Some on the left have lately taken to hyperbole — comparing George W. Bush and his administration to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Bush is not a fascist who has institutionalized repression and executed the opposition, but several of his tactics nonetheless should send chills down our collective spine.
The Bush administration demonstrably and repeatedly lied about why we went to war in Iraq and now many Americans believe Saddam Hussein posed a threat to world peace with his links to al Qaeda.
Republicans put anti-gay initiatives on the ballots in as many states as possible, pandering to fears of conservatives who feel beset by what they see as cultural degenerates.
And this summer the Department of Education destroyed 300,000 copies of Helping Your Child Learn History. The 73-page booklet, which referenced the National Standards for United States History developed in the mid-’90s for the U.S. Department of Education, was “recycled” at the behest of Lynne Cheney, wife of the vice president. In the ’90s, as a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, Cheney went on a crusade against the history standards — upset that they mentioned Harriet Tubman six times, Joe McCarthy and McCarthyism 29 times, and the Ku Klux Klan 17 times but did not mention Robert E. Lee.
In what appears to be the most recent in a line of dirty tricks, the Lucas County Democratic Headquarters in Toledo, Ohio, was broken into October 12. Although the thieves left behind a cashbox, they stole computers containing sensitive information about candidate schedules, financial information, and phone numbers of party members, candidates, donors and volunteers. Lucas County, home to many moderate Republicans, is a crucial battleground in a battleground state. As Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie put it, the county is “the epicenter of the epicenter.” Among the computers taken was one belonging to an attorney working with the Kerry campaign to ensure election security.
Can the country survive another term filled with propaganda, prejudice and dirty tricks?
The election of John Kerry would put America on a path to a different future. He has a 20-year history as a solid liberal who has sought to uphold democratic traditions. In the ’80s, he spoke out against the Reagan administration’s illegal proxy wars in Central America. He dared to hold committee hearings examining the links between the CIA-backed Contras and drug cartels. But most important, he has had the courage to tell the truth — when he returned from Vietnam and more recently in exposing Bush’s lies for what they are.
Yes, he voted for the Iraq war, but here is what he said when he did so:
By casting about in an unfocused, undisciplined, overly public, internal debate for a rationale for war, the administration complicated their case, confused the American public, and compromised America’s credibility in the eyes of the world community. … Against this disarray, it is not surprising that tough questions began to be asked and critics began to emerge. … Criticism and questions do not reflect a lack of patriotism — they demonstrate the strength and core values of our American democracy.
Bush is no fascist, but he certainly is the leader of a political movement that has betrayed democratic traditions and undermined America’s standing in the world.
We cannot afford four more years.
Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.