poor richard's almanac, revised

The newest talking point by the pro-war side is to compare the irrationality of getting into the war with the irrationality of withdrawing from it. There was a post on Crooked Timber making this point, and I’ve read it in the Washington Post. My favorite, however, is Noah Feldman’s NYT Magazine piece

Now, the logic of this argument is pretty much the logic of Bush culture in general. For instance, 9/11 happened, as we all know, after Bush was warned about an upcoming attack, after he failed to take it seriously enough even to communicate his info to the Secretary of Transportation or ask the FBI for any further information. In fact, he went on a month long vacation. Now, in Bush cultural terms, this makes Bush the ideal leader in the fight against terrorism. Failure is the new success. Indeed, Bush went on to make a botch of capturing or killing Bin Laden, and then went on to make an epochal botch of Iraq.

To do this, of course, you need failures to help you. In Bush’s case, there is Rumsfeld, commonly felt to have grossly mismanaged the number of troops required to hold Iraq and thus kept around while he grossly mismanaged the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, from which failure he rebounded by the massive failure to pacify the budding insurgency in the Sunni sections of Iraq – in fact, he is poised for even greater failures in the next year, which is why he is indispensable. There is Wolfowitz, whose failure to come within a magnitude of the cost of the Iraq war is just the kind of thing to elevate him to the head of the World Bank. Etc.

Given this kind of background, a man educated into being competent to mouth the complacent idiocies that pass for foreign policy in D.C. like Feldman has leaped into the gap of defending our course to complete victory. Because he and his like massively failed to understand Iraq in the pre-invasion time and were fooled, or self-deceived, time and time again, they have a portfolio we can surely trust:

“A little less than a year ago, in the aftermath of the first Iraqi elections, the most irresponsible thing being said in Washington was that everything was going to be fine. Now, with the next set of elections scheduled for Dec. 15, the new irresponsibility is the increasingly respectable assertion that the war has already been lost. Irrational optimism has been replaced by unjustified pessimism. This is not some triumph of experience over idealism. One a priori ideological standpoint is simply giving way to another.”

I wonder, sometimes, whether it is right to name this the Bush culture, Bush being a minor politician and all. But statements like this reassure me. Bush may be a minor politician, but he is a major symbol of the Zeitgeist. Feldman’s utter lack of embarrassment reflects a certain narrative impudence that Bush specializes in. Who can forget the guy, after borrowing to an unprecedented extent in order to give tax breaks to the rich, claiming that the money he borrowed from FICA could bankrupt Social Security – since who knew if the U.S. was going to pay it back?

Poor Richard's almanac needs a new proverb to represent the new American wisdom. I propose this one: Keep hammering a crooked nail and it will straighten out all by itself.

How can you not love the Bush culture? It is drunk driving every day, with the whole nation – loads and loads of fun and casualties for the whole international family!


Patrick J. Mullins said…
You're helping, you're helping!

Yes, I only have 2-3 glasses of wine a week and yet have been weaving when I walk down the sidewalk more in the last few months--when I haven't had a drink for days. These are really good posts right here with the true humour. I love the Bush culture too in this sense, because I haven't seen that the leftists have offered anything substantial against it except saying capitalism is being weakened with each new anti-capitalist moment. That's too abstract for me to follow. Much prefer a creative description of the full unreality.

You know, there's been a sensation of shock about the Bush culture which we're only now recovering from. I don't mean we've got 'good news' or anything, but rather that, somehow, our brains can finally perceive the full EMBARRASSMENT of it. Might just be personal, but I've recently thought we've been catching up with the embarassment, and hardening it off as with a cold frame, or making a patient be completely still for a CAT Scan. It's like how embarassed I feel when Tina Turner has to accept an award from Bush. It reminds me of the way we used to feel sorry for our relatives who had to go to County Line Baptist Church in Enterprise, Alabama.