I was having cocktails recently with a group of people, among whom were two lifetime Republicans, each in his 60s, corporate businessmen, one admittedly slightly more moderate than the other (to the point where, after once hearing a senator read off a long list of Bush’s hideous environmental atrocities, actually let his conscience lead his choice and ended up voting for Kerry) but nevertheless both devoted members of the party.
Bush came up, as a topic, as a cancer, as a fetid miasma in the air. They were both shaking their heads. They were sighing heavily. They were both, in a word, disgusted. The more staunchly conservative of the two even went so far as to say he was so embarrassed and humiliated by this president, by this administration, so appalled at all the war atrocities and the wiretapping and the misuse of law, the fiscal irresponsibility and the abuse of the lower classes and the outright arrogance, that if the Dems could somehow produce a decent moderate candidate with a brain, he’d have zero problem switching allegiances and voting for him. Or her.
It may not sound like much. It may not seem like a major shift. But it is, in its way, sort of massive. For thoughtful Repubs with a conscience (they actually exist, I have seen them), there is little left to defend. There is little this administration has done among all categories of ostensible GOP values that they can look to with any sort of pride. Medicare? Shrinking the budget? Smaller government? Less intervention in our lives? Reduced spending? Increased respect in the international community? Responsible international citizen? Ha. Name your topic, BushCo has failed. Spectacularly. Intentionally.
Indeed, countless Dems were disappointed with Clinton’s behavior during Monicagate. Many were ashamed that he would cheapen the office so badly by such trashy moral behavior.
But that was just a cheap little affair (our allies never understood all the fuss anyway). This was never the attitude toward Clinton’s politics, his capacity to understand complex issues, his astounding political savvy. No one anywhere doubted he made the country richer, more environmentally conscious, more stable, more respected and admired. Clinton was globally adored not only for his charisma but for his contributions to world peace. Plus he could actually point to Afghanistan on a map.
What a difference a handful of years makes. Now, overseas, we are a joke. A threat. A toxin. We are considered reckless and arrogant and ignorant, dangerous not just to the rest of the world but to the overall health of the planet. No one anywhere understands how a man like Bush can be the leader of the Free World, stolen election or no.
Sure, smarter Europeans know full well that the United States is deeply divided between the pseudo-religious right-wing warmongers who control a tiny cadre of the powerful elite, and, well, everyone else. It does not matter. America’s reputation as a powerful and respected diplomatic peacekeeper, as the nation that sets the standards for human rights and economic freedom and choice, is hobbled. Crippled. Is very nearly dead. How quickly can we recover? How much damage has been done? History will tell, and it will be ugly indeed.
Interesting feature interview with Al Gore in Rolling Stone recently. Gore mentions two amazing things: one is the discussion he’s had with generals regarding Iraq, with one coming right out and admitting that Bush’s disastrous Iraq war will go down as the worst invasion in American history, our greatest misstep, our most costly and debilitating mistake. Among top brass in the know, of this there is little question.
The other was about the discussions Gore’s had with various major corporate CEOs about Gore’s pet issue, global warming, and how obvious it is that 15 minutes after BushCo leaves office, we will have a radically new global warming policy. In other words, Bush won’t do a thing about it in the next two years, despite how obvious it shall become that we are in crisis, simply because he can’t risk finally coming out and admitting yet another enormous policy disaster. Not to mention how nearly six years of enviro policy abuse, from air quality to water to forestry to pollution deregulation on all his industrial pals, can’t be undone with a smirk and a prayer.
Which is just another way of saying we are currently stuck. We are swirling around the bottom of the drain, clinging on to anything that might hold us from going under for just a little while longer. We have to let the neocon disease run its course, and just pray that at the end of it all the scarring and the pain and damage will not be so permanent, and so hideous, that we can’t be seen in public for a decade.
This is where it stands: Bush can in no way risk alienating the ultra-right-wing bonk-job contingent that put him in office (they are, considering Bush’s 32-percent approval rating, the only ones left even remotely supporting him — even though, according to many estimates, they’re starting to abandon him, too), and hence all policy and all agenda items from here on out will be even more vicious and desperate in an attempt to shore up the base. Hence trying to mutilate the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Hence attacking the New York Times and claiming newspapers are endangering American lives.
In other words, Bush’s latest nasty, Rove-designed salvos and upcoming attacks to save a sliver of power and pride and sneering GOP control are just the beginning.
However — praise Jesus and pass the scotch — they are the beginning of the end.