Tags: george w bush

Huey Freeman

Happy Mission Accomplished Day. . .



Five years ago today, a president costumed in a flight suit gave a speech declaring mission over, beneath a banner that simply said "Mission Accomplished". That is probably the defining image of his presidency, and not just because this was a photo-op that backfired. George W. Bush's presidency has been all about image. Bush has never sought to govern, or even to solve problems. Bush was the permanent campaigner, and campaigning is all about selling an image of yourself.

When Bush gives a press conference or holds a public event, the surrounds are always dressed with slogans of some such. "No Child Left Behind". "Securing our Economy". "Strengthening Social Security". Beyond that, he used federal documents as campaign propaganda. The 2001 tax rebates had a note serving as a campaign and GOP ad for George W. Bush. Beyond that, Bush does not govern. John J. Diiulio resigned in disgust when he discovered that Bush was more concerned with looking like he was helping the poor with his "Faith Based Initiatives" rather than actually helping the poor. That he treated matters of war and peace the same way is disgusting. I cannot really continue this post. Maybe I can collect my thoughts tomorrow.

Not Ready for Duty, Sir!

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a young, callow man was thrust onto a great stage. On that great stage, he made a great many accusations and a great many promises.

We have seen a steady erosion of American power and an unsteady exercise of American influence. Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, "Not ready for duty, sir.". . .

The world needs America's strength and leadership. And America's armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay.

We will give our military the means to keep the peace, and we will give it one thing more: a commander-in-chief who respects our men and women in uniform and a commander-in-chief who earns their respect.

A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming.


And that young callow man went on to become a young callow monarch, using his kingdom's knights as playthings for not well-thought-out adventurism. And with that, we have Thursday's story:

'Appalling Gap' Found in Homeland Defense Readiness
National Guard, Reserve Forces Lack Sufficient Personnel, Training to Respond to Crisis in U.S., Report Says

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 1, 2008; A04

The U.S. military is not prepared to meet catastrophic threats at home, and it is suffering from an "appalling gap" in forces able to respond to chemical, biological and nuclear strikes on U.S. soil, according to a congressional commission report released yesterday.

The situation is rooted in severe readiness problems in National Guard and reserve forces, which would otherwise be well-suited to respond to domestic crises but lack sufficient personnel and training, as well as $48 billion in equipment because of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a report by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves.

He's Not Only the President, He's Also a Client. . .

This anecdote comes from a book that I'll probably read someday soon. It was posted in Slate yesterday, and it pretty much serves as the defining delusion of this Administration.

In an April 1995 memo, Bush invited his staff to come to his office to look at a painting. … The picture is a Western scene of a cowboy riding up a craggy hill, with two other riders following behind him. Bush told visitors—who often noted his resemblance to the rider in front—that it was called A Charge To Keep and that it was based on his favorite Methodist hymn of that title, written in the eighteenth century by Charles Wesley. As Bush noted in the memo, which he quoted in his autobiography of the same title: "I thought I would share with you a recent bit of Texas history which epitomizes our mission. When you come into my office, please take a look at the beautiful painting of a horseman determinedly charging up what appears to be a steep and rough trail. This is us. What adds complete life to the painting for me is the message of Charles Wesley that we serve One greater than ourselves." Bush identified with the lead rider, whom he took to be a kind of Christian cowboy, an embodiment of indomitable vigor, courage, and moral clarity.

He came to believe that the picture depicted the circuit-riders who spread Methodism across the Alleghenies in the nineteenth century. In other words, the cowboy who looked like Bush was a missionary of his own denomination.

Only that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: "Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught."


The Slate article brings to mind the infamous quote from the 2004 NYTimes profile of Bush written by Ron Suskind with this iconic passage:

"We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out."


And this is the pathology that leads to the actions cataloged here.

Gonzales Gone

This is what I get for stepping out for 30 minutes. Gonzales now choses to resign. What did they find in his bed last week: A dead girl or a live boy? He couldn't be shamed by the fact he tried to take advantage of a deathly ill man in order to authorize a secret spying program he knew (or at least feared would be seen as) illegal. Essentially all of his defense for his tenure while Attorney General was that he had no clue what his office was doing. We went through six months of "Who am I and why am I here?," and now he decides to go?

So, where's the body?!

They may already have. . .

I asked in my previous post, after reading this article:
I honestly wonder if future civilizations will ever fully comprehend the stupidity that led grown men and women to rename snacks.


Apparently they already can. Reminding people that they will die will lead them to wall themselves into tribalistic defenses.

Mortality reminders not only enhanced the appeal of Bush's political style but also deepened and broadened the appeal of the conservative social positions that Republicans had been running on.

For instance, because worldview defense increases hostility toward other races, religions, nations, and political systems, it helps explain the rage toward France and Germany that erupted prior to the Iraq war, as well as the recent spike in hostility toward illegal immigrants. Also central to worldview defense is the protection of tradition against social experimentation, of community values against individual prerogatives--as was evident in the Tucson experiment with the judges [where a group of judges who were reminded of man's mortality set fines against a hypothetical prostitute at over $450, while the group given no such reminder set the fine at just $90]--and of religious dictates against secular norms. For many conservatives, this means opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

"Chocolate Freedom Tart". . .

I honestly wonder if future civilizations will ever fully comprehend the stupidity that led grown men and women to rename snacks. I honestly had to stop reading this article when we got to the line "Rove recommended the 'chocolate freedom tart,' a French desert renamed during the Iraq invasion." Note that we weren't even at war with France at the time, yet we had to protest the country by refusing to call the snack a chocolate éclair.

Fantasy

Years ago, I came across a saying, paraphrased, that essentially says that if you come across a guy who point at the sky and calls it "the ground", there is just no point in debating him. That was pretty much my reaction when I saw a link in small type on WashingtonPost.com with the words Why Bush Will Be a Winner. Later on, I learned it was a piece written in earnest by William Kristol of The Weekly Standard, who on matters of the war in Iraq is the pundit who points to the sky and calls it ground.

Which leads to the quote of the day from him:
I've been pretty consistent, pretty upfront and straightforward about my views. I had the same views when they were reasonably popular as I do now when they're unpopular. It would really be pathetic to adjust one's analysis based on public opinion.

Not as pathetic I guess as revising opinion based on public fact. It's not like those views became unpopular by happenstance. But I'm not a highly paid pundit (and if they hire you on output of commentary, I wouldn't even be highly paid if these words appeared in the Washington Post itself).

In other news, I caught my first debate -- the CNN-YouTube debate. I'm still split between Obama and Clinton, which I have been throughout the year. Like I said in a chat, Obama is my choice in idealism, while Clinton is my choice in pragmatism.