July 12, 2007

President Bush's Interesting Distinction

Boris: Sonja, are you scared of dying?
Sonja: Scared is the wrong word. I'm frightened of it
Boris: That's an interesting distinction.
--Woody Allen, "Love & Death"

QUESTION: The intelligence analysts are saying Al Qaida has reconstituted in areas of Pakistan, saying the threat to the West is greater than ever now -- well, as great as 2001.

What's happened?

BUSH: OK, I'm glad you asked. Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate that opportunity to...There is a perception in the coverage that Al Qaida may be as strong today as they were prior to September the 11th. That's just simply not the case. I think the report will say since 2001, not prior to September the 11th, 2001. Secondly, that because of the actions we've taken, Al Qaida is weaker today than they would have been. They are still a threat. They are still dangerous.

--President George W. Bush, Press conference, July 12, 2007

I must remember to take deep breaths, to exercise regularly, to take my nutrients, to be temperate in all things (including temperance), and to hope, may the Force be with me, that I survive until late January, 2009. I simply have to believe that the United States is a better country than this. Bush must be some sort of statistical anomaly, a singularity, an act of quantum reversal. They say it might happen: an egg, lying splattered on the floor, could reassemble itself and leap up to the counter from which it rolled only moments before. The entropic arrow could reverse itself. Something on that order of probability might account for having a man this stupid as President of the United States of America.

To read an answer such as quoted above is to induce a kind of deep, existential fear in the mind of a common citizen. Such as myself. How could a person like Bush, so elementally confused, lead a country as complex and powerful as the United States? For that matter, how does he navigate his way across a furnished room without killing himself?

What could he have possibly meant by his answer? Only one thing comes to mind. On September 11, 2001, we are fairly certain that 19 members of al-Qaeda were killed instantaneously; thus, their ranks were diminished, to that extent, by late morning, September 11, 2001. They were at their lowest level of strength since earlier that morning. With Bush in charge of America's anti-terrorism efforts, however, they began to recover, beginning the afternoon of September 11, 2001. Therefore, if I read Bush correctly, according to the CIA's latest National Intelligence Estimate, al-Qaeda is at its greatest level of strength since the afternoon of September 11, 2001, although not as strong as it was that morning. This would appear to mean that al-Qaeda is still 19 members short, 20 if you count Khallid Sheikh Mohammed in Guantanamo. Also, "because of the actions we've taken," they've been unable to recover the loss of those 20 operatives.

Still, it is difficult to see how this could be an accurate assessment. I assume among the "actions we've taken" is the invasion of Afghanistan, and our destruction of the jungle gym complexes around Kandahar. We then left, and our ally Pervez Musharraf, democratic dictator of Pakistan, entered into an understanding with tribal groups in western Pakistan that al-Qaeda and the Taliban could have free rein in this cross-border area. Thus, the terrorist sanctuaries, probably including the crucial jungle gym infrastructure essential for teaching Islamic extremists living in Hamburg the art of flying American commercial jets, are back in business. In addition, the group in Iraq known as al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which President Bush cheerfully equates with the group "which attacked us on September the 11th," reportedly has about 10,000 new recruits, all of them joining up in response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

While math is probably the stronger of Bush's facilities lying along the verbal/quantitative axis, I think he's miscalculated, indeed, misundercalculated. What the CIA may mean is that, as a "result of actions we've taken," al-Qaeda is now at a point where they have at least 9,980 more members than they used to have, plus two strongholds instead of one. By the time this guy's through, we may need a reversal of the entropic arrow just to put the world back together again.

July 11, 2007

The irresistible Senator Vitter

I confess that part of my fascination with Senator Vitter's story is connected to my own psycho-inculcation with prohibitory religious indoctrination, a condition for which one is likely in lifelong recovery. It can't be all bad; 'tis said by some that the Victorians were the sexiest people of all because virtually anything, the glimpse of a bare ankle, could be orgiastic. Nevertheless, today's follow-on news about the junior senator from Louisiana reports that in 1998, while he was still a state representative, Vitter wrote an op-ed piece in the Times-Picayune in which he proclaimed President Bill Clinton "morally unfit to govern" because of his sexual escapades with Monica Lewinsky.

Probably the very best apothegm of all time, the pithiest, the most telling, the most incisive, came from the droll mind of Oscar Wilde: "Hypocrisy is the tribute which vice pays to virtue." No doubt Senator Vitter honors and reveres virtue in the abstract, and when he has engaged in vice (apparently the D.C. Madam was not his first procurer, according to some reports now coming out of the Big Easy), his public hypocrisy, including most of his work in the United States Senate, indicates that he knew better. The word "vice," however, brings up a delicate problem. Isn't Senator David Vitter now an admitted john? I believe that's a crime, which is an interesting distinction between Bill Clinton and David Vitter, insofar as sexual activity is concerned. Whatever Monica was doing under the desk in the Oval Office (and a lot of it sounds like huge fun for Bill), I don't think it was illegal. They were consenting adults doing legal, if sometimes nasty, things.

Well, some guys have all the luck. Bill Clinton didn't have to pay for it, and Senator Vitter, trying to keep it all quiet and impersonal so as to preserve his sterling image as a church-going family man, in a desperate and sweaty effort to get what he craved without being obvious about it -- well, he did. Does it mean he's morally unfit to govern? Not in my book. It just means he's a sanctimonious asshole.

July 10, 2007

Some Rise by Sin, Some by Virtue Fall

I do not think less of the junior senator from Louisiana, Republican David Vitter, because his telephone number appears on the list provided by the D.C. Madam to the press. Well, let me qualify that. Why didn't you use a pay phone, David? Sheesh. I think it behooves all of us to become intimately acquainted with our shadow selves, as Jung would have it, and thus to temper our quick condemnation of the human failings of others. He was away from his wife and kids, back home in Metairie, and Sen. Vitter, understandably exhausted from the hard work of trying to steer anti-gay legislation through an intractable, libertine Congress, took a walk on the wild side. Just because Vitter got jiggy with it one night (or ten, or twenty) does not mean his efforts at "defense of marriage" are hypocritical. In one sense, if you think about it, it just proves marriages need all the defense they can get, not just from gays who want to try what Vitter has obviously had some troubles with, but from pimps and madams who cater to our weakness.

I admit I was a little disappointed in Vitter, not just for being such a maroon that he used a telephone with his name on it, but because he won't talk about it now that he's made peace with his wife and God, apparently the only two people he thinks have a rooting interest in this thing. What a killjoy. His defense of marriage advocacy is so boring it makes your bones itch to think about it. But down and dirty nights in D.C.? Finally Vitter, who looks a lot like a choir boy grown fat on too much jumbalaya, would have something fun to talk about.

I wonder if he realizes it was God who got him into this jam in the first place. As a little Catholic, he sat in church on those sweltering Bayou days listening to the bombastic condemnation of perfectly normal human tendencies. You don't have to be Sigmund Freud (much as it might help) to see that's where the tantalizing urge to pimp his night originated. He just had to try it.

Oh well. Let's face it. His 100% rating by the Christian Coalition will be the first casualty of his fall from grace. And, of course, he won't be leading any more floor fights for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And if he ever uses the word "moral" in a sentence again, everyone will be rolling in the aisles, and I'm not referring to Pentecostals. And since he was something of a vapid Ken-doll in the first place (he used his own telephone number?), he's probably on the home stretch of his tenure in Washington anyway. It won't be long before he'll be spending a lot more time in Metairie, and while God might be okay with it, it's hard to like his long-term chances with his wife. Some marriages need more help than the Constitution can provide.