The destructive force of Hurricane Bush continues to roll across the countryside, leaving in its wake devastation worthy of a Cormac McCarthy novel.
And still, a third of all Americans think this guy is doing well in his job. What’s up with these people? Are they learned students of philosophy who crave the nihilism of their intellectual hero, Friedrich Nietzsche? Are they a secret army of Charles Lindbergh clones, trained to believe that fascism is pretty good stuff? Was Joseph McCarthy even more right than he knew, after all, and America is actually riddled with a hundred million spies devoted to its destruction?
Who knows. What is clear is that the literal and figurative stacks of bodies continue to pile up unabated. At this rate it is no small question as to who will be left around to bury the dead once the killing stops.
We do know that it won’t be Tony Blair, however. He joins a long list of fools and other kinds of victims of George Bush’s politics of global destruction, a machine so effective that ‘scorched earth’ has become ‘scorched Earth’, and now effectively ceases to function as a metaphor. (Thus, in addition to everything else he’s done, Bush has given pundits everywhere (another) reason to hate him.)
Blair is in the first category of fool. Hardly an innocent, he bet everything on Bush’s insane Mesopotamian adventure. How odd. Blair is not some Arkansas rube whose preacher got a few bucks from the GOP and convinced the congregants to vote for this great man of god. He is not even an average American, too busy to think enough about politics to penetrate a wall of Madison Avenue produced thirty-second spots designed precisely to prevent any such independent thought.
No, Blair got to see the cowboy himself, up close and personal. He got to take the measure of the man in ways you and I never will (and yet we all figured him out just fine, didn’t we?). And then they sat down and got to business. Discussing Blair’s ignominious departure, conservative columnist David Brooks did the only thing the right ever has been able to do in order to sell their ideas, even as those policies have now long been imploding before our very eyes. He lied. He wrote that the conventional wisdom on Blair – a guy full of promise and good intentions who tossed it all on a bad, but well-meaning, bet – was wrong. I guess Brooks never read the Downing Street Memos, though. When, in those documents, the curtain of deception (including Blair’s own ‘45 minutes’ to Doomsday farce) is parted, there stand the wizards, naked for all to see. And what we see is them acknowledging that their case for WMD is weak, that it is a ruse designed to sell a policy already decided upon, that the whole purpose of calling for UN inspections is so Saddam would reject them and provide a pretext for war, and that no plans whatsoever exist for what to do during the post-war occupation of Iraq.
It gets worse, too, but we’re not allowed to know (yet). Last week two Brits were sentenced to jail for trying to leak a memo detailing more Bush-Blair conversations, these from 2004, as the wheels were even then every day coming off the wagon of their little Iraqi project. Unfortunately, we don’t get to know what was in the document, but it was said by one person familiar with its contents to show beyond a doubt that George W. Bush is a "madman". So, no, actually, I don’t feel the least bit sorry for Blair, who – better than almost anybody on either side of the Atlantic – knew the truth about Bush’s character and conspired with him to lie to the entire world to facilitate a war of aggression. Given the resulting carnage, I’d say Blair is getting off real cheap with simply a ruined career and a failing grade in the history books. If there was any justice in the world, he would instead spend the rest of his life experiencing the misery he has brought to millions of other lives by casting his lot with the likes of George Bush in Iraq.
Ditto to the other world leaders, as well, who are probably less culpable than Blair, but only slightly so, many of whom have already felt the wrath of their angry publics. To date, elections in such strongly American allied countries as Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea and just about everywhere in Latin America have turned into referenda on the Bush administration, with the universal outcome being "No, thanks", over and over again. John Howard, what in the world are you doing still in office? Now even the House of Saud has gone public with its discontents. At this point, how much of a stretch would it be for the Israeli government to effectively say, "Hey, love you guys and your whole boom-boom act, and appreciate all you do for us, but this Iraq thing is really messing up the neighborhood, so we’re gonna have to act like we don’t know you for a while, okay?"
The same thing is happening domestically. Bush once said that he would stick with his policy in Iraq until only Laura and Barney remained by his side. If you believe the tabloids, one of those two is getting ready to bolt as soon as they leave the White House (hint: it’s the one that walketh upon two legs), and the resulting fervent minority of two seems just about where we might ultimately be headed, and also not a bad explanation of why. You know that the only way Barney gets his plate of Alpo is by nodding his head when the Scary Guy tells him to. Some days, though, even a rattling empty belly seems preferable to the garbage you have to swallow in order to get your food ration.
So it is with members of Congress. If you’re George Bush, you know that the Sun and Moon just fell on your head when Trent Lott starts making noises about ‘needing to see progress’ in Iraq in order to maintain his current booking on the Andrea Doria. Or maybe you would know that if you weren’t George Bush. It’s hard to say whether the delegation of Congressional Republican co-conspirators who recently paid a call on the White House got their message across or not. Between Blair’s demise, the Saudi demurral and the GOP’s thumping, you gotta figure that if it was ever going to be done, that would do the trick.
Still, that remains a big if. Apart from the very real question of sanity, what is now happening is that the sick predators who chose this sociopath to be their standard-bearer are getting their own taste of what the rest of us have been subjected to these last six years while they were rolling about in their slop, reveling in their political good fortunes. Unable, by definition, to feel or care about the travails of others, Bush remains fixated on Bush. And that means staying in Iraq. It’s crucial to leave it to the next president to ‘lose’ the war, so that Bush’s butterfly-fragile ego does not have to go to the place where the cosmos proves definitively what his parents and his life experience have been insisting all along, but what he has desperately sought to avoid at all costs: He is a total loser, after all. A lifelong failure. A complete screw-up, blessed with a golden surname. What a price we’ve all paid, to save this man from himself.
I noticed, though, that the White House didn’t turn the sixteen-inch guns of their battleship of personal destruction, the USS Karl Rove, on the GOP delegation from the Capitol, like they regularly have on those who previously made similar remarks, including Democrats, General Shinseki, Joseph Wilson and the entire nation of France. That could be an encouraging sign that the ugly reality is finally penetrating. On the other hand, it might simply mean that even Dick Cheney realizes that there is a limit to how absurd one can be, even when talking to the American public, and that dissing your own party leadership for being weak on a massively unpopular war when you’re perched at twenty-eight percent is a maybe step too far. Maybe. You can bet they batted it around in Rove’s office a few times. Of course, pretending to listen while appearing reasonable and actually having the war shut off on you are two different things, so we still don’t know what the White House will do when their own people start defecting in large numbers to end the war.
And it is a question of when, not if. These GOP fools in Congress – once the very paragons of superciliousness and political savagery – are scrambling for their political lives, and it couldn’t be happening to a more deserving lot. They now have two unpleasant alternatives to choose from as they ask the voters to keep their jobs in 2008. They can either admit they were wrong, or they can continue to be wrong. If that doesn’t seem like a particularly fetching platform for securing victory in a political campaign, that’s because it’s not. This is a familiar dance, last seen during Watergate. One by one the Republicans abandon their president, as the violations of the Constitution, foreign countries, the American people and the truth are revealed, also one by one.
This president is already radioactive. Given the nature of Cheneyism, the fact that their depredations have gone completely unexamined by Congress for six years, the trajectory of an already hated war, and the president’s current standing already hovering down where sunlight rarely penetrates and the strangest creatures prowl the ocean floor, it is nearly inconceivable that things will get better for these members of Congress between now and November 2008. The good news is that their own track records and the ‘R’ following their names will make it nearly impossible for most of these bottom-feeders to escape their well-deserved fates, even if the double-foot-shooting Democrats could somehow manage to put John Kerry on the ballot in every congressional district across America.
The even better news is that this is likely to be a more powerful effect than was Watergate. The GOP is in free fall, but with almost nowhere to go. North of Hattiesburg, at least, the public despises Republicans and a whole generation of young people have turned against the party, likely for life. It is only fitting that the reign of destruction wrought by this president should come back to destroy the very petri dish in which this virulent cancer was incubated. But now what? The party no longer has any real reason to exist, and virtually no ideological alternatives among its leadership. Will it become the new party of clean politics, small government, fiscal responsibility and foreign policy prudence, in loyal and genteel opposition to the Democrats? Let’s just say that would be a bit of a hard sell given past performance. Will it stand for the little guys against all the malevolent corporate predators out there trying to rip them off? Um, that’s a bit problematic, since those actors – what are described in polite society as ‘campaign contributors’ – happen to be the very owners of the party. Will Olympia Snowe inherit the mantle of Newt Gingrich, rally the other three ‘moderates’ still left in the GOP, and bring them back from the edge of extinction? I don’t think so.
If you thought the first Republican presidential debate this season was a joke (with all those white men on stage, I was just waiting for someone to get it over with and burn a cross already), imagine what their convention will be like more than a year from now. Already they were pretending never to have heard of a certain Republican who just happens to be in the White House and just happens to have been to have been the most significant political figure of our time. (Significant with respect to impact either for good or bad, that is, in the same way that Time once made Adolf Hitler its Man of the Year. This week’s Harper’s cover story is less ambiguous: "Undoing Bush: How to Repair Eight Years of Sabotage, Bungling and Neglect" – though that title still doesn’t get to the truly worst aspects of this administration). Anyhow, instead of Bush, at the debate it was all Reagan, all the time (which, of course, means Reagan The Movie, not the real thing). At the convention in Saint Paul next September, something tells me they’re going to forego the glossy Hollywood video tribute to Bush that has become de rigeur at the end of an eight-year presidency. I’m wondering if they’ll even let the guy show up. I’m wondering if they’ll be trying so hard to distance themselves from him that confused viewers might think Bill Clinton is still in office, and still having a bit too much fun down there under the desk.