Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The World's a Stage

In realm of political illusion, the world’s a stage
Gene Lyons
Posted on Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Why do Republican-oriented pundits spend so much energy lashing Hollywood for its sins? Professional jealousy. Partly because so many Americans imagine the world beyond Wal-Mart as a movie set, the Bush
administration does its best work in the realm of illusion. I was reminded of this when a Kansas student recently asked President Bush what he “as a rancher” thought of “Brokeback Mountain.” On cue, Cowboy W. allowed as how he hadn’t seen it and would rather discuss “ranchin’.”

The TV networks ate it up. Never mind that it was sheer fakery. Bush is no more a rancher than he’s a brain surgeon. He may know something about the tax advantages of cattle depreciation, or his accountants do, but
about actual livestock? Nothing. He bought the Crawford spread in 1999 as a backdrop for his presidential run. Otherwise, he’s spent his whole life in cities. Even today, Bush owns no cattle and doesn’t ride horses.
He ropes and brands mountain bikes from golf carts. He doesn’t walk that way because he’s leg-weary from time in the saddle; he’s imitating John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Even the laconic mumbling’s partly an act.

Bush is the living embodiment of the Texan proverb, “All hat and no cattle.” The French word is “poseur.”

But aren’t all politicians actors in the TV age? Basically, yes.

The danger comes from viewing the whole world as an action/adventure film, as many Americans seem to. How else to understand the apparent willingness to scrap the U. S. Constitution and allow the president to claim dictatorial powers in his cinematic “war on terror”?

See, because the guy writing the script is Osama bin Laden, a charismatic religious fanatic thought to be hiding somewhere in the Pakistani outback. Nobody really knows.

The way Bush acts, you’d think the evildoer was lurking under the presidential bed. Almost everything the administration has done since letting bin Laden slip away in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2002 couldn’t have been better calculated to advance al-Qa’ida’s cause.

How big a threat is bin Laden to what Cowboy W. calls “the Amurkin way-alife” anyway? Let’s get real: Al-Qa’ida has no army, no navy, no air force, no means of conducting an effective military strike against
the U. S. mainland. What it can do, all it can do, is stage huge, theatrical atrocities like 9/11 and last year’s London subway bombings. For those atrocities, they should be hunted down like the murderous lunatics they are.

But al-Qa’ida is not a threat to the integrity of these United States or its constitutional government. Historian Joseph Ellis recently made that point in a New York Times column.

“Where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security?” he asked.

Not very high.

“Here is my version of the top tier,” Ellis wrote. “The War for Independence, where defeat meant no United States of America; the War of 1812, when the national capital was burned to the ground; the Civil War, which threatened the survival of the Union; World War II, which represented a totalitarian threat to democracy and capitalism; the Cold War, most specifically the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which made nuclear annihilation a distinct possibility.”

This strikes me as inarguable. The purpose of terrorism is to induce irrational, disabling fear. In this sense, comments the brilliant blogger Digby at, “Al Qaeda has a powerful ally... the Bush administration, which for four years has... worked ceaselessly to instill in Americans an overarching and excessive fear of terrorism.”

But are we truly terrified by the bogeyman under Bush’s bed? Digby thinks not. We’re more like teen-agers watching a horror movie, psychologically amped, but as spectators, not participants. Ghastly and horrifying as 9 / 11 was, he writes, “there was a sense of spectacle and drama about it that was literally unreal to those of us who watched it on television. This was fear put to music, with dramatic title treatments and a soaring voice-over.” Constantly invoking that fear, Bush has turned bin Laden into a political asset—evil incarnate, Satan
in a turban. That’s one reason the president remains so popular in the Deep South, where fundamentalist black / white thinking and a taste for authoritarianism run strong. But it’s worse than useless against the
actual threat. Granting the president king-like powers to spy on anybody he chooses not only diminishes our own freedoms, it simply doesn’t work. FBI and CIA agents complain of being flooded with a tsunami of useless
information they can’t even translate, much less use. Real investigations grow narrower, not wider, as they proceed. Meanwhile, such tactics as torture, kidnapping combatants’ wives and firing missiles from pilotless drones into Pakistani villages don’t make terrorists fear us. They merely drag us down to their level, eroding
America’s moral authority while sowing rage like dragon’s teeth.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Lily Tomlin said it best. "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up."

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