Belaboring the Obvious

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


It's quite incredible, actually, that we've sunk this far, this fast. After living through both the McCarthy and the Nixon years, I never expected these almost six years to be a combination of both--although, in retrospect, I suppose I should have.

Lately, I've been thinking of Bush and Cheney as the malignant equivalent of Wilbur and Eliza in Vonnegut's Slapstick, the twins who, like the halves of the brain, don't function too well without each other, but come up with all sorts of ideas when they put their heads together. Separate and apart, Bush and Cheney would just be their usual fuck-up selves. Together, in close daily contact, they're able to dream up all kinds of bad shit and then validate and reinforce each other's world view.

Maybe the clearer image is that of Perry and Dick of In Cold Blood infamy. Capote's thesis is that separate and apart, neither one would have done what they did, but together, they fed off of each other's worst inclinations and created, in effect, a third personality that was capable of killing people in cold blood.

I'm not sure how far the analogy can be stretched, but I'm less enamored, lately, of the view that Cheney is the deeply calculating Svengali behind the wars, the torture and the executive power grab. Cheney is pretty stupid, too, in his own way (lying about the evidence after the evidence shows otherwise is an indication of a deeply-flawed intellect--don't let anyone convince you otherwise). These are things with which Bush, too, is comfortable. Bush and Cheney, as children, probably would have both found delight in blowing up frogs, and they would have pooled their pocket change for a package of Black Cats. Rove is just the evil little bastard egging them on, and then finding a way to weasel out of responsibility for the bad acts.

Cheney and Bush have shared lies about motives for war, have both been complicit in making torture and kidnapping tools of state policy, believed (or wanted to believe) the same bullshit intelligence, have the same appearance of being emotionally and morally disconnected from the effects of their actions. There's a real Tweedledum and Tweedledee ambience to them.

What's gone on in the five years since 9/11/01 is fairly classic conspiratorial thinking, except on a large scale. Cheney has surrounded himself with people who believe as he does--he doesn't have to convince people--including Bush--of his point of view. Bush himself has said he doesn't have to explain himself to anyone (well, of course not--except perhaps to the people of the country, an electoral relationship which doesn't interest him in the slightest). What's unique about the current situation is that the top two guys, without each other, couldn't pull off the con. Bush is the publicly visible front man, while Cheney is the guy in the background, steering the marks to the game.

Nah, who they really resemble are Beavis and Butt-head in late middle age, stuck in the warp and woof of their own reality. Try to imagine Beavis with nuclear weapons and Butt-head with control of the NSA and the CIA, and you've got the picture. Give `em guns and what happens? Bush shoots endangered species and Cheney shoots his lawyer friend. Beavis and Butthead in the flesh.

There's probably no more sensible explanation for what's created the precipitous decline in American life than the country being run by a couple of aging headbangers. Bush and Cheney, like Beavis and Butt-head, spread brainless destruction and wanton vandalism wherever they go, whatever they do.

I think, many years from now, historians will probably come to a similar conclusion. They're going to look at clips of Beavis and Butthead, clips of Bush and Cheney, and think the same thing. The only thing they'll be confused about is who inspired who.


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