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March 7, 2003



When a Q & A Lacks Q's

By Gino Rembetes (rembetesg@earthlink.net)

One word can best describe President Bush’s March 6 news conference: infuriating.

And it’s not just Bush who’s at fault.

He said nothing that was new, spewing the same anti-Saddam Hussein platitudes he’s been using for months in an effort to drum up public support for a war on Iraq; that effort’s success is debatable.

He dodged key questions, such as how much the war will cost the United States economically, socially, and geopolitically.

Perhaps worst, he said some things that were false or half-true, and reporters failed to challenge him.

He took an oath, he reminded everyone, to defend the U.S. Constitution. True enough. But there’s something that neither he nor any reporter mentioned: Bush and his administration, aided and abetted by Congress, have flouted the Constitution in numerous ways:

Congress passed a resolution giving Bush carte blanche on military deployments and actions in the Middle East. “We’re at war!” they’ve been shouting since Sept. 11, 2001. The Constitution vests the power to declare war in Congress. I don’t recall Bush asking for such a declaration, much less Congress making one. Hats off to the six congressmembers who are taking the matter to court, precisely on constitutional grounds.

The Patriot and Homeland Security acts contain numerous provisions that egregiously violate the Bill of Rights. Now, Attorney General John Ashcroft is floating a Domestic Security Enhancement Act (nicknamed Patriot II) that makes the other two measures seem like a tea party. Patriot II is so bad that it’s raising eyebrows among lots of congressmembers, including some Republicans.

Bush also said that before the September 2001 attacks, people labored under the illusion that the oceans rendered the nation invulnerable to attack. Not true: The Atlantic didn’t protect us from the British during the War of 1812. The much wider Pacific didn’t prevent Japan from bombing Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. During the Cold War, Americans built bomb shelters and schoolkids learned to duck under their desks in preparation for the nuclear holocaust we feared the Evil Empire would rain upon us. And Timothy McVeigh didn’t have to cross either ocean to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Again, no reporter challenged Bush’s skewing of the facts.

A friend told me recently of meeting a 20-something woman who’d never heard of Sen. Joseph McCarthy and a 30-something woman who’d never heard of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“My stomach literally knotted when I heard these things,” the friend said. “Aren’t the schools teaching history any more? Don’t people read newspapers? Even the TV newscasts mention the ACLU now and then, and TV is where most people get most of their news.”

It’s bad enough when the average jane or joe is poorly informed. But when the people who are supposed to inform us don’t do their own homework, we’re in deep, deep trouble.


Gino Rembetes is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and progressive activist.