George W. Bush is an asshole, isn’t he?
That’s lefty Tom Junod, who gets half his brain transplanted and writes about it in Esquire Magazine.
Here’s some telling excerpts:
What if he’s right?
As easy as it is to say that we can’t abide the president because of the gulf between what he espouses and what he actually does, what haunts me is the possibility that we can’t abide him because of us–because of the gulf between his will and our willingness. What haunts me is the possibility that we have become so accustomed to ambiguity and inaction in the face of evil that we find his call for decisive action an insult to our sense of nuance and proportion.
The people who dislike George W. Bush have convinced themselves that opposition to his presidency is the most compelling moral issue of the day. Well, it’s not. The most compelling moral issue of the day is exactly what he says it is, when he’s not saying it’s gay marriage. The reason he will be difficult to unseat in November–no matter what his approval ratings are in the summer–is that his opponents operate out of the moral certainty that he is the bad guy and needs to be replaced, while he operates out of the moral certainty that terrorists are the bad guys and need to be defeated. The first will always sound merely convenient when compared with the second. Worse, the gulf between the two kinds of certainty lends credence to the conservative notion that liberals have settled for the conviction that Bush is distasteful as a substitute for conviction–because it’s easier than conviction.
“Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’ ”
Today, of course, those words, along with Lincoln’s appeal to the better angels of our nature, are chiseled into the wall of his memorial, on the Mall in Washington. And yet if George Bush were to speak anything like them today, we would accuse him of pandering to his evangelical base. We would accuse him of invoking divine authority for a war of his choosing, and Maureen Dowd would find a way to read his text in light of the cancellation of some Buffy spin-off. Believe me: I am not comparing George W. Bush to Abraham Lincoln. The latter was his own lawyer as well as his own writer, and he was alive to the possibilities of tragedy and comedy—he was human —in a way that our president doesn’t seem to be. Neither am I looking to justify Bush’s forays into shady constitutional ground by invoking Lincoln’s precedents with the same; I’m not a lawyer. I am, however, asking if the crisis currently facing the country—the crisis, that is, that announced itself on the morning of September 11, 2001, in New York and Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia—is as compelling a justification for the havoc and sacrifice of war as the crisis that became irrevocable on April 12, 1861, in South Carolina, or, for that matter, the crisis that emerged from the blue Hawaiian sky on December 7, 1941. I, for one, believe it is and feel somewhat ashamed having to say so: having to aver that 9/11/01 was a horror sufficient to supply Bush with a genuine moral cause rather than, as some would have it, a mere excuse for his adventurism.
We were attacked three years ago, without warning or predicate event. The attack was not a gesture of heroic resistance nor the offshoot of some bright utopian resolve, but the very flower of a movement that delights in the potential for martyrdom expressed in the squalls of the newly born. It is a movement that is about death—that honors death, that loves death, that fetishizes death, that worships death, that seeks to accomplish death wherever it can, on a scale both intimate and global—and if it does not warrant the expenditure of what the self-important have taken to calling “blood and treasure,” then what does? Slavery? Fascism? Genocide? Let’s not flatter ourselves: If we do not find it within ourselves to identify the terrorism inspired by radical Islam as an unequivocal evil—and to pronounce ourselves morally superior to it—then we have lost the ability to identify any evil at all, and our democracy is not only diminished, it dissolves into the meaninglessness of privilege.
As it turned out, though, his appeal succeeded all too well. We’ve found the courage to go shopping. We’ve welcomed the restoration of the rule of celebrity. For all our avowals that nothing would ever be the same, the only thing that really changed is our taste in entertainment, which has forsaken the frivolity of the sitcom for the grit on display in The Apprentice . The immediacy of the threat was replaced by the inexplicability of the threat level. A universal war—the war on terror—was succeeded by a narrow one, an elective one, a personal one, in Iraq. Eventually, the president made it easy to believe that the threat from within was as great as the threat from without. That those at home who declared American moral primacy were as dangerous as those abroad who declared our moral degeneracy. That our national security was not worth the risk to our soul. That Abu Ghraib disproved the rightness of our cause and so represented the symbolic end of the war that began on 9/11. And that the very worst thing that could happen to this country would be four more years of George W. Bush. In a nation that loves fairy tales, the president seemed so damned eager to cry wolf that we decided he was just trying to keep us scared and that maybe he was just as big a villain as the wolf he insisted on telling us about. That’s the whole point of the story, isn’t it? The boy cries wolf for his own ends, and after a while people stop believing in the reality of the threat.
I know how this story ends, because I’ve told it many times myself. I’ve told it so many times, in fact, that I’m always surprised when the wolf turns out to be real, and shows up hungry at the door, long after the boy is gone.
(Link to this article, and excerpts, stolen from Greg Swann.)
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