Semi-clever, ultra-wealthy Bush supporters suddenly donating piles of money to the Nader campaign in an obvious attempt to steal votes from John Kerry? Pshaw. Ptouey. Child's play. Tip of the iceberg. A mere distraction.
We ain't seen nuthin' yet.
This is the time of desperation and anxiety. This is the time of hysterical Orange Alerts and imminent al Quada attacks coming from outta nowhere at any minute and violating our children and kicking our puppies and badly denting our Honda Accords. And yes, this is the time of election-year political tactics coming from the increasingly anxious Right that will make Sun Tzu's "Art of War" look like a cupcake cookbook.
Do you feel it? Can you smell it in the air? The sensation that the Republican party, though various tentacles, will stop at absolutely nothing to maintain power in the White House? It's true. It's the feeling that, during the next few months, it's all about to get very shrill, and very surreal, indeed.
How about another, "imminent" terrorist threat? Pretty much a given, really. Followed, of course, by another. And then another. And then another and another until every other day the newscast features a thick-necked, panicky Tom Ridge saying yes, oh my God yes, we now have definitive proof that terrorists are more or less sort of maybe planning to strike the U.S. maybe very soon and disrupt our shopping and screw with our TV reception and blot out the sun. We just don't know, you know, where, or when, or how, or what the hell to do about it. P.S.; Vote Republican.
Look, times have changed. Of course politics has always been a truly ugly business, and each party's strategy to gain or regain power as election time rolls around has always become increasingly low-down and nasty and mudslinging and soul-cringing and borderline illegal.
But this time it all feels, somehow, different. Uglier. More sadistic.
There is a sense of lawlessness, of desperation, among the Republican party right now. It is no longer a question of simply which party will run the show or which platform will have the most influence on policy. Rather, it's about a radically polarized worldview: are we going to be an aggressive macho globally disrespected isolationist nation who has burned all bridges and molested all foreign relationships and mocked all global sympathy, or are we, as the GOP wants you to believe, going to become some liberal namby-pamby country where gays can marry each other and sexually deviant women can have abortions every day and everybody speaks French?
Because there is no middle ground. This is the GOP message. You are either with us, or you are a terrorist. You are either on the side of the "patriotic," pro-war party of WMD lies and homophobia and violence toward the global community, or you're a liberal hippie 'Nam protester like that jerknose Kerry.
What else could they do to guarantee a November win? What are they capable of, in the wake of 2000's stolen election and the rigging of the Florida recounts and a sneering, despoiled Supreme Court? Just about anything, really.
How about a nice "October Surprise" of suddenly finding Osama somewhere in a remote Afghani cave, as the news media receives an "anonymous" delivery of a big glossy photo of Dubya himself standing outside said cave in a manly flight suit and lookin' all tough in his cowboy boots and confused smirk as he waves an American flag in one hand holds Osama by a chain in the other? What, too obvious?
Well, then, maybe something a bit more devious? How about the thousands of electronic, touch-screen voting machines now installed in the nation's polling places, most every one manufactured by corporations run by staunch Bush-supporting Republicans, many of which don't allow for recounts or paper trails or any means of double-checking their completely programmable results. An obvious recipe for election-rigging? Is that Katherine Harris, giggling through her Botox?
Look. This much is clear. It's not merely going to be dirty politics as usual. It's not going to be mudslinging and name-calling and finger-pointing and policy-wonking, childish little claims of "fuzzy math" and aww-shucks dumb-guy cowboy shtick to appeal to the lower intellects.
It is not going to merely be BushCo spending millions of its enormous war chest, as he already has, to launch incredibly vicious attack ads against Kerry and Edwards that dare to question the veracity and validity of Kerry's many Vietnam war medals or of Edwards' political experience, as Bush himself is the least-qualified president in U.S. history, one who ducked military service and went AWOL and makes all military service people wince in embarrassment.
No, it's going to be far worse. And more nauseating. Who, for example, isn't sighing in appalled disgust as the Pentagon suddenly discovers that, oh my goodness, Bush's own military service records were "accidentally" destroyed? How amazing! And would you believe it, but the records in question just so happened to be the exact months of just those exact years that Bush was supposedly to have "served." What a crazy coincidence! Now we can never really know if he even bothered to show up for duty at all! Gosh, what a shame.
Another possibility: ditching nasty, wan little Dick Cheney entirely. Rumor has it the Angry Puppeteer could be dumped from the ticket very soon, swapped for a less slimy and more human candidate. Maybe a nice, crusty war hero like John McCain? Or a strange, lonely, friendless woman like Condi Rice? A bitter, emasculated Colin Powell? Anything to galvanize the ticket, make it, you know, less ugly and old and warmongering, more palatable and sassy and Edwards-like. This is the new rule: If it might force a victory, the GOP will consider it.
And finally, if all else fails, well, why not just postpone the whole damn election itself?
That's right, simply invent some (non-specific, unsubstantiated) terrorist threat of sufficient hysteria so that BushCo simply has no choice but to delay the vote. The result? Give you gullible, timid voters more time to reconsider your choices and maybe vote based on your fear instead of, you know, your heart, or your soul, or your ethics, or your brain, or your general sense of universal humanitarian progress.
Could it happen? Well, no. Most experts say such a delay is impossible, ridiculous, flagrantly anti-democratic. Doesn't matter. What matters is the galling fact that the GOP even floated the idea in the first place.
So then, let this be a warning. Get ready. Expect the unexpected. Watch the skies, scrutinize the headlines, dust off your stash of duct tape. Because Karl Rove and the cutthroat BushCo war hawks and corporate cronies who run the show aren't about to go down without a screaming, sickening, fiery fight.
And if BushCo has proven anything in the past four violent, budget-gutting, honor-molesting, nearly unbearable years, it's that there ain't no international law that can't be broken, no fear synapse that can't be hammered to death, no fraudulent power tactic that can't be abused. Anything is possible. You have been warned. God bless America.
©2004 SF Gate