Watershed moment? Or CYA?


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Yesterday, a handful of Pub lawmakers went up to the Residence to talk turkey with the Dubby — or so they say. The press is calling it a watershed moment — and comparing it to other moments in history when trusted advisers gave their leaders the bad news of harsh realities. I doubt it, myself — so does Doug Thompson, third article. Breaking Dub’s bubble will take more than 11 nervous Pubs. He’s determined he’ll be hated for the next 40 or so years, til “history proves him right,” and he’s already thrown his party under the bus of his delusions. No, I think this was just a moderate spit in the ocean, so they can cover their ass with their constituents. So lets just say, about this report, that George heard a bit of unwelcome truth from his people … and given the kid gloves with which he’s been handled in the last 7 years, that’s newsworthy by itself.

As well, it should be noted that Gates has already lowered the bar on reassessment — it’s not end of hostility we need to see “in September,” it’s some political movement; that’s a factor Dub has a bit of control over, at least at this point. Uncle Dick is over there now, kicking ass, laying down the law about what has to come next — he’s protecting the oil and smoothing the rumpled Saudi feathers — and making typically abusive statements. By the way, Wayne Madsen is reporting that the reason the DC Madam story has gone flat is because ABC and Disney discovered Dickie’s name on the phone list, years back when he was in the private sector. They’ve circled the wagons to make the whole thing “go away.”

In other stories, Tony the Poodle has finally announced he’ll go — and affirmed that he thought he was Right to go along with the war [woof, woof] so he will leave that judgment up to his people. They’ll likely respond more quickly than Bush’s historians will, although most have already said Bush wins the Booby Prize as worst prez, and doubt that there will ever be a big old statue of Dubby in Baghdad in remembrance of his “liberation.”

Alberto is talking to Congress again today, it should provide us some absurd sound bites — and Miss Goodling has been offered, and may take, immunity to testify. I wasn’t surprised to learn that it was she that draped the nekked statue for Ashcroft’s photo op … it was the “Pat Robertson thing to do.”

The first two bits are about the “tough talk,” with a video from Olbermann included, then Thompson’s take … and I threw in a short rant about Uncle Dick, just for [dead] ducks. After that, you’ll find some reads, I especially liked the last … there is a philosophical migration [in which few call themselves a Republican anymore, which is itself a watershed] — news on the actual migration, the [early] mass exodus of Dubby’s national security team, can be found here.

Of the day.

Jude

Breaking: Bush Gets ‘Blunt Talk’ from GOP House Delegation
Jon Ponder
May. 9, 2007, 6:55 pm

NBC News is reporting that a delegation of House members called on Pres. Bush yesterday in the private residence of the White House to inform him that he has lost all credibility on the war among their constituents. He was advised that he and his spokespersons should stop making claims about progress in Iraq altogether. One of the congressmen told him, “We need candor. We need honesty, Mr. President.”

“My district is prepared for defeat.”- GOP rep to Bush

Here’s a rough transcript of the NBC News report:

    TIM RUSSERT: All eyes on the Republican Party. How long will they support the president’s position on the Iraq war. Yesterday may have been the defining, pivotal moment. At 2:30 in the afternoon, in the private quarters of the White House, the Solarium Room, 11 Republican congressmen had a private meeting with the president, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the chief political advisor, Karl Rove, and White House Press Sec. Tony Snow and others.

    This delegation was headed by Mark Kirk of Illinois and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. It was, in the words of one of the participants, the most unvarnished conversation they’ve ever had with the president. Another member said he has met with three presidents and never been so candid. They told the president, and one said, quote, “My district is prepared for defeat. We need candor. We need honesty, Mr. President.”

    The president responded, “I don’t want to pass this off to another president. I don’t want to pass this off, particularly, to a Democratic president” – underscoring how serious the situation was.

    [The] Republican congressman went on to say the word about the war and its progress cannot come from the White House or even you, Mr. President. There’s no longer any credibility. It has to come from Gen. Petraeus.

    The meeting lasted an hour and fifteen minutes, and was, in the words of one, remarkable for the bluntness and no-holds-barred honesty in the message delivered by all these Republican congressmen.

Crooks & Liars has video of Keith Olbermann’s report on this story on Countdown.

G.O.P. Moderates Warn Bush Iraq Must Show Gains
CARL HULSE and JEFF ZELENY, NYT
May 10, 2007

WASHINGTON, May 9 – Moderate Republicans gave President Bush a blunt warning on his Iraq policy at a private White House meeting this week, telling the president that conditions needed to improve markedly by fall or more Republicans would desert him on the war.

The White House session demonstrated the grave unease many Republicans are feeling about the war, even as they continue to stand with the president against Democratic efforts to force a withdrawal of forces through a spending measure that has been a flash point for weeks.

Participants in the Tuesday meeting between Mr. Bush, senior administration officials and 11 members of a moderate bloc of House Republicans said the lawmakers were unusually candid with the president, telling him that public support for the war was crumbling in their swing districts.

One told Mr. Bush that voters back home favored a withdrawal even if it meant the war was judged a loss. Representative Tom Davis told Mr. Bush that the president’s approval rating was at 5 percent in one section of his northern Virginia district.

“It was a tough meeting in terms of people being as frank as they possibly could about their districts and their feelings about where the American people are on the war,” said Representative Ray LaHood of Illinois, who took part in the session, which lasted more than an hour in the residential section of the White House. “It was a no-holds-barred meeting.”

Several of the Republican moderates who visited the White House have already come under political attack at home for their support of Mr. Bush and survived serious Democratic challenges in November.

Representative Charles W. Dent of Pennsylvania, a co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, an alliance of about 30 moderate Republican lawmakers, helped arrange the meeting. He said lawmakers wanted to convey the frustration and impatience with the war they are hearing from voters. “We had a very frank conversation about the situation in Iraq,” he said. Even so, the Republicans who attended the White House session indicated that they would maintain solidarity with Mr. Bush for now by opposing the latest Democratic proposal for two-stage financing of war, which is scheduled for a vote on Thursday in the House.

Lawmakers said Mr. Bush made no commitments, but seemed grateful for their support and said a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq could cause the sort of chaos that occurred in Southeast Asia after Americans left Vietnam. The lawmakers said that Mr. Bush and others at the meeting – including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the political adviser Karl Rove and National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley – appeared to appreciate the political reality facing Republicans who will be on the ballot next year.

“It was very healthy,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, who attended but let the moderates do most of the talking.

“I walked away from it feeling I got a chance to make my points,” Mr. Davis said.

The delegation included Representatives Mark Kirk of Illinois, another leader of the moderate coalition; Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania; James T. Walsh of New York; and Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri. Mr. Kirk, Mr. Walsh and Ms. Emerson declined to discuss the meeting.

White House officials said Mr. Bush welcomed the observations of the lawmakers. “The president encouraged the members to give unvarnished opinions and views,” said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. She also noted a “persistent push” by the administration in recent days to put new pressure on the Iraqi government via a secure video conference by Mr. Bush with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the surprise visit to Iraq by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The White House on Wednesday promised a veto of the emerging House bill, which would essentially provide financing for combat operations through midsummer, but require the president to provide a series of reports on the state of the Iraqi military and the progress of the government in achieving political unity. Congress would then vote a second time in late July on releasing the rest of the money sought by the administration, or restricting its use to redeployment and more limited operations in Iraq.

Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said White House officials, led by Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten, would try to reach a compromise with Congress. Mr. Bolten met Wednesday with Senate leaders.

While the Pentagon awaits the money, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a Senate committee on Wednesday that the military continued to shift funds, terminate contracts and slow spending so troops in Iraq and Afghanistan did not run out of money. The cost-cutting measures could sustain the troops until July, he said, “if we pulled out all the stops.”

Mr. Gates, who also attended the White House meeting on Tuesday, told lawmakers that the Pentagon would evaluate the violence in Iraq and the progress of the administration’s troop buildup plan by early September to determine the next phase of the military strategy.

“I think if we see some very positive progress and it looks like things are headed in the right direction,” Mr. Gates said, “then that’s the point at which I think we can begin to consider reducing some of these forces.”

Senators vigorously questioned Mr. Gates and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the Pentagon’s announcement on Tuesday of potentially mobilizing 35,000 more troops by December. Mr. Gates said the decision to send those forces to Iraq was not “foreordained,” adding that a decision would be made after the September review.

“There’s a sense here certainly by the Democrats and growing among Republicans that there has to be some progress, significant progress to sustain it beyond September,” said Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican. Lawmakers said there was strong emphasis that they would be formulating their future position on the war on the basis of what Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, says in a report this summer.

“I think people want to hear what the general says,” said Representative Gerlach, of Pennsylvania. “We will all go from there.” ++

A fake ‘come to Jesus’ meeting with Bush
The meeting was just a staged ‘cover their ass’ event
DOUG THOMPSON, Capital Hll Blue
May 10, 2007

According to a carefully-orchestrated campaign of planted news leaks by the Representatives who attended the meeting, a group of 11 “moderate” Republicans confronted President George W. Bush in a “come to Jesus” meeting Tuesday over his failed Iraq war.

They claim they told the President his credibility with the American people is “gone” when it comes to the Iraq war and that Republicans will bail on him if the war does not show “significant progress” by September 1.

Yeah, right.

While I believe a growing number of Republicans privately express their disgust with the scandal-scarred and ethically-challenged President, I don’t for a second believe the 11 who visited the President Tuesday came anywhere close to telling him the truth about what a monumental failure he is for their party and the country.

“It was a tough meeting in terms of people being as frank as they possibly could about their districts and their feelings about where the American people are on the war,” said Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois. “It was a no-holds-barred meeting.”

I know Ray LaHood. He once worked for Illinois Republican Rep. Paul Findley, my first boss in Washington when I took a sabbatical from journalism to work inside the political system. If he told me to look for sunrises in the East I’d confirm it with a second source.

Others who know what really happened in the meeting with Bush say the Congresspeople couched their criticism with so many caveats that the gathering turned into little more than an exchange of pleasantries.

As reported in today’s Washington Post:

    Davis stressed that Republicans will remain united against the Democratic bill in the House today. But the search for an exit is almost inevitable. “The key for everybody is to try to find a way to declare victory and get out of there,” he said.

Declare victory? What alternate universe claims these clueless pretenders to reality? Victory is an illusion. The United States cannot, and will not, win this war and any attempt to claim victory will make this country even more of a laughingstock on the world stage.
Tuesday’s meeting was a “cover my ass with voters” meeting for the 11 members of Congresss. All face tough re-election campaigns next year because they have voted too many times to support Bush’s war and his other causes. Rep. Tom Davis says Bush’s job approval rating in some parts of his Northern Virginia district is only five percent. I’m surprised it’s that high.

If these 11 political hypocrites really wanted to force the President’s hand, they would have voted to support the House plan to set a firm timetable for withdrawal. They’d vote to override Bush’s veto of the earlier bill.

But they didn’t and they said after Tuesday’s meeting that they will vote against the new House bill that puts time limits on funding and benchmarks on real progress in the war before additional funding will be approved.

“Come to Jesus” meeting my ass. Like the President they so blindly support, these so-called “moderates” helped crucify this country a long time ago. ++

“It’s game time.” – Big Time Cheney
Jurrasicpork, Welcome to Pottersville
5/9/07

In Cheney’s unannounced visit to Iraq, which recalled the surprise visit Bush made there last year in which Nouri al-Maliki had exactly five minutes to prepare for the boss’s visit, Dick Cheney announced that “It’s game time.”

So what the fuck have the last four years been, stretching exercises? Calisthenics?

Iraq is just the first leg of an unpublicized Middle East tour that also includes Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Maybe he’s checking on those new gushers and scouting out a location within the UAE for Halliburton’s new headquarters.

In other news, a suicide truck bomber killed at least 14 people just as Cheney was arriving. I know his visit was unannounced but why is it when Cheney goes to the Middle East, explosions and flying body parts seem to follow him like an aging action hero?

Of course, this latest mass murder in Iraq is just one of those “challenges” of which Cheney magnanimously made mention, so it’s not as if he’s completely delusional, right?

Yeah, dream on. Among Cheney’s agenda items: Requesting that the Iraqi parliament not take a two month vacation from the constant bloodshed and bombings within the Green Zone. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll look real good coming from an administration that takes more vacation time than Johnny Carson. ++

Republican Death Trap: Bush Wants Iraq Escalation Well into 2008
Brent Budowsky
May 10 2007

Today’s Washington Post makes it clear that Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.) and Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) are either leading Republicans and our troops into an Iraq death trap deliberately, or are again being misled by President Bush, who has zero intention of any evaluation of Iraq policy this fall, or even this year, as they suggest.

Let’s quote General Odierno verbatim from the Post today. “What I am trying to do is get until April so we can decide whether to keep it going or not,” he said.

Let’s be crystal clear. This should no longer be called a surge, which is not a description, but a deception, about what is truly going on.

This is a long-term military escalation that will not be reevaluated in September, as Republican leaders claim. It will not be reevaluated in December. It will not be reevaluated until April of 2008, at which point Bush may well want to continue the escalation far beyond April 2008.

Every Republican in Congress should put General Odierno’s exact words at the top of his or her desk and read them every day. If they support the pending Lott-Boehner position, they are voting to continue the escalation of the war well into 2008.

This is a death trap for the Republican Party at both the congressional and presidential campaign level. To Republicans: You have aggressively supported this failed policy in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

At every stage, you’ve touted the hot new commander who would be a savior. For the last five years, you’ve touted the next six months.

Every year you’ve applauded alleged progress, progress that turned out to be fantasy and fiction. You’ve supported policies that led troops to preventable casualties, policies that forced upon wounded troops indignities and scandal. Throughout 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 almost all of you voted for all of this, every time, on every vote, every year, year after year.

Even when the Joint Chiefs, Iraq commanders and every Republican on the Baker-Hamilton group opposed this long-term escalation last year, you’ve supported that, too, with your deeds, whatever your words.

Senator Lott, Minority Leader Boehner, you are honorable men who have been tragically and catastrophically wrong. Now, on the front page of the Washington Post, your words and claims are being mocked and disrespected with a policy whose purpose is to escalate this war until April 2008 and probably beyond, whatever you claim.

Senator Warner, you are the one person in Washington who can put a brake on this madness. You are a war hero of the first order and a statesman of the first magnitude.

You are a good and honorable leader who deserves better than a legacy of being the Great Enabler of policies you know have been disastrous and wrong. Please, sir, please, take a stand.

What follows below is a bipartisan proposal that, in some form, is the only alternative to a tragic and catastrophic escalation well into 2008 that Republicans are being asked to support, yet again.

Before reading this proposal, I pray every member of the House and Senate will keep two things in mind.

First, George Washington would indeed be outraged and sickened at what has been done to our troops throughout this war. The plan below is the true pro-troop, pro-military and pro-military family proposal in a city that has given new meaning to the term dereliction of duty in the damage that been done to our troops and vets that is escalating even today.

Second, think about former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who resigned in protest against disastrous policies that he tried to prevent, by putting his principles ahead of his power.

Had the American government had wise and courageous leaders like Robin Cook, which sadly and tragically we did not, there might be 3,000 fewer Gold Star Mothers today.

The past is past, but need not be prologue.

If you want to repeat the mistakes of 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 you can vote for the escalation through 2008 that is described in the Washington Post today.

If you want a better way, the proposal below appears in The Hill newspaper this morning and offers a way to win the war against al Qaeda, without continuing the deadly morass that escalates every hour, in Iraq.

The alternative to continued disaster begins with this:

George Washington must be banging his fist in heaven at the damage inflicted from home on American troops in Iraq.

Enough. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can change American history by standing hard for a 60-90 funding for the war, requiring a new vote by August and leading a landmark new policy supporting troops and vets.

Let me assert categorically that if allowed to testify truthfully, Secretary Gates, Gen. Pace and Gen. Petraeus would view this policy shift as an outstanding opening for the first genuine bipartisan policy in the history of this war.

Forcing a new vote creates hard pressure on an Iraqi government that every commander believes is disastrously uncommitted to political solutions.

Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to change the calculus of national security politics for a generation by making a historic stand that ties any continued Iraq funding to historic new support for troops, and honorable outreach for genuine bipartisanship for the broader policy.

This proposal can win. The president gets funding for months while congressional leaders champion historic support for troops and vets.

The current escalation inherently requires abusive practices of extended tours of duty, deployment extremes and deadly equipment shortages that destroy the lives, safety and mental health of our troops.

A major new Pentagon study makes exactly this point, but was shamefully withheld from November until May. The Joint Chiefs and Iraq commanders knew this when they opposed the surge last year, because they understood it would require extreme and deadly abuses of deployment practices.

Scandals about treatment of wounded troops and grossly shortchanged veterans’ programs continue unabated.

The long-term needs for veterans and troops that are unmet, unplanned and unbudgeted could be $700 billion.

This is a moral, military and patriotic dereliction unprecedented in American history.

Incredibly, troops still suffer preventable deaths because inadequately made Humvee doors lock them in death traps.

Every hour, the destruction of the mental health of our troops increases. Vet centers fall further behind. Treatment for post-traumatic stress and brain injury fall far short.

Long-term costs for veterans’ health skyrocket to stratospheric heights.

If Reid and Pelosi demonstrate the courage to fight for time-limited funding, and use the time to mobilize landmark initiatives for troops and vets, Democrats gain the high ground, apply maximum pressure on Republicans, and open the door to genuine bipartisanship.

The war now escalates ad nauseum for the political convenience of Republicans in Congress who privately do not believe in the policy but vote for it, every time. They desperately want to give the appearance of change while giving the president the power to continue the disaster.

If the movement among some congressional Democrats succeeds for another vote by August, Iraqis would understand: Time is short, enforcement is real. No longer can Iraqi leaders use American lives to prolong sectarian wars and Iranian agendas.

Democrats should initiate historic hearings and bring in military leaders, advocates for veterans, the Joint Chiefs and Iraq commanders and prepare a plan for troops and vets that is courageous and comprehensive.

Congressional Democrats should hold town meetings including leaders such as Gen. Clark, Bob Kerrey, John Glenn and Sam Nunn. Democrats should have the courage to ask the American people to support a Soldier’s Bond, a voluntary patriot surtax, or whatever it takes. Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid can change America by showing that we need not be trapped in endless war, without rational end.

Remember: When the Speaker made a bold move to Syria she was decried by a president who said he would never do this, and then sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to meet with Syrians. The Speaker was right, the policy changed, and it can happen again.

Democrats can become the party of highest support for troops and military families and lift the spirit of Americans with the first rays of hope and optimism. We can offer the beginning of the end of what historians will condemn as dark days of partisan bitterness and disastrous policy.

If Democrats lead, the public will applaud us, and many Republicans will ultimately join us. ++

Libertarian My Ass: By Any Other Name It Is Called Hypocrisy
Alan Bisbort
May 10 2007

Lately, I’ve heard more people (men, mostly) proclaim themselves “libertarian.” My gut feeling tells me that most of these new “converts” aren’t really libertarian, or that they don’t understand what libertarianism is and that they are really just angry at how far off the rails the Republican Party — their natural habitat — has drifted under the Moron in Chief. They are doing this to psychologically remove themselves from the mess they created by voting for Bush and for, until a year or so ago, blindly voting a straight GOP Party ticket for as far back as they can remember. These “libertarians” are Republicans without the guilt by association or, rather, without the remorse.

By comparison to the utter ineptitude and willful stupidity of the Bush Regime, “libertarianism” sounds smart and sexy, ruggedly individualistic and hardboiled. Famous libertarians include such hardboiled legumes as Ayn Rand, Grover Norquist and Pat Buchanan. “Famous” and “libertarian” don’t live in the same sentence for good reasons. It is a philosophy meant for a fantasy world, a world with, say, 300,000 people in it, tops. At the moment, the U.S. is home to 300 million people, and the planet is teetering under the weight and environmental demands of 7 billion people and both totals are rising daily as the ice caps melt away available land. Libertarianism is an intellectual luxury that a lot of angry Republicans are affording themselves.

What exactly is it about libertarianism that lapsed Republicans find so appealing? After all, libertarianism at its purest is a fairly radical philosophy. Among the beliefs, straight from their official documents: “People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others.” “Repeal all laws that presume government knows better than the individual how to run that person’s life.” “Encourage private sector dissemination of information to help consumers make informed decisions on products and services.” “We oppose all taxation.” “An armed citizenry is essential to a free society.” And so on.

I’m always being told that libertarians have a lot of “common ground” with “liberals.” And this may be true, on paper. They are against coerced military service, government spying on citizens, discrimination against gays, and they are for reproductive rights, the inviolable right to free speech and dissent, strict separation of church and state. These are good things, to be sure.

And yet, to libertarians “common ground” is a foreign concept. They don’t think any thing should be “commonly” owned, the “common good” is not worth preserving. To libertarians, government is evil. It should not regulate anything: drugs, food, pollution, guns, drugs. Conversely, everything should be privatized and deregulated. And, while few libertarian candidates are ever elected to office, their ideas have infiltrated government policy, during the Reagan years, which turned out disastrously.

To a libertarian, a person is his own free agent. If they were allowed to live by their credo they would have to agree that any person, including their neighbor, can have as many guns and weapons systems as they want and they can shoot them off when they like, as long as they don’t kill your pet dog or children. Libertarians are opposed to all zoning laws. A libertarian believes that if he bought the lot next to your house, he could erect a convenience store, skyscraper, munitions plant or gas station there.

One thing I’ve noticed about these faux libertarians: I’ve yet to meet one who’d turn down an unemployment check or a Social Security payment. I’ve yet to see a libertarian pick up his own trash, repave the potholes on his street, reject FEMA funds when his beach home is washed out to sea, etc. It’s amazing how quickly the libertarian strain disappears when those professing it lose their jobs or get sick without insurance. ++

Rising Above Politics: Can we quit talking and start walking?
Joe Bageant
May 10 2007

Well, lo and beshit! I never thought I’d ever see the day. But even in my hardcore Republican run hometown, many conservatives are quietly sneaking away from the sing-along around the campfire of George Bush’s war-crazed hootenanny. Most of them are ordinary bona fide conservatives. But others slipping off under cover of darkness are among our richest Republicans who profiteered mightily in the security, construction and service businesses that sprouted like mushrooms from every aspect of the Iraq War. Either they have suddenly developed a steak of conscience, or they simply don’t want to be associated with the trail of crime, blood and feces Bush and his cronies have obviously tracked across the carpet of American history. My bet is on the latter.

But even the little fish who voted for Bush are starting to squirm. My neighbor, Big Larry, who is usually ecstatic here at the beginning of baseball season, and never gives politics the slightest thought except on Election Day, is rather glum now and starting to grumble about the state of the republic. This time last year he was pulling down good dough “driving truck” for Toll Brothers, complaining about his ‘roids a bit, but was otherwise the same sort of more or less unquestioning and nonpolitical working guy one finds just about anywhere in America. Now his driving hours are half of what he was getting last year and look to get slimmer yet, even as unemployed carpenters and electricians, casualties of the collapsing housing construction bubble, come knocking at our doors looking for handyman work. How can it be that the newspapers say the economy is booming?

And so now, after the deepest sort of political meditation, Larry has concluded that “This Iraq War thing just might spell trouble for us in the long run.” Not, mind you, because of the war’s sheer bloody folly, but because “It has run up the price of concrete and plywood so much that people can’t afford to build houses anymore.” Some people will add two plus two and get five every time. So when it comes to Larry, it’s pretty easy to resist a discussion of the subprime mortgage rate implosion.

And it’s not only Big Larry, who actually made some good bucks these last few years, but a lot of working class grunts who never made any dough and never complain much at all—certainly not of the kind who are complaining about paying off their college loans (which is admittedly a banking racket) or about who got the nicest parking spot at their office campus complex. They do not complain about their troubles and risks in life, such things as getting a hand cut off in a bark chipping machine, or not having health care, or soul grinding shift work year after year with little opportunity to ever be promoted, much less become management.
Not that promotion and advancement doesn’t happen for working puds. The manager at one of our fast food franchise joints is nineteen years old, owns a sports car and feels pretty successful. The owner is a millionaire small businessman with a little political influence who issues his employees only one shirt per year. I know for a fact that he grew up taking stale cornbread and cold pinto beans to school in a molasses can lunch box. And wore his daddy’s shoes to school when his pop was sleeping off his nightly drunk. So I don’t fault they guy for having a tough view of the world.

On the other hand, sixty-six year-old Thelma has worked there three years and works solely to pay for her diabetic, COPD husband’s health care. She’d had three fifteen cent per hour raises in those three years, last time I talked to her. The kid, the owner and Thelma have remained hard right-wingers, though for different reasons, all of them having to do with American toughness.

In any case, they are doing their part for god and a free market economy, as are their relatives in the area’s 3 116th National Guard unit preparing for its third deployment in Iraq to defend our right to gobble Big Macs from the safety of our usury financed Ford Super Duty trucks to the accompaniment of quadraphonic pop country music.

But now even they are starting to edge around the topic saying things such as, “Well, I know we cain’t cut and run, but I dunno about this Iraq war thing. There’s lots of stuff right here in this country we could’ve used the money to fix.” And by that they mean paving more of the county connector roads so they could get to work faster—which is leads to more development out their way, higher taxes and even slower traffic, but they cannot make the connection. Thanks to the housing and unacknowledged economic bust, they’ll never get their wish. The rest of us liberals may be suffering from rage fatigue, but this is about as close as my people get to political dissent. Mumbling, and then backing off.

But they do know there are two political parties in America and tend to put all the blame for anything that goes wrong in a big way on one party. I’m pretty sure that attitudes extend into the voting booth. Here in Virginia there is evidence that a populist can reach them if he can get their attention. Jim Webb did it. He may be a little patriotic for most Yankee liberals, but at least a thin margin of folks down here because, even though he might be a military brat (and we’ve seen plenty of’em being this close to the Pentagon), he at least went to Nam and knows how to sound like he’s caught a few catfish, even if he never held a pole or cut bait in his life. And wearing his son’s Iraq War army boots in a meeting with the president went a long way, believe me. It’s that Scots Irish warrior spirit thing. We don’t mourn our own killed in battle nearly so much as Yankees think and out own press describes—we’ve been in every war the republic ever fought and know that somebody you know is gonna die. But we do pay great homage to the symbols of the warrior spirit, be it a 300 year old Scottish dirk or a pair of desert combat boots worn by one of our own in the latest slaughter the royalty has managed instigate. “Bring’em on.” And we mean it.

We mean it berceuse we know life is struggle and that “Bring’em on” is the cry and attitude of a true survivor. The rest is just politics and rich people. Now lordee knows I’m no political strategist. But I’ve been all over heartland America and I know that Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota and Ohio, Michigan and Minnesota ain’t all that different than Virginia when it comes to working people’s sentiments.

If the Westchester Country Club posing as the Democratic Party would get it into their heads that they could elect a smart man or woman who has actually changed a tire or gotten behind in a house payment, instead if the mocha rich boy or the woman who wants to prove she has more balls than any man, they could bring home a populist vote they don’t even know exists. But then, from the third hole at the Westchester Biltmore Country Club, you cannot see Thelma when she goes home and night and soaks her feet in hot Epson salts water. And you cannot see into the warrior hearts of a people ever kept blind by a hopeless class system, but would understand true populism if they were shown it just once in their lives.

Meanwhile, Hillary and Obama, Biden and McCain all shake the hands of pharmaceutical, Citibank, and energy lobbyists, totally unaware that Big Larry, who simply trusted that the government was being ran by better men than he, had his house go into foreclosure last week. The announcement was among an ever increasing number of others in big outlined boxes on the back page of the local paper.

No matter what liberals may think, it’s no crime to be dumb and unaware in this world. Otherwise most of this country would be in prison. So when I saw Big Larry mowing his lawn yesterday, probably for the last time, I just waved and pretended that everything was hunky dory. Both of us knew everybody in town saw that foreclosure bock ad on the back of the paper. We have come to watch for them of late, like the obits, to see if anyone we know has been axed by fate. But sometimes you show a working man respect by giving the A-OK sign—a sign that, bad as it may be now my brother, you’ll be back to fight again for the feudalistic delusions and promises America has ever offered to working class suckers like us, because there has never been any other choice. There have just been the good times and the bad times allowed us, according to the American financial syndicate’s needs at the time.

Sure, they may kick a lot of Republicans asses out of office next election. Big friggin deal! For my people, the same feudalist deal is on the table as ever: work hard, kill when you are told to, trust your betters, and everything will be all right. Plenty of highly politicized leftists and their meeker kin, the last hopeful Democrats, came up as hard as anyone I’ve described here. The Democratic Party definitely doesn’t want them showing up like bikers at a cocktail party and talking real populism. Because there ain’t no big money campaign contributions behind populism.

Look at it this way: Black America suffered lynchings, police dogs and fire bombings just to shit on the same toilet seats as white Americans like you and me, and ultimately waste their lives in front of computer monitors next to us on the same electronic plantation of the gulag global economy swallowing America and the rest of the world.

And so, still I ask (and who am I to ask anything?): Are there any progressives or leftists willing to come out here into the hinterlands and offer the first step. True populist hope? Spell it out in “see-spot-run” language? Talk about our bad teeth and why our elderly parents are rotting in pisshole nursing homes owned by ex-car dealers and attended by imported Asian physicians who barely speak English? Or the dynamics of hopelessness that drive the meth epidemic out here?

It will take an entire lifetime of commitment amid a crumbling world. And it will continue to crumble around us even as we work. There will be not one ounce of glory or acknowledgement or public reward. But it lies there before us, the first fearful and questioning stone on the pathway to the liberation of mankind.

True populist politics could give us a quarter turn in the right direction. Genuine socialism could put us on the approximate path to justice. Eco-politics cannot save us from the inevitable, but at lest it can teach us to deal with our limitations as a species upon this earth. But one begins the journey at the start if the path, not the promised land at its end.

Can we quit talking and start walking now? ++

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
~ Molly Ivins, 1944 – 2007

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