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Message Randolph Holhut
DUMMERSTON, Vt. "" Last year at this time, the Republicans felt triumphant. They were now firmly in control of everything. They thought they had a mandate.
However, they forgot their natural inclination to overreach. They soon discovered how few people actually supported the most extreme parts of their agenda. When the truth started to seep out, everything imploded.
Despite the narrowest win for an incumbent president since Woodrow Wilson's victory in 1916, President Bush spoke of all the "political capital" he had earned and his intention to spend it. We heard grand talk about the creation of an "ownership society" and how the cornerstone of it would be the privatization of Social Security.
But the GOP underestimated the widespread support for Social Security, arguably the best run and most successful government program in history. The scaremongering by the Bush administration that Social Security was approaching bankruptcy was seen as being as trustworthy as the myriad of lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Bush and the GOP overreached in the Terri Schiavo case, piously inserting themselves in a family tragedy for political gain. Except there was no political gain, only millions who were disgusted by the GOPs phony concern.
The threats by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to employ "the nuclear option" and end filibusters on judicial nominees failed to bring Congress to a standstill, for enough members of the Senate realized that doing this would destroy the Senate and forced Frist to back down.
Hurricane Katrina and the woeful federal response to the storm stripped away the thin veneer of confidence from the Bush administration. No amount of spin could erase the images of New Orleans after the storm.
We learned that the era of cheap energy is over. Global demand is so high and the production and distribution system is so maxed out that the slight disruption can cause huge price spikes. Prices have come down slightly from the post-Katrina highs, but the warning has been presented to all Americans. We must either rethink the lavish American lifestyle and start planning for a post-oil future, or watch our economy collapse.
Finally, the revelations of recent weeks of widespread covert domestic surveillance by the Pentagon, the FBI and the National Security Agency confirmed the suspicions of many that the Bush administration was more interested in intimidation of its political enemies than in fighting terrorism.
Sure, odious legislation did get passed. The bankruptcy bill that condemns millions of Americans to debt slavery. Cuts in Medicaid and student loans to pay for tax cuts for the rich. An energy bill that gives subsidies to the oil companies and does little for energy conservation. A highway bill loaded with pork barrel spending.
But Social Security was saved. The Patriot Act may not survive in its current form. And the mendacity of the Bush administration was exposed for all to see.
Overshadowing everything was Iraq, and the steady drip of revelations that confirmed what many knew was true, that the Bush administration lied to the nation to justify this nation's invasion of Iraq.
The Downing Street Memos showed the Bush administration was determined to attack Iraq even though there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction, no evidence of links to foreign terrorists and no evidence that Iraq posed a direct or indirect threat to the United States. That no investigation took place shows the impossibility of integrity in a one-party Congress.
The news that the United States operated secret prisons and employed torture on detained "suspects," most of whom were never charged with any crime, was a deep embarrassment. Almost as embarrassing was the clumsy attempts to smear one of the most hawkish member of Congress, Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha, for suggesting a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The spectacle of Republicans who never served in the military attacking a decorated combat veteran was a sorry one to see.
The president still clings to the hope that freedom and democracy is on the march in Iraq. The reality on the ground suggests otherwise.
President Bush's approval rating is among the all-time lowest for a second-term president. Impeachment suddenly is not a far fetched idea. Future historians will see 2005 as the year that the Bush presidency and the conservative movement both started to unravel.
We have many to thank for this.
In the press, we have Seymour Hersh's dogged reporting in The New Yorker. We have the underrated work of the Knight Ridder newspapers' Washington bureau. We have The Washington Post and The New York Times finally finding their spines and printing stories over the objections of the White House. And we have the many blogs and news sites on the Web that have been the antidote to an all too drowsy corporate media.
In Congress, we had brave people such as Murtha, Bernie Sanders, John Conyers, Russ Feingold, Pat Leahy and Barbara Boxer stand up and challenge the Bush agenda.
And above all, we had Cindy Sheehan. The Gold Star Mother's actions this year were in keeping with the great American traditions of dissidence, civil disobedience and plain old hellraising.
I have much more hope going into 2006 than I did last year at this time. The events of 2005 showed that the impossible can still happen, but that it can happen a lot faster with people power behind it.
George W. Bush and company didn't just pop up overnight, and they won't go away overnight. But the end may indeed be near for the Bush Crime Family.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at
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