December 20, 2006

The Slander of Barney Bush

Because it's Christmas, and because one ought, whenever possible, to say positive things about one's fellow man, I shall admit that Bush's treatment of his dog Barney speaks well for him. G.W.B. seems to really like his dog, is kind to him, travels with him, seems more emotionally attuned to his canine friend than he does, say, to Laura Bush. The only caveat I might append to this encomium is this small reservation, that it does not seem fair to assume, as Bush appears to assume, that Barney supports Bush's Iraq policy. Bush has notably averred that if his only remaining support for the "war" is that offered by Laura and Barney, he'll stay the course. I am sure that W talks to his dog, probably at length; still, how can he be sure that Barney, a dog possessing the commonsense inherent in dogs, does not side with the 70 to 80% of the American populace who believe Bush's war is full of animal crackers?

We might note too (since we've run out of nice things to say here at Pondside) that Bush's declaration, a kind of Alamo-like challenge that he'll go on getting American's killed, killing Iraqis, spending money America doesn't have while increasing the frequency and intensity of terrorism in the world at large; that he'll proceed this way, even if his only support comes from his wife and the family dog - that all this sounds like the ranting and raving of a lunatic.

There is evidence for this diagnosis, of course, some of it professional. Viz., the whole book by Justin Frank, "Bush on the Couch," which concluded, psychoanalytically, that Bush is a megalomaniac with elements of paranoid ideation. Let us look logically at Bush's co-opting of Barney in this regard. For Bush to believe that a policy of war against Iraq, which even he would have to concede is at best an arguable theory of social and political engineering, and hugely subjective in any evaluation of its success and subject to many persuasive and compelling contra arguments, should be sustained even if only one married couple and their canine friend support it (and as stated, how can we be sure about Barney?), then Bush would necessarily believe, overtly or impliedly, that he possesses powers of insight and intellectual analysis that are absolutely unique to him (and only to him; I do not believe he would stay the course if only Laura & Barney chose to, if he disagreed).

While reiterating one should be gracious in acknowledging the positive qualities in another man, surely at this point there is not an American soul extant, including Harriet Myers (who used to think otherwise), who really believes Bush is such a person. On the contrary, most Americans concluded long ago that Bush is a person of thundering, crashing mediocrity, a cypher, an intellectually lazy goof-off with no powers of concentration, insight or analysis at all. The evidence is all around us, here in America and in the world at large. Particularly in Iraq. Bush is just another guy, and without the Bush brand name behind him, no one would ever listen to him at all, based, if you will, on his personal congitive powers.

The disjunction between Bush's self-image coupled with his fantastical assertion that he would stay the course even if no other rational homo sapiens agreed with him (by now Laura has been so reduced by co-dependency she can't think straight, and Barney, as noted, has been given the benefit of the doubt) - all of that, put on one side - versus the measured judgment of the American people that Bush is a moderately intelligent fruitcake - leads one to an inescapable conclusion. Bush must, indeed, be out of his mind.

The respectable, mainstream mass media, however, cannot do its own analysis on this basis. It has to analyze what Bush says, what he orders, what he leads America to do, on the basis of policy decisions. As an analysis of pros and cons. It has to take Bush's weird ideas seriously, as if they were part of a serious debate. The delusions, the flights from empiricism that characterize almost all the decisions the Bush White House makes, are taken at face value, as if they were simply one among many rational decisions that might have been made, and Bush chose this one.

The NSA spying scandal is an excellent case in point. Simply put, there was no reason that Bush ever needed to walk all over the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution or the FISA statute in order to eavesdrop on terrorist conversations in the United States. A cowed Senate and Congress would have given him carte blanche to invade every nook and cranny of American privacy by amending U.S. law (hell, by amending the Constitution). Senator Russ Feingold's censure motion garnered 4 supporters in the Senate, an eloquent measure of the institutional cowardice pervasive in the legislative branch. Bush did not need to invoke the "unitary executive" or to claim that the Congressional resolution of October 2001 (the Authorization for Use of Military Force) mysteriously granted him this non-military authorization.

Bush has gotten involved in felonious activities associated with the domestic spying scandal, and with other high crimes, such as violations of the War Crimes Act (at least as the act existed before Bush was granted his absolution by that same cowed Congress in the form of a retroactive exoneration) because it is his nature to commit such acts. Yet, again, the mainstream media has to take seriously his assertion that "the times have changed" and the Constitution is "out of date," and seeking search warrants for roving electronic captures of conversations is "too cumbersome." Or terrorists are a "new kind of enemy" not entitled to protection under the Geneva Conventions. One can multiply examples easily. This scofflaw pattern has characterized his governing style from its earliest days.

This approach to government, to life, is not a policy matter. It is a deranged mental state, a personality disorder. Simply for the sake of analogy, and without implying a similarity of scale, one might, in the 1930's, have taken seriously Hitler's anti-Semitic ravings and debated the "merits" of whether European Jewry was responsible for all the world's ills. At the time, there was doubtless a lot of mainstream "debate" about just such questions. In retrospect it seems sick to have discussed the matter in such terms at all. In the long run, historical judgment will condemn all of Bush's arrant lawbreaking and Constitution-wrecking behavior in the same way that Hitler's "policies" are now seen as simply the idiosyncratic mental disorders of a power-mad, delusional, paranoid and megalomaniacal personality.

Such things take time. Acquiring the perspective to see things as they really are requires time for reflection. In the meantime, we will suffer under Bush's self-delusions, with the stately institutions of Washington aggrandizing his madness. Barney, however, should not be tarred with the same brush. In the absence of hard proof, I am inclined to believe that it's simply a case of misplaced loyalty. After all, some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall, as the great Bard told us centuries ago.