Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Wimp Factor

Shouldn't real men be able to admit they made a mistake and need help? Rummy & Co. bullied the UN and treated allies like doormats before the war, thinking they could do everything themselves, thanks to the phony optimistic intelligence fed to them by the puppet Chalabi. No wonder they're meeting with a cold response as they slink back.
Shouldn't real men be reducing the numer of Middle East terrorists rather than increasing them faster than dragon's teeth?
Could the real men find some real men?
(From Bushworld, by Maureen Dowd) A fish rots from the head.

Born in Greenwich, Connecticut, schooled at Andover, Harvard, and Yale, he was a cheerleader, and "commissioner" of a stickball league (because unlike his dad, he had no real athletic talent,) George W. Bush claims to be a real Texas rancher, yet has never milked a cow. I'm not even sure he owns more than a head of cattle and a sheep, or more than one horse. He sure does wield a mean chainsaw at brush that any real man could clip with a pair of shears and a hacksaw.

Five years into this national nightmare, something has begun to crystalize in my mind: the guy's a wimp!

In 1987, Newsweek magazine published an issue which featured as its cover story The Wimp Factor, a treatise on Bush the Elder, which raised such hackles in the by-then floundering administration that the President himself memorized how many times the word wimp appeared in it, and called the publisher and editorial staff to a meeting and blasted them.

W. was a large part of that meeting. Even today, he claims he can't think about that article without his blood pressure jerking skyward. I think we see why now. Let's make the case.

First off, overreactions to a name like "wimp" can only mean one thing: a deep sensitivity to the word itself; in other words, fear that it might be true. For Bush 41, he was afraid that his moderate policies and lack of interest in domestic affairs translated into him being afraid of his own people. But why would Bush 43 have such a big problem with his father being called a wimp, especially in light of his repudiation of all things 41?

I'm not sure it's about Dad, in this case. I think perhaps he irrationally assumed that he, Bush 43, was being called a wimp, long before anyone thought to do so to a drunk cocaine-sniffing ne'er-do-well. Who dodged military service. Got into colleges on his daddy's name. Failed in businesses left and right. Had to rely on Saudi oil money to bail him out. Uh oh. Looks like maybe it wasn't so irrational after all.

I mean, what can be said about a guy who cheats to get elected? First, during the 2000 primaries, when it looked like McCain would have the nod locked up (and thus, we might have had a campaign with substance and debate as opposed to pandering nattering nabobs of Clinton-negativity), stories start "popping up" about an illegitimate black baby in his past (actually, he adopted the kid from Bangladesh in order to get her proper medical care). Or a guy who actually had to have his brother hand him the election by forcing the vote count to go his way? Or have a bunch of lying weasels make up stuff about his next opponent, John Kerry?

Corruption stems from fear, a fear of losing power. Greed is not good. Greed is fear.

Embodying this concept is the decision the Supreme Court handed down in "Bush v. Gore" in 2000, which essentially said "We declare George Bush the President, but the basis of this decision shall not be used in the future to set precedents." Meaning in their greed for power, the Bush's were afraid that this might be thrown back in their faces in subsequent elections (and it nearly was in 2004.)

More fear: On September 11, as the country was being attacked by terorrists, in a fashion that he had been warned about, did he react? Did he stop what he was doing and scramble Air Force One, the most protected airliner in the world, head back to DC, and take command?

No. First he sat stunned. Not angry, stunned, in a classroom for dozens of minutes, staring blankly into space while he digested what was occuring. Despite the fact that he had a full fighter escort and there was no evidence to suggest a military operation attacking our nation-- indeed, the available evidence suggests he knew that it was terrorists hijacking commercial airliners-- he then got on Air Force One and began to play "Find the P", shuffling around the country from airbase to airbase in a desperate attempt to hide from possible attack. No words of reassurance to the American people were to come from his office that day, the most frightening in this nation's history.

Not a surprising reaction, when you consider that he ducked military service, opting instead to protect Texas from warlords of Oklahoma. Mind you, his "wimp" dad flew combat missions over Korea and was actually shot down once. Mind you, he viciously attacks any critic or opponent of his who served by turning their military history back on them. Sounds like a little scared bully to me.

A thrice-failed businessman, he had to be bailed out by friends in Saudi Arabia. Harry Truman almost filed bankruptcy, but he managed to pay each and every person he owed money to back every dime they lent his business, without a bailout. Dubya drilled dust holes in Texas, and Saudis flew in bags of money to support him. That's right: the nation that owns a quarter of the world's oil reserves was helping Bush find a few barrels in the Texas plains.

He couldn't testify in front of the 9/11 commission (which he first opposed, then insisted upon) alone. He redacted 28 pages of the initial Congressional investigation into 9/11 to soothe Saudi concerns regarding detailed connections made between the 9/11 hijackers, Osama bin Laden and the Sauds.

He chided America's addiction to oil, then had to turn around and reassure the Sauds that we would continue to buy oil at the levels we had been, and then signed an energy bill from Cognress that included enormous giveaways to the oil industry less than 2 weeks later.

So much of this administration has been done out of public scrutiny and when you look at the modality of operation and psychology, you begin to understand why: they're afraid. Rather than confront us with an ideology, something for the nation to engage in honest debate, policy is determined behind closed doors then rammed down our throats. It's no wonder to me that Bush opted to change this modality for the immigration debate, only to see it flounder and falter. He is desperately seeking a way to reconnect to the American people, but like the frat-boy antics in college that made him popular, then despised, his ways have worn thin.

I think the signal that we were wearing out on him happened during the 2004 campaign. Recall that audiences were forced to sign loyatly oaths in order to attend rallies for Bush/Cheney '04? That said to me there are people in the administration deathly afraid of legitimately voiced-concerns over policy. After all, Kerry didn't have such a fealty-driven pledge and none of his rallies were ever disrupted by hecklers or worse. But consider that even after his reinauguration, audiences were carefully handpicked to present policy initiatives like the Social Security fiasco.

Anyone who has legitimately criticized this administration from a position of knowledge has been marginalized, but mere citizens looking for explanations are excommunicated.

Even his legislative agenda, as co-opted as its been, has been done sneakily. He has never vetoed a bill, and has even signed bills he's said he disagreed with. But not content with that facade of democracy, he has attached signing statements to his signature, explaining precisely which part of each bill he was going to freely ignore, or detailing precisely how he planned to alter enactment of the bill to suit his agenda, thus taking away from Congress the power to enact legislation as it (and presumably the populace) sees fit.

I could go on and on about his intentions and then failures in the face of any real opposition, rather than fight a legitimate fight over something he believed in (Harriet Miers, anyone?). But this post has already extended past its bedtime.

Here in the final thousand days of Bush's presidency, we start to see history pronouncing its verdict. From Newsday this week:
There have been other moments in the Bush presidency when he could and should have moderated his ideology.

When Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore ended the divisive battle over hanging chads by conceding the bitter 2000 election, Bush could have done the statesmanlike thing. He could have acknowledged the near-even split in the country and sought common ground. He opted instead for radical, revenue-draining tax cuts.

Then there was 9/11. Most of the world shared our pain and outrage, and voters would have rallied around a call for shared sacrifice. Bush should have tapped that unity in the fight against terrorism. He opted for a divisive, pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. He could have sounded the charge for energy independence. He stumped instead for an energy bill rich in tax cuts for his oil-industry friends.

Finally, there was the moment after his 2004 re-election. With the war going badly, its costs and the federal government's red ink mounting, Bush should have reconsidered his tax cuts for the wealthy and put forward a plan to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent. He pushed to make the tax cuts permanent and to privatize Social Security instead.

In each instance, Bush stuck to his conservative guns. Some voters applauded. Others retched. But it's no longer just a question of ideology.

With the administration's ineptitude in post-war Iraq and it's lethal bumbling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the issue now is simple competence. It's hard to avoid the sinking feeling that the country is being led down the wrong road by people who don't quite know what they're doing and refuse to listen to constructive criticism or to change course.

The question now isn't how to rescue the Bush presidency. It's how to rescue the nation.

Mendacity. What's the quote from "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof"?
Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game. Mendacity! You won't live with mendacity! Well, you're an expert at it. The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true, and nobody prints your name in the paper till you die.
Mendacity = wimpitude. "W." stands for "wimp."