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economic justice | imperialism & war | legacies

Bush is his own Enemy

"In the slipstream of the Iraq war, he carried out one of the greatest tax gifts for the economic elites in the history of the country. He cut pensions and income support and promoted the privatization of schools and health care4. He cut the pay of combat troops.."

By Andrian Kreye

The most tenacious rival of George W. Bush is George W. Bush. He is really trying to stop the democrat John Kerry's way to the White House. His trump, combating terror, is less and less convincing.

[This article originally published in the Austrian Weltwoche, July 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.weltwoche.ch/artikel/print.asp?AssetID=8076&CategoryID=66.]

George W. Bush can't be denied a certain charisma. He usually commands his speech better than may appear on television. The president has a problem with humor. He is so awkward that the gag writer on David Letterman's late-night talk show titled one segment "George W. Bush cracks a joke that isn't a joke". One of the great moments of his humoristic helplessness occurred in May. "It really annoys me when people say I haven't done enough for the economy", Bush said in a kind of carnival speech. "Look what I have done for the book market. You know the titles: `Great Lies', `The Lies of George W. Bush", `Lies and the Lying Liar who Tells Lies'. I would like to tell you that I have read all of them. But that would be a lie." The courteous applause could not divert from the fact that the president had tried in vain with his gallows humor to trivialize the ever-increasing loss of trust of his people.

Less than two months later, the flood of books is constantly increasing. The anti-Bush titles are stacked up: serious analyses ("The House of Bush and the House of Saud. The Secret Connection between the two most powerful dynasties of the world" or "Worse than Watergate - the Hidden Presidency of George W. Bush"), assessments of former officials like terror expert Richard Clarke or Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill, and polemical tracts with titles like "The Handbook for Bush-haters" and "The I-Hate-Bush Reader".


The flood of books was only the beginning. The crisis of the Bush presidency has openly erupted: the torture photos from the Abu Graib prison in Baghdad; the report of the investigative commission on the attacks of September 11 that concluded that no connection existed between Saddam and al-Qaida; the memos of Attorney General John Ashcroft in which he declared torture to be perfectly legal; the siege of Falludscha, the incessant attacks in Iraq; the decapitation of US hostages; the American losses and the prospect that 130,000 GIs must remain stationed for an indefinite time in Iraq despite the handing-over of power.

The mood has capsized in the administration of justice, among moderate republicans, in Congress, in the media and above all in the population. In the populace, the displeasure isn't a vague feeling any more but can be shown statistically. A figure has hardly caused as much sensation in the last months as a poll of American voters conducted by Gallup Institute for the CNN news broadcast station and the USA Today newspaper. According to this poll, 54 percent of all US citizens regard the Iraq war as a mistake. Three weeks before, the number was 41 percent. The polling agency explained the historical significance of this statistic with another figure. During the Vietnam War, the institute posed the same question. At that time the turning point occurred in August 1968 when for the first time 53 percent of Americans described this war as a mistake.


The trust of US citizens in Bush's crusade against terror has lost 13 percentage points in the last months. In an election year when the president has built his election campaign on the argument that it would be criminal negligence to vote him out of office as "Commander-in-Chief" in the war against terror, these numbers must trigger alarm. However a few other numbers were found in the same survey that astonished the rest of the world: George W. Bush is still one percentage point ahead of his challenger John Kerry in the favor of the voters.

The rest of the world wasn't first amazed about the Bush phenomenon since the Iraq war. No president is as hard to understand as the former governor of Texas, one-time bankrupt in the oil business and son of the last-but-one president George H.W. Bush. Whether George W. Bush won the 2000 election by the popular will or by a judicial decision can be left undecided. Despite the close outcome, nearly half of all American voters chose him as their president. The Bush phenomenon is a puzzle from a European perspective. The question presses: Can a people confirm a man as their top representative who has obviously governed the last four years against the interests of his people?


If one considers environmental policy, the division of the American populace is re-enacted. The motives are relatively clear. George W. Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney have spent their private careers as businessmen in the energy sector. George W. Bush was the first president who tried to deny the danger of global warming with dubious scientific studies financed with government funds. His scientific policy contradicts all the rules of logic and reason. The scientific advantage had stimulated the US economic wonder of the nineties.

Since September 11, the scientific policy of the administration has been marked by the generally dominant politics of fear. State funds are granted above all for developing defensive biological and chemical weapons. New security laws prohibit the publication of many research discoveries, the basis for research work. The intensified immigration laws hinder researchers and students from all over the world in their work in the US. Given the fact that foreign scientists developed a third of all American patents, this could soon grow into a problem for the economy. Still the rest of the world understands Bush's tax- and deficit-policy least of all.
Democrats have a rather European view of the world. For them, the state has responsibility for its citizens and its country. On the other hand, republicans remain loyal to the original American freedom idea. Republicans see state influence on the free market economy, dependence of the lower classes on social programs and the special treatment of minorities as the loss of all personal responsibility, the foundation of all personal freedom. The tax gifts for the rich and the consistent deficit policy of republicans are based on a principle called "starving the beast" by Ronald Reagan's budget planner David Stockman.

The Federal government was meant. In the view of conservatives and constitutional fundamentalists, the first task of this government is protecting the country from external attacks. The consequences are building the military to protect freedom and dismantling social programs to force citizens to freedom. This has an almost anarchistic character. The chief editor of the liberal monthly Harpers, Lewis Lapham, described the Bush administration with the words: "These are radical utopianists, not conservatives."


With his consistent policy, Bush has proven himself as a worldly heir of the conservative revolution of his model Ronald Reagan. This creates an emotional nearness among the people that should not b e underrated. The emotional advantage that the avant-garde of the conservative revolution bought with the crusade for the idea of freedom is constantly decreasing. The argument against the policy of state responsibility is rooted in the ideological terms of the Cold War that doesn't take hold any more among young voters.

The present US domestic policy is historically unique. When America waged wars, there were historical concessions whether a conservative or liberal president was in office. Women received the right to vote several years after the First World War. The Second World War brought an emancipation of minorities and a democratization of prosperity. After the Vietnam War, compulsory military6 service was abolished and the minimum age for eligible voters was lowered from 21 to 18 years of age.

Under Bush, the concessions did not last. In the slipstream or sheltered zone of the Iraq war, he carried out one of the greatest tax gifts for the economic elites in the history of the country. He cut pensions and income support and promoted the privatization of schools and the health system. He slashed the pay of combat troops, allocations for their families and provisions of veterans. Reservists and National Guard personnel were called up and in part assigned to Iraq. Most of the soldiers obligated in peace times to only a few hours per week now lose their jobs and families lose their incomes. Newspapers report about hardship cases in which families of soldiers in Iraq are impoverished at home. Even sincere patriots asked whether they were better off than four years ago. In short, the Bush administration substantively and statistically is in a political and historical crisis. Ultimately this crisis can only be overcome by an election victory. Therefore the administration must prevent the political crisis from becoming an acute emergency.

Bush has a glorious model for the home stretch in the election campaign: his father. In the summer of 1988, the American people had enough of the conservative revolution after Ronald Reagan's two terms in office. Citizens recalled Reagan's legendary election question: "Are you better off today than four years ago?" After eight years, the economy did very well but not the people. At that time the elder Bush was 17 percentage points behind the democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts, the state represented by John Kerry today in the Senate.

A reason-oriented, intelligent liberal drove the Texan oilman and defender of the conservative revolution to the defensive from New England. The election campaign team of George Bush the elder won at that time with a barrage of so-called "attack ads" - advertising spots and campaigns that concentrated on direct attacks without proclaiming any real themes and programs. This is also George W. Bush's tactic. His election campaign team landed the first blow against the democrats two weeks ago. In one television spot that presents liberals as an irrational choleric type, one sees in a rapid juxtaposition Al Gore, Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt and Michael Moore in rage. Twice the pictures of democratic leaders were interrupted with snapshots of a roaring Adolf Hitler.,,

This aggressive campaign is not the only trump card that can be expected. The economy in these days is decisive for Bush's lead. Since the beginning of 2003, the stock market has risen over 40 percent. Over 1.4 million new jobs were created in the last nine months. The realization spreads slowly that the current upswing merely benefits the economy while quality of life falls. The new jobs are low wage jobs while getting ahead becomes increasingly difficult for many average Americans. For example, a quarter of all new jobs went to employees without American citizenship, a clear sign that the vast majority of the jobs involve unskilled work and minimum wage jobs in the service industry. The Economic Policy Institute published a study a few weeks ago according to which the profit rates of corporations rose 62 percent since the first quarter of 2001 while the private wages and salaries fell 0.6 percent.

Financial resources are important in election campaigns since US politicians must finance their election battles through contributions. Kerry has caught up here in the short-term. He raised over $100 million in election campaign contributions from March to May; Bush only raised half that amount. However both candidates are adjusting to the state-financing model. After their official nomination as candidates at party conventions, each candidate will receive $75 million for his campaign from federal funds. The only condition is that the candidate may not acquire any private funds any more after the party convention. For this reason, the republicans postponed their convention to the end of August. This gives them five more weeks to raise funds and then use the $75 million in state funds in the final spurt. Their convention will take place later in New York City, the symbol for the attacks of September 11 and thus for the war against terror. Two months of crisis management is left to overcome its problems with Iraq and credibility. Much emotional capital will be made from the fact that the convention occurs a week before the third anniversary of the attacks.


Here are a few rumors and conspiracy theories that could help the republicans. The arrest of a high-ranking terrorist like Osama Bin Laden or America's nemesis in Iraq Abu Mussa al-Zarkawi would be an unbeatable triumph. Conspiracy theorists fear that important Al-Qaida masterminds have long been under US control and will be presented at a strategically favorable moment. The Bush administration already did this once. The arrest of the terrorist Ramsi Binalshib in Pakistan occurred six weeks before the television pictures of the capture were shown to the world on the first anniversary of September 11. On June 28, the world press announced that Zarkawi was arrested 30 miles south of Baghdad. This news was even confirmed by US military spokesperson General Mark Kimmitt but retracted shortly afterwards.

All the participants vigorously denied another conspiracy theory. If Dick Cheney suffering from a heart condition withdraws from his candidacy for the office of vice president, will New York's former mayor and hero of September 11, Rudolph Giuliani step in the breach? This would make George W. Bush nearly unbeatable. However Giuliani would prefer to be a candidate himself in four years for the office of president. Four years as vice in the shadows of an assailed George W. Bush would diminish his chances. Moreover the squad of very orthodox Protestants in the Bush administration would fear a stubborn catholic from New York.


Bush's greatest plus is the election campaign program of his opponent. John Kerry insists he will make peace with the international community and European countries. This may resonate in liberal circles. Bush will be strengthened with his party diehards of the Christian rightwing. For them, Europe is not only suspect for alighting from the common strategy in the war against terror. Europe for them is the stronghold of heretical secularism. Politically ambitious television pastors like Pat Robertson are not tired of drumming into viewers' heads that faith is in retreat and legally decreed secularism is triumphantly advancing in France and Germany. Social-liberal conditions are derided as socialist forging the rhetorical link to the old enemy of the atheistic eastern block in connection with the anti-religious attitude of the old world.

For John Kerry, there is a similarly glorious model for the election victory as for Bush - his predecessor Bill Clinton. He defeated George Bush the elder at that time despite a victorious Gulf war. Nevertheless the numbers speak against this. In 1992, 62 percent of all interviewed voters declared they could imagine doing an about-face. In a recent Gallup poll, only 18 percent of voters seemed ready to change. An election victory of the democrats is a product of the wishful thinking nursed by the rest of the world. The rest of the world cannot vote. They may not vote but the rest of the world has already decided.

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