Posted by: David Offutt | April 22, 2009

Campaign 2008: How Did We Ever Get Stuck With George W. Bush? (Part 2)

george-w-bushMy late father, J.C. Offutt, once asked me, “How did a man like that ever get to be President?” He was referring to the first of the three Nixonian-Republicans – Richard Nixon himself. Later he could have said the same about the other two: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Dad retired when his business failed during the first deep recession of Reagan’s 1980s, and he was amazed that the “Teflon President” continually remained popular in spite of his notorious eight-year “reign of error.” In 2000, after Clinton and Gore had steered us through our best economic period in more than 30 years (now – in the last 40 years), he was dismayed that anyone was seriously considering voting Republican. However, Mr. Bush was crowned President by a partisan 5-4 Supreme Court vote. My father was spared our resulting nightmare because he passed away on January 23, 2001, at the age of 87. The rest of us need to remember how we got stuck with the sorriest excuse for a president we’ve ever had. The future of our country requires that we not make the same mistakes again.

A large part of the blame belongs to Al Gore, the Democratic candidate in 2000 who should have won in a landslide. In fairness, it must be said that he received more popular votes than Bill Clinton in each of his two victories in 1992 and 1996. Mr. Gore also received more popular votes than Mr. Bush, only to come up short in the states’ electoral votes. So what went wrong?

Vice President Gore failed to deliver Tennessee’s 11 electoral votes. If he had, the highly suspicious vote count in Gov. Jeb Bush’s Florida and Ralph Nader’s third party candidacy would not have mattered. With Tennessee but without Florida, Gore would have won the electoral vote and the presidency 278 to 260! Without either Tennessee or Florida, he barely lost the electoral vote 271 to 267. At the very least, any presidential candidate must be expected to carry his own state. Fortunately, there is no reason to believe that Barack Obama will lose Illinois. If Hillary turns her campaign around and gets the nomination, she will carry New York and maybe Arkansas, which has embarrassingly gone Republican in the last two elections.

Also, Mr. Gore made the disastrous decision not to use Bill Clinton in his campaign. Gore was no doubt angry over Clinton’s lying about Monica Lewinsky. Nevertheless, Pres. Clinton was still popular among many voters, who appreciated his era of American respect abroad, economic prosperity at home, efficient government operations, and fiscal responsibility that was paying down the interest on the exorbitant Reagan-Bush national debt. Many voters still remembered the senseless Republican shutdown of the government in late December 1995 and the ridiculous and malicious impeachment trial in 1998.

However, Barack Obama will very likely be the 2008 Democratic nominee. If he is, he won’t find it easy to use Mr. Clinton. The former President has not been neutral during the primaries, and ultimately he did more harm than good to his wife’s campaign. Also, Mr. Clinton’s presence on the campaign trail could continue a resurrection of what I call the Republican Party-news media coalition that hates all things Clinton. We’ve seen it re-emerging throughout Hillary’s primary campaign. Regardless, Mr. Clinton’s judicious appearances can remind voters of the differences between his administration and that of Bush-Cheney’s, which has performed unconstitutional activities, fiscal incompetence, administrative irresponsibility, and military adventurism. Mr. Clinton did lie about having sex “with that woman,” but the Bush Administration lied a documented 935 times to mislead us into Iraq and result in 4000 American deaths. That’s a huge difference!

The Election of 2004 was won by Bush-Cheney largely with the malevolent use of two Nixonian-Republican staples: the use of fear and the Big Lie. They continued their lies about the connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein in Iraq and even convinced many voters that only Republicans wanted to protect us against terrorism. They also “swift-boated” John Kerry, a decorated veteran from the Vietnam War. In 1971 after Kerry left the service and became an anti-war activist, Nixon wanted to discredit him. Charles Colson, who headed Nixon’s unofficial “Department of Dirty Tricks,” selected John O’Neill to challenge Kerry’s war record. Days after Kerry’s nomination for president in 2004, the former naval officer O’Neill was trotted out again – this time with the so-called “Swift-boat Veterans for Truth.” Although the vets who actually served with Kerry denied O’Neill’s allegations, enough doubt was created among the voters to have the desired negative effect on Kerry’s campaign. This year’s Democratic nominee must be ready to respond to each Republican Big Lie on the SAME DAY the lie is issued – just as Bill Clinton’s campaign did in 1992 – and continue responding until the lie is dormant!

We recently witnessed Mitt Romney’s use of fear and the Big Lie when he suspended his presidential race. He claimed that if he continued his campaign and prevented John McCain from launching an early national campaign, he would “make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, (he) simply cannot let (his) campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.” Republican strategists will do whatever it takes to create doubts about Mr. Obama and drive up his negative ratings. No attack against him during the primaries will compare with what’s to come: Roger Ailes, the head of FOX “News,” and Karl Rove, the “architect” of W’s victories, are masters of “dirty tricks” operations; and they enjoy what they do.

Between now and Election Day, any screwball, suicidal terrorist has it within his power to allow the Nixonian-Republicans to re-play their traditional fear hand against the American people. If something catastrophic does happen, we can’t allow it to stampede us into electing another Republican as President. That would mean a continuation of the ruinous policies of the renegade Bush-Cheney cabal and further degradation of our constitutional system. Don’t forget, al Qaeda’s attack on the Twin Towers was the best thing that could have happened to the Republican Party and specifically to Bush-Cheney. It allowed them to use their fear ploy for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Regardless, once again I should remind you that the outrageous rumor that the fiendish al Qaeda mastermind is being hidden on a ranch in Crawford, Texas, is totally without foundation. The idea that Osama bin Laden is living there in a lavish, underground bunker with a video crew and cave-like sound stage is utterly preposterous. Even the most devious, diabolical, and secretive presidency in American history couldn’t keep something like that under wraps for more than six years.

by David Offutt
A version of this essay was published March 7, 2008,
in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.


  1. I agree with most of what you said, but would like to point out two other critical factors that you did not mention.

    Bill Clinton’s biggest enemy was the NRA. Bill has no one to blame for this but himself. He pushed for ineffective but extremely unpopular gun control legislation, like a 7 day waiting period and the so-called assault weapon ban, which merely limited magazine capacity to 10 rounds. These restrictions did absolutely NOTHING to reduce crime, but it sure pissed off a lot of gun owners. And gun owners vote ! ! !

    On the other hand, gun control legislation does not gain Democrats any votes. NONE ! ! !

    Why ? Because if both major parties were pro-gun, who would Michael Moore vote for ? Would Michel Moore start voting Republican ? Hell, no ! ! ! Michael Moore would still vote Democrat, because gun control is merely one of many issues on the urban liberal agenda., and not the most important urban liberal issue, either.

    On the other hand, many gun owners will automatically vote AGAINST any anti-gun candidate. To gun enthusiasts, gun control is THE DEFINING ISSUE.

    Remember when JFK was an NRA life member ? And I believe Hubert Humphrey was also, or at least, he was friendly with the NRA. Those Democrats understood that being pro-gun was simply good politics, like kissing babies.

    At long last, modern Democrats have kinda, sorta figured out that the gun issue is poison at the polls. Pelosi and Obama have gone out of their way to avoid introducing gun control legislation, or even talking about gun control. They realize it’s taboo. However, the damage is already done, because their previous votes and previous comments on gun control are a matter of public record. Gun owners have long memories on this issue.

    In contrast, Democratic governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana “gets” the gun issue. He is strongly pro-gun. Schweitzer even went so far as to propose a state income tax deduction for gun purchases.

    Likewise, former Democratic governor Cecil Andrus of Idaho “got” the gun issue. An avid hunter all his life, Cecil never came across as a threat to gun owners. Cecil may be a liberal, but he is a rural, western liberal, the kind that blue collar voters would enjoy having a beer with.

    Aristocratic Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee because of the gun issue.

    Because of the gun issue, aristocratic and urban John Kerry never had a prayer in red states,

    Wealthy, urban Obama is despised for his record on the gun issue almost as much as he is despised for his skin color.

    If future Democratic candidates hope to win red states, they need to be gun-friendly, like Cecil Andrus and Brian Schweitzer. Half measures won’t work. Democratic candidates should be NRA life members and be able to brag about their NRA voting score. It’s just good politics, and besides, don’t politicians have more important things to address, like health care, jobs, global warming, energy sustainability, and peace ?

    Speaking of peace — the other issue not mentioned is the use of the military as a police force. Compared to the Bush/Obama perpetual world war, Clinton’s police actions in Somalia and Bosnia seem trivial now, nonetheless, at the time Americans didn’t understand or support those actions.

    During the 1980 campaign, George W. promised that he would not use the military as a police force. In hindsight, that was a BIG LIE, but nonetheless, it was what voters wanted to hear.

    Eisenhower was elected in part because he ran as a peace candidate, promising to end the Korean war.

    Nixon was elected in ’68 in large part because he ran as the candidate for peace (another BIG LIE, but nonetheless, it was what voters wanted to hear).

    The Democrats won Congress in 2006 in large part because voters were fed up with Bush’s perpetual world war (yet instead of peace, we got a SURGE).

    Obama won in 2008 in large part because he claimed to have been against the Iraq war all along (instead we got yet another SURGE and a new front in Yemen).

    Peace is generally (not always, but generally) a winning issue, yet Democrats, as a whole, have not been a party of peace.

    In addition to all the issues that you mentioned, I’d like to see the Democratic Party (or, if the Democrats continue to commit hari kari, whatever new party takes its place) adapt a platform that is strongly committed to the bill of rights, including the 2nd amendment, and strongly committed to peace. Perhaps gun ownership and peace seem like an odd combination, but I’m sure our founding fathers would approve.

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