Jim Hightower

Snowmen and Newts

You know the Republican presidential field is a little weak when the contenders are afraid of a snowman. What spooked them was the idea of participating in an unscripted debate on CNN during which ordinary Americans could ask questions through homemade videos posted on YouTube. Democrats did the YouTube routine and seemed to handle it just fine. One of the questions in that round came from an animated snowman concerned about global warming. This prompted Republican Mitt “The Hunter” Romney to reveal his distaste for the hoi polloi in general and video populism in particular. “I think the presidency ought to be held to a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman,” he declared.

Snowman snobbery is the least of the GOP’s problems. The field is so weak that there’s a move afoot to draft Dick Cheney. Yes, “Buckshot”-the snarling autocrat whose 18 percent favorable rating ranks him as the least popular vice president of modern times. Even Dan Quayle beat 18 percent.

The New York Sun has editorialized that Cheney appeals to “those of us who are concerned with extending Mr. Bush’s campaign for freedom around the world and cutting taxes at home.”

Republicans got more startling news when an aide to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that since no one with political heft is running, Gingrich “would make himself available” to be the nominee.

With Mitt, Buckshot, and Newt out front, it’s going to be an entertaining presidential run.

MIDDLE CLASS BLUES

The middle class is in the ditch. It’s been shoved there by callous and selfish profit-seekers rushing to get cheap labor in China and India, taking away America’s middle-class jobs. It’s been shoved there, too, by Bush’s anti-government ideologues, who’ve worked feverishly to dismantle the middle-class framework of labor laws, health care, and pension protection. A weak-kneed Democratic leadership has lost touch with its populist roots, and the conglomerate media establishment has abandoned any connection to-much less concern for-working stiffs.

Economic and political elites crow that the U.S. economy continues to grow phenomenally. They seem unaware that this growth is based on low incomes and low prospects for the great majority of Americans. The benefits of growth are being piped to the very wealthiest families. Middle-class incomes continue to fall (even with families working three or four jobs), and poverty continues to rise. The elites stride blithely by, oblivious to the fact that America is breaking apart beneath their well-shod feet.

Told that polls show Americans are now worried about inflation, a clueless George W said, “They cite inflation?” He’s told that inflation is up only 2.7 percent-but he’s ignorant of the fact that milk prices are up 13 percent in the past year, oranges 20 percent, dried beans 11 percent, and both bread and chicken 10 percent. That’s nothing for the elites, but these are staples for the real America.

A middle class exists only if workaday Americans demand it, fight for it, and build it. That’s what we must do between now and next Labor Day, when we’ll be in the thick of a presidential race.

LOVE AND CARNAGE

Butch Hancock, a wonderful singer-songwriter raised in the Lubbock area, once told me about growing up in the sometimes confusing fundamentalist Christian ethic of that bastion of the Bible Belt. As hormone-charged teenagers, they were instructed that sex is the nastiest, filthiest thing in the world … and they should save it for someone they love.

George W spent his early years just down the road from Lubbock. Apparently, he took this same convoluted, fundamentalist logic to heart, and it is playing out in his Iraq policy. It goes something like this: Since we’ve sent more than 3,100 Americans to their deaths in Iraq, let’s expand the horror for other soldiers to enjoy.

Never mind that a majority of Americans voted against such madness last November, and that some three-fourths of our people now oppose Bush’s escalation of this misbegotten war. Never mind that three-fourths of the Iraqi people believe our presence provokes more violence than it prevents, and would feel safer if our troops were withdrawn. Never mind that only 35 percent of our own troops there approve of Bush’s handling of the war, and that 71 percent of them want our military to be withdrawn and sent home this year. Never mind that Bush’s so-called “coalition” allies in Iraq are already withdrawing the small number of troops that they had sent. Never mind the realities-Bush is pushing his war like it’s something to love … and save … and keep forever.

Of course, George has none of his loved ones in the war, nor does Cheney, nor the executives of Halliburton, nor the other fiercest warmongers. It’s your loved ones for whom they’re saving this hellacious nastiness.

For more information on Jim Hightower’s work-and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown-visit www.jimhightower.com.

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Published at 12:00 am CST
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