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Showtime in Washington

Virtual Citizens; Virtual Government; Virtual Opposition

by DAVE LINDORFF


There was a remarkable article in the New York Times on June 27. It had a remarkable headline too: "Some in G.O.P. Call on Bush to Focus on Governing."

The piece went on to quote Republicans, both named (Newt Gingrich) and unnamed, as saying that the Bush administration has been in a "permanent campaign" mode, aimed at energizing right-wingers, instead of governing and trying to pass legislation-which of course requires working out compromises in Congress.

This is really quite an admission.

Isn’t "governing" what people elect a president to do?

After all, during the campaign, candidates spend most of their time telling voters how they would govern, and what they would do to run the country if elected. Bush certainly did that.

Now it turns out that even his own backers in Congress don’t think he has been doing much governing; that rather, he is just running a permanent campaign aimed at attacking critics and winning the hearts of his "base."

Of course we knew this. The war in Iraq is not governing; it has been a gigantic, unprecedentedly costly campaign stunt from the get go. The Social Security wrecking campaign is not governing; it’s a campaign theme. Ditto "No Child Left Behind," which has been all talk and rules, and no money or program.

What we have in the Bush White House is in fact virtual government-all image and showmanship, but no action.

That’s not to say nothing is going on. What Bush and his gang are doing is systematically bankrupting and looting the country and handing the ripped off proceeds to corporations and the wealth in a way David Stockman could only dream of.

Of course, the White House has been able to get away with this deadly charade in part thanks to the fact that the Democratic Party has been pretty much a virtual opposition. Its leading lights for the most part agree with much of the Republican agenda-free trade, endless war in Iraq, US imperial power in general, throwing money at the Pentagon, cutting taxes for corporations, etc., etc.

What it all boils down to, I guess, is that we are living in a virtual democracy. In the end, the blame has to lie with America’s virtual citizens, who are content to get their news and information from a virtual newsmedia, and who are happy-that minority who still bother to cast votes-to accept and act on the shallow and manipulative campaign tactics of the two major parties’ candidates.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com