Released at last from the starting gate, George W. Bush has tipped his campaigning hand. The approach, initially at least, will be to mock John F. Kerry as a flip-flopping lightweight from Massachusetts. In this high-stakes political poker game, Kerry is cast as the down-on-his-luck loser who doesn’t know when to fold ’em. Across the table sits George W. Bush, the foreign-policy master who may or may not have his best plays tucked up his presidential sleeve. Kerry is a sucker who lacks the substance of George W., and everybody gathered around the table (wink wink) knows it.
As the game’s commander-in-chief, George W. Bush not only has been tested, experienced under fire as The War President; he also has a nearly-unlimited bankroll to tide him over in the unlikely event the shuffle leaves him with a bad hand or two. George W. Bush will humor Kerry, whose money will dwindle until George W. Bush finally decides to end the game and take the final pot for all the chips in the casino.
Although many of the Bush Squad will needle Kerry as that most pathetic of creatures, the “Massachusetts Liberal,” word from New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller is that George W. Bush prefers to call Kerry “the senator from Massachusetts who has a record of weakening national defense and raising taxes.” Either way, the tipoff word is “Massachusetts.”
A major wing of the Bush Squad is comprised of radio and television politics talkers: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Reagan and the many other conservative-slanted entertainers with a pro-Bush political agenda. The Kerry-as-joke theme has already been grabbed up by Limbaugh, whose recent references to Kerry have been interspersed with artificial chortling and other gigglings into the microphone. Limbaugh is so amused by Kerry’s flip-flopping ineptitude he can’t contain himself. Kerry breaks him up. Seriously folks, you just can’t take John Kerry seriously.
One wonders why these talk-show hosts who spend most of their time cheering for a single political party aren’t classified as Political Action Committees-of-One? The on-air hours they spend pimping for their candidate of choice is blatant “advocacy.” Corporate sponsors pay for these foaming mouthpieces whose major (if not sole) purpose is to mock, debase and destroy the other side while promoting their man as a knight in shining armor. Millions of potential voters listen to and are influenced by the exaggerated arguments and hype dispensed day and night from this legion of hot-air jockeys. It wouldn’t dampen their First Amendment rights if they were officially recognized for what they are: political hacks in service of the party.
To this writer’s knowledge, George W. Bush has not objected to near-24/7 free publicity: hours of advocacy amounting to coronation. Many talk-show hosts were recently invited to the White House lawn for interviews with top members of the Bush Administration. Most, if not all, returned to their stations, there to extoll George W. Bush and his crew. As this article is being written, Sean Hannity is broadcasting ominous threats to excoriate Teresa Heinz because if she speaks on her husband’s behalf she becomes “fair game” for political attack. Any nation able to survive the months of rancorous political “debate” such as will explode between now and November can surely weather attacks from unknown “terrorists.”
As noted, the prime maneuver will be to brand Kerry with the Flip-Flop Factor, an effort that is especially amusing because George W. Bush would never say something and then do the opposite, nor would George W. Bush make a donkey of himself by denying statements he’d made in the past: would he? Of course he would. He has. Political hypocrisy has become as thick as yesterday’s cooked oatmeal, not just for Republicans, but among the Democrats, too. As we struggle to not leave them behind, we teach our children that language should mean what it says. And then we let them watch as politicians and their advocates wrestle meaning to the mat.
For example, an e-mail unveiling the Bush campaign’s Charmin-soft commercials states, “Unlike the Kerry campaign’s first ads last September, which included an attack on the President, our first ads are all positive, focusing on President Bush’s steady leadership in times of change.” (Note the contrast between “steady leadership” portrayed in the commercials and the flip-flopping lack of leadership attributed to Kerry in recent Bush speeches.) The Bush camp claims the “first ads are all positive.” Yet when one clicks on the Bush-Cheney website, the earliest ad listed is an explicit attack piece smearing Kerry as “Unprincipled.” (The ad’s official title is “Unprincipled 1,” suggesting there’s more attack where that one came from.)
Until his back is to the wall, George W. Bush will float lightly above vitriolic argument, as the steadiest of leaders should. The volleys to blast Kerry’s boat from the water will come from campaign hatchet-wielders and right-wing talk-show purveyors of anger, hate, innuendo and misinformation. George W. Bush was chosen to save a nation where everything changed after 9/11. A man of principle and substance, he will not waste energy on pettiness. That’s a job for somebody else.
For his part, Kerry the Bumbler would do well to remember what happened when others misunderestimated George W. Bush. Kerry, whose years in the Senate have made his speaking-style “senatized,” should return to the man who, in 1971, addressed a Senate committee about the Vietnam War with sincerity and honest eloquence. Memo to Kerry: Stop droning and shouting. Begin conversing. Let the right-wing screamers pound their tables and podia. Speak to us, John, from the heart. That’s what George W. Bush will do.
As noted, much will be made of Kerry as a liberal Son of Massachusetts, always good for a smile and a smirk. With only eight months before the November election date, George W. Bush won’t take time to discuss the state’s pitiful accomplishments. Why dwell on historic Massachusetts figures such as Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, John Hancock, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Barbara Walters, Mike Wallace, Norman Rockwell, Paul Revere, Arthur Fiedler, Leonard Bernstein, Robert Kennedy, or those World War Two heroes John F. Kennedy and George Herbert Walker Bush (b. Milton, Mass. 1924)? “History,” somebody said, “is bunk.”
Speaking of Massachusetts history, the official presidential website states, “President Bush received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School in 1975.” The last time student George W. Bush walked across Harvard Yard the university was still located in Massachusetts. The debt George W. Bush owes to Harvard for his “elitist” Ivy League education might not best be repaid by ridiculing The Bay State, its contributions to our democratic republic and its many varied citizens.
Straight-faced as he plays out his hand, George W. Bush, man of the people, will look down upon the raised-in-privilege Kerry, a vicious low-life pit-bull politician who chose to marry a wealthy widow rather than work by the sweat of his brow clearing sagebrush from that Beacon Hill ranch. Later, during a break in the game, George W. Bush may swagger into the local Bar-B-Que and slap a few old timers on the back with a hearty “Hey, Ranger!” greeting. As they belly up to the salad bar, George W. Bush and his wranglers will nudge and grin from ear to ear, confident because they know something his fellow Skull-and-Bones fraternity brother John F. Kerry doesn’t know: how to pull off the cheerleader’s ultimate October Surprise.
DOUG GIEBEL is a writer and analyst who lives in Big Sandy, Montana. His article “When Professors Cheat” will be published soon by the Mellen Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org