NEW YORK -- It was a lot like a Johnny Cash song.
On one side of the street, wearing their suits and gowns, were the rich and powerful celebrating the renominations of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
On the other side of the street, dressed in black, were the not-so-rich and not-so-powerful folks who didn't see much to celebrate in the news from this week's Republican National Convention.
As speaker after speaker Monday night invoked the iconic image of President Bush standing amidst the rubble of Ground Zero in the days after 9/11, I had a different image--of the rubble we all stand atop today.Yes, in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Americans experienced a quickening of the national spirit.
As The Nation wrote about those days, "The extraordinary heroism of the firefighters, police and others in coping with death and destruction rebuked the mood of 'infectious greed' generated by this era of market dominance. Civil servants and soldiers, even government itself, were accorded new respect in the face of real danger and collective greed. These developments contained a hopeful thread of reconstructing our frayed democracy."
But three years later, our frayed democracy is under siege and we live amidst the rubble created not by terrorists but by an Administration that has pursued a faith-based, messianic and militarist foreign policy. It is rubble created by a White House that has violated the most essential trust in a democracy, killing close to a thousand Americans in a reckless and unnecessary war based on manipulated intelligence and the persistent exploitation of fear.
It is rubble in which lies about the links between the war on terror and the war on Iraq--masterfully exploited by Bush's surrogate character witnesses (or, more accurately, attack dogs) John McCain and Rudy Giuliani on Monday night--have grown roots. And it is rubble strewn with the lives of the millions of Americans who have lost jobs, who lack health insurance and who live in poverty.
And now we live under the rubble and garbage of a campaign of character assassination fomented and financed by Bush surrogates. For those GOP speakers this week who remind us of those days of unity and shared sacrifice amidst the rubble of 9/11, remind them of the rubble created by a President who has ruled through division and fear.
NEW YORK -- When US Senator John McCain took a shot at film maker Michael Moore in his speech to the Republican National Convention Monday night, he had no reason to know that the man who made the controversial documentary "Fahrenheit 9-11" was just a few hundred feet away from him.
But Moore was in Madison Square Garden with McCain and thousands of Republicans who, it would be fair to say, do not rank "Fahrenheit 9-11" high on their list of favorite films.
That was made obvious by the response of the delegates to McCain's unprecedented targeting of Moore in his prime-time address to the convention.
Remember the incessant media punditry during the Democratic National Convention--particularly pervasive on Fox and CNN--which echoed GOP claims that what viewers were seeing wasn't the true face of the party? (As Paul Krugman put it in response: "Apparently all those admirals, generals and decorated veterans were ringers.")
Well, it's going to be a lot easier to make the case that the GOP has had an extreme makeover when the party sends out its array of sort-of-moderate, pro-choice speakers while keeping neanderthals like Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback under wraps. But maybe it's only fair that GOP moderates dominate the prime slots at the convention. After all, if Bush is elected in November they will not be seen or heard from again for four more years.
Now that the damage has been done to Kerry's campaign by the Swift Boat Veterans, Bush is trying to play the good guy. After the demonstrably false charges against Kerry has made news for weeks--abetted by cable news shows which have effectively provided free campaign advertising for his attackers--Bush now wants to drop the debate over their respective wartime service. See the story buried on page A23 in the August 28 Los Angeles Times. (Unfortunately the paper's website makes it impossible to link to its articles.)
Bush's flip-flop came shortly after a video resurfaced on the Internet showing former Speaker of the Texas House Ben Barnes describing--and apologizing for--the sleazy way in which he personally pulled strings to get Bush into the National Guard.
On the video, Barnes states: "My name's Ben Barnes. I was Speaker of the Texas House when George W. Bush went into the National Guard. He got preferential treatment. I know. I gave it to him. His family sent a representative to my office and asked me to move their son up on the waiting list. And I did. It was wrong. He was jumped over hundreds of others in line. Some of them went off to Vietnam and died. I made a mistake supporting that war. And as other, less-privileged kids were going off to be killed, I helped the son of a congressman avoid combat. I wish I had not. But I think it's time people know. And it's time for George W. Bush to stop attacking the people who did serve."
I don't think the debate about Bush's service should be dropped. Why? Because this posturing flip-flopper of a President continues to needlessly send American troops to their deaths while campaigning as a resolute war president. Just watch the convention script this week.
We also still need answers to the unresolved questions surrounding Bush's stint in the Texas National Guard from 1968 to 1973. Specifically, what explains the gap in Bush's Guard service between April 1972 and September 1973, a 17-month period when commanders in Texas and Alabama say they never saw him report for duty and records show no pay was issued though Bush was allegedly on duty in Alabama.
The White House has released hundreds of documents--after Bush said in a TV interview in February that he would make all his military records available. But the files released so far haven't answered those questions, and some documents have yet to be made public. And since February, the White House spin-machine has banned all Guard and military commanders outside the Pentagon from commenting on Bush's military record. At least a half-dozen news organizations have filed requests for Bush's files under the Freedom of Information Act, but judging from this White House's systematic clampdown on information--including blocking the scheduled release of presidential papers from Bush I's period--it seems unlikely that the relevant documents will see the light of day--at least until after the election.
Forty years ago, when Republicans suffered their worst presidential election defeat of the post-World War II era, roughly 800,000 New Yorkers voted for the party's nominee, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.
Four years ago, when Republicans secured the White House in one of the closest presidential elections in the nation's history, roughly 300,000 New Yorkers voted for the party's nominee, Texas Governor George W. Bush.
Like most urban areas, New York City has become dramatically more Democratic in recent decades. Yet, unlike Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Boston and so many other American cities, New York still elects Republicans to serve as mayor. Of the last six mayors of New York City, three have been elected as Republicans: John Lindsay, Rudy Giuliani and the current occupant of City Hall, Mike Bloomberg. And it should be remembered that the man many believe to have been the city's greatest mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, was also affiliated with the Grand Old Party.
It's now official that there are far too many anti-RNC events in New York this week for any one calendar, guide, website or publication to keep up with. But you can generally stay abreast of the panoply of protests, demonstrations, panels, film screenings, readings, concerts and other, more unconventional expressions of a robust civil society with these online compilations:
The Village Voice also published a good guide, available online, to the week. Check New York IndyMedia for up-to-the-minute reports on protests, demonstrations and actions from the activist perspective. On the airwaves WBAI will be broadcasting live coverage of Sunday's United for Peace march (assemble at 10:00 between 15th and 22nd Streets, from 5th to 9th Avenues) and will devote more airtime to the protests this week than any other New York media outlet. RadioNation's Marc Cooper will also be posting audio interviews, speeches and interviews from both inside and outside the convention hall on The Nation's website all week.
The principle that people of good faith might disagree on issues such as abortion, family planning and gay and lesbian rights lost by a 4-1 margin when members of the Republican party's platform committee debated the notion this week. According to most media, that was the "news" from the Grand Old Party's platform deliberations -- just as the failure of moderate Republicans to move the party toward the center on social issues has been the "news" of every Republican National Convention since 1976.
Christopher Barron, an activist with the Log Cabin Republicans, the party's largest gay and lesbian rights group, was correct when he complained that the platform -- with its militant anti-abortion rights plank and its endorsement of a Constitutional amendment designed to ban same-sex marriages -- makes a joke of the efforts of convention planners to present a moderate face by featuring convention speakers who happen to be pro-choice and sympathetic to gay rights. "You can't craft a vicious, mean-spirited platform and then put lipstick on the pig by putting Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger on in prime time," explained Barron.
In truth, there was never any chance that Republican moderates would soften the party's official stances on hot-button issues such as abortion rights and gay rights. There was never even a chance that the platform committee, which met in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday, would endorse a "unity plank" acknowledging that issues involving reproductive freedom and the rights of gays and lesbians can be "complex" and that "Republicans of good faith may not agree with all the planks in this platform."