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Commentary: Bush's Brain

By Walter Simpson

Buffalo, NY – This year my summer reading includes a disturbing book entitled Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential. The authors, Texas reporters James Moore and Wayne Slater, describe how political consultant Karl Rove remade George W. Bush, got him elected, and now is essentially running the show from behind the curtain.

Has an unelected consultant really assumed presidential powers? If true, this insult to democracy would hardly be the first one delivered by the Bush Administration. Let's not forget that President Bush himself was not elected.

Bush lost the national popular vote and, thanks to a massive post-mortem analysis of the Florida vote conducted by a consortium of major newspapers, we now know that had a full statewide recount been conducted, he would have lost the Florida vote as well. The loss in Florida would have been even greater if African American voters, who are mostly Democrats, weren't disproportionately prevented from voting. Bush is president because he was appointed by the Supreme Court.

Karl Rove represents a faction of the Republican Party which holds democracy in contempt. They are about winning at any cost. Their campaign strategy against Al Gore was a giant deception. They presented Bush Jr. as a compassionate conservative who would respect the moderate views of most Americans and govern from the political center -- when what was always in store was a hard turn to the political right. The campaign was one big con job. Our democracy has taken it on the chin ever since.

Because the rich have more political power than the poor, any action which exacerbates the disparity of wealth between rich, middle class and poor ultimately weakens our democracy. Yet the Bush Administration has been single-minded in throwing favors to the corporate buddies, dishing up tax cuts for the rich, and eliminating the estate tax in order to lock in wealth inequality for generations to come.

Serving the interests of the rich, however, produces some mighty fine payback in terms of campaign contributions. Karl Rove won't let campaign finance reform get in his way. Bush will shatter records for campaign fundraising this year. The millions raised will subvert the will of the people, making government more captive to moneyed interests.

An enlightened citizenry is an essential ingredient of democracy. But what is the likelihood of that? Last month, despite public opposition, the Bush-controlled Federal Communication Commission announced that it would allow fewer companies to own and control radio stations, TV networks and newspapers. As it is, most of what Americans hear from the media is dumbed down consumer culture infotainment with a slant to the right. How will citizens make informed decisions if an even smaller handful of giant corporations control the news?

Under Rove's covert leadership nothing is sacred. Fears engendered by 9/11 have been used in Orwellian fashion to control and manipulate. The laws that have been passed to address terrorism have also served to produce an even more compliant citizenry. Attacks on privacy and civil liberties are just another way the Bush Administration has undermined democracy in its pursuit of power.

While much has been said about terrorist threats to democracy, no terrorist organization could do as much damage to our democracy as the Bush Administration already has - all the while waving the American flag and espousing pro-democracy rhetoric. Rove and his partner, President George W. Bush, could care less about democracy here or in far away places like Iraq -- which just happen to have a lot of oil. It's time we insisted on the truth and began speaking the truth. It's time we acted to restore our democracy and to protect it from those in the highest places who could care less.

Listener-Commentator Walter Simpson is Energy Officer at the University at Buffalo.