Bullies and Bushies

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare

"In
reference to your Excellency’s instructions regarding the large
exercises at the Public Center, having strong faith in the only
God in our hearts, and God’s permanent support to the believers,
the faithful, the steadfast, and with great love that we have
for our great homeland and our Great Leader, our Great Leader
has won God’s favor and the love of his dear people in the day
of the great homage."

No, that
cadenza of sycophancy wasn’t extracted from a Bush-adoring thread
at FreeRepublic.com, although it would be an honest mistake to
think so. It was composed by an Iraqi bureaucrat who was following
the regime’s prescribed conventions in addressing the Dear Leader.
(For more of this sort of thing, see here.)

But Saddam’s
minions and Bush’s dwindling band of adherents spoke the same
language of Leader Worship — albeit in slightly different dialects.

Of course,
Saddam often summarily executed those who displayed insufficient
zeal in prostrating themselves before him. Witness the case of
the Iraqi Health Minister, who was executed in 1982 for daring
to suggest that Saddam, having led the nation into a disastrous
war with Iran, should consider resigning. The man’s dismembered
body was delivered the following day to his widow.

Oh, and about
a year and a half later, Donald Rumsfeld visited Baghdad to shake
Saddam’s hand on behalf of President Ronald Reagan.

George W.
Bush isn’t the type of ruler who could have his critics flayed
alive. I honestly believe, however, that his view of executive
power occupies the same spectrum as Saddam’s, and unless something
is done right away to rein in presidential powers we’ll see our
share of Saddam-style atrocities, and probably much sooner than
most people think.

It’s not
difficult to imagine how Saddam would have reacted to being publicly
roasted by the likes of Stephen Colbert
. To judge from George
W.’s body English as he witnessed Colbert’s performance, the president
was mentally scrolling through a menu of exotic punishments —
just window-shopping, of course. The most revealing thing about
that episode was the visible anxiety on the part of the Washington
press corps, who seemed to think that Colbert had made a victim
out of George W. Bush — who merely has the power (albeit not the
authority) to kill anyone, anywhere, anytime, for any reason he
deems suitable, in any quantity he considers necessary.

Washington
Post columnist Richard Cohen
offered a museum-quality
example of this mindset.

"[Colbert's]
defenders — and they are all over the blogosphere — will tell
you he spoke truth to power," sniffed Cohen. "This is
a tired phrase, as we all know, but when it was fresh and meaningful
it suggested repercussions, consequences — maybe even death in
some countries. When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct
chance that power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or
— if you’re at work — take away your office. But in this country,
anyone can insult the president of the United States. Colbert
just did it, and he will not suffer any consequence at all. He
knew that going in. He also knew that Bush would have to sit there
and pretend to laugh at Colbert’s lame and insulting jokes."

"Self-mockery
can be funny," concludes Cohen. "Mockery that is insulting
is not. The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar
can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more
than rude. He was a bully."

Let me get
this straight.

Bush can
send Colbert to Gitmo, or (what’s even worse) sic the IRS on his
family — and it’s Colbert who’s the "bully"?

The last
time I checked, a bully is someone who picks on the less powerful.
Colbert was teeing off on the most powerful mammal on the planet.


Commentator Robert Parry offers a useful description of a genuine
bully at work.

George W.
Bush’s public persona, Parry writes, is that of "the wise-cracking
guy leading a pack of vacationers out of the elevator toward the
all-you-can-eat buffet bar, while poking fun at Charlie for getting
too much sun on his bald head or at Mildred for putting on a few
extra pounds. The others in the group titter with nervous amusement,
fearing their ribbing will come next." He is "the alpha
male on the cruise ship," the wealthy and socially insulated
jerk with a keen eye for the imperfections of others and a vivid
memory for such details — and no compunctions about using any
advantage, however petty, to protect and enhance his social advantages.

"At
a joint White House press conference May 16 with Australian Prime
Minister John Howard, as the two men stood side by side, Bush
slipped in a couple of zingers about Howard's bald head and supposed
homeliness," recalls Parry by way of illustration.

"Bush
joshed, ‘Somebody said, "You and John Howard appear to be
so close, don't you have any differences?" And I said, "yes,
he doesn't have any hair."’ Getting a round of laughs from
reporters, Bush moved on to his next joke: ‘That's what I like
about John Howard,’ Bush said. ‘He may not be the prettiest person
on the block, but when he tells you something you can take it
to the bank.’ Howard played the role of gracious guest, smiling
and saying nothing in response to the disparaging comments about
his physical appearance."

Let’s see:
Colbert is a "bully" for lampooning Bush’s policy failures
and intransigent devotion to his misguided policies. But Bush
was just a Hail Fellow Well-Met for humiliating another head of
state who just happened to be a victim of male pattern baldness.

Got it.

This wasn’t
the only time Bush has keyed in on that characteristic as a way
of cutting people down.

"Though
many men are very sensitive about losing their hair, Bush seems
to find their baldness a source of humor, a way to put them in
their place," continues Parry. "At a press conference
on Aug. 24, 2001, Bush called on a Texas reporter who had covered
Bush as Texas governor. Bush said the young reporter was ‘a fine
lad, fine lad,’ drawing laughter from the national press corps.
The Texas reporter then began to ask his question, ‘You talked
about the need to maintain technological …’ But Bush interrupted
the reporter to deliver his punch line: ‘A little short on hair,
but a fine lad. Yeah.’ As Bush joined in the snickering, the young
reporter paused and acknowledged meekly, ‘I am losing some hair.’"

Could it
be that Bush, dimly but painfully aware that there is little inside
his head, compensates by drawing attention to similar deficiencies
in what is on the outside of other male craniums?

"Bush
exhibits other physical alpha-male tendencies, such as when he
greets another man by cupping his hand behind the man's neck,
a sign of both affection and control," Parry points out.

Just as interesting
is the fact that Bush’s mannerisms change abruptly when he is
dealing with a foreign leader or other figure who actually wields
substantial power. Witness Bush’s deferential behavior during
the recent visit of Chinese ruler Hu Jintao, the way he avoids
offending Mexican
President Vicente Fox
(whose country is actually involved
in aggression against ours), or the time he literally
hid behind former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan
.

"Alpha
Male"? It depends on the room, I guess.

Back in the
2000 election season, Al Gore — with the help of feminist
author Naomi Wolf
, tried to re-cast himself as an Alpha Male.
This explains, inter alia, why Gore was often seen shoe-horned
into blue jeans that threatened his circulation, and why he planted
the assault kiss on his wife at the Democratic National Convention.

Gore’s efforts
struck most people as a severe case of over-compensation, and
with good reason: Al Gore, he of the prissy demeanor and elongated
sibilants, would be hard-pressed to qualify as an Alpha Male at
a florist convention.

In this respect,
as in so many others, George W. Bush’s performance has prompted
a more charitable re-assessment of his 2000 democratic rival.
This is not because Al Gore looks any better, but rather because
George W. looks so much worse.

And George’s
Alpha Baboon routine has inspired mimicry from his hangers-on.
Witness the territory-marking antics of tough-guy wannabes like
Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. O’Reilly’s
face-off with Jeremy Glick
(the one who lost his dad in the
9-11 attack, not the
identically named NCAA Judo Champion who was a hero of United
Flight 93)
was a terrific display of faux machismo that ended
with O’Reilly gesturing for security guards to haul the small,
meek, well-spoken Glick away.

The same
kind of thing is on display in Hannity’s performance at Utah Valley
State College in October 2004, as chronicled in the documentary
This Divided State:
Preening in front of a crowd composed of thousands of cultish
Republicans, Hannity swagger-waddled across the stage snarling
at largely absent liberals — before inviting a genuinely brave
liberal up on the stage to be assailed by the deafening abuse
hurled his way from the crowd.

"Conservatives"
of this kind we don’t need, but nearly six years into Bush’s reign
that’s practically the only variety on offer.

May
27, 2006

William
Norman Grigg [send
him mail
] writes for The
New American
magazine.

Email Print
FacebookTwitterShare