George W. Does Liberty

Jim Hightower’s newest book, Let’s Stop Beating Around The Bush, is scheduled for release this month. Utne.com is running a series of excerpts from the title.

The musician David Baerwald is not a household name to most Americans, but in the richly creative world of singer-songwriters, he’s a standout. Particularly appealing to me is that he doesn’t shy away from focusing on the political realities of the day. In the mid-Nineties, he produced an album titled Triage, and for the liner notes, he offered this dedication to 40 years-worth of America’s nefarious governmental spooks and liberty-busters who had led our democracy so deeply into the shadows of autocracy:

‘This record is dedicated to Dean Acheson, Paul Nitze, John J. McCloy, John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, Henry Kissinger, James Baker III, and George Bush in the sincere hope that there is a God and that he is vengeful beyond all comprehension.’

Imagine what David might write about today’s list of liberty-busters and privacy-invaders who’re so aggressive, so intrusive, so arrogant, so insatiable, so obtuse in their reach for ever-greater executive power over the American people that they make the line-up above seem almost prissy. Indeed, some on Baerwald’s list would be shocked and amazed (if not appalled) that not only the Bushites, but also battalions of private corporate intruders have moved America so deeply and quickly into the darkness.

One issue that powerfully binds the right and left in our country is their shared distrust, suspicion, and (dare I say it?) HATRED (yes, Hightower, you do dare!) of those who carelessly trim — much less whack at, bludgeon, and negate — our Bill of Rights for their own political and economic gain. After all, 228 years ago, the assault by British Redcoats on individual privacy and their trampling of the Colonists’ freedom of expression and association was one of the most passionate rallying cries for the American rebellion, and that passion breathes yet in the bosom of most Americans.

In Washington and on Wall Street, however, that passion has been squashed flatter than roadkill by the shortsighted rush of the elites to gain more money and power for themselves. Democrats in Congress have offered only lame lip-service to protecting our liberties, fearful that a White House hell-bent on amassing more executive and police authority will tar them as soft on Osama. Meanwhile, both parties willfully pave the way for still more privacy invasions by corporations, which happen to finance their campaigns.

The intruders, whether governmental or corporate, always insist that their every incremental incursion on our rights is done solely for our own good: ‘We must balance your freedom with concern for your security,’ they coo to us; ‘We need to collect all of your financial, health, and other records in our databases in order to offer you better service and more convenience,’ they assure us, ever so soothingly.


There are more instances of abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.

— James Madison


Never in our nation’s history has the rude grab for our First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights been so sweeping. Let me give you just one glimpse of it: The Bushites’ heavy-handed lockdown on our essential right of protest, crude assault that, curiously, the media establishment has either avoided covering or quietly applauded.

BushCheneyAshcroftRumsfeld&TheBoys cannot just come out and ban protest, of course, but they can intimidate and marginalize it…and they are doing exactly that with total abandon. We observers in Texas are not at all surprised by George W’s full support for suppressing protest, for he used his governorship as a time to practice his chops.

What we have at work here is the fundamental problem of former CEOs controlling the executive branch of government, for CEO-world is one of toe-the-line, don’t-rock-the-boat, don’t-challenge-authority deference to Number One. Corporations are essentially hierarchical autocracies, the very opposite of democracies, which have a way of being messy, noisy, disorderly, and oft-times raucously disobedient.

The Bushites, as the world has now learned, are barkers who intend to do it their way, so don’t bother them with any democratic niceties or test their patience with your unauthorized opinion. Bush himself not only recoils from dissent, but also is determinedly dismissive of both dissenters and their right to dissent.

As governor back in 1999, he and his clever staff devised the Bush Doctrine of Contained Dissent as a way to keep pesky protestors away and to keep him in a serene political bubble. What they did was literally corral protestors into distant protest pens (how delightfully cowboyish this must have seemed to George, who’d recently acquired his Crawford ranchette and was really getting into his Western Man persona. Yippie-ty-yi-yo!).

Their first move was against a small group of Texans, mostly senior citizens, who were protesting some of Bush’s most atrocious environmental policies. They were carrying colorful signs and peacefully walking up and down the public sidewalk in front of the governor’s mansion, not disturbing anyone. This sidewalk has historically been the site of Texas protest, and while previous governors undoubtedly wished that the balky citizenry of their time would go away, none tried to act on their wish.

But in ’99, George was gearing up for his presidential run, and scads of national media-types were coming in and out of town to evaluate this politically hot governor. Having protestors draw attention to his record of servitude to corporate polluters was definitely off message, so Bush unleashed his state police detail to swoop down on the picketers and order them removed to a faraway parking lot, which they arbitrarily designated as a ‘protest zone.’ It was conveniently beyond the sight and sound of His Gubernatorial Eminence…and of the media. Those protestors who objected to this sweep were promptly arrested, cuffed, and thrown in jail.

As you might expect, such thuggishness was completely illegal, and a judge later threw the state’s trumped up charges out of court, reopening the public sidewalk to (O, democracy!) the public. But by the time this decision came down, George and Karl were long gone, safely in the White House.

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