This is a waste of time, another useless political fantasia. But what the hell. We look like we are going to plunge into a prolonged contest in all venues between the Dems defending our civil liberties (meaning that they want to pass laws to take them away before the president does it unilaterally) and the Republicans defending our national security (can you look into the video camera, Osama? What’s the message for America again?)
Forgive me, I need some release.
The President’s newest and funniest defense of the NSA wiretappings is this: if we had had those wiretappings before 9/11, everything would have been different.
Now why doesn’t a Dem, one Dem, one little Dem, ask: how would things have been different? Would Bush have pressed the FBI? Directed the secretary of transportation to contact the airports? Done the type of things that, say, you do when you are warned that a terrorist attack is imminent?
Gee. It turns out that we were warned – or at least Bush was – that the chance was extremely high of terrorist attack. I suppose he wanted more info. Mohammed Atta’s address book. A map of New York city. Three years to think about it. After all, this is what Bush actually said about the memo he received on August 6, 2001:
"I read it and obviously was discomforted by the fact that Osama bin Laden hated America," Bush said. "But as I mentioned yesterday, we already knew that."
The farcical image of Bush as a bold leader, propagated by the press ever since we saw the real Bush, on 9/11, freeze and act with characteristic indecisiveness, is not so much political as psychopathological. It seems that the 9/11 attack hurt the country’s narcissism so deeply that we collectively -- or at least the media, on our behalf - decided that we have a bold, maybe even a reckless leader.
We don’t. We have a man with a character flaw as a leader. It isn’t a bad character flaw if, say, you are a bank teller. If you swing on a trapeze or lead a country supplied with 15,000 ICBM missiles, however, it can be deadly.
The flaw is this: Bush freezes up when meeting a crisis. We saw this plainly on 9/11. We saw this plainly with Katrina. And, I think, we saw this in the summer of 2003, when it became evident that Rumsfeld’s Iraq plan had failed and we needed new leadership if even a fifth of what Bush wanted to happen in Iraq was going to happen.
People who freeze up in crises do two things. First they lie. We know about the Katrina lies, Bush’s claim that nobody saw that the levees would bust when he had been informed 48 hours before Katrina that the levees would bust. We know about the 9/11 lies, the fight the Bush administration put up not to release the fact that Bush was informed, basically, that Al Q was ready to go soon. We know all about the lies in Iraq, from Mission Accomplished to the news about the thousand points of light in Iraq, an area in which American power is now pretty much irrelevant.
You'll notice that with Katrina, as with 9/11, Bush specifically flew away from the target area. This is a sad indication of the kind of behavior you would expect from someone who fails in crises. To use the military lingo, he doesn't have the guts to face up to these things.
The second thing people who freeze up in crises do is prolong. Having failed to address a situation at the crisis point, the person who freezes up can, by prolonging the situation, normalize it. A normalized bad situation melts the distinction between the moment of failure and all the failures that came afterward. So, for instance, it is normal for us to see Al Qaeda nesting in Pakistan, dabbling, according to the Bush people, in Iraq, blowing up a train station here, a synagogue there. It is so normal we don’t even think that Tora Bora was, uh, a fuckup, a massive fuckup, followed by the fuckup of not guarding the borders into Pakistan (lack of manpower being Rumsfeld’s m.o.), followed by the fuckup of allowing A.Q. and related Islamist groups to form a second power in Pakistan to the point where they are going to be that much harder to uproot. And of course the fuckup in Iraq, the prolongation of a pointless, pointless struggle. And the fuckup in New Orleans, the months of an emergency response that would have shamed Sri Lanka.
So, where’s the Dem to ask the simple question: okay, what would you have done with those wiretaps, Mr. President? Let’s hear it. Let’s hear the list. This ought to be good – a nice, big list of things that you do when you believe that you are in imminent danger of attack. Love to, love to hear it. Really. Take your time. Go on a vacation, perhaps, to get your bold thinking, freedom loving head around the idea.
Led by a contemptible putz who is opposed by a clueless bunch of political nitwits – America, circa 2006. Makes me feel all Walt Whitmanish inside.
ps -- surely someone will write LI to tell us that they had the famous San Diego apartment bugged -- that Bush's suggestion that they didn't is an error or a lie. Surely pursuing the minor fault relentlessly, dotting every i and beating the bushes for every bit of evidence, while letting the major fault -- the outstanding, public failures of leadership, intelligence, and responsibility -- go unquestioned, has been the whole sad pattern the past five years. I'll grant the President his buggings as a counterfactual. Again and again we swerve away from the obvious to forge our political weapons out of the esoteric. Since this has never, ever, worked, I guess the idea is: why not try the tactic one more time? Let me politely disagree, or more impolitely yell: fuck that. My idea is: hey, why don't we try to forge our weapons out of the obvious? Radical, eh?
“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears
Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads
"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads