As the stories about the Bush family’s move to a new house in an upscale neighborhood in Dallas, Texas begin to fade from the headlines, there is one fact that should not be allowed to pass without mention. It’s now increasingly clear that the Bush family is going to simply dump and abandon the so-called “ranch” in Crawford. No keeping it around for sentiment’s sake, not even for occasional week-end escapes from the big city. Nope, they are just going to sell it off and walk away.
But, wait a minute. Didn’t the hard-working, rural values embodied in that “ranch” play a critical part in shaping Bush’s character? That’s certainly what the video shown at the 2000 Republican convention said. Weren’t all those afternoons Bush spent “clearing brush” at the “ranch” the dramatic visible evidence of his continuing authenticity and spiritual bond with the “real” America even while in office? That’s certainly the spin Bush’s press people trotted out again and again during the course of his presidency. Remember all those press events with photographers dutifully snapping the pictures of Bush wiping his forehead with his work gloves to underscore his continuing ties to the rich Texas land and to all sons of toil?
But now we’re all supposed to just quietly accept that – oh yeah – it was actually all just a complete fraud and a scam. Progressive journalists did point out from the very beginning that the so-called “ranch” had been purchased in 1999, right before the Bush campaign got started and therefore had absolutely no role in shaping Bush’s character. They also noted that there were just 4 or 5 lonely looking cows around, far too few to have any practical or commercial function. Without any real cattle ranching or agriculture actually being practiced, there was really no reason to ever clear away any brush. Some independent journalists even had the temerity to note that the bales of straw lying around so authentically (presumably to feed the nonexistent herds of cattle) were artfully placed to conceal the condensers for the central air conditioning system.
As an article in the Texas Observer noted:
In 1999, using profits from the sale of the Texas Rangers, Bush purchased 1,583 acres near Waco, Texas, that he calls a ranch, despite the fact that it lacks any livestock other than four or five cows, hardly enough for a stampede or a cattle drive. In fact, according to Revolution of Hope, the 2007 autobiography of Vicente Fox, the former president of Mexico, Bush is a “windshield cowboy,” more comfortable roaming the prairie by Mustang than by mustang, and terrified of horses.
Most Americans, however, never got a hint of all this. For eight years the American mainstream media dutifully went along with the fraud, writing fawning captions for picture after picture of Bush with the jeans and work gloves and the sunset in the distance. No one in the official press corps had the guts to put down their foot and say plainly:
This is total bullshit. This so-called “ranch” is nothing but a stage-set designed for photo-ops. It’s no more authentic than the phony villages and collective farms to which the Soviets used to take western observers, to show them the happy, satisfied Soviet workers. We are being treated like sheep, morons and children and we’re all going along with it without a peep.
Yes, yes. I know. I did get the memo. The Obama approach is look forward and not back. But that memo applies to how Democrats should treat ordinary folks and their elected representatives. There’s nothing in the memo about giving the mainstream media a free pass for acting like PR auxiliaries to Karl Rove.
And it’s important because the Republican PR machine will be back before we even turn around. In 2010 there will be new “ranches” and fabricated biographies and Hollywood stage sets designed to portray Republicans as “real folks” and “sharing the values” of the “real America”.
But this time Democrats should be ready. We should issue a not- so- polite warning. People in the media who are too lazy, weak or submissive to stand up and challenge cynical PR manipulation when its shoved in their faces should be prepared to be treated by Democrats with the contempt and condescension that they will so very richly deserve. Allowing oneself to be manipulated by the powerful hasn’t somehow become OK in the internet age, just because a degree in journalism costs more than it used to and the private job market sucks. There used to be something called journalistic integrity. There used to be something called shame.