Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Madman, not a Doofus

Not Only the Worst President, but the Worst Possible President by Jane Smiley,

How do you build yourself a madman? Well, first you flatter him, and then you try never to make him angry, and then you feed him ideas that flatter him even more by making him seem to himself sentimentally visionary and powerful and righteous. You appeal to his already evident mean streak and his hot temper by reminding him all the time that he has enemies, and you cultivate his religious side so that the sense of righteous victimization inherent in extreme religion comes out. If he were not already an ignorant, dependant, fragile, and rigid person, he would not be susceptible to this sort of conditioning, but by temperament and practice, he has nothing of his own to counter your efforts. Then you hire a few shyster-sycophants like John Yoo to tell him (ignorant as he is, with no actual understanding of the Constitution), that as president he can do whatever he wants.

So, here he is, Little George, caught between the devil (Cheney) and the deep blue sea (fifty-some years of being infantilized by B/S/B). Cheney and Rumsfeld, aided by Rice and Miers and Hughes, convince him that his masculinity will only be enhanced by doing all the masculine things he missed out on over the years, especially making war. And Gerson gives his war a virtuous, godly gloss. And Gerson's words come out of his mouth so often that he believes them and thinks they are his. In the meantime, Karl Rove continues to think that he is the maestro, playing Little George (and his base and the rest of the nation) like his own personal piano. Playing the president, for Rove, means enhancing LIttle George's actual dependency while encouraging him to think that he's the boss (allowing him to call you "Turdblossom", for example, and isn't it telling that "turd" seems to be Bush's favorite imprecation, rather than, say, "fuck"?).

Bush is the worst possible president because he is simultaneously unusually ignorant for a president and unusually shallow, as well as desperate for a success he can call his own. I can see how in a certain sort of era--say an era of prosperity and world peace (can you think of one? I can't) an unusually ignorant and shallow man could bump along in the presidency for a few years without creating havoc and destruction, but these years didn't happen to be peaceful and prosperous, they happened to be delicate and dangerous. Clinton knew that, and he approached his compromising and self-contradictory foreign policy tasks with care. But Bush and his fellow boors were so blind that they adopted as their motto "anything but Clinton", sheer contrarianism and resentment. It wasn't enough to them for the US to be powerful, as it was in the Clinton years, or to be generally respected and appreciated--they wanted something more sensational--power they could feel, power that was erotic and fetishistic, power that was uncomfortable for others, power that would make them feel big by making others feel small, power that would show Clinton up. That's the tit Little George has been sucking for the last six years--the deluded propaganda of the neocons, addressed first to him and through him to the rest of us. What we saw the other night, when he proposed more war against more "foes" was the madman the last six years have created. This time, in his war against Iran, he doesn't even feel the need for minimal PR, as he did before attacking Iraq. All he is bothering with are signals--ships moving here, admirals moving there, consulates being raided in this other place. He no longer cares about the opinions of the voters, the Congress, the generals, the press, and he especially disdains the opinions of B/S/and B. Thanks to Gerson, he identifies his own little ideas with God (a blasphemy, of course, but hey, there's lots of precedent on this), so there's no telling what he will do. We can tell by the evidence of the last two months that whatever it is, it will be exactly the thing that the majority of the voters do not want him to do, exactly the thing that James Baker himself doesn't want him to do. The propaganda that Bush's sponsors and handlers have poured forth has ceased to persuade the voters but succeeded beyond all measure in convincing the man himself. He will tell himself that God is talking to him, or that he is possessed of an extra measure of courage, or he that he is simply compelled to do whatever it is. The soldiers will pay the price in blood. We will pay the price in money. The Iraqis will pay the price in horror. The Iranians will pay the price, possibly, in the almost unimaginable terror of nuclear attack. Probably, the Israelis will pay the price, too.

Little George isn't the same guy he was in 2000, the guy described by Gail Sheehy in her Vanity Fair profile--hyper-competitive and dyslexic, prone to cheat at games, always swinging between screwing up and making up, hating criticism and disagreement, careless of others but often charming. He is no longer the guy who the Republicans thought they could control (unlike, say, McCain). The small pathologies of Bush the candidate have, thanks to the purposes of the neocons and the religious right, been enhanced and upgraded. We have a bona fide madman now, who thinks of himself in a grandiose way as single-handedly turning the tide of history. Some of his Frankensteins have bailed, some haven't dared to, and others still seem to believe. His actions and his orders, especially about Iran, seem to be telling us that he will stop at nothing to prove his dominance. The elder Bush(es), Scrowcroft, Baker, and their friends, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gerson, and the neocons have made the monster and in the process endangered the country, the Constitution, and the world, not to mention the sanity of wretches like Jose Padilla (for an analysis of the real reason Gitmo continues to exist, see Dahlia Lithwick's article in Slate, here. Maybe the bums planned this mess for their own profit, or maybe they planned to profit without mess; maybe some of them regret what they have wrought. However, they all share the blame for whatever he does next.

Read the whole article

(Thanks to Teresa Ramsey.)

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