Mary Robinson, former president of the Republic of Ireland, former head of a UN agency on human rights and current human rights ambassador, appeared on the season finale of Real Time with Bill Maher this week, along with filmmaker John Waters and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida. Ms. Robinson went out of her way to not criticize the current administration for the level of human rights abuses going on around the world in America's name, but when Scarborough acted like a loud, obnoxious, rabid talking head defending all things Bush in regard to the Iraq war and prisoner torture, she could finally take it no more. She said quite firmly that those fighting around the world for basic human rights for all the world citizens - a cause that they can not possibly be doing for money or oil rights - are terribly shocked and disappointed to see how America - once a shining example in the basic fight for human rights - has simply fallen into its current standing as a country on the "abuser" side of the equation. Mr. Scarborough, like a trained seal who can only hear the voices inside the Republican talking points, actually had the audacity to challenge the other panelists on whether any administration officials were actually pro-torture. And when Bill Maher vehemently stated "Dick Cheney" and Scarborough shook him off nonchalantly, Ms. Robinson came through with the words that mean everything. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but that's what the rest of the world thinks. Dick Cheney is responsible for torturing prisoners and for suspending human rights."
Now I don't know anything about Mary Robinson. And this is the first time I've ever watched Joe Scarborough. And I'm not exactly a big fan of Bill Maher, who clearly is out of his league in serious political discussions and isn't funny. At all. But this conversation is the reason why I will be going to the polling booth today and pulling the lever for governor of New Jersey for Jon Corzine, Democrat. And for Linda Greenstein and Dan Benson, Democrats for Assembly. What do these three politicians in NJ have to do with the former president of Ireland? Absolutely nothing. Will anything that President Bush does change if Jon Corzine is elected rather than Republican Doug Forrestor? Absolutely not. But that doesn't matter to me right now. I voted for President Bush in the last election, just like I voted for every Republican in every election I've ever voted in. And in 12 short months, George Bush has made me so ashamed and embarrassed by everything he's done that I can't in good conscience ever vote Republican again. I screwed up. I helped put this complete and utter idiot with bankrupt morals and horrible ideas into office. Twice. And the world hates us for it. And "good" Republicans like Scarborough continue to defend him. It's truly appalling.
Iraq was a sham. I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. It was a sham. The people running this administration wanted to invade Iraq from the moment they took office. It was all part of a neoconservative plan for a "new century", outlined by Paul Wolfowitz in the late '90s, in order to secure oil resources mainly, but also to have permanent American bases over there and to be able to protect Middle Eastern assets better. They were looking for a way to achieve this from the moment Bush was elected. And 9/11 gave them a reason.
Hey, I bought it too. The terrorists had attacked us. We needed to show strength; we needed to take them out; who gave a shit what the French thought about it? There was only one problem. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. Not one thing. And the weapons of mass destruction that were reason #1 why we invaded? Yeah, they didn't exist either. We invaded a sovereign nation that had nothing to do with the attack, killing tens of thousands of their citizens, for reasons that may never be fully clear, but certainly had absolutely nothing to do with "democracy" or Saddam's "rape rooms" or any of the other revisionist stories that have come out after it was proven that there were no WMDs nor a link to al Qaeda. And so it turns out the French were right. And just about every other nation in the world who opposed military action in Iraq and claimed that we had imperial motives, something no American would ever have accepted or approved of. Turns out? Yeah, the French were right.
But you know what the worst part is? The aftermath. According to many accounts now coming out of the administration from those that were involved but ignored and later fired for giving opposing advice, there was little or no planning for post-war Iraq. In fact, it seems that the mentality inside the Bush administration is that no bad news is allowed to be considered (on any issue), so everyone just took the rosy, optimistic outlook that "we will be treated as liberators" (Dick Cheney's exact words) and that any insurgency would be easily dealt with. 2 1/2 years and 2,000+ American soldiers lives attest to the fact that we were wrong. Absolutely wrong. Over 90% of Iraqis want us the hell out of there, right now. And they hated Saddam. We fucked up by going to war and we fucked up the aftermath. And we haven't heard one negative peep about any of this from anyone still in the administration, hardly any elected Republican, or any talking head on Fox News or "Scarborough Country". That's so beyond appalling I can't even begin to describe my anger. Remember, I was with them. Right up through the last election. But I came to my freaking senses. When will they?
Iraq is of course only the most major of the Bush failures while in office. Just this year alone, we've been inundated with failure after failure. The Katrina catastrophe. Michael "You're doing a hell of a job, Brownie" Brown. Terri Schiavo. Plame-gate (related to the trumped-up reasons we went into Iraq - and much more serious than any of President Clinton's "scandals", which ended up all being about a blow job). Stem-cell research. Harriet Miers. Ahmed Chalabi. The bankruptcy bill (which eliminated all kinds of protections for individuals to be able to declare bankruptcy, including major health-related expenses, to the benefit of no citizens except those who own credit card companies). The transportation bill (packed with more "pork" than any bill of any kind in history, including the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska). 60-day Social Security tour. Tom DeLay. Bill Frist. Karl Rove. John Bolton. Armstrong Williams. Jeff Gannon. Medicare prescription drug bill (cost $600 Billion, a vast majority of seniors do not want it or plan to use it, and it might now get eliminated). The Longest Vacation in Presidential History (August '05). And of course, not a single apology for a single thing that went wrong. Or an admission by way of changing course in a single solitary circumstance. Nothing. He was right when he said in the debates that he never "flip-flops". But boy I could go for a few changes in direction right now.
So what do we have to show for the Bush presidency? Tax cuts, which may or may not have helped the economy but left us with record deficits. And that's about it for the positives. On the downside, we're stuck in a Vietnam-sized quagmire in a foreign country. The rest of the world's citizens hate us and think we are human rights abusers. Terrorist incidents hit record highs this year (although fortunately not inside our country - Bush can also take credit for that). And a court system that is lurching towards a backwards, 1950's (or more appropriately, 1750's) era of rights for its citizens. So we got that going for us.
So in conclusion, please vote today, no matter where you are. And feel free to vote for who you'd like. But if any Republican politician in my district loses by a single vote, you will have one person to thank for it. President Bush cost you my vote. And ruined my faith in conservative values, whatever the hell they once were.