Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Way to take a stand there, Mr. President

[WARNING: Political content here. Leftism on display.]

I'm generally a charitable fellow, so I tend to assume that George W. Bush has some talents. Trouble is, I've never been terribly clear as to what they actually are. His life as a businessman reads like a virtual textbook on how to fail upward; his political accomplishments seem as due to timing and sycophancy as anything else; his communications skills are, shall we say, less than the best I've seen. I find the guy just mystifying.

But he does have one talent that I can identify: Bush has this remarkable way of saying exactly enough to keep his right-wing, Christian base happy without crossing the line into scaring the shit out of everyone else (except those of us on the left who know what he's doing). He's constantly throwing out little bones to the Pat Robertson crowd: his stem-cell "policy", his allusions to the Dred Scott case in speeches a few months back, and today, his contention that creationism and Intelligent Design should be taught in schools, "so people can understand what the debate is about."

Of course, there really is no debate, as the esteemed Dr. Myers continually demonstrates. But this is what Bush does: he goes only so far and no farther in mollifying his base. Does he fully endorse Creationism, coming right out and saying that that's what he believes? No. He does his two-faced "just so we can understand the debate" thing, which is of the same cloth as his "Hmmmm, we need to study it more" approach to global warming. And of course this all sounds perfectly reasonable, and the press reports it as the President sounding perfectly reasonable, because if there's one absolutely killer insight Karl Rove and the other handlers of George W. Bush have realized, it's that today's press will always concentrate on how the President seems, and not trouble much to see if the way he seems lines up with the way he acts. The press will buy right into this, since nearly every news story these days is just a straight "He said, she said" affair; reporters won't even think to ask if education should also be a "they say, we say" affair.

So, as long as I'm bitching about George W. Bush, what else is there? Well, there's the meme, which has almost become accepted conventional wisdom, that liberals like myself somehow "look down" upon "Red Staters", or "Republicans", or "average Americans", or however you want to frame it. And there's usually some quote from some far-out lunatic that no one has ever heard of to illustrate this. But I didn't quite realize it until I read this Lance Mannion post that the Right's way of looking down on Americans is far, far more pernicious:

In the Star Trek future, everybody has a talent and a skill. Everybody is necessary. Everybody contributes.

In the future we seem to be building, everybody is useful in so far as they can buy things. Otherwise, they’re pretty much just in the way.

That reads pretty accurately to me.

Alert readers have probably noticed a link in the sidebar to the Big Brass Alliance and After Downing Street, two blog-based efforts that center on the President's decision to go to war and how he made that decision. Personally, my take is this: President Bush's intention to go to war in Iraq dates to noon on January 20, 2001, and before that, it was just an intention in the mind of a guy who was running for President. I think that George W. Bush always wanted to finish things up in Iraq, after seeing how not finishing things up over there loused things up for his father. I think that Saddam was doomed from the second Bush raised his right hand to take the oath; I think that the understanding in the highest echelons of the Bush Administration from the beginning was that at the first sign of trouble from Saddam, he was done. It's long been established that Donald Rumsfeld was looking at Iraq invasion plans within days of the 9-11-01 attacks, and I also think that the lengths the Bush people have gone to maintaining the idea that Saddam had some tie to Islamic terrorism, no matter how slight, also demonstrates this.

Of course, I'm not totally upset that we went into Iraq at all. It has long bothered me that the world has become too damned willing to allow tyrants to remain in power (and I don't see the toppling of Saddam as being particularly encouraging in this regard, given the large number of other tyrants who are still around about whom we appear to have no inclination to do anything at all), and I think there's some nugget of truth in the idea that the Islamic world needs to be jolted out of its sixteenth-century mentality. But I can't frankly see where that's what we're doing now, and it doesn't augur well that so much of the President's case for why this particular man was a threat who had to be dealt with right now turned out to hinge upon so much evidence that was either nonexistent, made up, or trumped up beyond all scope of proportion. I resent the fact, quite frankly, that this President had to dishonestly drag me to where I might have honestly been willing to go.

Finally, in comments to this post, I'm asked if I plan to post more about politics in the future. Maybe, but the politics-to-everything-else ratio around here will probably remain pretty much what it has been, not out of any specific design on my part but because my own political thoughts just don't seem to crystallize into postable form all that often, and my blogging is almost always dependent upon my mood. So, the current post notwithstanding, I'm not planning on getting more political in the future, even though there's always the possibility that I might get political.

End of rant.

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