Club Over Country

It has come to this: the leading Republican in the Senate tells the country it would have been better off electing a segregationist. We wouldn’t have had “all these problems” had we followed Mississippi’s example and voted for Strom Thurmond, the Dixiecrat nominee. No sooner had Lott opened his mouth than a curious little lag followed, while people checked pulses and polls, it being unclear to members of the little club that runs the country that anyone might actually have been bothered or offended. Then pure heck broke loose.

Conservatives swarmed to attack Lott for the remark, Democrats defended him. The leading Democrat in the Senate leapt to Lott’s defense before the Black Caucus even had a chance to respond.

Conservatives attacked Lott because they think he hurt the Republicans’ chance to attract Black voters. Did Democrats defend Senator Snopes because they no longer dare say anything that might conceivably alienate conservative voters?

Maybe that’s going too far. Maybe Daschle got behind Lott because it really is Club over country in the Senate, sort of like the Augusta National but with less golf.

White male after white male stepped forward to volunteer that Senator Snopes, a lifelong pal of the Conservative Citizen’s Council, formerly the White Citizen’s Council in less noble times, and a friend of Bob Jones University, had never to anyone’s knowledge said or done anything that anybody anywhere let alone themselves could have called racist, heaven forbid, perish the very thought.

Meanwhile, a federal district judge threw out a suit that would have compelled Vice President Cheney to reveal who was on his energy task force and whose clubby advice he followed.

With checks and balances like these, who needs elections, a president could be forgiven for thinking. The Fulminator-in-Chief, having replaced his economic team with people who can “communicate” the policy of loot and plunder better, was free to turn his thoughts serenely to the coming war with Iraq.

Bookstores were already full of volumes with goofy titles like “Bush at War,” in anticipation of the opening salvo, much like the Sunday papers that show up in drugstores on Saturday.

Bush at war will look a lot like Bush dealing with the environment in Texas, except that people will die faster. Let us cast a cold eye on the nature of war.

For some, war is hell. None of them are in the Club. For many of the people who bankrolled Bush, war will be hog heaven. They will get very very rich. For folks watching it on television, it will be whatever the “official spokespersons” say it is until polls show that people are growing annoyed by the constant interruption of their favorite programs. Then it will recede into the background and slide over toward the History channel to compete with footage of the Kennedys and Marilyn Monroe for occasional breaks in the “all Hitler all the time” schedule.

Before that happens, let me offer a definition.

War is corporate welfare distributed by other means.

Benefits for hundreds of thousands of the unemployed expire at Christmas time. Schools across the country are canceling spring sports and shortening the academic year. The states face a combined budget shortfall of some 68 billion dollars. Would you like some unfunded mandates with that mouthful of nettle soup?

Methadone clinics close, detox centers lose their funding, just in time to release untreated drug addicts into neighborhoods where gang violence is already running wild and the cops can’t do anything but write a ticket if they catch you in the act of stealing a car because the jails are already full.

But tax cuts for the richest of the rich keep right on rolling, and the handouts to big corporations with tight connections to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and company will grow exponentially with war on Iraq.

Current estimates range from $100 to 200 billion for an invasion of Iraq. This sum will be transferred from our bank accounts and 401(k)s and unemployment benefits into the coffers of Halliburton, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman etc. etc.

As if to underscore the clubbiness of it all, a military desperately short of Arabic speakers has expelled nine linguists, six of them trained in Arabic, for being “the wrong sort,” i.e., gay. Too bad the late General Vernon Walters, a superb linguist who served every president from Truman to Bush One, and who died at age 85, “having never married,” as the obituaries put it, is unavailable for comment.

DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He is a poet and piano-player for the Pacific Northwest’s hottest blues band, The Cannonballs.

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DAVID VEST writes the Rebel Angel column for CounterPunch. He and his band, The Willing Victims, have just released a scorching new CD, Serve Me Right to Shuffle. His essay on Tammy Wynette is featured in CounterPunch’s new collection on art, music and sex, Serpents in the Garden.