Thursday, June 16, 2005

June 15, 2005

Obstruction Gets A Bum Rap

If we’ve learned anything about this administration over the last five years it’s that they are geniuses at redefining the terms of debate. Words are like PlayDough to these people, to be shaped into weapons.

One would think we've now seen enough of this Orwellian behavior, and it's results, to be on guard, even immune. But, so far anyay, we still fall for it every time. Americans continue to allow these people to reprogram our internal dictionaries at will.

* Crippling deficits became “investments in America’s future,”
* The invasion and occupation of countries thousands of miles away becomes “liberation and democratization” operations.
* The erosion of the constitutional separation of church and state becomes, “faith-based community action.”
* Laws restricting constitutional rights here became, “The Patriot Act” and "Homeland Security.”

Goebbels, eat your heart out dude. These guys are really good at being really bad. Then again, maybe we’re just stupid. Both could be true, and probably are.

Anyway, that’s all so yesterday. A new word is on the doctor’s operating table today. Boys and girls, can you say, “obstruction?” Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you think obstruction is a bad thing? Because, I just want you kids to understand, Principal Bush thinks it’s a very, very bad thing.

WASHINGTON, June 14 - President Bush spent Tuesday replenishing his party's coffers and, in the face of resistance to his Social Security plan and much of the rest of his second-term agenda, struck an aggressive new tone by accusing Democrats of standing for nothing but obstructionism… The Democratic leadership, he said, embodies "the philosophy of the stop sign, the agenda of the roadblock." (Full Story)

The plastic word-surgeons in the Bush administration are, as we speak, doing a Michael Jackson-level nose job on the word obstructionist. And, if the past is indeed prolog, by the time they are done it will be unrecognizable – and, they hope, just as ugly.

So, before it’s too late let’s nail down what the word really means:

Webster’s defines “obstruct” as:
To block or fill (a passage) with obstacles or an obstacle.
To impede, retard, or interfere with; hinder.
To get in the way of so as to hide from sight.

The first two definitions are the ones the Bush folk want to weoponize. If they can get the public to react to the term “obstructionist” the same way they react to “pedophile,” “terrorist,” or “Hillary,” they believe they can completely neuter opposition.

But using obstruction before fixing the term poses a danger. It’s that third definition. It will have to be dealt with, disappeared, left on the operating room floor.

“To get in the way of so as to hide.”

Yikes! That’s the entire Bush administration game plan described in a single, incomplete sentence! They built their entire evil empire upon it. Someone might notice.

After all, this is the administration that successfully obstructed public access to who advised Dick Cheney’s energy task force and what advice they gave, obstructed access of 9/11 Commission investigators to White House pre-war intelligence, and continue to obstruct access to important documents required for the John Bolton nomination as UN ambassador.

"As long as the White House is not allowing the information to come forward, there's going to be no change in the (Bolton) vote," Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said yesterday. (Full Story)

Obstruction is this administration’s middle name. (Read today’s stories about the growing flood of Downing Street memos." If that’s not definition No. 3, I have no idea what is.)

But who knows, they may well succeed, as they have in the past, fixing that little definitional problem with “obstruction.” That would leave them with definitions No. 1 and No. 2. These are, at first glance, the very kind of blunt objects Republicans have successfully used in the past to beat Democrats silly. But is being an obstructionist, as defined in 1 and 2, always a negative? Bush wants to make it so, but IS it?

Well, not always. How nicer the world would have been if the German parliament of the 1930s had had some gutsy and effective obstructionists, ey? And how many more Russians would be alive and kicking today if the Soviet Politburo had obstructed Stalin’s purges – his version of homeland security? How many fewer people would have died if someone in 1930's Japan had organized enough obstructionists to cripple Japan’s ill-fated imperialist aspirations.

And no need to look backwards to find obstrutionist opportunities. I bet the Bushites would love to see some obstructionist pop up within the North Korean and Iranian governments right now. (Of course they would not call them obstructionists. They would call them “patriots,” and “friends of democracy.”)

History is chuck-full of such missed opportunities, moments when obstructionists might have saved hundreds of millions of people from misery, poverty, oppression and death. There are probably times when obstructionists did just that, but we never hear about them. When something doesn’t happen it becomes the proverbial tree falling in the forest no one hears. Therefore, nowhere will you find an Obstructionist Hall of Fame, museum or monument. We celebrate no Obstructionist Day. There are no obstructionist medals awarded at White House ceremonies.

So the Bushites want to use the ambiguity around this word as a weapon against their opponents. They will paint Democrats as “obstructionists.” And make sure you understand that's behavior that with no social upside.

But, as this new word-warping campaign get underway the press needs to make sure it's coverage of obstrutionism is, dare I say, "fair and balanced." Because clearly there are lots of potential upsides to obstruction, as pointed out above.

It might be an interesting exercise to look back and see what obstructionist opportunities Democrats missed already that might have yielded far better results than the Bush administrations they failed to stop.

Would America be better or worse off today had Democrats successfully obstructed Bush’s rush to war with Iraq?

Would America be better or worse off today had these same Democrats obstructed Bush’s $1.6 trillion in tax cuts for the rich and instead forced a payroll tax cut of less than half that amount for working Americans?

Would America be better or worse off if Democrats had obstructed Bush’s so-called Medicare Drug Benefit program that prohibits Medicare negotiating lower drug prices, and instead insisted that government use its purchasing power to lower drug costs?

Would America be better off tomorrow if Democrats obstruct Bush’s energy program, block drilling in the Artic Refuge and refuse to budge until the administration commits agrees to increase higher gas miliage standards on automaters and to fund a 10-year Manhattan Project-level renewable energy research and development program?

Well, what ya think? Is obstruction always a bad thing? Come on Bush voters. I want to hear what you guys have to say. Is it? Answer the damn questions.

Then get out there and obstruct something bad -- for the common good.

Patriotic obstructionists of America, unite!

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