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?