Wednesday, July 09, 2003
The case for better mental healthcare: Exhibit A: Cartoonist/Columnist Ted Rall. His latest "column" is entitled "Authoritarians Gone Wild." You can bet the video won't be nearly as entertaining as the other line of "Gone Wild" productions.
He has canceled elections in Iraq. He will probably cancel them in Afghanistan. Will George W. Bush put the kibosh on elections in the United States next year?
Elections in Iraq have been "cancelled" because we're fighting a guerrilla action there, there is no written constitution yet, and neither is there a census to determine how many people there are and where they are so you can have a proper, representative government.
Evidence that the U.S. will cancel elections in Afghanistan? None. Afghanistan has an elected government. (Even if its power may not spread far beyond the capital of Kabul.) While we could force them to cancel any elections, it's very unlikely that we would.
Canceling elections in the United States? We held an election in 1864 when America was in the midst of a horrendous Civil War. Aside from there being no United States (if the Russians launched all of their nukes at us), there's no way a national election wouldn't take place. Besides, (civics lesson for Rall) the running of elections is a state function. The federal government has no power (except for setting the date of the election -- which is part of federal law) over the running of the election. Cancel them? I'll take your bet. I'll even give you odds.
Frightened by Bush's rapidly accruing personal power and the Democrats' inability and/or unwillingness to stand up to him, panicked lefties worry that he might use the "war on terrorism" as an excuse to declare a state of emergency, suspend civil liberties and jail political opponents.
None of this happened in the wake of 9/11, yet Rall thinks it's going to happen now? As far as the "panicked lefties" go, I think the only two prominent ones that have suggested that they'll be jailed are:
1) Ted Rall
2) Paul Krugman
That's it. Rall isn't in jail, but Krugman has been "on vacation." Those Republicans are sneaky! I bet you Krugman's cooling his heels at Gitmo right now!
People who have spoken out against Bush are talking exit strategy--not Alec Baldwin style, just to make a statement, but fleeing the U.S. in order to save their skins. "Do you or your spouse have a European-born parent?" is a query making the rounds. (If you do, you can obtain dual nationality and a European Union passport that would allow you to work in any EU member nation.) Those whose lineage is 100 percent American are hoping that nations like Canada and France will admit American political refugees in the event of a Bushite clampdown.
This query is making the rounds where? At the Betty Ford Clinic? Would someone hit Rall with a Clue-by-Four?
To these people, whether or not the 2004 elections actually take place as scheduled is the ultimate test for American democracy. At Guant?namo Bay the United States is converting a concentration camp into a death camp where inmates will be executed without due process or legal representation. Never before in history has a U.S. president contemplated the denaturalization of native-born citizens-thus far even people executed for treason have died as Americans--but Bush has drafted legislation that would allow him to strip anyone he calls an "enemy combatant" of their citizenship and have them deported. By any objective standard he has already gone way too far, but for many it would take the cancellation or delay of the elections to confirm that we are trading in our wounded democracy for a fascist state.
Wow! What a low standard. All we have to do is have elections next year and we've passed "the ultimate test for American democracy."
Rall's likening the prison at Gitmo to a concentration camp is both offensive and shows his utter ignorance of history. Suspected enemy combatants who've been released from there have left healthier and weighing more. They're not forced into manual labor, instead they just sit around all day.
Turning it into a "death camp" where they won't have legal representation? If those Jews at Auschwitz had just had lawyers, everything would have been OK!
Bush has "gone way too far" by "any objective standard?" Coming from Rall? Well, Rall does know a thing or two about going too far. Also, someone should enlighten Rall as to what exactly a fascist state looks like, 'cause we ain't it.
Lincoln considered suspending the 1864 election because of the Civil War, but ultimately tabled the idea. To date nothing has ever prevented an American presidential election from being held on time.
It's easy to come up with a scenario in which canceling the 2004 election could be made to appear reasonable. Imagine that, a few weeks before Election Day, "dirty bombs" detonate simultaneously in New York and Washington. Government, media and political institutions and personnel lie ruined in smoking rubble and ash; hundreds of thousands of people have been murdered. The economy, already teetering on the precipice, is shoved into depression. How could we conduct elections under such conditions?
"Dirty bombs" are conventional explosives that are surrounded by radioactive material. They can contaminate an area and cause cancer and other maladies in people that are within the fallout area. However, a "dirty bomb" (or even several) planted in New York and Washington, couldn't kill "hundreds of thousands" of people, at least not for decades. They don't work that way.
How could we conduct elections? Well, there might be difficulties in the areas where the bombs went off, but it's a big country Ted, things would proceed as normal (re-read the civics lesson above).
Republicans have already floated the don't-change-horses-in-midstream argument. After Democratic presidential Sen. John Kerry criticized Bush recently, GOP National Committee Chairman Mark Racicot took him to task not for his specific remarks, but rather for "daring to suggest the replacement of America's commander-in-chief at a time when America is at war." The White House website's "frequently asked questions" section indicates that the "war" is expected to continue well beyond 2004: "There is no silver bullet, no single event or action that is going to suddenly make the threat of terrorism disappear. This broad-based and sustained effort will continue until terrorism is rooted out. The situation is similar to the Cold War, when continuous pressure from many nations caused communism to collapse from within. We will press the fight as long as it takes."
The Cold War lasted 46 years; does Bush intend to remain in office that long?
Racicot's remark came in response to Kerry's call for a "regime change" in America -- phrasing which doesn't suggest winning the next election, but overthrowing the government by force. Context counts for something here, Ted.
It's interesting that Rall somehow suggests that any wars any president starts should somehow be wrapped up by the end of his term. Yes, the War on Terror is much like the Cold War -- fighting large evils takes a long time. Rall's assertion that Bush might intend to remain in power past the Constitutionally allowed two terms is laughable. Did Eisenhower stay beyond two? How about LBJ? Reagan?
Our boy president has plenty of reason to worry about his election chances. A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll says that only 50 percent of Americans would vote for Bush over a generic unnamed Democrat--the lowest number since 9/11.
Yeah, but the problem here Ted is that there is no one named "unnamed Democrat." Anytime they put someone's name up there Bush trounces them.
Two-thirds say that Bush lied about or exaggerated the threat from Iraq's WMDs, and a steady flow of body bags from Afghanistan and Iraq has made 53 percent aware that the occupations are going poorly. Pollsters report that most people trust Democrats to rescue the sinking economy--and few believe that Bush's tax cuts will help them.
The only poll that counts is the one in November 2004 (if it's held). But there are other numbers, including those highlighted by BusinessWeek's Douglas Harbrecht:
Even today, after two wars, three years of a bear market, an economy that continues to sputter, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction still AWOL, and U.S. troops being picked off one by one daily by Iraqi guerrillas, Bush still commands polling heights even his father had lost much sooner after Gulf War I.
The average approval rating in the third year of every President's first term since Dwight Eisenhower has been 55 percent -- Bush's remain in the mid-60s. Almost two out of three voters are still sold on the notion that he's trying to do a good job.
Small wonder Bush's advisers are so smug about 2004 and Democrats so glum: According to a July 2 Gallup poll, three out of four American have concluded that the President is a "strong and decisive leader," and 65 percent think he's "honest and trustworthy." Those are bankable numbers in political terms, encompassing many voters who don't agree with his policies.
Of course, no loony leftist column is complete without the Bush=Hitler construction:
Bush may be the kind of guy who sees 99 percent odds as 2 percent short of a sure thing, but I bet he'll look at his $200 million campaign war chest and decide to let the people decide. He'll surely want to win legitimately in 2004--albeit for the first time. Though they're capable of anything, Bush's people probably know that Americans wouldn't stand for two putsches in four years. Still, you have to hand it to him: The fact that Democrats are terrified of ending up imprisoned by an American Reich is the ultimate tribute to Bush's artful bullying--and sad confirmation of the impotence of his would-be, should-be opponents.
As a bonus, Rall also got the Bush=Stupid construction and the Bush "stole the election" canard in there too. Isn't he talented?
Congratulations Ted, you're certifiably wacko. Now I'll go back to ignoring you.