Robert Scheer, a contributing editor to The Nation, is editor of Truthdig.com and author of The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street (Nation Books), The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America (Twelve) and Playing President (Akashic Books). He is author, with Christopher Scheer and Lakshmi Chaudhry, of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq (Akashic Books and Seven Stories Press.) His weekly column, distributed by Creators Syndicate, appears in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Why are white men so screwed up? If you can believe the polls, they identify by a huge margin with George W. Bush as one of them. What gives with these delusions of grandeur in which Joe Six-Pack puts himself in the same boat with a pampered son of the super-rich? Did average white males grow up in the lap of luxury and get to squander funds invested by family friends in failing oil ventures? Can they fashion a well-greased political career based solely on their fathers' names?
Obviously not, but what has traditionally bound white males to men like Bush is that they, too, like to think of themselves as being winners simply as a perk of birth. That way, if they also got poor grades in college, they could still think of themselves as smart enough to be president, when even the brightest women couldn't. Not that all white males are actually winners, but they don't have to feel like losers, since they can still feel superior to women and minorities.
But now, with equality growing between the sexes and even the races, white males feel their privilege threatened by the prospect of an even playing field. They blame this on the Democrats for pushing affirmative action, which started to break up the old-boy network. So they tend to vote for Republicans in large numbers, thinking that progress can be held back and traditional values restored, meaning that women will be put back in their place.
Such a reversal of white female fortunes would be a disaster for white males, if they would only stop to think about it, but being white males, they don't. The brute truth of the statistics on the boom in American family prosperity is that it is based on females entering the work force and obtaining better pay. Particularly white females, who have been the main beneficiaries of efforts to make the job market a bit less biased.
White men are inclined to think that a rise in women's pay means a decline in males' standard of living. That's because white males have not grasped the fact that women tend to intermarry--with men--meaning that their incomes are shared with husbands and male offspring and even fathers, whom they occasionally help support.
But beyond the economics of equal pay for equal work, there are those other "women's issues," which the Democrats support and to which men are indifferent, most significantly the issue of "choice." If males would just ponder for a second how women get pregnant, they might not be so quick to define abortion as a "women's issue."
Let's say that George W. gets to make good on his expressed desire to pick U.S. Supreme Court justices in the mold of Anthony Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who then overturn Roe vs. Wade. Where does that leave men who have gotten women pregnant and decide they are not ready for fatherhood? Well, in the bad old days, it left them accompanying fearful women on a trip to Tijuana or some back-alley abortion mill in this country, in the process not only betraying the health needs of a woman they claimed to love but incurring legal risks as well.
It's perplexing how a host of other issues that would seem to affect men equally with women got to be gender-defined in polls. Why are women more pro-environment, pro-children and pro-health care, or more concerned about saving Social Security? Is it that Darwinian nesting thing? Women want the civilizing effect of government to protect the vulnerable. Men see themselves as cowboys at war on the frontier in need of personal arms and a strong cavalry at the fort to back them up.
Do men not know that if Social Security gets wrecked with this privatization gamble Bush is hustling, they will be hurt? Even younger men who might have to cut into their discretionary income to take care of their aging parents. As for the environment, one has to assume men's lungs are not gender-protected from the poisonous fumes that now make Houston the pollution capital of the nation. Surely males can appreciate the wonders of hunting and fishing in the pristine environment of Alaska that is threatened by the Bush-Cheney team's promise to rape its energy resources and turn it into another Texas.
If being pro-choice, pro-environment and in favor of the security of older people makes Al Gore a wimp, shouldn't we men reexamine our macho standards? Remember that limp cigarette in the mouth of the cowboy in those anti-tobacco ads that link smoking with impotency? Macho men are a dying breed.
Let's give up some applause for Dick Cheney for affirming in deed, if not words, that homosexuality is perfectly consistent with traditional family values. The decision for a Republican candidate for the vice presidency to have an avowed homosexual at his side through virtually every hour of his campaign is a bit risky. It means taking on the forces of intolerance on the right wing of his party, a wing that at one time included Cheney and, more prominently, his wife.
However, now that Cheney has granted his lesbian daughter a major role in his campaign, is it not time for the candidate to distance himself from a Republican platform that would deny equal rights protection to all homosexuals? Evidently homosexuals can be reliable workers, and it should be illegal to discriminate against folks like Mary Cheney simply because of their sexual orientation.
"I think of her as sort of my aide-de-camp," candidate Cheney said in paying tribute to his daughter Mary in an interview last week with the New York Times: "She keeps all the paper flow coming to me; everything sort of funnels through her. More than that, she knows me. She has no qualms about telling me when she thinks I'm wrong, or when I need to do something. Mary will always come in and lay it right on me. My experience over the years is that's invaluable in a campaign. Everybody wants a good relationship with the candidate--not everybody will level with you. Mary levels with you."
One would accept such excellent skills to be valuable to any employer not biased by prejudice against gays. Yet anti-discriminatory laws are needed precisely because not all employers have had the opportunity to learn from their own offspring that homosexuals are indeed normal people.
Given that Mary Cheney is proving so valuable in the campaign, would Cheney, the person who'd be next in line to become commander in chief of the armed forces if George Bush wins, still stick to his oft-expressed view that homosexuals not be allowed to serve in the military? Would his daughter be more inclined than heterosexuals in the military to undermine morale by acting in indecorous ways?
The Republican platform declares that homosexuality is "incompatible" with military service and even stands "united" with the Boy Scouts in that organization's avowed policy of excluding gays. Does Dick Cheney believe that the Girl Scouts are amiss in not following the example of the Boy Scouts, and would he be in favor of excluding his own daughter from playing a role in that organization?
These questions are not intended to be cute or to pull the candidate's chain. They go directly to the hypocrisy in which we treat homosexuals as dangerous freaks unless we happen to be friends with, or related to, one.
Ignorance is the essential ingredient in hate. Dick Cheney probably didn't know his daughter was gay when he compiled one of the most viscously anti-gay voting records in Congress. He was one of only 13 representatives in 1988 who voted against funding for AIDS testing and research at a time when that was conveniently thought to be an exclusively gay disease, and one of only 29 that same year to vote against a Hate Crimes Statistics Act.
Perhaps he would vote differently now that his daughter, whose judgment he trusts in all important matters, has determined that she is indeed a homosexual. Should a woman of such sound thought and strong moral principles not be the best judge of her essential sexual nature? Or should we continue to be guided by the bigotry of legislators and religious proselytizers? It is still against the law in Texas to perform homosexual acts; does Mary Cheney have to retreat to Colorado to legally make love?
Yes, it would be best if such decisions could be left in the private realm, as the Cheneys now ask in refusing to discuss their daughter's sexuality. But it's too late for such niceties because the hate-mongers and their respectable allies in the Republican Party have for decades exploited homosexuality as a hot political issue. It is they who have thwarted every legislative effort to grant to homosexuals the same rights afforded all other citizens.
One can understand why Mary Cheney does not now want to become a poster woman for gay rights. But she is, by her father's witness, living proof that being gay is perfectly compatible with leading a moral, public-spirited and fully enriched family values life. She is a role model that even the political right might be forced to respect.
Should the corporate owners of newspapers like the Los Angeles Times or the New York Post be allowed to own television stations in the same city?
Where is Al Gore? Maybe he hasn't noticed, but all sorts of horrible things are happening under the Bush Administration--just as he predicted. Yet Gore has been totally silent.
That may be his right as a victim of blatant election fraud, but please don't even suggest that this milquetoast be given another chance to be the Democratic candidate for President. Milquetoast is not a word to be used lightly in describing the shell-shocked behavior of someone cheated out of the presidency, but the wound-licking has gone on long enough.
True, as the New York Times documented in excruciating detail Sunday, a six-month investigation found new evidence that the Florida election was distorted by the partisan miscounting of absentee votes. When added to the rest of the evidence from Florida, it's obvious that Gore won both the national popular and electoral votes and should be President. The Republicans played ugly, they misused the power of Congress and the Florida state government to exclude ballots for Gore while including others with the same flaws for Bush.
It is outrageous that Republican members of the Armed Services Committee bullied the Pentagon into turning over the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of Republicans in the military. The absentee ballots of military personnel registered in Democratic precincts were discounted while those in Republican strongholds containing identical flaws were welcomed.
What the Republicans did was reprehensible, and when combined with the foul partisanship of the Supreme Court majority, arguably the lowest point in modern American electoral history. But that's all the more reason to take them on now before they do more damage.
If Gore cared about the issues he raised during the campaign, why isn't he front and center in the leadership of the loyal opposition? He's not the only one hurting, it's the whole country.
While Gore, who decisively won the popular vote, sulks, George the Second seems to wake up each morning convinced that he has a mandate to do as much damage to foreign and domestic policy as possible. He acts as if anointed, although it was certainly not by the voters.
Not content with dismissing the Antiballistic Missile Treaty as a relic, he now threatens to destroy the test ban treaty as well.
Global warming is to be accepted as quite possibly a good thing, energy conservation is dismissed as a foolish notion and the vital work of Planned Parenthood and other world population-control groups has been sacrificed on the altar of Republican fundamentalism.
In a con act that would land a private-sector executive in jail, Bush sold Congress on a mythical recession-proof budget surplus that could be both given away as a tax rebate and simultaneously spent on increased military spending.
If the recession is prolonged, as it now threatens to be, the projected surplus will shrivel further, and long-term funding for Social Security and Medicare once again will be threatened.
Is Gore unaware that the high-tech economy, which the Clinton Administration nourished for eight years, is now in shambles and that the net worth of the average American is in serious decline?
The job market was never better than under Bill Clinton, and it's not too much to expect Gore to hold the Republicans, who have controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, responsible for the loss of 300,000 jobs in the last three months alone.
For eight years we were told that it was Alan Greenspan who deserved the credit for the unprecedented prosperity of the US economy, but now that the Fed chief has been exposed as powerless as the Wizard of Oz, Gore should at least credit the Democrats for having a better way.
Clinton's agenda was pretty moderate, but at least he knew that the federal government was not the enemy and that a massive tax cut for the rich was hardly a prudent alternative to adequately funding essential public services.
Clinton's personal behavior may have been juvenile, but his public policies were most often well thought out and serious. The Bush offspring seems to view the making of public policy as nothing more than the collating of corporate lobbyists' wish lists.
Gore will not defend the achievements of the Clinton-Gore years because he still has problems admitting that he was a member of that winning team. His Clinton phobia is what cost Gore a tamper-proof win in the election, and it's the source of his current failure to effectively critique the Bush Administration.
To put it bluntly: Gore is nothing without Clinton, and his inability to boldly champion the eight years of the Clinton Administration's record has rendered him politically impotent.