dispatch from Er Uh Cliffie ...
published its "
" Sunday in a magazine story by David Von Drehle. In it, the author drove through the center of the country, interviewing random Americans to get an impression of Bush's America, the better to inform us urban, Blue-State losers. The results are in: Bush voters are, indeed, deluded morons. The first subject Von Drehle spoke to was Allen Stuhr, a water official in Waco, Nebraska who says he'd rather drink arsenic than spend money to take it out of the water. "For more than 100 years, we've lived with arsenic in our water. It is a naturally occurring element. It isn't contamination -- it's natural."
Soon, Von Drehle was talking to Elaine Bowers, a Kansas used car saleswoman. Or more than a saleswoman, actually—Elain and her husband, Charlie, own the dealership. Elain was moved by a post 9/11 photo of Bush shaking hands with his father. She was disgusted by Clinton's sex scandal. Bush is so much more "moral." About the war she says, "I'm sad we had to go."
The Owens in Abelene Texas are fighting a sex video store that took over an abandoned Stuckey's behind their house. They aren't hicks, they insist. Their son runs a multi-million dollar farm.
"George Bush is straightforward. He's honest, and he's moral," says Bruce Owen.
"A common, ordinary person," says his wife, Donna Owen.
Think about that for just a moment. The idea that George W. Bush, son of a President, grandson of a senator and political giant, scion of a multimillionaire family, prep-school grad, Yale legacy student, Harvard grad, a millionaire in his own right, is a "common, ordinary person."
What kind of person would suggest such a thing? Would it be an informed person?
The ignorance of the Bush voters depicted in this story is deep and wide and consistent. "When Kerry said he was for abortion and one-sex marriages," Oklahoma City resident Joyce Smith says, "I just couldn't see our country being led by someone like that."
The writer kindly corrected Smith's impression in print (Kerry said neither thing) but, apparently, did not disabuse Smith of her mistaken impression.
Is everyone an idiot who voted for Bush? Von Drehle explored that possibility, citing Thomas Frank's
What's Wrong With Kansas
, testing his thesis with unemployed gunsmith Mark Pack in Reagan, Oklahoma.
"Don't get me wrong," Pack, missing a leg from a motorcycle crash, says. "I don't think George Bush is the greatest guy in the world. Both of them scared the hell out of me. But at least Bush tells you what he thinks."
That, I think, is most of the problem. Kerry never gave a straight answer to any question. Fearing, apparently, the Rove attack machine, John Kerry ran from his own record. The Republicans, of course, attacked anyway—and added the sobriequet "flip-flopper" to the list. Kerry said nothing. He did not defend his Vietnam service or, really, reveal much about it. When Republicans charged that Kerry had no accomplishments as a senator, Kerry did not even mention his successful investigations into Iran-Contra, the drug dealing condoned and abetted by the CIA, or the BCCI bank scandal. All of these showed Kerry to be a man of principle, morals, and courage. They are a real record that might have resonated with many of the people who voted for Bush (and helped better mobilize Kerry's base). But Kerry and his people decided that they were not "on message," and so nothing was said of them, leaving the impression that Kerry really didn't have much of a senate record—or that he would "say anything to get elected."
Bush, of course, also said little of substance. Much of what he did say was inane or demonstrably false.
But that was no handicap to convincing his voters.
Bush's people keep him in the same state of cold ignorance many of his voters inhabit. That, indeed, is why no one could attend a Bush rally or public appearance unless they demonstrated suitable ardor for the President. This rule contimues during his inauguration ceremony, during which some $30 million have been spent to erect bleachers along Pennsylvania Avenue. Seats in the stands are reserved for the faithful; the stands themselves will helpfully screen out the signs of protest carried by any naysayers.
And Bush seems not to know that any such naysayers exist. Or, if he knows they exist, he has been made comfortable dismissing them. "We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post published Sunday on the front page. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."