Thursday, July 29, 2004

The Reagan Revolution 

What's with those darned ungrateful Reagans? You have to feel sorry for poor li'l Bush, pacing around out back of the funeral home waiting for a chance to put his greasy meathooks on the late Gipper's crown, mantle, sceptre, secret decoder ring, etc., and before he knows it the whole damned family is in the hearse and the hearse has driven off without him. First it was mean daughter Patti, who's been slapping him around in print for some time now, and then it was Ron Jr., who graciously consented to speak at the convention, only it turned out to be the wrong convention. And that, of course, left Nancy With The Laughing Eyes as George's last best hope for a totemic Reagan presence at the coming GOP shindig -- but only yesterday Mommy announced that she too was snubbing the 'Pubs, probably over that same silly stem cell nonsense Ron Jr. gave the speech about.

Of course, the dimwitted loser brother would be only too happy to speak at the Republican Convention, if only someone would ask him. We hear he does a dynamite impression of Tommy Smothers:
Conservative radio host Michael Reagan went on TV to criticize his brother's speech here Tuesday and bitterly complain that Nancy Reagan loves him best.

"He is her favorite," Michael Reagan said on Fox News. "Ron can do no wrong. I mean, basically that's it, Ron can do no wrong" . . . .

Michael, Ronald Reagan's adopted son with first wife Jane Wyman, has long competed with Ron Reagan for the affection of Nancy Reagan. In his 1988 book, "On The Outside Looking In," he wrote that the Reagans never loved him.
As a matter of policy, we do not take sides in family squabbles. But if Nancy genuinely believes that Ron can do no wrong, and Ron goes around saying the kinds of things he says in the new issue of Esquire, we cannot help but suspect that Nancy may not hold our Homunculus-in-Chief in the very highest esteem:
Throughout that long, stately, overtelevised week in early June [after Reagan Sr.'s death], items would appear in the newspaper discussing the Republicans' eagerness to capitalize (subtly, tastefully) on the outpouring of affection for my father and turn it to Bush's advantage for the fall election. The familiar "Heir to Reagan" puffballs were reinflated and loosed over the proceedings like (subtle, tasteful) Mylar balloons. Predictably, this backfired. People were treated to a side-by-side comparison—Ronald W. Reagan versus George W. Bush—and it's no surprise who suffered for it . . . .

The comparison underscored something important. And the [hooded] guy on the stool, Lynndie, and her grinning cohorts, they brought the word: The Bush administration can't be trusted. The parade of Bush officials before various commissions and committees—Paul Wolfowitz, who couldn't quite remember how many young Americans had been sacrificed on the altar of his ideology; John Ashcroft, lip quivering as, for a delicious, fleeting moment, it looked as if Senator Joe Biden might just come over the table at him—these were a continuing reminder. The Enron creeps, too—a reminder of how certain environments and particular habits of mind can erode common decency. People noticed. A tipping point had been reached. The issue of credibility was back on the table. The L-word was in circulation. Not the tired old bromide liberal. That's so 1988. No, this time something much more potent: liar.

Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.

None of this, needless to say, guarantees Bush a one-term presidency. The far-right wing of the country—nearly one third of us by some estimates—continues to regard all who refuse to drink the Kool-Aid (liberals, rationalists, Europeans, et cetera) as agents of Satan. Bush could show up on video canoodling with Paris Hilton and still bank their vote. Right-wing talking heads continue painting anyone who fails to genuflect deeply enough as a "hater," and therefore a nut job, probably a crypto-Islamist car bomber. But these protestations have taken on a hysterical, almost comically desperate tone. It's one thing to get trashed by Michael Moore. But when Nobel laureates, a vast majority of the scientific community, and a host of current and former diplomats, intelligence operatives, and military officials line up against you, it becomes increasingly difficult to characterize the opposition as fringe wackos.

Does anyone really favor an administration that so shamelessly lies? One that so tenaciously clings to secrecy, not to protect the American people, but to protect itself? That so willfully misrepresents its true aims and so knowingly misleads the people from whom it derives its power? I simply cannot think so. And to come to the same conclusion does not make you guilty of swallowing some liberal critique of the Bush presidency, because that's not what this is. This is the critique of a person who thinks that lying at the top levels of his government is abhorrent. Call it the honest guy's critique of George W. Bush.
(Thanks to Zemblan patriot K.Z. for the link.)

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