Long Day’s Journey After Election Night

With Republicans gaining control of the Senate, few analysts doubt that
9-11 set the stage for George W. Bush to lead his party to victory.
Midway through September 2001, in the national media vortex, a president
widely perceived as simple-minded and problematic became inspirational.

In such a media atmosphere, a president eager to unleash the nation’s
military prowess could hardly fail to gain stature.
violence of 9-11 and the pledged U.S. war on Iraq are media bookends
for the story of Bush’s trajectory to the GOP win on Election
Day 2002. In the closing months of this year’s campaign, the
specter of an overwhelming military assault on Iraq effectively
swept aside other issues—notably the economic well-being of
Americans—that could have meant big trouble for Bush’s
party on November 5.

While most Democrats on Capitol Hill voted against Bush’s war
resolution in October, party leaders such as Sen. Tom Daschle and
Rep. Richard Gephardt eagerly went along with the war promoters.
When the nation’s media spotlight fell on them, Daschle and
Gephardt had nothing of value to say. The president, and evidently
most journalists, liked it that way. Here was bipartisan unity;
the loyal opposition, dutifully serving as the caboose on a war

But even on its own craven terms, the can’t-beat-’em join-’em
approach of harmonizing with the mediaspeak chorus was a dismal
failure: America gets two Republican houses of Congress and, almost
certainly, a horrendous war with Iraq.

About 180 degrees from all the blather, a new documentary provides
chilling context for what has occurred and what is to come. Michael
Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, now showing at theaters
across the country, is everything that the media-pandering statements
along Pennsylvania Avenue have not been. Moore ventures where very
few mainstream American journalists have been willing to tread.
He looks at links between enthusiasm for guns that are small and
enthusiasm for guns that are huge—weapons that fit in the palm
of a hand or on a person’s shoulder, and weapons that are launched
from jet bombers and aircraft carriers.

Long trapped between the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein and lethal
actions of the U.S. government, Iraqi people are in U.S. crosshairs.
With violence, George W. Bush and GOP leaders find the reliable
promise of adulatory media coverage and enormous political leverage.

These days, one of the few prominent TV pundits challenging the
momentum toward U.S.-taxpayer-funded slaughter in Iraq is MSNBC’s
Chris Matthews, who offers some clarity about President Bush. “I’m
afraid he’s riding the tiger with all these hawks around him,”
Matthews said on November 6, “and I’m afraid he can’t
stop them.”

At this point, there is no evidence that Bush wants to stop the
hawks. He’s one of them. The fawning media coverage in the
aftermath of Election Day can only embolden his zealotry. Strike
up the band, send the troops, start yet another war in the name
of righteousness. Those who mourn will not be ready for prime time.

Norman Solomon
is a syndicated columinst focusing on media and politics.