The "Honestest" Candidate Since Lincoln

Between now and the November election, the public and the political professionals expect me to behave like a traditional candidate. Avoid important issues and instead focus on abstractions like “change” and non political, life style issues like for or against abortion, gay marriage and owning machine guns. I’m supposed to support the deportation of immigrants and stand for lowering taxes. I’m supposed to act like the toughest leader in the world, meaning I’ll send US troops anywhere to fight “terrorism,” or whatever.

Candidates say these things because their advisers tell them so. They follow such suggestions because above all else they want to govern, no matter what the agenda. Mitt Romney, for example, favored and opposed abortion and gay rights. Like other candidates, he changed positions more often than a two year old playing with a light switch. I’ve decided to break with tradition. President Bush in his State of the Union smirk refused to offer a realistic assessment of our nation — how our people are doing and where we stand with the rest of world.

Voters, if you know my assessment and plans you can then vote for me on the real issues and not just on my flaming desire to have the most powerful job in the world.

First, I’m grateful to Bush because he dramatized the decline of the US Empire. He never used the “e” word, of course, but nevertheless the son of Bush I who proclaimed the New World Order wrote the obituary for his father’s elusive dream.

That imprudent brat — I avoid stronger words — has turned trillions in surplus into trillions of deficit, hastened the fall of the dollar and the decline of US prestige in the world. He has also helped invert the American dream into a nightmare.

Our people have become the most stressed-out folks in the world (not counting countries at war or famine). Middle class young men and women fear they’ll never own a home or a decent job or have secure health insurance.

In the first seven years of the 21st Century, the income gap between rich and poor (bottom 40%) grew wider as manufacturing jobs continued to disappear. The percentage of workers with work-based health insurance — or any health coverage — shrank. Poverty grew alongside consumer credit debt and the number of home foreclosures. Each day we confront a rising cost of gasoline and home heating fuel. In truly poor neighborhoods we see hunger — a shameful situation in the richest country in the world.

Excuse me please, members of the media for interjecting realism into the soap opera aura that you all have created around the current primary elections. I have watched endless reports about gossip) this candidate cried because her feeling were hurt) and that one felt betrayed when the race issue emerged, but only as a way to smear another candidate. Mostly, the candidates said little about reality and nothing that offers even a hint about the real issues of the nation or its empire.

Look how US health care has fallen — a long way from number one — while pieces of our infrastructure collapse along with it. I’m talking about the broken levees in New Orleans, the bridge in Minnesota and the crumbling school houses in much of the country.

The US economy is or is about to fall into recession. While Bush turned a surplus of trillions into a deficit of trillions, Europe and emerging Asian powers didn’t piss away their economic surpluses. China capitalized on US preoccupations with “security” in the Middle East and sent its investors throughout the world to buy up or get stock in raw material and energy resources. As the US political system creaks on without adding oil — pardon the pun — to its creaky ideological foundations, China and Europe, some other nations have transcended the 20th century themes and actually begun to prepare themselves for the realities of this 21st century.

Our government depends on once despised nations like China to keep it afloat and to fund futile wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither of which can be won. Yet, the other candidates refuse to declare total opposition to the wars, and admit that any support for them ever was a mistake. The leading Republican predicts more wars if he wins, while pledging to keep troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for a century if necessary. Has he smoked some of Afghanistan’s bumper opium crop?

Have they inhaled too deeply on Cuban cigars? The candidates swear to oppose Castro’s Cuba and make no big changes until it becomes democratic — it’s been almost fifty years of futile embargo — while saying nothing about Saudi Arabia that supports the Taliban and still refuses to allow women to drive cars. Have the candidate not noticed that Castro has four sons — ideological not biological — running governments in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador? Did none observe his cousin Lula, President of Brazil, dropping a billion dollar credit on Cuba?

Meanwhile, the candidates act as if they suffer from a disease that has plagued our leaders for fifty years: visions of omnipotence. Wake up, I say. Our dollar dropped to the point where Europeans buy New York apartments on the cheap and Chinese purchase houses in San Francisco and absorb US companies from Wall Street to the heartland. Our country is for sale at cheap prices afforded by the weak dollar.

While Bush undertook expensive military adventures with congressional approval and doggedly clings to them in the face of death and destruction -Europe, China, India, Brazil and some oil-rich states have begun to spread their non military influence throughout the world.

You don’t find this out from watching Larry King interviewing Britney Spears about parenting and drinking. Nor does King interview ask top generals why they need a military budget of over $700 billion at a time when no nation poses a threat. The candidates, like most of the people, have succumbed to media culture, accepted trivia as a daily value and vicarious entertainment as the spiritual condiment of the real spiritual national value: shopping.

My adversaries and I have sparred — with words of course — but none of us dared to tread on sacred imperial terrain. Women applaud that their candidate will act as tough as any man when it comes to using military force against evil Iran. Liberals hail the candidate of the darker persuasion running on the Hope platform who pledged to send more troops to Afghanistan and possibly invade Pakistan.

The leading Republicans orate with bravado on the military front using “security” as the code word for willingness to dispatch troops anywhere at any time. Like Democratic contenders, they fear telling the truth about marijuana, which is a lot better for kids than booze, which is easily bought. They all pander to religious zealots on abortion and gay issues and — except for McCain — show no objections to the use of torture as a routine technique of interrogation when the “t” word arises. Indeed, Bush’s supposed war on terrorism forms the backbone of their campaign agenda: tough on terrorists (as if!).

The United States created the rules for the world in 1945 with us as the leader and other “developed” countries like England, France, Italy, Japan and Germany as junior partners. The poorer nations became obedient servants, dubiously neutral actors or mortal communist enemies. That world is gone.

The UN, supposed to function to keep the others in line, has lost its ability to function. Even our control over world economics has dwindled. Countries desert the dollar, for half a century the world’s standard, in favor of the Euro. Venezuela replaces the IMF in Argentina and the IMF finds fewer countries willing to undergo its stressful borrowing terms and has laid off 15% of its staff. The World Bank has also lost prestige along with the US style free market ideology.

The very word “free” as used by Bush has become a joke for much of the world. The United States for most of its history stood as the beacon light for immigrants; now its people and politicians deride them. The nation that stood as the bastion of habeas corpus and anti torture principles now more than vacillates on both subjects.

Imagine, almost half the audience applauded Bush in his State of the Union smirk. That pompous moron has done enough damage. Let’s stop talking about being number one. It makes no sense in a world undergoing possibly fatal climate change, one riddled with epidemics, with a third of its people under the line of minimal income.

Elect me and I’ll stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cut the military budget by 80%, redirect funds to the real needs of the country and begin to meet the challenges of global warming.

If you’ve listened carefully, you’ll realize I’ve committed the cardinal sin in American politics: telling the truth.

Yes, Mike Gravel — an anti-Vietnam War Senator from Alaska — deserves your vote: the “honestest” President since Lincoln.

SAUL LANDAU is an Institute for Policy Studies fellow. His new Counterpunch book is A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD. His new film, WE DON’T PLAY GOLF HERE is available on dvd from






SAUL LANDAU’s A BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD was published by CounterPunch / AK Press.