One sure barometer of a president's -- or senator's or governor's -- standing with the public is the quantity, quality and creativity of bumper stickers, posters, slogans and what used to be called "Guerrilla Theater." To my way of thinking, these products and activities are often more accurate -- and definitely more entertaining -- than scientifically-conducted public opinion polls.
A few examples of my favorites from yesteryear:
- During the 1964 presidential race, there was a best-selling button that had Senator Barry Goldwater's smiling face surmounted with the words, "In Your Guts You Know He's Nuts!"
- Back in the late 1960s, when then-California Governor Ronald Reagan was making a name for himself as the first line of defense against anti-war protesters at Berkley, there was a fast-selling poster that proclaimed, "Impeach Bonzo and his Buddy!"
- During the 1968 presidential election, Dick Tuck, the late "Clown Prince of Politics," lined up several dozen obviously pregnant women at a train siding, all holding placards proclaiming, "Nixon's the One!"
In my more than 40 years as a political junkie, I cannot recall a time or a president who has garnered more buttons, bumper stickers or slogans than George W. Bush. A brief sampling of some of the best will tell you why the man's public disapproval rating is at 65% and rising:
- "If you can read this, you're not President Bush!"
- "Don't blame me, I voted with the majority!"
- "The last time we listened to a Bush, we wandered in the desert for 40 years!"
- "1/20/09: End of an Error."
Even your's truly has gotten into the act:
"The good news is that those five tiny growths recently removed from Bush's tush were benign.
The bad news is that they were his five remaining brain cells!"
All humor aside, these barbs and quips underscore a chilling reality: that a vast majority of the American public now see the president for the mendacious, power-grabbing, unconscionably Constitution-defying puppet he is. The laundry-list of complaints and charges against President Bush are longer than Yao Ming's arm, more dangerous than Lindsay Lohan behind the wheel of a Mercedes Benz.
The question now becomes, "What in the world can we do about it?" Calls for the impeachment and conviction of Bush [and Cheney] are an Internet staple. Hardly a day goes by in which I don't receive some electronic petition to the effect that the President and his Vice must go -- now. Across the country, hamlets and town councils are passing symbolic resolutions calling for his removal. Last April, the Vermont Senate joined the act, citing the President's mishandling of the war in Iraq as the reason he should be removed. In the House, Rep. Dennis Kuchinich [D-Oh]has introduced articles of impeachment against the Vice President -- H.R. 333. As of a couple of days ago, his resolution has 10 co-sponsors, 3 of whom sit on the House Judiciary Committee.
The Republican public spin on all this impeachment talk is predictable: "Politics as usual;" "The Democrats are tying to hide the fact that they can't get anything done;" "What do you expect from Vermont?" Privately, Republicans are worried -- damn worried. All but the most brain-dead understand that George W. Bush is going to be the 600-pound albatross of the 2008 election; a dead weight that threatens to drag them down to defeat. This is one of the major reason why "none of the above" is leading in all the current Republican presidential polls.
As much as I would love to see Bush, Cheney, Gonzo and the rest impeached, convicted and sent off to summer camp, I know it's never going to happen. As much as I may understand the public push for a "day of reckoning" for all of this administration's high crimes, misdemeanors and misdeeds, I cannot go along with impeachment. Do they deserve to be called on the carpet, tried and convicted? Absolutely. Is there a smarter way to go? Absolutely. In a word: censure.
It strikes me that censuring both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is the most intelligent way to go. And for at least five reasons:
- It would give both the man and his administration a stamp of utter disapproval. Why wait for history's verdict when we can write it now?
- Passing a resolution of censure does not involve all the thousands of hours and tens of millions of dollars that would be wasted in a futile attempt at achieving the virtually impossible.
- Unlike impeachment, which would be an impossible pill for Senate Republicans to swallow, censure is something that some just may feel comfortable going along with. It is a way for them to score points with the voting public for doing the right thing without feeling that they have "caved in" to their effete, left-leaning, latte-drinking colleagues across the aisle.
- It would free Congress to concentrate on far, far more important, doable measures.
- It just might embolden Congress to override a veto or two.
Political junkies from Maine to California know that there already is a censure resolution on the table. It is sponsored by Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, one of the clearest-sighted, most courageous people currently serving on Capitol Hill. The genius of Feingold's censure resolution is that it is narrowly drawn. It contains 12 "Whereas" clauses and but a single "be it resolved" conclusion. To wit:
Resolved: That the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, President of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, his failure to inform the full congressional intelligence committees as required by law, and his efforts to mislead the American people about the authorities relied upon by his Administration to conduct wiretaps and about the legality of the program.
What? Nothing about how he snookered us into war in Iraq with bogus claims about "weapons of mass destruction?" Not a word about his giving massive tax breaks to the super-wealthy while turning a blind eye to the victims of Hurricane Katrina? No reference to his tortured misuse of "Executive Privilege?" Why no mention of all the other assorted lies, idiocies and downright inanities that we the people have had to suffer these past six-and-a-half-years?
The answer is simple: none of the above are either impeachable or, strictly speaking, censurable offenses. While Senator Feingold's narrow, legalistic wording may not fulfill our emotional need for conviction, it can satisfy our intellectual conviction that history must understand just how bad this administration was. By passing a resolution of censure, people for all time will know what we know today.
And speaking of history's verdict, perhaps one day Carl Rove will be remembered not as "Bush's Brain," but rather "Bush's Tush."
If that ever happens, I want the credit . . .
©Kurt F. Stone 2007