Conservatism: The 5th Estate Part One
(I've always wanted to write a book about what I've learned about government and the media since I began blogging over 4 1/2 years ago. But I knew I could never quite get far enough away from the Bush pResidency until months after he was finally out. So three nights ago in my spare time I began writing the introduction of a book that's tentatively called, Conservatism: The 5th Estate. The thrust, I think, will be to prove how the GOP and its adherents are trying to become not a fifth column but a legitimate fifth estate within the already existing social framework of the nation. What follows is roughly the first third, about 1200 words, of the introduction that I've been working on since Sunday. Parts two and three and maybe four will follow in the days ahead [I have just over 3500 words written so far]. Be advised: these are just glorified first drafts. Any suggestions, criticisms, complaints will be welcome.)
When George W. Bush, Texas Governor and his generation’s answer to Pvt. Eddie Slovik, was anointed president by an interest-conflicted Supreme Court, many of us had envisioned a temporary retreat of an emerging neoconservative wing of the GOP. And indeed, as David Neiwert tells us in The Eliminationists, the years between 2001-2009 saw a decline in state militia enrollments (which isn’t to say they disbanded to crunch pork rinds while watching Fox News or the Hunting Channel. Instead, or in addition to that, they rebranded their nationalism and came back as border-watching groups like The Minutemen).
After all, many of us reasoned, Mr. Bush was a state governor and a former military man, the scion of a strong Republican political family with an ex president for a father. We weren’t even alarmed when Bush brought back into the Potomac’s warm embrace the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Elliot Abrams, Chuck Colson, Kissinger and other Monster Mash throwbacks from the cyanide-tinged Nixon-Ford years. We thought Bush was going to be his own man and that he’d never willingly cede control or outsource the presidency to anyone or anything.
And even after he froze in his tiny chair for seven minutes in that Florida classroom after his Chief of Staff Andy Card briefly whispered in his ear on a beautiful day in September 2001 and he disappeared for a whole day while he willingly ceded control and shared the presidency with Dick Cheney, Dan Rather and Rudy Giuliani, we still rallied behind him. Over 90% of us saw fit to approve a lackluster presidential performance level that, without the greatest terrorist attack in world history, would’ve been competing with the likes of Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan.
To give you an idea of how universal and bipartisan, at how completely unconditional was George W. Bush’s appeal, I too was publicly glad that he was our president and that Osama bin Laden’s head would in no time be mounted on the wall in the Oval Office (briefly disappearing, perhaps, to secure and undisclosed locations such as Dick Cheney’s secret bunker beneath the Dirkson Senate Office building).
Perhaps it ought to be known here and now that I am a lifelong liberal. I subscribe to The Nation, read more Matt Taibbi, William Rivers Pitt and Frank Rich in any single week than in 50 years of poking around the Bible, the National Review and Rush Limbaugh’s newsletter. I need to take cold showers after watching Jon Stewart, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow and ragged on Jerry Garcia for making designer neckties.
Yet, I was solidly behind our, my, president. Forgotten were hanging chads, unsigned and interest-conflicted Supreme Court rulings, campaign co-chairs who conveniently doubled as Secretaries of State and 94,000 people of color gathered by ChoicePoint and purged from the Florida voter rolls. All of those concerns would’ve come off as sounding like conspiracy theories printed blurrily on cheap mimeograph paper and circulated to other basement-dwelling paranoiacs.
We were experiencing the worst national crisis since Pearl Harbor, comrades! Except the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred on the American mainland, including the Pentagon itself. To even suggest that George W. Bush would subvert and pervert our collective terror and unconditional national unity and support could’ve actually gotten you a black eye and/or a fat lip.
At the time, one year before was forever ago and not many of us were thinking of a little report written by a still obscure little outfit named Progress For a New American Century (or PNAC). Section V stated that getting America back on the right track would require “some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor.” Then Osama bin Laden allegedly responded by obliging their Dr. Strangelove fantasies, beginning the most beautiful and fruitful association since Hitler and Stalin.
In our defense, let me resume only after saying that we are a nation of highly trusting outsourcers who think little if anything about allowing their bodies to be hurtled several hundred miles an hour at 35,000 feet by perfect strangers of whom we know nothing and generally never even see. True, nearly 250 people trusted their lives and safety to such people on a beautiful late summer day in September but they were the exception not the rule. Besides, who knew how dangerous box cutters could be?
So why should we have distrusted our president and his administration of capable of hands like PNAC co-founders Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld during an earth-shaking national crisis? To do so would’ve been not only unpatriotic but downright seditious and even had I known that George W. Bush and the nation’s conservatives would’ve cynically seized such a unique opportunity to set up, in Karl Rove’s words, “a permanent Republican majority”, I still would’ve remained silent because I would’ve known that no one would’ve listened.
Al Qaeda apparently had hit America and again and again and yet again, harder than any enemy ever had. Yet, while doing the damage of a dozen and a half Timothy McVeighs, changing America forever, it can be easily said that America’s only true 5th Estate, the neoconservative movement, deepened and infected the national wound through a systematic campaign of fear, distrust of whatever wasn’t sufficiently red, white and blue (especially the white) and hatred. 2001 was indeed the new American century, the new millennium, and PNAC’s very name as well as their unilateral, imperial agenda would prove darkly prescient.
Early in 2009, ex Focus on the Family chairman Frank Schaeffer wrote a book called Crazy For God. In it and in hawking the book on D. H. Hughley’s CNN show, the Huffington Post, etc, he’d repeatedly claimed that “Republicans are today's fifth column sabotaging American renewal.”
As tempting as it would be to compare the GOP to other fifth column movements such as the German underground in WW II Great Britain, it’s also very irresponsible to make such a claim. Let’s not forget the definition of a fifth column. It’s essentially a small group of people clandestinely and conspiratorially working to undermine a larger entity like a nation for the benefit of an external enemy.
This plainly doesn’t define any faction of a Republican Party that is nothing if not legitimately patriotic to outright belligerently jingoistic and nationalistic (Let’s not forget the blatantly pro-American Wolfowitz Doctrine). True, one could try to make a case that the GOP is working for the apocalyptic ends of the state of Israel if one was interested in being branded and carted off as a loony liberal anti-Semite.
However, if you were to look at the GOP more in the context of a legitimate fifth estate rather than a fifth column, then you can see their agenda more clearly. Being neither the clergy, nobility, certainly not the commoners or the press (Newscorp aside) looking at today’s conservatives and neoconservatives and their true aims are better defined. This book will endeavor to explain how the Republican Party, far from acting like a occupying force in its own land, is actually trying to “sabotage American renewal” from within under the guise of a separate estate that Karl Rove sold his soul to try to make permanent.