Friday, October 08, 2004

Oedipus Wrecks

On the day that Dubya moved into the Oval Office, he was already obsessed with Saddam Hussein. People who have studied the matter say the reason is simple -- that Dubya’s father had been widely criticized for not taking Baghdad over during the first Gulf war, when he had a real alliance with half a million troops and no opposition. Pappy has explained that if he knocked off the dictator in place, he’d have a hopeless mess of a country to occupy just the mess we now have. And that, I think may explain why George W. H. Bush was not invited to address the Republican convention that nominated his son.

People who go in for psychoanalysis have been talking Oedipus complex -- meaning the son took us to war to show up his father. Certainly, young Dubya was no credit to the family -- always in trouble drinking, a flop in the oil business, using Pappy’s pull to stay out of Vietnam, and forever stumbling over words. The elder Bush is also dyslexic -- and no great intellect, but not nearly as bad.

Dubya has been called the very worst president in the history of the United States. If that is true -- and I think it is -- then Dick Cheney must be the very worst vice president. He has been a surrogate father to Dubya -- there has long been doubt as to which of them is really in charge. Tonight, Dubya will be back out there alone- -- well, largely alone, with a raft of selected questioners and a spinroom full of buzz. And once again, he’ll go up against an opponent who doesn’t have real answers but sure has today’s news on his side. A round not to be missed.

Thursday, October 07, 2004


I was talking the other day about the Times trying to live down the myth that it’s a liberal paper. Well, I just came upon this editorial from 1980, the year of misery for President Jimmy Carter. Inflation was running in the double digits and people were calling for price controls. These -- I quote -- "soon turn into a nightmare. But wages are different. They can be held down by a minimum of bureaucracy." Unquote.

Carter and the Times had been bit by the rabies of deregulation. A "minimum of bureaucracy" left us helpless against the raid on corporations based on junk-bonds, the breakdown of rail and air service and the savings-and-loan swindle that bled every county in the country. Poor Carter had fallen under the influence of David Rockefeller and his crowd. He named James Schlesinger to manage the fuel supply -- and the pumps ran dry. He named Paul Volcker to run the Federal Reserve. Volcker went in for tough love -- high interest rates to cool the economy down. Tight money and tight budgets are for Democrats. For Republicans, easy money and big deficits are just fine.

If that weren’t enough to do Carter in -- he let David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger talk him into inviting the exiled Shah of Iran to come here for medical treatment, even though our embassy in Iran had begged him not to. Iran exploded, the embassy was taken hostage, and Carter went down in disgrace.

There are more failing marks on his page, but Carter lately has shown signs that he has learned. He’s a decent man, eager to make the world a better habitat for all. As we enter the climax of this campaign, it would be well if Kerry and Edwards followed his guidance, rather than that of Democratic politicians stuck on the wrong side.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A Mixed Round

John Edwards did not quite follow my advice last night. He did get in some sharp jabs -- about the loss of jobs and benefits, about the lies that got us into war, about the crimes of Halliburton, and, notably, about Dick Cheney voting way back against the liberation of Nelson Mandela, against Head Start, against Meals on Wheels and against Martin Luther King Day.

But Cheney got in some jabs too -- notably, about flip-flopping. He noted that Kerry and Edwards voted for Bush’s tax cuts, for his war budgets and for letting him take us to war -- and then changed their tone when Howard Dean threatened to capture the nomination with his pitch for peace and old-line Democratic values. Once Dean was overcome, they went back to Bush lite.

I had thought that as a crackerjack courtroom lawyer Edwards would punch away until Cheney lost his notorious temper. Instead, Edwards chose to play the shill for Kerry. He was at times deferential to Cheney -- embarrassingly so -- and as belligerent about the war as Bush, if not more so. And he never did come out for universal health care.

The polls and the pundits are mixed about who won the round. But there is this hopeful thought: If the right can push Kerry and Edwards around that easily -- so can the left. And there’s a lot of exciting action going on, on our side.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Cheney’s Turn

John Edwards is said to be a topflight trial lawyer. Well, he couldn’t ask for a better hostile witness than Dick Cheney -- mean, foul -mouthed and hot-tempered. Bush loyalists may defend Dubya as being sort of detached, to put it mildly, but Cheney took command even before Dubya took the oath of office. He called in the chiefs of big oil, big coal, of Enron. He still refuses to identify the plotters or release their decisions but we’ve been living with their results on the environment and the economy.

They nearly bankrupted California and impoverished the rest of the country. Edwards will no doubt be pointing out that Ohioans lost a lot of good jobs, and those who found new ones had to work for lower pay, and fewer benefits. This gang has actually made it illegal to cross the border to buy cheaper medicine. There’s a great peg for Edwards to call for universal health care -- single payer. That’s the slogan that elected Bill Clinton president 12 years ago.

And I haven’t mentioned Halliburton -- its no-bid contracts, its rip-off prices, its secret partners. Nor just what Cheney was doing on the morning of 9-11, when our jet fighters were awaiting orders, and Dubya was being hustled off to Nebraska. Nor how much of the barefaced lying about the menace posed by Saddam Hussein can be traced directly to Cheney. Or -- oh, I can hardly wait. Go get him, Edwards.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Fudging the Point

Four days gone by and still the Times couldn’t bring itself to say Bush lost the first round. They cut down whole forests to cover the story, but it was with a blanket of gray ink.

The Times Bushman David Brooks spent a whole column blowing up smoke. Every paragraph contradicted the one before it and the one after it -- if they meant anything (it’s not always clear). He ended by suggesting that our moral nation may embrace a candidate who may not dominate every argument, but who can show a shared cast of mind.

The Times actually scored as a point in favor of Bush that Kerry had called Iraq the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. That was emphasized with the return of its chief foreign columnist Thomas Friedman. He said Bush had made a mess of their war but he hoped that Kerry might salvage something out of the wreckage. First off, he would fire Rumsfeld.

Now, while Friedman was away, the Times ombudsman made things worse by calling the Times a liberal newspaper. It’s been trying to live that reputation down for a hundred years. It depends on how you define liberal. Take its editorial Saturday, which said “Kerry is not helping things any when he pledges never to cut [Social Security benefits].”