Tuesday, January 30, 2007
… to The Bush Diaries from PeterAtLarge. Well, maybe not a complete goodbye, but rather more of a Let’s not see quite so much of each other any more.
Here’s the thing, Bush. You have just been taking up too much of my time of late. You have been occupying too much of my mind space. I have been getting up early every morning thinking about you and what I have to say to you. I have been too anxious to get to the newspaper and the morning television news. I have been too anxious to get to my computer.
It has been a good run. I have enjoyed our daily chats. But more and more I have been finding myself predictable on virtually every issue that comes up between us. I know exactly what I’m going to say, and I’m guessing that you do, too. Truth to tell, it hasn’t been so much fun as it was when we started out, more than two years ago. And I want more time to read. I want more time to explore the intricacies of my mind, and follow where it takes me.
I know you have another two years in office. I’m all too aware, indeed, of that unpalatable fact—as is most of the rest of the nation at this point. But you, too, have become irritatingly predictable. “Stay the course” seems to have become your whole life’s purpose. And not just in Iraq. Your State of the Union speech was proof enough that you don’t have a single interesting new idea on any subject. You’re just treading water at the moment, in the desperate attempt to remain afloat for another two years.
So you’ll just have to manage without me, Bush. Well, as I say, not completely. My hope is that my colleague Cardozo will accept my offer of The Bush Diaires, which I intend to make today. He’s a bright young man, and he writes well. I trust that he can do a good job for you. If he accepts, I make the gift without strings attached. I know that he’s partial to Obama for the 2008 election: maybe he’ll want to change our daily conversations to reflect that view. Maybe he’ll bring friends in to the conversation, more voices… I don’t know. He’ll be free to do whatever he wants to.
And I hope that he’ll be open to posting a word from PeterAtLarge when the spirit moves me. Once in a while, Bush, I do have something that I need to tell you. But I don’t need the responsibility of having to talk to you every single day. I have begun to get tired to the sound of my own voice. At least in this particular forum.
To those of our faithful readers who have enjoyed this journal, I say thank you. As I say, it has been a good run for me, and I have always enjoyed your comments and responses. And to them, too, this invitation: come join me in my new venture, the new forum for my writing practice—for I would not wish to give that up with The Bush Diaries. You’ll find me meandering through my thoughts and feelings at The Buddha Diaries. It’s a fit sequel, I hope, and one which will allow me the freedom that I’m always looking for. It started yesterday.
To you, Bush, I send all the metta I can muster. That’s goodwill and compassion. As my teacher has taught me to say: May you be happy. May you find true happiness in your life. Because, as he points out, if you and others like you were to find true happiness, the world would be a better place. "
A footnote: Cardozo has, regrettably, declined. He has his own fish to fry, and rightly so. In view of this, I plan to keep these pages open for occasional addition, as when I feel the need to be back in touch. For now... well, Bush, it's fare thee well. Your PaL
Monday, January 29, 2007
It would have been great to have you there with us, Bush. Our teacher--a Thai Forest monk who normally studiously eschews politics in his teaching--relayed the joke that the voice of God had been revealed to be actually your Cheney on the intercom, and that no one had yet figured out a way to tell you. Had you been with us, though, I believe you would have been much moved by his teachings on goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. Such great wisdom in the Buddha's teachings, much of it not at all inconsistent with the teachings of your Jesus but with the added benefit, for me, in not needing to believe in any God--or gods. The notion that happiness is possible for human beings to achieve, if only they manage to let go their cravings, is an attractive one; and the breath meditation is a wonderful way to release those cravings, if only for one moment at a time.
What I brought home with me: a renewed sense of the expansion of my potential as a human being and the goal to look for simpler ways to lead my life, less demanding and invasive of all those other living beings with whom I share this planet; and a rededication to the notion that sitting meditation need not be viewed as some kind of self-imposed disciplinary torture, but that can quite simply be a pleasure, a daily treat, or retreat. "A nice place to be."
More later, Bush. Give me time to catch up with your doings and I'll be back in touch. In the meantime, as the teaching goes, may you be happy; may you find true happiness in your life; may you be free from animosity; may you be free from stress and pain...
Saturday, January 27, 2007
The motivations for your dogged pursuit of America's strategic interests are still unclear to me. Patriotism? Divine inspiration? Avarice?
Regardless of the motivation, it's clear to me that you are looking out for #1 - that is, the United States. (Not necessarily it's citizens, mind you, but rather the state as a whole.) This has been our MO ever since independence. Which is not surprising, either. Nearly all countries act toward the same end.
But what if we had a new #1? What if #1 was peace and prosperity for all people? Then, when you looked out for number 1, you'd have to take into account all of the death and misery resulting from military actions that preserve America's "safety" (read: dominance) in the world. The victims of state violence would no longer be expendable.
I think it's time to make that change. At this moment in history, no one is threatening us with full-scale invasion. The physical safety of Americans is jeopardized not by our way of life but by our single-minded economic expansionism. At this time in history, we have some slack to begin assuaging the antogonism between states that leads to violence, economic ruin for the losers, and to the rise of extremism.
Yes, given the current state of things, we will sometimes have to resort to force. But what are we doing to start down the path of eventual peace? What are you doing, Bush? What are any of us doing?
May I be so bold as to suggest a place to start? Admit the failings of our Iraq policy to the international community, and bring forward a proposition to the United Nations through which the world can come together to stabilize that nation. Our vulnerability is on display already. Own up to it, and ask for help. Be the kind of leader the world can respect, and not just at the point of a gun. In a phrase, Bush, help America grow up.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
I wound up, as I often do, at the Rockridge Institute site, lapping up George Lakoff's words with abandon.
Several months ago,Lakoff penned an article that merits continual rediscovery. For once prioritizing the substance of the issues rather than their "framing," Lakoff lays out convincing reasons why the country is headed in the wrong direction, and why so many Americans see it that way, too.
Lakoff reminds us that the Iraq invasion was detrimental to our response to 9/11, for reasons that by now are clear to most of us: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and the death and destruction resulting from the invasion increased the effectiveness of Osama bin Laden's anti-Americanism.
Next, Lakoff insists that the concept of a "War on Terror" naturally drives us toward such ineffective invasions, rather than the international police and spy work that leads to the capture of terrorists and the dismantling of their organizations. He also notes that the "war on terror" was actually extremely effective in it's true aims - providing a boost to the seemingly-inexorable process of rich becoming richer.
The country is clearly fed up with the war. The majority of us wish the whole conflict had never started. And yet, Democrats still seem to be talking about Iraq and nothing but Iraq. It's time - as Lakoff would have us do - to return to a national debate about the proper response to terrorism. Yes, we clearly need to find a face-saving and life-saving solution to the growing chaos in Iraq. But that cannot be the only focus of our foreign policy. Instead of non-binding resolutions about troop-levels, I suggest a repeal of the Patriot Act and the advancement of a brand new approach to terror, based upon traditional policework AND (my ever-elusive holy grail) the pursuit of detente between the United States and the Arab world.
George Lakoff, meet Barack Obama. The two of you should talk. Meanwhile, Bush, I suggest you put your ear to the door and wait for that new strategy you've been supposedly looking for these past couple of months.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
PS Ten degrees at night in Santa Fe. Brrrr....! For us disgustingly pampered Southern Californians, that spells capital C... O... L... D!
Posted by PeterAtLarge
Speaking of bipartisanship, though, I'll grant you this: one of the highlights of your speech came right at the start, with your gracious acknowledgement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her achievement. I thought you did that very nicely. Really. And it was a pleasure to see her sitting there behind your shoulder with that scowling Mr. Toad beside her. (Interesting sidelight, by the way, coming out at the beginning of the Libby trial, on your internal White House politics. Libby's lawyer's argument that his client was the scapegoat to save Rove from exposure has the ring of truth to it--especially when electoral success was at stake. If I had to choose which one of those two men to throw in jail, it would be no contest...)
The second highlight, of course, was Mr. Wesley Autrey (any relation to Gene? Just kidding, Bush,) whose "You the man" gestures from the balcony must have warmed your heart, given the cool reception from the Democratic (excuse me, the Democrat) side of the aisle. A man who throws himself under a train to save the life of another man is a sure-fire hero, and his fish-out-of-water presence amongst all those lawmakers and distinguished guests was a refreshing reminder that there really does exist a world out-there, beyond the halls of congress. Best of all, he seemed to be having a whole lot of fun.
The real hero of the evening, though--for me at least--was Jim Webb, who gave the Democratic response to you speech. I thought he was terrific. He offered a powerful, honest, impassioned talk that did not make nice and yet managed to keep the tone to one of tough political and ideological disagreement. I'm sure I wasn't the only one watching who wished that all political discourse could be at this level of authentic intensity.
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
We were worried, yesterday, about George. The dog, that is. He had been squealing a bit, the night before, when I touched his ear and he woke up definitely out of his usual sorts. He did manage his usual hearty breakfast, but otherwise he seemed listless and that ear was still clearly bothering him. Anyway, we called the vet and had an appointment for him that very morning (not as it is for we humans, Bush, as Ellie pointed out. At least those of us with HMOs--who have to wait days or weeks for an appointment with our doctor). Well, a very healthy number of dollars later, George emerged from his doctor's visit with three medications, count 'em, two pills, one vial of ear drops, and spent the day feeling pretty much sorry for himself.
Coincidentally, though, both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert chose to write about health care insurance yesterday. For humans, of course. Krugamn was deploring your latest let-them-eat-cake approach to solve the growing problem of the unavailability of health insurance for those most in need ot it: the poor, who can't afford it; and those who are already sick, and excluded from coverage by insurance companies who are in it for the profit and are disinclined to cover those who might actually cost them money. Your proposal for providing tax deductions for those probably too poor to be paying taxes anyway is absurd to the point of cruelty. And your "incentives" do nothing for those who are rejected from the system in advance. Herbert highlights the growing problem of those reduced to using credit card debt to cover essential health care costs.
I'm glad that Hillary Clinton put this out at the top of her agenda, and I hope that it will become a central topic in the coming campaign. "Coming"! It's already in high gear. But no matter how much the political hopefuls talk, there will still be people out there for the next couple of years facing life-and-death medical decisions in a system designed to benefit the insurance companies rather than the sick. I've talked about this national disgrace in the past, Bush. I understand you plan to talk about it tonight. If you say what Paul Krugman suggests you're going to say, your proposal is lamentably lacking in the "compassion" you once touted to convince the American people that you were the right man for that job that you hold onto with increasing futility and desperation.
I'll be holding my nose as I listen to the State of the Union speech. So will countless others. Too many of us in desperation, too. It's a depressing thought that George the dog could get the medical attention he needed right away--for no better reason than that his owners were in a position to afford it. Ellie says we're infatuated with this creature. She says he should run for President. Which prompts the thought that he wouldn't be the first dog in the White House, Bush.
Monday, January 22, 2007
I woke in a blue funk this morning, Bush. Perhaps it was the result of a conversation I had yesterday afternoon with a couple of smart women at a party, where I found myself propounding the notion that you are not simply the puppet of an evil cabal of corporate oligarchists, but rather a dangerously delusional man who has managed to manipulate all those around him into sharing his delusions. Perhaps my argument was partly the result of having read this analysis of your personality in Truthout last week, forwarded to me by one of our readers of these pages. It's something I have been unwilling to believe because the implications are so terrifying. And yet, and yet... That Conrad cartoon I posted yesterday, the Humpty Dumpty, the cracked egg... I tremble at the thought of the dreadful power you have acquired, the damage you have already done to this nation and the world, and to the planet that we live on. I tremble at the thought of the damage that saner minds may no longer be able to prevent you from doing in the next two years... And, truthfully, I am scared for all of us.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
I watched a special last night on the great cartoonist, Paul Conrad, who skewered Nixon and Reagan for the lies they told and the bill of goods they sold the American public. He's still at it, as I understand, and he has a fine target in the current successor to those worthies--your good self. Conrad was--is--a man who is possessed of a single-minded dedication to the truth, particularly in regard to such matters as war and peace and social justice. I just wish that this fine man, at eighty plus years old, had a bigger bullhorn than he has these days. He needs a fearless editorial page--one that's willing to speak the truth without compromise. We need that kind of incisive critical take on current policies and politics, and it's in regrettably short supply.
Anyway, Bush, good luck with your preparations for that speech. And remember these key words: NO MORE BULLSHIT. Thank you.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
... But first an admiring word for the late Art Buchwald, who died an apparently cheery death a couple of days ago, with a teasing jab at the man with the scythe that was worthy of the best of his irreverent assaults on the pomposity, self righteousness and hypocrisy of those in power. I used to turn to his syndicated column with pleasurable anticipation in the days when the Los Angeles Times still carried it, and missed it when--for whatever specious editorial policy reason--it was gone. I have to say, too, that I feel a kinship with him as a writer, even though I can only aspire to the excellence of his sardonic wit. For him, I believe, as it is for me to this day, all politics was personal.
On another front, Bush, I'm hoping that you're too hamstrung with other weighty matters to respond with your typical bellicosity to the Chinese provocation in destroying one of their own aging satellites in space. It became clear not long ago that you thought the US owned this extra-territory when you nixed negotiations on an international treaty to ban space weaponry and asserted the freedom of this country to do exactly as it pleased beyond this new frontier, as it did--remember?--to its lasting shame, with the native residents of that other new frontier in the 19th century. I find myself wondering what Art Buchwald's imagination would have produced by way of a response to China's action and your arrogant, dismissive America-firstism?
Enough for a lovely Saturday, though. I'm not wasting another minute of it on you, Bush, nor on the state of the world you have created. Have a good weekend.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Top 3 reasons George W. Bush should vote for Barak Obama in 2008
1. You believe in "Compassionate Conservatism"
You once said, Bush: “It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results.” After the calamities in Katrina and Iraq - and considering that you’ve relied wholly on trickle-down economics to help people out of poverty and reduce the ranks of the uninsured – it’s clear that the contract of compassionate conservatism has been broken. For six years, who monitored your administration’s “responsibility and results?”
Compassion is just a word for you, Bush, so how about lending your support to someone like Obama, who spent years (through a church group, no less!) directly assisting the poor and disenfranchised in Chicago, and who is currently on the forefront of the push to demand ethics reform in congress?
2. You want U.S. citizens to be safe
It is well documented, Bush, that you spent a long time (seven minutes, at the very least) deliberating about the best way to respond to the 9/11 attacks. Now, nearly four years into Gulf War #2, more Americans have been killed on the battlefield of Iraq than were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and anti-American sentiment, by virtually all accounts, has risen.
I believe that you do want your fellow U.S. citizens to be safe from attack. So why not vote for Obama, who opposed the war from the very beginning, preferring a narrower focus on the actual perpetrators of the crime?
3. You believe in public service
But do you serve the public? You were born into wealth and never left it. You became a businessman. You owned a baseball team. I think it’s fair to say that you embody (and can only truly hope to represent) the interests of the wealthy.
Your vote for Barack Obama would put someone in the oval office with the capacity to understand where virtually all Americans are coming from. He knows of poverty and discrimination – both personally and professionally. And now, as an established public servant, he has reaped the rewards of the hard work and responsibility that you so admire.
Can you acknowledge that such a man might be better equipped to serve the public as its chief executive? If so, no one will have to know. Our ballots are still secret, aren’t they Bush?
2008 election, bush, george w bush, iraq, Obama, president
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I neglected to mention this earlier, Bush, but Monday of this week witnessed the launch of Artscene Visual Radio with a column by yours truly under the title "The Art of Outrage." I believe I mentioned a while ago that I had been working on the first installment, a piece about an artist I identified as "the master" of the genre, Robbie Conal. Now that piece is out, and you can listen to it online by merely clicking on the link. You'll also find some less-than-flattering images of your good self, I fear, one of them in a nice tango with your Rice. I'm working on a second program right now, which will have to sufficently account for the brevity of today's entry. Those of our readers so inclined may choose to check in on the Robbie Conal piece as an interesting alternative.
A quick note, though, to acknowledge some political changes in the air: first, the Democrats seem to be headed finally toward some kind of collective stance in opposition to your escalation of the Iraq war. And now, it seems from today's headlines, you are backing off from your domestic spying program--I suppose also as a result of the new political pressures from those Democrats. Good new on both fronts, in my opinion, though I doubt that you'll agree.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
We went out to dinner with our new neighbors from across the street last night, Bush. They happen to spend some time, like your good self, in Washington, DC, and they acquired this Los Angeles base in order to be able to spend time with their young folk, who ended up out here. We had been planning for a while to make a dinner date so that we could get to know each other better, and Ellie made us a reservation for last night at this unpretentious little Italian restaurant in the neighborhood, located at an unprepossessing mini-mall not ten minutes from where we live.
Well, no sooner had we settled down to order when in walks Jack Bauer. In the flesh! And takes a seat with his lady friend at the very next table to us! No gun, of course. Not that we could see, anyway. This obviously wasn't one hour of his 24, since he had the leisure to interrupt his dinner for long enough to enjoy a cigarette out in the cool night air. (A bit disappointed in that, Bush, I have to say. I hadn't imagined our good Jack Bauer mortgaging his life to the tobacco industry. Ah, well, some illusions do get shattered from time to time...)
We had an excellent dinner, though. This place is really something. A wonderful Italian spread, solicitous waiters anxious that the patrons know every detail of the menu and choose well, a nice glass of Chianti, good company... what could be better? And we arrived back home in time for me (Ellie wisely chooses to abstain from such television fare) to watch that same Jack Bauer, in a recorded episode, defend his country once again against those evil terrorists. (This time, though, despite Jack's very best efforts--including killing his best friend--the terrorists managed to stage that mushroom cloud you've been warning us about. More next week!)
So I thought to myself, well, I hope Bush has a few of these guys around--guys like old Jack, who seems like a good friend, now that we've virtually broken bread with him. We didn't actually speak to each other, but you know what I mean, right? Rubbing shoulders... But I'm sure you need these guys who aren't afraid to show a little muscle when it's needed, who don't let a few quaint moral qualms get between them and a little old-fashioned torture when it's needed to extort that vital information... I mean, Bush, where would a President be without them? Right? Between you and me, and Jack Bauer.
Just thought you'd like to hear about this adventure, Bush. Sometimes it pays to be living in Hollywood, if you want excitement.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Rob McCord penned the above in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, and I cite it, Bush, in order to celebrate naivete.
Encourage minority friends to bid for homes in your neighborhood that are for sale, or invite them to join you in your vacation areas. Help figure out how more than one individual or family from a particular underrepresented group might come along, so that your friends are not - yet again - the only minorities in the room, on the street, at the party, on the slopes, in the store, on the beach.
Look, I know it can seem artificial consciously to consider race or ethnic background. But simply not thinking about integration is a failing tactic in much of America.
In an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation, McCord suggested that naivete might not be such a bad thing. Or rather, that what is commonly thought of as naive (like the above plea for renewed integration driven by individuals acting in good conscience) might actually be far-sightedness.
With this I wholly agree. Despite those annoyingly oft-quoted words of John Maynard Keynes about us all being dead in the long run, the true difference makers always assume that even dramatic social changes can happen in the short run. And sometimes they do, in spite of those who scoff at the naivete of well-intentioned idealism.
Say what you will, Bush, about McCord's idealism. There's nothing very nuanced about it. But maybe nuance is overrated - a product of an overmediated culture, perhaps. After all, how can pundits keep selling books, or editorialists keep writing editorials, if all they do is repeat those simple truths with the power to change everything if only they were put into actual practice?
McCord's words are truth, aren't they, Bush? If everyone who despises the continuing segregation in America were to integrate their own lives in any substantial way, the forces preserving segregation would dissolve proportionately.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank McCord for risking the label of naivete and appealing to those who would act, to act. And for leading by example.
And now we've gone beyond the Decider and the Commander in Chief. We're now the "Educator in Chief." Well, that's a laugh, Bush. That's a laugh. Have you ever tried teaching in a classroom where not a single kid is listening to what you say and they're all busy throwing paper pellets at each other? Well, I have. I was a lousy teacher, back when I was young. I know just exactly what it feels like. If it doesn't feel a little like that to you, Bush, at this very moment, all I can say is, well, you're just not listening. Again.
Anyway, I woke with this dream/poem. It's called
ALL POLITICS (IS PERSONAL)
I had this dream,
that I was lost
and late, and hurrying
in a city at once
foreign and familiar,
through white tiled
destination. And at
some point I knew
I should turn left
but saw, on the steps
in front of me, to
the right, a woman
in Muslim garb, who
tripped and fell,
rolling and bumping
down a steep flight
to the next level
down. I should,
I knew, just hurry on
to make my meeting
but some instinct
made me pause, and
change my mind, and
take that other flight
of steps to where
she lay, crumpled
and weeping on
the concrete floor.
That Muslim garb, I
dreamed, was somehow
less severe, I noticed
now, than I had thought,
softer, more giving,
warmer to the touch;
and the woman, too,
more womanly, more
sensual, even, her eyes
quite lovely in their
woundedness. I held
her, asking whether
she had broken any
bones, but she said,
No, testing them,
nothing, she thought
but scrapes and grazes.
The dream ended
without my knowing
who she was, of what
became of her; or of
the meeting I had
missed; but rather
with the memory of
the warmth of simple
human contact and this
recurring thought: all
politics is personal.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I hear that you don't bother to read the op-ed pages, Bush. I guess it might be understandable for you to avoid pieces like Frank Rich's exquisitely pungent essay, also in this morning's Times. But I wish you'd take a good look at this one, and consider the futility of fighting against these kind of odds. It makes me sick to read. Sick and angry, Bush, that you persist in the arrogant folly of your actions in the Middle East. Clearly, it's something quite different than military action that is needed there.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Practically every story I’ve ever heard or read about the modern state of
Quite a few, apparently, because the cities I visited were pretty well intact. Furthermore, I survived two weeks in
The relative state of calm that I found in
On reflection, I think the answer is simple. Life finds a way. When and where it is possible, people will pursue fun, love, adventure, art – all the things that make life tolerable. Furthermore, the average Israeli lacks the power to actually impact the direction of the political situation, so why bother obsessing over it?
This dynamic (it occurs to me, Bush) is the very thing that makes the development of peace so difficult to achieve. We find the same dynamic, of course, here in the
My conclusion? Those of us who have the luxury of walking the streets in relative safety, of having reliable access to food and shelter, of pursuing happiness, in short; we, the fortunate, must live our lives to the fullest. This means not only maximizing our personal happiness, but also staying as true as possible to our values, thereby living out our potential. I cannot tell you, Bush, that your paradigm of good versus evil is destructive to peace. I cannot tell you that compassion must lie behind all actions, even warfare. But I can certainly live these truths and trust that, eventually, they will trickle up.
My biggest pet-peeve about the progressive blogosphere is that compassion and a belief in the goodness inherent in mankind – the basic tenets of progressivism, in my opinion – are not borne out. Check out the discussions on Haloscan or Blogger or WordPress, Bush, and you will find accusations flying (mostly directed at you, of course), and compassion reserved for the victims of your tyrannical foreign policy. Progressives believe that hatred when acted upon cannot lead to peace, and yet many of the participants in these online diaologues hate you, and (it would seem) all conservatives, too.
More thoughts on why this apparent discrepancy exists in a future entry, Bush.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
I have to tell you that I haven't heard a single unqualified, positive reaction to your speech last night. Your Rice was her usual prickly self at the Senate hearings this morning--a loyal supporter, if ever there was one. Her idea of diplomacy--and yours, it seems--is to listen to everyone who agrees with you and cast all the rest as enemies and extremists. Which reminds me that there was one new thing, of course, in your new plan for success in Iraq: in direct contradiction to one of the major recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report, you made it clear that there would be no talking to Iran or Syria; instead, you actually threatened both these countires with action--presumably military--to thwart their intervention in our own military interests in Iraq.
Where did this idea come from, Bush? That you refuse to talk to those with whom you disagree--even those who hate you--unless they previously capitulate to your demands? It's an idea that springs naturally from the unquestioning belief that everything we do ourselves is good and right. To judge by your actions and your words, that seems to be what you seriously believe. I noticed that, at the end of your speech, you were unable to resist another appeal to that Almighty One who whispers in your ear. Something else that's new! He's no longer the Higher Father but the "Author of Liberty," whom you called upon, in your final words, to guide us. To which I say, in plainer speech, Bush, than yours: if this is your "new way forward" in this disaster, then God help us all.
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Were I your speechwriter, I'd have a couple of suggestions. I offer them without much hope that you'll approve them, but I thought I'd let you have them anyway.
Speech #1 (my personal preference)
My fellow Americans (that's de rigueur, I know), I have been thinking long and hard about this situation in Iraq, and I have consulted with the best advisors I know, both military and civilian. I have also listened to your voice, the American people, who have indicated unambiguously in every recent poll as well as the election this past November that you wish for this war to be over and the troops brought home. I now recognize that the invasion of Iraq was a ghastly mistake on the part of my administration. We fudged the intelligence and manipulated your post-9/11 goodwill to justify an action that a bunch of my neoconservative advisors had been pitching for years. Their rosy predictions about the ease of the job and their assessments of the probable outcome have proved disastrously wrong. Their failure to understand the history and culture of that region of the world--let alone our own--has led us on a tragically misguided and arrogant path into what most observers now agree to be a terminally chaotic situation.
Despite all my best hopes to the contrary, democracy has not taken root in Iraq; the government there has proved incapable of stemming the centuries-old animosity and violence between religious sects; the military and police forces have proved at best feckless and at worst brutally traitrous to the interests of the country as a whole; the Iraqi people have repeatedly indicated that they believe that the presence of American forces does more to promote violence than to stem it; and there seems to be little or no prospect of achieving an American-imposed peace.
In view of all this, and listening to both the military and civilian advice I have received in the course of the past three months, I have now decided that the wisest--indeed the only course--for our country is to apologize profusely for having intruded in the first place, to offer financial compensation for the physical damage caused, and to recall our troops as soon as dignity and their security allow. This action will make it clear to Iraq and the rest of the world that we are capable of recognizing and rectifying our mistakes and that we do not harbor those imperial intentions that much of the world attributes to us. Instead of arms and warfare, we will offer compassion, aid and hope.
Good night, God bless the United States of America (can't leave this out, Bush!) and God bless the rest of world.
Speech #2 would sound much the same, but the conclusion would be different. Here's what I would (reluctantly) propose:
Despite all the above, and despite the mistakes that have been made by my administration--mistakes for which I assume full and sole responsibility--I continue to hold to the belief that our troops must remain in Iraq until some lasting settlement has been reached. I now recognize, however, that it is not enough to ask Americans to support my actions without question or to go out and shop. This war must become a national priority. The military has been significantly weakened both in manpower and materiel, and will need a new infusion of srtength if we are to persevere and, at the same timne, fulfill other military obligations in the world as they arise.
I am therefore asking the Congress of the United States to act on two fronts: first, to reinstate the draft, or at least some form of national service for all Americans. And second, to consider what modifications must be made in our current tax obligations to properly fund the war. I was mistaken in believing those who told me that this war could be successfully concluded on the cheap, and the tax cuts I have pushed through in the course of my tenure in this office are proving to be unafforadable.
My fellow Americans, iI is time for all of us, not just those brave young men and women in uniform, to make the sacrifices needed if we are to prevail. It is time for all of us to play our part, and I am asking you tonight to support our troops in a significant new way. Good night, etc.
So there you go, Bush. My suggestions. I still think Speech #1 is the right one for the country. But at the very least, please give us #2. Good luck.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I see Senator Edward Kennedy on the television this morning promising a resolution to deny funding for your surge. The intention, as I understand it, is not to cut funds for the troops already in the war zone, but to prevent you from escalating the conflict by sending more. It's a fine distinction. Obviously, from the purely practical point of view, the Democrats would have much to risk in a blanket denial of funds for the war, no matter how terrible the mess you have created there; but to act now to prevent that escalation we hear you're planning to tell us about tomorrow night seems like simple common sense. As Kennedy points out, his resolution does no more than give congressional backing to what a significant number of the military brass have been recommending.
At the same time, despite the violence which I deeply abhor, I find it hard to fault the American attack on an Al Qaeda hideout in Somalia which I also heard about this morning. Assuming the intelligence provided by the Ethiopian troops on the ground to have been accurate, this is precisely the way your war on terrorism should be fought--small, isolated, well targeted actions, insofar as possible away from possible harm to civilian populations, designed to incapacitate those plotting acts of terror in pursuit of their fanatical agenda.
On another front, I'm happy to hear that our Republican Governor here in California is planning an assault on the problem of universal health care insurance in this state. It's past time for us to address this basic humanitarian issue. We should be ashamed, as a country, that we have done nothing at the national level to assure this security for our citizens--the only advanced nation in the world to lack a government-backed health care system and to foster instead the waste and profiteering that result from our private insurance systems. I trust that the Democrats now elected to represent us in Washington will make it their business to revisit this issue which has been all but ignored since the Clintons failed effort in the1990s.
Monday, January 08, 2007
The second reason for my abstinence is less pleasing: I had a day in computer hell on Friday, and simply couldn't face the prospect of looking at another keyboard or monitor. It was one of those days, Bush--and I imagine that you have a number of them, these days--when everything that could possibly go wrong does just that. It got to the point where it was simply laughable: at one point, I heard a clatter outside my office door and found that a large sheet of plexiglass had descended from apparently nowhere and shattered on the concrete steps. The telephone rang, and nothing happened when I picked it up. I completed a small voice-over job for Artscene magazine on my computer--an advertizing spot, no more than a minute--which should have been a simple job to email out; instead, it took three hours of frustration before I gave up, burning a CD instead to put in the US mail.
Everything, then. One of those days. As I said, I imagine you must have experienced many of them recently. Those pesky Democrats taking power from your Republicans in Congress... And the war! Iraq! One disaster after another. Last week, of course, it was not only the constant sectarian slaughter and the bombings, it was the brutal mishandling of Saddam's execution and the attendant worldwide revulsion: a reflection, necessarily, on your policies. That Maliki! Not to be trusted, Bush. And what an irony, that the most powerful Shiite leader seems to be no longer the (in retrospect) rather mild-mannered Sistani, but the wild and youthful Moktada al-Sadr, no respecter of the American presence in his country, nor of the democracy you still seem to want to establish there, against all odds.
Don't we have enough proof now, Bush, finally, that your concept of a peaceful democracy is simply not taking root in that unhappy region? Do we really need to send in more American troops in the stubborn attempt to force them to accept it? Have we not learned any lessons from the very recent--and the not quite so recent--past? Will it take yet more death and destruction to persuade you that your venture there is futile? My last hope, Bush, is that the Almighty Himself will get word to you before that speech on Wednesday. Or is He, like the rest of your compliant advisors, already persuaded of the rightness of your ways?
Friday, January 05, 2007
It was quite a sight, Bush, even on the television screen: children scampering around the floor of the House, spouses chit-chatting, a sense of fun everywhere. The sanctuary of suits and ties was transformed wonderfully into a more inclusive representation of humanity.
A lot was made, of course, of history being made as the first woman accepted the gavel of the United States Congress from her male predecessor. And Nancy Pelosi did a fine job, I thought, of conducting the whole event with a great deal of dignity, but without too much self-importance. She struck the right note between pride in her achievement and a sober appraisal of the work to be done. She managed to be light-hearted, a little giddy, even—but serious at the same time.
Quite a change, though, you’ll have to admit, in the image of power. That gavel has an unmistakably phallic air about it, and the symbol of its passage into female hands could have traumatic repercussions among those attached to its historic charge. I’d like to think, however, that it embodies a deeper change in the way in which we think about power in this country: that it doesn’t have to be male, suited, self-protective, competitive. It doesn’t have to relish “victory” or regard “defeat” as disgraceful and intolerable. It doesn’t have to be hard and unemotional: it can be nurturing and loving as well. Good lessons for a country that has been short on compassion for its own needier children and on the spirit of generosity toward other, less fortunate parts of the globe.
I did think it more than a little ingenuous on the part of your Republicans—now piously embracing the spirit of “bi-partisanship”, along with your good self—to be whining on about the unfairness of it all. The common refrain in response to the Democrats’ eagerness to get a running start on some basic, long-neglected legislation was generally: “How dare they do what we did?” Having successfully used the rules of order to silence Democrats and stymie their ability to set agendas, speak to the issues, or even to propose amendments, your folks on the Hill, it seems, are now having to taste a little of their own medicine, and the taste is bitter, Bush, and not at all to their liking.
I’m not sorry for them. Let them suffer. They have been for so long insufferable themselves, they deserve to eat a slice or two of humble pie. But Democrats must be careful—and I think they will—not to follow the example of their predecessors in power for too long. They, too, are preaching the benefits of by-partisanship to the country, and it behooves them to live up to what they preach. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, Bush, and hope that both sides of the aisle prove capable of serious, respectful cooperation.
My final thought: if you yourself are serious about rescuing your presidency from its growing reputation as the worst in the history of the United States, you’ll follow the same path; and begin by listening to the collective wisdom of the people of this country when deciding on your “new way forward” in Iraq.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
You must have been noticing, Bush, how everything is showing up on videotape these days. Maybe I have the techonology wrong, but digital or otherwise, it's moving pictures that keep popping up to document almost everything you can imagine--and a lot you can't.
This thought, this morning, provoked by yet another replay of the telephone video of the disgraceful events surrounding Saddam's hanging, the insurgent-released images of those four American contractors abducted weeks ago and--from the sublime to the ridiculous, the Today Show interview of the store clerk attacked from behind through the wall of his convenience store by a marauding SUV. (Have you noticed, in fact, how those SUVs seem to be going wild these days? There has been a remarkable surge--excuse the word, Bush--of videotaped SUV intrusions through the walls of department stores, automobile display floors, Seven-Elevens... It's amazing. You'd almost think these vehicles are beginning to declare war on the human species. An idea for a sci-fi thriller? What do you think?)
The ubiquity of cameras is something I don't think most of us would have imagined twenty years ago. I've been reading about the those security cameras they have installed at virtually every street corner and tube station in England, and am uncomfortable about this "1980" (eat your heart out, Orwell: you overestimated by at least twenty years!) version of what I still consider to be my home country. Now everyone can have his or her personal means to make a visual record of anything they care to, from intimate porn in the bedroom to the car crash at the local intersection and this week's blizzard, hurricane, or tornado.
All of which leaves me feeling more than a little spooked, Bush. I don't know about you--you must be used to cameras pointed at you everywhere--but I happen to value my privacy. One of the founding principles of this country was surely that we each have the right to what I read described the other day as our "bubble"--that small, and apparently decreasing personal space in which we can feel at home, unwatched, free to be exactly who we are. I don't honestly know whether I would have preferred to remain ignorant of the sectarian barbarity that characterized the final minutes of the miserable existence of Saddam Hussein, but I know that the implications leave me more than ever exposed to the prying eyes of the contemporary world.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
I have no time for you today, Bush. I'm in transition: from one house to another, one city to another, one computer system to another... Yes, we're finally giving up on PC here in my house, and swtitching to Apple. Lots of glitches to be taken care of. I'm anticipating a week of computer horrors. Anyway, I imagine you're pretty busy yourself Bush, so you won't miss my ramblings. I am pleased, though, to have a post from Cardozo to share with you. He's still in Israel, and it's good to hear first-hand from that part of the world... So here's
"Walking Toward Peace"
Posted by Cardozo
One of the best things about travel is that it has the power to put your convictions to the test. If, like me, you fancy to yourself that universal truths do indeed exist, travel provides an opportunity to witness firsthand if such "truths" apply in a pratical setting, thousands of miles from home.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
I have been thinking much about death these past few days, thanks, largely, to the book I have been reading: Philip Roth's Everyman.
It's a sad book, really. The main character--I first wrote "hero", then went back and changed it: you could hardly describe this sad, complex, internally conflicted man as a hero--contemplates the history of his personal relationship with death, from his earliest youth, including the death of his father and other family members and friends. He contemplates, too, with agony--and with envy for his robust brother--his declining health as his body ages, the illnesses and hospitalizations that have plagued his life, his failed marriages, his isolation... And then he dies. If this sounds like a bleak read, Bush, well, then, I guess it is. But it's also a very deep exploration of the psyche of a human being--truly, an "everyman"--and has much to tell us about ourselves. The saddest part of it, for me, is that this man is bereft of spiritual resources, and that he dies without any sense of meaning or achievement in his life.
Ah, well. So I finished that and switched on the television set to watch the Rose Bowl. Pleased that USC won the game--I used to teach there, many years ago. I imagine Gerald Ford would have been rooting for the other team...
Monday, January 01, 2007
In reading the lead article in today's Los Angeles Times, the 1st of January, 2007, suggesting that you could be preparing to announce your plans for victory in Iraq this week, I found myself formulating this uncomfortable thought: we should no longer be allowing you to make plans for our military, Bush. You have proved yourself incompetent to make them. You have led this country into a military disaster of nightmarish proportions. You have demonstrated beyond any reasonable question that your judgment in such matters is faulty, guided more by ego than by wisdom, and that those you have appointed in the past to advise you in reaching these decisions--I think particularly of your Rumsfeld--are equally deficient.
I personally do not trust you to make life-and-death decisions in my name, Bush. It is clear that I am not alone in this. It is clear that the vast majority of the American people no longer trust you to make those decisions either. It is clear that the rest of the world no longer trusts you, and no longer trusts America.
In the light of this conviction, I wonder what in God's name we can do. Express our dissenting opinion as forcefully as we can? We did that in the election last November, and it seems to have been to no avail. Write blogs? Ha! Protest your decisions, once made, as vigorously as we can, if we disagree with them? You seem as incapable of hearing protest as you are of listening to advice. Require our Senators and our Congress members to reject your policies? They're so caught up in this mess, there are few of them able to see through the fog of war. Impeach? Too long a process. I'd find a resignation acceptable, but I'm not naive enough to see that happening.
I wrote earlier in these pages of my admiration for Gerald Ford, and was taken to task--not severely, Bush, but with gentle remonstrance--for not having sufficiently recognized the damage done by his pardon of Richard Nixon, and by his opening of the door for Ronald Reagan and the rise of the conservative movement in the last quarter of the 20th century. I was more distressed, myself, to read of Ford's strongly critical analysis of your rush to war in Iraq, and saddened by his choice to remain silent on the subject at a moment when his voice could have been an important one for us all to hear. Whom was he serving by this silence? The country that he so evidently loved, and in whose service he devoted his life? The Republican party? Your good self? It seems to me that a man of integrity needs to speak out when he sees things going wrong, and it saddens me to conclude that political loyalty, in this instance, took precedence over conviction and the best interests of the country.
In the context of which I have to wonder, too, where were our other former presidents? Jimmy Carter? Bill Clinton? Even, Bush, your father, George H.W.? They were surely better informed than the rest of us about the "intelligence" that led to war. Was it nothing more than presidential etiquette that allowed them to stand by without a word of protest while you deceived the country in your haste to muscle Saddam out of office? Was it plain protocol? Were they, like the rest of us, cowed by the events of 9/11. All it takes, the saying goes, is for good men to remain silent in the face of evil... Or perhaps, unlike Ford, they spoke, or tried to speak, and their thoughts went unreported by the media.
And now we have those 3000 dead, along with countless thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens. We have a morass in the Middle East, with all those intractible problems to which you have given short shrift during your six-year tenure in the Oval Office. Here at home, we still have no health care system worthy of a great and wealthy nation, and the safety net for those in need continues to fray while the rich go shopping for luxuries. It was not a good year for you, Bush, as I think you must agree. Except for those who enjoy the benefits of corporate or hereditary wealth, it was not a good year for America--not even, eventually, for those who worship at the altar of right-wing conservatism and who suffered a severe setback at election time.
My hope for 2007, Bush, is simply that we all awaken to a new appreciation of the bountiful blessings we enjoy, a new consciousness of our true place among all those other beings with whom we share this planet, and a new sense of our responsibility in the world.