Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good-Bye, George W. Bush -- and Good Riddance to Your Right-Wing Rubbish!

At His Final Press Conference on Monday -- and Likely In His Farewell Address Tonight -- a Bullheaded Bush Stubbornly Refuses to Admit That His Policies Have Severely Damaged America's Constitution and Its Standing in the World During His Eight Years in Office

George W Bush
An irritated President Bush reacts angrily to a reporter's question about the nation's damaged international standing under his watch during his final press conference Monday before he leaves office. "I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged," Bush insisted, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary -- including the outgoing president's pronouncements on the war on terror coming under mounting ridicule abroad, especially in the Muslim world. (Photo: AP)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Thursday, January 15, 2009)


Dear Readers,

Five days to go. Just five more days remain before George W. Bush's tenure as the 43rd president of the United States officially comes to an end at 12:00 noon Eastern Time on Tuesday.

Thank God!

These have been the eight worst years that America has ever experienced under one president, bar none. Not even Richard Nixon's scandal-plagued tenure -- which ended with his forced resignation in disgrace -- was this bad.

If anyone had told me on the day Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974 that we would one day have a president more secretive, more power-hungry, more disrespectful of the Constitution and more vindictive than "Tricky Dick," I would have told them they were crazy.

I utterly despised Nixon. So much so that when I cast my first presidential ballot in 1972 after the ratification of the Voting Age Amendment -- which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 -- I voted for George McGovern, even though I and everyone else back then knew that McGovern didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of unseating him. My vote in 1972 wasn't pro-McGovern, it was unequivocally anti-Nixon.

For me -- and for millions of my fellow Baby Boomers -- the number-one issue in the 1972 election was the Vietnam War. I wanted it ended. I wanted our troops to be brought home. There were over a half-million U.S. troops in Vietnam at the time -- a 65 percent majority of whom were involuntary conscripts.

Yes, Generation Xers and Millennials, we had a draft back then; military service was compulsory for men aged 18 to 26. Vietnam was the only war in U.S. military history other than the Civil War in which our fighting force was made up predominantly of draftees. It was also the only war -- which was never formally declared by Congress -- that America lost.

Nixon got elected in 1968 on a promise to get us out of Vietnam. He didn't keep it -- and I vowed to exact retribution at the ballot box. But I also was infuriated by Nixon's wholesale disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, particularly the First Amendment right of Americans to dissent from his policies without fear of retribution.

When Nixon ordered the mass arrests of over 100,000 people who peacefully exercised their First Amendment right to assemble and protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. on May 9, 1970, he had clearly violated the Constitution he was sworn by his oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend."

Nixon's Justice Department, under Attorney General John Mitchell, spied on anti-Vietnam War protest groups and other domestic dissidents without obtaining court warrants, in clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. This warrantless spying program was ultimately struck down by a unanimous Supreme Court.

And the Nixon administration actually sued The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and other newspapers to prevent them from publishing a heretofore secret government archive of documents detailing how the U.S. got into Vietnam, in open defiance of the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press. The administration was ultimately overruled by the Supreme Court in this case, too.

Does all this sound familiar? It should. And mind you, all of this came about BEFORE the 1972 break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in Washington's Watergate complex by operatives hired by the Nixon White House -- the break-in that led to the scandal that drove Nixon from office.

Thirty-four years and five months later, I can say without fear of contradiction that compared to George W. Bush, Nixon was a Boy Scout.

In the three years since I launched The 'Skeeter Bites Report, I have documented again and again the Bush administration's own disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law.

I pointed out early on the unconstitutionality under the Fourth Amendment of Bush's warrantless electronic eavesdropping program on Americans' domestic and overseas telephone calls and Internet communications.

I documented the bald-faced falsehood of Bush's claim that he has the inherent authority under Article II of the Constitution to spy on Americans without court warrants -- despite a passel of court rulings to the contrary and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed by Congress in response to the many abuses of power committed by the Nixon administration.

But even Nixon didn't dream of employing interrogation tactics against America's enemies that constituted torture under international law -- tactics the Bush administration has employed with relish, even as it steadfastly denied that they constituted torture.

The Bush administration's embrace of torture is, as The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin wrote in his blog on Monday, "a national disgrace -- a radical departure from our core values."

Abu Ghraib was indeed a national disgrace -- made even more disgraceful by the failure to hold the U.S. commanders responsible for the torture that went on in what was previously Saddam Hussein's torture palace accountable.

Torture, wrote Froomkin, "is an effective tactic for authoritarian regimes that want to obtain false confessions; it is not the behavior of a country that sees itself as the champion of human dignity."

When Bush's claims that the torture techniques "were necessary and are necessary to be used on a rare occasion to get information necessary to protect the American people" are disputed even by the conservative-leaning Fox News, you KNOW you've got a credibility problem.

But the disgrace of America using torture on its enemies pales when compared to another national disgrace that proved far more embarrassing for this country in the eyes of the world, for it occurred on our own soil in full view of television cameras -- and it spoke volumes about Bush's rock-bottom standing among African-Americans.

Nixon wasn't confronted with having to deal with the worst natural disaster to strike U.S. soil in this country's history. On that note, "Tricky Dick" was lucky. The same cannot be said of Bush, who, confronted with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, turned America's worst-ever natural disaster into America's worst-ever man-made disaster -- That is, it WAS the nation's worst man-made disaster before the financial crisis hit last fall.

Yet even with Katrina, bush was unrepentant. "I've thought long and hard about Katrina; you know, could I have done something differently," he said. "Like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge."

But even if he had landed in New Orleans aboard the presidential jet (which he couldn't do anyway, since the airport was shut down), he still praised the incompetent Michael Brown for "doing a heckuva job" as director of Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to the disaster -- which turned out to be a disaster itself, resulting in Brown's dismissal.

Brown struck back in January 2007, when, speaking before a group of graduate students at the Metropolitan College of New York, he charged that partisan politics had played a role in the White House's decision to federalize emergency response to the disaster only in Louisiana, rather than along the entire Gulf Coast region, which Brown said he had advocated.

"Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's [Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco] a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" Brown said. "'We can't do it to Haley [Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour] because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"

The White House fervently denied Brown's charges through a spokeswoman and Brown's comments have never been substantiated. And personally, I think Brown said it only to absolve himself from blame for his dismal role in responding to the crisis.

But among many working-class New Orleans residents who lost their homes to Katrina -- the majority of them black -- that perception still persists.

Now we have the latest outrage; the Bush administration's handing of the financial crisis, which has seen the almost instant wipe-out of over $9 trillion worth of wealth -- resulting in the worst economic downturn in 30 years, possibly since the Great Depression, with no end in sight. I can't even begin to comment on that still-unfinished chapter.

The bottom line is that America's longest national nightmare is finally coming to an end with Bush's departure next week. As far as I'm concerned, it should have happened four years ago -- but better late than never.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

# # #

Volume IV, Number 4
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Obama Era May Mark End of Baby Boomer Dominance of U.S. Politics and Culture

Although Not Exactly a Generation Xer, Obama Is Likely to Usher In an Era of Pragmatism and Bridge-Building After 16 Years of Government Dominated by Uncompromising Baby Boomers Permanently Locked in Bitter, Nasty Political and Cultural Divisions

Barack Obama Inauguration Day 2009

One week from Tuesday, as many as two million people will jam the National Mall and the west side of Capitol Hill to witness the historic swearing-in of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th president. Not only will Obama be the first African-American to ascend to the nation's highest office, but he will also be the first president to come of age in the Generation X era of the 1980s. Although Obama, born in 1961, isn't technically a Gen-Xer himself, his ascendancy nonetheless effectively ends 16 years of Baby Boomer occupation of the Oval Office by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The Baby Boomers -- a generation bitterly polarized along sharp political and cultural lines for 40 years -- may never again see one of their own in the White House. (Photo courtesy Presidential Inaugural Committee)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, January 12, 2008)


The Associated Press

When George W. Bush lifts off in his helicopter on Inauguration Day a week from Tuesday, leaving Washington to make way for Barack Obama, he may not be the only thing disappearing into the horizon.

To a number of social analysts, historians, bloggers and ordinary Americans, January 20 will symbolize the passing of an entire generation: the Baby Boomer years.

Generational change. A passing of the torch. The terms have been thrown around with frequency as the moment nears for Obama to take the oath of office. And yet the reference is not to Obama's relatively young age -- at 47, he's only tied for fifth place on the youngest presidents list with Grover Cleveland.

Rather, it's a sense that a cultural era is ending, one dominated by the Baby Boomers, many of whom came of age in the 1960s and 1970s and experienced the bitter divisions caused by the Vietnam War and the protests against it, the civil rights struggle, social change, sexual freedoms, the Watergate scandal and more.

Those experiences, the theory goes, led the Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, to become deeply motivated by rigid ideology and mired in decades-old conflicts ever since; a generation that simply doesn't know the meaning of the word "compromise" -- and is likely to remain polarized for the rest of their lives.

And Obama?

He's an example of a new pragmatism: idealistic but realistic, post-partisan, unthreatened by dissent, eager and able to come up with new ways to solve problems.


"Obama is one of those people who was raised post-Vietnam and really came of age in the '80s," says Steven Cohen, professor of public administration at Columbia University. "It's a huge generational change, and a new kind of politics. He's trying to be a problem-solver by not getting wrapped up in the right-left ideology underlying them."

Obama, it must be said, is technically a Boomer; he was born in 1961. But he long has sought to draw a generational contrast between himself and the politicians who came before him and identifies more with Generation X.

"I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage," he wrote of the 2000 and 2004 elections in his book, The Audacity of Hope.

It's been a while since historians spoke of generational change in Washington. Fully 16 years have passed since Bill Clinton, the first Baby Boomer president, took office. Before that, presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush — seven straight — were part of the World War II-era "G.I. Generation," or what retired NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw has termed the "Greatest Generation."

If Obama isn't a Boomer in spirit, then what is he? Not exactly a member of Generation X, though obviously that generation and the next, Generation Y (also known as the Millennials -- who outnumber the 76-million-strong Boomers by four million) embraced him fully and fueled his historic rise to the presidency.

"Gen-Xers are known to be more cynical, less optimistic," says social commentator Jonathan Pontell. "Xers don't write books with the word 'hope' in the title." Some call late Boomers like Obama "Cuspers" — as in, on the cusp of a new generation. One book has called it the "13th Generation," as in the 13th generation of Americans born since colonial times.

And Pontell, also a political consultant in Los Angeles, has gained some fame coining a new category: Generation Jones, as in the slang word 'jonesing,' or craving, and as in a generation that's lost in the shuffle.

Jonesers are idealistic, Pontell says, but not ideologically rigid like the Boomers. "Boomers were flower children out changing the world. We Jonesers were wide-eyed, but not tie-dyed."

And Obama, he says, is "a walking, living prime example of Generation Jones. He's a classic practical idealist. It's not the naive idealism of the '60s."


Wide-eyed or tie-dyed, Obama will be sworn in by an early "Joneser" himself — Chief Justice John Roberts, who turns 54 at the end of January. And while the average age of the new Congress is 58.2 — an early Boomer group — the new president is bringing some "Jonesers" with him.

Obama's chosen treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is only two weeks younger than the new president. His pick for education secretary, Arne Duncan, is 44, as is Susan Rice, his United Nations ambassador -- who, it must be said, is not related to outgoing Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

(His apparent pick for surgeon general, 39-year-old neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, is a true Gen-Xer.)

Of course, Obama's also bringing in veteran Boomers — most notably Hillary Rodham Clinton, 61, his former campaign rival, as secretary of state. And his vice president, Joe Biden, 66, and defense secretary, Bush holdover Robert Gates, 65, are members of the so-called "Silent Generation" born just before and during World War II and who came of age in the 1950s.


But those are the kind of choices — inclusive of other perspectives, embracing rivals — that lead many to call Obama the first post-Boomer president.

"It may be technically correct to call him a Boomer," says Douglas Warshaw, a New York media executive who, at age 49, is part of whatever cohort Obama is in. "And it's in the Zeitgeist to call him a Gen-Xer. But I think he's more like a generational bridge."

He adds that Obama got where he was by "brilliantly leveraging the communication behaviors of post-Boomers," with a campaign waged across the Web, on cell phones and on social networking sites.

One analyst of popular culture believes Obama definitely symbolizes a new generation — just not one connected to the year he was born.

"I think it's hilarious that everyone wants to categorize people by their birth year, especially now, a time when our parents are on Facebook," says Montana Miller of Bowling Green State University. Obama, she says, represents a generational shift in ways less tangible than age.

"You can see it from his approach to knowledge. Never before have we had a president who's troubled about giving up his Blackberry," Miller says. (Indeed, Obama is still in a struggle with the Secret Service over whether he can keep the device.) "He's constantly exposed to multiple perspectives, to what people out there feel and think."


Obama's biracial heritage also plays into the generational shift, Miller says. "It's so emblematic of how the world is changing," she says. "So many people are now some sort of complicated ethnic mix. Today's youth are completely comfortable with that."

It's not lost on the minds of many that Obama accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s immortal 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech -- and that he'll be sworn in on the day after the national holiday celebrating King's birthday. The slain civil rights hero would have turned 80 on Thursday.

Will Obama speak of generational change when he stands on the podium to issue his inaugural address? Given some of his rhetoric on the campaign trail, it's reasonable to think he will — just as, some six months before he was born, JFK pronounced on Inauguration Day 1961 that "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace."

Interestingly, Kennedy is often claimed by Boomers to be one of their own, even though he was nothing of the kind; born in 1917, he'd be 91 now. In the same way, many Gen-Xers and even Millennials like to claim Obama as one of their own, too.

"As humans we all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, part of a page in a history book," Pontell says. And at least for now, he adds, "Obama's a rock star, and people are dying to call him one of their own."

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Volume IV, Number 3
Special Report Copyright 2009, The Associated Press.
The 'Skeeter Bites Report Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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