Call me a jerk if you want to (you won’t be the first), but I kinda like it when bad things happen to bad people. I especially appreciate it when greedy plutocrats who run over the weakest of us to in order to make themselves even richer and more powerful get handed their lunch.
Sadly, mine is a largely unrequited desire, and an altogether lonely avocation. It just doesn’t happen so very often that the world’s most deserving get their just reward. There might be justice in the cosmos, but I regret to say that I’ve not had the pleasure of encountering a whole lot of it in this lifetime.
Lately, though, I’ve been getting bruises on my butt from falling off my chair so often, as the crimes of more than a decade ago are miraculously now getting some attention. That’s not the same as justice, mind you. It ain’t even close. But it’s way more than ever happened at the time, and it’s way more than I ever expected. And, um – since you asked – it’s also damn fun.
I love seeing the likes of Scott Walker and Rick Perry and Chris Christie publicly humbled and personally rejected. Again, call me a mean SOB if you like. But these individuals and their regressive movement have cynically wrecked so many innocent lives in their brutal pursuit of power and filthy lucre for decades now, I don’t care if my sentiments are politically incorrect. I normally don’t wish ill upon anyone, but let’s be honest – these guys are getting off easy. All the more so when they land their eight-figure gigs as lobbyists, effectively at the taxpayers’ expense both before and after their retirement from public ‘service’. So, hey, cut me some slack when I enjoy my smallest of small victories wherever I can get them.
And I am. And perhaps no more so than where “Jeb¡” Bush is concerned. You see, our man from Tallahassee is actually a twofer, because of the remarkable conjunction his year of having a Bush in the race along with, at the same time, The Thing Which Is Donald.
Trump, himself, is of course a disaster of epic proportions, a canary in a coal mine that long ago collapsed in upon itself, the best evidence to date of the total demise of Western civilization. And yet...
And yet – and who would ever, ever have thought this? – the Donald is also the source of a ridiculous amount of truth-telling by the standards of American politics. Put that all together and you get the aforementioned twofer. Not only is Trump absolutely torturing the hapless Jebby to utter distraction (and, hey, are there greater joys than watching that?), but he is also taking down the whole goddam clan while he is at it.
And the best part of all is how clueless the Bushes are to everything happening to them, and how their lifetimes of imperious arrogance have rendered them completely incapable of seeing all this coming, despite the fact that it is the creation of none other than themselves.
According to a recent New York Times article:
No one, it seems, is more perplexed than the family patriarch by the race, and by what the Republican Party has become in its embrace of anti-establishment outsiders, especially the sometimes rude Mr. Trump. In July, even after breaking a vertebra in a fall that left him hospitalized in Maine, the elder Mr. Bush was fuming at the news of the day: Mr. Trump had belittled Sen. John McCain of Arizona for being taken prisoner in Vietnam. “I can’t understand how somebody could say that and still be taken seriously,” said Mr. Bush, himself a naval aviator in World War II, according to his longtime spokesman, Jim McGrath, who had visited him.
Hey, funny you should mention that, Poppy. ‘Cause – even after the insanity of Reaganism and the government shutdowns and the impeachment of a president for lying about a private sexual affair – even after all that, I remember the moment when I realized that the Republican Party had completely lost its shit, and was never, ever, going to return to the Reality Based Community. It was when Old Man Bush’s own son, and his henchman, Karl Rove, organized a political assassination of the very same John McCain in order to get W the presidency. After McCain was on a roll coming out of New Hampshire in 2000, Rove put it around South Carolina that the old pol was batty from his years as a POW, and that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter was actually the love child from a secret affair he was supposed to have had with a black woman. That was the end of McCain, whose naive mistake was to believe that there were some things these people wouldn’t do, some lines that would not be crossed.
As for me, I’m not sure my jaw has ever fully returned from the bottom basement to its full upright position. This was the moment when I realized these people were capable of a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. That’s when I realized the depth of their emotional insecurities and the sheer size of the ocean of fuel required to feed that same scary monster. If the party of rah-rah militarism and gung-ho support-our-troops bumper-sticker American pugilism could embrace the ugliest personal destruction of its former POW hero because he was insufficiently regressive (he supported campaign finance reform!), well then, anything was possible.
So I’ve got some news for Old Man Bush: This shit’s actually been going on for a long time, and nobody has benefited more from it than your own family, pal.
And, speaking about crimes against humanity (as indeed we were), there’s the small matter of how the Elder Bush himself won his own presidency, under the direction of Rove’s mentor, Lee Atwater. That, of course, was the campaign in which Bush began with a 17-point deficit and came from behind to defeat Mike Dukakis and win in 1988. Pretty amazing feat, eh? Too bad it required the blatantly racist Willie Horton campaign in order to turn the trick. That one was so egregious that Atwater later apologized for his act of political genocide as he lay dying from brain cancer.
Whether ‘making amends’ for a lifetime of crime five minutes before meeting your maker constitutes the ultimate act of cowardice and hypocrisy or not is a question for another time. The point is that the Bushes and their party have been practicing the skankiest of politics for decades now. The only difference today is that they are on the receiving end of this scorched-earth, take-no-prisoners approach, not the giving end. Oh, and one other thing: instead of benefiting from such practices, they are being eviscerated by the very same ones. I love that. And it really couldn’t happen to nicer or more deserving people.
But what I love even more is the conversation about 9/11 that Donald Trump has opened up. The coverup (and that is the only accurate term for it) of the Lil’ Bush administration’s failings on that front was a second great crime, on top of the murderous attack itself. But we could never talk about it at the time, for at least two reasons. The first is that Republican bully boys are masterful at using intimidation to silence critics. This was an optimal situation for them. All they had to do was wrap themselves in the flag and make it seem, at a time of national mourning, that it was unseemly and crassly political and opportunistic to ask questions that could make the president look bad. They made it as awkward as possible for anyone to raise legitimate issues by making it seems like such a person was stomping on the graves of dead Americans in order to score cheap political points. You know the repugnant sort of thing I’m talking about – kinda like what they are themselves doing nowadays with Benghazi, where four American died, not 3,000.
But there was, I’d say, always another reason why we never had that conversation. I just don’t think most Americans were psychologically prepared to do so. They just couldn’t go there. Some things are just so unnerving to the collective national psyche that people find it easier to simply bury them altogether. In this country, the list of those items ranges from the idea that the US is not best at everything there is to be best at, to the many wars fought because our leaders lied to us, to all the places in the world where we’ve been the enemy of democracy and freedom, and well beyond. But the list of taboo thoughts also included the notion that our own President Bush – the one we selected ourselves (well, not really, but never mind that) – could be an incompetent boob whose failings left us so vulnerable.
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Of course, the truth is that George W. Bush has been nothing but a boob his whole life. He was the drunken family boob, before he became the Ivy League cheerleader boob, before he became the failed businessman boob, before ultimately becoming the worst president in American history boob. Really, there’s more boob in this one guy than in an entire herd of bovines!
But, in the wake of 9/11, Americans were desperate to feel safe – even if only mythologically so – and thus unwilling to ask any probing questions about what had actually happened. Of course, as the weeks and months after the event unfolded, it was all there to see, at least for anyone willing to look.
There was the president whose face melted when he was told the news, but still kept on reading “The Pet Goat” to the nice schoolchildren. (The White House later claimed that he didn’t want to disturb the kiddies by abruptly getting up and leaving the room. Somehow, however, the same level of concern would not subsequently be applied to millions fo Iraqi schoolchildren.)
And there he was again that day, looking rattled, speaking to the country, flying to Nebraska, trying to get a grip.
There was the revelation that both his CIA Director, George Tenet, and his terrorism czar Richard Clarke had been going crazy for months trying to warn the administration of a looming attack and getting nowhere. And that they were so frustrated that both Clarke and a slew of CIA analysts on the al Qaeda desk had asked to be transferred to other assignments.
And that the reason they were getting nowhere was because, as Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill revealed, the administration was already obsessed with Iraq, to the exclusion of all else.
Then we learned that just a month before the attack the president had been specifically warned during his morning security briefing that an attack was imminent, one of 36 such al Qaeda warnings the president had received prior to 9/11. And that he had two notable responses to this last one on August 6, 2001.
The first was to say to his CIA briefer: “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” (No, I’m not making that up. That is literally what he said.)
And the second was to stay on vacation in Crawford, Texas, for an entire month just preceding the attack.
In short, if we could be honest about this – or if the president on September 11, 2001 had been a Democrat, let alone a black Democrat – there could be only one conclusion. It would be the same one that Clarke himself reached. This presidential national security aide to four presidents (Reagan through W) who is, or at least was then, a Republican, and who had voted for the Shrub in 2000, could only conclude that there was a chance that 9/11 could have been prevented had Bush just done what Bill Clinton had done every time he had received warnings of a looming serious attack – that is, to put the government on high alert, “shake the trees”, and make every effort possible to prevent bad things from happening.
But Lil’ Bush didn’t do any of that. And yet regressives desperately need for the country to believe that their guy didn’t commit the world’s greatest cock-up, so for folks to even consider the notion had to be preemptively turned into a thoughtcrime.
Thus was necessitated a two-pronged effort to save his reputation from the judgment of history. The first of these strategies requires the prima facie, ad hominem, destruction of both the notion of Bush’s failure, and any ‘notioner’ advancing such an idea, as patently crazy, and therefore fit only for outright dismissal by all consumers of national politics discourse possessed of proper mental hygiene. This has always been the rap, and of course it reemerged yet again in response to Trump having the audacity to speak truthfully about Bush’s failings pre-9/11. Both Lil’ Bro Jeb and the truly oleaginous Ari Fleischer made references to the ‘obvious’ nuttiness of such a concept, on its very face. Because people want to believe the president, and because they especially want to believe they are secure with competent presidents up there on the watchtower vigilantly keeping guard, there is a large built-in audience for such pre-emptive idiocy. Especially when the only prominent person in the public sphere who dares to broach the subject is someone whom everyone outside of the GOP base of angry white geezers widely agrees – albeit for perhaps different reasons – is otherwise eight-tenths belligerent lout and the rest accidentally accurate political critic.
The other strategy employed by W apologists to great success has been to endlessly repeat the mantra that “He kept us safe” in the years since 9/11, which Jeb himself in fact trumpeted in his hapless attempt at trying to look tough against The Donald in the second debate. The only thing more pathetic than a privileged pansy like Jeb aping a two-dimensional cartoon character of a resolute and strong leader is the idea that millions of Americans could be sufficiently deprived of the most basic of critical faculties such that tripe like “He kept us safe” could seem even remotely plausible. I mean, Jesus Christ, this line is the absolute Spin of the Millennium. It’s like saying that Harold did a great job of keeping England safe except for, you know, that whole Norman Conquest thing. My god, are we really that moronic?!?! (Don’t answer. Please.)
Well, we certainly have been. But imagine my surprise to find the ugly ghosts of the Bush administration digging their way out of the grave and resurfacing nearly a decade later, just when Ol’ W thought he was safe at last, sitting at home painting self-portraits of his foot in the shower, and deluding himself as to how he was a tragically misunderstood and underappreciated president.
And imagine my total shock that the source for ‘revisiting’ these important questions that were never truly visited in the first place is none other than the leading Republican presidential candidate!
Hell, I’m ready to vote for Trump today!
If only I can get past all the racism, sexism, jingoism, militarism, xenophobia, environmental pillaging and financial plundering, that is.