New York Minutes
Fake moderates dominate the Republican National Convention.
Thursday, September 2, 2004
John McCain is absolutely sure that we’re in the midst of fighting a great war. “It’s a big thing, this war,” he said Monday night in his address to the Republican National Convention. How big, he’s a little vague on, because he’s not quite ready to define who or what exactly we’re at war against. Al-Qaeda? Afghanistan? Islamic fundamentalism? Iraq? Terrorism? All of the above? The answer was sketchy.
Deliberately so. McCain was sent, I think we must conclude, to justify the war in Iraq to the American people. And the best way to do so is to suggest that it was part of some broader conflict thrust upon us on September 11, 2001. It’s hard to actually claim a connection directly anymore—unless you’re the Vice President—so McCain had to summon up all his chutzpah for this New York moment. His manhood clearly confiscated by the President already, McCain made the case.
So—we are fighting “a malevolent force;” a “scourge;” an “unpardonable enemy;” an “evil that threatens us all.” In this “fight between right and wrong, good and evil,” “our enemies” threaten “the very essence of our culture.” (How dare they try to destroy Britney Spears! Oh, no, he meant liberty.) “There is no avoiding this war,” McCain said. “We tried that, and our reluctance cost us dearly.”
“John,” I wanted to scream, “What war do you mean???”
“This war has many components,” he continued, not saying what they are.
Although he seemed at times—as in that last reference—to be specifically talking about a war on terror, at another stretch he was clearly talking specifically about Iraq. “It was between war and a graver threat. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” (His reference at that point to “a disingenuous filmmaker” was in the prepared speech, not added for the benefit of Michael Moore’s presence. The result was probably unfortunate for the GOP, because that clip will probably dominate the news cycle, shoving aside the speeches themselves. )
McCain started his speech by quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt on our generational “rendezvous with destiny.” There is a parallel here that never quite gets acknowledged—it was the Japanese who attacked us, but we used it as an excuse to declare war on Hitler. McCain argued implicitly Tuesday night that fighting the war on terror without attacking Saddam Hussein would be akin to fighting the axis powers without declaring war on Germany. Most sensible people with the facts available do not agree. But people do like John McCain a whole lot, so maybe if he says it they’ll believe it’s so. [DB]
Giuliani to World: Drop Dead!
John McCain’s speech to the RNC showed some New York chutzpah in painting the Iraq War into the broad picture of an ill-defined but vital war of some kind against some bunch of enemies.
Chutzpah, I’ll show you chutzpah. Come to New York for chutzpah.
Nothing vague for Rudolph Giuliani.
“In any plan to destroy global terrorism, removing Saddam Hussein needed to be accomplished.” Clear enough for you? “Saddam Hussein…was himself a weapon of mass destruction.” He started right in at the top of his lengthy speech by saying that “they” who attacked the Twin Towers—as in George Bush’s Ground Zero cry of “they will hear from us”—have been punished in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, and elsewhere. That’s right, you might have heard that al-Qaeda did it, but it was actually the vast all-encompassing they, and “they” are global terrorism.
You might recall that the “Bush Doctrine” is the use of preemptive force against an imminent threat. But Giuliani said Monday evening that the Bush Doctrine was “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists.”
In case you were wondering, Europeans are with the terrorists. Turns out, according to Giuliani, that for 30 years the response of Europe to terrorism was accommodation, appeasement, and compromise, which led us into this mess. Never mind that Bush started his presidency by explicitly deciding not to retaliate in any way for al-Qaeda’s bombing of the USS Cole, rejecting it as swatting at flies. Hey, Europe appeased Hitler, Giuliani reminded us. Rest assured that President Bush will not let those Europeans dictate our actions, he said.
The sad truth is that Giuliani, like much of the Bush Administration leadership, remains locked into nation/state thinking. Terrorism is like Communism, they seem to think, and you defeat it by flipping countries into the freedom column. In fact, it has become a sort of “hidden hand” belief on a par with faith that the free market cures all woes. “The hatred and anger in the Middle East arises from the lack of responsible governments,” Giuliani said. Freedom will defeat terrorists. “The long-term answer to ending global terrorism [is] governments that are free and accountable.”
This would come as a surprise, I suspect, to anyone who has read Osama bin-Laden’s writings, or perused Jessica Stern’s Terror in the Name of God. Or to the families of those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
Guiliani continued: “These governments deflect their own failures by pointing to America and Israel and other external scapegoats. But blaming these scapegoats does not improve the life of a single person in the Arab world…It certainly does not stop the slaughter of African Christians in the Sudan.”
This spring a Sudanese woman told me that she had grown increasingly cynical of the West’s failure to respond to the current horrors in her country. Four years ago, when it was Christians targeted in the northern part of the country, America cared, she said. Today it is Muslims and America does not care.
She and many others must have felt physically ill when Rudy Giuliani said the words above on Monday night. They are simply inexcusable from a headlining speaker at a major-party convention. The Fur, Zaghawa, and Masalit people of Sudan’s Darfur region—all Muslim—have in the past year suffered some of the worst horrors imaginable. But Guiliani—and the GOP—wasn’t concerned with reality last night. It was all about rhetoric.[DB]
Billionaires for Bush Tell it Like it is.
It’s always a pleasant sight to see Billionaires for Bush on the street. Activists can sometimes be way too earnest, but these protestors are always good for a chuckle. Gathered in Union Square before the Still We Rise march on Monday, about 20 Billionaires stood in bowler hats, tuxedos, suits, ties, faux pearls, and prom dresses posing for photos, thanking pedestrians for paying wealthy people’s taxes, and chanting “Four new wars! Four new wars!” A satirical left-wing protest group, they carry sardonic signs like “Free The Enron 7” and “Corporations Are People Too.” They’re a joke, of course, and they’re damn funny. Plus, they never break character, even when weaselly reporters beg for their real names.
They also know how to diffuse confrontations deftly. Like when a tank-topped man with “Mom” tattooed on his left shoulder and bluish crosses inked on his right arm jeered at people gathering around 12:45 p.m. “The liberal left is dead. How can you kill babies?” he hollered. Somehow, an attack on gay marriage inexplicably led to an indictment of the left’s courage. “You are a coward, that’s all. Everybody in New York knows: the liberals are cowards.”
Iwanna Profit, a top-hatted Billionaire for Bush in a bowtie, sauntered over. Holding a sign reading “Leave No Billionaire Behind” and gnawing on fake cigar, Profit sneered at the rowdy man. “You seem upset,” she said in a theatrically haughty tone. “I’m looking to hire a gardener for my place in the Hamptons. Do you need a job?”
You’re disgracing the country, he replied.
She smiled. “What? You’d rather work inside? I need someone to empty the trash too.”
He left. Immediately.[CD]<>David S. Bernstein and Camille Dodero are reporters for the Boston weekly The Phoenix. See daily reports from the RNC >at bostonphoenix.com.