About That Invitation to Join the Bush-Cheney '04 Team...

To: Marc Racicot, Chairman, Bush-Cheney '04

Thanks for including me on your mailing list. I'm very interested in mass communications, and I realize that millions of people have also received the same piece of direct mail this spring. So I was impressed by the personal touch at the top of your letter -- where it says "Dear Friend" but a line is drawn through "Friend" and hand-lettering says "Norman."

Since we're already on a first-name basis, Marc, here are some thoughts in response to your letter:

  • "Will you become one of the first to join the Bush-Cheney '04 Team as a Charter Member in California? I would be thrilled to tell the President you are with us."

    Marc, why does your pitch letter's first paragraph set a tone that treats voting-age recipients like gullible children? What adult is supposed to believe that a $100 or $1,000 check would thrill you enough to share your excitement with the president?

  • "As a small token of appreciation and to welcome you to our team, I am proud to present you with the enclosed photo of the President and Laura Bush -- complete with a special personal inscription to you."

    I see that the "special personal inscription," with my name in the cursive typeface under the photo, says: "Grassroots leaders like you are the key to building a winning team." All I've got to do is send a check and I'm a "grassroots leader"?

  • "Send back the enclosed Receipt Confirmation Form to let me know that your photograph arrived in good condition and is suitable for framing and display. This may seem like a little thing, but it is very important to me personally to know that your support has been properly acknowledged."

Got it. I wouldn't want you to lay awake nights worrying that my photo of Laura and George Bush was damaged in the mail and might no longer be suitable for me to frame and display.

But Marc, you really lose me later in the letter. The first page is merely phony and patronizing, but the second page becomes seriously hallucinogenic. For instance, let's consider your assertion that President Bush has "an agenda that makes it possible for every American to own a home, health and retirement plan and, if they want, their own business."

The Century Foundation, based in New York, has put out a concise report called "The New American Economy: A Rising Tide that Lifts Only Yachts." It shows that the federal government is exacerbating inequalities: "Rather than work against the growing gap between rich and poor, recent tax policy in the United States has aggravated it, with tax cuts disproportionately rewarding those at the top while doing little for the middle class or the poor. Because the United States long has used public policy less than other major countries do to lift families out of poverty, this approach only adds to an already bad situation."

In light of such realities, the kinds of government social programs that George W. Bush has often fought to slash or eliminate are clearly the sorts of public expenditures that narrow the nation's economic gaps. So, Marc, it's more than a stretch when your mailing requests donations "to help promote the President's compassionate conservative agenda." In the real non-affluent world (which you seem oblivious to), the Century Foundation points out, "the U.S. poverty rate after government policies are taken into account -- 10.9 percent -- is much higher" than in countries such as Canada, Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden.

However, Marc, there's nothing sillier or more stupefying than your tag line after a list of some items on President Bush's agenda: "But the liberal national media won't deliver this message to the American people." The Bush message has been pouring from media outlets across the country, year after year. Everybody knows what Bush and his high-profile boosters have to say. In addition to the massive advertising budget of his campaign, the fact that he's president gives him an enormous megaphone that he fully utilizes in the news media.

So, Marc, it seems notably ungrateful for the chairman of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign to complain about national media -- after all they've done for this administration. After giving President Bush the benefit of countless doubts for years, news outlets have begun to focus on the consequences of his policies. And -- in sharp contrast to the full-color glossy photo of the First Couple that you sent along -- it's not a pretty picture.

Norman Solomon is co-author, with foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, of "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You."

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