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The Politics of Irrationality in its Second Term

by Goedart Palm Monday, Nov. 15, 2004 at 10:35 AM

Bush is not the problem but the symptom of a democracy that is gravely endangered.. Neo-conservative men and women believe that the end justifies the means and the choice of political means does not ultimately concern the citizen at all.



By Goedart Palm

[This article originally published 11/3/2004 in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

For a long time, elections in America have not only been elections but intricate legal disputes in which a host of legal election observers, hastily called judges and a law expressly for voting could make the vote count after the election really exciting. The “Help America Vote Act” should help America vote by insuring the technical conditions of democracy. 30,000 lawyers will pugnaciously flock around the election boxes. Michael Moore himself dispatched 1200 election observers. Are these conditions like conditions in banana republics where “election boxes” disappear and dictators rule undisturbed to the end of their days?

The swing- or showdown states like Florida and Ohio are the focus of relentless scrutiny and mutual mistrust since fair play and democratic self-understanding hardly count amid gaining supreme power. Were ineligible persons allowed to vote? Were voters by mail from foreign countries hindered from voting? Are the “election machines” only tin drums? Did the US army “brief” its young republican voters for the election while US “foreigners” were misled by blocked websites [Pentagon blocks access to official election site for US citizens abroad (1)]?

How could this happen four years after the Bush-Gore counting disaster? At that time 537 votes tipped the balance in the “swing state” Florida. Bush gained power through a decision of the Supreme Court that inevitably offended the generally accepted idea of separation of powers in the most important act of democracy. The legal skirmish may be less exciting this time. Bush won Florida and probably also Ohio this time [Update: The White House declares Bush the election winner (2)].

The election battle for the most powerful office of the world was economically and emotionally a battle of superlatives. The election participation at 60 percent of eligible voters was a relative record. Only in 1960 was there 65% voter participation in the election of John F. Kennedy versus Richard Nixon.


“Our own armies assemble to deactivate these weapons of mass destruction that we call our presidents today.”
Eminem, song text “Mosh”

Another outcome is subject to a waiting period. The new is the old. Thus “four more years”, the slogan of the republicans, is still the watchword of a unilateral hegemonial war policy that deeply shakes the self-understanding of the West and in no way makes the world safer [The Iraq war increases terrorism (3)].

A rational model of politics that sets analysis before action and negotiations before war as the ultima ratio is repudiated with this decision of US voters, at least in European eyes [Bush supporters marked by denial of reality (4)]. A political morality that draws the consequences and resigns when the lies [5] of an administration become very obvious is no longer in effect. George W. Bush remains the war president that he wanted to be.

Can much be expected from him beside this war policy? In the past, Bush was not the president who sought negotiated solutions but created his martial reality one-dimensionally according to the simplest model of “good and evil”. Bush could become more moderate after the reelection. Domestic political, economic and social state problems await the new old administration. The constitution after a 1952 amendment no longer allows a second extension.


Was the question of the election: What America will the world experience in the next four years? First of all, the question is what functions still exist for a democracy lying in the intensive care unit of a media public that doesn’t see any categorical differences any more between show-biz and political showmanship.

Shouldn’t Europe’s citizens or the citizens of the world participate in this election when US governments throw their weight around as the masters of this world and wage wars single-handedly? In Germany, war president Bush has hardly any support. But the clocks of the patriots tick differently in America. Even Osama Bin Laden would have voted for Bush since a more decisive confrontation is inconceivable and the fundamentalism of every color must be thankful for “energetic” opponents. Was Bin Laden’s video a crucial election campaign aid for his archenemy [Bin Laden presents himself as a statesman (7)]? This circumstance alone that elections can be massively influenced at the last moment is evidence of a disgraceful mood democracy that loses sight of its own interests.

Would Watergate have been conceivable under these presuppositions? Emotionally guided democracies have the tools for fascism. Reality becomes a media construction to which all criticism should submit or be subordinate. Bush, the son from a super-rich house who presents himself as a cowboy and Texan, is a media configuration like John Kerry. According to insiders, the challenger didn’t want to trail the superficially jovial but rather unapproachable Bush regarding nearness to the people. The populist “smartness” of Clinton was lacking to the Vietnam veteran and Vietnam critic, district attorney, lawyer, governor of Massachusetts and US Senator John Kerry. He can hardly be judged as a man of the little people according to his “background”. On his website, his wife Teresa was not described as the super-rich heiress of the Heinz catsup empire who had hardly anything to fear from his announced tax regulations.

A camel can pass through the eye of a needle more easily than a non-propertied candidate or a candidate not highly sponsored by the economy has any chance of becoming the US president. Kerry was slandered successfully by the republicans as a “flip-flopper”, a political quick-change artist or turncoat who may have pleased very discriminating types of voters. As nearly always happens in media democracies, the identification model who refuses the political ambivalences and opts for a hypocritical model of lifelong stringency. “Flip-flog” is the specialty of Bush who first justified his war with and then without Iraqi weapons of mass destruction against all legitimation of international law.


In his first term in office, US president George W. Bush was the political Pinocchio fit for satire whose ever-longer nose of lies was denounced by critics in his own camp, not only by Michael Moore. Criticism first melted away in the dangerous aftermath of September 11. The public hid submissively because martial governments accept joking just as little as hysterical societies. In the course of his first “home run”, the US president was the target of a criticism from American and European intellectuals that was hardly different from mockery.

Bush-bashing shifts the indispensable criticism to particulars, that is global interests, fragile international security needs, highly explosive polarizations up to the “worst case”, the clash of cultures. Bush is not the problem but the symptom of a democracy that is gravely endangered in its open constitutional conception of itself. This politics knows personal responsibility only as self-justification.

Democracy is not only control by the voter, this humorous star who can be seduced by many follies. In “old Europe”, democracy in its best moments was also an expression of a political culture in the self-control of the powerful. Admissions of guilt and resignations were self-purifications of democracy that exceed the control possibilities of the voter.

Today neoconservative men and women [8] believe all the time that the end justifies the means and the choice of political methods does not ultimately concern the citizen at all. With the Bush administration, mistakes and striking negligence were marginalized and seeped away in the labyrinth of the secret services [9]. How Bush deals with transparency was documented paradigmatically through his website blocked to foreigners [Non-US citizens are not desired by Bush (10)].

With this administration, inquisitorial security measures and prisoner of war camps [11] shaming free societies were prominent. The torture practices in Abu Ghraib [12] tolerated or initiated with knowledge of high-ranking persons were shameful [Tortures for National Security (13)]. This was the greatest paradox of Bush’s celebrated commission to rescue civilization since torture was one of the reasons for war against Saddam Hussein after the other reasons dissolved in the desert sand. Alleged enemies received new encouragement through such methods of the free West. In Abu Ghraib, the self-righteous belief in the humanity of the West was definitively overtaken by the blood-and-filth truth of war, a global ideology.

A counter terror that torpedoed the American promise of freedom began behind the security mania that is now fomented by the US government. Constant alarm about terror dangers in America was part of this anti-democratic politics, a “clockwork orange” mentality that drove voters into the republican wagon fortress. The Bush administration can hardly be imagined without the alert-patriotism that blinds [Obvious game with terror warnings (14)]. This fear-mongering politics that was misunderstood by many voters prevailed in America.

The atavism of a primal-paranoia that seeks to drive out foreigners like Beelzebub is at work here, not emotional intelligence. A one-man-journalism-machine “Michael Moore” with “Fahrenheit 9/11” presented a film that may be a necessary subtext of a thoroughly hypocritical self-promotion of the American super-rich as the guardians of civilization, not merely a polemical reckoning with Bush and his family.


Political fundamentalism and security rhetoric, American internationalism [15] and simple boy-scout sayings [16], religious bigotry and sexual servility or hypocrisy were successful. The American patriotism that emphasizes dynamic actions more than reasons was certainly one reason for confirming this president who is more concerned with vague concepts of American power and glory than health care and social benefits.

“Give him an Ak-47 so he can go and wage his own war. This way he can impress his daddy. No blood for oil any more. We have to win our own battles here at home.”
Eminem, song text “Mosh”

Are we going through a dark valley where boy-scout Bush tells us where to go? Bush will continue his brutish anti-terror strategy if it can be described as a strategy. The past lesson of this war is: one cannot defeat terrorists in wars either in Afghanistan or Iraq. War is the powder-keg always prophesied by war opponents. Us voters do not change war presidents. To that extent the intolerable conditions in Iraq similar to civil war may have changed from a weak spot of this administration to an asset of an untiring warrior and election campaigner.


The world may not expect the continuance of American internationalism. The terrorism of fundamentalist America-haters will be given more encouragement. Further legitimating reasons for continuing its campaigns could arise for the US government. What is Syria’s fate [17]? What about the nuclear ambitions of Iran [The conflict around the Iranian nuclear program intensifies (18)]? The Israeli-Palestinian conflict which is one of the central global conflicts cannot really be found in Bush’s hypertrophic security agenda any more than deactivating the north Korean potential [19].

In the last days of the election campaign, Bush did not tire proclaiming that he will bring freedom to the world again, his freedom that may be similar to South Vietnam’s freedom. Being successful in forcefully dismantling foreign systems has only trifling importance for this government. New democracies deserving the name have not appeared up to now.

Bush has put the sympathy of American friends to the hardest test: Is there a European solidarity between old Europe and eastern expansion against a hegemonial America? How will he relate to the UN in the future? Is a dialogue with Islam possible? How can terrorists be combated? Is there an international equal right for everyone? Is there an international jurisdiction for war criminals? How much constitutional state can we still afford? Questions upon questions were zealously raised and hardly solved. The American “action-loop” has overtaken the European leisureliness in turning to questions.

Europe is taking the Bush drastic cure in the extended time of his presidency very well. Now reflecting on one’s own virtues and viewing European democracy as an international form of rule not limited to periodic promises under the temporary pressure of elections are vital. An everyday model of transparent self- and foreign control that outstrips the enemies of democracy, Islamic fundamentalists and jihadists is essential.

Democracy attracts through its execution, not by decreeing top-down democracies ( that has accomplished nothing in Iraq and stands on shaky foundations in Afghanistan. If the blissfulness of forced democracies does not appear in the future, western fundamentalism versus oriental fundamentalism could define the just war-future of the next years.



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Copyright. Dr. Goedart Palm 1998 - Stand: 05. Juni 2018.