My how the mighty have fallen.
Some blame it on Iraq, a few on the aborted Social Security Plan, others on the economy and gas prices. All good points. But as far as the turn among the general public, the strange anti-Kossackian world of non-political junkies, I give the credit to the spirit of three ladies, who visited George Bush in the space of a few months and utterly destroyed his public image. The first exposed him as political operative willing to play to an extremist right electorate over the wishes of the majority, the second showed our President is a coward who couldn't make a case for his beloved War. The last, most devastating ghost that visited George Bush pulled back the curtain and revealed the incompetent bungler many of us strongly suspected lay behind the carefully cultivated public persona of the CEO President.
But George Bush and his advisors fell prey to the illusion that the platform of these fringe religious zealots was representative of the electorate. And so, in March of 2005, they moved boldly to capitalize on the tragic fate of what had once been Terry Schiavo; now reduced to a helpless human shell. In a coordinated campaign from Capitol Hill to the steps of the Governor's Mansion in Florida, right-wing sympathizers pandered through their choreographed routine flawlessly, dancing to the ballad of the Culture of Life.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist 'diagnosed' Terry Schiavo on the evidence provided in a few minutes of videotape. House Leader Tom DeLay claimed that she "Smiled and laughed and talked". President George Bush flew back to Washington, DC., in the middle of his spring break, to dramatically sign a bill in the wee hours on camera to 'save Terry's life', while his brother Jeb Bush openly threatened to order assault stormtroopers into the critical care facility Schiavo was in and kidnap her in defiance of court order.
Right-wing shills spun like silkworms, portraying Michael Schiavo as a murderous savage intent on killing his wife to keep his hands on any money left from a previous malpractice award, at times implying he wished to cover his alleged complicity in rendering her trauma in the first place. Doctors were discredited and judges framed as liberal stooges. The fact that it was all rehearsed, based on lies and all smears, all carrying the unmistakable, masterful signature of Karl Rove, played no part in their calculus.
And it blew up in their faces. Intervening in Schiavo's tragedy hit too close too home for the majority of Americans. Vicious attacks on panel after panel of doctors and court after court stuck in the craw of the mostly conservative medical and legal professions respectively. Libertarian conservatives were openly outraged at the Government grab for power while privately fretting about who would pay for intensive nursing care for the hundreds of thousands of other Terry Schiavo's that hadn't hit the media big time. The vast majority not only sided against the President and the theocon cheerleaders in the GOP, they saw through the political maneuvering to the real danger behind the religious fanatics and soundly rejected them. The spirit of Terry Schiavo: The first of three rips into the illusory fabric of the Family Values President.
April 4, 2004: Spc. Casey Sheehan is shot through the head, riding in the back of an unamored LMTV, after he volunteered to join a daring rescue of American soldiers pinned down in a vicious firefight with Shia Militia under command of Muqtada Al-Sadr. His mother gets the news on Palm Sunday. She is devastated, but soon finds the inner strength of a warrior that so eluded the band of chicken-hawks when their own country needed them.
August on the plains of Texas is a withering ordeal: 105 in the shade. Fire ants and scorpions battle with tarantulas and rattle snakes for food and dominance on the hot prairies of the Lone Star State. But in the summer of 2005 the war in Iraq was even hotter, as night after night reports of US Casualties were beamed across the world. But questioning the wisdom of President's Iraq War was still a dicey proposition for even professional media and long time WH critics. One sure to draw the ire of neocon pundits and meticulously crafted smears from the Rovian political apparatus. Undeterred, in a spontaneous decision, Cindy Sheehan decides to camp out in the hellish conditions, just down the road from a vacationing George Bush, to ask him a simple question: What is the "Noble Cause" her son died for? Most news commentators and political strategists predict she won't last a week in the sweltering sauna: They're all wrong. Men, women, and children, follow Cindy's example and flock to the site as if it were Lourdes. The story goes national.
This act of group patriotism broke the last MSM taboo barrier in criticizing US actions in Iraq. The Gold Star Mother of a Fallen Soldier was terribly difficult to openly attack using the polished Bush SOP. Although right wing apologists made a few abortive efforts, the White House itself could not join in the assaults for fear of appearing unsympathetic, yet they could not meet with Cindy, because there was no answer for the question everyone knew she would ask. A question that by that time was a catharsis of America's growing disenchantment with the war. The whole world watched, some still confidently expecting the President to articulate what Casey had died for. But as Cindy stood her ground, George Bush hid like a frightened rich-boy behind fortress walls bristling with hired guns in his expansive Crawford Compound, or emerged briefly to wave at the press corp, only to be whisked away by helicopter or air conditioned limo past the tanned Cindy Sheehan. The imagery was revolting to the nation.
The inability of the WH spin doctors to put lipstick on their Iraqi pig, combined with a sharp uptick in media criticism, now able to ask their critical questions under the cover of the War Protest News Story unfolding in Crawford, was the mortal wound for President Bush's image as a Fearless War Leader. By the end of August, the spirit of Cindy Sheehan, a normal mother of four from the sleepy town of Vacaville California, had pierced the invincible armor of one of the most impenetrable, political operations of all time.
For years the possibility of a devastating hurricane had been hanging like a cloud over the city of New Orleans. But under the Bush administration, funding for rehabilitating the wetland buffer zones and strengthening the levees so as to protect the city was systematically cut, drowned in Grover Norquist's bathtub. The White House gambled with both nature and lives; they rolled snake-eyes.
Hurricane Katrina came roaring onto shore in late August flooding not just NOLA, but laying waste to Biloxi Mississippi and Gulfport, along with dozens of smaller communities. The destruction in many places was total. There was nothing left but rubble. Millions of US citizens were stranded in nonfunctional neighborhoods, millions more spread through the surrounding area as virtual refugees. The power was out, lines were down, there was no food or gas.
In New Orleans and up the Gulf Coast, people waited anxiously for the bold leadership they'd been promised by the Bush administration. They waited for the massive Federal Response seen in the aftermath of the previous year's hurricanes in Florida. We all did. We waited for the Man with Bullhorn atop a pile of rubble, framed by the still smoldering remains of the World Trade Centers. Even those of us harshly critical of the Bush White House waited for his henchmen to extract maximum political capital from the tragedy, as they had so expertly milked the terrorist attack on Sept. 11.
We all waited; we all waited in vain.
With his staff and advisors spread across the nation and the globe, with no hands on the Presidential puppet operating cross, Dear Leader froze like a deer in the headlights; except this catatonic state would last far more than the few minutes of bewilderment recorded in a Florida primary school on 9-11. During the days leading up to Katrina's landfall and for days afterward, it was if we had no President at all. When George Bush finally did show up for work, his first order of business was to open up the black bag of campaign tricks and assure American's that everything was fine, that his people were doing a 'heckuva job'. Collectively, the nation gagged and rejected the neocon vomitus.
It didn't fly because, while the nation watched Bush and his acolytes on one screen as they engaged in the now familiar neocon group circle jerk of self congratulations, the other window fed real time images of stranded, desperate people dying by the scores, as furious on-location journalists reported the reality in no uncertain terms. The contrast could not have been more clear and the obvious conclusion wasn't hidden within political and legal complexities: George Bush and his appointed minions were lying through their teeth. After whipping the nation into a terrified frenzy for years, and then presenting George Bush as the one and only man who could keep the nation safe from Weapons of Mass Destruction, the even more horrifying reality that this administration couldn't keep us safe from standing water bloomed into the collective American conscious like a Mushroom Cloud. Katrina, the last and most ominous spectre.
In a few short months the credibility and agenda of George Bush and his merry band of neocons had arced from their lofty political apogee and smashed in the unforgiving landscape of reality. Aided in large part by the spirit of three ladies.
They're not by any means done for. Indeed; a wounded and frightened beast is the most dangerous. And the press is still running to some extant on past inertia. On every talk show this morning alone, as the insurmountable problems of the Republican Caucus were laid out, time and time again the talking heads drifted back to the dilemma facing the democrats.
But once the eyes of the nation were cleared of Rovian cobwebs, the record of failure upon failure speaks for itself. This President inherited the strongest economy in history, that economy is no more. This administration was handed a budgetary dream, they almost immediately transformed it into the biggest deficits of all time. 9-11 handed the GOP a country united as one, Republican political mechanics set to work dismantling that commonality, driving deep wedges through it in the shortsighted quest for absolute rule. The list goes on and on. Osama bin Laden remains on the loose, terrorist attacks have tripled since 9-11, Iraq is in chaos and even Afghanistan may be in danger of falling back into fundamentalist rule. The administration that arrogantly announced they were going to bring back honor to the White House is under investigation for treasonous activities with five indictments already secured and counting. The Culture of Life has become the Culture of Corruption.
For all these reasons and many more, I believe the ruthless reign of King George is coming to an end in terms of effectiveness, if not in official title. But then what do I know? In the actual Dickens classic, Ebenezer Scrooge learned the lesson of compassion and responsibility from his nocturnal visitors and changed his ways for the good. That was fiction, a happy ending firmly provided. This is a very real Neocon Christmas Carol about the spirit of three ladies, who visited a man who would be King; that final chapter has yet to be written.