"'They can't help themselves. They want to confess....' is the way Tom Engelhardt begins 'Bush's Pentagon Papers,' with the latest Bush administration torture-document revelations in mind. He reframes the torture debate, taking it beyond the 'shocked, shocked' response that goes with repeated revelations of secret administration memoranda that provide pretzeled legalisms justifying acts of torture and abuse."Indeed, as has been often observed, there has never been an administration that was on the record admitting to so many obviously impeachable, certainly criminal and possibly treasonous acts. Doing these things seems to be not so much the point as getting away with it, with the full knowledge that everyone knows, and for whatever reason, dares not act. It's all about the power to abuse, and control those abused so they cannot or choose not to fight back.
He sums things up this way: "Of course, plumbing the psychology of a single individual while in office -- of a President or a Vice President -- is a nearly impossible task. Plumbing the psychology of an administration? Who can do it? And yet, sometimes officials may essentially do it for you. They may leave bureaucratic clues everywhere and then, as if seized by an impulsion, return again and again to what can only be termed the scene of the crime. Documents they just couldn't not write. Acts they just couldn't not take. Think of these as the Freudian slips of officials under pressure. Think of them as small, repeated confessions granted under the interrogation of reality and history, under the fearful pressure of the future, and granted in the best way possible: willingly, without opposition, and not under torture."I'd be more blunt. To a bully, the exercise is pointless unless you can brag about it, unless you can savor the fear in your victim's eyes, unless you can revel in the impotent rage of the helpless and dis-empowered. And to the bully, the risk that the worm might just turn simply makes the occasions where the worm is just a worm all that sweeter.
In persisting in the naive belief that there must be something of substance behind Bush's actions beyond the ability to abuse, that there must be some overpowering reason that compels him to act as he does and some horrifying knowledge that justifies all of this is nonsense. Occam's razor and playground experience sums the man up to a point that no more elaborate analysis is needed. He's simply a bully, one given power irresponsibly by those who thought his failings made him controllable.
I take no joy in observing that they were only correct to an extent - and certainly not to the extent they would have reasonably expected, given the investments in capital and credibility Bush represents to all those who hold his debts. They assumed, of course, that he'd feel some sense of obligation, of duty. But the man is clearly incapable of associating cause and effect or of accepting any sort of responsibility, even obvious duties clearly visible to all. If he cannot and will not accept such responsibilities which, like a respectful attendance to someone like Cindy Sheehan, when it would have cost him nothing at all, what gives anyone the reason to presume that he'd accept responsibility when it might involve a check on his actions or a limit on his desires?
Nothing Bush has done has achieved anything that would have been useful even if it had worked as his excuses stated. No matter how noble or venial the ambitions of those supporting him, all evidence suggests that the only return they get is just enough to fully compromise them, at which point the exploitation and degradation begins.
Every single choice he has made has had the effect of some form of humiliation, some loss of dignity, some loss of rights, some trespass - and with nothing to show for it other than the humiliation, the indignity, the trespass itself. It's not unreasonable to come to the conclusion that he's a bully, no different than any other bully, with no great plan and no overriding principle other than enjoying the fruits of his daily trespasses.
He shows no discrimination between enemy and ally, nor is any ideological position explored in principle other than as a means to an end of getting people to do things to other people that ordinary decency would preclude. He has betrayed even his theocon and neocon allies, exploiting their hopes ruthlessly, knowing that they, least of all, were in no position to complain of the results of their particular devil's bargains.
I don't happen to believe in a literal Antichrist - but in the sense that he seems compelled to ask "What Would Jesus Do" so that he can do the complete opposite, while piously citing his Christian Values as the justification for outraging all of them, I cannot help but think that he's as close to a literal Antichrist as I ever wish to see.
But he's certainly not of the Antiheroic stature of Faustian Satanic archetypes, so perhaps it confuses folks who expect a little romantic nobility in their evil. Well, you won't get that from George.
He's a petty, spiteful, cruel and astonishingly banal excretion of evil, the sort that revels in doing bad things and getting away with it, for no greater reason than just that. His entire biography demonstrates it, to the extent that one begins to strongly suspect that all of his "failures" were his direct intent - he'd rather fail, if failure screws over those who relied on him. It's hard to find anyone - other than Dick Cheney - who's not paid a price for granting him favor greater than the favor was ever worth. And the only reason for that is that Dick is twice as vile and understands that Bush is exactly what he is, and understanding that, can rule him completely. It's only those who expect better of him that are disappointed, and my contempt for him is minimal compared to that I extend to those who permit him to continue as he does, knowing full well what a non-biodegradable turd he is.
Of course, his greatest glee must come from watching the the toll on those closest to him, the gradual realization that his promises will never come true, their sacrifices never repaid and their hopes doomed - and that their only hope now is to somehow work around him to escape prosecution and disgrace. That they are only a little better than him, that they still have some vestigial principles to compromise is what leaves them open to such men, for his greatest joy is to crush the last vestige of innocence, cause others to betray their own good opinion of themselves, to lead them to commit atrocities and asininities in his name.
You need no more profound explanation, for it serves very well to predict his actions and explain those actions already committed. You first met this creep on the playground in kindergarten. At some point, most of you realized the only way to reason with such a creature was to clearly communicate to them that you would not give in, you would not go along, and you would rather take your chances in a fight than continue to be abused.
A fair fight, or even a lopsided fight in which he might be personally scuffed is the last thing a bully will ever do. When they understand that you don't much care what happens to you, so long as you have the satisfaction of sinking your teeth in their throat, they suddenly develop other interests.
In my personal experience, that can be true even at four to one odds.
Are you listening, Harry and Nancy? Would it help to know that I don't much care at this point what his wiretaps and files might reveal, even if I thought they were likely to be true? What acts could you have committed in secret more damnable than what you permit in public, wringing your hands in pious impotence?
Your public acceptance of repeated political sodomy cannot be better in any sense than the alternate. If it's the end of your political career, is that such a bad thing? I certainly would never suffer such a fate as the price for holding on to the illusion of influence - and truly, that's all that's left either of you; a threadbare illusion that fools nobody.
He's not your president. He's not MY president. There are obligations due us from him in accordance with the oath of office, oaths he has publicly bragged he's violated. His duty is to "uphold and defend the constitution." He has not. He's on record on that. He's got Alito's opinions on record as to how he might get away with doing that. It's not even a matter of debate, so the other open question - as to whether his election was ever legitimate - is moot.
The urge of any criminal regime -- to ditch, burn, or destroy incriminating documents, or erase emails -- has, in a sense, already been obviated. So much of the Bush/Cheney "record" is on the record. As Karen J. Greenberg wrote, back in December 2006, "What more could a prosecutor want than a trail of implicit confessions, consistent with one another, increasingly brazen over time, and leading right into the Oval Office?"
Looking back on these last years, it turns out that the President, Vice President, their aides, and the other top officials of this administration were always in the confessional booth. There's no exit now.
Justice demands recompense, the blood of the slain cries out for justice, and in her brutal way, Providence will assure it, if we do not take steps ourselves. One way or another, payment will be had, and justice will come out of this in the end.
However, if you think it would be good for this nation to survive in recognizable form with Constitution, borders and dignity intact, bringing these criminals to dock would be a fine start.
tag: Tom Engelhardt, Bush's Pentagon Papers, Media Matters, Truth, Miserable Failure, Bully, George W. Bush