Belaboring the Obvious

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Same As You Ever Was....

Virtually nothing that Bush does any more can surprise me. His new lows are just marginally, incrementally worse than his usual. Same with his campaign to equate WWII with his already overblown "war on terra." It's showing both his low-C grades in history and his outsized need to appear heroic against all odds (a tendency of his which becomes much more apparent as elections approach).

One of the great myths generated by his White House was that the attacks of 9/11 "changed everything." The press told us, with the helpful assistance of Bush's PR flacks, that the day had transformed Bush from an easily bored, pitiably self-absorbed man-child borne of wealth and possessed of a gargantuan sense of entitlement into a great leader of his people.


Bush is exactly the same as he has always been. From the moment of his inauguration, the PR people, inside the White House, andin and out of the mainstream press, sought to create new standards for him that were immediately and noticeably lower than in previous years. He was an even worse extemporaneous public speaker than his father (whose own skills in that regard left much to be desired). He and his White House, in compensation, staged elaborate photo-ops for which Bush invariably dressed the part, built expensive sets, always with a repeating message intended to outline Bush's empty policies better than he could do in person. The stage sets were intended to speak for him because he could not.

What the catch-phrases revealed, instead of policy, was that Bush's policy cupboard was just as empty as his head. There was no policy--there was only politics. He had a few idle notions gathered over the years from rich friends and family who hated the legacies of FDR's time, such as Social Security, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the independent government agencies which limited the rapaciousness of American capitalism--the FCC, FERC, the FDA and, most especially, the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he once described as "an enemy of capitalism."

Through September 10, 2001, the public had already become inured to Bush's verbal bumbling, and thought little of his proposed programs. Despite the extended honeymoon afforded him by the press, Bush's performance ratings after eight months in office were hovering around 50%. He'd already reneged on his campaign promise to pursue American participation in the Kyoto Protocol, and his desires to unilaterally void treaties in order to see completion of an anti-ballistic missile system were not popular with the public. His staff and cabinet choices were seen as highly ideological and far more right-wing than Bush protrayed himself when campaigning, and apart from Colin Powell, were viewed as political hacks, people who were more interested in dismantling agencies than running them competently (indeed, Spencer Abraham was picked to run the Dept. of Energy, an agency Abraham had wanted to eliminate during his term in Congress). George W. Bush was fast shaping up to be a much hollower imitation of his not-so-hot father.

Then, along came nineteen hijackers with the brilliantly simple idea to turn fuel-laden planes into flying bombs, and, so we're repeatedly told, everything changed, the world was suddenly different. And, so we're still told today, so was George W. Bush changed by the experience.

Except he wasn't. He was still the same person. Had all his advisors and his speechwriters been killed on that day, the nation would have seen that to be true. George Bush didn't change, but the PR strategy certainly did. Bush didn't get to New York until four days later because that strategy was being worked out, along with a way to include Iraq and Saddam Hussein in a criminal act for which he was not accountable.

As a result, we've had two wars, both of which have gone badly, and have yet to accomplish Bush's aims expressed during his "bullhorn moment" in New York City. Bush, his voice artificially amplified, said, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon."

What Bush wasn't admitting to anyone, then or later, was that most of the people who knocked those buildings down and the people who funded them were Saudis. By not doing so, Bush was showing himself to be the same as he always had been. His failing businesses had been bailed out by wealthy Saudis. His father's fortunes had depended upon friendly relations with wealthy Saudis and the Saudi royal family, and it was his father's determination to put U.S. troops on Saudi soil in 1990 and keep them there permanently that created the religious motive for the September, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, as well as previous attacks on the USS Cole in 2000, American embassies in eastern Africa in 1998 and on the World Trade Center in 1993. When Congress finally produced its seriously flawed report on the events surrounding the 9/11 attacks, after much stalling and stonewalling from Bush's staff, twenty-eight pages detailing Saudi involvement in and financing of the attacks were redacted in their entirety by the Bush White House. Seven months after the attacks, Bush was busy with plans to shape-shift Saudis into Iraqis. Asked about bin Laden in March, 2002, Bush averred that he didn't "think about him that much."

What Bush was doing, however, was fucking things up again, something, when left to his own devices, he is quite good at. Bush wasn't interested in chasing down Saudi criminals responsible for the deaths of thousands--but he was consumed with starting a war with Iraq that he and the neo-conservatives in his administration had been planning for years.

That war--precisely because Bush is not bright nor well-educated nor inclined to take advice from his betters, the same exact qualities he possessed prior to 9/11--has steadily gone from bad to worse to downright awful. In governance and in affairs of state, he is still the low-C student that he was at Yale, still the same petulant and self-indulgent frat boy with no interest in ideas other than those small, resentful few that have been rattling around in the wide-open spaces of his cranium these many decades (recent propaganda about his reading habits notwithstanding--"I read three Shakespeares").

As that war has deteriorated, as his methods have become progressively and institutionally more corrupt and brutal, it has been a reflex action for his White House to create new PR campaigns around him in the attempt to remake his image. In the last couple of years, he's been variously compared to Churchill, Truman--even the despised FDR--in attempts to salvage his hopelessly-mired reputation through association. None of those comparisons have stuck, though, and their latest attempt to dredge up "good war" memories that can be glommed onto the detritus of Bush's wars of aggression is to equate a few hundred terrorists world-wide to Hitler and Lenin, all the while portraying Bush's increasing number of detractors as "appeasers" akin to Neville Chamberlain. (One must ask, why not Stalin, too? Perhaps they're saving him for the days closer to the November elections. Or, perhaps it's because Stalin was an ally in that WWII Bush's handlers are desperately trying to evoke.)

What's left for Bush's PR people and speechwriters to snatch from the historical costume trunk to drape on the emaciated frame of Bush's legacy? They're running out of WWII icons with which to embellish his declining popularity (even among his erstwhile supporters).

Given that Bush's post-9/11 aura is a thing of fiction, a contrivance (as has been his pre-Presidential personal history), perhaps fictional characters are all that are left. Is Karl Rove, in his occasional pensive moment, imagining himself as Bush's Dr. Reinstein?


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