The Sycophants' Barbeque

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by Sheila Samples by Sheila Samples

The “barbeque” on Thursday, Aug. 25, was the annual blowout George Bush gives for the groveling media during his vacation each year – an off-the-record affair wherein the Prince becomes “Pauper for a day” and exposes himself to the hoi polloi of the Fourth Estate.

Except Bush called it off last year, so it’s really not an annual party. And the fried fish, potato salad and chocolate-chip cookies don’t really qualify as a barbeque either. Some are saying it was a pool party, but nobody went swimming…

So, what is it? It’s a super-duper double-secret reaffirmation by media stage-door Johnnys that Bush is the President, the Dear Leader, the commander-in-chief, and they’re willing to crawl on their bellies across the fire-ant hills and weed-tangled Texas prairie to get access to him. Like the Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin pointed out Friday in his “White House Briefing,” the media are so eager to be near Bush they’ll agree to anything, “pretty much no matter what the conditions.”

Bush’s conditions should have brought all self-respecting journalists to a screeching halt up against the ethical wall. But no. To prove their allegiance to Bush, reporters and photographers piled into vans and sped past Camp Casey, a site on the road leading to the ranch named after Casey Sheehan, a 24-year-old soldier slain in Iraq in April 2004. Casey’s mother, Cindy, came to the Crawford ranch on Aug. 6, intent on getting Bush to explain the “noble cause” for which he keeps insisting Americans must die. It was important to Bush, who strikes out in destructive vindictiveness any time he is challenged or questioned, for the media to give Sheehan the back of their hands, as they left her in a wave of blowing dirt.

Froomkin reports that several reporters were “squeamish” about even attending the event, and especially about having to drive by the Sheehan camp. “And later,” Froomkin said, “a small handful watched askance as the rest fawned over Bush, following him around in packs every time he moved.”

Froomkin’s shamefaced apology for the one or two, or however many of his counterparts it takes to fill up a small hand, who were uneasy about signing on to conditions demanded by an egomaniacal murderer, leaves reality-based folks scratching their heads. What were these few doing there in the first place? In the name of all that is ethical and professional in journalism – what in the hell were any of them doing there in the first place?

Maybe it’s me, but if sitting around a swimming pool at a barbeque where no barbeque is served while the world, ignited by lies, explodes in flames – if having access to the man who told the lies – does not make a card-carrying journalist at least a bit curious about something other than sports, what the twins are up to, or his summer reading list – is reality, then I cannot get a grip on it. I cannot get a grip on the reality of reporters flocking to also attend off-the-record August dinners with the treasonous Karl Rove. Is there anything in the world of reality more totally incomprehensible, raging mad – desperately absurd?

Unfortunately, yes. Ron Suskind, the former Wall Street Journal senior national-affairs reporter, and author of The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House and the Education of Paul O’Neill, penned a critical in-depth piece for the Oct. 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine, on the nuances of Bush’s inability to recognize reality. Bush proudly admits he doesn’t “do nuance,” nor does he bother to read newspapers or watch TV, so the fate of the world rests on his uninformed, faith-based gut instinct. By his own admission, Bush just catapults the propaganda around until some of it sticks, which then becomes reality.

A “senior adviser” to Bush explained to Suskind in the summer of 2002 that we no longer live in a reality-based community. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” the adviser said. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Now, I’m not saying this “senior adviser” is Dick Cheney, but I have studied the cadence of Cheney’s remarks and his pet phrases – as you will – for years. Not that it matters, but I suspect history will sort out that whoever was spouting this insane ideology was – as a minimum, if you will – “channeling” the arrogant veep.

It’s not that Bush doesn’t want to face the reality of why Casey Sheehan and 1,900 others like him had to die. After sailing through five years and two stolen elections without having his feet held to the fire; after having lie after destructive lie creating domestic and foreign chaos cheered on by captive audiences, Bush isn’t about to be called on the carpet by some mama just because her kid got killed in his war on terror, or regime change, or handing out God’s gift of freedom, or spreading democracy, or liberation, or – whatever. Sheehan may have him on the run, but he’s the leader of what’s left of the free world, and he doesn’t owe anybody an explanation.

Reality? As they say down in Texas, Bush just doesn’t give a rat’s ass. And, from its collective shoddy performance, neither does the mainstream US media. Unfortunately, for the whole bunch, America’s mothers are awake and they’re on the move. Not just those whose sons and daughters were horribly slain for no good reason, but those who realize their children are still alive and are in peril, are being murdered at a clip of three a day, with no hope of survival and no way out. They realize that the game Bush is playing with their children is Iraqi Roulette. And, sooner or later…

Bush and his media enablers are hoping the end of August will put Cindy Sheehan and Camp Casey in their rear-view mirrors. According to Fox Channel news director Brit Hume, everything will be all right if Bush can come up with some good news. “What the president needs is some improved results,” Hume informed the panel on Fox News Sunday last week, “…or at least some perceived improved results.”

Fellow panelist Fred Barnes agreed. “Cindy Sheehan’s a crackpot,” Barnes snorted, and then giggled, slapping his hands together and then rapidly beating them on the table while bouncing up and down in his chair – “A crackpot! She’s not even a good mascot for the Democratic Party! She’s nothing but a crackpot!”

Bush and the entire right-wing apparatus are flailing around in “frantic defense” mode. They can’t get it through their heads that this isn’t about politics. Mothers like Cindy Sheehan are pro-peace, and it’s a noble cause.

The mothers are coming, spreading out across the nation in a “Bring Them Home Now” bus tour, and they are joined by military and Gold Star families, veterans of the Iraq war and veterans of previous wars. They are coming to save their children because no one – not the president, not the administration, not the members of Congress, nor any corporate media – has the courage to stand up and do what’s right. Now. Today. Before three more are killed…and three more…

I think I’ll meander on over to Tom Delay’s place. I hear there’s gonna be a hell of a Reality Show and a great barbeque over there next week.

Sheila Samples [send her mail] is an Oklahoma freelance writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer.

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