Monday, 29 November 2004
American Presidential Elections And The Aftermath
By Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Where you stand on issues, it is often said, surely depends on where you are sitting! And from where I sit, the outcome of the just-concluded American Presidential elections, the fifth, since my sojourn in America, is the meanest, the worst and the most cynically manipulated that I have seen!
The campaign was replete with manipulations of the dare-devilry types, a demonstrated phobia for other nations and for the races in America and outside of it, there were frequent use of code-words with which the neoconservatives referred to the downtrodden, the poor, African Americans the immigrants etc; all this, have left too many people very cynical, we agree that democracy is good, but it can truly be unwieldy!
It is the case that the simpletons among the electorate voted without a clue to the true facts and the real issues. Too many voters voted out of fear, and those who voted because they were afraid, voted their fears, and out of fear, fear of the terror threats that was repeatedly dangled by the American government, the voters who were therefore intimidated with constant fear of terror attacks, constituted the unthinking majority, who voted their emotions, their fears and because of fear. And in doing so, they voted while discounting the evidences and facts that were abundantly demonstrative of Mr. Bush’s misrule.
Some of us are unable to gloss-over the just-concluded American presidential elections as the triumph of democracy; We must not limit the far reaching ramifications, foreseeable consequences and mounting implications or lessons, to just the fact that there were gracious concession speeches on the part of the vanquished candidates or that there were no election campaign and voting violence cum loss of lives, akin to young democracies.
Gracious concession speeches are a good thing, even in the face of electioneering campaign conducted with mean-spiritedness of the worst types, campaigns that was conducted by means and methods, most foul, campaign that was objectionable to all decent people! In president Bush victory, we see the triumph of the bullies and the triumph of platitudes; We witnessed the platitudinous use of the so-called war on terror, by the Republican Party to scare the and living daylight out of the American electorate the Campaigns was permeated with manipulations that were so cynically carried out, even as real issues were nearly entirely ignored; The Republicans successfully demonized Senator John Kerry they succeed in defining Senator Kerry negatively and aggressively and it stuck! Despite that fact that, such definitions and demonizing had no basis in reality. Kerry the war hero was presented as a wimp! And lacking national security credentials and experience, despite his two decades of service in the American senate with Bush comparative lack of experience in war heroism and serving in national government, Bush campaign painted Bush in patriotic colors and proclaimed monopoly on national security and war on terror!
Mr. Bush’s Re-election, America, Nigeria and Democracy; What Lessons?
The only lesson for Nigeria which may benefit Nigerians as we garner all the various lessons from the just concluded American elections, could well be, the gracious concession speech and a deliberate policy of eschewing violence during campaign and during actual elections. But of course, all these finesse comes with political maturity of persons and nations as democracy takes hold, democracy even in America, is clearly a work-in-progress, imperfect and flawed democracy, requires more democracy.
The American electorate, or at least, a large segment of it, discounted all the evidences and all the facts of President Bush’s misrule of the past four years and re-elected him, and much worse, such mandate may now embolden him to become even more brazen; There, are, already evidence of this brazenness in the nominations that he has made so far. Mr. Bush’s record reflect rigid, inflexible and arrogant positions on issue, it is worrisome and troubling to think of what he and his team will do next, now that they have been re-elected. Mr. Bush’s campaign theme might as well have been, Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid! There is an Osama Bin Laden in your wardrobes or closets. Some have pointed to the cynical manipulations of public fears and the repeated adjustments of phantom terror threat levels before the elections and then, the sudden change, by suddenly lowering the terror threat, soon after the American elections, while the tepid explanations, was the pretense that all precautions have now been taken by potential targets of the phantom terror attacks, hence the change to lower level of threat.
Mr. Bush’s re-election amounts to a triumph of platitudes and a triumph of bullies with its unbridled nationalism to boot. The Bush Campaign team simply scared the average and undiscerning American voter to near death and the outcome of the elections simply reflects this pervasive fear in the land… the Bush campaign painted a gory picture successfully, of real and imagined foreign enemies, as Osama Bin Laden was portrayed as omniscient and omnipresent, in American homes, in their closets, wardrobes and behind them in their cars! Terror alerts were issued frequently, but only to be suddenly lowered a few days after the presidential elections, lowering of the terror alerts based on the tenuous assertions that the terrorists’ targets have taken safety precautions…..as if overnight!
Current Bush Nominations Harbingers of the next four years?
White House Chief Counsel Alberto Gonzales scheduled to become the Attorney General, he of Spanish heritage, one of American ethnic minorities, he is a long time friend of Bush, was a Judge in the state of Texas where Bush was governor, who presided the aggressive use of the death penalty, executing more than 300 persons in a very short period, unlike most states in America. Mr. Gonzales is not known to an epitome of individual rights or civil rights for the underprivileged, he not known to advocate civil liberties or the rule of law …. Despite his terrible antecedents and the infamous memo, his confirmation will be tantamount to putting the fox in charge of the chickens or putting a lion in charge of herd of cattle; Attorney General Nominee, Mr. Alberto Gonzales, is the current White House Chief Counsel who once described the Geneva Convention on Prison of War, as obsolete, who had demonstrated contempt for international law, through his infamous memorandum advice to officials and the military, he tacitly recommended a complete disregard of laws and rules… Which in turn set the unsavory environment for all the atrocities and brutalities of prisoner of war in Abu Gharib Prisons in Iraq controlled by the American military, and similar abuses in Guatannamo Bay in Cuba and Afghanistan witnessed similar abuses and deaths of war prisoners ala enemy combatants….. detained without trials visited with all manners of indignities, brutalities and dehumanization which the has since learned about… consequences flowing from the tone set at the top. Now, the guy who set the tone for these horrendous events, is not slated to become the chief law officer, in charge of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights as the American Attorney General, even though he has in the past demonstrated contempt for constitutions rights, the laws and treaties to which America is signatory?
Dr. Condolleezza Rice scheduled to become Secretary of State, she is eminently qualified, Sovietologist and an expert in Far East policies, she is a specialist and fit for the job, moreover, she is a person of African descent! Sadly, though, she is hawkish and advocates bullying. She advocates unfettered and limitless use of American power, especially, military power; She actually wanted to be in charge of American Defense Dept, she wanted a chance to turn America into a more bullying power, and there is nothing fair or decent that can be said for bullying, we should not praise bullies or hawks or war mongers. Unless the world now subscribes to might is right?
General Powell exits…He clearly did not resign willingly or happily, he was pushed, shown the door, he was out maneuvered; Mr. Powell was what the late Chief Awolowo once called, the voice of reason, Mr. Powell was a lone Dove in a den of lions or in a brood of Hawks and warmongering lot! Lions and Hawks like Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Wolfowiz, Mr. Cheney and Dr. Rice; Mr. Powell, of course, it must said, have said his country well, he was during Mr. Bush first term, the voice of moderation in the midst of extreme conservatives. But I think he ought to have resigned on ground of his core principles; Because, as it stands now, he was used, abused and dumped and he clearly deserved better!
Pending United States Supreme Court appointment of Justices and hot pursuits of arch conservative judicial agenda, conservatives will take over, civil liberties and civil rights may suffer greatly, Roe Vs Wade that gave abortion rights to women in America, may now be overturned very easily, as Mr. Bush is poised to appoint at least three new Justices the United States Supreme court during the next four years of his final term, as many vacancies are slated to occur… Chief Justice Rehnquist has been convalescing from thyroid surgery and he is over 80 years old, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Scalia may soon announce their retirements, and perhaps others will follow, as they are mostly septuagenarians now occupy the highest court in the United States.
Another important case that could be overturned, as soon as the neoconservatives attain a sort of super-majority at the US Supreme Court is the Affirmative Action Civil Rights Law, that was enacted several decades ago, in an attempts to redress the historical injustices meted out by America to African Americans or people of African descent, this law has in turn benefit women of all races in America as it has benefit immigrants from minority group countries or the so-called third world.
Senator Arlen Specter a long serving senior senator from the state of Pennsylvania is a Republican Party moderate was besieged both with protests and thousands of telephone calls as he was attacked for merely suggesting gently, that Bush and the republicans be fair, moderate and balanced even in victory, the extremists in the republican party besieged the party leadership calling for Senator Specter’s removal or that he should be denied a right to chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee in the Senate, a committee that is set to wield enormous influence in federal judicial nominations confirmation hearing processes, which essentially decides how draconian judicial pronouncements would be soon, based on how extremely conservative the federal judge that are eventually confirmed would be.
Massive Resignations CIA by career Intelligence Officials, as a purge is undertaken by the Bush point-man Mr. Goss, in order that CIA will be staffed with willing republicans that are loyal to Bush and would do as asked republicans that are loyal to Bush and would do as asked. Talk of cronyism? CIA Purge…. Mr. Goss, the former Congressman, is Mr. Bush point-man, who has caused the resignation or purge of career officers at the intelligence agency, replacing them with his kitchen cabinet and yes-men political appointees, conservatives and loyal Republican Party partisan.
Arbitrary, Unilateral and Undiplomatic brashness are some of the keywords that comes to my mind as I contemplate the past four years of the Bush first term and we are now bracing up for more of the same! Bush treats African Americans and Africans with equal disdain, we only need to look at America tepid and lackadaisical responses to African American yearnings, including Bush’s offensive pronouncements on Affirmative Action; Bush announced his opposition on January 15, Dr. King’s anniversary birth date and national holiday, it was the day Bush chose to make announcements joining anti-Affirmative Action lawsuit, which is essentially an anti-African America case; It must be noted that General Powell is an African American in favor of Affirmative Actions as he was during time serving in the Bush’s government, Bush’s action was there for another bruise and slap in the face for Powell in particular and African Americans in general.
And unlike Senator Kerry who attended public forums organized and undertaken by African Americans, Mr. Bush snubbed and shunned African American forums yearly, including during this elections year, when political candidates are usually more measured and more responsive to invitations to such public forums. The Bush Administration also boycotted the summit in Durban South Africa that dealt with Racism and racial issues.
Tepid and lackadaisical response also greeted African crises such as the Darfur-Sudan genocide, the Liberian civil war before Mr. Taylor’s departure or the American engineered removal of Mr. Aristide of Haiti.
Mr. Bush and his team have become so brazen and audacious, emboldened perhaps, by his re-election no doubt, which they are now interpreting as a ringing endorsement by a good segment of the American electorate, a vindication as seen by the Bush team, of their wrong-headed policies, both domestic and foreign, of the past four years….
Bush and most members of his administration team are divisive and very polarizing figures, who have in the past four years practiced wrong-headed domestic policies here in America, bad policies at home and abroad. For instance, in the face of mounting public deficits of more than 200 billion dollars and counting, Bush continues to make tax-cuts the cornerstone of his fiscal policy! Including making tax cuts permanent! This despite the elephant-size cost of fighting two wars at once, in Afghanistan and Iraq, most past presidents through American history, actually raised taxes and levied the public at times of wars, therefore spreading the war efforts financially. War costs are spiraling out of control, but tax cuts are still priority?
Economic Downturn … from recession to high rate of unemployment has been the hallmark of the Bush government during the past four years; Economic decline and an economy that still lack any buoyancy in the horizon, with nothing glorious economically, to report and yet, Mr. Bush gets re-elected! Evidence and facts were apparently inconvenient for the Bush voters; The American deficit is growing rapidly and ballooning out of control by the minute, about two hundred billion dollars have been spent on the war in Iraq and Mr. Bush is about to request some seventy billion dollars more, the deficit is about to hit trillions from a balanced budget that Mr. Bush inherited from Mr. Clinton just four years ago! And Bush still got re-elected? On the economic front, many things are in the negative territory during Mr. Bush watch in the first term, these things occurred during a short space of four years, ….,,, even after we remove usual cyclical susceptibilities and economic factors that are impervious to governmental manipulations, interventions or control, the result is still woeful.
Mr. Bush fabled multiple tax cuts, did not stimulate American economic growth as he had insisted would be the case; it was tax cut mostly for the wealthy and a reward for corporate donors…. There is no noticeable effect, but decline and the dollar has fallen against major currencies including the Japanese Yen and the European Union’s Euro
The American economy has been declining, there is high rate of unemployment that is nationwide and this is coupled with some inflationary pressures, a US dollar in free-fall against other major currencies, the Euro, the Yen etc; Then add, the existing huge US trade deficits that continues to grow or increase. Despite all these, Mr. Bush sees an electoral victory and mandate or vindication and now we may brace for more of the same, perhaps much worse? Bush is placing his loyalists or kitchen cabinet in key government positions, even as we speak, these are harbingers of what is to come. Bush faithful and loyalists may continue to shield him from the harsh realities of things and that is not wise.
Bush and his supporters need to be reminded even in their goading and ostentatious victory celebrations, that in their unilateralist arrogance, they must remember, that there that there is so much work to be done on both the domestic and foreign fronts, just as they must remember that there is so much that is good in America, they must acknowledge, there is indeed, so much that is good in the rest of the world and outside America; Mr. Bush in the past four years have pursued policies arrogantly and obstinately, he has been rigid, inflexible a unilateralist, he has polarized America, he has polarized the world with needless wars, invasions and occupations. He has inflamed negative passions at home and abroad, he has offended friends and enemies equally.
He gave tacit approval to the isolation and the virtual imprisonment of the late Yasser Arafat by the Israel under Mr. Ariel Sharon, just as the Bush government gave a nod and a wink as Mr. Sharon built an apartheid-type wall, enforced apartheid-style policies, and then visited Palestinians with more indignities, brutalities and deaths.
Mr. Bush in his pursuit of faith-based policies, sought to mix religion with public policies, this, ignores the American Constitutions which stresses the separation of government policies and religion, the so-called separation of Church and State, or separation of government and religious business. This is why, the Evangelicals supports him and people have called the so-called war on terror, a religious war and crusades of prehistoric times of sorts, and a face-off, between Evangelicals and Jihadists on the opposite extremes. The republicans used all manners of code-words-speaks to awaken xenophobia and all other phobias and bias, prejudices and hatred in their voters.
Mr. Bush and the Republicans seem to have essentially convinced the American electorate, at least a majority thereof, to the effect that, facts do not matter, that facts are inconvenient; And in very crass manner, the Bush campaign exploited real and imagined public fears of real and imagined enemies, foreign and domestic, using terror threats as the omnibus and default position on all issues.
All these have left a cynical and very bad taste in the mouth of all decent, democratic and freedom loving persons worldwide; Bush through the Patriot Act, have frontally assaulted and attacked Civil Liberties and Civil Rights of American citizens and those of others
And the United States Supreme Court has risen to the occasion more than once, in the last twelve months, to rebuke the Bush government’s arbitrariness, rebuked the Bush team for flouting laws and breaching provisions of the American Constitution, the court declared that war and national security is no blank cheque to the abridgments or violations of citizenship rights which are guaranteed in the US Constitution.
The United States Supreme Court has declared that war or national security concerns are no excuse or pretexts to break laws or shred the constitution, due process and the rule of law must still be complied with, Americans and the world must now brace for four more years of the same flame throwing policies of President Bush and his neoconservative agenda with it far-reaching implications and ramifications. Will Mr. Bush now become humble as there is no more re-elections motivated posturing or politicking? Bush the candidate in 2000 actually promised not to turn America into a bully, but lead a humble nation that would not ram international policies into the throat of others.
But we have seen the exact opposite, Mr. Bush led American into several infractions on protectionists punitive steel tariffs against trading partner countries, the World Trade Organization fined and imposed sanctions on America. Mr. Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol/treaty regarding avoidance of environmental pollutions, similarly, America during the same period refused to ratify Internal Criminal Court, because America is to rich and too strong to obey such international laws? Will Mr. Bush in his second term invade North Korea, Iran in search of Nuclear and Biological Weapons of Mass Destruction? Even though Israel retains such capabilities, unaccountably? Will Mr. Bush invade Syria to further pulverize the Arabs and the Middle East?
Will America over-extend itself financially, militarily and strategically? Is this the beginning of the end of the American super-power status or empire? Will Mr. Bush now emboldened by his reelection and so-called mandate, get carried-away and self-destruct?