If you watched any of President Bush's news conference last week, you saw the mind-boggling performance of a man who is either a calculated liar or as out of touch with reality as Richard Nixon during the last days of his imperial reign.
With approval ratings at barely 34 percent in last week's Pew poll, Bush has gone on a campaign to become more "open." That included taking a question from veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas for the first time in three years. Thomas, noting how many people the war has killed and how often the administration has changed its rationale for the initial invasion, asked him about his "real reason" for wanting war.
Bush, bristling, disagreed with her premise that he wanted war and then recited his usual revisionist history of the run-up to the invasion. He repeated his outrageous claim that Saddam Hussein booted the U.N. weapons inspectors out of Iraq. Of course, that never happened -- the inspectors left when Bush decided to invade the country. Nobody followed up Thomas' harshly put question, and Bush's lies -- or delusions, if you prefer -- were left intact, as usual.
I find myself, after years of outrage at this kind of behavior, just not even wanting to listen anymore. Besides the usual refusal of the press to do its job, one increasingly notes the inability of Democrats to frame any kind of meaningful response to administration failures that are so baldly obvious even Republicans are jumping ship. While Democrats stammer and refuse to play the cards Bush has handed them, Republicans -- in elected office and in the punditry -- engage in frantic spinning that may well again succeed in preserving their power.
Their basic story -- repeated by Andrew Sullivan at Time, in particular -- is that those who initially supported the war and now realize it is a lost cause are true patriots because they showed the president loyalty in good faith. Sullivan apparently sees nothing to be learned from the many others who realized from the start that the war was a lost cause. He called us traitors then -- members of a "fifth column" -- and offers no apology for doing so now.
One might reasonably conclude that Sullivan and his type should not be trusted when they are so easily suckered by lies. But nobody, it seems, is going to call their judgment into serious question.
Instead of hammering Republicans with their colossal failures -- from Iraq to budget management -- and framing a truly progressive agenda, Democrats are stuck in a game of trying to emulate Republicans. The worst example is Sen. Hillary Clinton. She has even moved right of Bush on Iran. Her hand-wringing about flag burning and abortion exceeds ordinary opportunism, betraying moral weakness that makes one nostalgic for the crime of a public blowjob. The fact that she is the front-runner for the presidential nomination in 2008 is frightening proof that Democrats aren't far ahead of Republicans.
One of the most annoying examples of the Democrats' attempt to appropriate Republican strategy is their leaping upon the religion bandwagon. This is so ubiquitous it's a given that religion will continue to be an issue in American politics. Democrats should be fighting for the complete separation of church and state, not demanding their fair share of votes for corrupting the Constitution. Religion has no place in political discourse.
What are those of us disgusted with both parties to do? As I said above, I'm finding myself more and more drawn to catatonia in the face of political speech. That Bush can still lie his head off and you can't find any mention that he lied in the press the next day, outside of some editorial pages, is shocking. Yo, news people: If the president demonstrably lies to the American people, it's news! It's not just fodder for editorial comment.
Interestingly, a study recently published in the Journal of Research into Personality found that whiny kids -- the ones who always think people are out to get them -- grow up to be conservatives, while more independent children grow up to become nonconforming liberals. Maybe the so-called culture of victimhood has reached into our political lives, too, and the remedy is declaring oneself independent of the drama.
Until recently, I did hold hope Democrats would offer an alternative, and that the press really might wake up. Maybe my hope will be restored. But in the meantime, I'm taking a break and worrying more about how one spends time on a sinking ship rather than how one buoys the Titanic. I don't want to become another liberal whose whining turns him into a Republican.
Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology.
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