(excerpted from Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men and other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation (ReganBooks, 2001)
He has signed a bill providing for federal funds to be distributed to “faith-based” charitable organizations.
He has expanded the number of federal crimes for which the death penalty can be given to a total of sixty.
He has signed a bill outlawing gay marriages and has taken out ads on Christian radio stations touting his opposition to any form of legal same-sex couplings.
In a short span of time, he has been able to kick ten million people off welfare-that’s ten million out of fourteen million total recipients.
He has promised states “bonus funds” if they can reduce their welfare numbers further, and made it easier to get these funds by not requiring the states to help the ex-welfare recipients find jobs. He has introduced a plan that would bar any assistance to teenage parents if they drop out of school or leave their parents’ home.
Though he is careful not to draw attention to it, he supports many of the old provisions of Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America,” including lowering the capital gains tax.
In spite of calls from Republican governors like George Ryan of Illinois to support a moratorium on capital punishment, he rejected all efforts to slow down the number of executions even after it was revealed that there are dozens of people on death row who are innocent.
He has released funds for local communities to hire over a hundred thousand new police officers and supports laws that put people behind bars for life after committing three crimes-even if those crimes were shoplifting or not paying for a pizza.
There are now more people in America without health insurance than when he took office.
He has signed orders prohibiting any form of health care to poor people who are in the United States illegally. He supports a ban on late-term abortions and promised to sign the first bill to cross his desk that includes an exemption only if the life of the mother is in jeopardy.
He has signed an order prohibiting any U.S. funds going to any country to be used in helping women secure an abortion.
He signed a one-year gag order that prohibits using any federal funds in foreign countries where birth control agencies mention abortion as an option to pregnant women.
He has refused to sign the international Land Mine Ban Treaty already signed by 137 nations-but not by Iraq, Libya, North Korea, or the United States.
He has scuttled the Kyoto Protocol by insisting that “sinks” (e.g., farmlands and forests) be counted toward the U.S. percentage of emissions reductions, thus making a mockery of the whole treaty (which was written primarily to reduce the carbon dioxide pollution from cars and factories).
He has accelerated drilling for gas and oil on federal lands at a pace that matches, and in some areas exceeds, the production level during the Reagan administration.
He has approved the sale of one California oil field in the largest privatization deal in American history, and he opened the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (something even Reagan wasn’t able to do).
And he became the first President since Richard Nixon not to force the auto manufacturers to improve their mileage per gallon-which would have saved millions of barrels of oil each day.
Yes, you’d have to agree, considering all of his above accomplishments, that Bill Clinton was one of the best Republican Presidents we’ve ever had.
There has been much hand-wringing since George W. Bush was given the office, with good people and liberals everywhere freaked out that the son-of-a-Bush would wreak havoc with the environment, turn back the clock on women’s rights, and have us all reciting prayers in schools and at traffic lights. They are right to be concerned.
But Bush is only the uglier and somewhat meaner version of what we already had throughout the nineties-except that back then it came dressed in a charming smile from a guy who played soul tunes on a sax and told us what kind of underwear he (and his interns) wore. We liked that. It felt good, normal. He could sing the Black National Anthem. He partied with Gloria Steinem. He watched my show! I liked the guy!
We were all relieved that the Reagan/Bush years were over, and it was kind of cool that we had a President who had smoked pot and called himself “the first Black President of the United States.” But we had a tendency to turn our heads the other way and block out things like his undermining key provisions of the Kyoto Agreement just weeks before the November 2000 election.
We didn’t want to know about stuff like that; after all, what was our alternative? Baby Bush? Pat Buchanan? Ralph Nader?
Oh, God, no-not Ralph Nader. Why on earth would we want to support someone who agreed with us on all the issues? That’s no fun!
The anger now leveled at Nader seems so personal, so intense, from Baby Boomers who blame him for Gore losing the election (he didn’t lose). I look at these individuals in the their forties and fifties and I wonder why Nader seems so personally threatening to them.
It’s taken a while, but I think I’ve got it figured out: Nader represents who they used to be but no longer are. He never changed. He never lost the faith, never compromised, never gave up. That’s why they hate him. He didn’t change his tune, didn’t move to the suburbs, didn’t start structuring his life around “Let’s see how I can make the most money for me, me, ME!” He didn’t conform to the new Baby Boom Code of Sell-Out Ethics in order to advance his power. No wonder millions of high school and college kids love him. He’s the opposite of their parents, the people who “raised” them by handing them a latchkey, a Ritalin, and a remote for the TV set in the bedroom. Nader didn’t make the trek down the dial from Sgt. Pepper to AOR to Kenny G.
… Go with the winner! Even if the winner (Clinton) supports executing people, won’t ban land mines, signs gag orders, prevents abortion funding, throws the poor out on the street, doubles the prison population, bombs four different countries, killing innocent civilians (Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yugoslavia), allows a few conglomerates to own most of the media (which once were split up among nearly a thousand companies), and continually calls for increases in the Pentagon budget, it still feels better than . . . better than. . . well, better than something really, really bad.
Friends, when are we going to stop kidding ourselves? Clinton, and most other contemporary Democrats, did not and will not do what is best for us or the world we live in. We don’t pay their bill-the top 10 percent do, and it is their will that will always be done. I know you already know this; it’s just hard to say it because the alternative looks so much like . . . Dick Cheney.
So is there a difference between Democrats and Republicans? Sure. The Democrats say one thing (“Save the planet!”) and then do another-quietly holding hands behind the scenes with the bastards who make this world a dirtier, meaner place. The Republicans just come right out and give the bastards a corner office in the West Wing. That’s the difference.
Bill Clinton waited until the final days of his presidency to sign a raft of presidential decrees and regulations, many of which promised to improve our environment and create safer working conditions. It was the ultimate cynical move. Wait till the last 48 hours of your term to do the right thing, so that everyone will look back and think, now he was a good president. But Clinton knew these last minute orders would all fall under the hand of the new administration coming to power. He knew none of these orders would stand.
It was all about image.
Do you still believe Clinton removed arsenic from our water? Not only had he done nothing to protect us from drinking arsenic-laced water for the last eight years-but the order he signed stipulated that the arsenic was not to be removed from the water “until 2004.” That’s right. Look it up. Clinton’s big environmental gesture in the last minutes of his term guaranteed that we’d be drinking the same levels of arsenic we’ve been drinking since 1942-the last time a REAL Democrat had the guts to stand up to the mining interests and reduce the levels of this poison. The Canadians and Europeans did it long ago. But Clinton ignored the law that required the EPA to reduce arsenic levels. That resulted in a lawsuit against the Clinton administration by the Natural Resources Defense Council. In his last week Clinton finally caved in-but only after inserting language that would put off the change for four-years. Thus Clinton made it official that we would all be drinking this poison during the entire Bush administration. Maybe he was doing us a favor.
And how about those carbon dioxide emission regulations Bush II overturned? Did I say “overturned”? Overturned what? All Bush did was maintain the Clinton status quo. He said, in essence, “I’m going to pollute the air at the very same levels Clinton did during his entire eight years, just as you’re going to drink the same arsenic in the water under my watch as you did under Clinton’s.”
And, like the built-in four-year delay in his arsenic reductions, Clinton’s orders on the toxic emissions in his last days specified that they were not to be reduced immediately either. In mid-November, sensing the fate of the election, he called for strict regulations on four greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide. Again, his words sounded nice, but if you looked past them you found the new levels wouldn’t be in place until 2010. And then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, no new regulation could be implemented for another ten to 15 years.
The list goes on and on. For eight years Clinton did NOTHING about carpal tunnel syndrome as it relates to OSHA regulations. Then, in the middle of pardoning some rich guys during his all-night Agonistes on January 19, he finally decided to do some good for all those women who sit at keyboards all day and who, with their crippled hands, went to the polls TWICE to make him their President.
Friends, you are being misled and hoodwinked by a bunch of professional “liberals” who did NOTHING themselves for eight years to clean up these messes-and who now can’t stop themselves from attacking people like Ralph Nader, who has devoted his entire life to every single one of these causes. What unmitigated gall! They blame Nader for giving us Bush? I blame THEM for being Bush! They suck off the same corporate teat
So spare me all the moaning about Bush the Lesser. Those who want to turn Bush into some sort of cartoon monster have an agenda-to keep most of us from seeing the beast they themselves have become. Of course they hate Ralph Nader. He’s a disquieting reminder of what could happen if we ever elect someone who will represent the bottom 90 percent in this country. Blame Nader, blame Bush, it’s all part of the same distraction-to keep you from focusing on one very important fact: Republican arsenic or Democratic arsenic, it really is the same damn crap being forced down your throat.
But Bush will never figure out how to get away with this stuff the way Clinton did. He needs to take a page out of Clinton’s Big Book of Charm. Now, there was a guy who knew how to win people over. Whatever you thought of him, he was likable, smart, funny, and down-to-earth. He knew that the American people want to believe in their President. He discovered that saying something was the same as doing it. If you said you were for a clean environment,
that was good enough-you didn’t have to do anything to make it a clean environment. Hell, you could get away with polluting it more, and most people would never know the difference. You could say you were pro-choice and then preside over the largest wholesale closing of abortion clinics since the procedure became legal. (What’s the point of being pro-choice if, in 86 percent of the counties in America, there is not a single doctor who will perform an abortion and not a single woman who can get one?) Clinton learned that by talking a good feminist line, he could arrange it so that not one feminist leader would decry the order he signed in 1999 to deny federal funds to any foreign group that discussed abortion during consultations. Everyone thinks that was Bush’s idea! That’s how smart Clinton was. And that’s why he got all the women’s groups on his side-because he said he was with them.
So that’s how you do it. Say one (plausible) thing; then do another. Or do nothing.
The point of all this is that our real problem, ultimately, isn’t Bush-it’s the Democrats. Bush would be paralyzed if the Democrats started behaving like a true opposition party. Bush wouldn’t even be there had one Democrat in the House stood up and challenged the votes of the electoral college. But no one said anything.
And for the better part of Bush’s first year, it’s Democrats who have been Bush’s willing and necessary partners to madness.
Start with the Bankruptcy Reform Act, which will make life much harder for working people who need to file for bankruptcy. Instead of having their debts expunged, this new law, passed by both houses of Congress and signed by Bush, will now force those who have lost everything to remain indebted to banks and credit card companies-and find ways to pay them off. In other words, millions will never crawl out from under the rock of crushing debt.
This bill was passed with the support of thirty-seven Democratic senators-including every single female Democratic senator-all of whom sided with the banking industry instead of with America’s working families. In an ironic twist, it was the millionaire Democrats in the Senate-Kennedy, Rockefeller, Corzine, Dayton-who voted against this repressive piece of legislation.
Bill after bill that came from the Bush-occupied White House to the Congress found scores of Democrats with open arms. The Bush tax cut bill passed overwhelmingly with Democratic support, even though the bill was designed to benefit the richest 10 percent in the country.
Democrats have also backed Bush on his bombing of Iraq and his aggressive actions toward China. In August 2001, the crowning moment of this collaboration came when the House voted to approve drilling for oil in the Alaskan wilderness. Thirty-four Republicans had already jumped ship and said they would vote against their own party on this issue. That was stunning news to those who were concerned about our environment. But the joy soon subsided once the vote was taken-and thirty-six Democrats voted in favor of the Bush plan.
The saddest spectacle in this orgy of Democrats sleeping with the enemy was the way they approved every single one of Bush’s cabinet nominations. Some appointees had the unanimous support of the Democrats in the Senate; even controversial ones, like John Ashcroft, picked up a number of crucial Democratic votes. And not a single Democratic senator was willing to filibuster the way a rabid Republican would have if a Democratic President had selected such a fringe radical as Ashcroft to be attorney general. If I recall, Janet Reno was choice number three for Clinton: the first two nominees were rejected after Republicans went nuts over their views on nannies.
But that’s the difference-Democrats have no spine. They always back down. There is no one on their side of the aisle willing to go to battle for us the way a Tom Delay or Trent Lott will for his side. Those guys will not rest until they win, no matter how many bodies the road is littered with. Democrats have become nothing more than Republican wannabes. And so I propose a course of action: the Democrats must merge with the Republican Party. That way, they can keep doing what they both do very well-representing the rich-and save a lot of money by consolidating staff and headquarters into one tight, fit fighting machine for the top 10 percent.