Photo of The Decider, from Earth Open Network
I'm feeling a little bummed this morning. Last night I watched HBO's superb Recount, a dramatic re-telling of the Bush vs. Gore 2000 election and its aftermath. Then, this morning, I finally got around to finishing PBS's Frontline: Bush's War, a documentary outlining the timeline of the Iraq War through January 2008.
The cumulative effect of revisiting this history was to give me an overview of the Bush Administration from start to finish (fortunately not covering 9/11 or Katrina--which would have been way too much to revisit in under 24 hours). Doing so dredged up all of the feelings I've felt over the last 8 years: denial, anger, bargaining, and depression--four of the five "stages of grief." The one I'm having problems with is acceptance, and here's why.
I think if you boil down the problems I have with the Bush Administration, what rises to the top (outside of their lawlessness, which I've covered in many other rants) is the fundamental lack of respect they have for the American people, even their own "base." There has been a constant effort, from the 2000 election debacle right through to Dana Perino's most recent press conferences, to mislead us all. Using the tactics of key GOP figures like Frank Luntz and Karl Rove, they twist and mold facts and events to fit their narrative. And they are staggeringly effective at it, much of the time.
During the last eight years, words like freedom, patriotism, democracy, liberty, and victory have been turned from words into slogans. Phrases are constructed, and repeated ad nauseum, until they become part of the language of public discourse: We're fighting them over there, so we don't have to fight them over here. Shock and awe. Liberal media. Clear, hold, build. Weapons of mass destruction. The surge is working. Half the nation becomes a flock of parrots, the other half tears their hair out trying to combat "conventional wisdom."
Surely, this group of Republicans are not the first politicians to use spin and deliberate obfuscation to manage their message. But they have perfected it, and have relied on it to the point that I'm not sure some of them can do their daily jobs without it. Like pathological liars (very much, indistinguishable in fact), they come out of the gate spinning and dodging when just telling the truth would probably be easier. I wonder if it has been so "par for the course" that it will become precedent setting. Can even an "agent of change" like Barack Obama avoid the temptation to activate a network of permanent spin-meisters, talking only in New speak?
There is one thing I'm sure of. If John McCain gets elected this November, he will have access to the same machine that has been in place over the last 8 years. And if Hillary Clinton gets elected, she'll have the old rusted remnants of the machine that preceded this one (and likely be able to meld the two machines together). At least Barack Obama holds out the promise to be a different sort of politician. Just looking at the three campaigns, and seeing how differently they operate shows me that.
I'm still not ready for acceptance. I've got to believe that the American people--those paying attention at least--are growing weary of having the wool pulled over their eyes. There are times when a President must be secretive, but I am sick to death of everything being lied about. I think the success of the blogosphere shows that people are taking a more active role in politics. And I'll do my level best to continue exposing New speak wherever I find it--even if it is in my tiny little corner of the blogosphere.