To say the current US government is controversial is to grossly understate the facts. Opinion polls show Americans sharply divided on their president and his team. It's almost 50-50 among those who've made up their minds on George W Bush. You either love him or hate him.
Since I arrived in the United States two months ago, I've met people from both those camps and absolutely no one who sits on the fence. So if the words of a Nepali Times columnist occasionally seem anti-American, let it be known that my criticism of Washington are mild compared to what anti-Bush forces are saying here. Consider the books that are being churned out by the dozen as election fever takes hold and Americans get set to decide Bush's political fate this coming November. At the moment, I'm reading Fraud: The Strategy Behind The Bush Lies And Why The Media Didn't Tell You by Paul Waldman.
From the very first line in the opening chapter, Waldman gets the gloves off. 'The unfortunate truth is this,' he writes, 'George Bush is a fraud.' This is an American speaking, not an Iraqi Baathist or Osama Bin Laden's spokesman. The author goes on to explain that President Bush's persona as an inarticulate, but honest ordinary guy is a carefully cultivated fraud designed to dupe in the voters into ignoring his upbringing as a person of privilege, son of a former president, grandson of a United States Senator, a millionaire among millionaires. Waldman points out that Bush has never known economic want or uncertainty, wondered about paying the bills on time or gone hungry because of penny-pinching. There was always family money to bail him out of trouble, and that happened several times. So if the president's economic policies seem to be ignoring the poor and running the country's finances into the ground, it's only natural. Or so writes Paul Waldman.
Then there's comedian Al Franken's contribution to the groaning shelf of anti-Bush books. This one leaves no doubt about its intent from the title onwards. Lies and the Lying Liars who tell them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. It's an attack on the Bush administration and its many supporters in the media. This books is by a comedian and it's funny. But it's also disturbing because it argues that the current strand of dominant political thinking in America cares not a whit for truth or decency, only power and how to maintain it.
Bush critiques crowd the left end of the bookshelf too. Thieves in High Places, The Big Lie, how the Right Wing Propaganda Machine Distorts the Truth, Stupid White Men, Bushwhacked, Life in George W Bush's America, Losing Our Way in the New Century, Dude, Where's My Country? and American Dynasty, Aristocracy, Fortune and the politics of deceit in the House of Bush are all intensely anti-Bush, and I dare say, if written by a foreigner, they'd be considered anti-American. I can't recall a president who inspires such visceral feelings among his critics. Even Ronald Reagan, seen by opponents as slightly dim and too right wing, didn't have such enemies. And as for George W's supporters, the less said the better. But Ann Coulter, an author and defender of Bush, entitles her most recent book Treason, Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terror.
On the matter of President Bush, these States are far from United.