From One Speech to Another
It was. Katie Couric said, the most important speech of his presidency. He delivered it with all the poignancy of voice recognition software in a tone, more somber, without the trademark swagger down the long red carpet to the lectern adorned with the presidential seal, and the surrounding flags. Here, in what was to be a pensive mood, he stood before the book-lined wall of the West Wing library. On cue, and as if he had just swallowed his cod liver oil, he stumbled over simple phrases, mouthing in fits and starts, the words moving across the teleprompter.
After six years of unmitigated blunders, the untouchable frat-boy scion, third in a line of a silk stocking senator, and half-baked son of a president, had finally reached that particularly Potomac moment when it becomes necessary to play the oh so passive "mistakes have been made" gambit. Attempting to evoke comparisons with the haberdashery store owner, main street everyman, Democratic machine politician who had risen to become president and whose unpopularity stemmed from tough choices, he allowed that the buck stopped with himself!
Cocooned in the time warp of his inner circle, he seemed unaware that the viewers and the public beyond had lost faith in his veracity, that the New Orleans fiasco had reinforced their view of his detachment, that the elections of 2006 had in fact already taken place and that through a slue of well sourced books, that public knew how he had resonated with the paper hawks, knew that he had placed the aim of an Iraq invasion on the table the day after 911, knew how he had welcomed dubious assertions of an intelligence "slam duck", how he had chosen to overlook the cautions of his own father's wisemen, had silenced the generals that opposed his strategy, recalling how, with that same elevated detachment, he had literally urged would-be Jihadists to come to Iraq to kill Americans even as the first chaos and casualties mounted, and finally, that a long string of his most important assertions, in a void of real explanations, all, without exception, had proven false.
Après Moi, Le Deluge
Now this articulately-challenged man had the unfiltered task of convincing that there was something different in this escalation*, this time. In order to get any traction from a soured public, he would have to do more than rely on the usual half truths, wallpaper and slogans, to explain here and in carefully chosen media interviews to follow, where the previous strategy had gone wrong and how the new strategy would be different. For a man used to delivering a simple staccato of faith-based assertions, there were unfamiliar nuances and efforts to deal with: he needed to explain why it was that nearly 4 years into the program, with all the negative momentum that time span implied, the local army, that supposedly numbered 350,000 US-trained men, and backed by 130,000 Americans was still not able to bring order to the streets of the capital city, itself and that 20,000 more American troops would somehow not just tamp things down 'til he could get through his presidency, as some suspected, but actually tip complex local political scales that preceded this occupation, in some cases, for a millennium and in the case of tribal and ethnic rivalries, from time immemorial..
Hey, Hey, LBJ
In Vietnam`War days, the then President, Lyndon Baines Johnson had to endure the constant pressure of public demonstrations against the increasingly unpopular war. A particularly biting cry for Johnson was the refrain: Hey! hey! LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?
This time around, the President has succeeded in keeping the deaths out of sight and in hiding just how much treasure he is dissipating with this war for oil that was supposed to be paid for by that oil. He has seen the numbers of American deaths, met some of the parents and some of the many who have been maimed for life, but he has been mainly shielded from the hundreds of thousands of human lives that have already been destroyed as a result of his adventure in which he has used the US military with all the precision of a stick poking a hornet's nest; for, despite the silence in our streets, the upheaval it's set off has been enormous and will become even more so in the years to come, as the consequences play out.
As for money, the US has directly dispensed 400 billion but a recent NY Times article estimates the real costs, already exceeding $1.3 trillion, will eventually top $3 trillion as long term cost kick in and moneys are spent on the nation building phase, the refugees who have been displaced and the pensions and care of the 10's of thousands of soldiers and families who will need our support for the rest of their lives. As after the Vietnam War, a financial day of reckoning will come when Americans wonder where the buying power of their dollars has gone and add up what they got in return.
Dynasty and Democracy
Our democracy relies of course on all of us. It is the system we have inherited and despite its weaknesses is, as Churchill said, still better than anything else we know. But, as we've seen, it is constantly endangered by the great imbalances in wealth and power that serve to underpin and weaken the system. For the military contractors, the great petrochemical corporations and the financial services handling the cash flows, the war has been a great bonanza. As one minute barometer of the money that has been set awash, real estate values around Washington DC have soared in the last six years like few other places in the country.
In that regard, as in all wars, these have been the best of times for those in a position to profit from the great sums that are inevitably dispensed. Year-end bonuses in this miserable year of setbacks abroad were so high in some places that even first-year employees became instant millionaires.
The elites gathered around the courts of power had chosen to elevate the brash son of a President who had been one of theirs, not the one waiting in the wings. In a compromise with an electoral base they needed, they allowed themselves to choose this man known to have a string of bad episodes behind him, an arrogant grown-up, who, having never really suffered any, liked to talk about consequences. To ensure he had a chance of getting in, his DUI's, military foibles, and coke use had to be firmly buried, just as his business failures were papered over.
The Legacy: A Conservative Nightmare
When George 43 took over, his ascendancy coincided with what seemed in the mind's eye of many Republicans, to be the apotheosis of a new permanent conservative majority. Like a Renaissance painting, Bush 43's ascendancy rested on an allegorical pyramid of permanent national power bases. For the emboldened, America, the sole superpower standing, with an unchallenged technological and commercial superiority, like an F15 soaring above the radar in an unclouded sky, would assertively forge a New American Century, with family values, religious zeal, unfettered trade, and Western ideals rising to meet the new day. In this historical moment, the effects of the long national trauma of Vietnam were finally put to rest, the all volunteer, professional military would rely on superior technology and the globalist ambitions of the corporate giants would be unleashed. For the elites. gods of the universe who mastered this unchallenged dominance, the fruits of profits would flow back into their hands in an unprecedented way, American might abroad would be universally feared and respected; awestruck, the permanent majority at home would support a move to undo an entire century's social, intellectual and artistic liberties corrupting the body social and politic.
All that was needed to solidify that majority was an amorphous seemingly permanent enemy to replace what had disappeared with the end of the Cold War.
And Like a Godsend!
On 9/11/2001 with the new president in office for little more than half a year, Osama bin Laden delivered to the White House doorstep the perfect new permanent enemy, Radical Islam, or better, Global Terrorism. For the neocons behind the takeover, this might have been called a godsend. Conspiracy theorists would wonder, among other things, how it was that bin Laden's large family in America, were the only people to be flown out in the first few chaotic hours after the attack when the skies were closed to all but military activity. No one denied that the Bushes and bin Ladens had prior business connections and that Osama had been a CIA client during the Soviet/Afghan war. The public, of course, even many in that majority who had voted for Al Gore, saw their President's steely eyes and thanked God he had been chosen by the Supreme Court.
Now in 2007, with the Iraq adventure gone terribly wrong, with our vital energy supply in real danger, with US prestige and respect at an all time low around the world, with a seemingly unstoppable emerging China holding over a trillion dollars of US debt, with a trade imbalance built in, soaring deficits (Bush has kept the cost of the war off of the books as if it were inconsequential), the old allies unwilling to help, even in a slipping Afghanistan, with that solid gold military now seen to be stretched beyond its capabilities, its fighting capacities and manpower depleted and a public newly skeptical of what their government tells them, new Democratic majorities were being forged in disgust from Virginia, across the Midwest to the depth of the Mountain States. Conservatives are likely to think they have woken up to their worst nightmare.
To fully gauge the impact, it's now possible to imagine, in the dynamics of Washington politics, that Bush 43 may expect the same kind of treatment from his own party that Richard Nixon got the last time the scenario ran amok.
The World War III Scenario
There is likely to be a hidden power struggle with the President and Vice President pushing for a move up to a war with Iran while the sober establishment that anointed them makes its own moves to pin all their troubles on this chronic failure who had enticed them to drink too deeply out of the cup of reactionary religious politics.
The debacle in Iraq has proven that great military powers can exert overwhelming forces that can bring down governments. Fighting sectarians on the streets, house to house is another thing, it requires savvy, intelligence and the will to accept the consequences of sacrifice. By changing the subject to Iran, the warhawks get a new list of targets that can be attacked with pushbuttons from the air and sea.
Before Bush and Cheney manufacture a green light to go after Iran, another Tonkin Bay type episode, they should be given the task of proving that they can stroll through a part of the capital city controlled, not by the enemy Sunnis, but by our primary allies, the Shias; say, Sadr City. Having done that, they will have given us something more than their usual words, success and victory, to go by.
Of Democracy and Dynasty
Finally, perhaps in this our still evolving Democracy, we should look twice at the poor precedent that was set many years ago by the Adams family. One of the scourges of monarchy, was the elevation of highly flawed heirs. In that light, too, Democrats also should be taking a hard look at the implications of the Hillary husband/wife precedent they may be willing to set this time around.
*It should be noted that right from the beginning the image managers have worked overtime to keep Vietnamese-era resonating words out of the mouths of the media; rarely are the terms body bags, body count, hearts and minds, collateral damage used, likewise the handlers have fought terms like Sunni, Shiite, insurgency, civil war, quagmire and now escalation is the latest. In her testimony Secretary Rice would only go so far as to call it an enlargement (she probably doesn't get the same spam we do, or she might have come up with something else). Surge had to be pulled back because it implied a short period and would have undermined support from McCain, Lieberman.etc.
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