Deflecting attention from war profiteering is name of game
THE REPUBLICANS, writes GARRISON KEILLOR, are meeting down the hill from my house, helicopters are pounding the air, and there are more suits on the streets and big black SUVs and a brownish cloud venting from the hockey arena where the convention is being held.
A large moment for little old St Paul, more accustomed to visitations by conventions of morticians and foundation garment salesmen, and so we are thrilled. It makes no difference that the city is Democratic. What matters is that, for a few days, TV will show a few pictures of the big bend in the Mississippi, the limestone bluffs, the capitol and cathedral, and a tree-shaded avenue or two, and some of the world will know that we exist.
Meanwhile, John McCain has posed a stark question for voters to ponder: how much would you like to see Sarah Palin of Wasilla, Alaska, as the next president of the United States? And what does the question say about McCain's love of the country that she might suddenly need to lead? No need to discuss these things at length, really. The gentleman played his card, a two of hearts. Make of it what you will.
The challenge for Republicans is how to change the subject from the dismal story of Republican triumph in the past eight years and get voters to focus on, say, the old man's war record or Palin's perkiness or the oddity of the skinny guy's last name. If they can succeed there, they can win this thing.
The Senate race in Minnesota is a good example. The Republican, Norm Coleman, has scored points by whooping up a couple of tiny scandalettes against Democrat Al Franken, which may yet succeed in distracting voters from Coleman's important role as whistle-plugger in the $23 billion (€15.9 billion) Iraq scandal.
From 2003 to 2006, Coleman was chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is responsible for investigating, among other things, "fraud, waste, and abuse in government contracting". On his watch, the subcommittee held no hearings on the disappearance of billions of tax dollars into "reconstruction projects" in Iraq that didn't seem to reconstruct anything whatsoever; on bundles of newly minted $100 bills on pallets in Baghdad that simply vanished; and on no-bid contracts lavished on people with connections. It may be the biggest case of war profiteering in the history of buzzardry.
The subcommittee is a big hammer. It's the one Joe McCarthy used to go after the US army and Sen John McClellan used to go after labour racketeers with the young Bobby Kennedy as chief counsel, but as the Coleman subcommittee it went after federal employees who were travelling business class instead of economy. Meanwhile, money was pouring out of the treasury for any Republican who could write "Iraq" with fewer than two spelling errors, and an old Bush retainer was appointed Special Inspector General to oversee the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, but without authority to oversee money spent on reconstruction by the Pentagon, which was where most of the money went. All of this Coleman watched with a cool eye, and he now calculates that Minnesota voters won't have the attention span to read a story with a lot of dollar amounts and acronyms like PSI and IRRF and SIG. Maybe, maybe not.
The simple truth is that, while more than 4,000 Americans gave their lives in the war in Iraq, the war was an enormous financial opportunity for neo-cons and their friends, and Coleman was a passive observer of one of the biggest heists in history. The cynicism is staggering to the normal person. He was the cop who busted the hot dog vendor for obstructing the sidewalk while the McGurks were cleaning out the bank. This is no joke. A crook is walking around looking for votes. And the truth is marching on. - ( Tribune Media Services)