Monday :: Jul 12, 2004

This Ain't Your Daddy de Toqueville's Democracy In America!

by pessimist

I'm going to try something with this post. Let me know what you think.

The Real Enemy Staring Us in the Face - [Quotes from this article will be italicized]

Spirited debate outside Bush's Kutztown U. rally - [Quotes from this article will be in normal font]

The GOP doubters on Bush - [Quotes from this article will be {braced}]

Justin Hunt, a young man from Wildomar, Calif., about 75 miles east of Los Angeles, was determined to join the Marines. When recruiters pointed out that he was grossly overweight, he spent a year losing more than 150 pounds. Then he signed up and was promptly sent to Iraq, where he was killed last Tuesday in an explosion. He was 22. Three American soldiers, not yet publicly identified, were killed yesterday in two separate attacks on military patrols north of Baghdad. On Saturday four marines were killed in a vehicle accident near Falluja. And five more American soldiers were killed Thursday in a mortar attack on a base in the Sunni-dominated city of Samarra.

For what?

"He's doing a great job," declared Donna Lutz, Lebanon County's recorder of deeds. "Even though no one wants war, we have to finish the job in Iraq."

{In Palm Beach County, Republican real estate agent Jeff Ley mostly cited the war in explaining why he'll vote against Bush. "I'm former military and I see this Iraq campaign driving us into another Vietnam. It is not in the best interests of our nation," he said.}

Marilyn Marles of Macungie said Bush wore the presidential robe well. "He was very relaxed, very sure of himself," she said. "He understands his role as president, now and in the future."

Even as these brave troops were dying in the cruel and bloody environs of Iraq, the Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington was unfurling its damning unanimous report about the incredibly incompetent intelligence that the Bush administration used to justify this awful war. The bipartisan committee, headed by Republican Senator Pat Roberts, declared that the key intelligence assessments trumpeted by President Bush as the main reasons for invading Iraq were unfounded. The colossal intelligence failures and the willful madness of the administration, which presented war as the first and only policy option, can leave you with the terrible feeling that you're standing at the graveside of common sense and reasonable behavior.

Renee Eckley got up at 5:30 a.m. and rode a bus from Lebanon County to Kutztown University. It was worth the effort, she said. "He was very presidential," said Eckley, of Robesonia. "He's our leader."

{"I am a registered Republican, and I will stay a registered Republican. But when my country, sometimes with my help, puts someone in office and they take our country in the wrong direction - never will consider saying, "I was wrong' - then it's time for my citizenship to come before my party affiliation and say we need to get rid of those people," said Marlow Cook of Sarasota, a former Republican senator from Kentucky. Cook is disgusted about Iraq and the ballooning federal deficit.}

Dale Magnuson, who served in the Navy during World War II, admired what he described as Bush's gutsy determination. "Bush does what he says he'll do," said Magnuson, wearing a Navy baseball hat. "He doesn't waffle."

Most current intelligence analysts agree with Secretary Ridge that Al Qaeda will try before long to strike the U.S. mainland once again. If that happens, I wonder if we'll finally get serious about the war we should be fighting against bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Maybe not. Based on the impenetrable logic of the president and his advisers, a new strike by Al Qaeda might lead us to start a war with, say, Iran, or Syria.

When Melissa Zech walked out of her house to post a sign welcoming President Bush to Kutztown, she was dismayed at the messages protesters had already put up near a soldiers memorial across Main Street 'Indict Bush.' 'Outsource Bush.' 'Kerry, take us out of the Bush Leagues.' "To say, 'Get rid of Bush' when he's coming to your hometown is obnoxious," said Zech, who teaches fifth grade in Reading. She went to talk to the protesters and told them their signs were disrespectful to the president. They said they had a permit and called Bush a liar. Zech returned to her house on Main Street and put up a sign that read, 'We Love Bush.'

{Even with drawling John Edwards as his running mate, few political strategists see John Kerry as having much chance of winning over people like Kevin Willis. He is a lifelong Republican, after all, and his home state of North Carolina hasn't backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1976. Neither has Willis, manager of a waterfront condo near Atlantic Beach where I spent a couple vacation days recently. Republicans, he always felt, were the party for business and middle class workers. This year, though, he will eagerly vote against Bush despite little enthusiasm for Kerry. "Our government is selling out the middle class. It's a disgrace," said Willis, whose import-export broker wife recently trained the Indian worker who replaced her and took her job overseas.}

Andrea Torcivia, 22, who made a sign saying "We Luvya Dubya," said the president was a role model for her generation. Her grandfather, a World War II veteran, had a deep sense of America. Her generation, Torcivia said, needed someone to look up to. "President Bush is a man who taught my generation what it means to be an American," said Torcivia, a recent Kutztown University graduate. "He understands the price of freedom, and now, watching him as a leader, I do, too."

Nearly 900 G.I.'s and more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians have already perished, and there is no end to the war in sight. The situation is both sorrowful and disorienting.

{It may well be a quirk. Perhaps the people I keep coming across in Florida and other states are political aberrations. That's what the polls consistently suggest: Republicans overwhelmingly support re-electing President Bush.}

Harry McGonigle was helping his friend Dianne Watt prepare for a "Motorcade Party" of coffee and doughnuts for a dozen friends who would come see the president's motorcade. Watt's Victorian home was decorated with numerous flags draped over front-yard vegetation and hanging from the house's walls. "For the president to come through a town like ours, it's a real special treat," said McGonigle, 55, as Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" played in Watt's living room. "I don't really think people in Kutztown really appreciate it."

Two blocks down the street, Ken and Jeanne Saul were setting out "Laura Bush" cookies for friends who soon started arriving dressed in red, white and blue. "We are just welcoming President Bush and making sure that people support his policy," said Ken Saul, 51. "What is especially important to us is his faith in God, his pro-life stance and tax cuts for the average person."

Under heavy security, arriving about 11:15 a.m. in a bus labeled "Bush-Cheney '04," the president was ushered into the hall through a side entrance. Inside, banners draped bleachers on both sides of the room. "Welcome President Bush" and "We [Heart] President Bush," they read. Many audience members brought their own signs, such as "Berks County citizens like President Bush" and "Stand for something." Others waved miniature flags and red posters imprinted "" that were distributed by campaign staff.

The presidential motorcade approached Keystone Hall at the northern end a football field away from the protesters. One of the few people who caught a glimpse of the president as the motorcade rushed up Main Street was Joanne Englehart, 46, who said Bush was in the second of two buses. "There's no doubt in my mind it was him," she said. "Big smile on his face."

Then why do I so regularly meet Republicans who enthusiastically voted for Bush in 2000 but now are either disenchanted or downright hostile?

Brenda Koehler waved a sign that read, "Bush: Liar, Torturer, War Criminal." "You don't often get a chance to express your dissent directly to the president," said Koehler, a student at Kutztown University. Koehler tried to get a ticket to Keystone Hall but said they went mainly to Republicans. Indeed, the party faithful from Berks, Schuylkill and Lebanon counties came by the busload sponsored by the county GOP committees.

{Willis has little trouble quickly selling $300,000 condo units to wealthy investors, but his rental income has dropped about 50 percent, because he says average-income families are hurting. "I haven't talked to one person - except the rich people - who wants to vote for Bush. A lot of people are not going to vote at all, and if the Democrats had a good candidate it would be a landslide," he said. "My father was a Democrat and used to say that when Republicans are in charge even the fishing is bad."}

{"You know what? The fishing around here has been terrible."}

Cindy O'Neill had a political gathering of a different kind in her front yard, next to Keystone Hall. Approached by the Sierra Club and Democracy in Action, O'Neill allowed protesters on her property. "I don't necessarily agree with everything they say," O'Neill said, "but it's important to have an opportunity to express your point of view."

In a scene reminiscent of the Vietnam War era, several hundred protesters, standing 20 feet away, banged drums, shouted anti-Bush slogans and taunted Bush supporters waiting in line for the rally. "How can you support a war profiteer?" shouted a man named Mark. "Die for Halliburton." Mark wouldn't give his last name because, he said, "John Ashcroft is out of control."

After Bush went into the hall, Jim Wright, one of the protesters, returned to his car and found it had a broken window. Glass littered the back seat, and various items inside were shuffled around. An officer told him the Secret Service broke into the vehicle because two metal military ammunition containers made it look suspicious. Bryan Ross, chief of the Berks County/Lehigh County Regional police, confirmed that the incident happened, apparently because the Secret Service found the vehicle suspicious. There were no further details.

Wright said he uses the containers to carry camping gear. "If the insurance company doesn't pay for it, I'm going to take them to court," said Wright, who has traveled to a dozen or so antiwar protests from Washington, D.C., to New York. "This isn't freedom."

Daniel Finsel, 21, of Lehighton spent three hours in the Kutztown lockup unjustly, he believes. He said he was arrested for disorderly conduct while carrying a sign reading "U.S. Aggression Breeds Terrorism" two minutes before Bush rode up Main Street. Finsel was given a citation and has to appear in court to pay a fine. "I think it was an atrocity," he said. "I was put in jail because of the way I feel, and I don't think that's right at all."

"They're idiots," declared Ryan Anthony, 12, in line with his parents from Reading. "They think they can change people's minds, even though they can't."

{Random conversations by no means prove a trend. I certainly talk to many Republicans passionate about Bush, and GOP activists report vast enthusiasm for the re-election effort. But the fact is I have quotes from people like Willis and Cook scattered throughout my notebooks, while I rarely, if ever, come across former Al Gore supporters now backing Bush.}

{In Florida, Republicans are predicting the biggest voter mobilization effort ever seen for Bush. Maybe. But measuring the intensity of partisan support can be tricky. Between anecdotes of disaffected Bush voters, dramatic voter registration gains Democrats have made over Republicans in recent months, and the sheer number of paid and volunteer workers working to mobilize anti-Bush voters, it looks clear that Republicans, at least in Florida, have a lot of work to do.}

{"It concerns me greatly and has for some time because of complacency," said April Schiff, a Republican political consultant in Tampa, who hears occasional GOP disaffection over the president's efforts in Iraq. "The problem with having a Republican incumbent is people getting very comfortable and begin thinking, "I don't really need to turn out.' The Democrats are motivated and on a mission to get rid of Bush."}

{Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Charles Whitehead of Panama City, who last year had nothing but glowing things to say about Bush, has sensed a big political shift in the Panhandle. "Nine months ago, if you were in any part of the Panhandle and you were not totally supportive of everything happening in Iraq, people - even close friends - looked at you like you were not patriotic," said Whitehead. "You do not get that now. People are now asking questions and openly debating why we've done what we've done. . . . If the election were held today, Bush would still win the Panhandle, no question about it. But not by 20 or 30 percent as he would have six months ago."}

{Bush allies might dismiss such assessments as bogus or driven by partisans. But when 10,000 people wait for hours to cheer Kerry and Edwards in St. Petersburg as they did last week, the folks working to re-elect Bush might to do well to pay attention and consider ramping it up a notch or two.}

A government with even a nodding acquaintance with competence and good sense would have launched an all-out war against Al Qaeda, not Iraq, in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. After all, it was Al Qaeda, not Iraq, that carried out the sneak attack on American soil that destroyed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon and killed 3,000 people. You might think that would have been enough to provoke an all-out response from the U.S. Instead we saved our best shot for the demented and already checkmated dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. I don't know what the administration was thinking when it invaded Iraq even as the direct threat from bin Laden and Al Qaeda continued to stare us in the face. That threat has only intensified. The war in Iraq consumed personnel and resources badly needed in the campaign against bin Laden and his allies. And it has fanned the hatred of the U.S. among Muslims around the world. Instead of destroying Al Qaeda, we have played right into its hands and contributed immeasurably to its support.

Bin Laden and Al Qaeda must have gotten a good laugh out of that. Now they're planning to come at us again. On Thursday, the same day Iraqi insurgents killed the five G.I.'s in Samarra, the Bush administration disclosed that bin Laden and his lieutenants, believed to be operating from hideouts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, were directing an effort by Al Qaeda to unleash an encore attack against the United States. If we know that bin Laden and his top leadership are somewhere along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and that they're plotting an attack against the United States, why are we not zeroing in on them with overwhelming force? Why is there not a sense of emergency in the land, with the entire country pulling together to stop another Sept. 11 from occurring? Why are we not more serious about this?

We've trained most of our guns on the wrong foe. The real enemy is sneaking up behind us. Again. The price to be paid for not recognizing this could be devastating.

Moore movie 'smashes UK record'

9/11 has broken UK records for a documentary, taking 1.3m over its opening weekend, its distributors have said. The film's success means it is likely to break the record for a documentary set recently by mountaineering film Touching the Void with 2.58m. It has already taken $80m (45m) in the US and Canada, becoming the first documentary to top the box office.

Maybe that recognition is starting to happen.

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pessimist :: 5:37 PM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!