Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Useful Idiot


(Photo courtesy of Bildungblog.)

You would think that, during the entire history of the blogosphere, George W. Bush would have proven to be a useful idiot for the purposes of progressives. While not exactly providing us with endless object lessons in conscientious governance, Bush and his jigglingly bloated, stupendously corrupt government has at least taught us in ways too numerous to count how not to run the federal government.

You would think, anyway.

Yet to judge by the 55,000,000 useless idiots who'd voted for John McCain three weeks ago, it's obvious that about half the country still hasn't connected the dots and saw the big picture. Take all those pixels of failure and incompetence both great and small, take a few steps back and one begins to see an emerging political portrait of Dorian Grey that ages not Bush but the citizenry that cares to look upon it:

They will see the laziest, most disinterested, cronyistic, greedy, self-absorbed, paranoid, sociopathic maladroit that ever slithered into the Oval Office. Oh, and he's also stupider than a pillowcase full of petrified dog shit.

Yet the cyclical nature of the changing of the guard on Capitol Hill, while in theory inevitable and even necessary for the purposes of checks and balances, doesn't always equate with what's logical, well-informed or even necessary.

A quick look at our recent history, even just within the last generation or two, shows several about-faces brought about by a fickle electorate. How could Nixon, for instance, even at the height of antiwar sentiment squeak into the White House only to win by a landslide four years later (without even needing the Southern Strategy), the draft still intact, after escalating the bombing raids in North Vietnam and sending many more bodies into SE Asia?

Then, how come Nixon just a year and a half later was hounded out of office by both parties just for spying on Democrats, burglarizing Ellsberg's shrink's office and then covering it up?

Why was Jimmy Carter, swept into office and replacing an incumbent who'd ended the Vietnam War and stabilized the economy but who nonetheless belonged to a universally reviled party, pummeled at the polls four years later by a Brylcreemed turncoat, an Alzheimer's candidate with no foreign policy experience? Did Carter not broker a peace deal between Israel and Egypt at Camp David?

Why did Reagan win by a landslide of his own at a time when social service programs were underfunded or killed outright and we began racking up a bigger and bigger debt and deficit? And after that, why did we elect his milksop Vice President, a refuge from the Carlyle Group's boardroom even years after Iran-Contra broke?

Why did we come out in such huge numbers 8 years ago as if W was an improvement over eight almost miraculously peaceful, prosperous years under Clinton? Enough people voted for Bush so that the eventual Diebold/ES&S-nudged election results seemed plausible to those whose judgment counted.

Political scientists will be debating the whys of these seemingly insoluble riddles and paradoxes long after all these men are dead and gone. We could, in the meantime, offer quick, facile and uncomplicated reasons.

Nixon won because people swallowed his lies about wanting peace and because Humphrey reminded voters of Johnson. Nixon got re-elected by a landslide because the Democrats didn't get out the youth vote back in '72 as Obama did in '08 (which is actually true enough). Plus, no sitting president ever ran for re-election and lost during a major military campaign (explaining in one fell swoop the implausible '04 election results).

Carter lost because of the hostages. Ford lost because of pardoning Nixon. And Bill Clinton is still guilty of far more heinous crimes (getting a blow job and lying about it to a grand jury so he wouldn't have to catch hell from his ball-busting wife) than Nixon or even Bush ever was.

Part of the reason for these curious election results, of course, could be summed up in one simple, declarative sentence, if one is willing to risk ridicule for making the ultimate facile observation: We're simply a nation with just enough useless idiots so that common sense doesn't always carry and save the day.

In the case of Watergate, Republicans became a four letter word during the '76 elections yet we forgave quickly enough to vault into the Oval Office a former B actor who wanted to rattle his rusty saber at Russia at a time when Carter was making great strides toward establishing peace. Whatever gains Carter had made between Sadat and Begin at Camp David was immediately swept away and then some when those hostages were taken at Tehran.

Americans had forgotten the object lesson given to them by Nixonian Republicans: That Republicans simply cannot be trusted, that their primary usefulness is in providing a necessary check and balance to the liberal excesses in Congress and as a reminder of how our government will be run some day if the Nixonian Republicans mutate and dominate both Congress and the White House at the same time.

To this day, Reagan remains the Teflon President, since even the scandal of Iran-Contra still doesn't stick to him and the capricious tarring and feathering of posterity still hasn't come close to giving the Great Communicator his much-deserved comeuppance. It's as if Reagan's senility was communicable because we don't seem to be able to recall that Reagan's Voodoo Economics of over a quarter of a century ago was actually the ignition point of the economic fire that we're vainly trying to beat out today. We've not only forgiven Reagan for his own excesses but our collective gray matter has gone as blank as Reagan's during his Iran-Contra Congressional testimony in 1986.

Americans are too quick to forgive Republicans for even the most heinous of crimes against humanity and common sense and too quick to condemn Democrats for far lesser crimes. Just when the Republican party gives us a useful idiot like Reagan or Bush and especially Bush II, some of us still hope that it will finally serve this time as a lesson in knowing what you're getting into bed with when we vote for Republicans.

The '06 midterms and the '08 general election that saw even more Republicans getting swept out of office and the election of our nation's first African American president was the loudest declaration since the post-Watergate elections of '76 of an unwillingness to tolerate high crimes and misdemeanors and abuse of power.

Yet Bush and Cheney never once came close to impeachment (and people were hung after Nuremberg for committing lesser crimes than those two) and Democrats we're seeing today are to blame for that. Even if they suddenly grew backbones and started doing the right things for a change and kicked lobbyists and special interest groups out of their offices en masse, would that be good enough to satisfy a fickle public that will once again crave change at any cost?

7 Comments:

At November 25, 2008 at 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are on the razor's edge. You nailed it, JP.
Which is why, even anonymously, I'm your biggest fan.

 
At November 25, 2008 at 7:06 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

I'd like to know who you are.

 
At November 26, 2008 at 2:21 PM, Anonymous Richard said...

JP,

The unspoken assumption throughout is that there really was some dramatic difference between the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates. In fact, each administration stretching back into the earliest days of the republic has spearheaded an unrelenting campaign of empire building.

For example, in the postwar period, Truman authorized the uses of terror and political subversion in Greece, destroying the anti-fascist resistance and installing a gov't receptive to US investment and influence. Eisenhower backed the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala, and supported US friendly dictatorships and client states throughout Central American.

Kennedy launched an unrelenting terrorist war against Cuba, paved the way for the plan to topple the Goulart gov't in Barzil, and ordered political subservsion and unspeakable bombing in Laos. He also ordered the direct U.S. muilitary invasion of South Viet Nam, after it became clear that years of backing the French and indirect efforts to forestall independence in Viet Nam had failed. Kennedy authorized dropping napalm, chemical warefare, "draft forced urbanization", and so on.

Johnson's legacy in Viet Name competes with Nixon's. Johnson also supported the Indonesian overthrow of Sukarno and the slaughter of as many as 700,000 Indonesian peasants -- opening the door to a flood of U.S. investment.

Carter backed the Somoza regime and the Shah until there was no one left to back. He continued the flow of arms to Indonesia right at the time when Indonesia was wiping out the population of East Timor. He supported Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti, continued the terrorist war against Cuba, and supported Marcos and apartheid South Africa, a much favored trading partner. Carter -- who espoused that human rights was the "heart and soul" of U.S. foreign policy (remember that one?)-- explained in 1976 that the U.S. owed Viet Nam no debt because "the destruction was mutual" (as was easily seen at the time by walking through Chicago, NY and LA).

Reagan, of course, took office and commenced a decade long war against Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala. He provided arms and WMD technologies to Saadam, and continued to do so after Saadam gassed the Kurds. Like all his predecessors, Reagan backed the terrorist war against Cuba, and supported US investment-friendly right-wing dictatorships all over the words, including radical fundamentalist Muslim regimes.

Clinton celebrated his arrival in the White House by making Columbia the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid in the hemisphere -- a matter that predictably coincided with Columbia becoming the largest human rights violator in the hemisphere as well. Clinton carried on economic sanctions of Iraq (even after Bush I allowed Saadam to stay in power) and ordered bombing missions that continued throughout the decade. As a result of the sanctions, at least a million Iraqi children died that likely would not otherwise -- their crime? being born in Iraq.

And so on. This is a mere representative smattering. The list goes on and on, and can be amply documented with respect to U.S. administrations and their relations with Central America, the southern cone, southeast asia, the middle east.

So, let's not kid ourselves that somehow the 55 million who voted for Bush, Nixon, McCain or Barry Goldwater are anymore deceived than their deeply ideologized liberal brethren who voted for the Democratic candidates. There's plenty of self-deception, willful ignorance and blood to go around.

 
At November 26, 2008 at 4:25 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Richard:

Being a student of American history, there's little in your long comment that I didn't already know (although it ought to be pointed that the Bay of Pigs to which you'd alluded was a product of the Eisenhower/Nixon administration. Kennedy felt obliged to go through with it so he wouldn't look soft on Communism).

I never meant to imply that the Democrats were angels. But in the balance, in this moral leper colony that we call politics, the Democrats are the lepers with the most fingers.

 
At November 26, 2008 at 5:05 PM, Anonymous Richard said...

JP,

The Bay of Pigs invasion was the least of Kennedy's sins re. Cuba. Schlesinger's Thousand Days notes that the president gave his brother the task of bringing "the terrors of the earth" to Cuba (thus, making Kennedy a terrorist; when was the last time you wrote or even thought that?)

This practice was a continuation of Eisenhower's goal of using economic sanctions as a means of threatening and creating hunger; hunger was regarded as a calculated mechanism designed to mobilize Cuban domestic opposition against Castro.

Kennedy's deputy ass'st sect'y of state expressed the desireability of using economic dissatisfaction and hardship to bring about hunger, desparation and the overthrow of Cuba from within.

With Kennedy in office, Washington resorted to attempted and executed assassinations, poisoning livestock, blowing up infrastructure and the like -- all with the intent to extirpate the rot of radical nationalism in a tiny country 90 miles from the U.S. mainland.

It bears mentioning that even the "threat" of using economic sanctions as a means to intimidate a population into overthrowing a gov't is terrorism, according to the most basic definitions accepted by the U.S. gov't.

In brief, one need not even consider the Bay of Pigs to conclude that Kennedy authorized numerous acts of terrorism (against Cuba, as well as other countries) and quite likely would have been found guilty had the Nuremburg Laws been applied.

Thus, I find it revealing that you would construe my reference to Kennedy and Cuba as reducible to the Bay of Pigs. it is not an unreasonable inference that you are simply not aware of the shocking scale and scope of Kennedy's crimes. If you were, why even bother pointing to a single instance for which there is an immaterial pre-history? It's as if I were to respond to a critique of Nazi persecution of homosexuals by noting that, to be fair, the drafting of Paragraph 175 owes some of its motivation to pre-Nazi anomisity towards gays and lesbians. I mean, what's at stake in volunteering the qualification?

 
At November 29, 2008 at 11:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your interesting, if clueless, view of recent history is highly entertaining. Anyone who disagrees with you is a "useless idiot". How old are you, twelve?

 
At November 29, 2008 at 1:29 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

To whom are you referring?

 

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