Frank Rich: Triumph of a Willful Bush-Hater - September 16, 2003

Times Watch for September 16, 2003

Frank Rich: Triumph of a Willful Bush-Hater

Associate editor Frank Rich returns, in full rant, to his regular column for the Sunday Arts & Leisure page. In Top Gun Vs. Total Recall, he compares Bush unfavorably to Arnold Schwarzenegger: Only in America could a guy who struts in an action-hero's Hollywood costume and barks macho lines from a script pass for a plausible political leader. But if George W. Bush can get away with it, why should Arnold Schwarzenegger be pilloried for the same antics? At least Mr. Schwarzenegger is a show-biz pro. He never would have signed on for a remake of Top Gun without first ensuring that it would have the same happy ending as the original.

After a litany of movie references, Rich then gets really nasty. Critiquing the TV movie on 9-11, DC 9/11: Time of Crisis, Rich suggests it would make a fitting memorial to Hitlers filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl: But this film, made with full Bush administration cooperation (including that of the president himself), is propaganda so untroubled by reality that it's best viewed as a fitting memorial to Leni Riefenstahl. The script vouched for by Mr. Krauthammer and a couple of other Beltway boys presents Dick Cheney as a mere supplicant to the all-knowing Mr. Bush and somehow lets the administration (though not its predecessor) off the hook for letting Osama bin Laden and his Saudi enablers slip away. New polls reveal that Americans increasingly realize that they have been had.

For the rest of Frank Rich on Bush, click here.

George W. Bush | Iraq War | Movies | Frank Rich | Leni Riefenstahl | Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Times California Leanin

The Times leads with yesterdays top political news: A federal appeals panel has delayed the California recall election, citing the unreliability of punch-card voting. The pause is widely considered to be good news for embattled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis. The news pages of the Times play the story fairly straight (though the front-page story by Charlie LeDuff and Nick Madigan typically dwells on the anger from the right angle).

But the Times editorial, Delaying the California Recall, ignores some inconvenient facts in order to assert that the panel did the right thing. The editorial warns of mass disenfranchisement that would violate the equal-protection principle. Then the Times plays the race card: Counties using punch cards have nearly 50 percent more members of minorities than the others. Such a system, which the state knows will throw out more minority than white votes, is inconsistent with the Voting Rights Act.

The Times made no mention of the liberal outlook of the panel, noted by election-law expert Robert Alt on National Review Online. The Times was rather less sanguine about ideologically tilted judges meddling in elections in a December 13, 2000, editorial, written after the Supreme Court barred a recount of presidential election votes in Florida, making Bush the winner over Al Gore: This will long be remembered as an election decided by a conservative Supreme Court in favor of a conservative candidate while the ballots that could have brought a different outcome went uncounted in Florida.

The Times also ignored the fact that those punch-card voting machines that are now such a threat to voting rights apparently worked well enough to reelect Democrat Gov. Gray Davis last fall, without any concern about mass disenfranchisement being expressed on the Times editorial pages.

For the rest of the Times editorial on the California recall, click here.

George Bush, Fascist?

Saturdays Arts & Ideas story by Alexander Stille (with the long subhed: Fascist, Once Hitler Or Mussolini, Has Become So Elastic That Its Used Today For bin Laden or Bush.) is on the surface an examination of the use and overuse of the word fascist. But the article ends up giving a lot of liberal history professors room to all but call George Bush one.

Heres a quote from Robert Paxton, a history professor at Columbia University: Whenever people start locking up enemies because of national security without much legal care, you are coming close.

Sheldon Wolin, who Stille calls a professor emeritus of political thought at Princeton University, who has compared Mr. Bush's military-minded foreign policy to the expansionism of fascist regimes in the 1930's, says: We are facing forms of domination that exceed the old vocabulary and so we have to try to find language that corresponds to this condition.

Stille also notes: Abbott Gleason, a historian at Brown University and the author of a book on totalitarianism, admits that he has used the analogy with the Fascist era out of a desire to provoke. The word fascist is so overloaded that it's a bad term for any aspect of contemporary reality, he said. But he continued, I am worried that we are going through a kind of anti-liberal revolt, belief in a very strong state, a contempt for pluralism, for a `soft' welfare state and a sense that we cannot afford certain freedoms.

Victoria De Grazia of Columbia University lumps Bush and Italys prime minister Silvio Berlusconi with Osama bin Laden: I think the problem is that we are dealing with all sorts of new, strange political phenomena-Osama bin Laden, Hindu nationalism in India, the Le Pen phenomenon in France, Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive force-and we don't have the right words to describe these things."

For the rest of Alexander Stilles story on George Bush, fascist, click here.