Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Saturday, August 23, 2003  

Thursday morning, some people living in the University Park neighborhood learned police were serious about securing the streets around the University of Portland. They woke up to find their parked cars had been towed from the street the night before.

Normally, I try to work up a little satire for the Friday blogging. Yesterday my heart just wasn't in it. For just about exactly three years, I've been trying to reconcile George W. Bush--the man, his history, his beliefs, his motivation, and his policies--with the fetishistic support he receives. Because, I mean, on paper, the guy looks pretty shoddy. A failure who bumbled along on his daddy's name—literally--George had distinguished himself at exactly nothing. He wasn't smart, didn't speak well, led a life of aimless privilege, and had a drinking problem. Everything he'd ever run, he'd run into the ground.

Bush arrived at the private campus for the fund-raiser amid heavy security, including police dressed in black body armor. Streets in the neighborhood surrounding the campus were heavily patrolled and protesters were ordered to stay on sidewalks except for a three-block stretch that was cordoned off with temporary fencing.

I didn't start taking him seriously until just a few weeks before the election, when his abysmal showing in debates against Al Gore were hailed as "victories" (never mind that he argued we should follow the Russians' lead on the Bosnia issue). Needless to say, I was astounded when the inexperienced, ignorant, bumbling candidate won. Karl Rove had just pulled off the one of the biggest upsets in political history.

People attending the event arrived at the campus in limousines, luxury cars and three charter buses, using a stretch of North Portsmouth Avenue that was closed to other traffic.

When he passed through town yesterday, the visit was a further exercise of our national schizophrenia. While the President wined and dined and raked in the single-largest windfall of the new campaign ($1.05 million for a 16-minute speech--nice work if you can get it), the City of Portland debated whether to charge him for the visit or not.

Meanwhile, some Portsmouth Avenue homeowners, some of them Bush supporters, were told they couldn't watch the motorcade from the sidewalk. Dressed in red, white and blue, Bernie Verbout clutched a large American flag as he stood on his front lawn with his family. A camera hung from his neck.

After blasting through Portland, Bush headed out on a swing through the rest of the Northwest. In Central Oregon, he told loggers not to fear because, as a friend of the logging industry, he'd be supporting their efforts to thin forests. In case anyone was unclear about his moral clarity on the issue, he described fires he had just flown over as a "holocaust."

Bush spoke at a May 2000 fund-raiser in Oregon that brought in more than $1.3 million for Republican Party accounts that did not have any limits on the size of the donations. Several contributions were in $100,000 checks from timber-industry sources.

Later, he told a Northeast Washington audience that he was a friend of hydropower and had restored salmon runs. "We don't need to be breaching no dams that are producing electricity. We've got to make sure we increase the supply and maintain the supply." (That is, of course, an actual quote.) The dam, it turns out, is all about maintaining our power against the terrorists (literally) and (oddly) staying in control of our own food supplies--he didn't mention anything about supporting his cronies in the energy industry, who in the last election gave him $3 million dollars.

(Meanwhile, far from the dams, Coho salmon, and firs of the Great Northwest, the White House was quietly announcing that it was gutting the Clean Air Act and allowing outdated factories to dramatically increase their emissions. So while the President was taking credit for having revived salmon runs, he was handing energy companies a multi-billion dollar bonanza to foul the skies and expedite global warming.)

The president, due at a similar fund-raiser today in Seattle, has raised at least $50 million for his re-election campaign, expected to be the best-financed candidacy in U.S. history. The $1 million raised in Portland -- with a ticket price of $2,000, the maximum allowed under federal law -- was the most collected in the state for an individual candidate's coffers.

The President speaks, brokenly, in the language of morality. For him, issues can be divided into easy compartments of right and wrong. His divisions reflect the divisions in America--current polling puts him at an approval rating of 52%, just above the percent by which he was elected. People's attention seems equally divided: they listen to his words and ignore his actions.

On Thursday the President passed through Portland. Those who supported him paid two grand a head; those who opposed him, or those who supported him but didn't have the extra cash to pay, were cordoned behind barbed wire and treated to the angry glares of black-clad riot police and snipers.

Welcome to Portland, Mr. President.

"I challenge any other candidate to raise a million bucks in this town, in this economy," said Craig Berkman, a former Oregon Republican chairman, who helped sell tickets for the event.

"I loved it," said Paul Mabie, owner of Cascade Auto Body in Vancouver, after shaking Bush's hand at the fund-raiser. "He's reflecting everything I've been for."

Portland Oregonian, Seattle Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

posted by Jeff | 9:19 AM |
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