Up for Rove's
By Bernard Weiner
26 September, 2006
Rove&Co., feeling themselves freed from the bipartisan torture albatross
hanging around their necks as a result of having rolled the GOP-rebel
senators, are moving toward the "October surprises" they've
been hinting at.
What those surprises might
be range from announcing the capture or death of Osama bin Laden to
a surgical strike on Iran's fledgling nuclear program to ignoring a
possible major terrorist attack against the U.S. -- or, conversely,
announcing that they've foiled a frightening urban bomb plot. Or all
of the above, and more.
Yes, of course Rove and his
minions can count on their usual bag of electoral stratagems and dirty
tricks on Election Day: knocking hundreds of thousands of minority voters
off the voting rolls in various key states, requiring photo-IDs (often
difficult for poor and rural folks to get -- a new kind of "poll
tax") in order to cast a ballot, helping create new Swift Boat-type
organizations to slime Democratic opponents with millions of dollars
of TV ads, relying on corruptible e-voting machines and suspect vote-counting,
and so on. But they've done most of those things for five years now.
No, my guess is that, given
Bush's and the GOP's abysmally low poll numbers, the "surprises"
are going to have to be something truly stunning if the Republicans
want to avoid losing control of the House on November 7.
AN OSAMA BIN LADEN
The Republicans have little
positive to run on. Virtually every initiative they touch turns into
a disaster, from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to Katrina to the
EPA telling lies about air quality at Ground Zero to Bush's ongoing
plan to privatize Social Security to the stagnant economy. So the Busheviks
are left with their old standby: frighten the crap out of the electorate
on terror and taxes. That's it.
If one of the big "surprises"
turns out to be a confirmation of the French/Saudi report that bin Laden
died in late-August, Americans might well wonder why Rove and his crew,
who obviously knew this news well in advance, waited six weeks for just
the right pre-election moment to have it officially announced.
In addition, a bit of caution
is in order here. In the world of well-orchestrated psy-ops, let us
remember that the convenient rumored death of bin Laden could be of
great service to the Republicans in garnering votes and support for
Election Day. But it could be less than meets the eye.
Well, lookee here, sometime
after November 7, there's another little "surprise": It turns
out the reports of bin Laden's death were greatly exaggerated, and he's
still around. Whoops, our bad.
Not saying that scenario
would happen, but stranger things have.
ROLL OUT THE TERROR
By demanding that the Brits
arrest the alleged "liquid-bomb" airline plotters immediately,
way before the police there wanted, the Bush Administration demonstrated
for all to see that it had no problems compromising a huge anti-terrorism
investigation; the British authorities were working to ensnare more
cell-members and get to the higher-ups, but Rove wanted what he wanted
and he wanted it now.
In addition, as we later
learned, reputable scientists showed that the "liquid bombs"
these alleged conspirators supposedly were going to use would have been
virtually impossible to mix on an airplane.
But so what? The arrests
accomplished what Rove wanted: a scary scenario that Republican candidates
could point to as a demonstration-model for why the GOP should be left
in charge of the nation's national security. Didn't matter if the alleged
plot was real or not, or hyped way beyond its true nature, or prematurely
revealed for partisan political reasons, or any of that.
The point is that the Bush-friendly
corporate media ate up the "imminent" terror scenario, and
the story dominated the news cycles for several days, thus imprinting
fright back into voters' minds. In some polls, this news plus Bush's
pounding the fear theme in his 9/11 speeches has been enough to send
him up a few points. (There ARE bad guys out there who'd love to do
America great damage; that's not the issue. The issue is to how most
intelligently to handle the situation.)
Will be interesting to see
how much Bush's numbers plummet after this weekend's news that America's
spying agencies unanimously have concluded, in their top-secret National
Intelligence Estimate, that Bush's war and occupation in
Iraq have made the U.S. less
secure, not more. This is a HUGE dagger aimed at the heart
of a CheneyBush Administration that claims its wars of choice have helped
make us all safer.)
PLANTING THE NEW
SEEDS FOR WAR
It's "deja vu all over
again." A Middle East leader is demonized as evil incarnate; he
is alleged to be eager to develop nuclear weapons; his regime cracks
down on many freedoms and handles reformers harshly; he is threatening
to Israel; he is avoiding complying with U.N. resolutions; the U.S.
is building a coalition in opposition to his policies; a special Administration
group is organized to "market" the runup to war, etc. Nope,
not Hussein in Iraq; it's Iran's President Ahmadinejad.
The Bush Administration has
been laying the foundations for an attack on Iran for many months, in
a manner highly reminiscent of the run-up to its attack on Iraq. The
justification for an attack on Iran, especially one centered on bombing
that country's nuclear facilities, is that Iran may be planning to someday
move its legal civilian atomic-energy program into a military mode by
preparing to build nuclear weapons; so, reason the Busheviks, better
to attack Iran now, while its atomic program is in its infancy. Doing
so five or ten years down the line, this reasoning goes, would be too
late without facing grave damage to our own forces. The Bush "pre-emption"
policy: hit 'em while they're relatively defenseless.
Of course, Iran, unlike Iraq,
is not a military paper-tiger. Even without WMD, Iran could wield enormous
military and political power in the region, which would have ramifications
around the world. Venezuela, for instance, says if the U.S. attacks
Iran, all Venezuelan oil shipments to America will be halted.
Both Time and The Nation
have reported that U.S. naval forces are preparing to head toward the
Iran area. Special Forces have been trained in laying mines in the Straits
of Hormuz; that narrow bottleneck, if Iran were to sink major vessels
there, could halt Iran's supply of oil to the West. Retired Air Force
Colonel Sam Gardiner says the U.S. already has inserted special forces
into Iran in preparation for a coming attack. The New Yorker's Seymour
Hersh many months ago reported that the U.S. was gearing up for such
a conflict, with many high-ranking American officers deeply opposed
and leaking the likelihood of such an attack to the media.
In short, the Bush Administration
seems to be following the neo-con time schedule, with an attack on Iran
just around the corner. It would seem politically suicidal for the CheneyBush
Administration to launch such bombing prior to November 7, but you never
know with this bunch. They might believe that Americans would not dare
to change governments in the middle of another war -- rally 'round the
President and Flag and all that. If the attack doesn't happen pre-Election
Day, then it likely will come shortly thereafter.
THE POLITICS OF TORTURE
All actions taken by the
Bush Administration from about six months ago up to November 7 have
one goal and one goal only: to aid the Republicans stay in control of
the House, or, at the least, to limit the damage in this possible Democratic-sweep
year. These Bush guys will say anything, do anything, to remain in power,
even seem to be violating their ideology. After Election Day, of course,
their usual M.O. is to return to their true selves -- a truly revolting
prospect, that -- and an attack on Iran certainly would qualify in that
Back to torture. Bush&Co.
would have been badly harmed politically if the torture brouhaha continued
indefinitely. Rove's intent all along had been to force the Democrats
into a terrible choice: 1) Either vote for Bush's bill on torture/military
tribunals and thus give the Administration a blank-check while selling
out their party's principles; or, 2) oppose the bill and be tarred by
Republicans as "unpatriotic" or soft-on-terrorism "appeasers."
Democrats chose to sit on
the sidelines during the initial struggle between McCain/Graham/Warner
and the White House on the language in the bill. The Democrats hoped
that the so-called Republican rebels would force a capitulation on Bush's
part, so the Dems wouldn't have to take him on and risk any political
capital. Either that or the GOP "moderates" would stick to
their guns and, joined by the Democrats, make sure the bill stayed bottled-up
in committee prior to the November election.
Well, as it turned out, it
was the so-called "moderate" Republicans who caved, and Bush
got such mushy language into the agreed-to "compromise" that
basically the CIA is free to continue torturing suspects pretty much
as it has been during the past five years, and now the military interrogators
will be required to remain in the room while it happens. Bush made a
minor concession or two, but even those are open to loopholes big enough
to accommodate a large CIA truck carrying used waterboards.
ROCK & HARD PLACE
In short, the Democrats are
on their own here on this issue -- exactly where Rove hoped to position
them. As I write this, there appears to be no consensus among the Democrats
as to how they should react to Rove's successful ploy -- not even to
attempt to delay the final vote on the bill past Election Day. (And
Sen. Specter's hissy-fit about outlawing judicial review of these tribunal
cases probably won't last more than a day or two; why don't the Democrats
jump into that fight?)
Some DLC-type leaders believe
the Democrats could well take the prize in November, and thus Dem candidates
should just keep their heads down and their powder dry and ride out
the next six weeks. Why risk anything when the signs are looking so
good, especially with the Republicans constantly shooting themselves
in the feet?
The more activist Dems feel
that the tactic of running out the clock is stupid, and potentially
dangerous. They are of the "best defense is a good offense"
frame of mind. The Republicans, they argue, have oodles of cash on hand,
and Swift-Boating-type PACs dedicated to smearing Dem candidates; without
a vigorous Dem offense -- especially on Iraq and Bush's mishandling
of national-security -- the momentum they've built up could dissipate
in the next six weeks and the Republicans could continue their domination
of the House, especially given some illegal fiddling with the vote totals
in certain tight races. (Question: Are the Democrats positioning attorneys
in the various states and districts where tight races are indicated,
to deal on the spot with electoral-fraud issues?)
I see the advantage of the
first Democratic strategy, but lean more toward the second. The GOP,
thanks to the incompetence, recklessness and lawlessness of the Bush
Administration, is vulnerable right now. Don't let them get off the
mat and back into the fight. Hit 'em and hit 'em hard; possible topics:
How Bush&Co. policies
have weakened our national security.
Their disastrous "stay-the-course-over-the-cliff" strategy
in Iraq and their failure to secure Afghanistan when it could have been
Their callous disregard for the lives of poor Americans, as became clear
Their devoting the bulk of their tax cuts to the already wealthy thus
leaving the struggling middle-class to their own devices. (Factor in
Bush's ongoing plan to privatize Social Security after the election.)
Their not supporting the troops properly in-theatre (stretching them
way too thin, constantly renewing their tours of duty, not providing
the proper armoring and equipment, etc).
Engaging in torture at Abu Ghraib and other prisons around the world.
Failure of the Veterans Administration to well-serve the vets when they
come back home maimed and wounded. And on and on, certainly including
the likelihood of huge Guard and Reserve callups in Iraq and maybe for
Iran as well.
STANDING UP FOR DEMOCRATIC
Republican-lite is just not
good enough any more. If the Democrats are to avoid being regarded as
an opposition party in name only, they must constantly let the voters
know how, and in what ways, they are different from the Republicans.
The GOP -- as a result of
its arrogance, corruption, bungling and reckless behavior -- is ripe
for a fall, and so many traditional Republications and moderate conservatives
are just looking for an excuse to desert them at the polls. But if the
Democrats don't take principled stands on the issues, they can be demonized
easily by Rove&Co, and those wayward Republicans might well vote
for the devil they know rather than for those wishy-washy Democrats.
There isn't a helluva lot
of time to play with here, friends. The Democrats have to make their
voices heard loud and clear from now until November 7. If they choose
not to, the risk is very real that Bush&Co. will take them, and
the country, down with them in the next two years.
Sound like so much partisan
scare tactics? I wish it were. Unfortunately, I think I'm being much
too cautious in my conclusions. As we've come to know more in the past
year, this Bush crew is way worse than we ever thought, or feared. November
may be the best, and perhaps only, chance in a generation to take them
down. A landslide GOP defeat is what we need, and what we must work
Copyright 2006 by Bernard
Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities
in California and Washington State, worked as a writer-editor with the
San Francisco Chronicle for nearly two decades, and currently is co-editor
of The Crisis Papers. To comment: firstname.lastname@example.org