Home Page

carol gould

Join our email list for updates.




We hope that you'll feel our website is worthy enough to contribute a few pounds to the bandwidth bills.



Bush and the Centre of Gravity
Last uploaded : Monday 30th Oct 2006 at 04:09
Contributed by : Carol Gould



What an irony that the expression that best fits the present state of the American electorate is one coined by Donald Rumsfeld. ‘The American people have a very good centre of gravity,’ said Rummy a year ago at one of his animated press briefings.

Sadly for the Defence Secretary, his verdict on the American psyche has come back to haunt his party and his boss. On November 7th it appears the Democratic Party will regain control of the House of Representatives and Senate as the great and diverse American electorate sends a message to the Bush regime that this administration is perilously out of touch with its constituency.

As this is a conservative website and column we agonise as we write these words and feel it is lamentable that the Bush Administration has listened to neither the Right nor the Left but chosen instead to pursue an increasingly reckless and bizarre assortment of policies.

Last year I attended the most star-studded event of the social year in Washington DC, the Opera Gala. As I helped myself to ‘faux caviar’ on the Kennedy Centre stage I looked up to see Colin Powell, Queen Noor of Jordan, the Rumsfelds and various glitterati and Supreme Court Justices eyeing the same caviar. Roaming the crowd I tried to engage the Republican movers and shakers in conversation about the blunderbuss known as the ‘war on terror,’ only to be received with glazed expressions.

In the corridor I sat down to eat my faux caviar with Fox News Christian conservative broadcaster Cal Thomas and his wife. I began to tell him about the grave problem of the image of the United States in the UK and the even graver problem of the deeply-embedded radical groups working out of Britain and Europe. My point was that the Bush administration was barking up the wrong tree: extremism came from the mosques of Bradford and Brixton and Finsbury Park, not from the madrassahs of Karachi or Islamabad. Cal Thomas turned to me and said ‘Why don’t you just go mingle and look at all the celebrities who are here tonight?’

For the rest of the evening I did just that, but any attempt to explain to the Washington power-elite that the anger of young Muslims as near as Glasgow was a matter needing attention was met with a combination of polite appreciation and bewilderment. The only recipient of my message who seemed to ‘get it’ and who also expressed his worry about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe was a thoughtful Paul Wolfowitz. In retrospect his vision of Iraq was doomed, but at least he listened to my fears.

Moving to the present, it must be emphasised that what has happened in the United States this year is a tectonic shift. Ordinary farmers in Iowa and factory labourers in Illinois have decided that no-one is hearing anything they say. Their sons and daughters are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan five years after 9/11, and the number of American dead has now exceeded that of that fateful Manhattan day in September. Hurricane Katrina showed a hideous side of America to the world thanks to the world wide web and satellite television. Millions of Americans with Rumsfeld’s ‘good centre of gravity’ realised that something was amiss from the top on down, and they wondered how the richest nation on earth could allow such a grotesque human disaster to unfold like a film about the Third World. President Bush was so out of touch as to commend ‘Brownie,’ the head of the Federal Emergency Relief Agency when FEMA had done little to relieve anyone, and Condoleezza Rice was reported to have been shopping for shoes whilst thousands of blacks languished in New Orleans.

What upset even conservative Americans was the inadequacy of the Federal relief agency; if Katrina had instead been a spectacular terrorist attack, is this tragic mess what Americans could expect from their leaders?

Compounding the Katrina Effect, as it became known, was the rise in the number of hard-working Americans going bankrupt due to medical bills. Nearly fifty million citizens have no medical insurance and many have to decide between paying their electric bills or parting with hundreds of dollars for their medications. Americans get a precious two weeks of vacation per year, and like to see their country. (The accusation made to me by Britons over the years that 80% of Americans do not have passports and is therefore evidence of some sort of low intelligence is nonsense -- they only get two weeks to travel, contrasted with the five to six weeks Britons and Europeans enjoy. ) The few days Americans had this year to travel were hampered by skyrocketing oil prices, and this had a knock-on effect in all areas of the economy.

The United States has a huge deficit. When Bill Clinton left office there was a surplus. My fellow conservatives like to say this is a lie. I like to point out that Don Rumsfeld was a superb businessman who led two Fortune 500 companies. His party is the one that looks after business and balances the books. If George Bush had been a CEO the Board and shareholders would have asked him to leave. The images from Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib added to the lethal mix of America’s loss of faith in its leaders and their various crusades.

In recent weeks the Republican party has been rocked by a scandal surrounding Florida Congressman Mark Foley, who is accused of sending inappropriate emails to Congressional interns and pages. Accusations have flown about suggesting the highest levels of Republican leadership knew about his alleged misdeeds but did nothing. Other scandals have involved lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Vice President Cheney’s associate Scooter Libby. This past week Lynne Cheney, the number one champion of family life and upstanding moral values, is revealed as the author of a 1981 novel about women loving women. That doesn’t bother me and in fact endears her to many, but it resonates with the heartland, who have been browbeaten for years about those immoral Democrats.

The result of a Democratic sweep could, as reported by the BBC last week, result in a move to impeach Bush himself. When the Founding Fathers debated the merits of a federal system of checks and balances the dissenters demanded a Parliamentary democracy. If the United States had a Parliament the November 7 results, if Democrat, would indeed topple the government.

But let us return to the ‘war on terror.’ In May 2005, whilst Secretary Rumsfeld was addressing the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia , furious young Muslims were demonstrating that very same day outside the American Embassy in London because news had come of Marines flushing a Koran down a lavatory in Guantanamo Bay. I asked Rumsfeld if he had thought about re-focussing the administration’s efforts and talking to the Blair government about the tinderbox on its doorstep. To his credit he took my suggestion onboard but then a few weeks later, bombs delivered by young British men exploded across London.

There are scores of American missions around the world and no doubt ambassadors and cultural attaches have conveyed to the administration their worries about the hatred of the United States in the streets of the countries in which they serve. Bill Clinton engaged tirelessly with the Middle East peace process and despite the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 continued that quest. The Bush Administration has not engaged with the region. When Rabin was shot Boris Yeltsin said the region would run with rivers of blood if Oslo failed. Iraq is indeed running with rivers of blood, and that centre of gravity in America’s heartland is responding to its alarm bells.

When Hugo Chavez appeared at the United Nations in New York a few weeks ago and described his host, President Bush, as ‘the devil,’ the local Congressman, the veteran liberal Democrat Charlie Rangel, responded with a fierce rebuke. He had opposed every Bush policy but came to the defence of the Chief Executive in the wake of this attack from a guest in his town. The British media like to make simplistic pronouncements on the stupidity and shallowness of Americans. The nation founded by Franklin, Hamilton, Paine and Jefferson is a complex and thoughtful country that abounds with endless optimism, but its people, all descended from immigrants born into struggle, are not stupid. The very Christian simplicity of Americans that is so ridiculed in the British press may very well swing this election against the Republicans because those hard-working voters feel betrayed and misled.

That centre of gravity may hold, and if it does, the arrogant and blinkered Republicans I met over faux caviar will have only themselves to blame.
Image of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by Carol Gould, May 2005.


Read more Editorials    go >>



Web Design - Web Designers
© current viewpoint .com

All Rights reserved.
No copying of any text or images allowed in any form digitally or otherwise,
without the prior written consent of the copyright holders.