Friday, September 21, 2007

Call Any Vegetable

It's bad enough that, despite his vaunted Yale/Harvard pedigree, apparently C-Plus Augustus spent his entire matriculation either loaded or playing his weird, insecure little towel-snapping frat-boy games. What's worse is that he never stops being proud of that shit.

“I think I got a B in Econ 101,’’ [Bush] said at a White House press conference this morning. “I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low.''

His tax cuts, [Bush] asserted, have helped the U.S. economy recover from the recession he faced when he took office and the terrorist attacks that followed. “I say that the fundamentals of our nation’s economy are strong,’’ Bush said today. “There is no question that there is some unsettling times in the housing market…. (but) I’m optimistic about our economy.’’

Considering his major was history, and he's clearly flunked that while in office, one's confidence in Mister Man's economic insight is definitely not bolstered.

[Bush], in a press conference that lasted little longer than a half-hour, repeatedly played off his own image as a poor student, noting that he likes to remind people that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has “the PhD… I’m the C student,’’ he said, but look who’s the leader and who’s the adviser.

He's made this sort of comment a lot over the years. I'd like him to elaborate on that some time. I'm sure he thinks he's just making a little funny or something, but it'd be interesting to really grill him on this. What exactly does he really think the basis for this hoary chestnut is?

Because the more he trots it out, the more I'm convinced that it's just his way of telling the world once again to suck it, that no matter how much you study, how much you learn, how much you know, you can always be undone by a well-heeled cobag. The meritocracy is for suckas; being born lucky is where it's at.

Since it's been nearly a solid week already, I'm surprised he didn't trot out that stupid fucking story about how Daddy fought the Japanese in WW2, and now he, Prince Junior of Tumbleweedville, can talk to the Japanese leader as a friend and ally. I realize that this is what passes for deep thought and reflection on Bush's part, and that is precisely the problem, or at least one major one.

Honestly, it wouldn't even make sense for die-hard supporters to find these dumb, fake self-deprecations even marginally humorous; seeing as how they constantly evangelize about the existential urgency of What We Face, one would think that seriousness and competence would be of primary importance to them. Then again, they have chronically, tragically mistaken buffoonish, insecure stubbornness for intellectual integrity and clarity of purpose.

Although when it comes to trying to salvage a coherent legacy, you can't say that Bush doesn't at least have intent, if not ontological clarity. For him, it is more important to use Petraeus' squinty reports as selectively as possible, accruing all the credit, and using Petraeus' reputation to absolve himself of any blame. This requires significant revisionism.

There has never been a moment when we were not winning in Iraq. Victory has followed victory, from "Mission Accomplished" to the purple fingers of the Iraqi election to, most recently, President Bush's meeting at Camp Cupcake in Anbar province with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the Sunni leader of the group Anbar Awakening (who was assassinated a week later). Turning point has followed turning point, from Bush's proclamation two years ago of his "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" to his announcement last week of his "Return on Success." "We're kicking ass," he briefed the Australian deputy prime minister on Sept. 6 about his latest visit to Iraq. In his quasi-farewell address to the nation on Sept. 13, Bush assigned any possible shortcomings to Gen. David Petraeus and bequeathed his policy "beyond my presidency" to his successor.


One week after Petraeus flashed his metrics, a whole new set of facts on the ground suddenly emerged: an admission (previously denied) by Petraeus that the United States was arming the Sunnis, who might use those weapons in the next phase of Iraq's civil war; the release of a Pentagon report that there is "an increase in intra-Shi'a violence throughout the South" (a report conveniently withheld as Petraeus was testifying); the Iraqi government's expulsion of Blackwater, a private security firm with close ties to the administration, after a band of its guards gunned down Iraqi civilians; the restriction of all nonmilitary U.S. personnel in Iraq to the Green Zone; a report by the Iraqi Red Crescent that about 1 million people are internal refugees as a result of ethnic cleansing (apart from the more than 2 million refugees who have fled the country); and the announcement by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of an investigation into the State Department's inspector general for quashing scrutiny and embarrassing studies of fraud in the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, among other projects.

But we're "kicking ass". Right.

Of course, this has been a well-established behavioral pattern with Bush, a mama's boy through and through. Lacking even the rudimentary skills of intelligent diplomacy or even noblesse oblige that he might have gleaned from his father (were he not locked in lifelong mortal combat with him), he seems instead to have cultivated his mother's more abrasive, abusive people skills. Most of this essentially revolves around viewing people outside the family -- not to mention the √ľntermenschen -- as a whole 'nother species.

Bush is a classic insecure authoritarian who imposes humiliating tests of obedience on others in order to prove his superiority and their inferiority. In 1999, according to Draper, at a meeting of economic experts at the Texas governor's mansion, Bush interrupted Rove when he joined in the discussion, saying, "Karl, hang up my jacket." In front of other aides, Bush joked repeatedly that he would fire Rove. (Laura Bush's attitude toward Rove was pointedly disdainful. She nicknamed him "Pigpen," for wallowing in dirty politics. He was staff, not family -- certainly not people like them.)

Bush's deployed his fetish for punctuality as a punitive weapon. When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked. Aides have been fearful of raising problems with him. In his 2004 debates with Sen. John Kerry, no one felt comfortable or confident enough to discuss with Bush the importance of his personal demeanor. Doing poorly in his first debate, he turned his anger on his communications director, Dan Bartlett, for showing him a tape afterward. When his trusted old public relations handler, Karen Hughes, tried gently to tell him, "You looked mad," he shot back, "I wasn't mad! Tell them that!"

At a political strategy meeting in May 2004, when Matthew Dowd and Rove explained to him that he was not likely to win in a Reagan-like landslide, as Bush had imagined, he lashed out at Rove: "KARL!" Rove, according to Draper, was Bush's "favorite punching bag," and the president often threw futile and meaningless questions at him, and shouted, "You don't know what the hell you're talking about."

Of course, now he's all righteously indignant about how those meanies at MoveOn have abused poor ol' Honest Dave Petraeus. But make no mistake -- had Petraeus insisted on presenting truly unvarnished information at the hearings, Bush would have unceremoniously dumped him out on his medals, and promptly found someone else to toe the company line. This is not in dispute; the previous pattern makes that abundantly clear.

What is also made abundantly clear is that Bush -- who pretends at convenient moments to be a sensitive soul -- regards other humans simply by their utility to him. If he can look buddy-buddy to them and play on their awe for the office, even better for him.

Those around him have learned how to manipulate him through the art of flattery. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld played Bush like a Stradivarius, exploiting his grandiosity. "Rumsfeld would later tell his lieutenants that if you wanted the president's support for an initiative, it was always best to frame it as a 'Big New Thing.'" Other aides played on Bush's self-conception as "the Decider." "To sell him on an idea," writes Draper, "aides were now learning, the best approach was to tell the president, This is going to be a really tough decision." But flattery always requires deference. Every morning, Josh Bolten, the chief of staff, greets Bush with the same words: "Thank you for the privilege of serving today."

You decide which you find more unnerving, that his staffers have simply learned to work with the adolescent ego-trip buttons Bush wears on his sleeve, or the dickless cringing Bolten butters his boss' ass with at the start of each day.

Is it irresponsible to smack Bush around with his own words and deeds, in some vainglorious attempt at long-distance armchair psychoanalysis? It is irresponsible not to.

Getting any satisfaction out of Bush himself is just never going to happen, even reputation-wise. He's obviously incapable of even considering that he's a monumental fuck-up, much less admitting it, even to himself. Even the utterly failed and fraudulent legacy of this administration is going to get soft-pedaled by the corporate media, whose legitimacy after all is underpinned by the symbiotic relationship they share with the powers of governance. They are wedded to their retarded mommy/daddy party narrative, and they are no longer willing to stray from it. There's no reason to -- they make lots of money peddling that same tired-ass frame.

The illusion of legitimacy -- both in government and in media -- is required apparently, though for the life of me I can't figure out why. There's no fucking way any more than a fraction of a percent of this country is ever going to leave their comfort zone and actually do something constructive. Hell, even resolving not to waste gas and buy shit at Wal-Mart would be an actual statement; it's not as if rioting in the streets is necessary.

But even those two simple things are evidently out of our power. People on either side would rather be seen indulging in the ineffectual karaoke of marching in the street on some agreed day of commemoration, and then go right back to what they were doing out in the 'burbs. A few people make speeches, lock horns, maybe get arrested, the counts get fudged in the reportage, done deal.

The least we can do, one hopes, is to resolve to stop getting bamboozled into letting intellectual and emotional mediocrities mosey into power and ruin the country, on nothing more than the strength of their last names. No more Bushes, and frankly, if she's not going to resist these fuckers more forcefully, I don't see the need for the continuation of the Clinton dynasty either.

But clearly righting the country, and restoring our position and integrity in the world, is going to involve much more than simply waiting out Bush. The people who put him there are still there, in the media, in the commentariat, in the slovenly, despicable Beltway punditocracy that sees everything as an equation of political gamesmanship, instead of policies that affect peoples' lives. Either we want to get the fuck out of Iraq and figure something out with Iran, or we settle for listening to gutless bloviators pretend to insist on yet another last chance, yet one more six-month finale to this mess. Either we start looking for ways to get ourselves and each other off the oil tit, or we wait for somebody to do it for us at a tidy profit.

Because 2008 won't change much at all, really, if 2007 is any indication. So we get a Democratic preznit and a slightly larger Dem majority in Congress. Well, we've had a Dem congressional majority all year now. What, precisely, has changed, and why exactly are we supposed to pretend that more of the same is something better? They'll just engage in further rear-guard faux-centrism, which boils down to talking loud and then letting the thirty-percenters push them around some more. Either stand tall for something, anything, or sit the fuck down already. We need another non-binding resolution like we need another "preventive" war.


Marius said...

I read the excerpts from Draper's book that you quote, and, frankly, I couldn't control my horror. You know, I grew up under Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, and they were exactly the same type of people. Obviously, I'm not saying him and Bush are up to the same things -- for one, Bush happens to govern in a country that still has some constitutional checks imposed on him. But they are, essentially, the same type of character, the material out of which fascist leaders are made (whether they steer left or right is secondary, in this respect). They have the same vile, small soul, beset by deep insecurities that only everyone's general submission can assuage; and the same infantile thirst for collective obedience and lackeyish flattery from everyone else.

In Latin America, G-Dubs would have been the first caudillo of the "republic." In the Middle East, he'd be "reelected" in a manufactured landslide three decades in a row. In Central Asia, he'd be the "most beloved son" of the grateful nation. But what boggles my mind is: how the fuck did this monumental failure of a man get to rule over the world's first democratic republic -- twice!

Heywood J. said...

Sounds about right, Marius. In the end, we may simply be lucky that Bush is too temperamentally lazy to rigorously impose much more than what he already has. I know some quarters have been what-iffing the notion of a (real or false-flag) terrorist incident being used as pretext for martial law and/or suspension of elections.

I doubt that. For one, it sounds like too much trouble for a lazy, incompetent person surrounded by inept sycophants; for another, it's largely unnecessary in the first place. They've seen what we will put up with. They've seen what little the opposition party can muster when cornered. They know that media will dutifully follow their every cue, help them bolster every lie.

The people made themselves quite clear last November, and still nothing has changed. So why bother with the effort of actual authoritarianism?

People like Ceaucescu ruled by the threat of real, physical fear. They had to; there was no other significant leverage. Here people are scared of becoming poor, of losing their toys and privileges. You get them in that mindset, they do half the work for you.

It's not that much trouble for the powers that be to brace themselves with urban paramilitary squads five or six times per year for this or that ANSWER-organized, undercounted march. They let the marchers go through their paces and pretend some difference has been made. It's harmless.

But if people just opted out of the game en masse, they wouldn't know what the fuck to do.

As for how Bush pulled it off twice, aside from help from Combover Tony Scalia the first time and Diebold the second, it's just a function of how Americans view politics. It's common for furriners to compliment us on our gregariousness, which is great, and I think true to a large extent. We do mean well, as long as it's on our terms. We don't salt the earth in our wake, especially when there's money to be made.

But you couple that gregarious nature with profound ignorance about serious subjects, a shortsighted suspicion of most things foreign-seeming or overly intellectual, and a remarkable degree of entitlement, and it makes sense that a certain amount of people would vote for a drinking buddy, even one who claims to have quit drinking.

Mr. Natural said...

"one would think that seriousness and competence would be of primary importance"

That's what we GET for fuckin' thinking! I am so tired of being angry and disgusted that I am making plans to emigrate my ragged old veteran ass to New Zealand at 60 years old...

Will be posting about my visit to a small-town town hall meeting with Brian Baird over at Left Edge North on sunday or Monday.

BTW: This looks like a good, thoughtful intelligent blog ya got goin here!

Heywood J. said...

One other thing. I do think this sort of political boobism occurs on both sides of the aisle with regularity, though it does seem to be more endemic to rightist types.

But the ascendancy of a person such as Ron Paul, who has nothing at all in common with liberals aside from opposition to the war, illustrates this perfectly. Paul is a stone libertarian; every other position he has ever taken on any major issue is just about diametrically opposed to what a liberal would take.

So whose interest would it be in for otherwise liberal characters to be spinning their wheels for a crank like Paul? And why they would fall for something so transparently wasteful of their time and effort?

Bottom line: we'll be allowed to make a nose-holding Pepsi/Coke choice between two people who basically promise not to disrupt the retarded pattern of, for example, dropping entire pallets of $100 bills in Iraq for subcontractors to snuffle through. Or cut the insurance and drug companies out of whatever health-care grift they conjure up.

And that means that it's always possible to get stuck yet again with an emotionally and intellectually stunted, easily manipulated cartoon character.

Heywood J. said...

Thanks, Mr. Natural. I've often thought about places like NZ or Ireland as well, just a place to walk away to, a refuge from the nonsense. I wonder how possible it is anymore, unless you just commit to going completely off the grid.

thedevilzone said...

it's largely unnecessary in the first place. They've seen what we will put up with. They've seen what little the opposition party can muster when cornered. They know that media will dutifully follow their every cue, help them bolster every lie.

The people made themselves quite clear last November, and still nothing has changed. So why bother with the effort of actual authoritarianism?

IOZ plucked the words right outta my head.

[...]If you asked me, "What would a contemporary police state look like?" I'd reply that it would look an awful lot like what America looks like right now. I would tell you that subsidized consumer affluence has proven a far more effective method of social control than centrally planned, faux-egalitarianism. I would tell you that someone finally figured out that breadlines breed rebellion but lines at the multiplex for the midnight opening of the next blockbuster do not. I would tell you that keeping up with the Joneses has proven a more effective enforcer of conformity than any book of Dear Leader's wisdom ever did. I would tell you that hope for Vegas vacations beats fear of the work camps for quashing dissent. I would tell you that subtle is better than overt, seemingly random better than routine, carnivalesque better than somber, colorful better than drab. Look at the billions of dollars and man-hours thrown into deciding between a guy from Massachusetts and a gal from New York who evince no convincingly held differences of belief. Has ever a nation been farther from revolution than the United States in the year 2007?

I feel a great many people waiting, breathing shallowly, as if one day at last the whole edifice will tip over and reveal its infested foundation. It won't. I feel as if a great many people are waiting for a president to suspend the government, or for black-hood squads to start snatching people in broad daylight, or for the police to establish checkpoint entrances to our cities and loyalty oaths in our schools. (That last, of course, already . . . ) They are waiting, in other words, for incontrovertible and public evidence that Denmark is rotten, some moment of national epiphany when Candidate-for-Life Benito Giuliani descends through the clouds in his own airline trailing some athletic blond with a camera on his way to a firelit vigil in Yankee Stadium.[...]

Heywood J. said...


Right, you don't need to use real, visceral fear the way the Soviets and their satellites did. When people are mostly afraid of becoming poor (as distinct from simply being poor, which is something that people can be born to, and thus eventually accustomed to), they do half the work of the covert authoritarian police state for them, without even realizing it.

But I love the way IOZ puts it in that excerpt you shared. Breadlines breed rebellion, but lines at the multiplex do not. That's right on the money. And I dig the Sex in the City reference earlier in the post, very apropos.