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Bush Against the Ropes


The Democrats ought to be in great shape: Bush is going down in the polls. Social Security has become a disappearing issue. The Plame investigation threatens Karl Rove and perhaps others on the White House staff. The Christian right is pushing Bush further and further into kookiness, with calls for remaking education along the lines of “intelligent design.” Bush’s energy policy has no effect on slowing runaway gasoline prices. People across the nation dread what’s going to happen to their pocketbooks when home heating bills for both oil and gas hit at the first cold snap.

The war is still an important plank for Bush. But God works better. And John Roberts works best of all. To cheers and standing ovations before the Idaho National Guard last week, Bush returned to a campaign slogan that brings people cheering to their feet: “Freedom is not America’s gift to the world. Freedom is an almighty God’s gift to each man and woman in this world.”

Bush has also ignored Congress and installed John Bolton, who is pressing for changes at the U.N. that would undermine the purpose of the organization and serve as a slap in the face to developing nations. Bolton wants to put the brakes on any plans aimed at curbing global warming. And he desires to remove language that commits the U.N. to reducing the gap between rich and poor.

Where are the Democrats? The party’s establishment, such as it is—Joe Biden and John Kerry, for example—are socked into the war. So, it appears, is Hillary Clinton. She acts like she’s already the nominee, “bobbing and weaving” as one activist put it, and in typical Clinton style, acting as if the rules don’t apply to her. Hillary is Hil-lary. She doesn’t have to lead. Instead, the senator from New York plays with words on abortion and studiously ponders such subjects as how to get religion back into the mix without looking like an opportunistic nut. She doesn’t talk about the war, which she has supported, nor about Cindy Sheehan. Time and again she looks like the model Bush Lite–DLC candidate. And it works. She’s getting accolades from George Will for resisting the “siren songs” of people like Sheehan.

The nomination of Roberts to the Supreme Court already has split the Democrats, making any opposition to him seem dubious, if not reckless, for a politician. When the hearings start, there’s likely to be more disarray, leaving Bush looking better and better.

Taking on the war is tricky business. “Democrats with long memories know perfectly well that similar demands for withdrawal during the Vietnam War wrecked the party’s reputation on national security issues for a generation,” Washington Monthly‘s Kevin Drum writes in the Los Angeles Times. “The American public tended to associate Democratic doubts with the nation’s first-ever military defeat, and regardless of whether that conclusion was fair or not, no one is eager to repeat it.”

This is rich

Despite the long faces, huge fines, and lengthy jail sentences for heads of some corporations, the average big-company CEO is raking in more cash than ever, in large part thanks to the war. The average annual CEO pay for the biggest companies is now $11.8 million, compared with $27,460 for a worker’s average yearly pay. “If the minimum wage had risen as fast as CEO pay since 1990, the lowest paid workers in the U.S. would be earning $23.03 an hour today, not $5.15 an hour,” reports a new study from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy.

“At the 34 publicly traded U.S. corporations among the 2004 top 100 defense contractors—companies such as United Technologies, Textron, and General Dynamics—average CEO pay increased 200 percent from 2001 to 2004, versus 7 percent for all CEOs,” says the study. “For example, David H. Brooks, CEO of bulletproof-vest maker DHB Industries, earned $70 million in 2004 . . . [compared with] his 2001 compensation of $525,000. In May 2005, the Marine Corps recalled more than 5,000 DHB armored vests after doubts were raised about their effectiveness.”

God’s hit man

The Republican establishment may pass Pat Robertson off as an amusing wack job, but he floats ideas for Bush, and the proposal to kill Venezuela’s Chavez is like putting out a hit on the man.

Coups have been a major foreign policy tool in exercising U.S. power throughout the hemisphere. And under the Bush doctrine of unilateral attack, they are more important than ever. Here is a partial list, prepared with the help of the Council on Hemispheric Policy in Washington, of the Latin leaders we’ve helped get rid of:

Francisco I. Madero: Mexican revolutionary leader deposed, captured, and executed. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Henry Lane Wilson, was deeply involved in ousting Madero, who had helped end Porfirio Diaz’s 30-year dictatorship. Under Diaz’s regime, U.S. investment had boomed, with Americans owning more than 40 percent of all property in the country.

Augusto Sandino:An anti-colonialist Nicaraguan leader, he had laid down arms when the U.S. Marines withdrew from the country. But Anastasio Somoza, a Philadelphia-educated Nicaraguan close to the U.S., ordered henchmen to seize and kill him.

Jacobo Arbenz Guzm An elected president of Guatemala, he was ousted in a plot hatched and in large part carried out by the CIA. A military junta headed by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas replaced him. This was the so-called United Fruit coup.

Rafael Trujillo: The Dominican Republic dictator was gunned down by the Dominican military as he drove to visit his mistress. He had fallen into Dwight Eisenhower’s disfavor after Fidel Castro deposed Fulgencio Batista in Cuba. Ike thought the Commies might win over the D.R. as well if there were an uprising against Trujillo’s corrupt rule. Trujillo’s son hurried home to replace his murdered dad, but the U.S. didn’t like him any better, and the young Trujillo was deposed and replaced by Joaqu Balaguer, who was replaced by the elected Juan Bosch. But Bosch was deemed too leftish and was deposed, again with U.S. connivance.

Salvador Allende: The president of Chile was killed in a mil
itary coup led by Augusto Pinochet on September 11. At the time, Henry Kissinger told President Richard Nixon that the U.S. wasn’t involved in the actual coup, but it is well known that the CIA had been plotting against Allende ever since he came to power.

Maurice Bishop: The president of Grenada was executed in 1983 after a military coup led by Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard. Soon thereafter Reagan invaded to depose the pro-Soviet Coard.

Manuel Noriega: The Panama strongman and longtime employee of the CIA was captured in the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1990, later indicted in the U.S. on drug charges, found guilty in a Miami federal court, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He is eligible for parole next year.

If prior practice is any guide, Hugo Chavez is a marked man.

Additional reporting: David Botti and Isabel Huacuja

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