The Happy Days train has pulled out of the station at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No more do the Oval Office and the Rose Garden resound with laughter as they did when Shock-and-Awe was being dispensed to the most menacing and evil villain since Vlad the Impaler. Today, verily, there is no joy in Mudville. If we can credit the opinion polls and the progressive journalists who gleefully report them, Mighty Casey has struck out. Indeed, the whole lineup seems to have fanned, and Bush League players fear that ignominious defeat awaits them in the 2006 playoffs. Reliable sources report that Democratic Party officials have been salivating heavily and that members of the loyal opposition have begun to make extraordinarily large purchases on credit.
The emperor, sunk in personal exasperation and political funk, desperately needs to regain the ebullient fighting spirit he exhibited when he declared, just prior to ordering an all-out nuclear attack on Denmark, that “as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against . . . emerging threats before they are fully formed. . . . The only path to peace and security is the path of action.” Although the sagacious Vice President and de facto commander-in-chief Dick Cheney countermanded young George’s order to attack Denmark, the better to marshal troops for impending attacks on each of the Muslim countries from Morocco to Mindanao, Bush’s confident mien did wonders in those glorious days to lift the populace out of its Vietnam Syndrome, that frightful if wholly mythical psychological slough into which Americans were said to have relapsed after their momentary euphoria when George H. W. Bush kicked Saddam’s butt in 1991.
Now, ordinary people and opinion leaders who lack the strength of character to stay the relentlessly downward course, like the wretched sharks they are, have pounced on the Bully Boy Emperor and his chief bootlickers, kicking them while they are down. House Majority Leader (currently in absentia from his leadership position) Tom DeLay has been indicted by an incurably partisan Texas prosecutor, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist must endure investigation for alleged hanky-panky with regard to corporate stock sales. Just because Republicans have been seen jumping from Bush’s sinking ship of state like — well, you know — does not mean that one and all must abandon the president as he struggles to disentangle himself from the veritable flock of albatrosses now wrapped around his neck, weighing him down and impeding his freedom of movement. The man needs to breathe, for crissake.
Emblematic of these troubles is the relentless persecution of the mischievous boy genius Karl Rove (aka “Bush’s Brain”). A man who rose to his present heights of gray eminence by dint of his dedication to dirty tricks and his steadfast loyalty to the horse he rode to the top of the political trash heap, the already-busy Rove must now divert his attention from the urgent demands of composing the president’s teleprompter scripts and instead expend precious time and energy on such trivial tasks as destroying the reputations of all who speak ill of the person whom political philosophers have definitively identified as “the only president we have.” The journalists, not content even with this malodorous pursuit of the president’s indefatigable lackey, a man who plainly seeks only to promote the public interest, have delighted of late in dragging down another dedicated public servant, commander-in-chief Cheney’s chief of staff I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. This journalistic harassment is so stupid. How can anyone nicknamed Scooter possibly have done anything seriously at odds with right reason?
So low have the president’s critics sunk that they have had the impudence to reveal that his heart-to-heart video conference with a handful of carefully coached gung-ho soldiers in Iraq was — at this point, I suggest that you remove any impressionable children from the reading area — actually a shameless fraud, the sort of counterfeit news the administration’s (any administration’s) press warriors concoct with mind-numbing regularity, the better to deepen the moral and intellectual slumber of the masses. That reporters should so much as whisper such an accusation shows how far the dignity of the Fourth Estate has fallen since the days when Franklin D. Roosevelt could yuck it up strictly off the record with the White House press corps, who in lapdog gratitude never wrote a harsh word about the charismatic leader who worked so hard to pull the country out of the depression of 1929—33 and into the depression of 1937—38. Sending some of these ungrateful journalists for a few months’ residence at the Hotel Gitmo might do wonders to improve their manners.
No one, of course, dares to dispute the president’s courageous leadership during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Did he shrink from his duty? Did he take refuge in an elaborate high-tech bunker bored into a sturdy mountainside in Colorado? Hell, no! Only days after the Corps of Engineers’ levees failed, washing the greater part of the city of New Orleans into Lake Pontchartrain and thence to the Gulf of Mexico, George W. Bush was there, diverting government personnel from the rescue of survivors to the provision of security for his royal highness. The terrible risks notwithstanding, his manhood did not fail him when a photo-op called, and he rose to the occasion just as he had risen during all previous crises, indeed, much as he had after the stalwart termination of his terrified base-hopping aboard Air Force One after 9/11, when he came fearlessly to Manhattan and, yes, stood up and made a short speech.
You betcha: he did exactly the same thing in New Orleans. He came, and he told us suffering southerners that he was proud of the wonderful job FEMA was doing. Good thing he came and cleared up that matter, too, because until then those of us on the ground (or in the water) here in southeast Louisiana had been laboring under the impression that FEMA had done nothing except to obstruct the efforts of the countless private parties seeking to save lives and property and to restore vital services. It just goes to show how wrong the eye witnesses — myself among them — can be. I speak with complete assurance, therefore, when I declare that anyone suffering in a future catastrophe, whether it be an act of God or blowback from an act of Bush, can expect the president to come along and make a bullshit speech. Makes a man proud to be an American. Gives us something to cling to when our houses have been blown away, crushed by fallen trees, or washed down the river.
Topping the entire unjust assault on our Glorious Leader, however, now comes the carping criticism of his nomination of Harriet Miers to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. To see just how unfair these criticisms are, we must bear in mind some crucial facts.
First, the Supreme Court is not really an important part of our government any longer. Think of it as an unofficial part of the Executive Office of the President. If, for example, the court should make a due process ruling the president doesn’t fancy, he can simply order the defendant removed to Guantanamo. The beauty of that tropical paradise, of course, is that it lies outside every court’s jurisdiction, yet within the control of the U.S. Department of Defense, presided over by Bush’s gentle and side-splittingly funny cabinet secretary, the avuncular death-master Donald Rumsfeld. Besides serving as a convenient lodging place for legal unpersons, Gitmo has the additional virtue of facilitating some fascinating experimentation in — what shall we call it? — advanced fraternity hazing: just one more of the administration’s contributions to the improvement of campus life (No Child Left Behind; No Alleged Unlawful Combatant Left in Court).
Second, the president actually searched high and low for a court nominee. He looked under the same White House rug where he once sought to find Osama bin Laden to the immense delight of the assembled reporters (droll, droll was our intrepid leader in those halcyon days). After much anguished deliberation, Bush settled on the nomination of a ham-and-Swiss sandwich to fill the vacant slot on the court. However, when he vetted this choice to a select group of confidential advisers, he was told that ham was absolutely out of the question. Bush then closeted himself in prayer for the greater part of an entire morning and came forth with the idea of nominating a corned beef on rye. Although the president was satisfied that this choice reflected his best judgment, Cheney, as he so often does, overrode the choice and insisted that Bush select something more sentient. About that time, Bush’s personal attorney crept into the room, and the president, looking up with the flash of genius for which he has become legendary, knew instantly that he had hit upon the best legal mind he could find without leaving his office.
The Christian Right, of course, has displayed nothing but despicable disloyalty in its criticism of Bush’s choice. Nevertheless, the always-forgiving president has ignored their howls of protest and assured them that Ms. Miers is indeed a church-going Christian and a person who really does know the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant in a routine law case. Although she has neither written anything of substance nor spoken publicly on constitutional jurisprudence, Miers can make a terrific egg salad, according to the president, who also observed enthusiastically: “And she sure as hell has never said a bad word about me!” So far, the fundamentalists seem unconvinced, but it is difficult to form a clear judgment about their thinking at the moment, when so many of them are preoccupied with the campaign to exhume the remains of William Jennings Bryan, to find out once and for all whether he was poisoned by liberals descended from monkeys.
Much more might be affirmed, of course, in charting the president’s sea of troubles. I have not even mentioned the government’s latest phony-baloney election in Iraq — still another critically important landmark in transforming Iraq from a hellhole ruled by a sonofabitch into a hellhole ruled by our sonofabitch. But, as Bush himself always says, “when the going gets tough, the tough get . . . started? moving? under way? whatever.”
Robert Higgs [send him mail] is senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. His most recent book is Resurgence of the Warfare State: The Crisis Since 9/11. He is also the author of Against Leviathan.