Just Above Sunset
March 7, 2004 - Kulturkampf? Blitzkrieg? Why would a critic of George Bush use such words?

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Sidney Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to President Clinton and author of The Clinton Wars - a book which explains, in detail, just who was out to “get” Bill Clinton and when, and who paid for it.  And he’s a man with a grudge.  Here’s something he just published regarding Bush’s new culture war against gays and uppity scientists and who know who else.... 

See: Bush goes to war with modernity: The more Bush supplicates his core voters, the more he repels the rest
Sidney Blumenthal, The Guardian (UK), Thursday March 4, 2004

After a discussion of the primaries here, he gets to the point:


The launch of his Kulturkampf has been a blitzkrieg.  Bush proposed a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.  He dismissed two scientists who dissented on his bioethics board, which he has used to ban forms of stem cell research, replacing them with adherents of the religious right.  Bush made a recess appointment of William Pryor of Alabama as a federal judge, blocked in the Senate for his extremism.  Pryor had said that "abortion is murder”  and supported the building of an altar of the 10 commandments in a courthouse.  Then the attorney general, John Ashcroft, subpoenaed the medical records of women who have had abortions at planned parenthood clinics. 

Bush followed by supporting the unborn victims of violence bill, creating a new federal crime of foetal homicide that passed the Republican-dominated House of Representatives on February 26.  At Bush's order, the Senate is being transformed into a battlefield of the culture war. 

But Bush's instigation of religious wars in America, while it mobilises the evangelical Protestant faithful, is also unexpectedly thwarting him.


Well, his popularity didn’t exactly jump due to all this. 

But as Blumenthal points out, Bush lost the popular vote by more than half a million.  And Bush does seem to have decided he has no choice but to chase his base, so to speak. 

And I haven’t said much about the Pryor appointment, or about Ashcroft’s subpoenas of the medical records of any woman who has had an abortion.  What is there to say?  That’s the way things go.  I did, a bit back, comment on how twenty Noble Prize winning scientists were a bit put off by this administration’s sort of kind of changing the basic findings in all sorts of studies because those findings gave people the wrong impression – that global warming might be real, that minorities had rather bad health and even worse healthcare, that condoms actually worked to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and so on.  (See Not that it matters from Thursday, 19 February 2004 on the daily weblog)

Blumenthal ties this all together in a discussion of Bush courting the Jewish votes by leaning toward Israel and, at the same time, courting the Evangelical Christian Right vote.  Heck, that is rather hard work.  You have to satisfy the neoconservative theorists who want the world changed to be full of new secular free-market democracies in the Islamic world, and, on the other side, appeal to the folks who long for a theocracy here at home run on the idea the New Testament contains everything you need to run a society and order the functioning of its government.  Satisfying both sides a lot of work. 

The problem? 


The born-again Bush, who reconstructed his self-image after 9/11 as a messianic leader, assumed that the agendas of the neocons and the theocons were one and the same.  However, Bush outsourced his foreign policy on the Middle East and Israel to the neocons in part for an electoral purpose, hoping to capture the Jewish vote, which will not be fulfilled because of his anxious devotion to the theocons.


Cool.  Each part of the base was concerned with different, contradictory things. 

But both sides hated the sixties, if that matters.  And this alliance worked for Ronal Reagan. 


The neocons and the theocons were bound together in reaction against the 1960s for different reasons: the neocons by foreign policy, the theocons by their continuing fundamentalist revolt against modernity.  Under Ronald Reagan, this coalition was held together in the crusade against godless communism.  But George Bush is haunted by what happened next to his father.


Yep, what are you going to do when what Ronald Reagan called “the evil empire” is gone.  Find another, of course.  The Muslim hoards and the gay guys!  They’ll do. 

After all whole lot of words Blumenthal then trots out the fellow who loves making crude jokes about gay guys and films devoted to torture and death:


Just as Bush stokes the culture war, Mel Gibson enters, sprinkling holy gasoline on the fires.  Only in the combustible atmosphere Bush has fostered could Gibson's grand guignol version of an anti-Semitic medieval passion play, The Passion of the Christ, become the number one box-office hit.  This is the ultimate Mad Max escapade: blowing up the cultural contradictions of American conservatism.


Yep, the culture war is underway.  And it's a mess.  Gibson forgot the Jews are the good guys now - killing Palestinian children (by mistake) and building big walls to keep them out (Bush chants again and again Ariel Sharon is a “man of peace”).  Mel, get it straight!  Jews are victims of the Islamic bombers killing their children!  They aren’t the bad guys!  They may vote Republican in the fall!  Man, you just can’t depend on religious zealots anymore.... 

But Blumenthal sees the real problem for Bush in broader terms. 


With his culture war the son is echoing another political error of the father, who alienated Jews and Catholics by permitting his 1992 convention to be used as a platform for the religious evangelical right.  This latest revival is frightening Jews, cautioning American Catholics (overwhelmingly of the liberal John XXIII/Vatican II persuasion, and holding the same view on abortion as other Americans), and scourging mainline Protestants.  The more Bush supplicates his base, the more he repels the others.  Moreover, Bush is running against a Democrat who's a modern Catholic, with lineage to the oldest mainline Protestant families of New England and Jewish ancestry. 

This political miscalculation at home is far outweighed by the disastrous consequences in the Middle East.  With increasing desperation, Bush is campaigning on behalf of his various fundamentalisms in a crusade against modernity in America, his greatest war of all. 


Oh well.  The modern world is overrated, isn’t it? 

One sort of wonders if Bush was always like this?  Was he always so opposed to what some call modern ideas? 

One of his former teachers says this:


At Harvard Business School, thirty years ago, George Bush was a student of mine.  I still vividly remember him.  In my class, he declared that "people are poor because they are lazy.”  He was opposed to labor unions, social security, environmental protection, Medicare, and public schools.  To him, the antitrust watch dog, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities Exchange Commission were unnecessary hindrances to "free market competition.”  To him, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal was "socialism.” 

Recently, President Bush's Federal Appeals Court Nominee, California's Supreme Court Justice Janice Brown, repeated the same broadside at her Senate hearing.  She knew that her pronouncement would please President Bush and Karl Rove and their Senators.  President Bush and his brain, Karl Rove, are leading a radical revolution of destroying all the democratic political, social, judiciary, and economic institutions that both Democrats and moderate Republicans had built together since Roosevelt's New Deal. 


Hardly surprising. 

See President George Bush and the Gilded Age
March 1, 2004 - Yoshi Tsurumi (now Professor of International Business, Baruch College, the City University of New York)

Read all about the economy and about the man who wishes to direct it.  He has his principles - moral and economic - from which he has never really wavered.  He just didn’t mention them in his campaign against Al Gore.  Wouldn’t be prudent.  But we should have known. 

Geez, at least none of my former students has really embarrassed me, so far. 


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....