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November 21, 2003, 2:05 P.M.

In case you didn’t catch the photo of Michael Jackson on the NY Times website, it’s worth a look. Yikes. A favorite epithet of my own little darlings, “FON,” would seem to neatly sum up Mr. Jackson’s look. FON (pronounced “fawn”) stands for “freak of nature.” I would point out though, that it is unfair to credit nature with Jackson’s appearance, since he appears to be more a product of advances in modern medicine.

Being a freak does not make Jackson a child molester. If he is a child molester, he is more than a freak, he is a beast, he’s pond scum. But let’s not forget that he has only been accused at this point, not convicted, and he deserves the presumption of innocence.

Ten years ago, Jackson bought off the family of a child who accused him of abuse. Since that time the California legislature passed a law requiring victims of abuse to testify against their abusers. The law was presumably in response to Jackson’s “settlement” with his previous accuser. The current case is brought by the same prosecutor who investigated the last case, only to be thwarted in his prosecution by Jackson’s money. The cop says it’s not personal, and this time the victim can’t be bought off. If Jackson did molest this child, he can’t be punished enough. But don’t assume that because he is a freak, he did it. Let the jury decide.

November 21, 2003, 2:00 P.M.

By all accounts, President Bush is enjoying a very private state visit to England this week. A state visit is usually a pretty well scripted affair, but Bush’s handlers have seemingly written all contact with the public out of the script. I wonder why.

The response to Bush’s big “Teammates Tough on Terror” speech seemed lukewarm at best. A speech before Parliament was cancelled for fear that the President would be booed and heckled (as the Prime Minister frequently is) for dragging Britain into the war under false pretenses. Bush is not giving the British public any chance to express their displeasure directly to him. This whole trip does noting to expose Bush to the extreme displeasure that the British public feels for him, the U.S. and the war in Iraq. Bush is still the President in a Bubble, listening only to his advisors and supporters, and conveniently avoiding the unpleasant fact that he is despised in the land of our only ally. Of course, he can continue to live in his fantasy land if he never hears the voices of people who disagree with him. A brief session in the British Parliament would have been a little dose of reality for 43 (not to mention good family entertainment on C-Span), but Rove can’t allow that, now, can he?

November 17, 2003, 3:00 P.M.

Two things about Iraq have become obvious in the past fortnight. First, the concerted, well-organized and resourceful resistance to the occupation of Iraq is escalating, not abating. Second, the administration, recognizing just what a tar baby it has embraced, is now looking for an exit strategy that turns the whole mess over to somebody else before the 2004 general election.

The politics currently in play over Iraq are no different than the politics in play when Richard Nixon’s election team was rumored to have a back channel to Hanoi during the Paris peace talks. At that time, in mid-to-late 1968, the Johnson administration was contemplating a halt to bombing as a bargaining chip in the Paris peace talks. Nixon had run his campaign on a promise that he had a plan to end U.S. involvement, which he could only reveal after the election. Nixon wanted to delay the talks until he was elected so that he could put his own plan in play (and consequently detract from the Johnson administration/Humphrey plan). In short, presidential politics had a direct and profound influence on the then current and would-be administrations and their approach to the tar baby of their day: Viet Nam.

At first, the Bush administration professed an American resolve to stay the course and support "democracy" in Iraq. The current plan to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by mid-June 2004 envisions a U.S. abandonment of Iraq before the much-vaunted Iraqi constitution is even slated to be complete. The only reason for this abrupt and ill-conceived policy reversal is presidential politics. The President and his advisors know that the war is not going well in the streets, the hills and the villages of Iraq, and that it is going worse at home as the body count rises, and the apparent ability to win hearts and minds diminishes.

President Bush and his supporters want to win in 2004 and they want to win big. Four more years of the Bush administration will solidify "gains" in undermining programs for the poor and homeless, in undermining sound environmental policy, in protective legislation for the chemical, oil, drug and energy industries, and in undermining the civil liberties of all citizens; in short, the unwinding of our current system of government. Two great commentaries that I recommend are Felix Rohatyn’s op-ed piece in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal entitled, "Free, Wealthy and Fair: The Role of Government in Making Capitalism Work" and Molly Ivin’s recent article on why Bush just doesn’t get what damage he and his cronies are causing for those of us who are not his millionaire buddies. I also suggest a piece entitled, "Who Are the American People?" that is published on my website, www.philpotonpolitics.com.

The problem for the democratic candidates, all of them, is that they lack any clear message of their own. Each candidate has attempted, to some degree, to manufacture a message, but none has found a message that can instill confidence or even hope in the vast majority of Americans. We have seen corruption in business, in government, and now in the center of capitalism itself, the stock market, sap the hope from the very backbone of this country: the middle class.

Unless a candidate can tell the "average" American how they are going to live the American dream, by giving more opportunity to their children than they themselves have, they have no chance of winning the election. Bush (and Rove) and strong because they give hope to the rich and powerful. They let corporations and industries know that they will be supported in their ability to grow and exploit the environment, the work force and the economy without fear of government regulation or oversight. Without the government to watch over them, greed and a lack of ethics and honor prevail. They prevail to the detriment of our country’s economic and political standing abroad, and they undermine confidence in our financial system. In case you haven’t noticed, this is a bad thing when you have a $500 billion trade deficit and when Asian banks own almost $700 billion in Treasury bonds.

The only issue standing between President Bush and re-election is the war. That little hurdle will be removed by the sweep of a pen, just like the Viet Nam war was ended (probably with about the same result). Iraq, and the soldiers who die there, look to be casualties of the political war at home, not just the shooting war in the streets of Baghdad.


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