Lately, the only thing worse than Dick Cheney's bald-faced lie that the Bush administration policies "kept us safe" is the gaggle of mainstream journalists mindlessly repeating it.
My question for journalists working for CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, NPR and the like is very simple: Exactly what kind of delusional definition of "kept us safe" is swirling around your cobweb covered newsrooms? That definition must be some kind of crazy, because it accommodates not only the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history and the tragic death of thousands in New Orleans, but dozens of other yikes-we-are-so-not-safe moments, all which happened during George W. Bush's Presidency.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, thousands of soldiers died in Iraq--a war we now know without question to have been waged as part of an ideological program, not out of necessity. Those thousands of soldiers each had parents, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children, and hometowns dragged through the cruel stop-gap policies imposed on service men and women by George W. Bush.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers were injured, only to return to the squalid conditions and cruel indifference of a veterans' care medical system that fell through the cracks of America's for-profit healthcare racket. The tragedy of our injured soldiers came to light during George W. Bush's Presidency.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the number of Americans living in abject fear for lack of health insurance reached the tens of millions. As a result of this crisis of fear, a private medical relief agency initially set up to fly doctors to remote jungles in South America began flying relief into poor American communities. This happened during George W. Bush's Presidency.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the NSA spied on the private citizens, thanks to the willing participation of major American telecom companies, a major violation of the most fundamental Constitutional rights Americans thought protected them from KGB-style domestic surveillance.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the citizens of nearly all American foreign allies began to view the United States as a hostile threat to world peace, safety, and security as a result of (1) the preemptive invasion policies of Dick Cheney and (2) the torture-of-prisoners policies of Dick Cheney.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, job security for working communities dropped, underemployment reached historic highs, and earned wages for worker output stagnated.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, Bernard Madoff was arrested for running the largest financial Ponzi scheme in history, defrauding private citizens, retirement funds, and not-for-profit organizations out of billions of dollars.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the United States impeded global cooperation to lower carbon emissions levels, thereby heightening a general fear over the destructive potential of global warming.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the United States economy tipped into the deepest economic crisis since the 1920s, hastening experts to describe the housing and financial market meltdown as a potential global economic 'depression.'
During George W. Bush's Presidency, pet food produced in China was discovered as the cause of deaths for American dogs and cats contaminated by toxic melamine, resulting in a nationwide panic.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, ecoli contamination killed multiple people who had ate spinach, tomatoes, and peppers.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, elderly Americans panicked over shortages of flu vaccines.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the Republican Party ran political commercials claiming that voting for Democratic Party candidates would lead directly to the death and destruction of small town America by terrorists with nuclear bombs.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, fear and hatred of homosexuality reached a fever pitch in American politics.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the Republican Party ran election campaigns designed to scare Jewish voters into thinking that the election of Democrats would result in another Holocaust.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, civilian planes were hijacked and flown into two of the tallest buildings in the world--the event was broadcast on live television--and when the President was told these events were happening by one of his closest aides, he sat there stone faced and did nothing, while his vice President--Dick Cheney--vanished into an "undisclosed location."
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the country was swept up in fear that terrorists were attacking ordinary citizens by sending the anthrax virus in the form of white powder through the United States Postal system.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, invasive strip searches coupled with racial profiling were introduced to the act of getting onto an airplane.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, a man who looked mentally ill was able to get past airport security, get on a plane, and then light a fuse connected to explosives in his shoes.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, a color-coded system was created to tell Americans via broadcast television that the threat of a terrorist attack was high at all times.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the Republican Party launched a national campaign to convince the public that the Democratic nominee for president was a covert adherent to radical Islam with covert ties to domestic and foreign terrorists.
During George W. Bush's Presidency--a time lauded and celebrated by the National Rifle Association, who claimed to have "their man in the Oval office"--the largest gun massacre on a university campus occurred at Virginia Tech, resulting in the violent deaths of 5 faculty members and 27 students.
During George W. Bush's Presidency, the CIA at the bequest of Dick Cheney tortured prisoners using techniques in direct violation of U.S. and international law, dramatically increasing the likelihood that captured U.S. prisoners in the future will also be subject to torture.
And that is just to name a few, but you get the point. So, remind me again: How did George W. Bush's policies keep us safe? Call me crazy, but I just do not see it.
To understand what it means for a President to keep us safe, my advice is to ignore Dick Cheney altogether and listen directly to former President Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1941 FDR gave a speech about "Four Freedoms" which spoke directly to the issue of security for Americans and the rest of the world:
In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want--which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941
To be fair, George W. Bush did some good work relative to Roosevelt's list of "Four Freedoms," in particular his dedication of a considerable funds to help fight AIDS in African nations. And yet, in his domestic and foreign policies--most of them designed and pushed by Dick Cheney--George W. Bush shrouded American life in a politics of fear. He did not make us more safe. Using the media and the military, George W. Bush made us more afraid, more anxious, and more concerned for our future. Even worse: he sought to profit politically from the fear he created.
If there is ever ranking of Presidents who made us feel the most safe, I will bet you a gas mask and a roll of duct tape that George W. Bush ends up in last place.
So the next time Dick Cheney repeats his big, fat, stinking lie that George W. Bush "kept us safe," I hope journalists have the wherewithal and the basic decency to laugh out loud.
The rest of us are already laughing.
(cross posted from Frameshop)