So what's the bigger picture this week?
As the world goes to hell in a handbasket, I've come across some articles that help to show why.
First up, a 50 year academic study in which the data shows that conservatives are much more likely to follow authoritarian leaders. Former Nixon counsel John Dean discussed it with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: There is an extraordinary amount of academic work that you quote in the book. A lot of it is very unsettling. It deals with psychological principles that are frightening and may have faced other nations at other times. In German and Italy in the 30's, come into mind in particular. But, how does it apply now? To what degree should it scare us and to what degree is it something that might be forestalled?They go on to discuss how having a designated enemy and relentless fear mongering aids leaders in keeping their authoritarian postion -- drawing in those in the Mushy Middle along with the True Belivers. And how many True Belivers are there in this country?
DEAN: To me, it was something of an epiphany to run into this information. First, I'd never read about it before. I sort of worked my way into it until I found it. It's not generally known out there, what's going on. I think, from the best we can tell, these people -- the followers -- a few of them will change their ways when the realize that they are doing -- not even aware of what they are doing. The leaders, those inclined to dominate, they're not going to change for a second. They're going to be what they are. So, by and large, the reason I write about this is, I think we need to understand it. We need to realize that when you take a certain step of vote a certain way, heading in a certain direction, where this can end up. So, it's sort of a cautionary note. It's a warning as to where this can go. Other countries have gone there.
DEAN: The lead researcher in this field told me, he said, "I look at the numbers of the United States and I see about 23% of the population who are pure right-wing authoritarian followers." They're not going to change. They're going to march over the cliff. The best thing to deal with them -- and they're growing, and they have a tremendous influence on Republican politics -- The best defense is understanding them, to realize what they are doing, how they're doing it and how they operate. Then it can be kept in perspective and they can be seen for what they are.
The next news item that really caught my eye this week was a Justice Department lawyer telling the Senate Judiciary Committee the following:
‘The President Is Always Right’The exchange went like this:
LEAHY: I don’t think the President was talking about the nuances of the law of war paradigm, he was saying this was going to tell him that he could keep Guantanamo open or not, after it said he could.As one commenter at Think Progress said:
BRADBURY: Well, it’s not —
LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?
BRABURY: It’s under the law of war –
LEAHY: Was the President right or was he wrong?
BRADBURY: The President is always right.
Well, there it is, folks. The Doctrine of the Unitary Executive, or, in other words, ‘The King can do no wrong’.And, that's the really scary part. This is just not a snarky answer said with a smirk to a US Senator, this has been Bush's answer to every challenge he's had to his authority. Furthermore, he's surrounded himself with people like Alito and Gonzales who believe the same. Those in the Administration (and the Pentagon) with opposing views have found themselves being shown the door.
As was pointed out at Shakespeare's Sister:
Anyone ever see this propaganda poster from Germany in the thirties? It simply says, in big bold letters:
"Der Führer hat immer recht."
It means, "The Leader is always right."
I'll look for a photo link—I saw it at a holocaust exhibit in a German museum several years ago. It's considered one of the basic principles of the political philosophy of the Third Reich.
No, I'm not calling the President "Hitler." But I am saying that when you have a quarter of the public who crave the most authoritarian of leaders; and when this segment of the public has a disproportionate influence on all leaders (the pull of the Religious Right/Extreme Right); and when you have leaders in the top echelons who have authoritarian personalities; and you have a media who, overall, have rolled over to these leaders and one segment who operates as the house organ of these leaders; and you throw in wars and rumors of war; you have a most disastrous mix. Or to repeat John Dean:
"It's a warning as to where this can go. Other countries have gone there."I remember just days after 9/11, the subject of torture came up. I couldn't believe that rationalizations for torture were being discussed in the media. It wasn't a huge discussion, but it came up -- especially on places like FOX News. It was like they couldn't wait (or perhaps more ominously, they already knew and were helping to prepare the way).
So what can be done to help ensure that we don't go where "other countries have gone?"
But, in a time when are leaders are only too happy to both lie and scare the crap out of us to get what they want, we will get nowhere by being lapdogs or apologists.
The middle and the independents already know something isn't right. While they may not pay attention to every latest outrage by this administration, the poll numbers reflect their disapproval. Bush's poll numbers barely go higher than his "baby eating numbers." It's been this way for month after month. And, the numbers for Congressional Republicans are even worse.
Now is not the time for weakness or vacillation on the part of Democrats.
Now is the time to shout:
And, to offer them a real alternative.
The majority of the public knows that Bush has been a disaster on nearly everything: Katrina, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, gasoline prices, health care, education, and the pocketbooks and wages of the average American.
They are ready for a change and we must give it to them.
Happy Bastille Day