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Oval Office Outrages Just Keep Coming
Published on Monday, September 8, 2003 by the SF Gate
Oval Office Outrages Just Keep Coming
by Harley Sorensen

Suppose you were a screenwriter and you used the Bush administration as a model for a screenplay. Do you think anyone in Hollywood would buy it?

"Not a chance," would say Steven Spielberg. "Too outlandish. Nobody would believe anything as ridiculously far-fetched as that."

"Too violent," would say Quentin Tarantino. "Too much blood, too much gore."

"Far too Machiavellian," would say Oliver Stone. "The way the backroom guys take advantage of your Colin Powell character and that Condoleezza Rice character goes beyond belief. And whoever heard of a name like 'Condoleezza' in the first place? Get real."

"It has possibilities," would say the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. "There certainly is a lot of gallows humor in it. Trouble is, the humor isn't funny."

And so on. Nobody in Hollywood would touch such a bizarre screenplay.

Take the latest chapter of the George W. Bush saga, in which Mr. Bush and his cronies have finally realized what the rest of the world knew long before they attacked Iraq, that the war part would be relatively easy, but the aftermath would be impossible.

Now that the Bushies acknowledge that, they have the incredible chutzpah to go to the United Nations, hat in hand, and ask for help.

This is the same United Nations, bear in mind, that the Bushies said represented "old Europe" before the Iraq fiasco got under way. It is the same United Nations that was deemed irrelevant by the Bushies -- out of touch, tired and not up to 21st-century standards.

The Bushies told the U.N. to flake off. Who needs it? We are America, they said, the world's only superpower, the land of the free and home of the brave. We have God on our side. What else matters?

What they called "the coalition of the committed" would go it alone, the Bushies said. Their message was, "We can handle it."

But they couldn't, and now they have the audacity to ask the U.N. for help. "Sorry we dissed you, fellows, but, heh-heh, we wuz just kiddin'. That's what we dude ranchers in Crawford, Texas, do. We kid a lot."

What is going on now between the Bushies and the United Nations is just the latest example of the most outrageous administration in American history.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was pretty audacious in his day, too, but nothing like the Bushies. Roosevelt tried to pack the Supreme Court by increasing its numbers and then adding Democratic justices, but he didn't get away with it.

Most of Roosevelt's heavy-handedness was aimed at controlling the excesses of Big Business or advancing the fortunes of the less fortunate. Bush, by comparison, is simply carrying on the Bush family tradition of using political office for personal financial gain.

You could count Roosevelt's peccadilloes on your fingers, but Bush's outrages occur on an almost daily basis. They just keep coming. Asking the U.N. now for help -- without offering power sharing or profit sharing in return -- is just the latest.

Another recent outrage, gargantuan in its immensity, was the doling out of huge no-bid reconstruction projects in Iraq to a handful of administration favorites. The Bushies just did that, gave away millions upon millions in taxpayer dollars to their buddies, and didn't even bother to disguise what they were doing.

It's that openness that worries me, that in-your-face attitude. Most politicians worry about the next election. The Bushies seem to be taking the 2004 presidential election for granted. They don't seem to care what the people think.

They act like the fix is in and they know it.

Look back on election night 2000, when Al Gore called Bush twice, first to concede the election, then to withdraw his concession. In the second call, Bush told Gore that he had been assured by his brother Jeb, governor of Florida, that he would win Florida and thus win the national election.

As we later learned, there was good reason for Jeb to feel confident. It's debatable, of course, but one could easily conclude from the facts that have since come out that in Florida, the 2000 election was rigged in favor of Bush.

Fast-forward now to Ohio, where Republican Walden O'Dell, in a fund-raising letter, recently wrote that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year."

That's fine. That's what political fund-raisers are supposed to say.

But in this case, maybe it isn't so fine. Not when you consider who O'Dell is.

According to an Aug. 28 article in Cleveland's Plain Dealer, O'Dell is chief executive of Diebold Inc. And Diebold is one of three firms "eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election."

Let's put it another way: The guy whose machines might be counting the votes in Ohio next year is in Bush's back pocket. (O'Dell visits Bush in Crawford and is a member of the Rangers and Pioneers, the unduly flattering names given to Bush's wealthiest contributors.)

Add two and two together, and you might get four.

So what we have here is a situation in which Bush really doesn't seem to give a hoot what voters think, in which he won last time through very questionable tactics in Florida and in which new, unproven electronic voting machines are going to be used throughout America. And, in at least one state, Ohio, the guy who hopes to have his machines installed is one of Bush's best buds.

Perhaps it's time to take Fidel Castro up on his offer and let him send Cuban observers to the States to observe the 2004 elections for fairness.

That's a facetious suggestion, of course, but it's not out of line to suggest that the Democrats had better be on their toes when November 2004 rolls around. The Bushies often seem crazy (brazenly ignoring the threat of global warming, for instance), but they're crazy like foxes.

They very well might have a trick or two up their sleeves. There is nothing so outlandish that they won't try it.

Harley Sorensen is a longtime journalist. His column appears Mondays. E-mail him at

©2003 SF Gate


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