We speak with former Texas agricultural commissioner, national radio commentator, columnist and author of several books on democracy and government, Jim Hightower about his latest book Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush: More Political Subversion From Jim Hightower. [includes rush transcript]
This week the Democratic Party will anoint John Kerry of Massachusetts as its nominee for president. He faces George W. Bush from Texas in November.
Over the next four days, Democratic party officials are reportedly looking to tone down their rhetoric towards President Bush believing that enough voters are disillusioned with the president that Kerry does not need to directly confront him.
Our next guest is the former agricultural commissioner of Texas might not agree–he is upping the rhetoric in his latest book, "Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush: More Political Subversion From Jim Hightower." He is a national radio commentator, columnist and author of several books on democracy and the government and is described as "America’s most popular populist."
- Jim Hightower, author of the new book Let’s Stop Beating Around the Bush.
AMY GOODMAN: Over the next four days, Democratic Party officials are reportedly looking to tone down their rhetoric toward President Bush, believing that enough voters are disillusioned with the President that Kerry doesn’t need to directly confront him. Well, the former Texas Agriculture Commissioner doesn’t quite feel the same way. He is upping the rhetoric against the President. He is Jim Hightower and today we bring you more political subversion from him. His latest book is called "Let’s Stop Beating Around The Bush". What’s your tour called, Jim?
JIM HIGHTOWER: I am on a 50-something city "Show Bush The Door In ’04" tour.
AMY GOODMAN: What irks you most about the President of the United States?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Well it’s nothing about him personally. Rather, it is the rabidly right-wing zealotry that these people have brought into national politics. You know, I’ve been watching the Bushites for nine years now. Five years as Governor of Texas and now in the White House and I have come, from my scientific observation, to this academic conclusion that these people are nuts. Just absolutely bogus loopy. This is not a matter of, I mean their policies are Orwellian, Ayn Randian, Jerry Falwellian, Strangelovian attempt to supplant our democracy with their corporate vision of autocracy, plutocracy and empire. This is not just another election. It’s a big time in America, I think and I have been doing, as you have, a whole lot of travel around America in the last several weeks and months, even, and I find that people are aware of it. I saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck in my town of Boston, Texas and it said "Where are we going? And what am I doing in this hand basket?" People have some sense that we are being led down a rabbit trail, off the true path of America.
AMY GOODMAN: We have been spending a lot of time talking about dissent right now and the so-called protest pen and the only thing the protesters are doing are protesting the protest pen.
JIM HIGHTOWER: Exactly.
AMY GOODMAN: But where does this crackdown on dissent come from?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Well George Bush began this when he first decided to run for President. Karl Rove, of course, his political Svengali, was the creator of it. There was a protest in front of the Governor’s mansion in Texas on the public sidewalk, the site of protests over the eons in Texas. And this was the time, 1999, when the national media was coming to look at this guy, because clearly he was getting a lot of money and support to run for President. And so they didn’t want these pesky little protesters out front. And in particular, these protestors were challenging his lapdog performance on behalf of the polluters, in particular, Enron, and Kenneth Ley. So they had the police remove the protesters from the sidewalk saying it was a threat to the public for them to be there. And of course it endangered themselves to be on the sidewalk. Therefore, they should go to a parking lot out of sight of Bush and out of sight of the national media. And that was the beginning of this what I call Bush zones that have been created. Of course, America used to be a protest zone. We had a wonderful incident last year in Crawford, Texas. A group of peace protesters, about 100 of them caravanning in cars going to the Bush ranchette just outside of Crawford. And they are driving through Crawford and they are met there by Donnie Tidmore, and Donnie is the Chief of Police, and he’s got a barricade there. And they said, "Get out of the cars," — to the leaders, "Get out of the cars," and they walk up and say, "What’s this?" He said, "Well you have no permit to protest in Crawford." And they said "No, Donnie, we aren’t going to protest in Crawford. We are going through Crawford to the ranch." And Donnie said well just by your very presence of being here, you are a protest. The logic cell in Donnie Tidmore’s brain was not functioning that day. So they tried to argue with him. Tried to make a little common sense with him and that was not functioning. So Donnie arrested five of the protestors. They became the "Crawford Five." And they were later convicted by a jury in Crawford for demonstrating. And at the trial, it was even said — Tidmore himself was asked: "If somebody came into town wearing a polit — a peace button, would that constitute a protest under your ordinance? And he said, "It could be a protest. It could be a sign of a demonstration." So this is the level of absurdity. The good news is, a great civil liberties lawyer Jim Harrington took their case and they were thrown out of court by a Waco judge a little bit later. But nothing will stop these folks.
AMY GOODMAN: In your book "Let’s Stop Beating Around The Bush" you have a whole, not just chapter, but whole section, "You’ll Never Have To Feel Alone Again, My Friend." Which is about surveillance, which is about a crackdown on dissent. Can you talk about the new toys for big brother?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Well there are all kinds of wonderful new gimmicks that are available including, I don’t know if you have been chipped personally, but this is actually a phrase now in the corporate intelligence world, that rather than having to use credit cards and the inconvenience of that, you can simply have a chip put into your tip of your finger and then that little baby can be scanned at the super market or at your A.T.M. Machine and they say well after all, this is so much safer. You might lose your credit cards, not thinking that maybe your determined burglar would whack your finger and then run around scanning your finger everywhere across America. I mean again, the absurdity — you know Lily Tomlin has said "No matter how cynical you get, it’s almost impossible to keep up." And that’s some of the stuff I write about.
AMY GOODMAN: "Et Tu Postmaster?"
JIM HIGHTOWER: The Post Office itself has been asked to be spies on 'We The People' and on our transactions in the Post Office. And if we buy an extraordinary number of stamps, that needs to be reported to Homeland Security Force.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Literally, just if you seem suspicious to your postal clerk, the clerks are instructed to report any suspicious activity to their superiors and that information supposedly goes to the Homeland Security and the F.B.I. Just to check you out.
AMY GOODMAN: What is Spy Inc. all about?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Well Spy Inc. is the movement of corporate spies. Now, ex-C.I.A. Officers, F.B.I. Officers, etc., now go into work for corporations to spy against competitors, to spy against people who file lawsuits against them, to spy against who knows what. But there’s a whole cadre. They have their whole association, annual meetings, and that sort of thing — corporate spies getting together to discuss snooperism.
AMY GOODMAN: We have been talking to Jesse Jackson today and we were talking about a B.E.T./CBS news poll that said especially African-Americans believe overwhelmingly that their vote won’t be counted. Overwhelmingly opposed to Bush. And yet, a very tepid response to John Kerry. Can you talk about that? You are here at the Democratic National Convention.
JIM HIGHTOWER: Yeah, well, several aspects of that. One, I can’t imagine why they would possibly think their vote wouldn’t be counted, since we have had quite a bit of history of it not being counted. So you can understand the concern. One of the biggest questions that come to me as I travel around with this book and elsewhere is the fear about the touch-screen voting system and whether our votes will get counted and we have some evidence that it won’t. But in terms of Kerry himself, you know, I think it’s an essential first step that we get rid of Bush. What I find is not wild enthusiasm particularly for Kerry, but a unified effort to A.B.B., Anybody But Bush, get this guy out. They aren’t only nuts, they are dangerous. That is a step that we have it take. Now having done that, that’s not a progressive victory to get rid of Bush. That just brings us back to ground level again. You know, there’s that old song, "It Felt So Good When It Stopped Hurting." And that’s the way we will feel. That will feel good for a while, but November 3 is an awfully important date for us, because we will then have the opportunity to begin to put our best agenda forward and our best progressive organizing forward to retake the debate in the country for health care for everybody, good jobs at good wages, etc. And be in the face of the Kerry/Edwards administration. We are going to have to make them as progressive as they can be. They aren’t going to do it on their own.
AMY GOODMAN: But if John Kerry were to win and he won on a platform that you might consider very watered down, isn’t that the mandate he thinks he will have?
JIM HIGHTOWER: Well, I don’t think so. I think knows they watered down the platform. I think he’s had some experiences in the primaries confronting farmers and workers in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere who have lost their jobs as a result of NAFTA and the W.T.O.
AMY GOODMAN: That he is a strong supporter of.
JIM HIGHTOWER: Exactly. It’s no longer a cocktail party chatter discussion about the globalony trade scams that he shoved down our throat. He understands that real people are at risk here, for the first time ever. I think we have a chance, particularly with Edwards to make this a more progressive administration than it otherwise would be. We saw pressure work in the primaries and we — just as the corporations are going to be pressuring him — we have a responsibility as democracy builders to be in their face. Now that doesn’t mean we have to put all of our cookies there, by any means. We have got to be out at the grassroots working with those folks whose are going to elect a state legislatures and city councils and mayors and build that true grassroots movement at the ground level.
AMY GOODMAN: Jim Hightower, you write about C.E.O.s averaging $25,000 an hour.
JIM HIGHTOWER: Yes. This is — and yet, the Bushites would say — well, don’t be talking about any class war. Hello! As you’ve soon recently, wages for ordinary folks are not even keeping up with inflation these days. C.E.O. s, though, are getting fatter than butchers’ dogs whether they are successful as C.E.O.s or not, they still make a killing. This is part of the gross disparity of income in our society that has become a real issue. We aren’t talking about being against people making money. Mark Twain said, "I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position." I am not against people making money, but I am against greed. I’m against them making money at the expense of everybody else. The Wal-Martization of our work force in America.
AMY GOODMAN: Jim Hightower, I want to thank you for stopping by here on your tour. "Let’s Stop Beating Around The Bush" is the name of Jim Hightower’s latest book, "New York Times request" best-selling author. Thank you for being with us.