NEW YORK -- It hasn't taken long for Resident-Select Bush to emerge as the right-wing extremist his record in Texas made readily apparent to anyone with a working knowledge of the English language. What began with the Generalissimo's nominations of a bizarre Christian fundamentalist as attorney general and a corporatist anti-environmentalist as interior secretary has continued with a frenzy of retro-Reagan madness:The Return of Supply-Side Economics. Like the Gimper before him, Bush is proposing a tax cut that replaces the fiscal discipline of the Clinton years with an absurd sop to a tiny coterie of ultrarich greed monsters. Someone ran up the deficit, and all I got was this stupid $33-a-year tax break! Coming soon:
- The end of the incredibly fair, progressive estate tax, all to benefit the few hundred multimillionaires who die each year -- multimillionaires too stupid to give their kids their money before they die.
The Strip-Mining of America. It's no coincidence that Gale Norton studied under James Watt. All things considered, the Bush administration's obsession with spilling oil all over the tundra in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (in an effort to trash the joint linguistically as well as environmentally, the Bushies call it "ANWR") is relatively minor. Telling the rest of the globe to go to hell on global warming, on the other hand, is a colossal disaster in the making. The weather gets stranger and hotter, the Europeans hate our guts, and soon we'll all be dead. Nice going, George.
- War With China? Not likely. Still, as The New York Times noted on April 3, the United States would never tolerate spy flights 60 miles off our coast. We owe the Chinese an apology and an end to such overtly arrogant espionage against a supposed trading partner. You'd think we'd be a tad sheepish after our bombs "accidentally" blew up the Chinese embassy in Belgrade last year, killing several staffers, but the reconstituted Cold War clique at 1600 Penn prefers to keep insulting the world's largest nation for no better reason than old-school commie-bashing. Whether or not the current crisis leads to military conflict, only right-wing Republican morons would have turned our screw-up into Def-Con 2.
As the illegitimately installed Beltway junta busily decimates the economy, the environment and world peace all at the same time, Democrats are casting blame on, of all people, Ralph Nader. Nader got more votes than the Bush-Gore split in Florida, their logic goes, and if those Green Party ballots had gone to Gore, none of this crap would be happening.
Strictly speaking, that's true. The trouble is, electoral politics are rarely linear.
For one thing, much of Nader's support came from disenchanted voters who registered specifically to vote for him. Without Nader on the ballot, they would have stayed home on Election Day. He even pulled in a few Republican voters, mainly McCain supporters.
More to the point, people (like me) turned to Nader because he presented an alternative to Clintonism's New Democrat approach, characterized by eight years of giving away the store to Republicans while getting nothing progressive back in return. Gore didn't let Clinton campaign for him, but he never disavowed the Man From Hope's policies: Welfare reform and free trade are anathema to lefties. The race between an articulate, intelligent, incumbent environmentalist -- in a year when the environment was a winning, bipartisan issue -- and a dim-witted governor of a state famous for its pollution ought never have been so close. The Gore campaign took its geographical and political base for granted. As a result, he lost his home state of Tennessee, long-neglected liberals and the election.
The most curious aspect of the blame-Nader phenomenon, however, is its most glaring oversight: Bush himself. After all, no one's forcing Bush to provoke the Chinese into nuking our asses or to fill the air with greenhouse gases. Bush could, if he wanted, rule like the Rockefeller Republican he claimed to be back in December. But the attitude among Democrats is similar to revolutionaries who shoot the traitors among them rather than the foreign invaders trying to overthrow them: You can't expect Republicans not to sell out the country to big business and the rich.
After all, they're Republicans. And that's what Republicans do.
Ted Rall, a cartoonist and columnist for Universal Press Syndicate, is author of the graphic novel "2024," which will be published in May.
Copyright 2001 Ted Rall