From the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle-Tribune
By David Nyhan
So this publicity-hungry rich guy in New York with the swaggering "my way or the highway" attitude embraced the Sept. 11 terror episode for crass and personal reasons on Thursday?
In a manner that seeks to hijack the citizenry's very appropriate respect for the victims in the service of a very inappropriate goal? Is this the ultimate in cheese, or what?
Oh, you thought I'm talking about President Bush's milking of Sept. 11 in his desperate attempt to de-legitimize John Kerry and hold onto power by tactics just as scummy as his father employed against Mike Dukakis?
Nah. That's just politics, as practiced by the Texas Dirt Ballers. No surprise there; Karl Rove and his Sanctimonious Smearers hold the patent on vicious campaign tactics. I'm talking about Uncle Bluster, George Steinbrenner, that other baseball executive, not the one leaving no dirty trick behind in his frantic bid to avoid ejection from the White House.
The Yankees' Boss of Bosses, humiliated by a 22-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians, tried to rally his pinstriped millionaires with exhortations in the spirit of Sept. 11. "I wanted to show the fans that we have the same courage and the same attitudes all New Yorkers have had in fighting back from that terrible episode on 9-11," Steinbrenner explained. Oh; I get it; losing a baseball game is like losing 3,000 people.
Well, at least he said "all New Yorkers" shared in the credit for the rebound. At Madison Square Garden, where the attacks on Kerry were unrelenting even into Bush's speech, Sept.11 is a Republican holiday; no Democrats need apply. Ditto for the stolen-from-the-Olympics "USA" chant. The GOP gives new meaning to the old Boy Scout game "Capture the Flag."
New York Gov. George Pataki skidded nose first on the tarmac with his unctuous flop of an introductory speech. If this George wants to join Washington, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. as eponymous presidents, he needs more tryout time out of town. Who told him to thank Oregon for booking 1,000 hotel rooms after Sept.11? And Iowa for sending 1,500 quilts? When Pataki claimed that while he was at Yale, Kerry never debated him, he should consider himself lucky.
The ethically challenged three-term governor, whose cronies have been enriched lavishly during his reign, had some neat lines. His "Hype is on the way" twist of the Kerry-Edwards ticket's refrain that "Hope is on the way" was funny, like Arnold Schwarzenegger's jab at Kerry's "57 varieties" of whatever.
Pataki's "We're going to win this one for the Gipper" must have caused gas pains up in the balcony, where sat Bush I and his fearsome wife, the redoubtable Barbara, of whom it is said she really wears the pants in the family. Bush I and his Barbara are famously alienated from Nancy Reagan and the Gipper's intimates. But, hey, when there are 90 Bush Dynasty relatives in the hall, and the dynasty's future lies with Gov. Jeb of Florida, you grin and bear it whenever the sainted Reagan's name is tossed to the mob like a matador flicking a bull's ear into the cheap seats.
I particularly enjoyed Pataki's reverential ode to the Bush team's "honesty and integrity." No, I wasn't expecting a ringing defense of Vice President Cheney's Halliburton profits, nor any lament that good old Bush buddy Kenny Boy Lay, Enron's disgraced boss, was not around to deliver the same sort of speech he gave to the 2000 GOP delegates.
There were two surprises in the climactic event, the president's own speech. First, he spent the first half reassuring voters he hasn't forgotten about the economy, which has stalled and stuttered on his watch, tossing millions more Americans into poverty and out of work and off health insurance. And then he took the risky but probably necessary step of attacking Kerry directly and persistently -- no doubt a measure of the GOP ticket's desperation.
Like a slacker student assuring his teacher he hasn't forgotten all about last semester's lessons, Bush slapped together a laundry list of laudable domestic and economic riffs, even reaching back into his 2000 grab-bag for the privatizing Social Security gimmick. Then we got to Phase II: WAR! TERROR! SCARY!
"We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America!" If you believe that, despite four years' results to the contrary, then you are voting Republican, and good luck to you -- you're simply not persuadable, "and nothing will hold us back." Unless a Kerry victory intervenes. Bush has been president of Iraq, and Iraq only, for the past two years; now he's remembering the economy, and claims he'll renovate that mean old U.S. tax code, "a complicated mess filled with special-interest loopholes."
We got into Loopy Land when Bush denounced Hollywood. OK, so maybe he hadn't heard the "Win this one for the Gipper" line. But had he missed Schwarzenegger's speech as well? And senator-turned-actor Ben Thompson's treacly video tribute about Bush as Sept. 11's sainted hero? And what's the NRA's big gun, Charlton Heston? Chopped liver? They're not "Hollywood"? C'mon; Hollywood been very bery bery good to the GOP.
As he harrumphed about millions of Afghans registering to vote, his political henchmen in Florida are trying to de-register hundreds of thousands of blacks from the Florida voting rolls, just as the GOP did in 2000, delisting thousands of black voters and otherwise making it hard for their votes to count.
Bush's justification for invading Iraq, for the umpteenth time, failed to convince. No WMDs, no nukes, no solid intelligence, no adequate planning for the aftermath, no mention of the Halliburton war profiteering, skating right past the condemnations of intelligence failures and administration's tone-deaf ignoring of warnings percolating up through the bureaucracy -- none of that was alluded to.
Bush's most touching and sincere moments came at the end, when he extolled the military families who mourn fallen soldiers. So heartfelt seemed his comments, it is inexplicable why he has yet to attend the funeral of even one of the nearly 1,000 Americans to perish in Iraq on his orders. I guess Karl Rove won't let him be photographed beside a flag-draped coffin.
So that was the package. All terror, all the time; think of the next four years under Bush as 24/7 of Fox News, in your ear, all the time. Sept. 11 is all Bush has. If the economy's the issue, he's a goner. "Terror and likability" are what underpin his leadership ratings. All I know is I'm sick of Sept. 11 being hijacked for tawdry purposes. Bush led us into Iraq for phony reasons having nothing to do with Sept. 11. Bush Jr.'s Iraq war looks suspiciously more like some weird Freudian trip to avenge his father's political defeat after letting Saddam off the hook.
That's a lousy reason for 1,000 GIs to die, and for America's economic health to be kidnapped by a war we didn't need, waged in such fashion to leave us more exposed and vulnerable in the world, with all of America's post Sept. 11 goodwill squandered in the name of spurious patriotism, falsified intelligence and unsound diplomacy.
Four more years? Uh-uh.