Monday, March 26, 2007

Richard M. Nixon or George W. Bush?

Such is the barometer of our times: everyone is now political. What was once a distant echo sounding every election year has now become an all-consuming pastime. With two years to go before the 44th president is sworn in potential candidates are already jockeying for position. I was surprised to find myself engaged with a coworker over who would be remembered as the better president: Nixon or Bush? Strange days indeed.

I went with Nixon of course. Watergate would barely register by today's standards.
Would we even be surprised to learn today that the current administration staged a break-in at DNC headquarters then covered it up with a series of lies? That would be the least of our worries compared with the constant summoning of decrepit behavior over the last six odd years. Alas, what will be said of George W. Bush by future historians?

I will give a little credit--the Bush presidency will be historical. I've always thought that political scientists will study it for years as some sort of twisted model for success. Imagine the Machiavellian genius involved to get someone with the intelligence of a water-cooler elected to the highest office in the land. That is either a severe indictment on the American populace or an incredible feat of black magic. The truth probably lies in tearful a mixture of both.

If anything the Democrats seem to take the electorate too seriously. Why did people hate John Kerry? He was too verbose. Why is Al Gore hated all the more? He is too preachy. Yes, this response from a self-proclaimed nation of Christians: too preachy. The Republicans don't waste time trying to figure Americans out. They go right to the prime motivators of any human: fear and selfishness. They happily exploit the results fueled by emotion and declare harmless rogue nations a threat to "homeland security" and gay and lesbians a plague on marriage and family.

The neoconservative movement is one that works by believing and convincing others there are threats everywhere. They mix that in with a little religious fervor and elections become the perfect crime. Scared white people run to the polls to vote for the party that has vowed to protect them. At its apex the movement managed to staff the halls of congress with sex freaks and scam artists, and put a dim-witted fool in the White House, surrounding him with born again brethren from their ideology.

They scared up enough votes to enact policies that would later prove their downfall. B
elieving threats are everywhere makes it very hard to identify the actual threats. While they dusted off the Iraq war plans in early 2001, Al Qaeda was getting ready to prove that the worst thing is not an insane leader thumbing his nose at the United States but a cabal of motivated, anti-Western followers. Such an idea never even breached the consciousness of neocons consumed with their own superiority. A bunch of peasants living in caves could never strike a blow to the homeland. Or could they?

9/11 proved to be a major blow to neoconservative thinking that nation-states posed the greatest threat to America but even after this their thinking did not change at all. Bush declared a "global war on terror" and proceeded to invade Afghanistan, then moved on to Iraq before finishing the job. Afghanistan is resurgent and Iraq has become the stuff of nightmares. Somewhere Bin Ladden is free. Still, the worst thing any neoconservative can do is to admit failure which is why you see John Bolton still declaring with utter confidence that the only mistake was not taking Saddam Hussein out sooner.

The frighteningly simplistic neoconservative policy you have been witnessing for the last six years is that America should take the opportunity afforded by the collapse of the Soviet Union to move unilaterally in the world against anyone who does not respect our foreign interests. Why Saddam out of all the terrible dictators? Saddam was the thorn in the neocon's side for thumbing his nose at us. Enter our very own tragic figure: the younger Bush ready to avenge the mistakes of the elder. The rest is history.

Even if you take the best-case scenario in each of the administration's massive and consecutive failures the result is still appalling. In each case it comes down to simple reasoning: either they sincerely thought they knew what they were doing, or they didn't know. When either option ends in disaster I'm not sure it matters.

The latest, a string of federal prosecutors fired for political reasons is hardly new or news. Was this a planned act of the administration or something that just occurred? Ultimately, does it matter? Should we be more upset that the administration seemed surprised, or that they knew all along? Is the administration completely out of control or in complete control? In these times, I'm not sure which is the better answer. At least Nixon's crimes were intentional. With Bush and co. you don't know if they planned to ruin the country or if all just happened like a terrible, unforeseen accident. That's the problem with electing people you wouldn't trust to do your laundry to steward your country.

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