The Rise of the Stupid

Common sense demands the absolute rejection of the idea that public servants are either public or servants.

Politicians and others who dedicate themselves to the state, however, thrill to this particular refrain. They enjoy the idea that they somehow sacrifice something — no matter how small or insignificant — solely to help another citizen, or some group, or some nation.

But the stupidity and crassness of politics always prevails over the idea of public service, as witnessed by the ongoing saga of the Bush vacation at Crawford.

Cindy Sheehan is sitting in the hot sun, leading a simple campaign to extract a small measure of personal accountability from our populist, pedal-pumping president. She and a growing crowd of supporters are waiting for the President to exhibit some sign that he understands what it is he is doing. She is waiting for some sign that Bush understands why he has destroyed Iraq and the lives of thousands of Americans and Iraqis — and can articulate that rationale in either verbal or body language.

Sheehan would like to see some leadership — albeit after the fact — regarding the unacceptable level of pretense and fabrication that led to her son’s untimely and apparently purposeless death. She asks this on behalf of thousands of other American families who are suffering the same angst.

Sheehan wants to know what the President has to say now about his massive propaganda campaign against the American people, and his increasingly bad sales pitch for the neoconservative agenda. She wants to hear from him exactly why he is sponsoring a Washington re-creation of Alexander’s empire, minus the law, the tolerance, the culture, or the courage of political leaders in battle.

She’d like that small sacrifice by a public servant for a citizen, on behalf of our country and our honor. In another world, Cindy Sheehan would be a golden political moment. But in Bushworld she asks too much.

My generation has studied the idiocy of Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs, the ignorance of administrators in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the blighted regimes of LBJ and Nixon, the governing superficiality of Reagan, and the deadly corruption and incompetence of the Bush-Clinton-Bush trinity of post-Cold War emperors. My goodness, we ought to have a clue by now.

We have witnessed the rise of the stupid. Maureen Dowd observes the president and his entourage as meta-insulated; but this is no more than the natural and ideal state for the intellectually incurious and morally weak.

General Tommy Franks said it clearly, in describing the President’s former under secretary for defense policy Doug Feith, who with Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle was a key architect of American security policy, as the "stupidest guy on earth." This description is applicable to most armchair neoconservatives (and there are no other variants). It applies as well to Washington politicians who see no further than their latest deal with lobbies and supporters.

But to explain American foreign and domestic policy as the ascendancy of stupidity seems like a cop-out. Surely there are better, more intellectualized, explanations for our government feeling up old ladies in airports in a search for presumably very tiny terrorists, while attempting to rein in citizens who are actually doing something about drug and human trafficking across the U.S. border with Mexico.

Surely there are better explanations for our government’s mass murder in Iraq for no valid security reason, without possibility of military success, as that same government plans a similarly stupid operation on Iran, or perhaps Syria, or both.

Instead of debating the purpose of American foreign policy and the nature of just war — the Washington pot bubbles over with chatter about the types of weapons we will use in Iran, the sexual charges against this dissenting four star or that one, and how we will justify this next excursion into disaster.

I hope that George W. Bush meets with Cindy Sheehan, in person, and that he does a better job of faking heartfelt empathy than he did last time they met. He seems to be having more trouble acting convinced and convincing, if his television appearances from the ranch are any indication.

This week, Bush presented himself as shaky, repetitive, hoping against hope and pitiful. Diving popularity polls and economic data, neoconservative pressure for war, war, war, and the possibility that comparisons with Nixon in terms of secrecy, illegality and criminality will be the only historical footnote on an otherwise forgettable presidency must weigh heavily on his shrink-wrapped mind. The meta-insulation is peeling off as Republicans realize this Bush is even more toxic for the GOP than his father was. Even the sweet favors of Diebold won’t be enough next time, and they know it.

Perhaps self-selected presidential candidate "I don’t bake cookies" Hillary will be better suited to offer the milk of human kindness to a public she will serve oh so humbly. No matter what, we’d better act like we like it, what with our new SS, the sustained Patriot Act, an imminent national financial crisis, and the permanent "war on terra."

Thanks, Dubya.

But wait, Mr. President. Perhaps I have been unfair. Maybe all your cedar chopping and bike riding and failure to report are the real clues as to how Americans will survive the next twenty years in this country. Did I say "stupid?" I meant "genius!" Sir, you are ahead of your time!