Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ghosts of elections past & Postscript

I was rereading my journal (more on that another time) and came across this entry for December 11th, 2000.

“Oh %$#@! Al Gore gave his concession speech earlier tonight and that twittering idiot frat boy will be president. Gore’s speech was rather dignified and “statesmanlike” a high moment for someone who could have and should have sounded more like that during the campaign. Bush gave a simple speech, nice, attempting to be non-partisan. Nice man but NOT a deep thinker. He’s going to gut social security like a fish, pack the Supreme Court with ultra conservative judges and will mess up the economy so bad…Well, like Andrew Jackson in the election of 1824, Gore will be back in 2004.”

In light of seeming so prescient on Bush (sadly not on Gore), I confess a lot of my opinion on him came from reading Molly Ivins’ Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush right before the election. Ivins was a syndicated reporter from Texas whose very funny writing frequently got her in trouble. She famously said on US Representative James M. Collins, "If his IQ slips any lower we'll have to water him twice a day."

Shrub is not one of those political books exposing scandals and personal misdeeds. Instead, Ivins follows the plucky political fortunes of W from his time as a failed oilman to governor of Texas and how his past record of behavior followed him in every position.

It’s all there: Bush’s lack of verbal grace and his informal charm; his ability to stay on (uncomplicated) message; Karl Rove’s dirty tricks campaign at every step; Bush friendly to big “Bidness” in Texas; how his second in command (the lt. governor) had more power than he did; how he turned Texas’ budget surplus into a billion dollar deficit; how he pushed for tort reform protecting corporations from law suits; how he gave government money to oil companies while cutting services to the poor; how he claimed to be pro-environment and scuttled environmental regulations and left Texas a more polluted state than when he entered office; and how he appointed ineffectual wealthy friends to important positions in the government.

Aside from being devastatingly funny, Ivins’ book shows that if anything, Bush was consistent in his character, an unfortunate fact for the country. Every policy mishap that occurred over the past two terms of his presidency (and let’s face it, they were legion) sent me running back and quoting Shrub. She does have some positive things to say about Bush on education and some nice things to say about McCain during the 2000 republican campaign, especially in light of how nasty the Rove led campaign was on McCain.

Ivins died of breast cancer in 2007. I wish she were still around and commenting on this campaign. She would have been devastatingly funny. God knows, she would have a lot of material with which to work.

I found this quotation John McCain made in Lynchburg VA in 2000 which ended his presidential run.
"The politics of division and slander are not our values. They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country."

How come THAT John McCain wasn't running this year?