LI has had the type of day that would have shattered Dmitri Karamazov’s nerves. And about that, I will keep my mouth shut – dark is the grave wherein my hopes are laid, and like that. I do want to give a big shout out to Mr. T. from NYC – rescuing me from financial ruin. It is so nice not to be on the rocks.
So … given that I don’t have the energy to go ahuntin’ after our Rebel in Chief today – and given also that I’m getting an extraordinary influx of visitors, thanks to The Empire Burlesque, Tiny Revolution, and TheModernWorld – I think I’ll reprise a fortuitous bit of profiling I did a couple of weeks ago. I’ve noticed today that many are the pundits who are shocked by that Katrina video in which our Prez is paralyzed with the realization that, once again, events are going to be too big for him. These pundits have woven a campfire tale of the brave and bold President for years, and like kids telling a scary story, they fell for it themselves. They felt called upon to do so, since, given the events of 9/11, it was either myth or the dash of cold truth – that the Supreme Court had dubbed an incorrigible bumbler to be the Uncle Sam’s incarnation, and that the man flying around from place to place on 9/11, less like a President than some tourist who’d stumbled into the wrong country, was a what you see is what we got kind of proposition. Robert Coover’s The Public Burning, of course, is the veritable guide book to Uncle Sam’s incarnations. In the book, Uncle Sam incarnates himself in Eisenhower on the golf course, teasing Ike’s Vice President, Richard Nixon, with intimations of his b’ar hunting glory:
“In the aftershock of Uncle Sam’s transmutation, it is difficult even to hear a question, much less to grasp or answer it. One is always struck by a kind of inner thunder, a loss not so much of vision as of the coordinates of vision, and a loosening of the limbs as though in sympathy with the dissolution of the features of Uncle Sam’s current Incarnation. I say he went over to rinse off his balls and asked me about the Rosenbergs – but perhaps he had asked me long before, while watching his drive arc distantly toward the flag on the sixth green, for example, or even during the backswing, somewhere in that timeless era between the first snap and crackle of metamorphosis, Ike’s blue eyes flashing me a glance full of fear and trembling as the moment grew in him, and my own slow recovery from the awesome dazzle of this miraculous transubstantiation.”
Of course, if not privy to Uncle Sam’s descents upon earth, us mere citizens can watch the press reel back from the boldness, the courage, the likeability of the current Uncle Sam pretender. This is why the Katrina video is so, so cruel (in fact, I almost had a ping of sympathy for Mr. Bush), and why the handlers have tried to keep Bush as sealed away from any unscripted moments as though he were some pubescent Rapunzel, apt to fall for the first horny prince who came along.
But LI has already gone through the song and dance, so let’s quote ourselves, from February 4, 2006:
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.