Bush Pres. Part II, First Week, First Scandel, ElectionGate

By Jason M. DeBord
November 2000

The Honeymoon is over and the bride has woken up wondering exactly who she married. Does Bush really love me, or am I just a tool for his ambitions? Did he cheat to win me?

Father is the former head of the CIA and President of the United States, brother is the governor of the state that is deciding the election under the most questionable of circumstances. America, I’m afraid you don’t really know who has been courting you.

The countryáwalked down the aisle with Bush Jr. even with lingering doubts about who he really is and what is his real agenda. He seemed nice enough until the ring slipped on the finger, seemed ready for the Big Marriage, and sure enough those doubts coalesced on the altar. When the people actually pulled the lever, more of them voted for Gore, showing how the voters rethought their decision during the moment of truth.

Bush was leading in the popular vote by three to five points in polls the day before the election. Not one analyst I know of publicly said that Gore might win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College. Some predictions had the scenario vice-versa, with Gore taking the Electoral College. Shows how those doubts about the groom played a role in the outcome. Shows how badly the media messed up.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The media, and the public, won’t be fooled again –áhopefully.

Day one of the Bush Lite presidency and the first scandal has taken root. ElectionGate has ended the two year honeymoon Jr. enjoyed. He rode right into the White House after an easy courtship. Now it’s the morning after and he can’t get any lovin’, because the bride is wondering what’s going on. A lot of strange business went on during the wedding night and he doesn’t seem so trustable anymore.

Sure he said you can trust me, so many times. I won’t bang any interns, you can count on that, but I didn’t say anything about rigging the election. Whether or not Jr. or Jeb or daddy or Cheney or anyone else actually rigged the election doesn’t really matter. It sure looks that way, and we know from the last eight years how appearances turn into investigations. Time for the Republicans to get a taste of their own medicine, and Jr. is the patient witháa probe aiming for the tender spots.

Until the matter is resolved, probably by the courts, Jr. can’t claim the prize. He has no authority without the people’s consent. That’s why he looked so eager the day after the election to claim victory. Momentum is lost. Scandal and doubt have begun, and it’s not too late for an annulment. That day may never come, because there is no telling what details could come out about the vote in Florida, and until the matter is resolved, fully, Bush and Company are the jilted suitors.

The question for the conspiracy theorists is, how did the Bushes do it? Of course, their Plumbers insulate them so no direct link is likely to be found. If so, the sons didn’t learn anything for Poppa Bush. Maybe the sons tried to play ball in his league but didn’t count on the election coming down to a few votes in Jeb’s state and the intense scrutiny that has ensued. Maybe the sons did nothing and the irregularities will turn out to be nothing substantial. Until then doubts will linger, and a heavy cloud will hang over the country.

On election eve the skies opened over Texas after a long drought and poured forth with fury. That fact could end up being the symbol that sums up ElectionGate if the truth ever comes out. No matter though, at least the bride came to her senses at the last moment. If Jr. ever becomes president he faces a wizened public and divided Congress with no mandate or popular authority to lead. What a wedding present.

Maybe daddy’s shoes are too big.

We are about to get to know the real person at the altar, the one who was evident to close observers during the primaries but who reemerged afterward with the cocky smirk wiped off his face and the Alfred E. Newman-meets-Dan Quayle campaign pictures replaced, before voters had a chance to take a hard look at the person filling that expensive suit. Jr. is smug, dull, unprepared, and dangerous, much like Dan Quayle. Not exactly the groom America thought was courting it, but then again, many women have tales of how nice guys can end up being creeps.

As his presidency goes down in scandal and indifference, watch for Jr. to do something major to get some respect, like start a war. There will be plenty of opportunities. Just look at all the old pals from the Bush War Room he’s surrounding himself with. They are itching to go after Saddam, and it will only be a matter of time before the wars start.

Instead of taking the steady, dependable Al Gore, America decided to take the guy with the wild side, only it turns out the guy might be a little wilder than thought. He has already lied about his past (the DUI), inflated his accomplishments (claiming credit for laws he vetoed in Texas), and has now possibly stolen the election.

First week, first scandal: ElectionGate. Just wait until Jr.’s past business dealings are looked into to. Maybe a special prosecutor will be needed. Welcome to Washington George, hope you liked the honeymoon.

Tobacco Settlement: A Pack a Day to Keep the Bill Collector Away

As the first payments from the $206 billion tobacco settlement are delivered to state governments, it looks like the money will not be used where it could do the most good: to help people who want to quit using tobacco.

State governments for the most part are planning to use the money on pork projects or tax reductions. Only eight states out of the 46 who sued are planning comprehensive smoker education programs, and these programs are aimed more at preventing smoking than helping those already hooked to quit.

There are two reasons why tobacco users are getting no help. First, the states sued the tobacco companies to recover costs from treating tobacco-related illnesses and to punish the companies for years of deceptive tactics. The settlement never really was about the people harmed. The second reason is because people have to keep buying tobacco for the companies to continue paying the settlement.

That’s right, helping people quit smoking means less money for the states. If tobacco sales decline so do the payments. John and Joan Q. Smoker have to keep puffing so state politicians can keep porking.

Advances in treating nicotine addiction could help many people break the habit. One hindrance is the expense. A month on the patch costs more than $100 on average. A prescription like Zyban costs about $120 a month plus a visit to a doctor. It costs more to quit than to smoke for some people in the short run.

State governments could easily subsidize the cost of nicotine treatment with the billions they’re getting from tobacco companies. In the long run helping people quit would save some of the costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses. And with fewer people using tobacco, tobacco companies would slowly be forced out of business.

Sounds like the best punishment to me.

Don’t expect politicians to see past the dollar signs though. Not only would settlement payments be reduced with cigarette users, so would state taxes from the sale of tobacco. A pack of cigarettes costs about a quarter to produce. By the time the cigarettes are sold the cost is about $3 in Ohio, with a majority of the difference going to taxes.

The attorneys general who sued the tobacco companies drummed up public support by promising that a large portion of any settlement would go towards smoking-related programs, but as the money rolls in only eight percent of the first payments have been budgeted for anti-smoking efforts. Turn the card over and it’s not the queen of hearts, it’s the ace of spades, and guess who collects the pot?

God not Guns: DeLay’s Answer to Columbine

“God, not guns,” is House Whip Tom DeLay’s answer to gun violence. Presumably his catchphrase is a better alternative to the modest gun law reforms in response to Columbine that he killed legislatively; another victory not for God, as he claims, but for the NRA.

Instead of a meaningful law to help prevent felons from getting guns without background checks at gun shows, America got a law to allow the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public schools, right where the Columbine killers could have seen them. “Thou shall not kill,” they could have been reminded as they mercilessly hunted down their classmates with illegally gotten weapons. DeLay is exactly right when he said guns don’t kill people. People with guns kill people.

God not Guns is our new slogan to help solve the problem of gun violence, another bright idea like “Just Say No.” Like morals can be instilled by any slogan. Like this pandering to special interests is going to solve the problem.How many more tragedies like Columbine have to occur before something is done about the easy availability of guns in this country? DeLay and those who worked with him have done something terribly immoral and will hopefully account for it. What’s moral, and better yet, sane, is to respond to a national tragedy by doing something about it other than make slogans. What’s immoral is to work in the dark, in the name of power brokers like the NRA, to protect the needs and enforce the will of the few. It’s another example of how money and narrow interests have corrupted American politics. And an example of how some politicians wrap themselves in self-righteousness to justify unrighteous actions.

After a schoolyard shooting in England a few years ago, that country’s politicians responded by passing stricter gun laws than they already had, and the laws worked to prevent more such incidents. Some people and groups with a lot of money and influence opposed the laws, but the British people asked for a response and they got it. There haven’t been any more school shootings, but in America the bloodbath continues. The American people asked for a response to Columbine and they got it: “God, not guns.” Give us more of what doesn’t work.

It became obvious we were going to get this kind of response when the House leadership first delayed voting on the bill to close a loophole that allows firearms to be purchased at gun shows and pawn shops without background checks. The delay allowed the NRA time to pass around a lot of money — more than a million dollars — and twist a lot of arms (Ol’ Tom is the master of Delay). Then the leadership split off the gun provisions from the larger juvenile crime bill to be voted on separately, with the intention of killing the gun reforms while still claiming to be doing something about juvenile crime by passing harsher sentencing laws on juveniles.

As the political stew cooked, the odor of corruption filled the Washington air. News reports filtered out about what was going on, but nothing could stop the foul result. The people stirring the pot can cook up one thing and serve another to the unwitting public and get most of them to swallow it, showing a sort of contempt by getting away with something because they can. As long as they come up with some plausible explanation, it’ll prevent such an uproar that Congressional phones light up, or journalists raise a huge fuss.

Another reason why even modest gun reforms like those proposed after Columbine fell like a shot duck is too few congressman had the guts to stand up to the NRA. Democrats lost control of the House in 1994 after passing a ban on certain assault rifles, partly because the NRA gunned hard after vulnerable Congressman who supported the law. Like a crack in the night the message resonated through Washington: oppose us and we’ll make it harder for you to be reelected — a lot harder. So when gun reform came around this time, fewer politicians had the stomach to vote for it, even though polls showed strong support. The answer we get is “God not Guns.” Keep praying, Mr. DeLay.

A few politicians made some good suggestions while the debate about gun control caught the nation’s attention, like presidential candidate Bill Bradley. He called for registering and licensing guns like cars, and banning hand guns, an unnecessary weapon for home defense. A tight registration system and even a preliminary ballistics test would help to track weapons and discourage the kind of free-flow that is the environment today. Maybe it would discourage people from buying guns for minors, which is how the Columbine killers got most of their weapons. Only about 50 percent of guns used in crimes can be traced these days, because of laws written by the NRA that prevent the ATF from tracking firearms and firearm crimes. That’s right, no one is counting because they aren’t allowed.

A ban on handguns makes sense because most of the 10,000 or so yearly deaths in America from firearms are caused by people using handguns. Besides, a shotgun is a much better weapon for home or personal defense and is much harder to conceal. And we need to close the loophole that prevents a felon from buying a gun in a store but allows them to buy one (or many) at gun shows or pawn shops. Such a modest proposal, such a simple request — such an impossibility as long as DeLay and the NRA are running the show. Preventing sanity in gun laws is only delaying the inevitable. I just hope inevitable isn’t much longer.

Politicians For Sale: All Bidders Welcome

áFor Sale: All levels of American Government. Cost depends on what buyer wants.

Protect your interests even at otherÆs expense by spending money where it counts. On politicians! With a big election coming up nowÆs the time to be thinking about protecting that pile of gold, and thereÆs no better way than favorable treatment from your very own politician. Just consider some recent successes:

HMO reform died on the table after insurance companies flexed their money muscle.

Gun reform got so many holes shot in it by the NRA and gun manufacturers, you’d think it was some new kind of cheese.

The estate tax is on the way to being repealed even though it mainly benefits the richest two percent of estates. Talk about buying influence!

These are just a few recent examples at the national level. Everyday Big Money compromises public interest in states and towns like yours. All it takes is a few checks sent to the right places, bundled together with a few of your friends. You might even get your picture taken with someone famous!

But why think small when you could buy a stay in the beautiful Lincoln Bedroom in the very heart of Washington D.C.? Or imagine a local congressman, even a senator, taking your call on the spot — what a story for the golfing buddies!

Got a corporate interest to protect? Just look at how Big Money protected computer companies from costly class-action lawsuits stemming from Y2K. Angry consumers have no choice but to go along, even though the problem easily could have been corrected years ago!

No guarantees of course, but corporate interests are well protected with the Republicans controlling Congress and Big Bill in the White House. Washington has a big For Sale sign hung over it.

Big Money has ways of twisting legislation to protect its interests — your interests! If an unfavorable bill is introduced in Congress or a statehouse, it can be “killed in committee.” This aptly named figure of speech refers to the practice of stalling or changing legislation so that it dies behind the scenes.

If that doesnÆt work, Big Money politicians will use tactics like holding up debate and adding senseless amendments. If the legislation gets to a full vote in an unfavorable form, Big Money spreads around a bunch of cash to buy votes. If the legislation passes anyway, thereÆs always the governor or president to stop it from becoming law.

And if needed, Big Money will turn to the airwaves, like those “Harry and Louise” commercials bought by HMOs — who turned healthcare into the same scary vision that was used in the commercials to scare the public. Now instead of Clintoncare thereÆs Corporate care!

But Big Money doesnÆt just stop legislation, it makes legislation. Big Money sits in when politicians get together to write laws, and sometimes Big Money even writes laws for the politicians, saving them the burden of doing their jobs.

There are so many ways to buy influence and favoritism from politicians: give candidates (preferably safe incumbents) campaign money hire their friends and relatives: fly them around on private jets and ride them around in limousines: get your friends, neighbors and employees to give them money: give money to PAC organizations, who give it to politicians: give money to the political parties: give hard-money, soft-money, drug money, any money. Just keep giving.

In return you get a government that protects your interests. And donÆt worry about the system changing anytime soon. Even though voters say they want campaign finance reform, they have no idea what that means. And the politicians arenÆt likely to agree on anything; almost all of them feed at the money trough. The ones who donÆt are pushed aside by the stampeding herd.

So donÆt miss out on this sale. ThereÆs a big election coming up and Big Money just hollered, “Here piggies!””

The terrorists are coming and we aren’t prepared

Originally published in The Citizen, Cincinnati, OH, July 1999

Recently a government commission on terrorism revealed a little known secret that raises goose bumps: The threat of a major terrorist strike against America is probable enough to take seriously. Very seriously.

What the bipartisan Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction actually said is that America is not ready if Washington D.C. or New York City disappear in a fiery cloud. The commission based the report on the fact that nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons have gotten out into the hands of groups who will use those weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. America is not ready.

It’s not a crazy scenario, but one that government planners have accepted as probable enough to react with haste, at least, that what the commission recommends. The threat is real, and we need to get prepared for it like we’re waitin’ on the return of Jesus.

The government is starting to take the threat seriously, but will they react in time to prevent catastrophe. It’s no longer a question of if weapons of mass destruction are in the hands of terrorists, but how many and what kind. Case in point: Russia’s former Defense Minister and 1996 presidential candidate Aleksandr Leded claimed that several dozen suitcase-size nuclear bombs that any idiot can set off are missing, as well as other weapons of mass destruction. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happened to those bombs.

There’s a way to inflict major pain on America, but is there a will? Could some terrorist group actually pull off a major attack? The answer: Yes, it’s possible. Is anyone planning on doing it? There are people who hate the U.S. enough. Other societies feel threatened by America raining missiles around the globe and spreading its culture like a cancer (how they view our culture). Yes, someone could be planning a major attack.

Destroy most of the federal government by taking out D.C. when the president and congress are in town and you’ve cut off the governmental head. Destroy the financial centers of New York City and you’ve cut off the financial head. Then what’s left of the three-headed “beast” is the military-which is too diffuse to destroy-but most of those soldiers would have a reason to stay at home. You want to change the world, start with two or three nuclear bombs.

The chances of this terrible scenario happening are significant. There’s the will and the way; it’s no longer a Hollywood plot. Someone in the government worked out the odds and raised the alarm, leading to the commission’s report. A ranking military officer said privately that the talk around the Pentagon has changed from if a major terrorist attack could happen to when it will happen. It’s not inevitable, but there’s an old rule of statistics that applies: if there’s any probability of an event, eventually the event will occur.

The probability is much greater than most people realize. There are plenty of financed, organized and armed terrorists out there who want to cripple America’s ability to project its power around the world, and now some have the weapons to do it. And those weapons aren’t going to sit around like fine art.

So ask yourself what you would do if you woke up one morning and the world was changed: if you picked up the phone and there was no dial tone: if you turned on the faucet and there was no water: if you looked out the window and there was no country.

Readiness is the best deterrent. If America is prepared for the threat of little people with big bombs, the terrorists might decide they could inflict more damage elsewhere. Thus a new commission is being formed to work out contingency plans. But the average person should be prepared too, like the old drills in school when everyone went to the bomb shelter. Only we aren’t looking to the sky for missiles, it’s rented trucks, suspicious packages and concentrations of radioactivity. We’re looking for something that will be awfully hard to spot ahead of time. It’s no secret anymore, no longer whispers among intelligence analysts. The threat is serious and we’re only beginning to face it.