Monday, June 02, 2008
The Boy King:
When he was on the Charlie Rose show (in 2003?) the actor James Garner was clear about his disdain for George Bush. "He's just a kid", Garner said at one point. And you've got to think of that again, as Eric Alterman reminds us
... the president has often seemed like little more than an overgrown boy plunged into his own war movie and war-play memories. [Consider] the "scorecard" of top Al Qaeda figures to be taken out that he kept in his Oval Office desk, his urge for military dress up -- those G.I. Joe action figure-style military jackets he wore while addressing hooah-ing crowds of troops that had "George W. Bush, Commander In Chief" stitched across the breast -- his love of Saddam Hussein's captured pistol, his bluster ("Bring 'em on!"), the way he visibly savors playing "commander in chief," or tears up instantly on giving out medals, and so on.
That was written in reaction to the latest news that Bush addressed his closest top civilian and military advisers thustly:
"Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail!"
That's Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, quoting from memory, so they are unlikely to be his exact words. But Bush probably said something very much like that.
RELATED: From Tomdispatch
Usually Ronald Reagan, an actual actor, is seen as the president who spent his time in office playing the role of a lifetime, but, as it happens, he had nothing on George W. Bush. From the moment the attacks of September 11, 2001 gave him his "calling" as a "wartime" president, he has been deeply embroiled in acting out his cartoonish version of the role of the century. In fact, he has often seemed like little more than an overgrown boy plunged into his own war movie and war-play memories.
Here's a question, though. For a considerable period of time Bush was quite popular. Sure, he had the press celebrating him (as well as not being very critical). It would appear that there is a natural human inclination to gravitate towards, or at least be comfortable with, the kind of attitude that Bush engaged in. It eventually dissipates, as recent polls show that American's don't like the Iraq War. But it sure looks like, if the circumstances permit it, you can get a country tacking in the wrong direction for, what, two to four years?
It was very Germany 1939 to me. Even the South Park boys took to ridiculing lefties.
I still argue too much with a neighbor who remains one of the 29%. He now has his Scotty is just in it for the money talking point down. End of story. John Dean must be right about that authoritarian thing.
George W identified the "Axis of Evil" and then invaded the "easiest" target among Iraq, Iran and North Korea. What if he had invaded either Iran or North Korea instead? Would that have been even dumber?
It's just been 2 years or so that people have noticed how awful things are. I'm sure there are plenty of things under the radar that we well be saying "They did WHAT?" from day one.
You left out a lot of the quote, which was noted in the WaPo:
"Kick ass!" he quotes the president as saying. "If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! We must be tougher than hell! This Vietnam stuff, this is not even close. It is a mind-set. We can't send that message. It's an excuse to prepare us for withdrawal."
"There is a series of moments and this is one of them. Our will is being tested, but we are resolute. We have a better way. Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Be confident! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!"
A White House spokesman had no comment.
Remember, he's talking like that with Cabinet members and top military brass: he's not giving a pep talk to the PFCs or something. Astounding.
I recall reading somewhere (Ricks?) that the initial haphazard Fallujah attack was the result of Bush getting pissed off. Later on when it predictably proved a debacle, he changed his mind and the military regrouped.
So much for his "steadfast decisions."
We've been ruled by a petulant teenager with delusions of grandeur.
Bush's popularity has actually declined very consistently all the way through his presidency. 9-11 gave him an enormous spike - where he was more popular than when inaugurated. But within a year he resumed the downward trajectory. The consistency of the decline in his popularity is what is truly remarkable, searching for the irreducible base of his support at something like 25 percent.
Bush has always struck me as the epitome of the rich, over-privileged frat boy, who always had everything handed to him. It is a stunning combination of arrogance and incompetence, unleavened by any depth or complexity to his thought, nor personal introspection.
The United States is large, wealthy, strong and resilient. But there is only so much we can withstand. The country will suffer more for Bush's mistakes than we have during and post-Vietnam, even though his body count will only be a tenth as large. Perhaps he feels he hasn't yet achieved his primary goal.
Psychoanalyst Alice Miller wrote about the rise of Hitler that a lot of Germans positively identified with Hitler in part because he was like their authoritarian dads, a comforting association in an insecure time, when society was fast changing around them in ways they didn't understand or know how to deal with.
American voters today are in similarly insecure times, but we have deeper psychological associations with movie and television heroes than with our dads. We didn't know, or didn't care about W's record or background any more than we care about who Arnold is in real life while we are watching a Terminator movie. We like brash, posturing heroes who make wisecracks.
9/11 left most Americans in a state of fear. W rose to the occasion. He said we'd get OBL dead or alive. Whoever W was in real life, whatever his motivations, he swaggered. That's all he had to do. We swooned. Or pumped our hairy fists in the air.
We are sick of this war and frustrated with this economy, but we haven't suddenly evolved as a species. We arguably haven't even learned anything. I don't hear much of anyone saying, "My God was I a boob! I supported a lousy president and a stupid war." No, we're just ready to leave Iraq because we're tired of it, not remorseful for destroying it; ready for a new president, not feeling bad about having once supported the old one.
Can you say "coke-fueled-rant" boys and girls? I *knew* you could...