The American Presidency and Other Grand Illusions, Broken Promises, and Myths-Part I

By the time this goes to press we will have elected a new president.  Or have decided that Obama will have 4 more years in the White House.  It had all the excitement of the Super Bowl, right?  Well, almost.  After all we will be electing a president who will nominate 2 or 3 more Supreme Court Justices.  Yeah, right, like who cares? And decide whether we will go to war with another country or not. Hey, if there ain’t no draft what diff does it make, right?   And the newly-elected Great Decider (nee George W. Bush’s cutesy slang for President of the US) can attack another nation on a whim and not worry about the American people holding him accountable for his actions.  Or the money he borrows and spends, right?  But it didn’t matter the first time around so why get in a snit about it now?  He will sign bills into law or affix a signing statement to render bills passed by Congress illegitimate and (presto) transform the balance of power in our government into something new, something strange.  You couldn’t call it constitutional as per the legislative powers and authority granted to the US Congress in the Constitution, could you?  But who will know?  And who will care?  Does it really matter who wins?  History as our crystal ball is giving us the same old smoke and mirrors.

Oh yeah. The United States Constitution, right?  But then who really cares about that once great document, one might ask.  George W. Bush declared that our Constitution was “just a goddam piece of paper.”  Maybe he was right.  The Decider dashed our right to habeas corpus on the rocks.  And nobody complained.  And he didn’t need to ask Congress for permission, did he (swagger, swagger)?  And Obama failed to see habeas corpus restored as he promised.  Shame, shame.  You remember habeas corpus (the right to confront your accuser, know what you are being charged with, you know, the usual freedom and democracy human rights stuff, the right to one phone call,  to summon your lawyer, all that we learned about back in grammar school).  Of course you do.  Obama promised to restore it when he campaigned before and was elected 4 years ago almost to the day.  Sad.  No cigar.  Yet we believed him.  It was a kind of change you could believe in.  It gave us all a kind of audacity of hope. We trusted and bet on him.  And lost.

Obama made other promises, too, four years ago.  He said he would close Guantanamo Base where human rights to trial under the Constitution were reduced to military tribunals conducted by uniformed colonels and generals, not a judge, nor a trial by jury.  Talk about a banana republic!  Dude!  Funny how our rights to a speedy and fair trial were boffed and bonked to the curb, you think?  Did you know about that?  No matter. If not, you are not to blame.  We have been dumbed beautifully down about our rights didn’t you know?  “Military Combatants” we called them terrists we got behind bars in Cuba.  They be anti-Americans who make war against the United States as terrorists, it was presumed.  They have no rights.  So why would they or the ACLU give a damn?  As military combatants, they ain’t got any rights, right?  But that very presumption was and still is to condone the destruction of American liberties and rights guaranteed us under the Constitution.  And that, dear voter, has nothing to do with Muslims, terrorists, or lingering bile in our hearts after being attacked.  It is the law, but not to worry, Bush II proved the law was easily trashed and bent, so relax.  The next president, no matter who, will decide on a new dogma, his own set of rules to replace what’s left of the Constitution.  And you won’t even hear a whimper from the Peanut Gallery of what used to be concerned Americans.

Oh, I know, I know.  The bastards in Guantanamo don’t deserve a trial if they are making war against the United States.  Right?  Wrong!  But let me say that I hate the bastards, too, the ones weeded out, held under different rules than our Constitution, to be tried as terrorists.  But I can at least know that my feelings are not dedicated to fairness and the right to a fair trial under American laws.  Knowing that they are “military combatants” before the trial is a paradox and a prejudgment.  Such an assumption cannot be the way of the United States if we are to protect the purity of our laws and the innocence of those Americans the terrorists killed on our shores and abroad.  You see, if I do not presume innocence until proven guilty by fair trial then I have forfeited all our very own rights to a fair trial by a jury of our peers.  And as hard as that is to do, given that suspected terrorists (called enemy combatants) are the lowest form of human slime there is, I do not care to destroy the right to a fair trial for all of us who believe in justice and want these unalienable rights to remain intact as they were written by our founding fathers.  Not George W. Bush, Barack Obama and their presumed high court of Decideristic code of laws as per ONE Unitary Executive, the president.  That code of justice, like it or not, is a dictatorship.  Get it?  Get over it, Billy Bob.  Try not to keep on stepping on it.

Obama promised to do away with signing statements the president affixes to laws passed by Congress, too.  But he kept on in the spirit of the best Bush II tradition and kept them as a part of the power of the presidency that, once usurped, wants to remain forever alive and well and in practice.  In addition, Obama promised to do away with the Gestapo-like provisions of the Patriot Act, passed under Bush II and signed into law.  Funny how a committee, not of Congress, the White House, or anybody can search without legal warrants, look at your bank accounts, your mail, your taste in movies, data mine your PC, and get away with unwarranted searches on over 1.5 million Americans, supposedly, suspected of terrorism or terrorist connections under the reign of Bush II. Yeah, right.  I would guess Obama is no slouch either in unconstitutional searches of private Americans’ business, bank accounts, and phone logs.  After all, Obama did not do away with the Patriot Act (which he campaigned 4 years ago, if elected, he would help rescind).  Hell, Obama saw to it that the Patriot Act was strengthened so as to further delve into illegal and unnecessary searches into the lives of us private individuals who are citizens and voters with rights under the Constitution.  Say what?  Strengthened the Patriot Act?  Yup.  You just got to look the other way.  And those in power who think they know better than the American voters who elect them can be the Grand Decider President for us all now.  It’s the highest form of crap.  What a disappointment.

There are many other disappointments, too.  Heck, all the promises Obama made, if elected, to hold those accountable those who broke the law faded fast.  As fast as you can say “Impeachment is off the table.”  April Fool, yawl.  Want to pardon the phone companies who helped Bush II break the FISA Court laws?  No problem.  Want to cozy up to the other side of the aisle and extend the Bush II $2 trillion tax cut for the rich?   Romney sure would.  Just do it.  Nobody will complain. 

Oh, Romney is a piece of work, too.  He made and kept over $100 million working for Bain Capital, a company that cuts and pastes and sells off companies, kills jobs, and closes companies’ doors forever. Venture Capitalists, they call ‘em.  Private Equity Firms.

Like kicking over an ant hill.  Companies, once profitable, workplaces of the masses, exist no more.  Reaganomics seemed to be the fuse that got lit back in 1980 when the Gipper moved into the White House.  Remember when Reagan plopped down a heavy stack of papers on his desk that might have weighted over 50 pounds? It was all on TV and well-rehearsed. “This is the present tax code.” he said to the camera that loved him from “Death Valley Days.”  Scornfully, he told America that this antiquated tax code needed reforming. And we Americans bought into it.  The code was changed to where new and magical things would happen.  Taxes would be reduced for the upper income tax payers so that the extra walking around money in the pockets of the rich could be used to build factories so that the benefits in jobs could “trickle down” to the working man with a family.  It didn’t trickle down so much as its creator, Bob Laffer (remember Reagan’s notorious Laffer Curve?) promised it would.  The common man did not benefit much from the new rapid depreciation or lucrative capital gains tax, but the rich and the corporations sure as hell did. 

Under the Reagan tax reform laws that followed, companies, could now eat each other, buy each other’s tax credits, sell off assets, and fire/lay off employees.  But not to worry.  With a wink and a smile, the Gipper comforted our spirits in this new world of simpler tax laws, right?  Remember how the Great Communicator said that burger flipping jobs at McDonald’s were now considered to be “manufacturing” jobs?  At a whopping wage of $2.45 an hour?  My brother said that it gave him a case of the Red Ass (a metaphorical and irritating rash) to know that Reagan called them manufacturing jobs.  But he also said that a case of the Red Ass (no matter how severe) was seldom fatal.  So we could be thankful for that.  Ha ha.

If, like me, you were unfortunate enough to have experienced the new Reaganomics in the 1980s, chances are your parent company might have been a company within and owned by a Holding Company.  A Holding Company was a larger company that held and owned many more corporations, usually of diverse businesses, all successful and thriving with high annual sales.  In 1979 I worked for a highly-profitable lumber manufacturer who had sawmills in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  Sales annually were over $180 million, and our company ran the largest molding manufacturing company in America as well.  As companies went, ours was about the 64th largest lumber manufacturer in America at the time, what with over 550 employees and over 7 sawmills.  Well, after the new tax codes went into effect strange phenomena began to hit the fan.  The large holding company that owned our lumber company was bought out by another one not based here in America.  Many companies were purchased besides our very own that made lumber and moldings.  Like arms of a giant octopus, the new holding company sent out its lieutenants to size up its new holdings.  And the next order of business was to axe and cut jobs, sell off equipment, sell and buy and trade intercompany tax credits, and close down manufacturing facilities. 

Some companies lost it all fast.  They just shut ‘em down and brought in the bulldozers.  Our pie was carved up and sold off a little faster.  They fired our old CEO immediately and replaced him with a younger man whose marching orders were to shut it all down and sell off the dirt and the iron and bricks in short order.  Within 4 years all gears were silent with spider webs blowing in the breeze.  American businesses shrank.  Working people suffered.  Companies like Bain Capital where Romney picked up millions like shells on a beach, flourished.  They were one of these companies who bought, air-brushed and sold off the hardware of the helpless companies that once grew jobs and America to greatness.  And these new owners manufactured nothing.  They never had any such intentions.  Makes you wonder what might be in store for us if Romney is elected.  Does a leopard change its spots?  And become an instant herbivore who now reformed, loves his fellow man?  Or just another venture capitalist chop shop that will make short order of programs like Social Security, Medicare, and other government programs for the common people already in place.  Hint:  Why do you think Romney chose Paul Ryan as a running mate?

Either way, the lies are in place and voters know now who they will vote for.  The American presidency and what it means to us all has become a blur.  We will vote again for he whom we think might have our best interests at heart.  And he who wowed the voter with the best and most convincing tv ads and talking head camera shots.  Where the country goes from that point on is anybody’s guess.  We are in new waters now.  Presidents have been replaced by Unitary Executives.  Feels like America is the Titanic on its maiden voyage in a sea of uncertainty.