Sunday, May 30, 2004

Putin / Bush comparisons are not surprising

With editorials in both the Washington Post and the New York Times this morning critiquing Russian President Vladimir Putin's state-of-the-nation speech, it is only too easy to compare Putin's Russia to Bush's America, at least on broad, power-based conditions.
"Mr. Putin seemed just the strong leader Russia needed after the chaos of the Yeltsin years. But the steady expansion of his control over the Parliament, the media, the courts and the tycoons suggests a neo-Soviet boss capitalizing on the fatigue of Russians to herd them back under authoritarian control."-----New York Times

There is no doubt the Putin has quickly eroded away the fragile democratic safeguards installed after the fall of Communism. The power shift never happened, with the old communist stalwarts taking new titles with the changing structure of government. Putin has clearly contributed to this, and I believe, a comparison can be drawn to Pres. Bush.

Bush and his crew have isolated the executive branch from any scrutiny, operating "eyes-only" foreign and domestic policies. The resulting lack of accountability has left our own democractic safeguards eroded. Media outlets have been under the ownership of Bush allies, and as this morning's New York Times Public Editor's comments demonstrate, there is little integrity left in what outlets are not owned by neo-cons.

Bush's two recess appointments of radical judges demonstrate an aggressive agenda of loading the court system with ultra-conservative views, themselves often ruling against First Amendment protections.

There is also no doubt about Bush's tycoon connections. Many of the nation's top executives and corporations, including voting machine producer Diebold, contribute heavily to the Bush campaign. A recent survey of Bush Administration appointees shows a high percentage of the top donation bundlers from the 2000 election gaining positions in the administration. The influence of big business on both Putin and Bush, and the unnerving similarities, demonstrate a dramatic shift by both to consolidate state power. May we be headed for a new cold war? Russia doesn't seem to have the finances, but with these two nations setting an example, emerging powers such as China might offer a significant challenge for world's strongest nation.
"It is all very well for the Russian president to speak of economic liberalism, but the root problems of the Russian economy -- corruption, nepotism and the habits of the former Soviet bureaucracy -- will not be mitigated without greater openness and the raised public awareness that can come only from independent associations"--Washington Post

The similarities are glaring in retrospect, how have they been so clouded to more learned "experts" than me? Bush's usage of secrecy comes directly from his officials, many of whom have direct ties to Watergate participants, much like Putin's people networked with the old Communists. Bush often speaks toward strengthening our economy, and encouraging capitalism, much like Putin has descried.

Can the world continue to overlook the denouement of the two great powers of the Cold War? Let us hope neither side is determined to "go out with a bang."

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