November 9th, 2005

Voted for Dean

Good Day for the Good Guys

Yesterday was, as is usual on the first Tuesday in November, an election day in a lot of places in the US. It being an odd numbered year, in most places it was just for tiny little local issues. For example, in my precinct the only thing on the ballot was an attempt to increase local property taxes so that the local Community Fire Protection District can afford to continue to offer free ambulance service. But there were some bigger races in some places. Anti-Democrat initiatives backed by the Governator in California, and governor's races in both New Jersey and Virginia. Republicans lost them all. Nowhere did they lose bigger and more thoroughly than where Bush campaigned for the Republican.

Karl Rove had a vision, a dream, when his guy got into office, that they could use Clinton's unpopularity as a lever, and the opportunity to replace at least two Supreme Court justices, to push through a whole bunch of changes to US culture and law that would result in a nearly permanent single-party country, one where Democrats were as scarce and weak and ineffectual as, say, the Libertarians or the Greens are here. But the general public has finally figured out that the Bush Administration has been lying to them about Iraq since before even 9-11, which means that, as the protest signs say, "Bush Lied. Thousands Died." This makes him about as popular as a turd in a punchbowl. Every poll that's been taken since the Scooter Libby indictment has broken new lows for popularity and for public opinion of competence. At this point, Bush is less popular than Nixon was during Watergate. Bush/Cheney/Rove over-reached, and now not only can they kiss their permanent Republican majority goodbye, they couldn't have done a better job of making the Democrats look popular if they tried.

Scott McClellan's been helping, too. If anybody up there was paying attention, the man would have been encouraged to step down more than a week ago. If he himself had any integrity, he would have done so voluntarily. The job of White House Press Secretary comes with one hard and fast rule: you can do or say anything to promote your guy's side of the story, except for one thing: you can not get caught actually lying, not even once. Remember that flap over the "spontaneous" satellite TV conversation between Bush and some soldiers in Iraq that turned out to not be so spontaneous after all? Because somebody in the White House communications department accidentally sent reporters a video tape of the rehearsal, which showed that the soldiers were told what to ask and in what order, and coached on how to say their parts convincingly while still giving the President the straight lines he wanted? By now, everybody would have forgotten about it. Heck, by now half of you have probably forgotten about it. But I'll tell you who hasn't forgotten about it: the White House Press Corps. Not because of the fake TV event, that kind of thing happens all the time. Because when somebody asked Scott McClellan about it, hours after the videotape of the rehearsal had already been shown on every 24 hour news channel in America, he bluntly and baldly lied. After every attempt to talk around the subject or change the subject failed, when backed into a corner and made to comment on-the-record about it, he bluntly said, "There was no rehearsal." He was booed. No, really, he was actually booed.

And the booing hasn't stopped. Last night on Countdown, Keith Olbermann broadcast a big chunk of videotape of yesterday's White House press briefing. McClellan issued a denial that any torture was happening in those out-of-country, (no longer) secret prisons that the CIA operates, and said flatly, "We don't torture." He repeated, over and over again, a statement that it is the administration's principle that we don't use torture, period. Follow-up question: Then why have we heard from so many Senators that Vice President Cheney is lobbying them hard for an exemption for the CIA in McCain's anti-torture bill? He tried to not answer the question, and got nothing but loud disrespect from the room. Even the reporters from conservative media outlets wouldn't ask him a different question when called on. The whole press corps was determined to get him on the record on this one, too. So he flatly denied that Cheney has lobbied for a CIA torture exemption. And he was again booed, catcalled, and shouted at by the whole room. He broke the rules. He demonstrated that he has no integrity. He is now completely useless as a spokesman. Every day he is up there at that podium, he makes the administration look even worse to the news outlets that report on it. If the Bush Administration thought they were getting unfairly bad publicity before, wait until they see what the press does to them if they have to put up with Scott McClellan for months or years. After getting caught lying to the press corps, now at least twice, if Scott McClellan is still the President's press secretary two years from now then even Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly will be insinuating on the air that Bush is some kind of perverted and murderous monster. You just don't get to do what Scott McClellan has done and stay White House Press Secretary.

And if that weren't reason enough to cheer, I saved the best for last. One of those many tiny, little local elections was for school board in Dover, Pennsylvania. Those of you who are following the "intelligent design" hoax may recognize it, it's one of the school boards caught up in lawsuits over a requirement that teachers teach "intelligent design" as a scientific theory on equal footing with evolution. The school board election became, according to even the local newspapers, entirely a plebiscite on teaching "intelligent design" in schools. Two slates of 8 candidates, otherwise identical: 8 pro-evolution, 8 anti-evolution. The pro-evolution side won a clean sweep, 100% victory, after campaigning on nothing but a promise to yank "intelligent design" out of the science curriculum, and move it to an optional course on comparative religion. Here's the local paper's reporting: "Dover CARES sweeps school dir. seats." And here's the Reuters wire service story, which headlines it even more bluntly: "'Intelligent-design' school board ousted in Penn." The last paragraphs also make the point, perhaps not coincidentally, that Bush has endorsed "intelligent design."

Not a perfect election day, but a pretty darned good one. Overall, the bad guys took it on the chin.