Women Leaders Online
WOC Alert 1/20/2001
1. THE BIG PAYOFF
2. FABULOUS FEMINIST OF THE CENTURY/MILLENNIUM
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1. BUSH PAYS OFF
George W. Bush's Cabinet nominees are just the recent proof of the profound cynicism of those who created George Bush, the candidate. It is all part of the plan that let nothing in his past - not the illegal abortion his father's campaign workers helped him arrange for his girlfriend, pre-Roe; nor his arrests for DUI and his subsequent lying about it to reporters and in print; nor his grounding as a military pilot, or his failure to report for military duty for over one year, and the evidence that his aides doctored his military records to cover it all up, not even his well-known propensity for laziness and less than stellar intellectual prowess - deter them from making Bush President.
And although in the end it took both a governor and secretary of state willing to ignore even a semblance of fairness, state troopers preventing African Americans from voting, rigged ballots, strangely missing voter registrations and other assorted voter frauds, a Republican mob (many of them paid by the taxpayers) and finally the most political and wrongheaded Supreme Court decision since Dred Scott, Bush the figurehead was designated (not elected) President.
But the creators of Bush the President had no real interest in Bush himself. Rather, we believe that Bush was created simply for the purpose of giving control of the government to the religious reich, the oil industry, pharmaceutical and insurance business, the polluters, the Chamber of Commerce, the NRA and the military machine.
This plan was germinated in 1998, as the Republican Congress and Kenneth Starr were on the way to flaming out in their attempt to reverse the 1996 elections through impeachment. To the funders and insiders of the Republican Party, there needed to be a whole new approach if they were to evict the Democrats from the White House. The polls were clear. They needed to hide or remove the flame-throwers of the right, soften or blur their message to the voters, yet keep their core supporters on board. They needed a candidate who could unify the Party and charm the nation - and they were prepared to do anything necessary, even create such a candidate.
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First, this small group (which included right wing religious leaders such as Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Ralph Reed; the NRA; retired military leaders and military arms makers; health care, insurance, oil and other big business operatives; media pundits and political experts) looked over the Republican presidential class of 2000. One by one, various candidates were considered and rejected. They needed someone without much of a national profile so that his picture could be painted by the campaign, known within the religious right but not so close as to scare moderates, and someone with a good VQ for television. It wasn't important that the person be smart, or a hard worker, or schooled in policy. What was important was that the candidate would follow orders, stick to the campaign script, and then let others run the country once he was elected.
Eventually, the group decided on one candidate. A candidate who grew up in the family business of politics, so his lack of a deep resume wouldn't be noticed. A candidate who wasn't smart enough to have ideas of his own, who was known for his lack of attention to details and who let others do the job for him. A candidate who had already delivered government contracts, appointments and money lock, stock and pork barrel to the very people who were now searching. So when they decided upon George W. Bush, it was a perfect match.
First, the group sent out the word to their own troops. "Get behind this candidate, or get out of the way. No matter what you hear, trust us, you will get what you want in the end. Do what we say - we will deliver the White House."
There was surprisingly little grumbling. The right wing and their fellow travelers were so hungry for victory that they were willing to do just about anything. The candidate with the most serious support among the right wing, John Ashcroft, dropped his Presidential campaign. Ralph Reed, former wunderkind of the Christian Coalition was installed inside the Bush campaign.
Nearly the entire far right - from Phyllis Schlafly to the Gun Owners of America to the Roman Catholic Bishops -- agreed to participate in the charade that this was the most qualified, the most outstanding candidate and they were proud to support for the highest office in the land. Aside from some few dissidents who were quickly punished and isolated, the right wing's troops happily shut up, smiled for the camera and took direction admirably.
Then, the group worked to create a plausible history for the candidate. Given his exceptionally checkered past and legions of drinking buddies and old girlfriends, they decided on a two- pronged strategy - hide what they could, and have Bush admit to some vague "mistakes" which were corrected by a monumental religious conversion. And although there was no evidence of such a conversion, the story worked most of the time.
The campaign was designed so that all decisions were made by a small group of advisors - some of the same insiders who decided everyone should back this horse. It was usually these advisors who spoke to the press; the candidate himself was relegated to a standard stump speech and programmed answers in debates. Whenever the candidate did speak off the cuff, he usually got in trouble. For instance, when RU-486 was finally legalized in this country, Bush's first response was that he would immediately remove it from the market if he were elected president. By the time the question was presented to Bush in a debate, however, he returned to the "no offense to pro-choice majority strategy," and gave his scripted answer that he didn't think a president had the power to outlaw the abortion pill.
The puppet masters ran the Bush campaign the same way they run other product marketing campaigns. Millions of dollars in advertising, limited exposure to the actual product, everyone staying on script. Issues don't matter; truth doesn't matter. Just whatever it takes to sell the product to the American people.
There were occasional glitches in the plan. The NRA accidentally told the truth about the plan, boasting to its own members that the NRA would operate out of the oval office once Bush becomes president. Bush's minders were sometimes a little too obvious in their handling of him, and the press even occasionally reported on it.
Despite the ample evidence that the majority of voters saw through the charade and voted against Bush, the figurehead was sworn in as President. And he is paying off like a rigged slot machine for the folks who created him. After Cheney and Powell, who serve the dual purposes of being both payoffs to the military, arms dealers and industry, as well as being part of the cabal that will really be running the government, three of Bush's current Cabinet nominees show Bush, Inc.'s, utter disregard for the people: John Ashcroft for Attorney General, Tommy Thompson for Secretary for Health and Human Services and Gale Norton for Interior Secretary. (This is not to indicate that other nominees are terrific, but they pale by comparison to this unholy trio.)
* John Ashcroft - The Attorney General is the nation's primary law enforcement officer, upholding the Constitution and other laws, and determining the administration's actions to challenge laws with which it disagrees. Under Janet Reno, anti-abortion terrorists have been targeted and arrested, and police have been trained to assist women victims of violence, particularly domestic violence survivors. Yet Ashcroft's record in the Senate - which resulted in his defeat by the late Mel Carnahan - is more reactionary than Jesse Helms'. He is opposed to abortion for any reason, even for rape and incest survivors. During the ERA Countdown Campaign, he used his position as Missouri's Attorney General to attack NOW's first amendment rights, suing NOW for having the temerity to launch a boycott of states which refused to grant women equality.
As disquieting as his anti-woman record is his record against people of color. He led the charge against desegregating schools. He cozy-ed up to the racists at Bob Jones University, and is a champion of the old Confederacy. When he was Governor of Missouri, he sponsored draconian anti-abortion legislation, only to have it defeated by a group led by then-State Representative Ronnie White, an African-American; when Ashcroft was in the U.S. Senate, White's name came forward for confirmation as a federal judge - Ashcroft went all out to defeat White, but played the race card rather than using abortion, since Ashcroft knew that would play better with his rightwing constituents and many of his fellow Senators.
Ashcroft now contends that he will disregard his lifelong beliefs and uphold laws he voted and campaigned against. He claims he can separate his anti-women, anti-black, pro-gun dogma and be an Attorney General for all the people. But his actions speak far louder than his words.
In reality, Ashcroft's nomination is the big payoff - for Ashcroft himself, since he got out of the way of the Bush, Inc., machine, for Phyllis Schlafly and the women's auxiliary of the right, for the gun lobby, for the angry white male organizers in the South, for the anti-abortion terrorists and for the businesses that make a living out of discrimination. And the Ashcroft nomination is a clear precursor for any Supreme Court nomination by the Bush cabal.
*Tommy Thompson - The Secretary of Health and Human Services runs the U.S. government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. Under Donna Shalala, women's and minority health issues were given a high priority, RU-486 and Emergency Contraception were finally approved by the FDA, treatment for HIV and AIDS was expanded, and non-discriminatory, non-judgmental medical and social services were expected. But that will not be the case if Tommy Thompson is confirmed.
Tommy Thompson is a virulent anti-abortion activist, so we can expect him to pull out all the stops to restrict access to RU- 486. He was the architect of welfare reform, so we can expect fewer supports and harder times for poor women with children. As Wisconsin Governor, he was in the back pocket of the tobacco industry, so we can expect that the war on drugs won't include the addictive drug of nicotine.
Tommy Thompson's nomination is another big payoff. But it isn't just to the anti-abortion forces, the tobacco pushers and the businesses in search of a cheap labor pool. The big payoff is to the Catholic church - Thompson's job as HHS Secretary will be to move federal funds in unprecedented amounts to so-called faith based agencies. And the biggest of these is Catholic Charities. So the next time a battered woman is counseled to return to her batterer because marriage is holy, it will be our tax money funding the counselor.
*Gale Norton - As the nation's principal conservation agency, the U.S. Department of the Interior has responsibility for overseeing and protecting most of our nationally owned public lands and natural resources. Under Bruce Babbitt, national monuments have been preserved, and a philosophy of protecting our natural resources for future generations has been encouraged. But, again, that will change under Gale Norton.
Norton is a longtime and vocal defender of landowners' right to pollute, having served under the infamous James Watt. She was on the staff of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded by Joseph Coors to provide legal assistance to right wing causes. She is an apologist for the old Confederacy, and has been active against affirmative action and gay rights, particularly from her post as Colorado Attorney General.
Norton's appointment is the payoff to the lumber interests and other polluters. The right will forgive of her pro-choice views, and accept her as another standard-bearer for homophobia and against affirmative action. But the biggest payoff is to the oil and gas industry - Norton's pledge to open pristine wilderness areas in Alaska to drilling is a direct repayment of the $1.7 million those industries invested in the Bush candidacy.
Call, write, fax and email your Senators immediately. But don't stop there. Contact the other 98 Senators (after all, they govern for all the people, not just their state's residents). In particular, write to the 50 Democratic Senators and remind them that the election wasn't lost, it was stolen - and they have a patriotic duty to make sure the interests of the majority, who voted against George W. Bush, are represented.
To find contact information for the entire Senate, point your browser to: http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index.cfm
2. FABULOUS FEMINIST OF THE CENTURY/MILLENNIUM
All last year, we highlighted your nominations for Fabulous Feminists - those who made a difference for equality. We have launched this project to compensate for the "Missing Women Syndrome" suffered worldwide as media leaders and academicians chose their persons of the year/decade/century/millennium - nearly 100% of the nominees white men. But one year is not enough to even the score - and the new millennium has just started. So send us more nominees, including biographical details to email@example.com with "Fabulous Feminist" in the Subject line.
Given our concentration on elections and the presidency, there is only one woman to highlight his alert:
Shirley Chisholm. In 1968, Chisholm, a self-identified feminist, became the first Black woman elected to the House of Representatives. And what a terrific first she was.
On the House floor, as throughout her life, Chisholm led the fight for other women and for women's rights, speaking out for peace and justice, providing a role model to women everywhere. In 1971, she helped organize the National Women's Political Caucus, creating the training ground to bring other women into public service.
In 1972, Shirley Chisholm took a giant leap for women everywhere - she became the first Black woman to run for the U.S. Presidency in the primary of one of the major parties. Women everywhere worked on her campaign, and she was endorsed by NOW and other feminist organizations. And although Chisholm didn't win, women everywhere did win by her courageous example.
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