-General David Petraeus, asked if the War on Terror was making America safer.
"What is admirable about Bush is also part of his insecurity. I think because his insecurity drives him to want to be relevant and want to do big things, he's willing to throw the ball long. And I think that because of that, history is not going to judge this man with indifference. They are not going to judge him as Franklin Pierce. He is either going to go down in history as a disastrous flop or a really monumental president."
-Bush pop biographer Robert Draper, in Salon.
"Aside from Walsh, most Republicans appear to be standing strong next to Bush and his war. Republicans are good at that. But Republicans always appear strong until the moment they crack."
AS I'm sure you've heard (it was reported on the internets) I'm at war with my local grocery, the one-time wingnut fiefdom of the Marsh family now owned by the madcap, anything-for-a-laugh leverage buyout specialists at Sun Capital Partners. I may have said this once or twice before, but it's not clear to me how people in the US of A shop weekly at supermarkets and drug chains or eat at nationally advertised restaurants, or, for that matter, watch the damn ads for any of the above, without turning communist.
It's been enlightening, the whole Marsh process, which I was reminded of when I read that Kos quote. Because the Marsh family played out the whole Republican crack-up routine: there were years of unqualified positive local press and cult-of-personality commercials, and when the bad news finally arrived (the sharp-eyed shopper had noticed a certain corporate panic months before) Marsh played the treason card (Wal-Mart and Meijer are unfair poopyheads!) and the We Can't Leave or Disaster Will Ensue card (their charitable and philanthropic activities were, according to the Indianapolis Star, the only thing keeping our fair city from becoming a drear, dispirited Sovietscape), before the whole thing crashed in on them, and it was revealed there were something like six dozen Marsh family members on the payroll at six figures each, and at least a baker's dozen of those had parachutes that disdained mere gold as fit for nothing more than ballast, and they all started pointing fingers at each other, briefly, until everyone was sick of 'em and too embarrassed for themselves to take it any more. And then, eventually, the Sun rose.
Of course you can't just blow off a business the way you can 225 years of national reputation, rule of law, and concepts of truth and honor, so there was a period of suitorhood when Marsh tried to preserve its vanity by finding, in succession, a White Knight, a Handsome Millionaire, a Still-Handsome Middle-Aged Guy with ED, and finally a 70-Year-Old Goaty Guy with a recurring bit part on Law and Order, before giving up the game entirely, shaving its snatch, getting a boob job and an Eva Gabor wig and cruising truck stops. Or so one imagines.
So now Sun Capital is trying to turn the financials around so it can attract a better class of buyer, and the difference is that where marketing was once determined by Which Distributor Is Passing Out Golf Clubs This Month there's now a sort of weird, Miss Havisham vibe to the place, provided Miss Havisham had somebody come in to dust three times a week. It's not bad bad, it's just sorta set in place but with discretely-more-aggressive pricing. Which means that you now get to pay, retro-actively and twice over, for all that corporate largess Marsh showered on suburban Summer Symphony-goers and downtown Holiday celebrants and, mostly, itself. And now you have 80s Soulless Soul minus the pirates.
Which I guess is also my take on Petraeus' testimony (I have no idea where that segué came from! We're workin' without a net here!). Petraeus isn't Westmoreland. He's Westmoreland on fuckin' decaf. Westmoreland was a lyin' pugnacious Kiss My Ass bastard; Petraeus is more of the modern Show Some Respect, I Kissed a Lot of Ass To Get Here technician. I just happened to pass the clip of that reply, and I scribbled it down and marveled (not so much, really) that the news hairdo just let the thing pass, as if we'd witnessed a substantive exchange of ideas. I mean, I understand that the public has just tuned out on this dog-and-pony show, and rightly so, but the Media was awful goddammed interested in the war when it was all about toppling statues, so maybe it could sit through the testimony without yawning publicly. Then I read Fred Kaplan in Slate, and learned that the follow-up was a bit more instructive:
Warner repeated his unanswered question: "Does that make America safer?"
Petraeus said, "I don't know, actually. … I have not stepped back. … I have tried to focus on what I think a commander is supposed to do, which is to determine the best recommendations to achieve the objectives of the policy for which his mission is desired."
I mean, shit, you're not a company commander, Dave. You took the assignment, and it came to you because you had some slight measure of plausible independence from the Bush administration, which is a measure of how far they realized they'd fallen by 2005 (which makes them charmingly human! per Robert Draper. Ladies and Gentlemen Boys and Girls! No net!). If you're going to scruple about lying in broad outline while expecting us to eat shit soufflé at least act like you think we think it's carob.
I was amused to learn in the Rob Patterson interview with Draper that I still must be counted among those "on the left" who portray the President as a "dimwitted bogeyman". (In the interests of accuracy it is Patterson, the columnist for the Progressive Populist(!) who makes the claim; Draper just thinks I've missed his "surprising depth".) When did The Left go from being that slacker in Austin to two-thirds of the poll-answering public? Or are most Americans fed up with the President because they realize now they wouldn't really like to have a beer with him 'cause he's just too intellectual?
So forgive me, fellas, but someone who says that Bush might become a "momentous" President is a bubble off square, and the fact that a bio released in 2007 paints a George W. Bush who doesn't always come off well just means that the book is for sale, not for bulk purchase by the usual suspects. Another hagiography wouldn't make it to the cut-out bin. Bush is "dimwitted" not because his IQ mightn't hover around three digits, but because he's overmatched by the job and so un-self-aware in middle age that he imagines his involvement in partisan fucking politics in the anti-intellectual atmosphere of fin-de-siècle America is sufficient to make earthshaking decisions absent real debate. This is not "intellectual incuriosity" I'm required to "understand" as "insecurity". It's fucking unforgivable laxity, dereliction of duty, and it doesn't just brand him a complete disaster as President, it calls into question the judgment and perhaps the ethics of everyone from his father on down who could have strangled his candidacy in its cradle and didn't. What greater goddam calamities need to befall us before we're justified in questioning his wits? What is there about his response to Katrina (What do they want me to do? Deliver the water myself?") merits our sympathy and understanding? He reads books! Damn, I guess I had the man all wrong.