Friday, January 23, 2009

Politics and me…zzzzzzzzzzz

I am pretty much apolitical. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any political opinions or leanings…quite the contrary, in fact. But it does mean that I find politics, as a topic, pretty boring and a guaranteed snooze-inducer if political commentary is going on around me.

One of the things I have come to dislike about politics is the mud-slinging and dirty tricks…the win-at-all-costs attitude that seems to have taken over the political arena. The Swiftboat shenanigans, the vote tampering in Florida, manipulating and lying to the electorate…I feel dirty just thinking about it. So, thinking about politics is something I very seldom do.

One of the interesting things about watching American politics from the perspective of another nation is the gift of relative objectivity. And the fascinating opinions of locals who, even knowing very little about the structure of the American government, have strong feelings about American political leaders. I cannot count the numbers of people who, not knowing that Americans cannot recall a disappointing president by voting him out of office before the end of his term, have come to the conclusion that Americans are utterly mad to have allowed Bush to remain in office for so long! When they understand that a President stands for the entire four years of his term unless he dies, resigns, or is impeached by the Congress, they are amazed…and then think Americans were mad to re-elect the man. Living next door to Mad Bob Mugabe, election fraud they understand…but it doesn’t make them think we are any less mad for allowing a fraudulently “elected” man to stay in office.

One of the things that disturbs foreigners most about recent American politics is how Bush invaded a foreign country without provocation and the electorate supported this outrageous act. If everybody in Africa could see the “reasons” were bogus and the invasion was without legitimate context, why couldn’t Americans see it? By re-electing him, Americans sent a message to the rest of the world that they accepted and supported Bush’s act of international piracy, something that made the citizens of smaller, weaker nations outraged…and nervous. To say this act gave America a global black eye would be understating the situation by several magnitudes. Nobody likes a bully, and that is how America has been perceived for the past five…almost six…years.

In my rare ruminations over American politics, I have come to wonder about a few things. What was going through McCain’s mind when he named that uncouth pea-brain of a loose cannon, Sarah Palin, to the ticket? Surely he did not so underestimate the female electorate to the degree that he believed we would change political affiliations on the basis of gender alone? My god, the woman’s mouth is bigger than her brain…we who supported the polished, well-educated, politically savvy Hillary Clinton would switch sides because McCain added boobs to the ticket? I do not think so!

What was he thinking? That he was too old to run the country and pull it out of the stinkhole of impending bankruptcy, so he could get out of it by appointing a political joke to his ticket? How, in a time that the average voter was tightening his belt in the face of impending financial doom, was McCain able to justify spending a bloody fortune to hang designer rags on his rugged, culture- and couture-challenged running mate? Oh…and whatever became of those duds? Did that shamefully expensive red leather coat ever make it to a charity shop? Or will Palin watchers see her parading about in it come spring and temperate climes in the frozen wastelands that make up Sarah’s little empire? Might be a fashionable substitute for a neon vest on her next moose-hunting foray, yes?

Will Bush go down in history as the worst president since the creation of the Union? I thought mad Ronnie was a disgrace, what with the astrologers and Nancy running things as his mind shuttered, but he’s been surpassed. In eight short years, under W’s watch, the nation went from peace and prosperity to invading a sovereign nation without provocation and near fiscal collapse. Those who, their heads still firmly buried in the sand, excuse and defend Bush’s actions evidently haven’t considered that more people have died in Iraq than in the Twin Towers and just ignore that it has been unequivocally proven that the “justifications” for attacking Iraq were…as anyone with a functioning brain knew back in 2003…were a pack of lies, trumped up to scare the American people into acceding to a pruning of their civil liberties and supporting Georgie’s personal vendetta against Saddam.

One person, it appears, did not buy into the bullshit and that person was Barack Obama. I find it amazing that his subtle but scathing attack on Bush’s administration has been ignored in favour of the literal interpretation of his inauguration address. Is no one willing to acknowledge the subtext of the speech? Where is this “liberal media” the neocons keep whining about? Shouldn’t a liberal media be jumping with glee and making a big fuss over Obama’s masterful message?

I mean, what did Obama really say? I have never laughed during an Inaugural Address before. In fact, historically speaking, I have found Presidential inaugural addresses to be so boring and full of mealy-mouthed platitudes that I don’t think I have ever listened to one all the way through, let alone laughed through it and felt a bit disappointed that it was over! And I got quite a chuckle when the cameras cut to Georgie and his increasingly grim countenance as the indictments against him and his administration inexorably mounted.

“...our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed.” I heard this as a promise that cronyism will not be part of the new administration, that the interests of a favoured few will no longer take precedence over the needs of the many. And a message from the new President to his predecessor that these corruptions did not go unnoticed.

“We will restore science to its rightful place...”
The choices of the words “restore” and “rightful” were purposeful, a declaration that science has been sidelined in favour of special interests, progress impeded, discovery derailed. I expect it means a return to stem cell research and a removal of restrictions limiting it.

“...this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” If Obama believes his own watchful eye can influence the market and prevent it from spinning out of control, then clearly he thinks that W was asleep at the switch…or looking away while his cronies stuffed their pockets with loot…while the US economy imploded. I have not forgotten that one of Bush’s closest friends was Ken Lay of Enron infamy and that while Ken lived in opulence, the people he boondoggled lost their jobs, homes, life savings, and retirement plans. It was an omen too few of us heeded.

“...we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers ... our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man...we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” Well, I’m not sure if this references the Patriot Act or the horrors of Guantanamo Bay and related interruptions of Constitutional protections, but I’d like to think it covers both.

“...our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” I see this as a direct slap in the face, rebuking Bush for his invasion of Iraq. And he’s right…our status as the last Superpower didn’t prevent 9/11 and it doesn’t give us the right to trump up a bunch of transparent excuses to invade another nation without direct provocation. I mean, people have their panties in a wad over Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and Israel has endured years of Palestinian attacks. Is it surprising that world opinion views Bush’s foray into Iraq as a wanton act of aggression, an example of America the Bully doing whatever it wants?

“Guided by these principles once more...” This is my favourite quote from the address, a clear, unequivocal indictment of Bush’s ethics and wisdom. Rather than use America’s power with prudence and justice, rather than act with humility and restraint, Bush turned America into a jackbooted thug, a conscienceless marauder, a nation that turns a blind eye to the guarantees of its own Constitution in the pursuit of his nefarious purpose.

I suppose it is too much to hope that George W. Bush can and will be prosecuted for violating his oath to protect and defend the Constitution. And I feel sorry for Obama and the massive mess he has inherited…had it been this bad when he first stepped on the campaign trail, would he have taken that step at all?

I don’t envy him the incredible task ahead, but I have hope. For one thing, he has already accomplished something I thought impossible: had you told me eight years ago that it was possible for a man to run a clean political campaign and actually get elected to the Presidency, I would have laughed out loud. It seems that American politics have not been irrevocably corrupted after all, and with a little luck, Obama’s ability to perform miracles will turn the country around.

Let’s hope so, because if he doesn’t, America will surely join the rapidly growing list of former Superpowers.

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