The Hightower Report

Bush tries to squelch democracy; and the scandal is deeper than Abramoff


George W. just can't seem to get the hang of this democracy thing. He keeps saying democracy is good – but when it's directed at him, he says it's bad, and he suddenly calls for a dollop of autocracy or even monarchy.

The latest Bush twist came in a speech to the VFW. He started off talking about how good it is for Americans to have a spirited debate this election year about the war in Iraq. There's no need to "fear the debate," he said. Well, yes, freedom of speech, open debate, dissent – these are the essence of democracy, so bring 'em on! But then he regressed: "There is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate," George warned with an autocratic air, adding that Americans should only tolerate "honest critics."

Oh? And what does his royal Bushness decree "irresponsible" and "dishonest" to be? He did not hesitate to draw the line sharply, declaring that those "who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil ... or because we misled the American people" are irresponsible and dishonest. Allowing such topics to be debated would bring "comfort to our adversaries," he said.

Holy Richard Nixon – here we go again! America can have a democratic debate as long as it doesn't question the imperial presidency, for to challenge the motivations and rationale of the Bushites' war strategy in Iraq would be unpatriotic and damage the morale of the troops. Bush is trying to control the debate so that his fundamental failures and dishonesty are off limits, branding dissenters as traitors. That's not a debate or democracy – it's autocratic paranoia.

Shamefully, the Bushites even try to hide behind our soldiers, asserting that Americans must not question their leaders "when American troops are risking their lives overseas." Excuse me, but don't the Bushites also claim that our troops are fighting for democracy in Iraq – and doesn't democracy mean that we have every right to question leaders?


Forget building a wall on the Mexican border to keep out immigrants – let's build a wall around Congress and the White House to keep out lobbyists!

As the sickening stench of sleazeball superlobbyist Jack Abramoff wafts across America, the Republican leaders who control Washington are trying several defenses of their corrupt alliance with these corporate influence peddlers. Incredibly, they first claimed that lobbyists' campaign donations don't influence them – "I can't be bought by a few thousand bucks from Abramoff," they typically declared with puffed up indignity.

Bear in mind though, that the Abramoffs bring more than their own money – they collect tens of thousands of dollars from other corporate interests to funnel into a Congress critters' pockets – enough to reach the "for sale" threshold of many money-hungry politicos. Notice, for example, that while George W. himself ostentatiously gave away $6,000 he had received directly from Abramoff, he quietly held on to more than $100,000 that Jack had collected for him.

Second, the GOP says, well, the Democrats take corporate money, too. Excuse me, but how, exactly, is this supposed to make the stench any more palatable? Besides, the relative levels of payoffs do matter – and the great bulk of K Street lobbying cash goes to Republicans as a result of their own "pay to play" demands.

The worst rationale, however, is the latest claim that, well, we'll paper over the stain of Abramoff's corruption with a show of "reform," tightening up our rules some, but you can't really change the system, so people shouldn't look deeper than this one bit of excess by one guy.

Hogwash. The scandal is not that rules are being broken, but that the rules themselves are scandalous. People can change the corrupt money system – and they're doing it in states and cities all across America. To learn more, call Public Campaign: 202/293-0222.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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George W. Bush, VFW, Richard Nixon, Iraq War, lobbyists, Jack Abramoff, Public Campaign

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