Monday, May 18

For Those Of You Keeping Score, We're Now Entering The "We Weren't Allowed To Win" Phase

Frank Rich, "Obama Can't Turn the Page on Bush". May 17

A COUPLE weeks ago I watched "Richard Thompson--A Solitary Life" from BBC Four, which someone was kind enough to upload to the YouTube. And at one point his ex-wife Linda is asked about "The End of the Rainbow", a typically cheery little lullaby Thompson had written around the time their first child was born, wherein the unknown narrator takes it upon himself to explain to a suckling that life is shit once you leave the nursery. The refrain:

Life seems so rosy in the cradle,
But I'll be your friend, I'll tell you what's in store.
There's nothin' at the end of the rainbow.
There's nothin' to grow up for anymore.

And Linda talks about how people would come up to her and ask if she was insulted that her husband would say such horrible things about their child. And she says something along the lines of I just don't understand how these people think.

Now, I don't know who was cornering Linda at the time, but I do remember more than one reviewer saying the same thing: Oh, look, this guy's just had a child and he writes this dismal stuff about it. (One should note here that even on the most simplistic level--the magic realm where "Something in the Air Tonight" recounts Phil Collins watching someone drown, "Lord Help Me Jesus" announced Kris Kristofferson's Born-Again conversion, and Randy Newman hated people of less than average height--the babe in question cannot be Thompson's, or anyone else's, first-born. And I remember thinking the same thing: does your mind always work this way? If you have to see the song as autobiographical--did you also imagine he was a traveling tinsmith whose race horse had been poisoned?--why isn't it from the opposite--let's say logical--tack? "Despite his unflinching look at the dismal side of life, Thompson and his wife recently had their first child"?

Which brings us to the torture story, and its central mystery: What did Nancy Pelosi know, and why did she lie about it?

Yes, Virginia, it's Frank Rich:
Until there is true transparency and true accountability, revelations of that unresolved eight-year nightmare will keep raining down drip by drip, disrupting the new administration’s high ambitions.

That’s why the president’s flip-flop on the release of detainee abuse photos — whatever his motivation — is a fool’s errand. The pictures will eventually emerge anyway, either because of leaks (if they haven’t started already) or because the federal appeals court decision upholding their release remains in force. And here’s a bet: These images will not prove the most shocking evidence of Bush administration sins still to come.

Well, I have no idea who'd bet against Bush administration depravity at this point, but I know who was doing so at the time: Judith Miller and the front page of The Liberal New York Times. This is not a demand for you to wear the hairshirt, Frank; I hope you've decided that for yourself, after the 2000 elections. But it is a sense of my problem with the whole enterprise here. How in the world did anyone imagine that Al Gore's earthtones and sighs trumped George W. Bush's obvious Adult Onset Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? How'd anyone believe that "Saddam" was about to plunge us into nuclear conflict, or that that little Judy Miller/Dick Cheney pas de deux wasn't staged?

I sure won't bet against yet untold, even unimagined Bush administration depravity, whether it comes to light or no; but I will continue to insist, until someone suggests a better explanation for the whole Iraq disaster, that the operation was planned in 1999, roughly from the moment the ascendant neocons anointed George W. Bush their idiot king, and set for 2003, all for political reasons. And that the Bush administration did not just sanction torture, it sanctioned torture for its own sake. These are the same people who were willing to spend American lives for the sake of reelection; they were willing to short-change the "righteous" mission in Afghanistan just two months in in order to prosecute what they imagined was going to be an even bigger crowd pleaser. None of this is speculation. Speculation concerns our anemic attempt to "get bin-Laden", our treatment of his entire family as if they had diplomatic immunity, and the Cheney/Haliburton/war profiteering connection. The conduct of the Iraq war, and the reasons behind our torturing persons in our custody may, like everything else in life, lack metaphysical certainty, but they are not therefore open to endless intro course epistemology essays. There's only one way to look at it, absent some earth-shaking justification that even Dick Cheney hasn't been able to confabulate to this point. If there's really a justification for torture, then Nancy Pelosi shouldn't be on the front page of the Times. Simple as that. In the meantime it is intellectually perverse to maintain otherwise, and intellectually perversity can only be at the service of the war criminals of the Bush administration, one of whom is still running around loose and getting his "viewpoint" aired as though there were some nuance in waterboarding technique the rest of us were missing. There were doctors present!
[Texan journalist Robert] Draper’s biggest find is a collection of daily cover sheets that Rumsfeld approved for the Secretary of Defense Worldwide Intelligence Update, a highly classified digest prepared for a tiny audience, including the president, and often delivered by hand to the White House by the defense secretary himself. These cover sheets greeted Bush each day with triumphal color photos of the war headlined by biblical quotations. GQ is posting 11 of them, and they are seriously creepy.

Take the one dated April 3, 2003, two weeks into the invasion, just as Shock and Awe hit its first potholes. Two days earlier, on April 1, a panicky Pentagon had begun spreading its hyped, fictional account of the rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch to distract from troubling news of setbacks. On April 2, Gen. Joseph Hoar, the commander in chief of the United States Central Command from 1991-94, had declared on the Times Op-Ed page that Rumsfeld had sent too few troops to Iraq. And so the Worldwide Intelligence Update for April 3 bullied Bush with Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Including, as it happened, into a quagmire.)

What’s up with that? As Draper writes, Rumsfeld is not known for ostentatious displays of piety. He was cynically playing the religious angle to seduce and manipulate a president who frequently quoted the Bible.

C'mon. Easily manipulated George W. Bush may have been, provided you were urging him to continue moving in the direction he'd been moving in since his TANG days, at least. But the Iraq War as a consequence of some cynical Old Testament mumbo-jumbo? Why would a cynical man believe in the sincerity of Bush's "deep religious convictions"? When did Jebus ever turn Bush away from behaving as he always did? Did He get him to quit drinking, or was religion a convenient way to stop all the questions about his "youthful indiscretions" after the fact? What essential, spiritual difference is there between George W. Bush, drunken overripe frat boy, and George W. Bush, President of the United States?

The simpler explanation is that the cynical manipulation, promotional piety, and the theological certitude that one's tiniest synaptic event is endorsed by the Creator of the Universe all arise mutually. Cynical religious manipulation is a hallmark of this party since Reagan; George W. Bush was not its bumpkinish victim but the latest in its line of bumptious patent medicine salesmen, and it's no surprise that Don Rumsfeld spoke fluent Pharisee. If we'd start asking the right questions maybe we wouldn't have to wait for events to overwhelm the political timidity of the current President.


jackd said...

The Old Testament quotes weren't about getting Shrub to agree to anything new, they were about adding "spiritual" heft to his nutsack. It's pouring him a slug of Bible to stop his hands from shaking before he signs the next order.

The "seduce and manipulate" line is exaggeration, yeah. "Flatter and encourage" might be better.

Anonymous said...

"Flatter and encourage", yes. Also, kiss up to.

If I may indulge in some genderism, men in social structures like armies or administrations do have a tendency to reverently approach the buttocks of the guys above them on the pyramid, even if they privately consider the owners thereof to be fools.

Scott said...

George W. Bush's obvious Adult Onset Fetal Alcohol SyndromeWell, the Internet might just as well hang up a "Gone Fishin'" sign and take the rest of the week off. Nobody's gonna top that.

J Neo Marvin said...

Henry The Human Fly references!!! This is now my new favorite blog.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

Frank Rich kissed Obama's ass so much during the campaign--Clinton is a racist--I quit reading him. I did manage to choke down this love letter. I want Rich to pull his lips away from Obama's "naughty bits" as the Brits say long enough to say, "I want some mother fucking hearings. It is summer and there is nothing on television so we might as well have some goddamn hearings."

Obama is a sham. He ran to the imaginary left--never actually saying a goddamn thing--so he could govern to the imaginary center--also never saying or doing a goddamn thing. I don't want a "dialogue" on abortion or torture or anything else. I want some goddamn name taking, indictments and kicking ass. From abortion to credit cards to rendition, to prisoners, to staying in the fucking Middle East, to kissing Saudi hands, ass, butt, to --you know--his goddamn mediocrity passes for competence. I am sick of him and his lame ass administration before he was sworn in.

He ought to be aiming for more than the cheap ass, I want everyone to love me and give me the maternal breast seats.

I am having a great medication day....

Ben Flesh said...

AS much of a fan as I am, Thompson's whole career has been a downhill slide from Henry the Human Fly, and his liner notes for Full House.