Friday, August 13, 2004
Ron Reagan Jr. has a wonderful essay in next month's Esquire: The Case Against George W. Bush. Some choice bits:
Politicians will stretch the truth. They'll exaggerate their accomplishments, paper over their gaffes. Spin has long been the lingua franca of the political realm. But George W. Bush and his administration have taken "normal" mendacity to a startling new level far beyond lies of convenience. On top of the usual massaging of public perception, they traffic in big lies, indulge in any number of symptomatic small lies, and, ultimately, have come to embody dishonesty itself. They are a lie. And people, finally, have started catching on.Read the whole thing and pass it along to any recovering-Republican friends and relatives who need a concise, readable roundup of Bush's Lies, as told by someone they should find credible.
All administrations will dissemble, distort, or outright lie when their backs are against the wall, when honesty begins to look like political suicide. But this administration seems to lie reflexively, as if it were simply the easiest option for busy folks with a lot on their minds. While the big lies are more damning and of immeasurably greater import to the nation, it is the small, unnecessary prevarications that may be diagnostic. Who lies when they don't have to? When the simple truth, though perhaps embarrassing in the short run, is nevertheless in one's long-term self-interest? Why would a president whose calling card is his alleged rock-solid integrity waste his chief asset for penny-ante stakes? Habit, perhaps. Or an inability to admit even small mistakes.
What's odd is that none of these lies were worth the breath expended in the telling. If only for self-serving political reasons, honesty was the way to go. The flight of Air Force One could easily have been explained in terms of security precautions taken in the confusion of momentous events. As for the carrier landing, someone should have fallen on his or her sword at the first hint of trouble: We told the president he needed to do it; he likes that stuff and was gung-ho; we figured, What the hell?; it was a mistake. The banner? We thought the sailors would appreciate it. In retrospect, also a mistake. Yup, we sure feel dumb now. Owning up to the 9/11 warnings would have entailed more than simple embarrassment. But done forthrightly and immediately, an honest reckoning would have earned the Bush team some respect once the dust settled. Instead, by needlessly tap-dancing, Bush's White House squandered vital credibility, turning even relatively minor gaffes into telling examples of its tendency to distort and evade the truth.
But image is everything in this White House, and the image of George Bush as a noble and infallible warrior in the service of his nation must be fanatically maintained, because behind the image lies . . . nothing? As Jonathan Alter of Newsweek has pointed out, Bush has "never fully inhabited" the presidency. Bush apologists can smilingly excuse his malopropisms and vagueness as the plainspokenness of a man of action, but watching Bush flounder when attempting to communicate extemporaneously, one is left with the impression that he is ineloquent not because he can't speak but because he doesn't bother to think.
Believe it or not, I don't look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation's history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don't trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them?