Street: "Bush's Best Speech..." ?!?

Discussion in 'Politics & Current Events' started by Mel Brennan, Nov 14, 2003.

  1. Mel Brennan


    Paris Saint Germain
    United States
    Apr 8, 2002
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    by Paul Street; November 13, 2003

    Shunning the Mirror

    According to the Buddhist writer Pema Chodron, "not harming ourselves or others is the basis of enlightened society. It is how there could be a sane world." In Chodron's view, "the first and most fundamental harm" is done by and to our selves. It is "to remain ignorant by not having the courage to look at ourselves honestly." When we do exhibit that courage, she argues, "it comes as quite a shock to realize how much we've blinded ourselves to the ways in which we cause harm. Our style is so ingrained that we can't hear when people try to tell us, either kindly or rudely, that we're causing harm by the way we are or the way we relate to others. We've become so used to the way we do things that somehow we think that others are used to it too."

    George W. Bush's recent speech before the National Endowment for Democracy ("President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and the Middle East," available online at is an excellent case in point. It epitomizes the cowardly, moral self-blindness that Chodron sees at the heart of global insanity. According to the arch-conservative New York Times columnist William Safire, it is "Bush's best speech," and it "is worth reading." (Safire, "The Age of Liberty," New York Times,November 10, 2003). Bush' address certainly merits a careful reading, though not for the reasons Safire thinks...

    ..."Respecting The People?"

    Take, for example, Bush's opening approval of Ronald Reagan's statement that (in Bush's words) "Soviet communism...failed...because it did not respect its own people." This statement contains no small measure of truth. We are entitled, however, to follow up by asking what sort of "respect" the White House under Bush has shown for "its own people." Beneath the cover of the "war on terrorism" since the terrible jetliner attacks of September 2001, the president and his "posse" (as he likes to call his inner circle) have launched a deeply contemptuous two-pronged assault on the American population. The first prong is a radical and elaborate campaign to redistribute American wealth and hence power yet further upward through massive tax cuts consciously calculated to overwhelmingly benefit the richest Americans and to devastate the nation's ability to meet basic social and civic needs, including even basic homeland security against terrorist attack. The second prong is an attack on American civil liberties, democracy and public space, the worst such assault in fifty years, designed to marginalize dissent, restrict the spectrum of acceptable debate and constrict democratic imagination...

    ..."Respect" for the people? When George W. Bush spoke on behalf of "free trade" (corporate globalization) and his regressive tax cut in a St. Louis trucking company warehouse last January, he huffed and sneered about the superiority of the American System in front of "a printed canvas backdrop of faux cardboard boxes, which featured 'Made in America' in large black letters" (New York Times, January 23, 2003). The canvass read "STRENGTHENING THE AMERICAN ECONOMY." A handful of warehouse officials applauded in the background, framed by two American flags. But the only real warehouse boxes that White House "volunteers" could find to arrange in front of Bush had large pieces of dark brown duct tape placed on their lower left corner. When reporters peeled the tape off, they found three magic words the White House wished to hide: "Made in China..."

    ...Love for Democracy: Plutocracy At Home, Polyarchy (and Worse) Abroad

    Later in "Bush's Best Speech," the president claims that the world has undergone the "swiftest advance of freedom in the 2500-year story of democracy" during the last 30 years, which have seen the number of democracies in the world rise (according to the calculations of the right-wing think-tank "Freedom House") from 40 to 120. It is "no accident," Bush argues, that "the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was a democracy."

    But is America truly "a democracy" in the true (dictionary) sense of one-person vote, one vote, with an equal policymaking influence for all, regardless of wealth and other factors of socially constructed inequality?. Not exactly: the top 1 percent owns more than 40 percent of the nation's wealth and possesses vastly greater capacity to fund campaigns and win policies tailored to its interests than the non-affluent majority. That top hundredth makes more than 80 percent of campaign contributions above $200 in theUS, helping contribute toAmerica's reputation as the "best democracy that money can buy"and generating truly remarkable levels of voter disengagement and political apathy in theUS. Reflecting the massive media-driven costs of American campaigns, the candidates who win the race for private dollars tend to win elections in the great preponderance of cases. Candidates serious about winning are beholden to wealthy corporate donors, who possess massive stashes of political cash they use as a profitable investment in the policy process. American elections are generally "wealth primaries," with incumbents routinely out-raising challengers because officeholder's position in policymaking power means they can most effectively act on the political investments of the wealthy.

    Thanks to this and a host of related factors including highly concentrated media ownership, it is absurdly difficult for people who might dare to speak against concentrated wealth within (Kucinich) our outside (Nader) the two-party system to win elections or even get a meaningful public hearing. Such candidates are censored by the nature of the nation's political system, as American elections are becoming little more than a recurrent celebration of big capital's permanent dictatorship. The democratic ideal is widely understood by Americans to have been negated by the harsh realities of "dollar democracy" and the "golden rule" ("those who have the gold rule"). "As the United States approaches the 2000 presidential race," columnist William Pfaff wrote three years ago, "the fact must be faced that America has become a plutocracy, rather than a democracy."

    In 2000, of course, even record-breaking private financial investments in America's electoral process were not enough to guarantee Bush's ascendancy over the expressed popular will. He also required some help from the vote scrubbers of Florida and some scandalous support from high-placed allies in the most explicitly aristocratic branch of the federal government - the Supreme Court...

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