Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hey -- Take Your Time

(Caveat lector: The following essay includes a photograph of an offensive gesture.I included it because it is relevant to the present subject.)

In the vast inventory of George W. Bush's contemptible traits, the most lethal may be his capacity for invincible self-delusion. Close kindred to that attribute is his apparently limitless self-absorption, one symptom of which is his mistaken belief that a petulantly out-thrust lower lip is a pose of Churchillian resolution.

That cluster of misbegotten attributes was displayed to memorable – and nauseating – effect during the Bushling's December 13 news conference, in which he declared that he would not be “rushed” into a decision regarding the disposition of our troops in Iraq.

People are dying by the dozen, by the score, by the hundreds each day – but Bush the Lesser can't be “rushed.”

Military families are being split apart and driven into bankruptcy by prolonged and repeated deployments to Iraq, but Bush is content to bide his time.

It is obvious to any sentient being -- and perhaps even to Sean Hannity, although that Bush Regime rent boy would never admit it -- that the Iraq War was a strategic catastrophe of world-historic proportions.

Persisting in an obvious falsehood (in this case, that "victory" in Iraq is possible) is not heroic determination. It's arrogant pride.

George W. Bush has been insulated from accountability his entire life. He is a stranger in the house of responsibility. Sacrifice is a concept utterly alien to him. On the available evidence – I'm not referring to staged photo-ops, or faith-promoting stories forwarded to e-mail lists -- he is clinically indifferent to the suffering of other people, particularly those on the receiving end of his imperial whims.

Does anyone remember Bush's self-indulgent mockery of Texas death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker? She was a convicted murderer who became the focus of a campaign for executive clemency. Several Evangelical religious leaders tried to intercede with then-Texas Governor Bush prior to Tucker's 1998 execution, as did death penalty opponents from the other end of the spectrum. Shortly before her execution date, Tucker gave an interview to Larry King.

One can believe, in good faith, that Tucker – a confessed double-murderer who, along with a boyfriend, killed two sleeping men with a pickaxe – deserved to be put to death. (Although I firmly believe in the right to lethal armed self-defense, I'm of the opinion that the degenerate regime under which we live has no moral authority to execute anyone – but that's a discussion for another time.) But any functioning adult exercising the power to consign another human being to death would have the decency to affect the proper solemnity.

The Bushling's reaction to the pleas made on behalf of Tucker, captured on videotape, was to screw his simian features into an anguished grimace and mimic a tearful plea for mercy: “Please, don't kill me.”

Dead woman walking: Double murderer Karla Faye Tucker on her way to execution.

That sub-adolescent display was provoked by a question posed by commentator Tucker Carlson, a Republican-wedded conservative of the National Review/American Spectator variety. He was understandably horrified by the repulsive gesture, and even more alarmed when he read the transcript of Tucker's interview and learned that she had never pleaded for clemency.

The question Carlson asked of Bush was this: Did the Governor meet with any of the activists seeking the commutation of Tucker's death sentence?

“Bush whips around and stares at me,” Carlson reported. "`No, I didn't meet with any of them,' he snaps, as though I've just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed.”

After Tucker reported the incident, Bush – or, more likely, an aide blessed with rudimentary English skills – wrote a rejoinder remarkable for the depth of its dishonesty and its singular self-preoccupation:

“Mr. Carlson misread, mischaracterized me,” insisted the aide on behalf of Bush. “He's a good reporter, he just misunderstood about how serious that was. I take the death penalty very seriously. I take each case seriously. I just felt he misjudged me. I think he misinterpreted my feelings. I know he did.”

In Bush's view, he was the injured party, since – in the world of in-bred privilege he inhabits – it simply isn't fair to report incidents that reflect poorly on the “Decider” -- especially when they involve matters of life and death, and displays of repulsive behavior by the retromingent man-child who somehow ended up exercising the power to make such choices.

The same self-fixated cruelty was on display during the 2004 White House Correspondents' Dinner, which took place long after it was clear that Saddam Hussein's much-invoked arsenal of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons didn't exist.

To the raucous laughter of the assembled press celebrities – representatives of the supposedly adversarial Fourth Estate, mind you – the Bushling narrated a slide show of Oval Office scenes in which he seemed to be searching for something.

"Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere,” Bush cracked as he displayed a picture of himself staring vacantly out a window. In another pose Bush was looking under his office desk: "Nope. No weapons over there."

At the time of that repellent performance nearly three years ago, fewer than 600 Americans had died in Iraq. The casualty count now is nearly identical to that inflicted at the World Trade Center on 9/11 (for Iraq and Afghanistan combined, the death toll passed the 9/11 figure weeks ago).

That supposed comedy routine was the equivalent of an upraised middle digit – which is one of the Bushling's favorite gestures, incidentally – directed at those who had pointed out, prior to the invasion, that Saddam was not a threat to the United States.

Hey, I just report this stuff; I don't make it up.

The implied message was this: “It doesn't matter who's right – I'm the one who's in charge, so just shut up.”

The same alloy of narcissism and cruelty exhibited in those episodes is on display now as Bush -- for the sole and exclusive purpose of avoiding a full-blown retreat during his time in office – vamps, stalls, and dissimulates. “Don't rush me,” he snarls as blood flows, nourishing enmities that will blossom into terrible vengeance.

Of George W. Bush it can and must be said that he managed somehow to pass from adolescence into senescence without experiencing rational, sober adulthood. This wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't been handed the extravagantly swollen powers of the imperial presidency.

But this result is entirely predictable. After all, what personality type is interested in the kind of job that the modern presidency represents?

On the evidence of at least the last two White House occupants, the imperial presidency is a position for which only sociopaths need apply.

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