Take a good long look at the guy who has managed to take our position as the most admired country in the world, and replace it with something else: "The Incredible Shrinking Superpower." That new title comes from this excellent article. I highly recommend it.
Last Friday George Bush paid one of his family's old friends and business partners, King Abudllah, a visit. He thought he'd address the problem Americans are having with $50-$85 fillups by asking his old buddy to stop being such a capitalist, and make the supply of oil a little more in line with the demand for it.
The King said no.
As the article pointed out, "even if the Saudis could reduce gas and oil prices, why would they? They're making a lot of money and the U.S. doesn't have much leverage to convince them they ought to make less."
The rest of the president's five-day trip to the middle east was a similar bust everywhere he turned. He tried to get our "allies" in the region to step up pressure on Iran to abandon its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons -- no go. He failed to get anyone to help us discourage Tehran from arming and training forces to defend Gaza and Lebanon against Israel's endless aggression there. In fact, instead of the backing down a less clumsy leader could have expected, those groups stepped up attacks on America's allies before, and during, his trip. And if that's not enough, he also used the international spotlight he was in to snipe at one of his countrymen who is running for president -- a truly unprecedented piece of unpatriotic behavior. Politics used to end at the water's edge. It doesn't now -- yet another of George Bush's bequests to the country he's been running into the ground for going on 8 years.
Even if his especially slimy attempt to jettison Barack Obama's run at the White House fails, the new president will inherit an America that the George Bush presidency has horribly weakened. The article I linked says that "Bush ['s] ... his successor, Republican or Democrat, will find that America's influence in the world is at its lowest point since the end of the Cold War. The question these days isn't "how weak is Bush?," it's "how weak is America?"
I personally think Obama's up to the challenge like neither McCain nor Clinton can hope to be. Even if we only take the iconic unity symbolism of a man with one Caucasian parent and one African American one into account, he has an enormous leg up with the rest of the world before he even takes office. The other two bring baggage nearly identical to George Bush's: they are the same old tired strutters and fretters upon the world's stage as he is. They are betting the farm on the electorate not being sick and tired to near exhaustion and real fury with that John Wayne act that has brought us to this awful crossroads in history. They seem to actually think that rooster pose -- that mindless truculence -- isn't completely discredited in our minds now. It beggars belief.
No one -- on network or cable news -- talks about the thoroughly metastasized malignancy in this country's electoral process. To hear the horserace-obsessed pundits prattle on and on, you'd think the few thousand votes some slight strategic shift nets this or that candidate might actually might get counted, maybe even counted accurately. Yeah right. In some parallel universe maybe.
They say that the only reason the GOP was removed from the majority in November of 2006 was because we voted to kick them out in massive enough numbers to overcome the well-oiled election hijack machine. Apparently the way it works is they can eliminate about 30% or so of Democrats' votes with various caging techniques, selective voting machine shortages/outages, and by crossing the right GOP palms with the right genre of "coin." The high-tech hacking/misuse of the machines electronics boosts the percentage a little more, but in the face of near-unanimous citizen outrage in the form of a tsunami of votes, it can be overcome. That's the theory anyway.
Theory or reality, it's all we've got. It might not be enough. We've got to try to leverage it anyway.
Ignore any suggestion that Hillary is even close. She's not. Ignore any suggestion that the "popular vote" (yeah right) has actually been, or will actually be, accurately counted. If you insist on dismissing the unassailable evidence that the last two presidential elections were stolen from you, spend just an hour or so looking at the way they drag cardboard boxes of precious ballots and election records around, sort of halfway taped up, leaking ballots all the way down the hall, in the parking lot, in the truck, every time they load them to go be "counted" somewhere, or the casual way the worker bees involved let more of them get dropped on the floor and swept up by the janitor as if they were dust, thrown in the trash when coffee gets spilled on them, miscounted, uncounted, etc. In the case of ballotless precincts the so-called "receipts" or "paper trails" are treated with similar casual disdain. You'll find that the assumption we've all grown up with -- and that the pundits can't seem to shake -- the one that says that our votes are actually counted with something approaching accuracy, is absolute fiction.
It's too late this time -- it may be too late for all time -- to fix it. The one weapon we have, broken, bent, damaged and inaccurate though it may be, is still the vote. Vote in every single election you're registered and qualified to vote in. Buttonhole everyone you know and everyone you meet -- in the park, grocery lines, on the subway, at the water cooler -- and demand that they too vote. Take a videocamera to the polling places and record what you see. It is far more powerful than verbal accounts of the unbelievable things that happen there. Do it as if your life depended on it because in a very real way, it does. Maybe not your life in the sense that your heart continues to beat. But if you define life in that old fashioned way -- the "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" way -- your life does depend on it.
We've got to try to take this country back. We still have a chance. It's slim. But it's there. Grab it. It's never been this important before -- it may never be again. And if there was ever a fight worth fighting . . .
"Shake your chains to earth like dew ... Ye are many -- they are few." Percy Bysshe Shelley