Like a dark cloud obscuring the sun, the powerful odor of mendacity hung over Washington after George Bush concluded his State of the Union speech last week. Bush certainly seems to have bamboozled the press (The Boston Globe inexplicably found the speech “soothing,” the L.A. Times decided the speech was evidence of Bush’s “flexibility,” while CBS’s Bob Schieffer gushed that it was “one of the best-delivered speeches I have ever heard President Bush make”) and seduced the public (a Gallup overnighter showed 60 percent approved of the speech and 26 percent “somewhat approved,” while a new Newsweek poll out this week now shows Bush’s overall rating is the highest it’s been since right after last year’s Republican convention — 50 percent approve, just 42 percent disapprove).
Despite this collective mesmerization, here are a few plainspoken truths about Bush’s lies the mainstream media didn’t tell you:
I did not read or hear a single national media organ or oracle point out that this was the first State of the Union speech since the days of slavery to propose blatant discrimination against an entire class of American citizens. Bush’s renewed call in this speech for a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality for loving same-sex couples reposed on a monstrous falsehood: that gay people are incapable of raising “responsible, moral children,” as he put it. Bush insisted that the amendment is needed to “protect” the 8 million to 10 million American kids now being raised by two daddies or two mommies from the horrific prospect of their parents’ being able to wed. This is despite the fact that, as The New York Times pointed out the week before the speech, there is not a single credible study showing that a couple’s gender makes the slightest difference in the well-being of a child. It is the absence of loving parents, not the nature of the love those parents share, that pediatric science tells us is harmful to children.
George the Baptist’s Big Lie about gay parents is, of course, based on an unspoken fantasy: the blood libel that gay people are all pedophiles who want to convert children to homosexuality (even though science tells us that sexual orientation is fixed at such an early age it cannot be altered). Yet a Nexis search revealed that not a single editorial in a single American daily denounced the president for using his nationally televised address to fan the flames of homohate — or pointed out that such flagrant presidential endorsement of blatant lies about gay people encourages the sexual paranoia of gay bashers and helps justify the rising wave of violence against those who love differently (gay bashing was up a whopping 13 percent in the latest annual survey by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects — an undoubted undercount, as the survey pointed out). This stunning media silence about the hate-promoting aspects of Bush’s speech is one more reason to fear for the health of our nominal democracy.
Now ask yourself: Did you hear a single one of TV’s gurgling heads even grin verbally, in their post-speech analyses, at the most risible moment in Bush’s discourse? No, it wasn’t his absurd claim that Social Security faces bankruptcy unless Americans gamble their pensions in Wall Street’s casino — why, even The Wall Street Journal’s news columns acknowledge that’s a lie, too. It was, of course, when George announced he’s putting his wife in charge of fighting gang violence, which provided the speech’s only real moment of comic relief. The notion of Laura Bush sitting down for tea and pretzels with the Crips and the Bloods, or touring the South Bronx without a phalanx of guards to protect her, should have produced a loud national guffaw. Yet TV’s Greenfields and Matthewses and the goose-steppers at Fox News all let this moment for hilarity pass without so much as a discreet snicker.
The principal causes of gang violence are the desperation produced by crushing poverty in our rotting ghettos and the lucrative attractions of the trade in illegal powders. Thus, the lunatic assumption that a paltry $150 million for programs on “literacy and sports” led by Laura — which imagines that her genteel reading programs can persuade gang members to abandon their fevered, Uzi-ish dreams of drug profits and gold teeth by teaching them to paint fences like Tom Sawyer — is no more than a bad Republican acid trip.
The passages in the speech that most frightened world leaders, however, came when Bush proclaimed that America’s imperative mission is the spread of liberty, and that God is the “Author of Liberty.” This is simply a speechwriters’ version of Bush’s declarations to Bob Woodward (in his book Plan of Attack) that God told him to invade Iraq: “Freedom is God’s gift to everybody in the world . . . and I believe we have a duty to free people. I would hope we wouldn’t have to do it militarily, but we have a duty.” And, in the world’s capitals, Bush’s reiteration of his favorite themes last week read like nothing less than a theological version of Manifest Destiny.
And, as in the 19th-century version of Manifest Destiny, the goal remains “to vanquish any who do not willingly adopt the supposedly universal norms and values of Protestant conservatives. The result, by implication in the president’s rhetoric, is that the administration has transformed Bush’s ‘Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists’ policy into ‘Either you are with us, or you are against God.’ ” So says the University of Washington’s David Domke — author of the must-read book God Willing: Political Fundamentalism in the White House, the War on Terror, and the Echoing Press — about Bush’s speech last week and the centrality of Bush’s evangelical worldview to it. To most of the rest of the world, this view is indistinguishable from that of the al Qaeda terrorists who Bush continues to claim are the target of his military adventures (or, as he put it last Wednesday, “Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq so we do not have to face them here at home” — yet another presidential dismissal of the findings of the 9/11 commission that Iraq had nothing to do with the destruction of the Twin Towers). As Domke says, “One is hard-pressed to see how the perspective of Osama bin Laden, that he and his followers are delivering God’s wishes to the United States, is much different from Bush’s perspective that the United States is delivering God’s wishes to Iraq.”
Well, historical truth tells us that our Founding Fathers — products of the Enlightenment — detested religion, and one of the best rebukes to Bush was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1813 when he declared: “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” That’s a pretty fair description of our politics and governance today with the second coming of Bush. And it’s why the real state of our Union today is so bloody frightening.
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at https://direland.typepad.com/.