Poll-axed 

Bush and Cheney catch last train to Martzville

The latest polls are nothing but bad news for President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and whatever goals their administration may have hoped to accomplish in its second term. Blunder piled upon blunder has left Bush with his lowest ratings so far, with those disapproving his performance as president outnumbering those who approve nearly two-to-one. While many seem stunned at Bush’s precipitous fall from grace, to those of us living in Montana, it looks like a replay of the bad old days of one-party rule.

A CBS News poll released this week found Bush with approval ratings of only 34 percent—one percent less than his former low, which came immediately after the Hurricane Katrina disaster. This time, however, it’s a self-made disaster bringing Bush down, in the form of his too-quick approval of the sale of U.S. port operations to a private company, Dubai Ports World, owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates.

The controversy has spawned a raging wildfire of criticism, which isn’t surprising considering the emphasis Bush, Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have placed on national security since the 9/11 attacks. While our own government is secretly spying on Americans, listening to our phone conversations and reading our e-mails, the concept of handing over the operation of our vital seaports to an Arab-owned business seems downright whacky.

Some political pundits have pointed out that in the age of globalization, a company’s home-office location is almost a moot point. Moreover, they warn that such “profiling” will have long-term deleterious results for both U.S. foreign policy and global business interests. But as the polls show, those arguments are simply not winning many points for the Bush team.

For most Americans, the idea of handing port operations over to Arab control seems flat-out crazy. These days most shipping cargo is containerized in steel boxes the size of semi-trucks—and hundreds of thousands of these containers come into the country from all over the world every day. One of the ongoing headaches for the Department of Homeland Security is the grim reality that only a tiny fraction of these containers are ever inspected thoroughly—and that it would take only one to house a so-called “dirty bomb” that could wreak havoc on the nation’s heavily-populated coastal areas.

Had the Bush administration’s track record been one of international cooperation and enlightened diplomacy, our relations with the rest of the world would undoubtedly be better and perhaps dangers from abroad would be less of a concern. But that clearly isn’t the case. Bush came into office threatening other sovereign nations, launched a war of aggression in Iraq and foolishly called it a “crusade”—which holds pointed meaning to Muslims worldwide. Thanks to Bush’s brash actions and his obvious abuses of the nation’s military as “the war president,” there’s just about no way America’s standing within the Arab world could get lower unless we actually nuked an Arab state.

Ironically, Bush has fallen into a pit he dug himself. From inflammatory speeches denouncing other nations to his endless fear-mongering here at home, he has managed to create an aura of perpetual threat from abroad to fuel his so-called “global war on terror.” But if the threats are so real and so deadly that we are trashing domestic social, health, education and environmental budgets to provide the military with $1.5 billion dollars a day (that’s about $62 million an hour, or a million bucks a minute!), then how can he expect Americans to believe that selling our port operations to an Arab firm is a good idea? Bluntly put, he can’t—and the recent poll found 70 percent of Americans think the port deal should be stopped.

As the Iraq War spirals into a disaster of epic proportions, even Republicans are openly contesting Bush’s oft-repeated propaganda that everything is going just great. With midterm elections looming, an increasing number of Republicans are coming to see Bush as doing more harm than good for the party’s chances of retaining control of Congress.

Here in Montana, the mystery of Bush’s downfall seems less puzzling because we have already lived it. When the Republicans controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the state Legislature, Montana suffered tremendous harm. Thanks to too much power and too little debate, we gave away our affordable and secure utilities in the deregulation debacle, beggared the treasury with tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, doubled college tuition for our kids, and trashed what were once some of the finest environmental laws in the nation so corporate pirates could plunder the state. The results finally stacked up in such horrific quantity that the Republicans were driven from power after the final blundering governance of Judy Martz—who left office with an approval rating of about 20 percent.

Under Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress, the same thing has happened at the national level. Debate is curtailed on vital issues such as the Patriot Act, domestic spying and political corruption while the behemoth of one-party rule rolls over minority objections with tax cuts for the rich, the wholesale give-away of the nation’s remaining natural resources to the energy cartels, and the trillions in debt to be loaded on the backs of future generations, thanks to the unending demands of pointless wars abroad. Meanwhile, a Congress without conscience “balances” the budget with cuts to some of our most necessary domestic programs, leaving America’s poor and hungry to go begging while the Pentagon thinks up new ways to spend its vast appropriations.

Dick Cheney’s new approval rating is 18 percent, down from 23 percent only a month ago. With Bush plummeting fast, old Dead-eye Dick had best scoot on over to make a little room for his buddy George—because if the polls mean anything, they’re both on the Last Train to Martzville.

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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