[9 March 2004]
President Bush’s campaign manager has promised that the coming election season will be “a big-issue election,” and that the candidates will “not [be] talking about trivial differences.” And if the Bush campaign really meant this, we’d all have something to look forward to a vibrant democratic debate about the country’s direction.
But that is not really what the White House has in mind. On almost every major issue, the President has sought to push off major and potentially damning reports and policy proposals until after the November 2nd election. With his tax cuts failing to spur the economy, his international policy creating more global chaos, and his security policy leaving America more vulnerable at home, the President wants to talk about gay marriage, a proposal to send an astronaut Mars, and the issue of most urgency to average Americans: steroid use in professional sports.
In short, while we might want an election that speaks to “soccer moms” or “NASCAR dads,” the President wants us to believe the most pressing issue in America is married gay Martians on steroids.
On the economy, the President is worried about polls showing more than 80% of Americans have felt no tax relief from his tax cuts. In response, he is staging photo-ops all over the country telling people not to worry because more tax relief is supposedly on its way, and he’s urging Congress to make his tax cuts permanent. What he does not say is that, in reality, there is barely any more tax relief coming to the middle class. Instead, the remaining tax cuts will go almost exclusively to the wealthy. In all, the President will give almost one trillion in new tax cuts to millionaires after the election, and almost no new tax cuts to everyone else. Meanwhile, his allies on Capitol Hill have promised to hold off on any debate on making these tax cuts for the wealthy permanent until you guessed it after the election.
Similarly, while retirees may want to cast informed votes in November, the President is doing everything he can to confuse them, short of ordering up more butterfly ballots in Florida. On Social Security, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card admitted that a debate on the President’s privatization proposal would not come until after the election. The Associated Press soon reported that the President’s allies were “unlikely to touch” the privatization issue “until next year, after the elections.” On Medicare, the same thing. Instead of giving seniors a chance to decide whether they agree with the President’s Medicare reforms before voting in 2004, the White House wrote the legislation to not take full effect until 2006: well after the election.
If you thought national security was exempt from this kind of electioneering, think again. While the military says it will run out of money for its Iraq and Afghanistan activities by the summer, the President has said he will not request any new funds for these operations until after the election; effectively squeezing the military in order to avoid a contentious public debate about spending even more money on the war.
On intelligence, the Administration is facing a serious international credibility gap after no WMD were found in Iraq. But instead of following Tony Blair’s lead and trying to immediately figure out what went wrong, the President appointed an investigative commission that will only publicize its findings after the election. It is the same thing with the bipartisan commission investigating September 11th: the President has done everything he can to prevent the panel from publicly reporting before the election.
With the major issues effectively off the table, the President’s political hacks are now at work. The always-predictable Republican campaign strategists know that even during a time of war and economic distress, there’s nothing like a little gay bashing to divide the country, so out came the President’s support for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage (we are told that recent court decisions forced the President to reverse his previous position on the issue, despite it now being revealed that his decision was made long ago for political reasons).
No matter about that jobs and health care crisis, we are told. The President wants to discuss an issue on every struggling family’s mind: multi-millionaire athletes who use steroids. Forget about the skyrocketing deficit and cuts to basic social services. The President wants to debate his multi-billion-dollar plan to send a human to Mars.
But the tactic is not going to work. Eight million people are out of work. Those who are working are struggling with stagnating wages, skyrocketing health care costs, and increased personal debt. US soldiers are getting shot in Iraq, while experts say we are no safer from terrorist attacks here at home. Meanwhile, the President says the economy “looks pretty good” and that we are “winning the war.” No amount of married gay Martian steroid demagoguery can hide the gene this President got from his dad: total disconnection from reality.
And as the old saying goes, like father, like son.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/sirota040310/