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Sunday, Feb. 5, 2006

COUNTERPOINT

Rule of the people, by our people, for our people


Special to The Japan Times

There is a specter haunting the world. The specter is democracy. As U.S. President George W. Bush never fails to remind us: Democracy is on the march and there is no stopping it.

Everywhere one now looks, free elections are being held -- from Iraq to Bolivia; from Palestine to Venezuela. The power of the ballot box is the ultimate power, and Bush should be rejoicing with the unchained masses.

But, alas, he isn't. That is because the results of these free elections do not necessarily match those envisaged by the Bush administration.

And Bush is not the only one caught on the horns of a dilemma as big as a Texan steer. When Hamas won the Palestinian election fair and square at the end of last month, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called the outcome "very, very, very bad." That's three "verys," which is about as emphatic and articulate an adverbial onslaught as you'll get out of the Italian strongman.

Another great world leader, the prime minister of the South Pacific superpower Australia, John Howard, declared of Hamas' victory, "Hamas . . . has got to accept that you can't simultaneously behave like a democratically elected government and support terrorism." Howard's government, of course, does not support terrorism -- unless it is terrorism in the struggle against terrorism. I call this terrorism "the terrorism of the moral high ground."

Now, you might be a bit befuddled by all this. Frankly, I too am befuddled by the whole-hog endorsement of democracy coupled with the out-of-hand rejection of democratically elected governments. So I decided to clear it all up and Skype the man who rides intellectual shotgun for Bush, Karl Rove.

Flabbergasted

You can imagine how flabbergasted I was when none other than the president himself answered my call. I jotted down our conversation religiously, and faithfully report it here.

Me: Hello, may I please speak to Mr. Rove?

Bush: He's not here now. May I help you?

Me: Uh, I guess so, but I really wanted to speak to Mr. Rove.

Bush: Sorry, he's gone into the Deletion Room, he'll be . . .

Me: What? He's gone to what room?

Bush: The Deletion Room. It's where we take all our computers for historical deletion. Karl has been photographed quite a few times with people he didn't really want to be pictured with, you know, Kenny Baby, Jackie Baby, and . . .

Me: Jackie Baby? You mean Karl Rove was photographed with Jackie Kennedy?

Bush: Shucks no. Not that Jackie. She was a Democrat. Jackie Abramoff, the lobbyist. You see, history is important to my administration. And we know that history is what you leave behind . . . or choose not to leave behind.

Me: And you're going to leave behind heaps, Mr. President.

Bush: Why, thank you.

Me: But what I'm really calling about is, I mean, democracy. We now . . .

Bush: Oh, democracy. That's good. Very very very good. Terror? That's bad, very very very bad.

Me: Oh, I do agree, Sir. I do. I do.

Bush: It's what my Sunday school teacher in Midlands, Texas used to say. Say anything three times and it becomes true. That's the strategy behind our re-election campaign, by the way.

Me: Sunday school? That was a long time ago.

Bush: No, I was 42. Now, what was it we were talking about? Yeah, democracy. It's good. That's why my administration supports it. We support good things. The terrorists support bad things. Need I repeat myself?

Me: Oh no. But one thing is bothering me. What happens when the people in a country have a free election and the result is unfavorable to the United States?

(Here the president let out a series of endearing guffaws.)

Bush: Oh, hey, what you just said . . . it's just so, well, terrorist, like. If people have a free election, a really really really free election, then the result has to be one favorable to us. People aren't stupid, you know. You gotta give people credit. They know that we represent the best interests of not only our country, but also of theirs and everyone else's.

Oil doesn't grow on trees

Take Venezuela. God gave Venezuela the oil, I'm not taking that away from Him. Oil doesn't grow on trees, you know, not even in Texas. But the Devil gave Venezuela Hugo Chavez. So now the oil is being distributed by the Devil. When you have an election, people are naturally going to choose God over the Devil. People are good, if you give them a chance to be.

Me: But the people of Palestine voted for Hamas because they believed their interests would be best served by them.

Bush: It doesn't seem to be sinking in, my friend. The U.S. is the citadel of democracy. Hell, we invented the thing. And when you invent something you got a patent on it. No one else can use democracy without first getting permission from us, like the people of Iraq did before we liberated them. They asked us for democracy, and we bestowed it on them.

Me: So, Mr. President, what are you going to do with these people who democratically elect anti-American governments?

(There was a huge pregnant pause and I wasn't sure whether the Skype line had dropped out or not. But then the president continued . . . )

Bush: If that did happen, and I am by no means saying that it is possible in the spiritual sense . . . if it did happen, we'd use our God-given power to oust those people right out of government. We'd wear them down until their people see the light and vote in a really really really democratic government -- that is, one of our choosing. Oh, hey, here's Karl back from the Deletion Room.

(The president obviously turned away from the computer, but I could still hear him.)

Karl, take this computer here that I'm talking on to the Deletion Room. I don't want this conversation to be real someday.

(The last thing I heard, faintly, before the line went dead, was Rove's voice.)

Rove: Sure, George. Whatever you say, goes.



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