“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

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

american crisis 2: cheney's moral blackmail

Dear President Bush,

Yesterday you said, "I vowed to the American people I would do everything I could to defend our people, and will. I fully understood that the longer we got away from September the 11th, more people would forget the lessons of September the 11th. But I'm not going to forget them.”

Good for you. I’m not going to forget September 11th, either.

In my last letter I discussed your aversion to reading. Well, my topic seems to have coincided by happy chance with Ron Suskind’s new book. The book reveals, among other things, your less than stellar habits in the matter of information retrieval. According to Suskind, you have created a political tactic out of your feigned illiteracy: plausibly claiming ignorance, for instance, about the brummagem nature of your assertions about Saddam Hussein’s weaponry. After all, you just didn't read that piece of paper when it came across your desk. You trusted what Dick told you.

However, let's remember the lessons of 9/11. Suskind's book, according to reports of it in the press – see the section in the ps to this letter that I am citing from Brad Delong’s site – throws even more light on what happened between 8/6/01 and 9/11. The more light that is cast, the more disturbing your actions appear. Much more disturbing than they appeared even in Michael Moore's movie, or in any number of conspiratorial accounts of 9/11. In all of those accounts, you are assumed to be more than competent. Your mission accomplished persona is simply morally reversed -- from superhero to supervillain.

But the truth is otherwise, isn't it? In fact, you have no idea what to do in an emergency. I have often why nobody has ever pressed you about what you did in that month. We knew, before Suskind, that you had been told about Al Qaeda intentions to attack the U.S. We still don't know if, for instance, you pressed the FBI director, alerted the Secretary of Transportation, etc. Now we do know a bit more, and that glimpse looks bad. Just as happened before Katerina, you took it to be your role to play observer -- and a disinterested, dumb observer at that. According to Suskind, your almost incomprehensible indolence during that summer was interrupted not by reports you had asked for, but by the CIA thrusting an assessment upon you, disturbing the great work of brush clearing on your ranch. You were clearly more interested in the brush clearing. At that time, apparently, you considered the presidency a part time job – much like being the Governor of Texas, or being a teenage liquor mixer at your Dad’s country club.

Suskind’s discovery has given us another piece of the mystery that has long troubled LI – namely, Cheney’s role in your administration. It has become a given among the press that Cheney’s power is due to your inexperience. This, I think, is incorrect. There is nothing in your character that would indicate that you are capable of the kind of cool self-assessment this story implies – to wit, deciding that you are inexperienced, and handing power to Cheney. Nothing in your actions pre-9/11 make this plausible. Cheney, in those halcyon days, was given the task of mind melding with his fellow extraterrestrial energy company CEOs. He was not the man behind the throne.

Instead, I have an alternative narrative. Please tell me if this is correct. In the weeks following 9/11, you had a big secret – your neglect of all warnings that this was about to happen. At the time that you were most conscious of this secret, your VP began to press his own agenda, and his own desire to take over foreign policymaking from you. Or at least operate as the chief shaper of that policy. I have always suspected that the timing of those two things is not a coincidence. In effect, the person who knew about your negligence, who made it his duty to know, was your Vice President. And this Vice President is extraordinarily unscrupulous. If we turned to the pseudo-science of criminal profiling, I think we could show, pretty easily, that he is a socio-path.

LI thinks that this period was a time of moral blackmail. My hypothesis depends on two things: your guilt and your secret. There are those who think that you, like Cheney, are a socio-path – I don’t think so, however, I think you are prey to two polar moods – one of supreme vanity, and the other of guilt. The latter, of course, being the product of your mother’s upbringing. As a good Freudian, I consider that your Jesus Christ obsession is not just for political show, but a way of mediating between these two contradictory traits. As a reward for your abasement, you are made a son of God yourself. This is almost perfect as a solution to your little psychic woes. But surely on 9/11, a day you spent flying around, as though looking for another country to be president of, all the past failures must have come bubbling up – that pre-spree feeling. The failure to be a fighter pilot, like Daddy. The failure to be an oil company founder, like Daddy. The need for Daddy to get you on Harkin, and your eagerness to profit to the point where Daddy’s friends had to squelch an embarrassing investigation. You were vulnerable as you had never been, since past fuck ups were, after all, country club affairs. So you stole from Harkin and dropped out of the National Guard. Really, these weren’t big deals. But this time, it was a big deal.

The presidential bios of dead presidents often fill us in on things that we didn’t know at the time – notably, who the president was fucking. In your case, we will find out something different – who was fucking the president.

It was during this period that an inexplicable grant of authority was given to your Vice President. I am not saying that the Vice President went into your office and laid all his cards out on the table – although he might have. This is a crude man. I am saying that the emotional pre-requisites for emotional and political blackmail were there; that out of your consciousness of failure, you ceded power you would not otherwise have ceded to Cheney; and that your inability to free yourself from him stems from these crucial weeks.

Any other president would, at the very least, have been angry that his vice president went to see his mistress on a Texas ranch and ended up shooting a friend (a friend of your family) in the face and leaving your people to clean up the P.R. mess. But you weren’t. This blackmail has now become not just a single thread in your administration – it is the whole spider web.

Of course, my story shouldn’t be taken to suggest that you aren’t on board for such crimes as the invasion of Iraq – it is just that, on your own, I don’t think you would have had the courage or the interest to drive that enterprise. When, on your own, you do attempt to drive an enterprise – cast your mind back to ‘reforming’ social security – the enterprise peters out. You are not what I’d call a transformational leader, to use management speak. You are rather a rare case of transformational/patsy leadership.

And, of course, your guilt about 9/11 is not enough. If we only had known then, what we know now, surely you would not only have been impeached – you might have been imprisoned. You must be grateful, on some level, to Cheney for his role in creating such an unparalleled atmosphere of bullying that the facts of your non-role, pre 9/11, have never become a real issue. Who has ever asked about it? The same press that went into ecstasy about a sperm stained dress, years ago, has an incredible disinterest in what, exactly, you did, post August 6. I assume that is because the press feels threatened itself, for reasons I am not going to go into, here. However, the success of Cheney’s socio-pathic demeanor, the spread of his combination of guilt free lying and absurd truculence, has spread like a meme through the right wing media-sphere. Joe McCarthy has been normalized in the last six years.

This doesn’t answer all of the questions about 9/11, by any means. The collapse of the Democratic party – the abdication of the oppositional role – is not explained by Cheney-ian moral blackmail. I think there are structural explanations for that. There is a notion, on the part of grassroots Democrats, that the party is supposed to win elections. But the party doesn’t really exist to do any such thing for the party’s leading spirits in D.C. – rather, it exists as a form of entrée into the power structure. If winning elections threatens that power structure, it threatens those leading spirits. Consequently, they will take the knife to any oppositional strategy that leads to threats on their own entrenched positions. It is extremely odd that a party that held the White House for eight years would simply surrender as it did, but it is surely less odd if that party, for a long time, had become a vehicle for self-aggrandizement of a selected group in the Court society of D.C.

Yours sincerely,
Limited Inc.

PS – From Suskind’s book:

Ron Suskind: The "what ifs" can kill you.... [I]n terms of the tragedy of 9/11, a particular regret lingers for those who might have made a difference. The alarming August 6, 2001, memo from the CIA to [Bush]--"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"--has been widely noted in the past few years. But also in August CIA analysts flew to Crawford to personally brief the President--to intrude on his vacation with face-to-face alerts.
The analytical arm of CIA was in a kind of panic mode.... They didn't know place or time... but something was coming. The President needed to know.
Verbal briefings of George W. Bush are acts of almost inestimable import... more so than... for other recent presidents. He's not much of a reader... never has been... not a President who sees much value in hearing from a wide array of voices.... But he's a very good listener and an extremely visual listener. He sizes people up swiftly and aptly... and trusts his eyes. It is a gift, this nonverbal acuity.... What does George W. Bush do? He makes it personal.... The expert... has done the hard work... [Bush] tries to gauge how "certain" they are of what they say....
The trap, of course, is that while these tactile, visceral markers can be crucial... they sometimes are not. The thing to focus on, at certain moments, is what someone says, not who is saying it, or how they're saying it.
And, at an eyeball-to-eyeball intelligence briefing during this urgent summer, George W. Bush seems to have made the wrong choice.
He looked hard at the panicked CIA briefer.

"All right," he said. "You've covered your ass, now."


new york pervert said...

This is excellent, and got me to go catch up on Susking and related matters. There's one piece of it I couldn't understand yet, but I'll hold it for a day or two.

I was not exactly right in saying the administration would not see Zarqawi's death as 'good news for them', but they had to act as though it had been. It's only 2 weeks, exactly, now, and it's hardly news of any kind already. I was pretty sure of that.

My impression is that they are definitely still there, of course, but there is a definite shift into miniaturism if there is any reaction at all. Karl Rove's 'victory' has not proved to be earth-shatteringly depressing as we might have thought it would be to us when we first heard it. Bush's 'short trip' to Iraq seems, by now, after a week, incredibly long for him--nearly impossible to see that he would take time to see to something that clearly has little in it for him. Much more to the point is today's NYT article entitled 'Bush Warns Iran to Respond Faster on Nuclear Offer.' That's probably indicative of the next wave. They know that the other things were purely ceremonial.

roger said...

Mr. NYP -- maybe I am nuts, but don't you, as a New Yorker, find it... MADDENING that we are getting news about what really happened before the attack in this dribble dribble five years after it happens? I keep thinking, what if the papers had published, the week afterwards, President warned a month before the attack.

And yet, you know they would never do that. They are too responsible. I mean, they can't give out such information to us rednecks and lowlifes. We might not understand. We might think that the governing classes don't know what the fuck they are doing.

new york pervert said...

roger--yes, of course I do in a sense. I only don't react to it because it is still only more of the same unless results show outside what may be no more than another moment of good journalism. Couldn't this be just another Clarke or O'Neal or all the hundreds of other incriminating moments? I didn't even know till I started browsing around tonight that the possibility of a pardon of Libby could come at any time (although not expected right away, but I thought this sort of case was different; so apparently Libby can actually also be pardoned. I actually think that would be very effective toward their program if they just did it right now, but...they're gambling by now and they know it). What interests me is not that we don't know it until now (that fits the pattern, no matter how egregious), but whether knowing it even now will have any measurable effects at all. You can tell me if you think it definitely will, because I just don't have a clue really.

I'm also, as hinted at above, interested in whether they are actually even thinking of Iraq much except for damage control. I wonder if they're not thinking of Iran (and surely North Korea's bomb test) more than Iraq, because isn't Iran the way out of their suffocation they're now enjoying? I just wonder if they don't think Iran and North Korea are delicious things and Iraq just very last week. Cheney knows his future as a cryonaut is not as far off as he wishes it would be, and it's clear enough he'd do anything to get revenge on the world for not finding him a sex symbol before croaking (and there is a curious absence of anyone finding him so, unless maybe Anita Bryant.) I just accepted at some point in the last 2 years that any kind of welfare of the citizens doesn't direct their actions, so there just has to be some sort of unavoidable steel wall they come up against--or not. I just don't think a book which incriminates them means they will necessarily not be able to slide by. However, I truly do not know--just throwing off some impressions here.

roger said...

NYP, do I detect a certain weariness with this subject? As though we have already rammed into this brick wall, over and over.

I'll admit, I'm weary. I feel like Joshua at the battle of Jericho when the walls refused to come tumbling down. Again and again, I dance before those walls, and again and again, they remain stubbornly up.

It is all about walls tumbling down -- this story begins with them, at least. I have seceded from reality to the extent that I refuse to believe that the walls of secrecy, stupidity, low cunning and reaction won't fall if -- to change metaphors from Joshua to the big bad wolf - I can just huff and puff hard enough.

However, it is part of the news monolith, now, to not report news at the time, and then report it later, and then comment on it as if everybody knew it. A technique developed after the Pentagon Papers of yore. This time around, the Pentagon papers are just a big yawner. Everybody who is everybody already knew. As for the vast 99.9 percent mass that didn't know -- fuck em.

We live in an amazing age of knowingness, in which the key is to pretend to have known what nobody knew, and when pressed, to admit not knowing but being so unsurprised that one's ignorance almost counts as knowing. If I'd know this technique worked, I would have used it in school. Now you can just take your test up to the teacher and say, although I got all of these questions wrong, it doesn't surprise me in the least -- can I have an A now? Which is pretty much how the Washington press corps operates.

new york unicorn pervert said...

roger--I cannot explain why I can even imagine that I have other things to think about; it even seems somewhat unreal and ridiculous to me.

Okay--some things I don't know. Has Suskind always known these things and just decided to tell us now? Has Paul Krugman known the specifics of the CIA trip to Crawford but decided not to spill all the beans, but just some of them? Have MSM people who say they don't know why Osama is so 'difficult to catch' known all along why he wasn't, and just played 'liberal' to keep their jobs?

'and when pressed, to admit not knowing but being so unsurprised that one's ignorance almost counts as knowing'

Yes, I do feel exactly that way, not so much that my ignorance counts as explicit knowing, but that the atmosphere has been growing so progressively poisonous that there IS a form of knowing until a solid fact of accountability comes forth. Is there one appearing at the moment? If there is, tell me because I would love to know that. Now if Suskind knew and is only talking now, even his 'facts' are suspect (I don't think that's what you're saying, but then I can't figure out exactly who you mean by 'those who knew all along'.) But in my case, it is true, that I have gotten used to it without forgetting what it is I've gotten used to.

I'm not weary with your rage about it, and do think you're very serious. I don't even know what looking into the future means, so I go ahead with life as if it were worth living because of not knowing how to do it the other way even if it's not worth living. The world does seem to be becoming depleted very rapidly, and so I just wait around till it gets me. Actually, I'd almost agree that happiness ought to be impossible, and I could even be wrong that it sometimes is possible. I may very well not know. However, it is unquestionably true that I am unsurprised by any of it--maybe part of this is still always being able to recognize what each one of the new versions is with varying degrees of accuracy, but I don't think I was much more powerless with previous administrations, none of whom I found as odious as this one. Being unsurprised in my case seems no achievement of any kind, but rather an automatic coping mechanism that I just have observed getting put into place, both actively and passively I guess. I don't recommend what I do to get through to anybody, but don't know anything else to do myself except what I can still find that hasn't been vaporized in the present.

roger said...

I like the unicorn addition. But you know that I think of you as Steppenwolf. Can't help it.

Anyway, my comment was made in my best mumbling paranoid cockroach style. Sorry! I didn't mean that "they" were keeping in information "they" know. Rather, we have known for years that Bush received the August memo. We have also had hundreds of occasions in which Bush has appeared before the press and invoked 9/11. But I don't recall a single instance of him being asked by the press what he did, exactly, on his summer vacation, 2001. It isn't that they know -- it is that they don't want to ask. And as soon as that question is really asked -- as per example, by Suskind -- the same cycle happens as happened with the Downing Street Memo: resistance followed by the blase ho hum. The Downing street memo was first not-reported because, supposedly, it couldn't be confirmed -- and then it was not-reported because, supposedly, everybody already knew Bush was determined to have his war. The only catch, of course, is that everybody at that time did not report Bush was determined to have his war - they were busy reporting about him going to the U.N. and shit.

This is what I mean by the dribble dribble method. There are things that could be investigated because they stick out as anomolies. But they are simply buried, or ignored. I don't expect op ed writers to be out there at press conferences, but I do expect that if there is a press conference, there will be ... press at the conference. Not lackies and p.r. men. I'm even such an idealist that I think journalism is different from p.r.

new york unicorn pervert said...

Thanks, roger--yes, journalism is different from p.r., so that maybe Suskind will have an impact. Obviously, the horror is that so many things should have already had an impact--and public outrage hasn't either been enough or doesn't work. Cheney spewing shit about how the insurgency is weakening will end them all up in deep shit if they don't produce another diversion--diversion in all fields seems to be the operative mode, in media and government, and that's what I'm looking for in the various media codes. Many of their risks all seem very sloppy to me, although others disagree. I think they even think they are slopppy, but just that they are quick on the trigger types and will use force at the slightest provocation (read 'opportunity'.) No way to cover all that many polyphonic lines of both flight and filth. Suskind even uncovered Bush's ass in form of finding him congratulating CIA on covering theirs. So that the highly charged revelations by Suskind will have to be countered by something that will make people forget--and most people won't have read Suskind anyway, which is very depressing. I think I'm just in a waiting and observing period on this, haven't any idea why I'm looking at the shit with this rather cold eye which I haven't had before--again, I just think I reached tipping point of dosage, so that since I knew I was powerless, I would just keep up and watch. However, it could also be that they really are in trouble but that for that to translate in walls tumbling down doesn't happen in any logical sequence as we learned logic. That's one of the most frustrating things--logic really doesn't seem to count for much, and without its being restored so that things can at least be operational, there won't be anything for anyone to occupy themselves with, even the Laura Bush person, poor thing.