Hail to the Thief: divisive actions belie talk of unity

Perhaps it should not be surprising that 50 years after George Orwell coined the terms "doublethink" and "newspeak" they have become central features of the American Presidency. In his inaugural address George W. Bush said, "Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation. And this is my solemn pledge: I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity." Yet his actions in appointing cabinet members representing extreme positions, and the early glimpses of his policy initiatives, make his words seem like a threat directed at those who do not share his point of view. The additional irony, of course, is that he does not have a mandate to govern, having required the intervention of Supreme Court justices with likely personal and political bias, in order to gain office.

As pro-choice organizations predicted, one of Bush's first acts as president was to reinstate the 1984 executive order (lifted by Clinton) which prohibits international agencies that receive government funds from discussing abortion with clients, much less providing abortion services. Hardly a gesture of unity and conciliation. The Guardian UK reported that Bush told an interviewer on January 19 that Democrats in Congress should work with the administration or be left behind. Bush also told Fox news that it was "too bad" if voters thought his failure to win the popular vote meant that he shouldn't appoint a cabinet heavily weighted toward conservatives and supply-siders. "I'm going to," he said.

Bush's relative unpopularity was even evidenced in the entertainment at his pre-inaugural festivities. A-list celebrities were barely in evidence. Although the Bush team had touted the name of Van Morrisson, his record company issued a press release denying the report. Headliners who did appear included Ricky Martin, Marie Osmond, and ZZ Top.

Continuing his agenda of divisiveness, Bush is expected to open up the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to oil and mineral prospecting, and to reverse Clinton's recent executive orders, especially concerning the environment. And his attorney-general designate, who appears headed for confirmation, is a right-wing throwback, whom columnist Anthony Lewis has characterized as prepared to lie to prevent confirmation of a judge - a move that helped his popularity among conservative constituents in a tight Senate race.

Perhaps, indeed, it should not be surprising, that the son of a man who oversaw manipulation of elections in Central America, and the dissemination of propaganda throughout the world, does not seem fazed by the inconsistency between his rhetoric of "unity" and the blatant extremism of his actions. But if George Bush wants to be "President of all Americans," he will have to earn the title, and it is probably already too late.


Young, Hugo "A Surreal sleepwalker with little right to wield power" GuardianUnlimited 18 Jan. 2001

Kettle, Martin "Bush blows in on a chill wind of change" GuardianUnlimited 20 Jan. 2001

Blackman, Ann. "Bush Set to Reinstate 'Global Gag Rule'?" Time.com 20 Jan. 2001

Wiessler, David "Bush Takes Oath of Office, Seeks Unity," Yahoo News 20 Jan. 2001

Thanks to Gillian McLennan for pointing out that the term "doublespeak" was not coined by Orwell, but by Rutgers professor William Lutz.