Below the belt tactics from Bush family, like father like son!
I have been very concerned with the below the
belt tactics of the Bush campaign and this article makes it very clear why.
I urge all of you to read it and forward it on.
September 09, 2004
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Published on Tuesday, September 7, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
Bush Family Wounds America Below The Belt Line
by Thom Hartmann
In 1988, the Bush campaign planted a lie in the media that Michael Dukakis
had suffered from depression after losing an election for governor. According
to Susan Estrich, his campaign manager, it cost Dukakis six points in the
polls. A Bush family friend planted another lie that Dukakis' wife, Kitty,
had once burned a flag at a demonstration - and Dukakis took another hit in
The Bush family is at it again, with the now-well-documented lies told from
the pulpit - er, podium - of the Republican National Convention, including
lies told directly to the American people by George W. Bush himself. While
many of these lies, like Bush's assurance that he was looking out for seniors
when the next day would see the largest hike in Medicare premiums in history,
were of the Bush-praising variety, the most toxic were those that either lied
about John Kerry and his record, or implied that Democrats (and, implicitly,
Greens and progressive independents) don't value their nation or its defense.
Which presents the Kerry campaign with the same conundrum the Dukakis,
McCain, and Gore campaigns faced when confronted by Bush family lies - how to
There's an old concept about fighting fair in relationships that has to do
with what therapists call "the belt line." When you get to know somebody,
discover the things you can say that will irritate, bother, or even anger
them. But you also learn the things you can say that will emotionally wound
them. When people use those emotionally wounding things in order to win a
fight, it's referred to as "hitting below the belt line."
Good marriage counselors teach couples never to hit below the belt line. The
reason is simple: when a person has repeatedly been hit below the belt line,
the wounds don't easily heal. Over time, if the "below the belt line" hits
are repeated, the wounds will cut so deep that trust is lost, self-confidence
and commitment disintegrates, and the relationship is doomed, and the
recipients of the hits can be devastated - wounded beyond easy repair. The
most common responses to being hit below the belt line are to endure the
wounds or leave the relationship. But some people respond by hitting back
below the other person's emotional belt line. This, too, is the death knell
of a relationship.
Today, John Kerry faces the dilemma of a person who's been repeatedly hit
below the belt line. How he responds will not only shape the outcome of this
election, but may also determine how badly the psyche of the American people
will be wounded.
Consider, for example, the new Swift Boat ads - probably the most powerful of
the untruthful Republican below-the-belt-line efforts so far this election
In 1971, a young John Kerry testified before congress. "A few months ago in
Detroit," he said, "we had an investigation in which over one hundred and
fifty honorably discharged - many, highly decorated - veterans testified to
war crimes committed in Southeast Asia. Not isolated incidents, but crimes
committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all
levels of command.
"It's impossible," Kerry continued in his testimony, "to describe to you
exactly what happened in Detroit, the emotions of the moment, the feelings of
the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did. They
relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
They told the stories of times that they had personally raped, cut off ears,
cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and
turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at
civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Kahn, shot
cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the
countryside of South Vietnam, in addition to the normal ravage of war and the
normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing
power of this country."
There was a reason for this hearing, Kerry said, and it was why he was
bringing the testimony of these 150 Vietnam veterans to Congress.
"We called this investigation the Winter Soldier Investigation," he
said. "The term 'winter soldier' is a play on words of Thomas Paine's in
when he spoke of the 'sunshine patriots and the summertime soldiers who
deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough. And we who've come here
to Washington have come here because we feel that we have to be Winter
Soldiers now. We could come back to this country and we could be quiet. We
could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam.
"But we feel, because of what threatens this country - the fact that the
crimes threaten it, not reds and not redcoats, but the crimes that threaten
it - that we have to speak out." (You can listen to or download the MP3 audio
Kerry's testimony was not a blanket condemnation of all veterans as the Swift
Boat ads suggest. Nor was it an accusation against our soldiers as the
Republicans chant like a mantra.
It was, instead, the report of an investigation that he had helped lead into
the consequences of trying to fight a guerilla war against the citizens of a
nation who viewed American soldiers as occupiers and aggressors, rather than
liberators. That view of American soldiers by the nationalistic citizens of
Vietnam fueled the ferocity of their battle against an army they perceived as
invaders - invaders who ultimately killed between 2 and 3 million Vietnamese -
and led American forces to often ferocious and brutal responses, often
perceived by both officers and soldiers as necessities for survival.
Just as when John Kerry, as a United States Senator, investigated the Bank of
Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and exposed a vast criminal
syndicate with tentacles into both the Bush family and members of his own
Democratic Party, his Winter Soldier investigation uncovered troubling
truths. Like his BCCI investigation, the Winter Soldier investigation
produced both painful consequences to malefactors of great wealth and
political power, and helped cleanse us of a cancerous and corrupt wound. And
just like with his investigation of BCCI, Kerry's Winter Soldier
investigation produced wealthy Republican enemies.
Those enemies have now chosen to fight back by striking Kerry "below the
belt," taking his words out of context and twisting their meaning. They seek
to pit veteran against veteran, non-veterans against Vietnam era veterans,
and turn the attention away from the criminal actions of LBJ, Nixon,
Kissinger, and other perpetrators of Vietnam, and on to the man who raised
the questions and exposed the unpleasant truths.
How can he respond? This isn't a fight between two people, where the wounded
party can simply walk away - these scurrilous charges are being made by
wealthy associates of the Bush family in the most public of venues - the
nation's airwaves. To try to suppress them by going to court and challenging
their untruthfulness will be fruitless - it won't produce results until long
after the elections are over. And if Kerry were to hit back below the belt -
for example by taking some of George W. Bush's past statements out of context
and twisting them into a new and venomous meaning - he would become his
enemy, joining the ancient and evil tribe of what psychiatrist M. Scott Peck
so accurately and poignantly called "The People of the Lie."
Bush partisans try to deflect our attention from this below-the-belt attack
by pointing out the millions of dollars spent on above-the-belt (e.g.
accurate and undisputed) attack ads run against Bush over the past months,
citing his record on job creation, outsourcing, the disaster of Iraq, and the
like. But as we all know - usually from painful experience - below-the-belt
attacks are fundamentally different. There is no moral equivalence, and to
claim that there is - as Karen Hughes did recently on CNN, and both Laura
Bush and George H.W. Bush did just before the Republican National Convention -
is only to compound the evil of the lie.
The other problem this sort of attack produces is that negative campaign
advertisements do not have as their goal to produce votes for a particular
candidate - instead, their singular goal is to suppress the vote, to produce
a "they're all bums" response among voters. Thus, American voter
participation is at shocking lows.
While America has seen many hard-hitting campaigns - dating back to 1799 when
an associate of John Adams hired a newspaperman to print (true) stories
alleging that his opponent Thomas Jefferson had been sleeping with his
widow's half-sister, his slave Sally Hemmings - only very rarely have they
been so grounded in basic deception and, thus, truly below-the-belt hits.
Unfortunately, as the elder Bush learned with Lee Atwater's abovementioned
efforts and his Willie Horton ads against Dukakis, they work, because they
leave the victim with so few rebuttal options.
So how to respond?
Simple: tell the truth. And do it with righteous anger, as Joseph Welch did
to Joe McCarthy on June 9, 1954, exploding another house of cards built on
lies and bully tactics. (MP3 clip here) And tell the truth not just on behalf
of the candidate, but on behalf of all of the American people and our
This sort of response will work most powerfully because the real victim is
not so much Kerry as it is you and me, the American electorate, We the
People. We - Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, Greens, Independents - are
being wounded by the Bush lies, as is the vital and precious electoral
process that generations of Americans have fought and died to defend.
We the People - through Kerry, the DNC, or third party 527s, or simply by
spreading the truth one-to-another - must right this horrible wrong. We must
expose the fundamental evil of Big Lie techniques in politics.
We must hold up to the light of truth John Kerry's noble and courageous 1971
attempt to stop an unjust war and heal the veterans who had been criminally
ordered to commit atrocities by civilian powers in the White House and
Department of Defense. And we must hold up to the light of truth the people
and motivations behind these morally criminal political smears.
It could take the form of a simple ad that plays the first few sentences of
Kerry's testimony before Congress, and points out his courage to investigate
that, then BCCI, and, in April 1986, his chairing the Senate subcommittee on
the Iran-Contra hearings. It could even bluntly point out the lies in the
entire series of Swift Boat ads and other Bush statements, and then - like
Joseph Welch - ask Americans if we will continue to tolerate lies in what
should be honest, democratic debate.
"Whenever the people are well-informed," Thomas Jefferson noted in a letter
to Dr. Price in 1789, "they can be trusted with their own government.
Whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be
relied on to set them to rights."
If the Kerry campaign and the DNC and the corporate-owned media are all,
ultimately, unwilling to discuss the truth of the Bush family tactics, then
we must do so ourselves.
The result - regardless of the outcome of this election - will be a healing
of the democratic process. It will also salve the psyches of Americans who
have been brutalized by Osama Bin Laden, by an incompetent administration
that played right into his hand by elevating him to international prominence
(and then let him escape), and by repeated lies and smears that do as much
violence to American democracy as did 15 Saudis with box cutters that
horrible day three years ago.
We must help America become, as Jefferson said, "well-informed," and, thus,
heal our national psyche from the wounds inflicted on it these past decades
by the Bush family. It begins with you and me: Pass it along.
Thom Hartmann (thom at thomhartmann.com) is a Project Censored Award-winning
best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive
talk show. www.thomhartmann .com His most recent books are "The Last Hours
Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and
the Theft of Human Rights," "We The People: A Call To Take Back America,"
and "What Would Jefferson Do?: A Return To Democracy."