The sad demise of Terri Schiavo, with the ugly media circus of losers skulking outside her hospice, and the concomitant exaltation of opportunistic vultures preening alongside them, made that whiff a bit sharper, a bit more pungent.
Still, after a raft of subsequent polls relaying Americans' discomfort with the likes of Tom DeLay both interfering in their personal health-care rights and comparing his own travails to those of Jesus Christ, the Republicans almost seemed chastened for a week or so. Though that may have just been them keeping their powder dry while the world's largest pedophile cult went shopping for a new figurehead.
Well, now we have a new bellwether for the impending demise of Republican control -- a protest at Sacramento's state house of an estimated 10,000 people, most of them public service employees.
An election which is not needed. None of these issues are so pressing that they can't wait until next June, when the regular election will occur. Schwarzenegger has been traveling to important places in California like Florida and Texas, drumming up money to bankroll this $80 million special election boondoggle.
Now think about this for just one second. You're a businessman in Texas or Florida. You might "donate" to political candidates within your state, expecting perhaps some return on your investment in the future. But what would your interest be in donating to a state pol in California? What could the tangible return on investment be there?
No matter. The honeymoon is long over; the citizens are now throwing the political frying pan at Arnold's head. Even at the height of his unpopularity, Gray Davis never inspired public protests anywhere near this magnitude. And not just the usual malcontent claque, either -- we're talking nurses, firefighters, teachers. Normal, intelligent, accredited people who don't ordinarily have the time or inclination to grind their political axes in public.
Schwarzenegger has motivated them with his gimmicky boilerplate of warmed-over script clichés. Right, girlie man, very cute. Here's a tip, Jethro -- if you want people to work with you, and not against you, don't call them names and demean them in public.
As I said earlier, Schwarzenegger is popularly seen as a bellwether for the future of the GOP. He's one of their shining stars. Until a few days ago, so was Bill Frist. That's done now; the weirdos who refuse to budge on non-issues like gay marriage have -- surprise! -- refused to budge on judicial appointments and filibustering, and will not forgive Frist for his perfidy. It's a golem of his own making; Frist thought it'd be a swell idea to whip up a faith-based frenzy by publicly equating the filibuster option with anti-Christian sentiment.
Finally, the big kahuna himself, Mr. twenty-weeks-of-vacation-per-year. Bush seems to think he can lay low and ride this out, and maybe he can. But in the meantime, his poll numbers keep steadily slipping, little by little. People look around and see little to cheer about -- a seemingly endless occupation of a country that we really didn't have to invade; more and more allegations of soldiers grievously abusing people, some found innocent after they were beaten to death; a world that has grown weary of our arrogant bullshit, and is now mustering and mobilizing around us; the realization that they were had with this SUV scam, that oil is not only not cheap and plentiful, but is only going to get more expensive, Baku-Ceyhan pipeline regardless.
The collective malaise that currently manifests itself in feelgood totems like magnetic ribbons and such is also keenly aware of the cognitive dissonance in the arguments that got us to invade Iraq in the first place. If we were so sure that Saddam had WMD and nuclear capability, why did we park 300,000 troops on his doorstep; if Iraq was the "low-hanging fruit", then how could they be such a worrisome menace to require such tremendous action?
Americans know and have known all this, yet they have chosen not to confront it -- justifiably so, to some extent, as we were still legitimately shell-shocked after 9/11, and who wouldn't at least want to believe that some of the more troublesome aspects of Arab culture couldn't be popped loose with a swift right cross? Women in burqas, religious oppression, internecine warfare, fanatic sectarianism -- these are all things that sensible people repudiate, and it felt like a hope-against-hope opportunity to rid the planet of some nasty characters, and eliminate the mafia family running Iraq at the same time.
Still, Americans had understandable misgivings, and the longer the occupation drags out, and the more carnage continues unabated since the umpteenth corner turned on Purple Finger Day four months ago, the more these misgivings and discontents will rise to the surface. Because more and more facts come out demonstrating that we didn't have to go, and that despite the sneering jibes of the chickenhawks, it did not and will not pay for itself, unless you happen to be a shareholder of Halliburton or Bechtel.
A long-term sign that the Republicans also smell that smell is how they've backed off from the notion of an Iran conflict this summer. Remember, it was almost a fait accompli just a few months ago, and seems to have dropped off the radar, despite Iran's growing recalcitrance to negotiate. North Korea, too -- they're openly testing their new-found nukular wares. That Axle of Elvis shit served only to motivate them rather than scare them, as we've seen. They saw us invade Iraq, and instead of knuckling under, they proceeded full-tilt with their respective nuclear ambitions. And now that we're worn down and locked in, they see that and are further emboldened. So much for neo-con gambling. We can't do anything to Iran now without seriously risking Russian and/or Chinese involvement. That window has closed, if it was ever really open.
A more short-term demonstration of this phenomenon can be observed in the coverage of the Newsweek "scandal", which was not at all a scandal. The only reason it even approached scandal was because of Newsweek itself; had they shown the slightest bit of intestinal fortitude and told Scott McClellan to fuck off, the precursory rebuttals by Gens. Myers and Eikenberry and the subsequent rebuttal by Hamid Karzai would have been sufficient absolution.
Even so, notice how quickly the whole thing blew over -- or rather, through, leaving things relatively unscathed? The first two days, the news coverage was in full throttle; by mid-week, it had already died down to a very dull roar. By the time Karzai publicly repudiated the notion that Newsweek's "Periscope" blurb could have sparked deadly riots, the general attitude was, "Oh, that?". That may be an indication that people saw the whole episode as just another cry of "wolf", from an administration that used up its "wolf" cards a couple years ago.
So while Americans generally still ride the last of the jingoistic freedom-on-the-march wave, the tide is about to roll back out, revealing what is at the bottom of it all. I submit that this administration has some real skeletons in its closet, and eventually some enterprising media person will find the courage to do their job and expose one or more of those skeletons. This administration is a house of cards that stands only by its very serious commitment to secrecy; one real scandal, or a bursting of the precarious housing bubble, and they're done.
It won't be overnight, and even when it does happen, it won't be total; the inept Democratic Party will see to that. But it will help. This country functions best on the principle of divided government, as the Republican Party has inadvertently shown. They've had all the cards for years, and 9/11 put a serious political wind at their back. They could have done anything, and they chose to hop in bed with warmongering fantasists, snake-handlers and sexually-obsessed goofballs.
It's been a long time comin'. This is the part at the beginning of The Cult's Sun King where Ian Astbury strides in in Big '70s Rawk fashion, like Robert Plant or Ian Gillan, and says, "This is where it all ends". The past is prologue.