Ahmadinejad Uses Bush’s Tactics
Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei gloated Saturday that the Iranian public had “humiliated” Bush by electing hard liner Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president. But in fact, the campaigning style of the two men suggests that in some ways they are soul mates.
Newly elected Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad won in some part by using the same electoral tools as George W. Bush and Karl Rove.
1. Smear Tactics
Ahmadinejad’s supporters smeared his chief rival, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani by spreading all sorts of false rumors about him. Negative campaigning is illegal in Iran, but complaints to the rightwing judges went nowhere because they support Ahmadinejad. (See below).
Bush supporters in South Carolina in the 2000 elections smeared his Republican rival for the nomination John McCain by falsely suggesting (via a phony telephone poll) that he had had an interracial affair that produced an illegitimate child. In the 2004 campaign, the White House directed the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to smear John Kerry as a liar and coward with regard to his distinguished military record, while chicken hawk Bush, who did not even properly serve out his time as a reservist back in the US, was depicted as some sort of war hero.
2. False Consciousness
Ahmadinejad, a rightwinger, poses as a champion of the common people, and once dressed up as a street sweeper. He thus got a lot of working class people to vote for him, even though he will do the bidding of billionaire clerical hardliners who have done little for ordinary folks.
Likewise, George W. Bush affects a southern drawl (he is from Connecticut) and makes himself out to be a friend of the common man, with his “tax cuts” and program to “save” social security. In fact, everything Bush does primarily benefits the rich and actually hurts the interests of workers and farmers. Nevertheless, as with Ahmadinejad, he gets many in the working classes to vote for him.
3. Posing as a Critic of the Government You Run
Ahmadinejad is allowed to attack the Iranian government because he has impeccable credentials as a rightwinger and loyalist to Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei. He can therefore complain about state corruption without being pilloried or punished. His anti-government rhetoric struck a chord with many Iranians and helped him get elected. If a liberal reformer had spoken that way about the Iranian government, he would have been accused of disloyalty and lack of patriotism.
Likewise, George W. Bush affects a rhetoric of “cleaning up Washington” and breaking the gridlock and overcoming partisanship. In reality, corruption has flourished in his regime, with severe questions constantly being raised about lobbyists essentially bribing Tom Delay, Duke Cunningham and others. The grandson of a senator and son of a president who calls the white-tie corporate crowd his “base” represents himself as an outsider to Washington and a critic of the government! Yet liberals like Dick Durbin who criticize the government are pilloried as traitors.
4. Benefitting from Dominance of the Judiciary
Ahmadinejad was supported by the clerical rightwing judiciary and Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei. When other candidates complained about ballot stuffing, the rightwing judges backed Ahmadinejad.
Bush: Five words: Florida and the Supreme Court.
5. Religious Congregations and the Military
Ahmadinejad was supported by many mosque preachers all over the country, as well as by religious volunteers for a paramilitary called basij. Some 300,000 basij all over Iran essentially acted as a political party to support Ahmadinejad.
Bush depends heavily on the support of evangelical and fundamentalist churches in the United States, which abuse their tax-exempt, non-partisan status by actually becoming foot soldiers for the Republican Party. The US military is also disproportionately Republican and supports Bush. Air Force cadets are apparently put under enormous pressure to become evangelicals, under the Bush regime.
By the way, speaking of cadets, Space Cadet Michael Ledeen over at the American Enterprise Institute alleged last week that hardliners brought two million Pakistanis over to vote for Ahmadinejad. Presumably they would have been brought in to Zahedan in Iranian Baluchistan from Quetta.
Ledeen fancies himself a Middle East expert and is trying hard to get up a US war on Iran, having been helpful in getting up the Iraq War, which he promised us would go so well.
Let me explain a few basics to Mr. Ledeen.
1. You can’t move 2 million people through the Baluchistan desert in a short period of time. A population movement that massive could even be seen by satellite.
2. Pakistanis are largely Sunnis. They don’t like the Iranian regime, which is their rival. They would not go vote in Iran. Even the Shiite minority would not, and it wouldn’t vote for Ahmadinejad if it could.
3. The voting rolls for Iranian Baluchistan show about 800.000 voters. Where are the two million Pakistanis?
4. Baluchistan voted for reformist candidates. (Most Baluchis are Sunnis and are afraid of the Shiite hardliners).
Can you imagine that people like Ledeen are actually allowed to come on television as “experts” or to publish in political journals despite spewing complete nonsense? If your son or daughter gets drafted and sent to die in Iran, it will be in some part because of the propaganda spread by people like Ledeen, who, by the way, has some sort of weird relationship both to the more fascistic elements in Italian military intelligence and to the Likud extremists in Israel. NB: The false Niger uranium documents were forged by a former agent of Italian military intelligence . . .
All that said, it is probably true that there was some ballot stuffing by Ahmadinejad supporters. It was alleged by clerical moderate Karrubi, and it is plausible. These presidential elections are the least free and fair since the early 1990s, though all along there has been a problem of the exclusion and vetting of candidates by the clerics. On the other hand, it seems undeniable that Ahmadinejad’s campaign struck a chord with many Iranians tired of corruption and economic stagnation. He may well have won the second round even without those “extra” ballots.
By the way, rightwing US commentators often slam Iranian elections because the candidates are vetted by the clerical Guardian Council for their loyalty to the Khomeinist ideology. In the past two years, the vetting has grown ever more rigorous, excluding relative liberals from running for parliament or president. The commentators are correct.
However, in the United States the “first past the post” system of winner-takes-all elections and the two-party system play a similar role in limiting voters’ choices of candidates. Neither libertarians nor socialists are likely to be serious contenders for the presidency in the United States, since neither of the two dominant parties will run them. The US approach to limiting voter choice is systemic and so looks “natural,” but US voters have a narrower range of practical choices in candidates than virtually any other democratic societ