Are Americans unusually stupid or is it something our president put in the water? ? As millions surrender their homes and sacrifice other standards of our nation's economic and political reputation to the caprice of the Bush-Cheney imperium, a majority of voters tell pollsters that they might vote for a candidate who promises more of the same.
Assuming that likely voters are not now thinking of yet another Republican president simply because John McCain is the only white guy left standing -- an excuse as pathetic in its logic as the decision four years ago to return two Texas oil hustlers to the White House because they were not Massachusetts liberals -- must mean that tens of millions of Americans have taken leave of their senses.
If not the white-guy syndrome, why would even a shocking minority of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama supporters say they prefer McCain to the other Democrat? How otherwise to explain the nation's widespread bipartisan rejection of the Bush presidency and yet a willingness to let McCain continue in that vein?
To be sure, as a senator, McCain has exhibited flashes of independence on behalf of taxpayers, as in his support of campaign-finance reform in which he partnered with Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain's investigations of the military-industrial complex's shameless exploitation of terrorism fears set a high standard, as in exposing the air-tanker scandal that dispatched a Boeing exec and a former Pentagon employee to prison. But his political ambition is showing. Although he previously harshly criticized the enormous waste in the Iraq occupation, today, as a presidential candidate, he opens the door to a hundred years of taxpayer dollars tossed down the drain in Iraq. The man who was tortured now hugs a leader who authorized the same.
By so unabashedly embracing the most glaringly failed U.S. president ever, McCain has surrendered the right to be considered an independent candidate, judged on his own merits and personal history. A vote for McCain is a vote for that rancid recipe mixing religious bigotry, imperial arrogance and corporate greed that he had stood against in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election when he challenged George W. Bush, but to which he now has capitulated.
Too harsh? Then consider just how tight the space is between the rocks of our failed Mideast policy and the hard place of our impending financial disaster. The sudden out-of-control spike in the cost of oil -- the key short-term market variable, the specter that stokes inflation fear and limits moves to avoid recession -- is not a natural disaster or in any realistic way the result of inefficiency in the use of energy. What more than doubled the price of petroleum in the short run was not that too many of us bought Hummers, but rather that the political stability of the region that contains the bulk of that oil was deliberately and recklessly roiled.
In the name of fighting the 9/11 terrorists, the Bush administration overthrew the one Arab government most adamantly opposed to the Saudi financiers of that son of their system, Osama bin Laden. Instead of confronting the royal leaders of a kingdom that supplied 15 of the 19 hijackers, we invaded a nation that supplied not a single one. While Bush overthrew Saddam Hussein, who had no ties to the hijackers, he embraced the leaders of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the only three nations in the world that had diplomatically recognized and supported the Taliban sponsors of al-Qaida.
Consider that historical marker at a time when the UAE and Saudi Arabia bankers are buying major positions in distressed U.S. financial and other key corporate institutions. I know, it all sounds too conspiratorial, like imagining that we might wake up from this national nightmare and discover that the CEO of Halliburton, who replaced Dick Cheney when the latter selected himself to be Bush's vice president, now has his headquarters in Dubai, tucked safely into the obscenely oil-revenue-rich UAE that our troops were sent to Iraq to protect.
There is no national outrage, or even seriously sustained media interest, over the fact that Cheney's old company profited enormously from ripping off U.S. tax dollars going into the Iraq occupation. Nor is there even much curiosity about the shenanigans of Halliburton, which is doing business with Arab oil sheiks at a time when the U.S. banks these Middle Eastern oil interests bought into are moving to foreclose on American homeowners.
It's just the sort of egregious betrayal of the trust of the taxpayers that Sen. McCain would have gone after, before he sought to don the soiled robes of the Bush presidency.
Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.
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