Saturday, October 09, 2004


By Jack Random

The peevish monarch, hunched over the podium, mugs and grimaces through a 90-minute debate, his mind as vacuous as the promises of his administration, and the media pundits pull their punches, waiting for a definitive verdict, waiting for the executioner’s call, waiting for the worm to turn as it inevitably does.

The prince of darkness (also known as the vice president) emerges from his bunker, hunched shoulders, head cocked and eyes fixed to his writhing hands, torturing facts and statistics like an Enron accountant, demanding the respect of his upstart opponent and, receiving none, strikes out like the rabid hound he has become. The pundits declare a draw. The people, however, are awakened to the hand behind our posturing president. Like Gloucester of Shakespearean infamy, the vice president would have it all: phantom connections between Saddam and Osama, weapons of mass destruction, the crusade for democracy and forty years of war.

In round two of the presidential debates, the pundits find consensus as quickly as swift boats in the Mekong Delta: the president was not nearly as vacuous as in round one. Gone are the incessant mugging, the smirks and grimaces. Curbed are the meaningless slogans and platitudes. The president managed to speak in phrases and sentences without stammering and stumbling like a punch-drunk prizefighter. The non-sequiturs are still there but they are not nearly as prominent. The president wins accolades for demonstrating that he is not as shallow and dimwitted as he appeared.

The tortured analysis reveals a media bias and obscures the reality of the event. The media need a close contest to maintain interest. The pundits were overjoyed that the president did not fall flat on his face and would have declared his success even if he had. To use the fight analogy, round one in Miami was a technical knockout. The president was battered to a pulp and failed to answer the bell for the last thirty minutes. Round two was a lesson in the art of boxing. Like Sugar Ray Robinson versus Barney Ross or Ali versus Tex Cobb, Senator Kerry answered his opponent’s jabs with a barrage of counterpunches. The president’s victory was that he remained standing to the final bell.

Those who listen to the pundits to guide their thinking may conclude that the president stood his ground. Those who watched the event, however, must surely arrive at the conclusion that our president is not in command. A vote for Bush is a vote for the neoconservative worms that have poisoned our government with the doctrines of preemptive war and military conquest. A vote for Bush is a vote for the policies of smoke and mirrors (platitudes and flag decals) to obscure favoritism to the corporate elite.

When this president declares, with a wink and a nod, that there will be no military draft under his leadership, remember that he promised not to engage in “nation building.” We now know that his administration was already planning the invasion of Iraq. Unless the president is planning to deploy tactical nukes (is that what he meant by technological advances?), there are not enough soldiers to pursue his objectives. There are not enough troops even to maintain the occupation of Iraq. Mark it, post and save: If the president is reelected, they will find an occasion, real or contrived, to reinstitute the draft. If the president is to be believed, why have they quietly set the wheels in motion? Why is every eighteen year old required to register? Why are they setting up the local draft boards?

As Senator Kerry repeatedly pointed out, what this administration says and what it does are distinctly different packages. They promised to fully fund special education and immediately slashed funding without so much as an apology to the Democrats who signed on to No Child Left Behind. They promised meaningful health care reform and delivered a gift to the pharmaceutical companies. In the wake of Enron, they promised corporate accountability and settled for a change in accounting procedures. In the wake of the West Coast energy crisis, they promised reform but continued to push for the very policy that enabled their corporate allies to game the system: deregulation. They promised jobs and delivered them to China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia. They cut off unemployment benefits to compel skilled workers to accept jobs in the service industry. They promised to honor the Geneva Conventions and delivered Abu Ghraib. They promised to fight for worldwide democracy and sponsored coups in Haiti and Venezuela. They promised war as a last resort and delivered it as an appetizer.

No amount of punditry and spin can obscure the simple truth: The president is a shallow man with a weak grip on reality and his finger on the trigger of nuclear catastrophe. For all his shortcomings, in terms of knowledge and substance, John Kerry is everything the president is not. Moreover, he is not responsible for the disaster in Iraq. Short of immediate withdrawal, Kerry presents the best opportunity to the end the nightmare. He can do what the president absolutely cannot. He can go to the international community with a fresh slate. He can cut to the chase: How do we defuse a time bomb that could envelop much of the world?

For those of us who have opposed this misbegotten war from its inception, regardless of the outcome, there will be no rest after November 2nd. Until the troops come home and the Bush Doctrine is forever buried in the sands of ancient Mesopotamia, the cause is not won. The removal of George the younger from his throne, however, is a giant leap forward.

The election is not decided but we can be sure it will not turn on the content of the president’s character. He may have curbed his stammer but he has hardly revived his presidency. The election will not be won by pundits and crooked pollsters but there may yet be an October surprise. The operatives who orchestrated the timing and circumstance of Saddam’s emergence from a concrete coffin would not hesitate to do the same with Osama bin Laden. It falls to every independent analyst, commentator and web logger to make sure that, if it happens, it does not take the electorate by surprise. For now, there is hope. The worm is turning.

Stay the cause. Stay the motion.



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