by  Michael Hammerschlag  870 wds



As Bush roundly celebrated his coronation with a raft of corporate parties, jarring images conflicted with the accompanying words, the theme of reconciliation that the news anchors positively burbled was so in evidence. 8 burly DC cops body slammed protesters to the pavement in the most violent televised public protest police reaction in 30 years while CBS’s Bob Schieffer chuckled that nobody was hurt and no one arrested (15 were?), as if he had no idea what video had been played behind him. The irony and absurdity of huge black cops manhandling whites protesting the most corrupt election in 125 years, stolen by the wholesale purging of black votes… wasn’t noticed. Bush had promulgated the insidious notion that protest was close to terrorism and assembled the largest police presence in American history, a praetorian guard layers deep to line the parade route, likely not seen since the Roman empire.


Despite tens of thousands of angry protestors, little could be seen on network TV, which largely sterilized their screens of offensive images.  Overcoming concerted police efforts to restrict, obstruct, hide, and deny legitimate protest, C-Span showed the thousands of parade feet of angry protesters waving signs of disgust and booing- the Presidential motorcade speeding up for many minutes to avoid the “unpleasantness”. At one point jogging Secret Service agents leapt onto the running boards of Cheney’s car en masse, as if to physically shield his tender ears from the assault of the crowd- a shocking image, since it invokes memories of assassination attempts.  It was Nixon in Venezuela-a President having to scuttle through his own hostile capital due to his perfidy. The new maximum ruler was made aware of the depth of people’s discontent.


In his hearings, John Ashcroft repeatedly swore his fervent devotion to the cause of minority rights and to upholding the laws on abortion, though he’s fought ferociously and subversively his entire career to restrict and scuttle those laws and rights, and will, of course, continue to do so from the machine gun pulpit of the AG’s office. Much of his testimony was laughable, given his history and predilections (he thinks dancing is immoral), but his ratification is considered likely, even by the Democrats like Joe Biden that should be leading the filibuster (that Ted Kennedy may yet do). Ashcroft was polite and gentlemanly, as reputed, but couldn’t suppress the contempt leaking out of the corners of his mouth, contempt for the weakness, the liberalness, the Godlessness of his accusers; the radioactive hatred that underlies so much of the fundamentalist agenda . Ronald Reagan showed the same contempt, though by the end of his term he had largely transcended it, or had it beaten out of him buy Iran/Contra.


George Bush II filled in all the proper spaces in his inaugural address: civility, reconciliation, healing; as a skater does the required jumps for her routine, but they were empty and hollow. He seems to have no appreciation for words and what those words mean. Far more than Reagan, he is parroting things as an actor, but there is no connection between his words and his actions. This is a chronic knock on politicians, but with Bush it’s gone beyond cynicism, it’s moved into Alice in Wonderland territory. He says one thing and does its opposite. He is so deeply vapidly insincere that he’s frightening, a wind-up dummy who only repeats what is prepared and fed him.  More alarming, he seems to absolutely completely believe every wrong-headed scheme he proposes and refuses an iota of compromise. When questioned impromptu, he often becomes utterly inarticulate- in the famous 1 hr. interview, Letterman would ask a question, Bush would recite a sound bite, Letterman would ask “But what does that mean?”, Bush would repeat the sound bite; Letterman would plead “What do you mean by that?” and Bush would repeat the exact same sound bite- he couldn’t even put it in other words. This happened 5 times. I guarantee that some $1-5 million chair was endowed just when Bush graduated from both colleges; there’s no way someone that doesn’t read gets through an Ivy League school.


He talked of justice and opportunity but appointed Ashcroft- who is committed to perverting both; he talked of integrity and character, but showed none in waging war on the legitimate count of the votes; he spoke of civility but refused to compromise one inch on his reckless tax cut and radical agenda; he spoke of compassion but executed and imprisoned people at an awesome rate in Texas; he champions education but doesn’t read books and insists complex policy issues be boiled down to one page outlines; he spoke of empowering citizens, but remains a cheerleader and fabrication of big business and their truckloads of cash; he spoke of leading the world, but would destroy arms control, non-proliferation, and environmental treaties; he talks of humility, but radiates a smug self-satisfied arrogance (by humility he means America shouldn’t stop tyrants from slaughtering their people), an arrogance that brooks no dissent and allows for no potential alternatives.


It’s going to be a long  4 years and, unless the Senate Dems develop some cajones, I fear the Bill of Rights won’t survive unscathed. Ashcroft is the key.   


Copyright © 2001 Michael Hammerschlag


Michael Hammerschlag has written commentaries for  Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Honolulu Advertiser; Moscow News, Tribune, and + Guardian;  was a TV reporter and produced a documentary series on the Presidential primaries. His website is  e-mail