Bush's fear factor

Why this wounded president is so dangerous. Plus, the story behind local floods.
By EDITORIAL  |  May 17, 2006

IT'S A SCREAM: In Bush's America, fear is the coin of the realm

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” With those words Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to calm America’s tortured psyche during his 1933 inauguration. The moment was bleak, tenser than any time since the Civil War. The nation was utterly distraught by the ravages of the Great Depression, and fear of violent rebellion was so palpable that machine guns were mounted on the roof of the Capitol to ensure the safety of the three branches of national government gathered that cold and windy day. Yet Roosevelt aimed to sooth, to unite, to lead in a broad-based and truly imaginative way.

Flash forward to today, to the America of George W. Bush. Fear is the coin of the realm. It’s the essence of his political currency. We may be the richest, most powerful nation in history, but you’d never know it. President Bush’s call to place 6000 National Guard troops on the Mexican border, his secret hijacking of the nation’s phone records, his warrantless spying on domestic phone and e-mail communications, his seemingly endless war in Iraq, and his threatened war with Iran all share a common denominator. And that denominator is fear.

At the moment, Bush is consumed with fear. He’s afraid that with his pitiful public-approval ratings — 31 percent and still unstable — the vaunted momentum of his first term is gone forever. While the Democrats have not yet been able to articulate a coherent alternative vision, they may capture the House and maybe even the Senate by the simple expedient of not being Republicans. It’s Bush’s fear that he is loosing the most right-wing of his conservative base that prompted him to call upon the National Guard, already shamefully overtaxed by service in Iraq and Afghanistan, to reinforce our border. The idea is as preposterous as it is transparent. Even if the idea of militarizing our border with Mexico were acceptable, his proposal is a sham. The number of troops Bush calls for is so low that if they lined up along the length of the border they would be stationed almost 600 yards apart. That’s six football fields. And even then, they’d have to be on duty 24 hours a day. That’s not a policy; it’s a bone intended to temporarily sate the most rabid of his nativist critics. And even they aren’t buying his gambit. Instead, they’re holding fast to the idea of constructing a wall along the entire US-Mexican border.

To those who opposed Bush’s re-election, it seemed that his enduring legacy would be the ongoing screwing of the poor, working people, and elements of the middle class, while erasing the distinction between church and state. But things have gone well beyond that point. Bush and his congressional Republican majority spend money like water, endangering the material prospects of future generations. They break existing law with arrogant impunity and engage in behavior so unconstitutional that in any other nation it would be called authoritarian at best, pre-fascist at worst.

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