The two most dangerous leaders in the world are George W. Bush and North Korea’s Kim Jong Il. The lights seem to be out upstairs in both men. Neither man can see the world as it really exists.
I wish to stress that. It’s not a question of having a difference of opinion. Rational people can easily disagree on what is the right policy. When people see things that are not there, however, reasoning and debate are useless. It’s like a demented person who believes someone is hiding in the trunk of the car. No amount of explanation will convince that person otherwise.
For the president to compare Osama bin Laden, a crank with maybe a thousand followers scattered around the globe, with Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin is preposterous, absurd and even laughable. To suggest bin Laden could take over Iraq is even more so. We have 140,000 troops, a Navy and an Air Force, and we can’t "take over" Iraq. How in the name of heaven could bin Laden do it with no soldiers at all? He is, after all, a Sunni with only a small following among Sunnis, and the majority in Iraq is Shiite.
The human being is controlled by the mind. We can’t even pick up a pencil or scratch our ear without the brain first instructing the body to do so. The mind is our means of survival, and we survive by correctly identifying reality. Often when we fail to correctly identify reality, it kills us, as with the person who believes he can beat the train through the crossing.
But not only is this more serious than a difference of opinion, it is more serious than lying. Rational people can lie. The used-car salesman doesn’t really believe that the pickup truck with a squirrel tail on the antenna and Styrofoam dice hanging from the rearview mirror was previously owned by a retired kindergarten teacher. He just hopes you’re stupid enough to believe it.
Politicians lie all the time, because they want to plant a distorted view of reality in your mind, lest you discover the truth about how worthless they are. I used to say the only difference between Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter was that when Nixon lied, he knew he was lying. Carter seemed to believe his own lies.
Let’s not play around. Am I saying the president is crazy? No, not in the clinical sense. But, if he believes that bin Laden, Hitler, Stalin and Lenin are comparable, if he truly believes he is leading the free world in the great ideological war of the 21st century, then he has cut his anchor chain and drifted off into the Sea of Delusion.
Karl Menninger, one of the most sensible psychiatrists, defined sanity as staying in touch with reality, but he pointed out that all people depart from reality on occasion. We do it when we dream, we do it when we fantasize, we do it when we become enraged, and we do it when we rationalize.
The president, I believe, is desperate to be what he knows he is not — a great man. He has fantasized that he is a second Winston Churchill leading the forces of democracy in a great crusade against the forces of darkness. The only trouble is, there is nobody out there in the dark.
Sure, bin Laden and his small band of followers hate our guts. So what? They are half a drop in the bucket of 6 billion people. Bush has so distorted his view of reality, he does not seem to realize that most of our "allies" in the Middle East are dictators, and the people he calls terrorists — Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah — participated in free elections.
Even his so-called war on terror is phony. You can’t wage a war against a tactic. Most of the groups he labels as terrorists are local groups with local grievances and don’t think twice about us.
We should remember the warning of Ayn Rand: "We can evade reality, but we cannot evade the consequences of evading reality."
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.