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Schadenfreude Is My Middle Name

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Message David Michael Green

I’m not an angry man. But I am angry.

I’m not a bitter person. But, boy, am I bitter.

And I’m not generally given to vindictiveness. But, you know what? Right now I’m open to persuasion.

The Bush administration is now beginning an inexorable process which will change its status from the worst administration in American history to the publicly-acknowledged worst administration in American history. I, for one, couldn’t be more delighted.

That delight is only partly based on having been on the receiving end of their atrocities these last six years. And it is only partly based on the assurance that those gifts will keep giving for decades into the future, like a bad case of political herpes.

And that delight is also only partly based on their motivations and the scale of their transgressions. People who believe that the regressive right came to Washington to implement a legitimate ideology that just happens to be different from ours, or who believe that they meant well but, ironically, the first MBA president couldn’t manage his way out of an empty wading pool, even with the entire federal bureaucracy to assist him – such people fundamentally misunderstand this administration and the movement which they spearhead.

These are sociopathic predators – nothing more, nothing less – and we are foolish, to the point of acting as enablers, if we fail to call this what it is. This administration is a kleptocracy which came to town to grab everything it could grab, operating behind a hideously deceitful veil of generated fear and false security provision. Boiled down to its essence, this is little more than a classic protection racket writ large. Whether history will reveal that they manufactured 9/11, or purposely stood by and allowed it to happen, or simply screwed up the job of actually providing real national security, they in any case then milked that tragedy for everything it was worth, constantly sowing fear in the heartland, and offering the false promise of protection to a frightened public.

For all these reasons, they are surely getting what they deserve. But, finally, my delight in watching the long-deserved implosion of this American tragicomedy is also partly based on attitude. Never in my life have I seen such high-handed arrogance, such disrespectful condescension for the loyal opposition, such destructive shredding of the very core institutions of Western political culture, such cavalier disregard for the lives of anyone, including Americans.

No, I’m not generally angry, bitter or vindictive. But you rub your noxious garbage in my face for six (if not twenty-five) years and arrogantly dismiss me as an unpatriotic retread for opposing your transparent predations, then, yeah, I’m going to rejoice in your getting what you deserve. And, right now, I’m rejoicing. Right now, schadenfreude is my middle name.

The fun has only just begun, but nevertheless the wheels are already coming off the wagon. The dominoes are already falling, and Henry Waxman has only just begun to issue subpoenas. The water’s rapidly rising, and is now splashing the dirty faces of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and even George W. Bush. We’re running out of metaphors to mix here, but fortunately not jail cells.

You wouldn’t want to face what they’re facing over the next twenty-one months under the best of circumstances. But you especially wouldn’t want to go there with your popularity in the toilet, your credibility so shot that even Republican senators are disbelieving you in public, a corrosive war that, at best, cannot possibly regain public support, and members of your own party seeing that their association with you, your arrogance, your screw-ups and now your scandals all roll up together into a giant freight train called the 2008 Express, rapidly steaming their direction.

Who will be left to throw Bush a rope when he’s finally going down? Trent Lott? No, they burned him, and something tells me he hasn’t forgotten. John Kerry? Maybe he’ll FedEx over some Band-Aids. Jacques Chirac? That’s Old Europe, people. Saddam Hussein? His rope is in use elsewhere.

So one by one they come down, and no one is even going after the big questions yet, like what happened before and during 9/11, what’s happened before, during and after Katrina, the failure of the Afghan war, and the marketing of the Iraq war. Whether we ever get to those or not, we can at least take pleasure in the just desserts already being served, and relief in the enfeebling of Bush and his destructive agenda.

Rumsfeld’s gone. Without question, forced retirement in failure to some corporate pastureland is far too good a punishment for him, even if he does carry the shame of being one of the few people on this planet moronic enough to get fired by George W. Bush. Nor is he necessarily out of the woods, either. If even the merest approximation of the truth ever makes it to a grand jury, Rummy will want to be investing in some very high-powered legal Dobermans. He’ll need them.

Scooter Libby is now gone, and while it’s true that his crimes greatly exceed his likely punishment, even assuming no pardon, it is something. And let us all laugh collectively at the absurd claims of the right, trying desperately to defend him. "Valerie Plame wasn’t actually undercover!" Well, except that she testified she was. And it was the CIA which had initiated the investigation in the first place, out of concern about having its spy networks exposed. "Libby had lots of important stuff on his plate and just didn’t remember!" Yeah, except that what he just didn’t remember was nine conversations with eight different people on the same subject. (Aren’t these the same people who vitiated Clinton for lying about consensual oral sex under oath? Did I miss something here? When did treason get to be the lesser offense?) No one on the jury believed Libby’s lies for even a second. Indeed, they all felt sorry for what was transparently a case of Libby taking a bullet for his boss, Dick Cheney.

Now comes Wolfowitz and Gonzales. I doubt either can last very long, particularly the former, who has more constituents than just the thumb-sucker at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and whose staff is in outright mutiny against the head pirate. It’s breaking my heart, in a schadenfreude kind of way, to see Wolfie hoisted on his own petard, and now flapping in the wind of shame for a third week running. Given his evident insularity of breathtaking proportions (talk about not being able to take a hint!), he probably doesn’t have the decency to be embarrassed for himself yet. And even when he’s unceremoniously tossed overboard, it won’t begin to atone for the destruction listed next to his name in the Big Book of Death. (With apologies to Nathan Hale, I regret that Wolfowitz has but one life to give for all the ones he’s taken.)

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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