Posts Tagged ‘bush’


Friday, October 24th, 2008

Saw Oliver Stone’s latest last night; it’s actually surprisingly well done. I was expecting a mega-hatchet job, and it doesn’t come off that way at all. This may be the weirdest comparison you see out there, but . . . to me it almost felt like Henry V gone horribly awry: Bush overcomes his Prince Hal days to attain maturity and ultimately become a wartime leader, but unfortunately ends up fucking everything up once he does so. As a biopic it works, though the best scenes in the movie involve planning to invade Iraq, and the bit where Powell mutters “fuck you” to Cheney is particularly priceless.

Stone makes it quite clear that in his opinion the key to Bush’s character is the Bush Sr./Bush Jr. relationship; W’s rejection by his dad is what causes him to seek the presidency and, ultimately, to overstep himself in Iraq by finishing what his father “failed” to do.  Stone elects to stop the narrative prior to Bush’s re-election, which is an interesting choice given that that’s the central way in which Bush ended up “surpassing” his dad.  Yet given how many chickens came home to roost in his second term, it’s a victory that looks pretty #$# Pyrrhic in retrospect.  No need to worry about the 22nd Amendment this time around.

Power unleashed

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Two fascinating books are sitting on my desk right now while I frantically make last-minute revisions to mine. One’s Schlesinger’s THE IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY; though he revised/updated/republished it in 2004, my copy is the original edition, released in 1973, in the throes of Watergate. The other is Charlie Savage’s TAKEOVER, released last year and detailing the extraordinary expansion of powers under Bush II, with that president asserting a radical new theory of executive authority that (among other things) gives him the right to imprison “enemy combatants”/U.S. citizens indefinitely.

What’s particularly interesting in perusing Schlesinger’s original work is that you can really see the extent to which Watergate gave us a temporary reprieve from the nightmare that’s been shoved down our throats these past eight years. Nixon was planning many of the same things that Bush/Cheney have carried out:  the attempt to use culture wars and dirty tricks to ensure a permanent Republican majority, the classification of opponents as enemies of the state (or, if you like, terrorists), the accrual of almost unlimited wartime powers . . . all of it was part of the GOP playbook in the wake of the 1968 election, and all of it got totally derailed in the wake of the 1972 one.

But this time around there was no Watergate; today’s White House is far more adroit/sophisticated than Nixon’s ever dreamt of being.  Instead of bugging themselves, they destroy their papers.  Instead of ending wars, they declare wars that can have no end.  Instead of relying on Silent Majorities, they hack the vote itself.  There is much irony in all of this.  It was predictable enough that, from a constitutional perspective, the principal beneficiary of America’s great power status in an industrialized age would be the executive branch.  But the Founding Fathers would have been appalled at just how quickly the presidency has expanded its powers these last few years.  Those men knew all too well what would happen should one of the three branches of government break out of the checks/balances which they constructed.  It’s taking place right in front of our eyes, and regardless of who wins on November 4th, it’s a process that may have already attained an irreversible momentum.

The finish-line in sight

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

In the end, the debate wasn’t even close. David Gergen said on CNN that McCain looked like he “had an anger management problem”; that was part of a broader policing-the-emotions issue. Hours of world-class debate prep failed to make inroads on McCain’s fundamental body language issue, nor was it able to wipe the frustration from his voice. And meanwhile Obama remained almost preternaturally calm: in its desperation, the right is now starting to use that as a weapon as well, the same way it tried to turn the “celebrity” issue on its head. Isn’t this guy human? Does he ever break a sweat?

Not in debates, apparently. Nor if there’s a camera within line-of-sight. But this race isn’t over yet.  Yesterday’s polls showed that McCain seemed to have arrested the slide in his numbers, if only temporarily; this debate may send them to new lows, but I suspect that what the next few days will actually show is that Obama has peaked too early—and his supporters may have peaked psychologically as well, given the overconfidence that their candidate is now chastening them on.  They would be advised to listen to him, as this race could easily tighten across the last two and a half weeks; keep in mind that the media wants a horserace, and would vastly prefer a “McCain as comeback kid who’s clawing his way back” narrative to one of Obama cruising to a massive, easy victory.

It’s also worth noting that there’s still a lot of time on the clock for an October Surprise, especially one that involves foreign policy. Bin Laden may yet make an appearance, if only on video.  But also, Bush/Cheney have more than a few cards to play as well, and both men are acutely conscious that their unprecedented attempt to expand presidential power beyond the limits of the Constitution will come under intense (and possible legal) scrutiny should Obama win. (I doubt that Obama himself wants to take this step, but an awful lot of shit is going to come out even if the top players burn/destroy all their files.)  So it’s no surprise that the administration has been anxious to catch Bin Laden in the waning days of the election.  And anyone who thinks this is just a matter of Bush’s legacy is #$# kidding themselves.

Governor Palin’s debut

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Sarah Palin’s speech last night was pretty much made to order: she scrupulously avoided all (well, most) of the really controversial stuff, and instead beat the drumbeat of family values and small town Americana. The questions that swirl around her will only intensify across the next few days, though, with the really big wild-card being whether there any other surprises in her past that the McCain campaign failed to discover.

And there may well be. But nothing that’s surfaced so far is likely to be damaging, despite the growing speculation. In fact, a lot of those “issues” in Palin’s past are likely to redound to the GOP’s favor. The “Troopergate” question, for example: Palin may have crossed the line, but the cop she was targeting was clearly completely out of control, and the details of the incident are unlikely to win her anything but electoral sympathy, regardless of what the law says. And as to the speculation on her/her daughter’s baby: do the Democrats really believe there’s serious upside to pursuing this? Based on what we know now, nothing that’s occurred in the Palin household is likely to disturb the voters of Red State America. If anything, they’ll rally around her more fervently.

And that’s likely to be the crux of the matter. Palin has virtually no chance of pulling any but the most diehard/confused of Hilary Clinton’s followers into her orbit. But she has energized the Republican base in a way that I suspect the mainstream media (and certainly the left) has yet to fully understand. There are many reasons why we’ve had only two Democratic presidents since Richard Nixon took over. One of them is the Dems’ perennial tendency to underestimate their opponents. In focusing on the Alaska governor’s experience, they run the risk of falling into the same trap.  McCain is betting that Palin will ignite the NASCAR circuits this fall, ensuring that the GOP base is mobilized and in the voting booths this November. From what I’ve seen so far, he’s probably right.  Whether this can be done without diminishing McCain’s chances of clawing enough centrist votes to win:  that’s the big question.