triumphant era of Junior the Invincible came to rather an abrupt end last
A scant month after George W. Bush was being lauded by Washington courtier-pundits as the
master politician of the age, reality intruded.
The White House threw
everything it had at Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and she still handily
defeated a handpicked Bush opponent. Democrats also picked up a previously Republican
congressional seat. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that last-minute tactical advice by
Bill Clinton made the difference. Never mind that President Junior himself, Poppy Bush, Queen
Mother Barbara Bush, and a GOP all-star cast headed by vice-president Dick Cheney visited the
Bayou State. Nor that white gloves Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell even impugned her opponent's
religious faith. ("I'm 100 percent pro-life. As a practicing Catholic, I did not leave my faith as did
Mary Landrieu.") Democrats won in part because black voters alarmed by the prospect of GOP
hegemony turned out in big numbers after Clinton and Democratic MVP Donna Brazile urged
last-minute canvassing of targeted New Orleans precincts. As I argued in November, evidence
for a nationwide turn to the GOP is largely imaginary, and Bush's vaunted popularity about
half an inch deep.
There's no sign that
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's idiotic remarks at Strom Thurmond's
100th birthday party affected the Louisiana vote, but the sentiments underlying them clearly did.
"I want to say this about my state," Lott said. "When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted
for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of
had all these problems over all these years, either." The Washington Post reported "an audible gasp
and general silence" in the room.
Thurmond ran on the Dixiecrat
ticket in 1948 as a strict segregationist. "All the laws of Washington
and all the bayonets of the Army," he vowed "cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools,
our churches." After the Voting Rights Act, the elderly South Carolina Senator recanted. Meanwhile,
anybody but Lott would have gotten the benefit of the doubt. But the Mississippian with the styrene
plastic hair-helmet has long specialized in racially ambiguous remarks. On his "Talking Points" website,
Josh Marshall posted an interview Lott once gave arguing that Jefferson Davis would have approved
of the Republican platform. He's given speeches to one of those "Southern Heritage" outfits calling
itself the Kouncil of Konservative Kitizens, or something similar. Remember how upset GOP moralists
got when a handful of immature mourners booed Lott at Sen. Paul Wellstone's funeral?
Well, that's the kind of thing they were booing about.
It took Al Gore pointing
out that his remarks were racist in effect, if not intent, to bring a grudging
apology from Lott, who regretted that "a poor choice of words" had led to misunderstanding. The
White House remained silent throughout.
Demonstrating that the
famous Bush loyalty is a one-way street, the White House wasn't content
simply to fire Treasury Secretary Lawrence O'Neill and economic advisor Lawrence Lindsey.
They also got trashed on their way out the door. "The whispering of White House aides was so loud,"
writes Washington Post media columnist Howard Kurtz "you could practically hear it out on
Pennsylvania Avenue." It was even reported that the jogger-in-chief was disturbed by Lindsey's
lack of physical fitness. The real problem, of course, is that apart from its tax-cuts-for-millionaires
panacea, the administration has no economic policy.
Concocted in 1999 as
a means of luring wealthy campaign contributors away from fellow Republican
Steve Forbes, the Bush tax cuts have assumed the status of dogma. Everything else has changed since then.
We've gone from boom to bust, surpluses to deficits, and from peace to a seemingly permanent warlike
posture. Yet nothing can be permitted to mar the platonic perfection of Junior's original scheme. Admitting
error, it's feared, would risk the public's figuring out that Bush never had anything in mind other than putting
money back in the pockets of people like himself: persons determined to reinforce their sense of class
superiority regardless of the cost to themselves and everybody else.
Now that Saddam Hussein
has played his hand, the White House faces the disconcerting possibility
that the cunning Iraqi tyrant may yet cheat them out of their war. Administration hawks are reportedly
nervous that Bush won't be able to pull the trigger. After months of tough talk, we're getting statements
like this from last Sunday's Washington Post: "'The intelligence process is an art, not a science, requiring
synthesis of a lot of information from a wide variety of sources,' said a top administration expert on Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction."
bluffing. What Saddam's got hidden, I've no clue. But when Republican hawks
start talking about "art," it's time to check the bottom of your shoes.
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