George Bush, according to biographer Robert Draper, is fond of doing imitations of Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers films. Unfortunately, Bush probably resembles the cartoonish megalomaniacal arch-fiend more than he realizes. After all, neither “leader” has much real mojo, their dreams of world conquest are always going awry, and each has a short, bald, baby-faced alter-ego (Mini-Me and Cheney) hunkered down in a secure location.
Every time Dr. Evil confronts his nemesis, Austin Powers, it is clear the arch-criminal is covering up his lack of mojo with hollow bravado, stale clichés, and pathetic pomposity. The same reaction, curiously enough, occurs when Bush and his conservative minions find themselves confronted with Al Gore. For instance, when Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize it seemed to give Republican commentators conniptions; they collectively went into overdrive to ridicule the former vice-president, the Nobel Prize, and the idea of global warming. Their animus was so overheated – as it always has been when Gore has criticized the invasion of Iraq, the administration’s interrogation methods, and its warrantless wiretapping program – that one has to wonder about the psychological dynamics that underlie their vitriol. Are they possibly afraid that not even the Supreme Court could overturn a Gore/Obama landslide?
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman probably offers the best insight into what is motivating Republican anger against Gore: an unconscious recognition that Gore has a legitimate claim to the presidency that Bush stole and then squandered. Put simply, Bush’s presidency has been a historical train wreck, every intelligent person knows this, and future historians will almost certainly rate him as one of the worst ever. In contrast, on the major issues of our time – global warming, the invasion of Iraq, the administration’s use of torture – Gore has proven far more prescient than virtually all of our elected leaders. When the Supreme Court effectively overturned the will of the majority and essentially ratified the dubious results in Florida it became an accomplice in the most “arrogant, lawless, incompetent, and extreme” administration in U.S. history. That’s not just my verdict, by the way, the quote describing Bush comes from one of the deciding votes on the Court, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who has since sensibly flip-flopped on Bush.
O’Connor’s salvo is just the latest in a long list of insiders taking aim at the Bush administration. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan has blasted Bush’s deficit spending, for instance. And retired General Ricardo Sanchez, once the top military commander in Iraq, has described America’s presence that country as an “endless nightmare” brought on by a “strategically incompetent” civilian leadership (that would mean the politicians in Washington. Hint, hint: the Bush administration).
To put it mildly, Bush’s credibility and competence rate a notch below even the disgraced Enron executive, Ken Lay, the huckster who was hawking his company’s stock as a “great value” all the way down till its shares were priced to sell on E-Bay. Like the president, incidentally, Lay insisted he would be vindicated by posterity, a claim he repeated until a massive heart attack cheated Bush’s benefactor out of a likely retirement in a comfy white collar prison.
Power, according to the historian Robert Dallek, has a way of revealing character. History has a way of revealing character too, which his why I wouldn’t wager a wooden nickel on Bush’s chances being vindicated by history like his political hero Sam Huston was. Bush has proven himself to be rigidly obstinate, impervious to facts and rational arguments, and congenitally unwilling to learn from experience. Time and again, Bush has resorted to fear and war-mongering to bolster his political fortunes, but his policies and decisions have put the United States on the path of national decline.
No doubt, future historians will probably scratch their heads at how the United States could pour immeasurable amounts of blood and treasure into the quicksand of Iraq while America’s infrastructure crumbled for lack of investment and upkeep. They will also ponder the perversity of the fact that even after the billions the Bush administration poured into Iraq that four million Iraqis fled there homes. It only adds to the tragic irony that presently one million Americans are facing debt related foreclosures. Hadn’t anyone in the Bush administration read Toynbee, who catalogued how empires exhaust themselves when they fritter away their resources in vain attempts to remake the world in their image, while mature powers can renew themselves when they wisely husband their resources towards prudent domestic reforms?
All political power derives from economic power, as Aristotle observed. Bush and Cheney’s benefactors (Enron, Blackwater, and Halliburton) form an axis-of-corruption that is cannibalizing the United States. For instance, Blackwater -- the trigger-happy private mercenary firm that has done so much to undermine and discredit America’s occupation of Iraq -- forms part of a patronage network that subsidizes like-minded politicians, but then expects to be fed at the public sieve. Compliant politicians like Bush, of course, are eager to oblige by finding ways to reward their benefactors. And so, instead of “What is good for General Motors is good for America,” becomes in an era of terror, “What is good for Blackwater is what is good for America” (even if it really isn’t good for America).
Blackwater is raking in a fortune; a billion dollars over the last couple of years. In fact, perversely, the worse the security situation in Iraq the more its services are needed. But are we really better off for spending billions on private mercenaries than we would be if we invested billions in improving America’s energy efficiency, which could help reduce our reliance on Middle Eastern oil?
The answer depends on whether you view the challenges America faces are primarily ecological or a matter of existential evil. The Bush administration, for instance, has painted Islamic extremists with a broad brush, lumping al-Qaeda, Iraqi insurgents, Iranian revolutionaries, Hamas, Hezbollah, and countless other factions in the same category: enemies of freedom and America’s hallowed way of life. This is a self-serving simplification that has greatly compounded the challenges America faces. It conveniently dehumanizes a broad swath of humanity and absolves Americans for their own culpability for imprudent energy practices that pollute the planet and feed the forces that give rise to terrorism.
An inconvenient truth, if you will, is that the United States (under two different Bush administration) has launched two successive wars to secure America’s access to cheap Persian Gulf petroleum. From the standpoint of ordinary Iraqis, who have to face smart bombs, ammunition made out of depleted uranium, private mercenaries, and countless other forms of shock and awe, America’s “liberation” is bound to look like a colonial occupation complete with predatory foreign companies feeding off Iraq’s resources and the spoils of war.
Nearly three-thousand Americans were killed in 9/11. But more than half-a- million Iraqis have perished in the aftermath of America’s invasion of Iraq? Can anyone blame the average Muslim if they don’t give Bush the moral edge over bin Laden? Or if they think the war on terror is a pretext for a natural resources grab that will allow the United States to subjugate the Muslim world?
There is a political-industrial-media axis (the Bush administration, the fossil fuel industry, and talk radio and Fox News) that owes its existence to an unsustainable status quo in America’s energy habits. If the United States were to go Green, so to speak, it would be as threatening to this unholy trinity as getting every single smoker in America to quit cold turkey would be for the tobacco industry. When George H.W. Bush made a fool of himself deriding Gore as “Ozone Man” his irrational anxiety was palpable. Put simply, the Bushy dynasty and its web of corrupt cronies depend on a high carbon consumption economy, thus they fear an environmental crusader like Gore the same way vampires fear sunlight.
Al Gore recognizes that without a vision the people perish. If we are good stewards of the earth and we reduce our carbon imprint we will have more mojo. If we continue to prosecute wars for oil in the Middle East we will drive up the price of petrol and the terrorists will have more mojo. That in a nutshell, is how George Bush lost his mojo and became Dr. Evil.