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News from Neptune

Can George Ever Really Be Elected President?

by C. G. ESTABROOK

So what did happen to Mad Doctor Dean and the Democrat joy-boys, Kerry and Edwards, in the wild Midwest? The media had anointed Dean, the rural governor from Wall Street, as the Democratic front-runner, but that’s not what the Iowa caucuses decided. Why not?

By the time Dean was delivering his "I have a scream" speech, a exit poll of caucus-goers had been compiled. It was conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International, a cooperative arrangement of the for-profit media — ABC News, CBS News, NBC News, CNN, Fox News and the AP. It showed that Democrats in Iowa didn’t disagree with Dean about Iraq — 75% of them opposed the Bush administration’s invasion of that country. But less than 15% said that the war was the most important issue. (And only 3% said that terrorism was the most important issue.) Far more of those who attended the caucuses said that the economy and health-care were their main concerns.

The situation in New Hampshire is much the same. A Los Angeles Times poll after the last debate before the primary there showed that although some (20%) saw the war as the most important issue, slightly more (22%) said the economy was, and many more (36%) chose health care.

These results (which they surely paid close attention to) can’t be encouraging to those who do George Bush’s thinking for him. If the voters vote in November on the basis of domestic policies — and can’t be scared with a Terrorists-gonna-get-ya-momma line, as they were from 9/11 through the 2002 elections — the Republicans are in trouble. (Compare ’92 and "It’s the economy, stupid.") I think that that accounts for the curiously defensive State of the Union speech — and for the fact that Bush rushed off to Ohio immediately afterward to "tout his job proposals," as the Wall Street Journal said. G. W. Bush is going to be the first president since Herbert Hoover to end his term with fewer jobs in the American economy than when he began; Ohio is one of the handful of states where the difference between Bush and Gore was less than 5% — and more Bush electoral votes came from that handful than Gore votes.

The Bush people are running scared, and that’s dangerous, because it turns their attention to what saved them during this presidential term — 9/11. They’re capable of the Mother of all October Surprises — bombing Iranian and/or North Korean reactors a la Osirik? invading Venezuela/Colombia/Bolivia in desperate defense against "terrorism in our own backyard"? There are various possibilities. Jane’s Intelligence Digest suggests that Rumsfeld is mulling attacks against targets in Somalia and Lebanon; Syria is high on the list of hate-objects for 2004, and our militarist client in the region, Israel, seems already to be implementing the plan.

It was said that the Reagan presidency proved (and Bush-2 confirmed) that in modern America, *anybody* can be president. We should keep that in mind when we say — as I think we probably should — that the mantra for this fall’s election is, "Anybody but Bush." The crimes and pretensions of this unelected regime of course have to be rejected. In a more just world, Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rice, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest would be occupying adjacent cells in the Hague, awaiting trial on the Nuremberg principles, under which the German leadership was condemned for launching aggressive war more than two generations ago.

But here below it was not far wrong of the Bush administration to say, in response to former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill’s confirmation that the attack on Iraq had been planned from the beginning of G. W. Bush’s presidency, that they were just continuing the policy of the Democrats. The Clinton administration had bombed Baghdad and — by means of the sanctions, which they conducted under UN cover — killed even more than the thousands of Iraqis who died in the invasion. Al Gore admitted, even while attacking Bush’s handling of the invasion, that "regime-change" had been the Clinton policy, and that he supported it.

The policies of a new Democratic administration — that of Kerry, Dean, or someone else — will still be policies of imperialism abroad and exploitation at home, policies designed to benefit that small minority of the American population that presently controls wealth and power in the country. We must assume that as president, the Democrat who emerges from the uninspiring pack seeking to replace Bush will commit crimes not different in kind but only in degree from those of the Bush administration. But that difference in degree we can hope will — however slightly — lessen the sum of human misery to which the Bushies have contributed so much.

C.G. Estabrook teaches at the University of Illinois and writes the weekly News from Neptune column. He can be reached at: galliher@alexia.lis.uiuc.edu