Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Your flight's canceled, but there's a seat open on the Bush bandwagon

And so, here we are on a dreary night before The Great Trudge across the nation for Thanksgiving travelers, who, by the looks of it, would be better off staying home rather than going "home" ...

The revelations in advance of former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's book, that he had been lied to when told that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were "not involved" in the outing of Valerie Plame, and that Bush, Cheney, Rove, Libby and then-Chief of Staff Andrew Card "were involved" in feeding him these falsehoods, are yet another clarion bleat to the criminal endeavor of the Bush Administration, a nearly seven-year reign of lies, bloodshed, and intentional destruction of truth, democracy and the Constitution of the United States. Even certified water-carriers like McClellan are turning on the Bush- Cheney doctrine now, and there is even an outside chance that the two of them will actually have to, at the very least, own up to their crimes, if not be punished for them. Remember, this Joseph Wilson-Valerie Plame-Robert Novak business isn't just a bunch of Washington "insiders" in a tiff about who let slip something about somebody's wife. This was an attempt by the Bush administration, and very likely Bush himself, to undermine an intelligence agency charged with pursuing information that ran counter to the lies that Bush, Cheney and the neo-cons wanted to use to build a case, in the 2003 State of the Union speech, for this useless and tragic war in Iraq. Certainly, though, if Libby can be pardoned, it's hard to imagine Bush or Cheney ever being forced to do more than deny any of this, if even that. Bush, of course, can't pardon himself, but there's no doubt that if Nixon can get some stumbling boob to set him running off scot free just days after he had been chased out of office, Bush should have nothing to worry about. Giuliani, if he gets in office, would pardon Bush in a New York minute, and anyone else who might be sitting in the White House in 15 months would be hearing from right-wing radio on a minute-by-minute basis about how their insistence on any sort of prosecution was tearing apart the country at precisely the time a president is "supposed to be bringing the country together."

But, nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how the Bush administration keeps Congress from, at the very least, making an inquiry into what McClellan knew and when, and precisely what kind of obfuscation was performed by each of the five people he names as responsible for pumping him full of bullshit on this matter. This is what John Dean, no stranger to these sorts of maneuverings as Nixon's White House Counsel, believes will happen. He appeared this evening, as he frequently does, on Keith Olbermann's show, and as I hear his voice and all the trappings of the news surrounding this and other criminal behavior by the White House, I can't help but find my mind in the same frame as it is when I read about the Nixon years ... and specifically, Hunter S. Thompson's chroniclings, which followed the Nixon presidency closely from the 1972 re-election campaign all the way to his resignation and subsequent pardon, and dovetailed into Thompson's close stalking of Nixon's unceasing presence in public life until his death in 1995. I think, in many ways, Olbermann is the modern Thompson. Both are political newsmen who have, among other things, developed a kinship with Dean, both have a rabid interest and consistent involvement in sports journalism, both are anti- authoritarians at heart, and both have a runaway presidential administration that they have played an important role in not only documenting but -- with their knowledge, judgment, wit and stomach for fearless commentary -- reigning in as well. The similarity is particularly strong in Olbermann's more vitriolic passages, as during tonight's broadcast, when he lashed out at the Pentagon in response to their insistence that Jordan Fox, an Army soldier wounded in Iraq, was indebted to them for a nearly $3,000 portion of his enlistment bonus because he was unable to fulfill the final three months of his tour of duty there. "You jackasses are indebted to Jordan Fox and everyone else like him!" declared Olbermann.

Usually though, Olbermann is the near-opposite of Thompson in terms of outrageous behavior. Thompson was in large part defined by his wild and drug-aided exploits, while Olbermann is, at most times, the picture of dignified reserve. Their personalities are more similar than one might think, however -- driven, cantankerous and foul-mouthed in private but ultimately caring people with a great deal of compassion when it comes to the human spirit.

Speaking of the human spirit, it is with a twinge of uneasiness that I approach the story of the Collier County teachers, who are protesting believed inequities in their current contract negotiations (which call for a one-time bonus of one percent instead of a raise) by pledging to do exactly what their current contract states. Which is the opposite of a strike, the method by which most workers strike against tyrannical employers. What the teachers are saying is that they will limit themselves simply to working the hours to which they are contractually obliged, meaning that a good number of them, at least, regularly go above and beyond their standard workday of seven and a half hours. And for this kind of performance the Collier County school board wants to give them only a one percent raise? The very idea that educators are backed into a corner on a daily basis that it is a move of aggression simply to do only what is expected of them is a blatant signal not only to the people of Collier County, which has one of the most appalling gaps between its richest and poorest inhabitants in the nation, but to everywhere in this country where teachers are compensated in a similarly poor manner, which is just about everywhere, that the current system is unacceptable. These teachers should not even be working under such conditions. I once spoke with a teacher employed by neighboring Lee County when I was working as a journalist for The News-Press in Fort Myers. I was attempting to interview her for a simple story about a holiday off from school, but she declined to speak on the record, citing a clause in her contract that withheld her from speaking to any media. This, in itself, is not news to me -- such restrictions are de rigeur in terms of employment for educators and others across the country -- but the very idea that someone who dedicates their working hours to the benefit of society in the capacity of a public employee, and a teacher no less, should have their First Amendment rights abridged in such a manner is antithetical to the values incumbent to the Bill of Rights. Furthermore, it speaks to the kind of sacrifices teachers are forced to make and the culture of intimidation and resignation that is imbedded into our educational system. If teachers don't get a fair shake, what does this say to their students? A teacher who comes to the classroom cowed and fearful will deliver children who are the same. Is this what we want in America?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right on Chuck. As an educator I certainly appreciate your support because we don't get it from our communities, parents, or even from the students at times. We do it not for the money, but for a sincere desire to help students and society,,,but eating and having a place to live is nice too.