Just Above Sunset
May 23, 2004 - Vox Populii, Vox Dei and all that stuff...
and all that stuff…
A smattering of comment
on the web of note –
It's a point which has frequently been made by many commentators,
but it's worth restating for about the millionth time. Back when Bush was running
for president, the media lickspittles assured us that it didn't really matter that Bush may not, actually, be competent enough
to do the job because he would surround himself by a gaggle of "grownups" who would, you know, actually run the government. And, that would be fine and dandy because the country really just wants a president
they can imagine having a beer with.
Well, the long knives are
out in DC this weekend. The grownups are a bit unhappy. Bush is not saying much. Not his business.
For most of us centrists, the fact that George Bush's approval ratings
have fallen into the mid-40s is not surprising. The real shock is that so many
Americans still believe he's doing a good job in the face of the enormous amount of objective evidence to the contrary. Clearly, there is something at work here that goes beyond reason and logic.
As I mentioned before,
Kerry speaks fluent French and folks do remember the words of Marge Simpson - "We can stand here like the French, or we
can do something about it."
I'm almost 40 and during my life world history has been largely a story of fatalism. Chronic starvation in Africa? Well, the Bible says the poor are always with us. Maoist killing seasons in Asia? We can't get involved. Women subjugated in the Middle East? Don't go imposing our culture on others. People forget how revolutionary President Clinton's "humanitarian interventions" were -- the first true manifestation of "never again" in foreign policy. As Beinart wrote, what is at stake in Iraq is the principle of universal liberal democracy. If we fail in Iraq, the American zeitgeist will be that we offered Iraqis freedom but "those people are different." Already some on the right are mumbling this, and if the left thinks the U.N. will fill the void, note that their reaction to the mini-genocide of Sudan has been to elect the genociders to its human rights panel. Maybe saddest of all: Kerry seems to understand all of this and yet he is attacked on both sides for the sin of a nuanced opinion.
The president says, repeatedly,
that he doesn’t do nuance.
The Bush Administration has not made it easy on its supporters. David Brooks now admits that he was gripped with a "childish fantasy" about Iraq. Tucker Carlson is "ashamed" and "enraged" at himself.
Tom Friedman, admitting to being "a little slow," is finally off the reservation.
Die-hard Republican publicist William Kristol admits of Bush, "He did drive us into a ditch." The neocon fantasist
and sometime Republican speechwriter Mark Helprin complains on the Wall Street Journal editorial page--the movement's
Pravda--of "the inescapable fact that the war has been run incompetently, with an apparently deliberate contempt for
history, strategy, and thought, and with too little regard for the American soldier, whose mounting casualties seem to have
no effect on the boastfulness of the civilian leadership."
Otherwise, it’s nuance?
What was Bush's public response to the man responsible for what Senator
Ted Kennedy aptly terms "America's steepest and deepest fall from grace in the history of our country"? It was to congratulate him for doing "a superb job." In Congress the word came from Dick Cheney's office
to "get off [Rumsfeld's] case."
is not subtle here, is he? Well, no one is surprised, and, in fact, it seems
folks want four more years of this.
Ric in Paris sent along
these comments -
then he added this:
22.05 - No Surprise
Bonjour Alan –
People in New York City are worried that 'the terrorists' are going to be looking for revenge. They are worried that they will be the target because wars no longer only pit trained soldiers in uniform
against each other. Of course the people in New York City have already been hit, so they know it can happen, and they are
pretty convinced that nobody in Washington will do anything to stop it. This
is the only result - of the all-out 'war on terrorism' waged by armchair neocon hawks.
While few outside of America are 'surprised,' potential victims in America are disappointed and afraid. They lack hope. When New Yorkers become hopeless, this is
a danger signal.
Is there anybody there with any ideas about how to get out of the mess the United States has created for itself? Try to guess what it means if the answer is 'no.'
If 'no,' expect the folly to continue. You have, as they say, not seen
I am not following any of this carefully. I didn't 'follow' Vietnam either.
But if any remember it - a classic example of folly - that war wasn't over in '69; it dragged on until '74 or '75,
ending with the United States escaping from Saigon with only the shirt on its back.
The United States looks like it is setting itself up for another debacle and doesn't appear to have any way of changing
the course of history that it's following.
What 'friends of America' think about this is irrelevant. What Americans
think of it - well, it's your future. It's time to sit down and think your way
out of the situation. This is not a reassuring message given the way things seem
Yes. We created a mess. And there may be no
way out. See May 23, 2004: Notes on the War Scandals in this issue.
When last we left our sneering caped crusaders, Rummy had testified
under oath that he didn't really know who ordered what at Abu "Tortures 'R' Us" Ghraib prison, and George "Wha Happun?" Bush
was mumbling into his hand puppet about how he was utterly shocked and appalled and was blaming the whole thing on "a coupla
bad apples" and gul-dangit, he warn't gunna stan' fer it.
Yeah, over the top. But so what?
It is the eternal Bush conundrum. How to appear sort of blank faced and ignorant of the true atrocities your administration commits so as to avoid any sort of direct accountability, and yet still pretend to be a savvy, aware, tough-guy leader who gets things done and takes no bull and launches unprovoked wars on anything that stands in the way ….
This is the key to the
upcoming landslide for Bush – maintaining the willfully dumb but in control image.
And Bush has handled it well so far.
So then. You gotta admit,
maybe Bush isn't all that stupid after all. Maybe he's not the smirking aww-shucks
born-again simpleton he constantly appears to be, the one who sits back and lets his henchmen do all the dirty work and all
the complex thinking while he lets Condi Rice massage his ego and fill him in at the ranch while taking more vacation time
than any other president in history.
Oh heck, it’s not
that a nation gets the leaders it deserves (which always seemed to me to be a nasty way of insulting Americans as not deserving
much). It’s more that the nation gets the leaders it wants. And if the polls are to be believed, half of America wants just what we’ve got.
This issue updated and published on...
Paris readers add nine hours....