I’ve been really confused about what the Bush administration is up to. Like when President Bush nominated his personal lawyer for the Supreme Court, I thought it might be further evidence of how out of touch he is. Either he truly didn’t comprehend how bad it would look, or–however deranged this might seem given his current popularity–he felt invincible enough not to care.
But when the hard right began condemning Harriet Miers for being too liberal, I thought it might be a squeeze play. In Act One, Bush’s allies pretend to reject the nominee for insufficient adherence to their non-negotiable doctrines. In Act Two, when Democrats in Congress oppose her extreme right-wing views, the hard right says, “See, no one is good enough for them!” In Act Three, the Democrats fall all over themselves demonstrating how reasonable they are and the nomination sails through.
I guess that could have been right too, but if so, it got short-circuited because the hard right overplayed its hand or underestimated the weakness of the liberal opposition, causing the strategy to backfire.
Then, as the president’s cronies began to fall to indictments and scandals, I began to think the nomination might be a bait-and-switch. In this scenario, a chief executive widely condemned for cronyism perpetrates the supreme cronyist gesture, knowing he will have to withdraw it, thus freeing himself to foist someone even more unqualified on a press and Congress too enervated to rally a further protest.
And that could be right. We’ll have to see.
Now that Miers has withdrawn, the \New York Times\ thinks Bush has gotten maximum mileage out of appointing a woman, so he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.
I’m sure you’re beginning to see my problem: considered through the lens of political strategy, not a single explanation for the Bush administration’s actions seems the least bit more or less trustworthy than the others. Until now.
Last month, the brilliant cartoonist Tom Tomorrow published an amazing strip in which he posited that a drugged-out hippie sleeper cell comprising Bush, Cheney and Rove had been deep undercover for 30-odd years, conspiring to behave so stupidly they would bring down the G.O.P. from within.
I spent an interesting five minutes considering how that theory was actually more plausible than almost every other explanation I’ve heard (which is not to say that it is the least bit plausible, of course).
Then I realized that the Bushies have not simply been playing Keystone Kops with CIA agents’ identities and three-card monte with campaign funds. They have actually been causing great harm around the world and turning our own ailing political culture into a Love Canal of ethical contamination. If you can stand it, please read the \New York Review of Books\ piece on “Torture in Iraq,” drawn from the Human Rights Watch report. It shows how the moral corruption that condones–that is entertained by–torture permeates the Iraq military enterprise to the highest levels (which is to say the administration that said the Geneva Conventions don’t apply). Allowing the people who created this corruption to appoint the nation’s highest defenders of justice is like giving out free gasoline at a pyromaniacs’ convention.
I have been reading Psalm 97 every day. It is uncannily apt in describing recent earthly upheavals: “Lightning lights up the world, the earth trembles and mountains melt like wax….All those who worship idols and bow down to worthless gods will be humiliated.” It ends in hope: “Light is sown for the righteous and gladness for the upright of heart.”
To me, idolatry means worshipping our own creations. I think the truest explanation for our national shame might be the simplest: Bush and his cronies behave as they do because in their arrogance and self-regard, they believe they can. Because we let them.
In my last blog, I wrote about Senator Joseph McCarthy and how ultimately, when people opened their eyes and stood up, he was brought down. I pray that Libby’s indictment and the opportunity it creates to hold the administration to account will be the seeds of light that begin to open our eyes. My reasons are political, but they’re personal too: trying to decipher these irrational and corrupt actions is giving me a headache that just won’t quit. I think I’ll go lie down with the \Funny Times\ and see what Tom Tomorrow has to say about it.