Since his election in 1997, Tony Blair has based much of his appeal on claims of integrity and sincerity, coupled with promises to improve domestic services. Now two-thirds of the British public doesn't trust him, and he's compelled to show how well he's done on domestic issues apart from the attention he's given to foreign affairs. But in an America that is still reeling from the terrorist attack of 11 September, Bush's appeal has been based largely on his determination to fight back. Americans haven't cared very much about the details of Bush's strategy, as long as it's sufficiently bold. In fact, a large portion of the American public continues to believe that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the 9/11 attack. As long as the administration seems to be making 'progress' by tracking down or killing his key assistants, including his sons, and fighting the remnants of his forces, most Americans are satisfied.
The challenge facing those of us who see through the Bush League's charade is to wake up the rest of the country. We need to get the press to stop fawning and start asking the tough questions, and we need to pressure our legislators to demand accountability; but we also need to work on the public, starting with our friends. Mike Hudson of the Niagara Falls Reporter set a good example with his Open Letter To a Republican Friend:
Bill Clinton was no angel. But the visceral hatred you and others held for him resulted in a morbid national curiosity about whether Paula Jones could identify his member, whether the stains on Monica Lewinsky's dress were something other than the remains of a glazed doughnut and why the President of the United States would have to resort to such lowlife trash in the first place.
The Republican Congress forced the people of the United States to pony up $80 million to finance Ken Starr's six-year investigation into these and other allegedly important matters.
You're an honest man, Joe. What if Bill Clinton had been defeated by a majority of American voters in 1992 or 1996? What if he had won only due to the machinations of the Arkansas political machine? What if he had been the first president taking the White House since Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 to lose in the popular election? What if he was the first president in American history to have to redact something said in a State of the Union address?
And what if he then involved us in a war that cost the lives of hundreds of Americans, based on proven lies, misrepresentations and exaggerations about everything from a nuclear threat to biological and chemical weapons to ties with al-Qaeda?
What if he had long-standing business ties with the Saudis, who planned, financed and carried out the attacks against this country on Sept. 11, 2001?
Look in your heart, Joe. I think you know the answers to these questions.
One of the most important aspects of Hudson's letter is the way he closes it. "Looking forward to your return to the Falls," he says, "so we can argue this over a drink. That opportunity is one of the great things I hold dear about being an American."
We can't stoop to the level of the right-wing hatemongers and say that everyone who disagrees with us is a traitor. We must recognize in them, as they fail to recognize in us, patriotism and a desire to do what is best for America. The movers and shakers in the Bush administration may be cynical, manipulative, evil people...but that doesn't mean their followers are. A lot of good folks simply don't understand, or don't want to believe, the extent to which the Bush League has deceived and manipulated them. We have to approach them as friends, and present our argument as the patriotic message it is.
The ecology is terribly important. So is Medicare. So is education. So are Social Security and health care and all the other things the Bush League has set about destroying. But none of those is as important as restoring honesty, decency, and reason to American politics and respect for the Bill of Rights to American government. For the next 16 months, we must unite in one cause--exposing the hypocrisy of the criminals who have taken over Washington, and convincing our friends and neighbors that it matters. All the other goals put together don't matter as much as removing the Bush League from power.