Nothin' except to flail about in self-destructive obstructionism, basically
in temper-tantrum mode. If we can't be victorious, they seem to be telling the
Democrats (and, by extension, the country), we'll make sure you go down with
us. This kind of schoolboy behavior is rolled out at a time in American history
when the country's financial and governmental institutions are close to
free-fall catastrophe unless some drastic corrective action is taken.
But, even when considering the necessity for an immediate and massive
economic -stimulus package, they can't seem to help themselves from playing their
failing hand of old-style political gamesmanship.
The Senate's "compromise" economic-recovery bill that is likely to pass is
about 50% tax cuts, which do little to create jobs in the near-future. The
Republicans forced drastic cuts of all-important stimulus funds for cash-strapped
state and city governments to start shovel-ready infrastructure projects --
ones that would quickly put spendable cash into the hands of poor and urban
middle-class citizens. Meanwhile, they made sure to insert even more funds and tax
breaks for the better-off elements of society.
Again, the Republicans aren't trying to hide where their priorities are: with
the very wealthy and large banks and corporations; the rest of the
population will just have to muddle through on their own.
How Obama and the Democrats will respond to the GOP obstructionism in
crafting the final stimulus bill in the House/Senate Conference Committee will tell
us a lot about the hope for significant change in the next four years. Given
the desire of Obama and the fight-averse Democratic leadership to play nice with
the Republicans, in order to be able to claim "bipartisan" support for the
stimulus package and other important legislative initiatives, the picture
doesn't look good for the kind of major change Americans voted for in November. In
effect, while tacking toward the Republicans, Obama more or less sold out his
progressive base, figuring they'll stick with him when push comes to shove.
The country will be lucky to get some incremental moves forward, which, given
the humongous problems that cry out to be fixed, in some cases is almost
worse than no change at all, since, unless something changes, will mean the Senate
Republicans' will have effectual veto power over the course of governance at
least until the midterm election of 2010. That future, of course, could be
altered if Obama and the Democrats finally were to discover their governing chops
and feel comfortable with engaging in the political street-fighting being
waged by the Republicans.
Obama, who has an email list of 13 million voters, has not really employed
this mighty political weapon to generate a tidal wave of pressure on wavering
Democrats and moderate Republicans. He could still do this, of course, but he's
weeks late, and the damage has been done: The Democrats lost vital momentum
(not aided by their abysmal vetting process for some Cabinet and other high
nominees) and permitted themselves to be outmaneuvered and, to a significant
degree, rolled by the Republicans.
It's almost as if the Democrats aren't convinced they possess a huge
electoral mandate to effect major change. If so, they've forgotten some mighty
BUSH AS TRUTH-TELLER
To a large extent, the GOP lost so big in the 2008 election because they were
too overt about their true intentions. The usual art of governance is based
on sleight-of-hand tricks, keeping our eyes focused on something while the real
agenda is hidden away from view. But the CheneyBush Administation didn't seem
to care who knew what they were really up to.
The elites who pull the strings behind the curtain must have cringed every
time George Dubya opened his mouth. The poor dummy couldn't help blurting out
aspects of the actual agenda. "My job is to catapult the propaganda," he said.
And, telling a citizen who criticized his policies: "Why should I care what you
think?" And his thrice-stated "joking" remark: "If this were a dictatorship,
it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just as long as I'm the dictator."
In terms of foreign policy, the U.S. long has been an imperialist power in
the Realpolitik world. But it wasn't generally talked about openly in polite
company. America placed its iron fist inside a velvet glove. Stealth imperialism,
as it were. Virtually all modern presidents played that one well.
But George W. and Dick Cheney operated on the neo-conservative principle that
they wanted potential enemies to see, and if necessary experience, the iron
fist. To make sure their perceived enemies got the message, CheneyBush attacked
Iraq, a country that (they believed) couldn't fight back. It would all be
over in a few months, Rumsfeld told us in 2003.
GOD APPROVES OF LYING
Part of CheneyBush's reasoning for behaving in such an aggressive fashion lay
in the U.S. being the last remaining superpower on the planet, so no need to
be subtle about all this. Just get out of our way and you won't get hurt. That
was the philosophy of The Project for The New American Century (PNAC), a
rightwing think tank composed of high-powered neo-cons that eventually came to run
the CheneyBush foreign and military policy of "benevolent hegemony." Leading
PNACers included Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Woolsey, Perle, et al. (See
##"How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle.") ( www.crisispapers.org/essays/PNAC.htm )
Another important part of neo-con reasoning derived from the philosophical
underpinnings of such latter-day Machiavellians as conservative philosophers
Albert Wohlstetter and Leo Strauss. These ivory-tower thinkers believed that the
neo-conservative elite had discovered with absolute certainty what needed to
be done in the nation and around the world and, in the service of carrying out
the correct master plan, one was entitled, nea required, to do whatever was
needed to be said or done in order to obtain victory.
If you needed to lie a nation into war or smear someone in opposition, by all
means do so. The ends justified the means, and propaganda and spin would
paper over the truth, especially since the corporate-owned media was supportive
and ideologically in cahoots with the neo-con agenda.
It was a black-and-white, you're-with-the-terrorists-or-with-us, era. No
wonder the religious fundamentalists found such a comfortable home in the American
rightwing. Didn't God tell George Dubya to invade Iraq? In short, it didn't
matter to the fundies that the White House lied about weapons of mass
destruction, or lied about Saddam Hussein being behind 9/11, in order to rush the
nation to war with Iraq. Those lies were necessary in order to justify the
"crusade" (Bush's term) against the Islamist hordes, and, not incidentally, to keep
key natural resources in U.S. and Western hands.
THE U.S. PUBLIC CATCHES ON
As long as there was no effective countervailing power to stop the world's
lone superpower, the operating principle was little more than just go out there
and grab what could be taken and make sure nobody else could challenge U.S.
might and will. Again, PNAC doctrine -- including a dictator-like President,
warrantless domestic spying on Americans, and torture of prisoners -- turned into
state policy under CheneyBush.
It took a number of years for the American populace to figure out the
ramifications of such policies. America was now hated and feared as a mad-dog,
torturing, imperialist bully -- but not respected or liked or viewed as a moral
force in the world. The midterm election of 2006 verified that the voters had
rejected the arrogant, self-destructive style and policies of the CheneyBush
Administration, and swept the Republicans into the minority in the House and
Did these results chastize CheneyBush? Not in the slightest. Under Karl
Rove's tutelage, the arrogance, the bullying, the endemic corruption, the lies, the
wholesale destruction of the environment, the huge deficits occasioned by the
Iraq War -- all continued as before. And so the voters once again, in
November of 2008, sent an even louder message by sending the Republicans even further
into a the minority role in Congress, and sweeping more Democrats into the
House and Senate and Barrack Obama into the White House.
The voters wanted major domestic reforms, but weren't necessarily willing to
give up the perqs of imperial power and control in the world, though they
certainly wanted to change the tone of American policy abroad. Stealth imperialism
To get its way, the U.S. once again would use diplomacy, economic power,
political suasion, multilateral alliances, and, when deemed necessary, threats of
the use of force. Torture, while universally decried as alien to American
values and largely ineffectual in any case (since those being tortured will do or
say anything to get the pain to stop), under Obama it remains as an available
tool in the CIA kit, for use in rare circumstances.
In other words, under Bush, all was revealed and bragged about. Under Obama,
much the same goal is desired -- a world in which the U.S. leads and
effectively controls -- but handled with much more finesse, and relying first on
SQEAKING WHEELS AND GREASE
As evidenced by the stimulus-bill fight, Obama is being tugged toward the
far-right, and winds up closer to the center-right, in order to get at least some
percentage of center-left policies enacted. Progressives need to be cognizant
of how all this is playing out, and make their opinions heard and felt in the
corridors of power.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Progressive silence implies acceptance of
the shift toward the right.
If this trend continues and not much significant change takes place, it's
possible that public disappointment, frustration and anger will quickly attach to
Obama and the Democrats, and the chance for major policy reforms in this
country will come and go, with a whimper. What might follow that leadership vacuum
is scary to contemplate.
For the good of the nation, friends, it's squeaky-wheel time. Big time.
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught
at universities in California and Washington, worked as a writer/editor with
the San Francisco Chronicle for two decades, and currently serves as co-editor
of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment:
First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 2/9/09.
Copyright 2009 by Bernard Weiner.