Belaboring the Obvious

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Who Said It Was a Kid...

... that said the emperor had no clothes? In this 21st century retelling of the fable, it was no kid. It was Stephen Colbert, probably as snarky and savvy a political satirist to come along in a while.

Colbert was like that kid, telling Bush that he was politically stark-naked, and then reminding Bush's adoring press that they were just like the courtiers in the old tale, who smiled and nodded approval as the king's ass hung out in the wind. Some of that same press might even be the clever con-men who sold the king his magical cape and pantaloons in the first place.

And they hated Colbert for reminding them that just about everybody knows that Bush's political ass has been hanging out in the wind for so long, it's chapped. Functions such as the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner used to serve, at best, a marginal function (allowing the human and sensitive side of utter ogres to be paraded before the public and press, perhaps if only to prove to the press that the things they used to say about those utter ogres ought to be tempered with the knowledge that, gee, they're human beings with feelings, too), but, with this administration, what's the point? As the polls show, there are fewer and fewer people alive who believe George W. Bush is human--because his policies are inhuman--and even fewer care if he is or not.

Did the press, in general, see Colbert's chastisement as an opportunity for introspection? No. Most either panned Colbert and praised Bush's doppelganger routine, or simply ducked Colbert's razor and went merrily along with a description of how human Bush was by directing attention to his own verbal foibles. Most of those same reviewers also did not come right out and say that Colbert sliced them up better than could Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., on a good day.

Maybe, just maybe, it's time to put this trite homage to bonhomie between press and Bush White House to rest for a while. You'd think that the press would have cancelled this exercise in faux civility when Ari Fleischer started sneering at them and threatening them (remember "people should watch what they say?"). Now that the Bush administration is thinking about putting reporters in fuckin' jail, maybe they'll get the picture. To this inordinately secretive bunch of political hacks, the enemy is the people, because if the people notice just how much of the public trust and treasury they are stealing from under our noses, they might not be able to go on doing it.

What the dilettantes in the press haven't yet figured out (and this might well be why they still want to play kissy-face with rattlesnakes) is that they are supposed to represent the interests of that very same public, and that this White House has treated them, all along, with the same contempt they treat the public.

While the press is still trying to figure out why Stephen Colbert makes fun of them, here's what the public has figured out, on the basis of the evidence by reporters still doing their jobs:

  • The Bush admininstration has institutionalized kidnapping (extraordinary rendition), torture and murder around the world (the CIA black-world gulag, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo).
  • Bush himself lied repeatedly about the evidence and the reasons for a wholly unnecessary and long-premeditated war, and then used the troops themselves that he sent to war as backdrops for his reelection photo-ops (otherwise known as adding insult to injury).
  • The Bush administration has acted as a gatekeeper for rich contributors and contributing corporations to further increase their wealth at the expense of the public treasury and then has spent huge amounts of time, effort and public money avoiding accountability for doing so.
  • Bush himself has repeatedly broken the law, trampled on civil rights, and then bragged about it as a prerogative of his office.
  • Bush and Co. have sought to further deregulate industry by diluting the Clear Air and Clean Water Acts and environmental law, generally. This will have the effect of compromising the health and longevity of millions in the foreseeable future.
  • His rigidly anti-science agenda has precluded any legislative attempt to slow climate change. This will have profound effects on the oceans and may be a strong contributing factor to the expected extinction of many species.

Directly and indirectly, Bush has been responsible for a lot of misery in the world, and all for the love of power and money and a delusion-inspired religious mandate. Somewhere along the line, many in the press forgot all that. They wanted to be close to power, bathing in its reflected glory and profit by it. That plenty of charming people in the Bush administration don't even measure up to the low level of utter ogre just doesn't occur to this generation's obsequious press.

I give a lot of credit to those in the press still willing to show some skepticism about this administration and who are willing to do the difficult legwork in prying the truth out of this lockbox of a White House. But, the inside-the-Beltway press got a wake-up call this weekend from Stephen Colbert, and most of them didn't like it one bit. While many of them were being amused by Bush's show, and sitting on their hands when Colbert was backhandedly exhorting them to shake off the bad case of the vapors they've been exhibiting for the last few years, people like Charlie Savage were putting real stories to bed.

Perhaps those defenders of Bush in the press, against all hard evidence, still think his costumes are delightful. Or, maybe, they still believe, despite the dictatorial brutality implicit in his actions, that his charm is ample proof of his humanity.


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