Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Even when he is right...

A curious thing has happened recently. George Bush has said several things that, coming from another man, would have sounded credible and, in one instance, even inspiring. First, there was the remark, in his State of the Union address, about America's addiction to oil (!). Then there was his comment, in defense of the Dubai Ports deal, that we risk compromising our message of tolerance and free markets if we kill the deal through legislation (he is right, but we still should not do the deal). In his speech in Hyderabad, he put forth a remarkably progressive vision for India's future. In saying "India is our natural ally," he articulated something that should have been said decades ago by U.S. leadership (America's stiff-arm to India, the world's largest democracy, ranks as a shameful black mark on our conduct since WWII). He coupled that to a call for free and open trade, as opposed to fear and protectionism. And yesterday, he called for Congress to fund the mandates for the repair of New Orleans.

So how should we take all this? Does he mean any of it? Do his speechwriters and handlers mean any of it? Does he even understand what he is saying, especially regarding India? Is this merely a series of accidents, that his words just happen to mirror reality, while we, meanwhile, continue on with the sophisticated savagery that passes for a governing philosophy?

The darker possibility is that this is all a smokescreen, a calculated ploy to make W look worldly, compassionate and reasonable while Rome burns. Where tolerance is concerned, for example, it is curious that he didn't discover the evils of racial profiling until it swept the Emir of the United Arab Emirates up into its net. Where free trade is concerned, he seems blithely unaware of the havoc that U.S. agricultural protectionism is wreaking on the farmers and workers of developing nations like India. Where New Orleans is concerned, his newfound concern must be a bitter pill for those still suffering from his, and his team's, aggressive neglect of the risks, and then the aftermath, of the storm.

Then there is a third possibility, namely, that with his administration a failure, his reputation sinking, and his spinmeisters losing their traction, he has suddenly discovered his "good" side, or at least a streak of moderation, even earnestness. Maybe he isn't just the paranoid, overcompensating, confused, inflexible bully who has presided over the desecration of America's covenant with itself. Maybe "compassionate" conservatism really did mean something once, and he had to shelve it to serve the aims of forces bigger than himself. Then, of course, we have to conclude he was in fact the puppet that many liberals suspected him to be when he was first elected. Certainly, in the hands of Rove and the rest of his team, W has not been the President one would have predicted years ago, when he governed Texas as a relative moderate.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

--H.L. Mencken (Courtesy of S.S.)

The evidence suggests, at least, that the "plain folk" are not, in fact, morons. They were duped by the world's most sophisticated lie machine, but given the truth of what they have done, a growing majority are repudiating that choice. The question is whether it is too late.

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