Random notes from the heartland – Bush in Columbus
September 1, 2004
The Nationwide Arena doors opened at 1:00. There would be a four-hour wait before the prodigal son returned to his ancestral home, Columbus, Ohio.
Forget about Kennebunkport, Maine. That’s where George Herbert Walker of the St. Louis Walkers purchased a faux ancestral home. Ignore Connecticut. That’s simply where Prescott Bush went, after his prank letter on being a war hero was published in a hometown newspaper embarrassing the family out of the heartland. Here in Columbus is where it all started. Where the great-grandfather of our current President began the family’s well-documented tradition of war profiteering.
Samuel Bush, friend of the Rockefellers and owner of Buckeye Steel Castings, pulled his own “Halliburton” in World War I simultaneously serving on the Armaments Board and granting contracts to his family business. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church still stands on Broad Street near downtown as a monument to the good old days. The Bush family worshipped there before its new generations embraced evangelical right-wing Christianity.
Karl Rove and the choreographers knew how to set the stage for the main event. There was former Buckeye linebacker great Chris Spielman muttering about the country needing more “church in the state, not more state in the church.” Columbus has always been the kind of town that has seen the divinity in a brutal bone-crushing football player. Remember that game against Michigan? Clearly, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
There was Ohio’s most famous non-entity Mike DeWine babbling about the evil French, Germans and United Nations. It doesn’t ever seem to occur to the Bush-ites that the United Nations and universal human rights were actually American ideas. You know, back in the Dark Ages when every President from FDR to Richard Nixon called themselves a “liberal.” Granted, Nixon used the term “pragmatic liberal.”
Nationwide, in a pattern developed over the past decade, transformed from a farmer’s mutual insurance company to a for-profit “we love the GOP” carnivore, tried to keep protesters off the sidewalks surrounding the arena. An arena of course built with tax abatements, tax increment financing and other healthy infusions of public dollars for infrastructure. Nationwide and Bush agreed in principle on the joys of “wealthfare uber alles.”
I stood outside with the two hundred demonstrators watching Bush on the giant video screen. Rove ingeniously tried to drive us off by arranging to play a rock video of Bush’s bus tour snaking its way across the nation to New York City. The opening tune was Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business.” Rather fitting. As I sang along I tried to inject the word “Big” before “Business” because Dubya surely has been working overtime making the world safe for plutocracy.
A key to the GOP strategy to win the Buckeye State is to put a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot banning gay marriage in Ohio. The Bush-ites perceive this wedge issue as essential bait to troll for the born-agains. I tried to think about the issue positively. After all, the only African Americans at the Bush rally, other than the token Clear Channel talk show host, were the paid canvassers trying to get the Bush people to sign the petition – some kind of wedge! Many Bush loyalists gladly lined up to sign in the shadow of Bush protesters with signs reading “Bush + Dick = Fucked.”
Members of one group of half a dozen anti-Bush-ites were dressed like Bush with devil horns. They even had a cardboard cut-out of Bush with devil horns, prompting more than one Republican family to pose in front of it.
While devil horns seemed not to offend them, the one that said “Three Purple Hearts trumps Two DUIs” was denounced by Bush devotees as tacky.
In keeping with the sports theme, Jack Nicklaus the Golden Bear, so-called because of the bundles of gold he’s collected developing segregated upper-crust whitebread golf communities like Muirfield, introduced the President amidst cried of “four more years!” As the jocks took the edge off Bush’s extremism, the President bounded on stage in a tan safari shirt doing that creepy little Hitler salute that he’s now famous for. For a moment I thought the clever Rove had decided to dress the President so he’d look like Jack Hanna.
The demonstrators outside chanted, “This is what hypocrisy looks like!” One held up a sign that simply said “Hitler: Fatherland, Stalin: Motherland, Bush: Homeland.” As I glanced quickly back at the screen, I swear I could see Jack Nicklaus and the faithful mouthing the word “Thousand Jahre Reich!”
The President led off by pointing out “My grandfather was raised here in Columbus, Ohio” and he asked his devotees, or is that deviltees, to send “a homeboy” back to the White House.
The old adage of it sounding better in the original German suddenly made sense.
The President described Dick Cheney as a “solid citizen,” although he failed to point out of which Reich. In short order, the President promised that he would continue to heal the sick, raise the dead, make healthcare affordable, end frivolous lawsuits and allow untrained people to speculate in the stock market with their Social Security.
The demonstrators were now chanting “Ohio says no! Bush must go!” But inside, they were having their Nuremberg moment as Bush repeated his biggest and bestest lie – that Saddam had used weapons of mass destruction. I’ve always been impressed by this lie, and how they accomplish it. First, they take biochemical weapons given to Saddam by Ronald Reagan and George Bush the Elder and then these illegal limited war theater weapons are morphed into WMDs. Of course in reality, they’re not. But in his fantasy world, the threats come from a broken and battered Iraqi nation with its $1.4 billion defense spending versus our $400 billion defense budget. We ignore the fact that some element of the Bush military industrial complex actually launched an anthrax attack on the U.S. media and the Democratic Party, which has gone unsolved.
Bush concluded: “Freedom is the almighty God’s gift to every man and woman in the world.” Sources tell me that the phrase struck out of the President’s speech was the obvious next line: “Death mach frei.”
On the way out, the mesmerized Nurembergers lined up and purchased “Gott mit uns” belt buckles and WWFD (What Would The Führer Do) bracelets from the giddy vendors.
Bob Fitrakis is a professor of political science, senior editor of the Free Press (http://freepress.org), and co-author (with Harvey Wasserman) of George W. Bush vs. the SuperPower of Peace.
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