Tag: George W. Bush

The Difference

As we careen, cartwheel, and plummet into the finale of this interminable election season, one refrain we hear many times is that Republicans and Democrats are one and the same.

Indeed, there is ample evidence that both parties are indebted to big business and the status quo. And as Latinos know, Obama’s original immigration policies weren’t much of an improvement over Bush’s approach.

Still, there are differences between the two men running for president— besides the fact that one is a communist Kenyan and the other is a money-grubbing fascist (hey, that’s what the internet told me).

 

For those who have inexplicably not paid attention, Obama is pro-choice, while Romney is pro-life. Obama is against the death penalty, while Romney is fine with it. The president has come out in support of gay marriage, while Romney believes marriage is a straights-only deal. And Obama doesn’t share Romney’s opinion that the US government is inherently inept, corrupt, and/or evil.

I have to admit, those seem to be fairly large differences to me.

Even progressive icon Daniel Ellsberg, no fan of Obama, thinks the president is substantially different from Romney.

So who are the people yelling that Obama and Romney are clones? I mean, besides Lupe Fiasco?

Well, there are true believers who think a leftist or libertarian chief exec is a possibility (it’s not). Then there are self-proclaimed radicals who dismiss the entire American system as corrupt or bourgeois or just plain icky. And finally, there are voters who simply say, “It don’t matter none.” 

But of course it does matter. And for Latino voters, it’s crucial.

Hispanics are the least likely ethnic group to have health insurance, a situation that the infamous Obamacare may alleviate.

On immigration, Obama has endorsed the Dream Act (belatedly, of course), while Romney is still trying to explain how self-deportation would work.

And when it comes to economic policy, Romney’s tax cuts would benefit the upper classes, which are not exactly awash in Latinos. Keep in mind that according to some experts, Romney “cannot deliver all the tax cuts he promised to the wealthy without raising taxes on the middle class.” One can presume that Hispanics will not be among the direct beneficiaries of his tax plan.

However, perhaps some Latinos still believe that it doesn’t matter who wins. Well, think back to those distant days of 2000, when Bush was elected. At the time, many Americans voted for Nader because Gore and Bush were apparently too similar. Therefore, we have to assume that under President Gore, the September 11 attacks, the Great Recession, and FEMA’s horrific response to Hurricane Katrina would have all occurred. Those are rather huge assumptions, to say the least.

But the Iraq War, an obsession unique to neo-cons, certainly would not have happened. So for the families of 4,500 dead US soldiers, there was at least one fundamental, very real difference between the candidates.

By the way, approximately 500 of those soldiers were Latino.

 


Anticlimax

Iraq isn’t our problem anymore. Who cares. Good riddance.

—Internet commentator

USA! USA! USA!

—The same guy, nine years ago.

Future generations will never confuse it with VJ Day. This time, there were no jubilant crowds in Times Square or iconic photographs of sailors kissing nurses or a cross-continental outpouring of relief and exuberance.

Instead, there was a collective shrug as a military convoy rolled through the Iraq desert. The war that began with Shock and Awe ended with Confusion and Indifference.

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Out of Control

As President Bush once famously asked, “Is our children learning?”

Well, in everybody’s favorite state — Arizona — the answer seems to be a resounding no… assuming of course, that we’re talking about Latino kids.

Recently, during a legislative debate in Phoenix, a Republican state representative “stirred up gasps and anger” when she read a letter aloud from one of her constituents.

The letter writer, a substitute teacher named Tony Hill, claimed that he taught in a classroom where his students “were almost all Hispanic and a couple of Black children.” Hill wrote that the students boycotted the Pledge of Allegiance, called him a racist, refused to do their assignments, and even tore apart their textbooks.

Hill summarized his experience by writing that “Most of the Hispanic students do not want to be educated but rather be gang members and gangsters. They hate America and are determined to reclaim this area for Mexico.”

No, it’s not exactly Stand and Deliver.

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Marketing 101

Many thanks to everyone who has recently commented on my posts. You’re all in the running for copies of Raul Ramos y Sanchez’s novels as part of my latest giveaway.

I have to admit, however, that Emmasota’s comment about the Dream Act’s demise conjured up an unpleasant memory for me.

You see, last year I worked with a nonprofit to advocate for the passage of the Dream Act. I knew the odds were long, and of course, the legislation ultimately didn’t pass.

But I would feel better today about fighting the good fight if I hadn’t known, at the time, that our approach was doomed. I had a queasy sensation early on, when I saw one of the video packages that the nonprofit put together (I wasn’t involved with that stage of the campaign).

The video featured kids who would directly benefit from the Dream Act’s passage. Much of it was good, with heart-tugging stories from all-American, clean-cut teens.

But then the bottom fell out. The voiceover threw around terms like “fairness” and “justice.” And one of the teens stated that he “deserved” the rights that the Dream Act would confer.

I knew it was over as soon as the kid said that word.

Americans don’t want to hear that anybody deserves anything. Hell, many citizens will lose their minds if one implies that they deserve basic healthcare (and that’s in their own self-interest!). They certainly don’t want to hear that some whiny kid who wasn’t even born in this country “deserves” his rights.

Sending a video to media outlets and political leaders that featured this tone-deaf tactic just stunned me. Clearly, many advocates of immigration reform haven’t learned the importance of basic marketing.

They continue to push the compassion angle, or back up their assertions with facts that impress no one.

But if the Bush years taught us anything, it’s that sympathy is for suckers. More important, we learned that the truth is irrelevant. Or it’s at least a distant second to proper messaging.

How else do you think conservatives got an overwhelming majority of Americans to embrace a war that made absolutely no sense?

Other progressive movements have learned this tactic.

For example, gay rights are also issue of fairness and basic justice. Yet, advocates of repealing the DADT Policy went easy on this essential truth. Instead, they successfully presented the issue as one that was necessary to America’s well-being.

The message was, basically, “We need all the help we can get establishing a strong military and intelligence network. This will keep America safe, so drop your prejudice in favor of simple self-preservation.”

It worked. DADT is history.

Immigration-reform advocates need to adopt this strategy. Instead of pointing out about how unfair or irrational our policies are — which is true but a loser’s lament — hit people in the wallet by making it clear that a massive-deportation philosophy will cost them money. Or hammer home the idea that policies such as the Dream Act will improve the economy and strengthen the military.

In other words, let’s see more about how immigration reform will benefit current citizens, instead of pleading that civil rights be extended to strangers.

It may not be pretty, or even that principled. But it has to be more effective than what we’ve accomplished so far.


A Fundamental Misunderstanding

On this Independence Day, let’s acknowledge a truly patriotic viewpoint. Yes, regardless of our political orientation or cultural viewpoint, we can all agree on one thing: most Americans are stupid.

People on the left think that of people on the right, people on the right think it of people on the left, and we all have disdain for the wimps in the middle. Because most people don’t agree with us on a given subject, they are stupid.

Of course, if we really think about it, it could not possibly be true that a majority of our fellow citizens are mouth-breathing neo-Neanderthals. But even the most kind-hearted among us has, at one point or another, bemoaned the inability of the thick-headed masses to comprehend our opinion.

The exception to this rule is when we find, to our surprise and joy and even alarm, that the majority concurs with us. Then we’re quick to say, “Hey, most people agree with me, so back off.”

The fact that we so easily fluctuate between praising and rejecting other people’s opinions should tell us something. But all it really does is entrench our positions. I’m as guilty of this as anyone.

The reason I bring all this up is because that infamous tool of totalitarianism – the public-opinion poll – shows that more Americans support Arizona’s new anti-immigration law than oppose it. In Arizona itself, the law is popular with an overwhelming 70 percent of the population.

Well, that should do it then. The law stands. The debate is over. We live in a country of majority rule, after all.

There’s just one problem: We don’t vote on rights.

Either Arizona’s law is unconstitutional or it’s not (frontrunners for its eventual overturning are the Fourth and Sixth Amendments). In either case, it’s not left to a popularity contest.

The truth is that America is more about minority rights than majority rule. I know I tread on dangerous ground when I invoke “the Founders,” but I will do so now. The framers of the Constitution were pretty damned touchy about the tyranny of the majority. That’s why they came up with that pesky Bill of Rights.

As such, we can’t just deny rights to groups we dislike, be they Latinos, gays, or Nickleback fans (actually, that last one may pass Constitutional muster). This concept seems difficult for Americans to understand. So let’s go with a historical example.

No doubt, in 1950, most Americans would have voted against letting black people enjoy the privileges that the majority culture enjoyed. Change came about not only because people got educated and the younger generation took control, but because of things like Brown vs. Board of Education. The Supreme Court, in what can only be called an activist decision, said that basic rights are not dependent upon the generosity of the majority.

Again, we don’t vote on rights.

But setting aside that basic concept, let’s look at the reliability and immutability of public opinion itself. Remember that on the eve of the Iraq War, polls showed that upwards of 80 percent of Americans supported George W. Bush’s policy of “regime change.” Somehow, I doubt that decision garners this kind of enthusiasm today.

That was way back in 2003. What will Americans of, say, 2017 think of our opinion?


A New Start?

At this point, Barack Obama has been president for about nine hours. Surprisingly, everything is not all better just yet.

That’s because regardless of one’s political leanings, religious beliefs, or philosophical affiliations, only a deluded optimist would insist that Obama has inherited a good situation. The last eight years have been a nonstop, unending, it-can’t-get-any-worse-but-it-has cavalcade of disaster.

I don’t mean that the Bush years were just bad for Hispanics. It’s true that, in the last decade, Latinos have become the top victims of hate crimes based on ethnicity. It’s also true that the economic wipeout has affected the lower classes more, of which Hispanics make up a disproportionate percentage. And it’s ultimately true that Latinos are currently being blamed for everything from the increase in petty crime to the housing crisis to the country’s apparent moral collapse (this latter disaster seems to happen every few years).

But we do not hold a monopoly on the suffering.

The past decade has been catastrophic for whites, blacks, people of Middle Eastern descent, intellectuals, scientists, union laborers, New Orleans residents, civil libertarians, gays, moderate conservatives, atheists, middle-class office managers, stay-at-home moms, rugged farmers, diabetic stock brokers, one-eyed dentists, and “Battlestar Galactica” freaks – in short, just about everybody in America.

As I say goodbye to President Bush, I’m trying to imagine any administration in history having even one of the following as its legacy:

  • Two botched wars (including the worst foreign-policy decision since Vietnam)
  • Two recessions (including the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression)
  • The worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history (the mastermind behind it is still at large)
  • The most inept handling of a major natural disaster in U.S. history (we basically lost the city of New Orleans to mud and water moccasins)
  • An unprecedented, massive backsliding of civil rights (historians will be amazed that we put up with this fear-mongering)
  • Overt, criminal corruption at the Justice Department (at least in the same league as Watergate)
  • An incredibly tarnished image abroad (and yes, it does matter if we want to claim that we lead the free world).

 That’s just the big stuff. I know I’m forgetting a lot.

Any one of those top three items is sufficient to end discussion about Bush’s competence. Put them all together and pile on other major catastrophes and some lesser disasters and… well… really, I’m still trying to comprehend how all this happened under the watch of one guy. This much chaos usually gets spread around over a half-century or so.

Some commentators say that Bush’s reputation will be repaired as time goes on. I agree, in the sense that it can’t get any worse… then again, I’ve said that phrase many times over the last eight years.

Will Obama be a fresh start and the beginning of a bold new era of greatness and American strength? Or will he be our second dud in a row?

I’m optimistic that he will be a good president, even if I’ve never quite bought into the whole “Obama as Lincoln/Roosevelt/savior” thing. Hell, I’ll settle for basic competency at this point.

In any case, I join all Americans – Hispanic, white, black, Asian, and purple –  in wishing the new president well. Hopefully, we can get back on track.

It’s not like we’re due for some good news or anything.


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