Since George Bush took office way back in 2001, I have been trying to understand his source of success. I simply could not figure how he won elections and re-elections. To put it very simply, he just does not seem to bring much to the plate. He had no success in any of his business ventures. His oil company went bust because it could not find oil. His reign with his baseball team, The Texas Rangers involved some sweetheart land deals that included manipulating investors. His fictional military career was generally a farce. And he has a history of DUI and reported drug abuse. His public speaking skills are the topic of many comedians' jokes. His butchering of the English language has inspired collections of Bushisms. For most people, this combination of attributes would send a job rsum straight to the shredder.
While there may be more, I have identified six of the most prominent reasons that seem to behave much like the pistons of the engine that drives the Bush machine. First, Bush has a simple agenda. He is a follower of the KISS rule: Keep It Simple and Stupid. As William Saletan put it in Slate Magazine's November 3, 2004 edition: "He gives the same speech every time. His sentences are short and clear." Later, "What you and I see as unreflectiveness, [his supporters] see as transparency. They trust him."
The simple style of Bush is well-suited for television. This synopsis from Ron Kaufman delineates the simplistic modus operandi of Bush on television: "As the most simplistic of all media, TV can only handle the most uncomplicated of ideas. TV thrives on breasts and beer so comments are short and concepts are brief. Because most people in America get their news from TV the Republican Party hammered down their message to one that was clear and cable-ready: u2018Terrorists could attack America at any moment. George W. Bush will keep you safe. George W. Bush is a good Christian.' That was the message and it worked." For the average American couch potatoes who limited their political news to the commercials presented during American Idol, those brief, KISS-style spots were just enough to convince them Simple George was the best choice.
On the flip side of the political coin we found John Kerry with a message so complicated that many Americans could not recognize where he stood. As Saletan further stated: "John Kerry went on and on, adding one prepositional phrase after another until nobody could remember what he was talking about." I am reminded of the days of Dwight Eisenhower twice defeating Adlai Stevenson and recall my father telling me that Stevenson was too smart (an egghead) and did not connect with the voting public, whereas Ike the war hero and "I Like Ike" buttons were understood by all. This inability to define Kerry's position left respected newspapers supporting Bush. Supporting Bush by default is the same as employing conventional wisdom. As Kaufman illustrated: "Conventional wisdom is often related closely with the phenomenon of Talking Points …statements that are repeated over and over become Conventional Wisdom regardless of whether or not they are true." This approach sealed a Republican victory. America would do well to recall that the Talking Points method was what sold the public on Saddam Hussein's threat to our country, including his desire to nuke us or dump clouds of poisonous gas onto our cities. By repeatedly saying it was true ad nauseam, the public as well as the main stream media started repeating the lies until it became accepted as common knowledge.
The second characteristic of the Bush presidency that keeps him afloat is tied to the concept of sunk cost fallacy and how this applies to supporting wars. While writing an earlier piece on this topic, it became clear to me that sunk cost fallacy works in the favor of war hawks. For the non-veteran, this may be difficult to understand but it works like this: A soldier is not in the business of debating or questioning the highfalutin morals of a military action. The combat soldier is betting his/her life every day on the premise that what they are doing is right. If you think about that for a moment, it becomes clear why veterans' groups support the administration's decisions to go to war and to stay in war. A combat soldier goes through so much training that the first time he/she is confronted with taking a life, it is an automatic action. This is achieved by training the individual to follow orders without question.
And on the topic of following orders, every armed forces member is required to obey the order of any officer who outranks him/her. The top link in the chain of command or the commander every armed forces member has to obey is the president. Therefore, it only follows that the military, both active and retired, is conditioned to support the president. We can likely add the military's families and dependants to this group as well because the spouses and families are conditioned to support the beliefs of the service member. I believe this circumstance is amplified when the nation is at war. It takes total concentration and dedication to the immediate task of kill-or-be-killed to survive combat duty. The soldier becomes a believer in his/her role because the only place for the non-believer could be a body bag. The combat soldier becomes a victim of sunk cost fallacy due to the complete investment made in his/her war experience. The totality of that investment is the daily gamble of the soldier's life for the war effort. Due to the training and the unique experiences of war vets, a war hawk administration has a ready pool of supporters. Most of the men I served with in Vietnam were in agreement that as much as we hated that war, we hated going through the airports where the peaceniks taunted every guy in uniform far more. To some degree, the combat soldier has the choice of either becoming a war supporter by virtue of being in the war or going insane. Part of the potential insanity comes from the premise that a soldier has to accept the correctness of his nation's choice to go to war. If the soldier does not believe the war is the morally correct action then rightfully or otherwise, the soldier might have to own the guilt of his/her actions. Killing in war is right but if the war is wrong, then the killing was murder. To illustrate how deeply engrained the war becomes into the combat soldier it could be said that the soldier becomes the war as does the war becomes the combat soldier. The distinction between the two entities becomes obscure. In a sense, no one truly survives a war.
The sunk cost fallacy works to the war hawks advantage with the civilians as well. Some people believe that because we have given so many American lives (not to mention enemy and civilian lives) to the cause that we owe it to them to continue the war until it is won. Combine them with the many Americans who possess a good work ethic and feel the need to complete every job we start. Now throw in the element of blind jingoistic patriotism and we can see how George Bush has successfully capitalized on the special characteristics rendered by the war veteran groups and the civilian victims of sunk cost fallacy.
The third source of Bush power comes from the blueprint for world domination set forth in the Rebuilding America's Defenses (RAD) document prepared by the tunnel-visioned neoconservatives at the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). This blueprint powers the Bushmobile by giving his administration a plan to follow. It has become his roadmap for imperialistic activities in The Middle East as well as the entire planet. Since the RAD has the blessing of his neoconservative gods, it has automatic acceptance by his formerly conservative Republican Party. Embedded into this source of Bush power is the war machine in general. There are people who believe the nation needs to be at war to keep our war skills at their best. Add to that group, the people who believe that conquering the world is a right of a superpower, and add to them the voices of the business world that thrive on military contracts. The overall collection of these power groups gives a very strong, loud, and wealthy voice that demands to be heard. It is the kind of voice a war president hears exceptionally well.
His fourth source of clout comes from something called The K-Street Project. This refers to the mega millions of American dollars that are made available to the Bush Administration and to The Republican Party through lobbyists. This topic alone deserves serious examination by the astute American who wishes to know how Washington works. The lobbyists have so much money available for the purpose of influencing politicians they are essentially able to have power over the entire government. While apparently not illegal, the practices of these money-dispensing lobbyists are certainly lacking in morals. Money corrupts, and large amounts of money corrupt absolutely.
The fifth source of Bush power is his brain, also known as turd blossom Karl Rove. Rove is the mastermind behind the Bush administration. Karl Rove is also the master dirty trickster who manages to have opponents of Bush smeared with lies and innuendo. His involvement with campaign dirty tricks is legendary. His dirty tricks efforts in his possible participation in outing the undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame is approaching enlightenment as each day passes. Having a personal Svengali on his staff saves George Bush from ever having to get his own hands dirty. We may one day credit the Rove style of presidential management with the media manipulation that has shamefully served as an echo chamber for the pre-war run-up and for the FOX News-style of softballing questions. It would not surprise me to learn that the Talon New reporter, Jeff Gannon was a Rove project. My personal guess is that because of Karl Rove's actions, Bush is so far removed from the dirty side of his political machine that he does not even know what shenanigans they are up to. And if Bush does not know about it, he will never have to perjure himself by denying it. Rove serves the roles of attack dog, mastermind, dirty trickster, and propagandist for the Bush administration. He is a political genius in the sense that he is able to secure elections and re-elections for whomever he supports.
The sixth source of Bush power is God Almighty. By claiming to be a good Christian, he jumps on the Jesus bandwagon and spews the message that if you oppose Bush you oppose God. We have all heard Bush refer to his "faith-based initiative", which is code for "Ya'all better support me and my war because I am doing God's Will." (Not to mention the truckloads of money the Bush Administration wants to give to your religious organization.) Bush has manipulated the church-going, God-fearing congregations to vote "right" under the assumption that his conservative beliefs are in harmony with God. In this group of supporters we find the Bible-thumping radical right-wing evangelists who lead their flocks of parishioners like the pied piper who lead his children followers to the cave. This statement from Eric Margolis sums up the Bush/God connection: "Bush's core Republican support lies in middle America: the suburbs, Midwest and Bible-belt rural areas, where most people don't read books, rely on TV sound bites for their world view, and have only a childish understanding of history, geography or foreign affairs. This is the new, dumbed-down Republicans Party, fertile ground for nationalist hysteria, religious extremism, and anti-foreign xenophobia." Also included in this area of Bush support are the Zionist Jews who think the RAD plan and the idea of America building military bases in Iraq suits their vision very well. It was a masterful accomplishment to get the evangelical fundamentalists to vote with the Jews.
If we are able to identify the actions or features that have put this president into power, perhaps we will be more careful in the future before electing another president who would lie to put our country into a war. Perhaps too, we may be more alert to the dangers of our entire government being blindly led in one direction.
May 8, 2006