B After The Fact

Sunday, November 16, 2003

"The politicization of law enforcement in this administration is part of their larger agenda to roll back the changes in government policy brought about by the New Deal and the Progressive Movement. Toward that end they are cutting back on Civil Rights enforcement, Women's Rights, progressive taxation, the estate tax, access to the courts, Medicare, and much more. And they approach every issue as a partisan fight to the finish, even in areas of national security and terror" ....

"Yet that is exactly what the Bush Administration is attempting to do -- to use the war against terrorism for partisan advantage and to introduce far reaching controversial changes in social policy by a "side wind," in an effort to consolidate its political power"

Al Gore
November 9, 2003

Just when I think I'm completely paranoid, I get to read Al Gore's speech to the American Constitution Society, and I am made to feel like a cockeyed optomist. If you have free-floating thoughts about the way things are going, and you are looking for something coherent to tie them together, Gore's speech is a great place to start.

I have said continuously, and now as positions polarize, it is harder and harder for a Democratic lawyer to say it, that going in to clean out Sadman Insane was the right thing to do. However, there is no scenario, no constitution, no so-called free election, that will allow us to leave Iraq before election day next November, 2004 without ruinous results for any Iraqi who is not a member of the ruling sect. If the Bush plan was always to declare victory and go home before Election Day, then I was clearly amongst those duped.

Increasingly, it seems that not only, as Gore says, is the Bush administration attempting "to use the war against terrorism for partisan advantage and to introduce far reaching controversial changes in social policy by a "side wind," in an effort to consolidate its political power," but that the domestic agenda is the dog, and the war on terror was just a convenient device to implement it. Can you be so paranoid that you actually believe that all these crowing bantams at the Department of Defense were just front men in a scheme designed by the Delay/ Rove faction to consolidate power?

We will leave Iraq. There will be no "war on terror," except in name, but the civil liberties, the freedoms that Gore speaks of in his speech, will all be drastically curtailed.

Behind all of this, is an argument about how happy, joyous and free God intends us to be, and whether anyone is truly allowed to exercise freedom, and whether civil government has the right and obligation to enforce God's law. Although I have opinions on it, it is not an argument I feel equipped to argue on a theological basis.

When the Arab leader, from ________, addressed all those other leaders a few weeks ago and blamed the Jews for all the problems of the world, the excerpt that I was most struck by was the one where he said (I am not quoting) that if it were not for Jews and their crazy ideas, people would not know that they wanted to be free. The implication, I guess, is that people are better off not having that desire. Certainly rulers are not better off.

But if Americans really feel that they are too free, and they should be less free, then that is what will happen. Despite the rhetoric of anti-Semites, there are not enough Jews out there to impact a debate about the nature of freedom and tolerance in civil life as it impacts on Christianity. You can have a democracy without tolerating any minority rights. As deep thinkers like de Tocqueville and the writers on Saturday Night Live, keep pointing out, democracy can exist, and the people can vote against freedom.

In Bush's highly publicized foreign policy speech to the National Endowment of Democracy he made the point that "It should be clear to all that Islam --- the faith of one-fifth of humanity -- is consistent with democratic rule." Who would disagree? One of the New York Observer columnists made the point that in curtailing civil liberties, Bush is showing Middle Eastern dictatorships that it is not too hard to call yourself a democracy. I hope I do not need to be that cynical.

However, it is not enough to say that the United States is true to its revolution if it is more free than the fledgling democracies of the developing world. Our freedoms must evolve on their own terms.

Bush's speech, by the way, is as well-written and as profound as Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh think it is. How you reconcile a speech like that with our upcoming retreat from Iraq is something I will leave to Karl Rove to figure out. I guess Rove will rely on the fact that people seem to believe that if Bush says he has done something, or is in the process of doing something, he is actually doing it. Those of us waiting for the 20 billion dollars Bush promised New York after 9/11 are well familiar as to how that little bait-and-switch works.

No one but wonks read these speeches, and I wouldn't have bothered to read it either, except that (a) there has been a lot written about the speech, and (b) the speech was very short. However, I wonder how even pro-Bush historians are going to square these wonderful speeches coming out of the mouth of a person who has shown, not only no insight on these issues, but absolutely no command of English? It is not enough to admit that the speechwriter is paid to write these things. The speech, as great as it is, and as much as I agree with it, needs to have some relationship to the person saying the words. Otherwise, why not let James Brolin give the speech? He's a SAG actor. Or maybe, as we become less free, Bush will just be considered at the vanguard of leaders who come up with these extraordinary ideas out of the blue without bothering to prepare the citizens for what's coming.