GUEST COLUMNIST (The Daily Brew) April 6, 2001 -- Among the far right, who believe that the US is secretly governed by a cartel of central bankers, it is common knowledge that the Clinton Administration had been the luckiest in history...DON'T FORGET TO MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND VOTER RIGHTS MARCH!
They had floated along, blessed with a booming economy they had no part in building and enjoying a position in the world they had no plan for creating. Peace and prosperity had nothing to do with the President, it was all a left over of the Reagan years! Clinton was a bad, bad man, who had no moral values, and who needed to be removed from office, no matter what the charge!
As a kindred spirit, Bush likely bought into this illusion. From Bush's ranch in Texas, the Presidency must've looked like a snap. Set up some kids t-ball games on the lawn, put Dick Cheney in charge of the day to day stuff, and enjoy the good times. It didn't matter what the President did, things would take care of themselves. Living in the White House would be like a long weekend at the Hamptons.
Ever mindful of his father's loss in '92, when George the Elder was abandoned by the plutocrats for breaking his no new taxes pledge, in Dubya's mind, all he had to do to make sure the vacation continued was to keep the hard right in the fold. So it was really no surprise that even though Bush had been rejected by the voters, when he was embraced by the hard right of the Supreme Court, he embraced them right back. Hard.
Leading up to the current fiasco, every move Bush had made was designed to appeal directly to the most reactionary elements of his base. Whether it was arsenic in the drinking water, kicking the unions in the teeth, or consigning millions of workers to carpal tunnel syndrome, nothing was too much to ask for the GOP faithful. Opening a White House office to dole out taxpayer money to churches while shutting down the White House offices for women, HIV and Aids? No problem. All in a day's work. Letting California dangle in the wind with rolling blackouts while his backers at Enron raked in the bucks? Piece of cake. And of course, the coup de' grace; the massive tax cut for the millionaires. So what if a few social programs had to be slashed? If the Democrats didn't like it, well screw 'em. They didn't vote for us anyway.
So Bush's initial reaction to the downing of the American Navy's EP-3E Aries II surveillance plane should have come as no surprise. A showdown with China? Another great opportunity to feed the hard right some more red meat! Bush promptly issued ultimatums he couldn't back up, raised tensions when they needed to be lowered, and asked for things he would never get. In short, he played right into the hands of the Chinese.
Unfortunately, after the Tuesday deadline Bush had foolishly imposed for the release of the Americans had passed, Bush began to realize that unlike the Miami-Dade canvassing board, the Chinese were not about to be bullied into submission. Nope, the Chinese weren't going to fold like a cheap tent just because a bunch of yuppies from Capital Hill were pounding on their chests, screaming "let us in." The Chinese instead used this incident to test the inexperienced American President, and make a statement about their own honor and dignity.
And so Bush finally started getting it right.
Speaking yesterday, Bush took a much different tack than his early bravado. "I regret that a Chinese pilot is missing, and I regret one of their airplanes is lost. Our prayers go out to the family, to the pilot. Our prayers are also with our own servicemen and women, and they need to come home," he said. "Our message to the Chinese is we should not let this incident destabilize relations. Our relationship with China is very important. But they need to realize that it's time for our people to be home."
As reported by the Washington Post, Bush's remarks were reported by official Chinese news agencies, which previously had not covered U.S. explanations of the collision. This is a strong signal that Bush's new tone would set the incident on a course towards a peaceful resolution.
It was almost as if he were trying to bring a new tone to US China relations. A tone, well, a tone like the one the Clinton administration had set.
Perhaps it has finally dawned on Bush that the Presidency isn't as easy as Clinton made it look. So maybe it will dawn on Bush that in 19 months, we are going to have another election in this country, and that while the AM radio crowd might be happy with him, the rest of us, the normal people, are looking on in shock.
And maybe he will come to realize that if he doesn't start moving to the center, he is going to be about as successful with us as he was with the Chinese.
© 2001 The Daily Brew