Ochenski: Hornet's nest 

Bush stirs up a new swarm of criticism

Montanans know what it’s like to suddenly find themselves in a swarm of mosquitoes. You can kill thousands of the little buggers, but thousands more will remain to bite every exposed inch of your flesh—and those are just mosquitoes. They bite, suck, and leave the itch you must scratch. Swarms of tiny black flies can drive even hearty Arctic caribou mad—and those are just black flies. They bite, suck, and leave a festering wound. But step into a groundnest of fat yellow jackets, or knock down a hornet’s nest, and then, my friend, you are in real trouble.

Right now the Bush administration is dealing with a potentially lethal cloud of bees. Stumbling about the world, whacking at what they thought would be oil-filled piñatas, they have instead aroused stinging and biting bees of all forms into an enraged swarm.

As last week’s Pew Global Attitudes poll showed, America’s international image has fallen to all-time lows. Even the people who have been our traditional friends and allies are not happy with us now. Millions, perhaps billions, of people all over the world now despise, distrust and fear the United States under George Bush’s violent and aggressive presidency.

But this swarm of bees is more than just an offshore threat.

Suddenly, from within the president’s own closest ranks, comes a nation-rocking buzz from Richard Clarke, the man who was head of Counter-Terrorism under Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and now, George W. Bush. According to Clarke, Bush has blown it on terrorism—both during his time in office before 9/11, when he ignored clear warnings of al Qaeda’s threats, and right up to the present.

His assertions come in his new book, Against all Enemies, which is rocketing to the top of the bestseller lists, and which the Bush administration sees as a serious threat to Bush’s “War President” façade. Clarke says when he told the Bush cabinet that Afghanistan’s al Qaeda claimed responsibility for 9/11, Bush insisted on finding “any thread” to link the bombings to Iraq. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was quoted as having said: “But there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq.”

Needless to say, the Bush administration is fighting back with everything it’s got. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Cheney are all on the stump trying hard to discredit the veracity of Clarke’s assertions.

In this grim national debate of “he said, she said,” it has now come down to a question of “Whom do you believe?” In that equation, the Bush team comes up very short, thanks to its almost endless list of lies, distortions, false threats, and ostentatious declarations of victory.

On the other side of the equation, you have the man charged with leading the fight against the shadowy underworld of terrorism by the last four presidents—three of whom were Republicans. At the height of his long and distinguished professional career, why would Clarke suddenly want to engender the well-known wrath of the Bush administration toward its critics? The answer, that Clarke must do this for the good of the nation, rings as true as a clarion bell in the misty twilight of secrecy in which the Bush administration has cloaked our country.

Clarke is just one bee, but his sting seems particularly threatening to the administration since it destroys Bush’s warrior image, leaving little for this president to claim as accomplishments during his term in office.

Then there’s the $100 billion discrepancy in the cost of the Medicare bill, which has now been tracked back to White House threats against the Medicare system’s chief actuary to keep the true costs from Congress.

The price of oil has hit $38/barrel, driving gasoline costs to all-time highs approaching, and in some places surpassing, the $2 a gallon mark, and setting this nation of gas-guzzlers buzzing as they add these outrageous new costs to their skyrocketing energy bills.

The AFL-CIO, meanwhile, has launched a “Show Us the Jobs” bus tour of Midwestern states where the massive loss of manufacturing jobs to offshore outsourcing is a grim reality plunging American families into economic crisis. As the angry swarm lifts from America’s crumbling, forgotten factories, the Bush administration lauds outsourcing as good for business and tries to jig the numbers by redefining “manufacturing” to include making burgers.

Pouring gas on the fire, it was revealed last week that the Bush campaign was selling “Bush-Cheney ‘04” fleece jackets made in Burma, which is under an import ban due to its brutal military regime and human rights violations. Workers are paid as little as 7 cents an hour for sewing the jackets the Bush campaign is selling for $50. Under Bush, the U.S. has lost 337,000 textile and apparel jobs—about a third of those remaining in the nation—to outsourcing in the last 12 months.

Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program has kicked up yet another swarm of stinging bees, which are whirling up from the nation’s educational system. So far, 28 states have defied the federal government on the unattainable requirements Bush so blithely sought to impose on schools nationwide. Montana, with more than its share of struggling, under-funded rural schools, is joining this angry swarm.

Granted, Bush has $110 million worth of bee-swatters sitting in his swollen campaign fund, but he would undoubtedly prefer to spend those dollars on nasty ads trying to knock Sen. Kerry out of the air. Instead, it looks like a lot of time and money will be spent defending Bush from the swarm.

As we all know, the smart thing to do when attacked by a swarm of bees is to run like hell. Based on its past actions, however, the Bush campaign is much more likely to fall back on its traditional defense—and blame it all on Bill Clinton.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at opinion@missoulanews.com

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