06 June, 2008

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

In just a few hours, I go to dinner with PZ Myers (and his mom). So if Happy Hour seems a little distracted today, I ask you to reflect upon the impact several thousand butterflies careening around a stomach can have upon a person's ability to focus. There's also the small matter of the cat's insistence on lying on my tummy and purring loudly. I haven't had quality time with kitty in nearly a week. She's retaliating by piling on the cute, which compounds the distraction.

With that disclaimer, let's begin with one of the most beautiful statements of the week:

Noting that “prominent Democrats” had ruled out impeachment, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann asked former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke on his show last night, what “remedy” there could be for the lies and misinformation highlighted in the new Senate Intelligence Committee reports on the Bush administration’s misuse of pre-war Iraq intelligence.

CLARKE: Well, there may be some other kind of remedy. There may be some sort of truth and reconciliation commission process that’s been tried in other countries, South Africa, Salvador and what not, where if you come forward and admit that you were in error or admit that you lied, admit that you did something, then you’re forgiven. Otherwise, you are censured in some way.

Now, I just don’t think we can let these people back into polite society and give them jobs on university boards and corporate boards and just let them pretend that nothing ever happened when there are 4,000 Americans dead and 25,000 Americans grieviously wounded, and they’ll carry those wounds and suffer all the rest of their lives. [emphasis gleefully added]

I second the motion, Mr. Clarke. These fuckwits don't belong anywhere near positions of respect, influence, or power. In fact, might I suggest we offer them jobs as janitors at Jack in the Box? The power to sweep a floor is about all they deserve, and even then, that's being generous.

Who would have thought we'd have a need for truth and reconciliation committees in America? And not for things that were done in the past, mind, but things that have been unfolding like a particularly spectacular trainwreck for eight fucking years. Things that have driven even my deeply conservative best friend and parents into the loving arms of Barack Obama.

Well. Guess some good came out of it after all, then.

Let's continue in the quote o' the day vein. Our next crown jewel comes via Carpetbagger:

Yesterday’s report from the Senate Intelligence Committee on the White House’s deliberate deceptions before the U.S. invasion of Iraq was not exactly blockbuster news. That doesn’t come as a surprise — Bush and his team lied about Iraq? Deliberately shoveling talking points that they knew to be false at the time? You don’t say.

But let’s not brush past this too quickly. Dan Froomkin had a good summary of what we learned from the new report.

Yesterday’s long-awaited Senate Intelligence Committee report further solidifies the argument that the Bush administration’s most blatant appeals to fear in its campaign to sell the Iraq war were flatly unsupported.

Some of what President Bush and others said about Iraq was corroborated by what later turned out to be inaccurate intelligence. But their most compelling and gut-wrenching
allegations — for instance, that Saddam Hussein was ready to supply his friends in al-Qaeda with nuclear weapons — were simply made up.

In an accident of timing, the report also validates former press secretary Scott McClellan’s conclusion in his new book that the White House pursued a “political propaganda campaign” to market the war.

The White House response? That officials in Congress and elsewhere were saying the same things about Iraq. Or in other words, that other people bought the administration line. It takes a lot of chutzpah to defend yourself against charges that you’ve engaged in a propaganda campaign by noting that it worked. [emphasis added with especial relish]

I think we may need to coin a Yiddish word that goes beyond chutzpah. This seems like mega-chutspah to me. Any readers acquainted with fine Yiddish phrases useful for calling our resident assclowns the most shameless fucking liars in American history, please do feel free to leave suggestions in comments.

I also point up this piece because of what Garrett said when I was writing Discurso yesterday: "We already knew they lied." Well yes, yes we did. It's the breathtaking scope of those lies that's coming out now. It's not just that they lied, it's the remarkable degree to which they shat upon the truth, put it through an industrial-grade chipper shredder, masturbated all over it, and then for good measure ran it over with a tank. With spiked tracks. Knowing just how fucking far they went is vitally important. It'll help those truth and reconciliation committees figure out if they're being snowed. Again.

Speaking of being snowed, we come to our third beautiful quote o' the day: Carpetbagger sez the Republicons are pulling out one of their favorite old chestnuts again:

For far-right Republicans, when nothing else is working in the midst of a political campaign, they always seem to go back to the same thing: the good ol’ red scare.

Take Tom DeLay, for example. The former House Majority Leader took time away from his criminal defense — DeLay is currently facing felony counts of money laundering and conspiracy in Texas — to appear on right-wing talk-show host Mike Gallagher’s radio show yesterday. When
the subject turned to the presidential campaign, the former exterminator went after Barack Obama: “I have said publicly, and I will again, that unless he proves me wrong, he is a Marxist.” Gallagher agreed, saying, “[T]hat’s what he is.”


I can appreciate the fact that Republicans probably get a little tired of calling someone a “liberal,” but that’s no reason to start manufacturing a red scare. I mean, really. There should be some political norms that conservatives still care about. [emphasis added blues-style]

If only that were so, CB. If only.


Chaos Lee said...

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”


“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over”

Joseph Goebbels. Might as well have said Dick Cheney.

Anonymous said...

It's really no surprise when a politician lies they have been doing it since the creation of the political office. I certainly don't condone lying, but I haven't been able to get a good rage on since Watergate. That's when you saw real crooks. Many of you who participate here were not born or were too young to remember Tricky Dicky, but for someone who lived through it this is pretty small potatoes. And yes my idealism is dead and buried.

Woozle said...

Damn blogger.com won't let me post an image in celebration of your meeting. I was half-expecting it, but it's still vexatious.

Re politicians: Maybe we couldn't do anything to fix the problem before, but I think we can do much better now. More on this later.

Anonymous said...

Actually it was 40 years ago today that my idealism died with Bobby.

Dana Hunter said...

@Woozle - that was just the most awesome thing evah! You flatter me greatly, sir! And give me the proper image to hold on to while we attempt to change politics, the universe and everything!

@Karen: I'm curious - how's Tricky Dick worse than Monkey Boy George? You don't have to explain the loss of idealism - after seeing film of that assassination, I'm surprised anybody ever believed in anything ever again.

@Chaos: How much would you like to bet Cheney keeps a copy of Goebbels' sayings as bedside reading?


Woozle said...

John Dean believes Bush to be worse than Nixon, and I have to concur -- Nixon seems honest by comparison.

We're starting to understand some of the mechanisms behind political corruption. As I think I've said in other comments, it's not that "power corrupts", it's that power attracts naturally corrupt people, i.e. what Altemeyer calls "authoritarian leaders". These are the people who lie us into wars, who use the lessons from history for their own ends, who consider assassination just another tool to use for building and maintaining their personal power.

If your idealism is dead, does this mean that you believe things will never get any better? Do you believe that things are okay the way they are? I'm having difficulty wrapping my head around this.

In any case, I don't think I could ever pin all my hopes and dreams on a politician, even a good one. The system shouldn't depend on the right person becoming king; the system should depend on (and be driven by) the good will of most civilized people, which is something we can actually count on.

Anonymous said...

In answer to your quires, At the time of Watergate I was a very politically astute 15 year old. I watched every damn hearing and as the parade of witnesses got longer I came to realize that Richard Nixon would stop at nothing to be re-elected and that included lying, robbery of patient files, wiretapping, character, and real assassination. What made it worse in my eyes is that it all became very personal. Nixon was out to destroy individuals with actual names and families. The "Enemies List" showed that his paranoia knew no bounds.
I am not at all surprised that John Dean would say that Bush is worse than Nixon. You have to remember that John Dean was very much a part of the shenanigans until he had a change of heart and decided to save his own skin and sing like a bird. It is all about him, my friends and how history will treat him. You were not around to witness all the pain that was caused. I was. All you know is what you read in the history books and maybe old Time magazines. History treats him way better than he deserves. That is not to say that Bush is an angel. Far From it. Maybe history is repeating itself, but on a much smaller scale.

Anonymous said...

We are the only ones that can make things better. I stopped a long time ago depending on elected officials to do it. They may start out with good intentions, but soon get sucked into the vortex of power. Have you noticed that the only time you hear from them is during an election unless you are nagging them for something. As soon as you do that you become a "special interest". Maybe I'm just old and cynical, but I tell it like I see It.

Chaos Lee said...

Re: Karen Simone's comments. I like some of the points you bring up. It was Nixon who drove my mother out of the Republican Party (along with shit that went down with Reagan). Between the deaths of JFK and Bobby Kennedy, she does agree that in many respects, there was a deep sense of betrayal and hopeless ness that permeated the political climate of the sixties through the seventies.

This is a woman who lived in Los Alamos during the the last half of the 40s and early 50s and the post WW2 continuation of Project Manhatten. She saw first hand how entirely dishonest the US government was with people, the lengths it went to fuel its propaganda machine under the guise of Cold War necessity. Of her graduating class, she is the last living. Most of them died before the age of fifty due to cancer and lukemia related to radiation exposure. There was one attempt at a lawsuit, but it was shut down since most of the "evidence" didn't exist as far as the government was concerned. Even by the time of Richard Nixon, she was deeply distrustful of government.

The violation of personal rights was as if not more prevalent then if you were not part of the status-quo. The difference was, we just couldn't see it. It was a lot easier to keep hidden, hush up and deny. The one thing my mom and I agree on though, is that any politican then being caught the lies like Bush and Co have been, likely would have quit office. Those politicans were never truly at risk for being found out, Nixon was more a fluke than anything. But Bush and the rest have held to it, and retain office, and nothing has been done. I think that says a lot about what is different. And it's frightening.

Woozle said...

Karen: We seem to be in agreement on the principle of not depending on politicians to fix things.

What you said about politicians is certainly true, and nothing new -- but not universal. Some politicians have remained honest and effective participants in the governmental process for their entire careers.

This is why organizations like SourceWatch exist -- to monitor what politicians say versus what they actually do. This kind of monitoring, and enforcement of accountability, is vital if we are going to clean out the political system.

...which, unfortunately, we still depend on to keep things running. I'm totally behind the idea of trying to come up with a better system, though.

I'll confess to not being very politically aware during the Nixon years. I remember my parents being outraged about him, but it didn't really enter into my world as something to care about (I remember we voted for McGovern in 1972). I'll also confess to not having researched Nixon as thoroughly as Bush.

However, this is how it looks from here:

Nixon didn't bring a country to its knees. The war was already going when he took office; he may have lied, but he didn't lie us into war. The lives he may have destroyed number, what, in the hundreds at most? He didn't mismanage Vietnam so badly that we managed to leave trillions of dollars lying around for the supposedly-hated enemy to pick up. He didn't start national propaganda campaigns on any scale even approaching Bush's campaigns for the Holy War on Terror and against global warming (and science in general) and using religion and the "culture war" as a way to keep people divided, confused, and ignorant.

When Nixon was dishonest, his dishonesty at least made sense, in a powermongering kind of way; George's screw-ups only make sense if you interpret them as part of a much larger plan to destroy America. Nixon was smart, and at least tried to justify his actions; Bush doesn't even care. He knows his silver foot will be kept polished and ready for him to suck on when he leaves office, no matter how badly the commoners (that's us) might be doing as the economy slides into its own quagmire and returning soldiers are left without adequate care (aside from the ones who come home in boxes) while the Bush supporters continue to proudly wear their "SUPPORT THE TROOPS" magnets.

Mind you, Nixon was Bad, and I could only shake my head disbelievingly when he was posthumously sanctified by the press.

But Bush (via Rove and others) took Nixon's playbook as an instruction manual, and built on it. Every act you ascribe to Nixon is something Bush has done too, and typically far worse.

He didn't just wiretap his "enemies", he demanded the right to stomp on the constitution at whim and wiretap anyone he wants, including random citizens (that's us). He didn't just abuse his power, he tried to corrupt the institution of the presidency itself and make it even more powerful. It seems clear that 9/11 couldn't have happened without (at the very least) some highly selective blindness on his part -- and when the towers fell, he hit the ground running and promptly got all kinds of evil new laws passed, leaving the future of American democracy very much in question. Almost as if he had been planning the whole thing for years, just waiting for "another pearl harbor" to provide a convenient threat to get the sheep in line.

I don't see the motivation for Dean to have bought this up when he did (c.2004) if he was just covering his butt; the world had moved on and forgotten about him, and his safest bet would have been to lie low and say nothing. Maybe he was desperate for a little income and thought that a book might be a good idea, but writing an anti-Bush book in the dark days of 2004 was hardly a sure bet.

If you've got any specifics I should know about Nixon, feel free to hit me with 'em.

Anonymous said...

That in a nutshell is why the vast majority of Canadians have an innate distrust and I must say disgust for the American Government. The worst our elected lackeys seem to do is to waste our tax money on giving government contracts to friends who never seem to do the work, but collect the money anyway. They lie about it but the parliamentary system is such that things are much more transparent and secrets don't stay secrets for long. The biggest reason that Stephen Harper is in office now is not because of his superior political skills (God help us!)It is because we threw the other bastards out. Another thing is that people in government actually go to jail here for their wrongdoing so there is also that deterrent.
I think that the biggest mistake that Americans make is that there is way too much reverence for the "office" of the presidency. The president is almost a cult figure in many minds and that is why they can get away with so much. Attitudes need to change or "The Parade Of The Power Lusting Assholes" will continue.

Efrique said...

There are two things that particularly damn the Bush administrations lies in my mind:

(i) the consequences of their lies. The number of lives lost or ruined as a consequence of those lies is unfathomable.

(ii) the fact that, particularly in the days leading up to the Iraq war anyone who spoke out against it, anyone who doubted that the claimed evidence was real, was labelled unpatriotic and worse, by attack dogs (both political and in the media) fed by the administration.

People's reputations and livelihoods were ruthlessly trashed. Some have never recovered, even now that the administrations lies are gradually becoming more widely publicised.

Efrique said...

DeLay, what an arsehole...

I have said publicly, and I will again, that unless he proves me wrong, he is a kiddie-fiddling goat-buggerer.

Go on DeLay, prove that's wrong.