Sunday, October 02, 2005

You-u-u-u- Scandalize Me...

I’m wondering what you can be thinking, Bush, about this rapidly expanding whiff of scandal that threatens to pervade your whole administration. A whiff? There’s a British understatement for you. It's a bloody awful stink. The odor of unsanctity seems to be emanating everywhere, these days, from the administration offices (your David Safavian, recently arrested) to the Republican halls of Congress (your Frist, your Delay...) And a serious part of it all, of course, is the scandalous ineptitude of some of your appointees and the scandalous cronyism that seems to be the only reason for their appointment. The levees seem to have broken in Washington as well as New Orleans, and the flood is leaving some exquisite corpses in its wake.

So I’m thinking, Bush, that you must be as angry as the rest of us, no? What’s most exposed as the flood waters recede is the bankruptcy of your political philosophy and the cynicism of its functioning. Given your apparent absence of respect for the role of government in the country’s life, it’s hardly surprising that you gutted the effectiveness of whole departments, not only by starving them of funds, but by staffing them with incompetents. Your cronies do not serve you well, once they are revealed for who and what they are. Still, it must be galling, now, to be exposed as the Incompetent-in-Chief. And especially mortifying after making such loud noises about returning dignity, integrity and respect to the White House.

Unlike some, however, I do not believe you to be the incarnation of evil or stupidity. As I see it, what has brought you to this sorry pitch is a dreadful indulgence in your own self-righteousness, a steadfast and blind belief that you can do no wrong, a kind of mental laziness or lethargy, a lack of critical judgment or discernment, perhaps, that leads you to misplace trust in others on the basis of a faith in your own gut instinct: and despite evidence to the contrary, that same character flaw prevents you from seeing, or at least admitting, when that trust fails. So your Rummy has done a "superb job" when all his planning and predictions in Iraq prove disastrously wrong; your "Brownie" is doing "a heck of a job" while the Gulf Coast goes down the drain.

What I want in a President, Bush, is someone who is constantly critical, constantly demanding—of himself as well as those around him (or her, with respect to Geena Davis—and maybe, one day, Hillary!) I want someone who’s willing and able to fire someone who’s doing a poor job, or who misinforms him, and not someone for whom blind loyalty supercedes the ability to evaluate and appraise. What I have seen in you until most recently—the past couple of weeks, at best—is self-congratulation and denial of responsibility, for yourself as well as for those you have appointed to responsible positions.

It’s not good enough, Bush. Perhaps, as you’re trying to tell us in a variety of ways—mostly photo-ops, I regret to say—you have learned a lesson from Katrina. I hope so, for all our sakes. I’m very much afraid, though, that all you’ve learned is how to spin this one, too, to turn it to your advantage. A good test for me, and I think for many in this country, will be the name you come up with for your next Supreme Court nominee. Will that nomination show the beginnings of a real sense of humility, a preparedness to listen and respond to those other than your ideological base? Or will it come from that same place of self-righteous belief in your own moral rectitude? We’ll see--and, by all accounts, in the very near future.

And finally, a word to those who share our conversations in these diaries, Bush: thanks for staying with me at a moment when I’ve been skimping not only on the writing time devoted to this effort, but to the reading and other preparation time that inform it. Those kind enough to have been following along with me will know that this coming week is moving week for Ellie and me (at last) and will hopefully forgive some even greater irregularity and haste. Tomorrow, for example, I’ll likely have to skip. But I’ll be back!

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