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FIL-AM PRESS

Houston Texas

March 2007 Issue

THE WAY I SEE IT

ON BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE

by Lope Lindio

The unsightly behavior of some Filipino-Americans being passionately Republican, without a hint of embarrassment, is to me strange, intellectually challenging, and even hilarious. Republican policies are not exactly friendly to their long-term interests; in fact, they are also increasingly proving to be detrimental to the well being of the American people, in general. Yet they do not realize this clear disconnect, as if validating the view that, like the rural-based Americans in the red states, ethnic Filipino-Americans may have mentally or psychologically ingested the amusing urban legend that the Republican party cares more about God and your family values.

The Filipino Veterans Equity bill is a case on point because it shows how Filipino-American Republicans are being taken for a ride. Even when they’re working conspicuously in the party’s vineyard, the party’s leadership simply has ignored their lobbying efforts to get enacted into law their community’s only major legislative initiative over the last two decades. When it was taken up again for consideration a month ago, you can hardly find Republican supporters. Their numbers can just be counted by the fingers of your two hands, with two or three to spare, that you have to read slowly to find their names in the thicket of numerous Democratic signatories. In fact, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi herself has always been an active supporter since 1993, in contrast to then Republican speaker Dennis Hastert and majority leader Tom DeLay who were not only opposed but hostile to the bill. They didn’t even let this bill get past the committee levels so that it can have a hands-down voting in the chamber.

The Republican party is not doing any better either when it comes to the national agenda affecting the lives and security of the American people. They are still blundering in the fourth year of the ongoing intractable, senseless, expensive, bloody, destructive and questionable war in Iraq . It’s shameful that even the wounded in that war could not have proper medical attention in military hospitals. People are also still wondering if President Bush’s famous “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” handling of the Hurricane Katrina is making satisfactory progress restoring life in New Orleans close to being normal. Along with his congressional party mates, they have been passing laws favoring the rich and big business as against the middle class. A lot more can be said of the wisdom of Filipino-Americans becoming Republicans, but the recent Libby conviction will give us an insight into how Americans, including Filipino-Americans, have been conned into believing the Republican sales talk for its policies and candidates.

I. Lewis “Scooty” Libby, the top aide of Vice President Cheney, was charged and convicted just last week on 03/06/2007, for obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements to the FBI when asked about the illegal disclosure of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity. The trial gives a peek into how dirty tricks are employed by the White House in challenging unwanted situations. Denis Collins who acted as the spokesman for the jury that convicted him told reporters afterward that they believed Libby was only the "fall guy" and they even asked themselves “where is Rove and all these other guys.”

The skeptical jury believes that the outing of Ms. Plame was a retaliatory response of the Bush administration against her husband, U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He reported, after being sent by the Department of State to check if Iraq went shopping for nuke materials in Niger , that the claim was untrue. Apparently, President Bush and Cheney went ballistic. His findings pulled the rug underlying their spurious claim that Saddam was in possession of weapons of mass destruction, one of the grounds why President Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq . What started as a damage control measure to belie the report, it fell flat when it had the unintended consequence of unlawfully disclosing Wilson ’s wife as a CIA agent.

Newsmen covering the Libby trial noted the sophistication of the jury whose members came from the highly informed citizenry of the nation’s capital. As the trial progressed, smudges of Karl Rove’s fingerprints started showing-up in the way the White House handled its response. Before long, his well-known trademark for cunning and trickery was so obvious that in the end, the jury was looking for him and even regretting having to convict Libby. Karl Rove, of course, is the well-known factotum of President Bush.

Rove’s reputation for resorting to a war of personal annihilation is well-deserved. He got his feet wet in politics as a College Republicans member in the University of Utah . When assigned to work in the Illinois state senate race campaign of Ralph Smith, he supposedly disrupted the inauguration of the Democratic campaign headquarters by sending over people from hippie communes, the homeless, and other trash groups by promising them "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing." Reports were that the invitation was written on stationery he stole from the offices of a Democratic candidate for state treasurer.

His dirty tricks almost denied him election as chairman of the College Republicans. A tape recording of his lecture on dirty tricks in a college seminar attended by young Republicans was produced. No less than George H.W. Bush himself, who would not have become president without Lee Altwater’s dirty tricks, then serving as the Republican National Chairman, ordered him investigated by the FBI. Rove was cleared only when Lee Altwater, himself a College Republicans stalwart and a master political trickster, executed an innocuous affidavit that it was just a misunderstanding.

But Rove is not unique in the Republican party. He’s just the better known practitioner out of the “all these other guys” the Libby jurors’ spokesman was looking for after the trial. That should include Jack Abramoff, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, and even Tom DeLay. All of them, with the notable exception of Tom DeLay, belonged to the College Republicans, the student organization of the Republican National Committee in all major schools and universities in this country. Karl Rove and the recently convicted felon Jack Abramoff had been president of the organization at one time or another, while Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed served as executive director and aide, respectively, during the term of Abramoff.

Abramoff was in partnership as a lobbyist with Michael Scanlon, a DeLay crony. They were paid millions of dollars protecting Indian tribes and their gambling interests because they were considered the dream lobbyist team, what with their clout in the US House of Representatives lorded over by Majority Floor Leader Tom DeLay, and influence in the White House, where Karl Rove is the Little President.

Filipino-Americans should understand that if the Republican party has become known as the Holy party, it’s because it has in its fold people like Ralph Reed, the spokesman of the Christian Coalition, who never fails invoking the name of God alongside the Republican party. He warned earlier that “gambling is a cancer on the American body politic.” Yet, in the same breath, he was paid $4 million from the Indian tribes to keep his mouth shut, and to stop well-meaning Christians, or born-again, and family values people protesting or interfering with the casino operations of Abramoff’s clients. He was also assigned to use the holy people to fend off newcomers from going into their clients’ profitable gaming businesses.

Bill Moyers, an ordained minister, writer and the famous PBS commentator, in his article entitled Culture of Corruption, described how the God-loving Christian activist Ralph Reed exploited and profited from his association with Abramoff: Reed enlisted some of the brightest stars in the Christian firmament in a ruse conducted on Abramoff's behalf: they would oppose gambling on religious and moral grounds in strategic places at decisive moments when competition threatened Abramoff's clients. Bogus Christian groups were part of the strategy. A gaggle of influential Baptist preachers in Texas danced to Reed's fiddling. Folks in Louisiana heard the voice of God on the radio—performed by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson—thundering against a riverboat gambling scheme that Abramoff feared would jeopardize the profits of a client. Reed even got James Dobson, whose nationwide radio "ministry" reaches millions of people (and whose videos helped Tom DeLay find Jesus) to deluge the Interior Department and White House with telephone calls from indignant Christians.

Abramoff arranged for the Mississippi Choctaws, who were trying to stave off competition from other tribes, to contribute over $1 million to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which then passed the money along to the Alabama Christian Coalition and to another anti-gambling group Reed had duped into aiding the cause. It is unclear how much these Christian soldiers knew about the true purpose of their crusade, but Reed knew all along that his money was coming from Abramoff. The e-mails between the two men read like a modern version of Elmer Gantry.

We really have to stop now for lack of space, but the lesson we learn here is that if you'd let your political decisions be influenced by religious considerations, you better make sure you're not taken for a ride. (lopelindio@aol.com).


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