Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (11/09/06)


Former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's often-quoted observation that "all politics is local" was totally ignored on Tuesday. Voters confounded that wisdom by making the election a searing referendum on the Iraq War and on George W. Bush's performance as president. Demanding course change, they repudiated the Republicans' embrace of neo-conservatism and its aggressive policy of American global domination. Hegemony, from a Greek word meaning supremacy, had been advanced by the neocons as the only reliable defense against a breakdown of peace and international order. In practice, our abortive Iraq adventure became the spark that ignited a fast-moving worldwide conflagration of anti-Americanism.

Overambitious neocons saw the preemptive invasion of Iraq as the first step in a policy that would induce rogue states to fall into line and accept American domination. The swift "easy win" promised in Iraq soon proved to be illusory as the post-combat occupation deteriorated into an unending and bitter civil war. American troops found themselves to be unwanted interlopers caught between two warring factions. Long-echoed as a mantra, "stay the course" was suddenly jettisoned last month. In a typical Bush act of denial, and despite at least 29 filmed occasions in which he used the phrase, the President told ABC interviewer George Stephanopolous: "Listen, we've never been ’stay the course.’ We have been--we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactic. Constantly."

His signature phrase about staying the course was thus peremptorily consigned to the dust bin of history, joining his other failed slogans--gems such as "his of evil," "shock and awe," "bring 'em on," and "mission accomplished." Within a few weeks, the Bush family's consigliore, James A. Baker, his father's secretary of state, will provide the current Bush administration with a face-saving exit plan for cutting and running and the entire debacle will be treated as though it never happened.

For six years, neocons in and out of the Bush administration have set the tone of its public voice. Tough-talking neocon Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations, was blunt in his advice: "We need to be more assertive and stop letting all these two-bit dictators and rogue regimes push us around and stop being a patsy for our so-called allies, especially in Saudi Arabia." Neocon Michael Ledeen, perhaps having read too many Mickey Spillane novels, put it even more crudely: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small, crappy country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

But the current focus of the public's unhappiness is George W. Bush himself. What really drives this man and what is he like? "Bush has a poor memory for facts and figures," said former Bush speechwriter David Frum, who coined the phrase, "axis of hatred"--polished to "axis of evil" by chief speechwriter Michael Gerson. Frum also said of Bush, "Fire a question at him about specifics of his administration's policies, and he often appeared uncertain. Nobody would ever enroll him in a quiz show." Frum resigned after his wife naively committed a cardinal Washington sin by boasting of her husband's authorship of the phrase. He later wrote a fawning paen to Bush entitled The Right Man. Neocon Richard Perle, dubbed the "Prince of Darkness," minced no words. “The first time I met Bush, two things became clear," he said. "One, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much."

Bush has been surrounded by advisers who also didn't know very much. Dick Cheney, another neuron, contended that deficits don't matter. As a result, the nation has experienced almost six years of unbridled spending by a government totally under GOP control, compelling Congress to raise the debt ceiling to almost $9 trillion--nearly double what it was when Bill Clinton left office. Cheney has continued to assert, as he did in 2002, "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction."

Neocon Paul Wolfowitz, assistant secretary of defense, said before the invasion, "We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." But anyone in the international oil industry could have told him that because of sanctions and Saddam's neglect, Iraqi oil facilities were in dismal shape. Even today Iraqi drivers queue up at gas stations for gasoline that still must be imported.

Desperate to give the impression of change, some Republican candidates in this year's election put daylight between themselves and the president by shunning joint "kiss-of-death" public appearances. Others publicly called for the removal of neocon defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the military architect of the Iraq debacle. The authoritative London magazine The Economist charged that Rumsfeld was "responsible for having needlessly alienated more friends of the United States than any other instrument since the invention of the B-52 bomber."

Rumsfeld shortsightedly decided that wars could be won by using technologically superior weapons and less manpower. Retired Gen. William Odom, the Reagan administration's National Security Agency director, has called Iraq "the greatest security disaster in American history." Rumsfeld's gaffes of deploying too few troops and imposing morale-shattering consecutive tours of duty in Iraq were compounded by his unwillingness to concede that his policies had failed.

In his traditional meeting with the incoming President-elect in January 2001, Bill Clinton pinpointed al-Qaida as the nation's most important foreign policy challenge. The warning went unheeded. When Condoleezza Rice, a specialist in Russian-German relations, became national security advisor at the start of George W. Bush's first term, Richard Clarke, holdover Clinton White House counterterrorism advisor, was surprised to discover that she had never heard of al-Qaida. In her role as national security advisor, she would later tell the president at his Crawford, Texas, ranch not to read too much into the August 6, 2001, CIA report entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S."

To understand George W. Bush, we must examine his actions for clues to what makes him tick. In six years as president, he has revealed a multilayered personality characterized by many conflicts. We are all familiar with his problems with the English language--an amusing succession of perplexing malapropisms, gaffes and dyslexic spoonerisms. More alarming for the nation, however is his lack of intellectual curiosity, often exhibited as overt anti-intellectualism.

Totally uninterested in details and impatient with debate, if offered a choice of options, he decides quickly and never looks back--even if the nation has been left with a series of paradoxes by his rash, unthinking decisions. He is not above publicly insulting foreign leaders with unfeeling remarks or imperious threats. He is also intellectually lazy. When Calvin Hill, star running back of the 1968 championship Yale football team, discovered that George W. Bush was in a class he was considering, Hill called out to his teammates, "Hey, George Bush is in this class. This is the one for us."

Psychiatrists have raised the possibility that George W. Bush may suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, defined as "arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes; sense of entitlement, preoccupation with grandiose fantasies; need for excessive admiration; a grandiose sense of self-importance; inability to recognize or identify with feelings of others; exploitation of others; envy." In the two years remaining to the Bush administration, the president's reaction to the nation's repudiation of his conduct of the Iraq War and his performance as president may confirm whether this suggested diagnosis is correct.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments: Post a Comment | Postscripts Homepage

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?