Welcome to George W. Bush's version of America -- Bush Democracy. Apparently, he's had his fanatical neocon programmers working overtime to iron out all those bothersome bugs and kinks that have been holding the United States back for the last 228 years -- exasperating glitches like openness, integrity, accountability, responsibility and the value of an informed public.
I have to admit, this new edition has been a little hard for me to get used to; it's a lot different than the America that I grew up studying -- and revering.
You might be having a similar problem. So as a public service I've decided to provide this helpful primer. Think of it as Bush Democracy for Dummies.
In Bush Democracy, the messy concept of the public's right to know has been replaced by the far more user-friendly "don't worry, we know what's right for you." Why clutter up the citizenry's hard drive with all sorts of unimportant facts and information?
Which is why, just to be on the safe side, Bush Democracy comes with a helpful, one-step fact-check-and-delete program. No need to bother with taping or even transcribing important meetings like the president's three-hour appearance in front of the 9/11 commission last week -- Bush Democracy decides what's pertinent and discards the rest into the unrecoverable recycle bin of history.
That's why the White House helpfully confiscated the notebooks of the 9/11 commissioners as they were leaving the Oval Office. Hard copies are so 20th century.
To see how liberating this kind of updated democracy can be, look no further than the reports of the frequent laughter that occurred during the commission's two-birds-with-one-stone questioning of Bush and Cheney. No longer burdened with having to fill the public in on whether our leaders did all they could to prevent 9/11 -- and have done all they can to make sure something like it never happens again -- the president and his inquisitors were free to trade quips and zingers like a gang of Borsht Belt second bananas at a Friars roast.
"The president got off a couple of good shots," said commission member John "Shecky" Lehman, while commissioner Jim "Soupy" Thompson labeled the president a "bit of a tease." We don't know the specifics of anything important that was said, or if anything important was said at all, but, hey, at least they had some fun.
Bush Democracy also automatically eliminates a number of pesky problems historically associated with that overrated First Amendment. For example, this convenient feature allows President Bush and his Man in Mesopotamia, Paul Bremer, to tout the freedom of speech now permitted in post-Saddam Iraq while simultaneously shutting down Iraqi-run newspapers and radio and television stations. And whereas previous versions of democracy were systemically incompatible with the quashing of dissent, Bush Democracy makes clamping down on the free flow of information as easy as hitting a hot key and issuing a Pentagon ban on media coverage of flag-draped coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base.
What's more, Bush Democracy's state-of-the-art media manipulation software makes it incredibly easy to get away with misstatements, half-truths and out-and-out lies.
Witness the lack of outraged coverage of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's astounding assertion in front of Congress last week that the U.S. death toll in Iraq was "approximately 500" -- when, in fact, at the time of his testimony, the correct number was 722. But what are a couple hundred dead Americans among friends? Especially when they're other people's children?
Or observe the scarcity of critical voices when, on the anniversary of Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" photo op, the president boldly declared that, as a result of the removal of Saddam, "there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq" -- a statement directly contradicted by a top-secret Army report completed two months before the president indulged in his soaring rhetoric. And last week we had the ultimate contradiction: the release of enough vile, barbaric and disturbing photographs to stock a triple-X S&M Web site.
But Bush Democracy's killer app has got to be its ability to retain the outward appearance of unabashed patriotism while sacrificing the lives of American soldiers on the altar of its tax-cutting fanaticism. Thus, candidate Bush is able to cloak his campaign in red, white and blue at the same time a defense industry study concludes that major budgetary shortfalls have left U.S. soldiers seriously under-equipped -- leading to the preventable deaths of close to 200 brave Americans, and the maiming of thousands more. Shortfalls caused, in large measure, by the president's tax cuts. So while many of our soldiers have to make do without body armor, combat helmets and properly protected vehicles, America's millionaires are receiving an average tax cut of $130,783. And yet Bush is still able to continue painting himself as the war president. How's that for performance?
The guiding principle behind George Bush's rebooted Democracy is a deep mistrust of the American people and an undying faith in the ability of "the elites" to decide what is best for America -- and the world. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the old 1776 version, where We the People get to make up our own minds.
Bush Democracy has crashed in Iraq and crashed here at home. I personally can't wait for November to press the Escape key and shut it down for good.