Volume 75, Number 44 | March 22 -28 2006

Talking Point

The Bushies play fast and loose at home and abroad

By Ed Gold

In addition to its chaotic governance, the Bush era will be remembered for distorting history, as well as its bizarre semantics.

On the history front, there is Bush’s lecture to the Senegalese on slavery: “The slaves who left here to go to America because of their steadfast and their religion and their belief in freedom, helped change America.”

O.K., so he was only a C student. But along comes Rumsfeld just recently to suggest that U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be comparable to abandoning Europe to the Nazis in World War II. Equating the Iraqi insurgency with the Nazi conquest of Europe and the slaughter of millions has made a number of noted historians wince.

The religious right, a core Bush group, has been conspicuous in tampering with history, denigrating Darwin and attempting to insert biblical teachings into biology curriculum.

The tragic story of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo brought out the worst in the religious right as Congress, led by Tom DeLay and Bill Frist, tried to reverse the historical role of our independent court system, and Bush got off his horse in Texas to rush back to the White House to deal with this manufactured national crisis.

The courts had for years taken testimony from doctors who had thoroughly examined Schiavo and had found her condition irreversible. But Dr. Frist, to his shame, looked at a video clip and came up with a medical opinion that Schiavo showed promise, probably the first time in history that a licensed doctor made a diagnosis from a TV clip.

Religion has apparently also moved conservatives from their historic position that budgets should be balanced. We are now carrying a national debt of $9 trillion and columnist/author Kevin Phillips contends that the core Bush vote no longer cares about economic policy but is “just preparing for the Second Coming.”

As for maligning the English language, Bush, when unscripted, can’t help himself. Five years ago at a conference in Canada he said he didn’t want to be interviewed “in English, French or Mexican.” He has also maintained that we should maintain “good relations with the Grecians.” And it was a slip of the tongue, no doubt, at Bob Jones University when he declared, “I don’t have to accept their tenants.”

Those faux pas did no serious damage, but the Bushies have mangled words that have caused much harm and confusion. For example, Bush doctrine still speaks of Iraqi “liberation,” while the Iraqis and the rest of the world see it as occupation. Webster tells us that liberation is “to free a country from domination by a foreign power.” No wonder there were no flowers.

Those of us who opposed the Iraq adventure pay a heavy price in Bushland. We are constantly told we are “demoralizing our troops and aiding the terrorists.”

If the troops are demoralized it’s because they are bogged down in a near-civil war with no end in sight after we had all been told in May 2003 by the president: “In the battle of Iraq the United States and our allies have prevailed.” Yeah.

As for aiding terrorists, nothing has strengthened Al Qaeda more than the preemptive strike by the world’s only superpower, which chose invasion of a Muslim nation that was no threat to our national security and had nothing to do with 9/11.

Now the master of deception, Karl Rove, has introduced a new pejorative word, “isolationism,” to characterize all those against the war.

Webster tells us that isolationism is “a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international, political and economic relations.”

Today we have troops and trading partners all over the planet. Isolationism went out of business with World War II. Incapable of avoiding distortions, Cheney tells us that the destruction of a sacred Shiite shrine in Iraq proves the “desperation” of the insurgency, which, as he keeps telling us, gets weaker by the moment.

Domestically, the Bush people play the same tune. They call the estate tax, which mostly hits the very rich, “a death penalty.” The E.P.A., whose mission is to protect the environment, loosens requirements for polluters and it takes a court of appeals to tell the Bush-run agency that they could only get away with their actions in a “Humpty Dumpty world.”

Jon Stewart comes to Bush’s defense on Katrina, in his own style. The president insisted that no one could have foreseen the hurricane destroying the levees that protected New Orleans. But on TV Bush is shown listening to weather experts telling him and aides that the levees were vulnerable.

“Bush has a good excuse,” Stewart says. “He just wasn’t paying attention.”

As language and history continue to get mangled, people are beginning to catch on. A blue-collar worker is seen commenting on CNN: “That’s the last time I vote for a guy just because I think I’d enjoy having a beer with him.”

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