Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Madame LaFarge knitted at the foot of the guillotine. When he heard the news that a jet had crashed into the World Trade Center, George W. Bush took his seat in a kindergarten class and read aloud from "My Pet Goat."
When a Marine's mother showed up outside his ranch in Texas and asked him to come out and explain the "noble cause" for which her son had died, he instead took a two-hour bike ride and went to a Little League game. He later explained that he couldn't talk to her because he needs "balance" and to "get on with my life."
When his supporters turned a comatose woman, Terri Schiavo, into a puppet for their right-to-life agenda, he rallied behind them. Now his supporters accuse Cindy Sheehan of unfairly using her son Casey's heroic death for political ends.
When Ken Mehlman, head of the Republican National Committee, was outed as a gay man, Bush's supporters, who want to rescind the Supreme Court's decriminalization of homosexuality, accused the left of the "politics of personal destruction." Now they are waving the divorce action filed by Sheehan's husband.
When liberals call George W. Bush a liar because of his documented distortion of facts, the right accuses them of "degrading public discourse." Meanwhile, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity refer to anyone opposing the war as "treasonous." That means 66 percent of Americans are traitors. And among those, according to Bill O'Reilly, is Cindy Sheehan, for exercising her right to free speech -- the same right that allows him to call women who have abortions "murderers."
Conservatives become apoplectic when someone desecrates the flag. But it's one of their own who mowed down crosses and flags at Sheehan's anti-war memorial.
These are the actions of President George W. Bush and his supporters, who like to call themselves "compassionate conservatives."
Far from merely lacking compassion, Bush is a man without a conscience or feeling life. If his party did not control Congress, it is hard to imagine that articles of impeachment would not be drawn against him. Fortunately, the American people have finally begun to wake up to the fact that a compulsively indifferent sociopath occupies the White House. His ratings on Iraq are nearly as low as Lyndon Johnson's on Vietnam in 1968.
Bush lied to us about when he began planning the war. He lied about weapons of mass destruction, even though his own advisers told him there were none to be found. Then, when his advisers turned out to be right, he claimed the invasion was actually undertaken to overthrow a despot and establish a democracy among the "freedom-loving" Iraqis. Now, Bush is having to acknowledge that what the Iraqis want is an Islamic republic, not an American-style democracy. A senior official told the Washington Post that the administration, whose actions have killed many times the number of people exterminated by Saddam Hussein in the last 10 years, is now "shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
You will remember that this is the same administration whose spokesman told a New York Times reporter that the media were, to their discredit, "members of the reality-based community," whereas the administration was busy creating "new realities."
Welcome to the new reality, George. Americans aren't buying your distortions about taxes, Social Security, Medicare, the environment, stem cell research, health care, oil prices and Iraq. The number willing to sign the required loyalty pledges before attending your speeches is shrinking.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that our involvement in Iraq would not end until enough soldiers had died to impact a majority of Americans. But Cindy Sheehan -- still in Crawford at this writing, a week before publication -- has proven that one voice can galvanize a movement. A respondent to my column noted that the Internet's army of bloggers has put the mainstream media under pressure to report events it might have ignored or delayed reporting in the past. So, hopefully, the scene at "Camp Casey" will help bring the minority of Americans who still support the war to their senses before we commit to the kind of involvement that killed 50,000 in Vietnam.
Bush is well known to inhabit a bubble of unreality. He has bragged that he never reads newspapers, that God is on his side, and that as president he doesn't have to make explanations. Right-wingers are out of their minds with anger at Sheehan for threatening to pop the bubble. They make the predictable claim that opposing a war aids the enemy. (See insurgents making bombs, blowing kisses to Cindy on the television!) They have called her every name possible -- from "cow" to "moron" -- but they fail to ask themselves a simple question:
Why won't George W. Bush leave his house to speak to her for five minutes? That would end the protest. Any president with a heart would invite her to lunch in the big house. But that would mean Bush hearing something he doesn't want to hear. And that is unthinkable to the privileged rich boy who has never had to face the consequences of his actions.
Cliff Bostock holds a Ph.D. in depth psychology.
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