comments on the Fed’s decision to cut interest rates,
                        saying ’bold action’ is needed to make sure the economy remains vibrant.

                               Junior Bush’s cabinet choices are composed of an
                        assortment of right-wing ideologues, fat cats, has-beens,
                        wannabes, and plain ol’ opportunists. Not a visionary in the
                        bunch, and no one in sight who seems capable of imagining this
                        nation or the world absent the status quo of corporate
                        capitalism. From soon-to-be Secretary of State Colin Powell to
                        Gale Norton, nominated to head the Department of the Interior,
                        to New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, whose state is a
                        hotbed of racial profiling and who herself once smiled for the
                        cameras as she participated in a ceremonial stop-and-frisk
                        operation, there’s not an original, innovative thinker in the bunch.
                               Sure, there’s superficial diversity in the Bush cabinet,
                        which includes two African Americans, two Latinos, two
                        women, and a lone Democrat of Asian descent, but the cabinet
                        still remains overwhelmingly conservative politically.
                        THE POWELL FACTOR
    Colin Powell is Bush's pick for Secretary of State.

                         I’m not comforted by the selection of Colin Powell, white America’s favorite Negro,
                         as Secretary of State. In an America where major changes have been made
                         through citizens saying “no” to authority, particularly African Americans, Powell is an
                         obedient military man who was involved in the major military debacles of the last half of
                         the 20th century, including Vietnam, Grenada and the Gulf War.
                               As for women, Gale Norton, who worked under environmental assassin James Watt,
                         isn’t likely to stray from the conservative mindset that concerns about protecting the
                        environment must always give way to corporate profits. Gender won’t help us here; this is
                        a woman who believes corporate self-policing — rather than federal laws and regulations
                        — is the way to protect the environment.
                               I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that after bushwhacking
                        the U.S. Supreme Court, W decided to select Missouri Sen.
                        John D. Ashcroft for Attorney General, an anti-abortion
                        ideologue who accepted an honorary degree from the
                        notoriously racist Bob Jones University in 1999. Ashcroft’s
                        biggest challenge in his upcoming confirmation hearing will be
                        explaining exactly why he led the dishonest assault that
                        destroyed African American Missouri Supreme Court Judge
                        Ronnie White’s nomination to a federal judgeship.
                        Looking at Bush’s cabinet picks is like waking up to a recurring nightmare
                        that gets worse by the moment, without any relief in sight. Perhaps the scariest aspect
                        is that while Bush consistently chooses committed conservative ideologues, he appears
                        to have little commitment or clear ideology himself. He’s still Daddy’s wayward prankster son,
                        only this time with a big job and the power to hire his father’s cronies to do it for him.

                              Watching Bush announce his cabinet is like the scene in “The Wizard of Oz,”
                        in which the Wizard is revealed as a short, impotent charlatan. The difference is that at least
                        the Wizard was pulling the strings; it’s still not clear exactly who’s calling the shots for Bush2,
                        although the specters of Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Jerry Falwell and the gang are never far away.
                        The one thing that is clear is that Bush and his handlers have demonstrated little respect for
                        civil rights, women’s rights, human rights, the environment, the law, or the courts.
                        SKEPTICAL AND RESTIVE

                             Perhaps what’s both most daunting and most hopeful in this Age of Embarrassment
                        is that it dawns in a nation split after an election that at best can be described as deeply
                        flawed — and at worst, outright stolen — by Republican partisans led by Jeb, and 
                        Katherine Harris. Reports have already surfaced in The Washington Post that Harris
                        will be rewarded for her efforts by being named Special Envoy to the Americas.

                               Yet as Bush prepares for his inauguration and seems bent on ruling as if he has a mandate,
                        many Americans watch with skepticism, eyebrows raised.
                        Yes, the Age of Embarrassment is upon us.
                               Given the election debacle and the backward bent of the Bush cabinet,
                        I’d like to think that the Age of Citizen Activism is not far behind.

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