On Native Ground
ROVE'S SPIN CAN'T SAVE BU.S.H NOW
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Rather than being upset over Karl Rove's speech in New York last week, when he accused liberals of undermining the war effort, I prefer to see it as a hopeful sign.
It's a sign that the Bush administration is now so tapped out, so intellectually bankrupt and so without scruples that it is reduced to attacking the patriotism of the 60 percent or so of Americans who now think President George W. Bush is running this country straight into the ground.
It's not a surprise that it was Rove, the President's chief political advisor, who decided to equate liberalism with treason at this juncture of the war in Iraq. After all, he was the one who decided to turn the "war on terror" into a political opportunity for the Republican Party.
Barely four months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Rove dropped the mask of unity and bipartisanship. At the Republican National Committee's annual winter meeting in Austin, Texas, on Jan. 18, 2002, Rove said the following regarding the war on terror: "We can go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military might and thereby protecting America. We can go to the country confidently on this issue because Americans trust the Republican Party to do a better job of keeping our communities and families safe."
You know the rest of the story. The run-up to the invasion of Iraq was timed to the 2002 Congressional elections. The Republicans picked New York City as the site of their 2004 national convention and timed so it would coincide with the 9/11 anniversary. The GOP has taken every opportunity since 9/11 to wrap itself in the flag while questioning the patriotism of anyone who raises doubts about the direction this country is heading in.
Rove wants people to forget that on Sept. 14, 2001, the Senate voted 98-0 to authorize the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided" the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
The House vote was 420-1. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., was the only House member to vote against the war resolution. At the time, I thought she was the gutsiest person in Washington, because she knew what was going to happen as a result of this vote.
"In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration," Lee wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle after her vote. "I could not support such a grant of war-making authority to the president. I believe it would put more innocent lives at risk. The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action. ... I do not dispute the president's intention to rid the world of terrorism - but we have many means to reach that goal, and measures that spawn further acts of terror or that do not address the sources of hatred do not increase our security"
Congress didn't wait for the facts or weigh the consequences. It passed the Patriot Act seven weeks after 9/11 by a similarly lopsided margin. Democrats were too afraid to be seen as unpatriotic by not supporting the president. They also didn't believe that the Bush administration would use the war for political gain. They went along with President Bush's war plans, and got rolled for their cooperation.
Maybe Rove was talking about me in his speech last week. I wrote these words on Sept. 26, 2001:
"The Sept. 11 attacks were a brutal and outrageous slaughter of innocent civilians. But lashing out indiscriminantly out of a need for vengeance will not settle the score. Diplomatic, legal, political and economic means must be used in addition to military means. Most of the world wants to see the perpetrators of the attacks stand in the dock of the Hague for their crimes. Justice, not vengeance, should be our goal."
I opposed the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, something I saw as little more than bouncing the rubble. It was soon clear that oil and political power, not capturing Osama bin Laden, was the point of all the post 9/11 military adventures. And when the talk turned to invading Iraq in the spring of 2002, it was equally clear to anyone paying attention that doing so would be a huge mistake.
Since I'm not high enough on the media food chain to have the right-wing come after me, I escape censure. But anyone else in the last three years who has been in a position to be widely heard, and has expressed these sentiments, has been crucified.
But that's part of Rove's game, too. Tell lie after lie after lie and stay in power. If anyone questions your lies, call them a traitor who hates America.
Cheap demagoguery may help rally the conservative base, the segment of the population who believes the President is doing God's work in Iraq. Unfortunately for Rove, a growing number of Americans recognize that we're losing, if have not already lost, the war in Iraq - a war that didn't have to happen. The lies that led us into that war are now in open view. And even the people who were once true believers have changed their minds.
When Rep. Walter Jones Jr., R-N.C., last popped up in the news, two years ago, he was pushing to rename french fries as "freedom fries" on the House cafeteria menu to protest France's opposition to a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Now, he is co-sponsoring a bipartisan resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq starting in October 2006.
"The American people are getting to a point here: How much more can we take?" Jones told The Boston Globe recently. "We have ousted Saddam Hussein. That's a victory. We've given them an opportunity to develop a democracy. That's a victory. We're training Iraqi troops. That will be a victory. Have we achieved our goals, and if not, what are these goals."
These are legitimate points that Jones raises. One could legitimately say that the United States is at the point where it could declare victory and get out of Iraq. We know, however, that the Bush administration won't see it that way. As evidenced by his Fort Bragg speech on Tuesday, President Bush is still blinded by hubris and false optimism.
Staying the course is no longer an option. Am I a traitor for suggesting this? Is Congressman Jones? Should anyone else who doesn't subscribe to the wishful thinking and lies of the Bush administration be written off as someone who hates America?
Karl Rove won't answer these questions. He's too busy thinking up the next smear in the service of his boss.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.