Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Post Posts Another Zombie Lie

One of the most cherished undying zombie lies of the last decade is: “Bush has principles.” The fact that this bullshit flies at all is vivid proof of our time’s moral bankruptcy. Today the Washington Post ran that lie up the flagpole on the front page in article headlined:

For Bush in Last Year, It's the Principle
As Influence Wanes, He Stays Resolute

Now the writer, Dan Eggen, admits that Bush is increasingly irrelevant, unpopular, and ignored,

Bush faces particularly daunting obstacles. He is waging an unpopular war, battling an opposition Congress and, for the first time in more than half a century, does not have a vice president at his side yearning to succeed him. His popularity has also reached new lows. A CNN-Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday showed that 71 percent of the public disapproves of how Bush is handling his job -- the highest figure since the question was first asked in the 1930s.

Nonetheless Eggen is happy to carry water for those in the bunker with W, putting out the sycophants’ spin on things as if it were objective reportage:

Presidential aides characterize Bush as intent on pursuing matters of principle, regardless of the polls. Democrats accuse him of needless stubbornness at the expense of improving a battered economy and addressing other problems.

Once again, it seems to Eggen, reasonable people will disagree about the facts; it’s totally a he said/she said situation. What Nancy Pelosi calls “stubborn,” Bush flunky Patrick J. Griffin calls “principled.”

"They're at a moment where their concern about a legacy is much bigger than how much legislation they pass," Griffin said. "He's defining himself as a man of principle and obviously not caring about the polls, not caring about what's politically expedient. Based on those criteria, then he's doing it just right."

As usual, it might useful to dissect the terminology here, to see just how W is “defining himself” when he defines himself as principled. Surely he wants to see himself showing, as Webster has it, “a devotion to what is right and honorable.” But if W has such a view of himself it can only be maintained through a global-self deception. Anybody even remotely familiar with W’s rap sheet knows he has nearly no concept of, and even less devotion to, the right or honorable. He has all his life been content to have things handed to him, to take places that rightly belonged to others; he’s been content to let others do all the work and take all the risk, content to dodge responsibility through outright lies, content to cheat, content to even steal from those who trusted him, as in his Harken energy insider trade. Since he has gotten to the White House he has probably never stepped before a microphone without uttering a lie; he clearly, literally feels absolutely no duty to tell the truth. And there is no honor without truth. So, it would seem, that in the in the ethical or honorable sense of the word, George W. Bush should be in the dictionary next to “unprincipled.” But that’s not how the Post sees it.

There is another sense of “principle” under which one might make sense of Bush’s biography: “a governing law of conduct: an opinion, attitude, or belief that exercises a directing influence on the life and behavior.” It is highly doubtful that Bush, or anyone else, could articulate an ethical or honorable “law” that could plausibly be said to influence his behavior. At times W has claimed Christianity as such, but in what way has the vindictive, deceitful, warmongering, plutocrat been Christ-like? W is a travesty of Christianity.

In another mood Bush might claim to have been governed by “conservative principles,” buy even many self-proclaimed conservatives are beginning to wonder how credit-carded trillion-dollar experiments in nation-building could be “conservative.” We might well wonder, in any case, if there are, in fact, any principles among self-described conservatives to day. Hasn’t “conservative” become just a tribal identifier, no more meaningful than say, “Hokie,” or “Wahoo,” “Terrapin” or “Hoya”. Increasingly one’s “conservatism” may have implications for one would regulate the conduct of others, but its correlation with one’s own behaviors is haphazard at best, and more likely negative.

It seems increasingly to me that one ought not describe oneself as conservative; that is best judgment for others to make. Conservative has become such a degraded and yet also cheaply valorized and self-congratulatory term that whenever some yahoo says “I’m a conservative” it sounds mighty pretentious to me, equivalent to the claim, in different times or different circles that “I’m an artist,” or “I’m a genius,” or “I’m a leader.” The savvy listener to such a proclamation will start looking for the door, because in almost cases it means, “I’m special, so The Good is what’s good for me.” As John Kenneth Galbraith put it, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Given this, it’s clear that the “conservative” (read “selfish”) attitude directs W’s life – what’s good for George Bush is The Good period. This might occasionally include such gestures as allow him to believe himself a “compassionate conservative,” if only because a good self-regard is good for George Bush too, provided it doesn’t compromise his power, privilege or impunity. Indeed, W has always been about one thing: getting his way. That’s not changing; why should it? He’s never been held accountable for the crimes licensed by this attitude and he’s not likely to be now.

As for any mental distress caused W by inklings of his failures, inadequacies, atrocities, well, surely they are alleviated by his view of himself as embattled man of principle, a regular Profile in Courage. Even the librul Washington Post says so, how can he doubt it.
A more thorough reporter might at least have considered the possibility that Bush’s intransigence is the product neither of “principle,” nor or mere “stubbornness” but is rather, as many have speculated symptomatic of his psychopathology, of his Narcissistic Personality Disorder, of his Dry Drunk Syndrome et cetera. Then again, that would have tasked the reporter with courage, imagination, investigation, and that just doesn’t really happen at the Post much anymore.


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