In recent days, I’ve posted “The Opening Statement” in this incremental work I’m calling, “What Should Be Happening Now,” and I followed by adding an additional component, entitled, ” When Your Champions Run From the Field Rather than Fight.” Then came “The ‘What Kind of Man Could Do This?’ Dramatization.”
Now, the newest increment, entitled: “Honoring the Presidency Requires Dishonoring this President.”
The NEW part is easily distinguished from the old part: what is new today is in BOLD while what was published previously is in regular font.
The great disappointment of this moment is that George W. Bush is still able to dominate the politics — the agenda, the discussion, the chosen course — of the United States. It is that the Democrats who constitute the majority in Congress have been unable to wrest such power from this president. This despite the fact that the president is deeply unpopular in the country, despite the fact that he has accumulated a disgraceful record of crimes and lies, despite the fact that the primary venture of his presidency — his war of choice in Iraq — has proved to be a huge disaster for this country.
When Your Champions Run From the Field Rather than FightAdmittedly, the majorities in Congress are fragile, and confer limited power to the Democrats. It is not necessarily reasonable, therefore, to assume that the Democrats would have been able to dictate policy regarding the war in Iraq. Nor is it necessarily reasonable to assume that the Democrats would have been able successfully to impeach this lawless president and vice-president. The facts of power might well prevent the Democrats from “winning” their battle with the regime in such ways.
This president is not in a strong position. But still the opposition shrinks from the necessary fight.
The polls as of the beginning of November reveal that George W. Bush just set a record for the percentage of Americans who STRONGLY DISAPPROVE of him, breaking Richard Nixon’s old record around the time of his impeachment inquiry (at 48 percent).
HALF OF THE PEOPLE STRONGLY DISAPPROVE. YET STILL THE OPPOSITION COWERS.
Half the people — people who can be counted on, one would infer, to welcome and reward politicians who confront and oppose this presidency vigorously — enough to win an election. But still, the Democratic opposition holds back.
Here we have one more example of the disastrous polarization that has occurred in America along the right-left divide: the right wing has been taken over by power-lusting thugs, people who habitually turn every issue into a war and conduct that war in a “take no prisoners” fashion; and the left is led by people who do not know how to fight.
Perhaps that is the explanation of the question, why do the Democrats seem cowardly and ineffectual: perhaps it is because they do not know how to fight.
But we need for these, our representatives, to fight. The plain facts of how power works in our system dictate that, when confronted with a lawless president, we need for these people to be our champions.
A champion is the one who leaves the field a victor. The word itself connotes a warrior: derived from the word for “field,” the champion is one who triumphs on the field of battle.
In this case, the battle is not merely a competition between individuals, or between sides. It is a moral struggle. So it is not just our team or our tribe or our high school we want to prevail, but more importantly it is the good, the true, and the beautiful. We need for them to be our champions in the fight to make the truth predominant again over the Lie, after all these years when Bushite lies have ruled the country. We need for them to be our champions in the fight to give the values of peace their due weight.
We need for them to be our champions in the fight to maintain the legal and constitutional structures that safeguard our lives and that — far more than fascism — help create the circumstances where decency and justice have a fighting chance.
Yet, even while it is urgent that these battles be waged now — with all the ferocity that Achilles brought to the field of battle — our champions keep fleeing the battle without even having fully joined arms.
It IS reasonable, however, to expect the Democrats to be able to employ their present platform — in combination with the overwhelming evidencee regarding the truth about this regime — to accomplish something else. Namely, it is reasonable to expect the Democrats to successfully dramatize, at every turn and continually, the disgraceful — the criminal, the dishonest, the incompetent — nature of this Bushite regime to the American public.
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The “What Kind of Man Could Do This?” DramatizationThis kind of dramatization would be no small thing. Indeed, that is the way to accomplish something that is key to the challenge of this moment in American history.
The illustrations of the dark and disgraceful nature of this presidency are abundant. Over time, a successful campaign to dramatize for the American people why this president is entitled to no respect, no deference, no imputation of any authority, would highlight many of the pieces of the picture that have been enacted these past seven years right before our eyes.
Here, by way of illustration, is one that is most striking and that has not been sufficiently stressed. The opposition in Congress could and should use it to help the American people see what kind of person it is who’s been wielding the power of the highest office in our land.
Recall the march to war in 2002-2003, the opposition should say to Americans. Recall in particular how this president went before the U.N. in 2002, and spoke to the General Assembly with such arrogance, such condescension, such a certainty that he was right and that everyone worth anything should acknowledge that and follow him. (Footage from that talk could probably be used to good effect.) He insisted on going to war over the objections of the international community as a whole.
And then recall how wrong this president turned out to be. He was wrong about the weapons of mass destruction. And then he was wrong in decision after decision in the waging of that war. (The book, by Larry Diamond of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford — Squandered Victory — could usefully be adduced to delineated the eight or nine major blunders that helped assure that the Iraq invasion, so arrogantly undertaken, would be a disaster.)
Imagine what that would be like for you — if you’d been so cocksure of yourself, if you’d defied the “decent opinion of mankind,” if you’d been so arrogant and condescending toward other people who didn’t bow to the supposed rightness of your course, and then you turned out to be mistaken, and you also turned out to blow the operation to boot!
Imagine how embarrassed you’d be. How humbled. How apologetic. How less likely you’d be to assume that you were always right and that everyone who disagreed with you was always wrong.
Wouldn’t any decent human being be mortified to have behaved that way, and then made such a mess and been proved so wrong.
But now look at how this president has behaved.
But this president has a completely undiminished sense of entitlement, and of fierce insistence, on being the DECIDER on every question — not just Iraq, but S-Chips and all the rest. Take no prisoners fight to win. What does that say about the nature of this human being — that he is so unhumbled by being exposed for the incompetent bullying liar that he is, and that he continues to make of every decision a fight for dominance.
The American people should be led to see just what is right before our eyes. It doesn’t take any big psychological theorizing to get a clear picture from this data: this guy blew it and he’s not the least bit humbled or sorry about the disgrace he’s made of himself with this war in Iraq — and everything else, if less obviously so — and the disgrace that he’s made of all of us and our country.
Is it not clear what kind of person this is?
Does this kind of person deserve to be given any respect or deference? Should this kind of person be making the important decisions about the course of the world’s leading nation?
Properly done, such a thorough discrediting would strip away from this presidency all the moral authority, all the respect, all the deference, that Americans customarily extend to that office.
Honoring the Presidency Requires Dishonoring this PresidentAnd if those aspects of the aura of the presidency were thoroughly stripped away — all the moral authority, all the respect, all the deference, that Americans customarily extend to that office — the president’s power would be greatly diminished. The power of the office has a legal aspect, but without its moral aspect the president’s ability to dominate the political arena — an ability that now, disgracefully, continues — would be removed.
For many Americans, hearing the dark truth about this president and treating him with the contempt and distrust he deserves go against the patriotic grain.
Americans have a long tradition of treating the president with respect. This is an obstacle that those pursuing the task of stripping this president of his authority must bear in mind.
The solution to that problem is simple: it showing how respect for the presidency and disrespect for this president — far from being in conflict — are two aspects of the same patriotic impulse.
We Americans generally treat the president with a degree of respect and deference partly because our political culture teaches us to, and partly because in the course of our country’s history, most presidents have acted in at least a degree of good faith. Most of our presidents have tried to discharge their responsibility — at least much of the time, and despite an admixture of cronyism and other forms of corruption — to serve the nation.
We as a people have note been well-prepared by our history to deal with a president like this one: thoroughly dishonest, either with himself or with us, or more likely both; an instrument of forces that care nothing about the people of this country, or about the values that have constituted America’s ideal; destructive of everything he touches.
So what is needed is to clarify what it is that is worthy of respect: namely, a presidency that embodies America’s ideals and aspirations, that respects America’s most hallowed traditions (like the Constitution and the rule of law), and that takes good care to serve the people and the future good of the nation.
To respect such a presidency is to hold the present occupant of the Oval Office in contempt, to behold him with rage, to be disgusted with the enormous gap between America’s ideals and how this president has conducted his office.
We like George Washington, for his straight-forward and honest and just ways, that made him so admired and trusted by his countrymen.
We like Abraham Lincoln for — among other things — the bigness of his heart and his compassionate embrace of all those suffering, with malice toward none, and with his presentation of a relationship with the Sacred that is about finding real justice, and creating a world that fulfills great ideals of equality and liberty.
We like Franklin D. Roosevelt, for his buoyancy of spirit and capacity to envision good order and work effectively to create it.
And in all these things, George W. Bush is completely the opposite.
The honoring of the office requires that we give NO HONOR to this atrocity of a president. This man who has disgraced and damaged his office, leaving us at the very least with the image of a president who cared not a fig for the Constitution and the rule of law, or for honesty, or for compassion, nor for fairness, nor even the slightest regard for the truth. That is emphatically what we DO NOT WANT OUR PRESIDENT TO BE ABOUT.
This is the way to weaken the president. And thus this entirely feasible stripping from the president that authority he so little deserves would also make other things feasible.
It might then become feasible for Congress to take control of the war in Iraq.
It might even then become feasible for Congress to successfully impeach this disgraceful — and by then deservedly disgraced — president.
For every inch gained in the process of discrediting this regime will move all the other components of the American body politic — the people, the press, the Republican enablers in Congress — and these shifts would change the power equation away from the Bushite presidency.
But even if those developments — on Iraq, or on impeachment — did not come to pass, the thorough discrediting of this disgraceful presidency would be no small thing. It would, indeed, accomplish that most important thing for our time: the repudiation by the American body politic of the Bushite fascism, and the defense and protection of America’s constitutional democracy.
In their battle with the Bushite regime, therefore, the key to the Democrats’ fulfilling their responsibility to America lies in completely discrediting this presidency in the eyes of the American people, so that the American people fully repudiate not only the Bushite leadership of this country but also everything this regime has represented.
Such a victory over the Bushites is entirely feasible. It does not require any legal powers the Democrats do not possess. It merely requires the resolute will to confront the regime, and the strategic understanding of how to conduct that confrontation to expose the dark truths about the regime: that it continually lies and breaks the law and incompetently makes a mess of things; that it is a regime that is antagonistic to the fundamental values of this nation.
And this confrontation and exposure are what should be happening now.
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