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.
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
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
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.