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"I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it." --Garrison Keillor Taking his cue from the imaginary world of Lake Wobegon, George Bush certainly confirmed this past week that there is one, overriding principle to which he has held true during his entire Presidency: Denial. Oh sure, The Decider has shown considerable skill at - and devotion to - several other life-guiding philosophies throughout his tenure. Hypocrisy. Disingenuousness. Lack of intellectual curiosity. Selective sadism. Entitlement. Xenophobia. Braggadocio. All of which have contributed mightily to his soon-to-be-historically-condemned reign of mediocrity. But denial, it always seemed to me, has been his strongest suit. Rejecting demonstrable fact, rewriting historical lessons and events, even repressing access to views that are not his own - these things have allowed the one elected official whose main interest should be our national welfare, to instead lie shamelessly and without hesitation; manipulate and divide without remorse; and take advantage of the fears and weaknesses of those around him by artificially inflaming those very fears and weaknesses. Of course, as George Costanza once impishly observed, "It's not a lie if you believe it." Tragic, isn't it, that the "leader of the free world" turns out to be a graduate of the Seinfeld School of Governance. Many of us in America recognized this pattern of denial in George Bush from the beginning, and raised red flags about the unsuitability of a leader whose dominant characteristic was a near total disdain for reality. Good Lord, kids - it just seems like common sense that the President of the United States must by nature be someone with a thirst for knowledge and information, and the instinctive inclination to look at a black wooden block on the table in front of him and not insist that it's white. Should he have the capability to "dream big"? Of course. The best of our Presidents have had a larger vision driving their policies. But the best of them have also paid close attention to simple fact, and responded nimbly to changing circumstance - and have not been afraid to acknowledge that no plan designed by man is infallible or written in stone. How then to react to our Dear Leader's ever-worsening air of denial toward... well, everything about his Presidency? Bush's stubborn detachment from reality has grown to a point where we should seriously despair for the survival of our nation as long as he's at the helm. Consider this short response from Wednesday's Q&A:
I am willing to follow a path that leads to victory. And that's exactly why we're conducting the review we are. Victory in Iraq is achievable. It hadn't happened nearly as quickly as I hoped it would have. I know it's - the fact that there is still, you know, unspeakable sectarian violence in Iraq, I know that's troubling to the American people. But I also don't believe most Americans want us just to get out now. A lot of Americans understand the consequences of retreat. Retreat would embolden radicals. It would hurt the credibility of the United States. Retreat from Iraq would dash the hopes of millions who want to be free. Retreat from Iraq would enable the extremists and radicals to more likely be able to have safe haven from which to plot and plan further attacks. And so it's been a tough period for the American people. They want to see success. And our objective is to put a plan in place that achieves that success. I'm often asked about public opinion. Of course, I want public opinion to support the efforts. I understand that. But I also understand the consequences of failure. And, therefore, I'm going to work with the Iraqis and our military and politicians from both political parties to achieve success. I thought the American - the election - it said they want to see more bipartisan cooperation. They want to see us working together to achieve common objectives. And I'm going to continue to reach out to Democrats to do just that.
"Victory" is achievable? A plan that achieves "success"? The American people don't want us to "get out now"? "Retreat" will hurt our credibility? The election was a polite request for "bipartisan cooperation"?! "Continue to reach out" to Democrats?!! Not only is the specific phraseology chosen by Bush (respectively) undefined, misleading, pejorative, and just plain wrong, but it is a clear sign of someone whose mind is adrift in Neverland. These are not the conclusions not of a principled visionary. They are the prounouncements of a madman who'll listen to no one but himself - and who smugly expects us to believe that simply saying it's so, makes it so. Throughout recorded history, there have been numerous madmen who defied conventional wisdom or the accepted "facts" of the day, but who've ultimately benefited mankind. They've stubbornly followed their much-criticized visions, often at great personal and professional risk, to reward us with incredible art, music, literature, medical and scientific breakthroughs. For that sometimes heretical perseverance, we as a species are genuinely in their debt. But, at the same time, we'd never have seriously considered these individuals for a position as pressure-filled and reality-based as, let's say, President of the United States. The person entrusted with that position must be absolutely cognizant of the terrible, constantly changing data that drives global politics and international relations. Are there really people on this planet who still think George Bush lives up to that definition? Not to mention that (let's face it) this President isn't exactly one of those artistic or scientific visionaries either - or maybe we could cut him some slack on that level. No, no matter what oh-so-clever wording he uses to disguise it, Bush's head-in-the-sand zealotry is not about something actually benign or profound or beneficial. His dream is apparently of a world at war, a divine (and divinely profitable) clash between good and evil, battle after battle after glorious battle until "victory" (whatever that is) is attained... Of course, making sure all the while that the brunt of this crusade is borne by, uh, you know, "expendable" people, someone other than his own friends and loved ones, or his closed circle of sycophants and moneyed contributors. As Bush exulted Wednesday:
This war on terror is the calling of a new generation. It is the calling of our generation... We have an obligation to ensure our military is capable of sustaining this war over the long haul and performing the many tasks that we ask of them.
Good God! "War". For a "generation". "Sustaining this war over the long haul". Again, sorry, but this isn't my "calling." Nor is it what I was demanding at the polls on November 7th - or, come to think of it, what I wanted even on September 12th five years ago, after watching two friends die at Ground Zero. How dare this spoiled child of privilege keep invoking the memory and fears of that time to convince us all that war is peace. That attack is defense. That despotism is democracy. That fantasy is reality. There's no room for madness in the White House (sounds ridiculously redundant, doesn't it, when you say it out loud). The stakes are too high, the real human consequences almost unbearable to imagine. Yet anyone so blithely ensconced in denial as the man we heard at the podium Wednesday, is surely mad - and simply unfit for command any longer. Nevertheless, here we sit, counting down the final hours to the day that signifies our fundamental cultural aspirations of peace and hope, and just such a dangerous incompetent still captains our ship of state. As we try to momentarily lose ourselves in this brief interlude of generosity and good cheer, the inexcusable intractability of George Bush guarantees that each Christmas vacation day scores of human beings will die needlessly, legions of new global enemies will be recruited, millions will remain invisible and neglected at home. We would do well to consider through our blissful holiday haze just how much longer the nation can afford this President's state of denial - and just how far we're willing to go to do something about it. If that sounds dire, I think it's time to do a reality-check of our own and admit that it may well be. For it is beyond obvious that Bush has no real intention of changing course at all, no inclination to hear any voice apart from the one in his own head, no sincerity when rotely mouthing the words "bipartisan cooperation," no real respect for the will of the people unless it happens to coincide already with his pre-determined objective of "all war, all the time." If we are indeed an enlightened people, that we simply cannot allow. Let's not stumble into our own state of denial, apathetically believing that we can leave the Bush Administration in office and, well, "hope for the best." The President has made it very clear that we're in for two more years of the same, critics be damned. Why, he may even get around to tossing Iran into the mix. More blood. More death. More bungling. More torture. More domestic spying. More cronyism. More faith-based initiatives. More enemies. More lying. More denial. There can be no "New Way Forward" without first removing our Ostrich In Chief (and his fellow flock) from Washington. To believe otherwise is to deny the facts in front of our collective face. Wednesday's year-ending performance by George Bush only confirmed how easy that decision - and our energetic commitment to the process - should be in the New Year.
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After 25 years as a Post-Production Specialist in the greater New York/New Jersey area, Bob recently relocated to Orlando to continue his editorial business and begin Art Directing high-end commemorative magazines. He's been extensively involved (more...)
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