The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.
He's a man [George W. Bush] who is lucky to be governor of Texas. He is a man who is unusually incurious, abnormally unintelligent, amazingly inarticulate, fantastically uncultured, extraordinarily uneducated, and apparently quite proud of all these things.
The media are desperately afraid of being accused of bias. And that's partly because there's a whole machine out there, an organized attempt to accuse them of bias whenever they say anything that the Right doesn't like. So rather than really try to report things objectively, they settle for being even-handed, which is not the same thing. One of my lines in a column—in which a number of people thought I was insulting them personally—was that if Bush said the Earth was flat, the mainstream media would have stories with the headline: 'Shape of Earth—Views Differ.' Then they'd quote some Democrats saying that it was round.
Nine had heard whisperings that the secretive Bilderberg Group was effectively the World Government, undermining democracy by influencing everything from nations' political leaders to the venue for the next war. He recalled persistent rumors and confirmed media reports that the Bilderberg Group had such luminaries as Barack Obama, Prince Charles, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush. Other Bilderberg members sprung forth from Nine’s memory bank. They included the founders and CEOs of various multinational corporations like Facebook, BP, Google, Shell and Amazon, as well as almost every major financial institution on the planet.
The times are too difficult and the crisis too severe to indulge in schadenfreude. Looking at it in perspective, the fact that there would be a financial crisis was perfectly predictable: its general nature, if not its magnitude. Markets are always inefficient.
I imagine Johnny Mathis hates Bin Laden as much as I do, but could Johnny agree Bin Laden had a better speechwriter than Bush? "Axis of Evil"? Come on. "A swimmer in the ocean does not fear the rain" is much more powerful propaganda. Poetic, even.
New Rule: America must stop bragging it's the greatest country on earth, and start acting like it. I know this is uncomfortable for the "faith over facts" crowd, but the greatness of a country can, to a large degree, be measured. Here are some numbers. Infant mortality rate: America ranks forty-eighth in the world. Overall health: seventy-second. Freedom of the press: forty-fourth. Literacy: fifty-fifth. Do you realize there are twelve-year old kids in this country who can't spell the name of the teacher they're having sex with? America has done many great things. Making the New World democratic. The Marshall Plan. Curing polio. Beating Hitler. The deep-fried Twinkie. But what have we done for us lately? We're not the freest country. That would be Holland, where you can smoke hash in church and Janet Jackson's nipple is on their flag. And sadly, we're no longer a country that can get things done. Not big things. Like building a tunnel under Boston, or running a war with competence. We had six years to fix the voting machines; couldn't get that done. The FBI is just now getting e-mail. Prop 87 out here in California is about lessening our dependence on oil by using alternative fuels, and Bill Clinton comes on at the end of the ad and says, "If Brazil can do it, America can, too!" Since when did America have to buck itself up by saying we could catch up to Brazil? We invented the airplane and the lightbulb, they invented the bikini wax, and now they're ahead? In most of the industrialized world, nearly everyone has health care and hardly anyone doubts evolution--and yes, having to live amid so many superstitious dimwits is also something that affects quality of life. It's why America isn't gonna be the country that gets the inevitable patents in stem cell cures, because Jesus thinks it's too close to cloning. Oh, and did I mention we owe China a trillion dollars? We owe everybody money. America is a debtor nation to Mexico. We're not a bridge to the twenty-first century, we're on a bus to Atlantic City with a roll of quarters. And this is why it bugs me that so many people talk like it's 1955 and we're still number one in everything. We're not, and I take no glee in saying that, because I love my country, and I wish we were, but when you're number fifty-five in this category, and ninety-two in that one, you look a little silly waving the big foam "number one" finger. As long as we believe being "the greatest country in the world" is a birthright, we'll keep coasting on the achievements of earlier generations, and we'll keep losing the moral high ground. Because we may not be the biggest, or the healthiest, or the best educated, but we always did have one thing no other place did: We knew soccer was bullshit. And also we had the Bill of Rights. A great nation doesn't torture people or make them disappear without a trial. Bush keeps saying the terrorist "hate us for our freedom,"" and he's working damn hard to see that pretty soon that won't be a problem.
George Bush made a mistake when he referred to the Saddam Hussein regime as 'evil.' Every liberal and leftist knows how to titter at such black-and-white moral absolutism. What the president should have done, in the unlikely event that he wanted the support of America's peace-mongers, was to describe a confrontation with Saddam as the 'lesser evil.' This is a term the Left can appreciate. Indeed, 'lesser evil' is part of the essential tactical rhetoric of today's Left, and has been deployed to excuse or overlook the sins of liberal Democrats, from President Clinton's bombing of Sudan to Madeleine Albright's veto of an international rescue for Rwanda when she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Among those longing for nuance, moral relativism—the willingness to use the term evil, when combined with a willingness to make accommodations with it—is the smart thing: so much more sophisticated than 'cowboy' language.
New Rule: Now that liberals have taken back the word "liberal," they also have to take back the word "elite." By now you've heard the constant right-wing attacks on the "elite media," and the "liberal elite." Who may or may not be part of the "Washington elite." A subset of the "East Coast elite." Which is overly influenced by the "Hollywood elite." So basically, unless you're a shit-kicker from Kansas, you're with the terrorists. If you played a drinking game where you did a shot every time Rush Limbaugh attacked someone for being "elite," you'd be almost as wasted as Rush Limbaugh. I don't get it: In other fields--outside of government--elite is a good thing, like an elite fighting force. Tiger Woods is an elite golfer. If I need brain surgery, I'd like an elite doctor. But in politics, elite is bad--the elite aren't down-to-earth and accessible like you and me and President Shit-for-Brains. Which is fine, except that whenever there's a Bush administration scandal, it always traces back to some incompetent political hack appointment, and you think to yourself, "Where are they getting these screwups from?" Well, now we know: from Pat Robertson. I'm not kidding. Take Monica Goodling, who before she resigned last week because she's smack in the middle of the U.S. attorneys scandal, was the third-ranking official in the Justice Department of the United States. She's thirty-three, and though she never even worked as a prosecutor, was tasked with overseeing the job performance of all ninety-three U.S. attorneys. How do you get to the top that fast? Harvard? Princeton? No, Goodling did her undergraduate work at Messiah College--you know, home of the "Fighting Christies"--and then went on to attend Pat Robertson's law school. Yes, Pat Robertson, the man who said the presence of gay people at Disney World would cause "earthquakes, tornadoes, and possibly a meteor," has a law school. And what kid wouldn't want to attend? It's three years, and you have to read only one book. U.S. News & World Report , which does the definitive ranking of colleges, lists Regent as a tier-four school, which is the lowest score it gives. It's not a hard school to get into. You have to renounce Satan and draw a pirate on a matchbook. This is for the people who couldn't get into the University of Phoenix. Now, would you care to guess how many graduates of this televangelist diploma mill work in the Bush administration? On hundred fifty. And you wonder why things are so messed up? We're talking about a top Justice Department official who went to a college founded by a TV host. Would you send your daughter to Maury Povich U? And if you did, would you expect her to get a job at the White House? In two hundred years, we've gone from "we the people" to "up with people." From the best and brightest to dumb and dumber. And where better to find people dumb enough to believe in George Bush than Pat Robertson's law school? The problem here in America isn't that the country is being run by elites. It's that it's being run by a bunch of hayseeds. And by the way, the lawyer Monica Goodling hired to keep her ass out of jail went to a real law school.
I resolutely refuse to believe that the state of Edward's health had anything to do with this, and I don't say this only because I was once later accused of attacking him 'on his deathbed.' He was entirely lucid to the end, and the positions he took were easily recognizable by me as extensions or outgrowths of views he had expressed (and also declined to express) in the past. Alas, it is true that he was closer to the end than anybody knew when the thirtieth anniversary reissue of his Orientalism was published, but his long-precarious condition would hardly argue for giving him a lenient review, let alone denying him one altogether, which would have been the only alternatives. In the introduction he wrote for the new edition, he generally declined the opportunity to answer his scholarly critics, and instead gave the recent American arrival in Baghdad as a grand example of 'Orientalism' in action. The looting and destruction of the exhibits in the Iraq National Museum had, he wrote, been a deliberate piece of United States vandalism, perpetrated in order to shear the Iraqi people of their cultural patrimony and demonstrate to them their new servitude. Even at a time when anything at all could be said and believed so long as it was sufficiently and hysterically anti-Bush, this could be described as exceptionally mendacious. So when the Atlantic invited me to review Edward's revised edition, I decided I'd suspect myself more if I declined than if I agreed, and I wrote what I felt I had to. Not long afterward, an Iraqi comrade sent me without comment an article Edward had contributed to a magazine in London that was published by a princeling of the Saudi royal family. In it, Edward quoted some sentences about the Iraq war that he off-handedly described as 'racist.' The sentences in question had been written by me. I felt myself assailed by a reaction that was at once hot-eyed and frigidly cold. He had cited the words without naming their author, and this I briefly thought could be construed as a friendly hesitance. Or as cowardice... I can never quite act the stern role of Mr. Darcy with any conviction, but privately I sometimes resolve that that's 'it' as it were. I didn't say anything to Edward but then, I never said anything to him again, either. I believe that one or two charges simply must retain their face value and not become debauched or devalued. 'Racist' is one such. It is an accusation that must either be made good upon, or fully retracted. I would not have as a friend somebody whom I suspected of that prejudice, and I decided to presume that Edward was honest and serious enough to feel the same way. I feel misery stealing over me again as I set this down: I wrote the best tribute I could manage when he died not long afterward (and there was no strain in that, as I was relieved to find), but I didn't go to, and wasn't invited to, his funeral.
As to the 'Left' I'll say briefly why this was the finish for me. Here is American society, attacked under open skies in broad daylight by the most reactionary and vicious force in the contemporary world, a force which treats Afghans and Algerians and Egyptians far worse than it has yet been able to treat us. The vaunted CIA and FBI are asleep, at best. The working-class heroes move, without orders and at risk to their lives, to fill the moral and political vacuum. The moral idiots, meanwhile, like Falwell and Robertson and Rabbi Lapin, announce that this clerical aggression is a punishment for our secularism. And the governments of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, hitherto considered allies on our 'national security' calculus, prove to be the most friendly to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Here was a time for the Left to demand a top-to-bottom house-cleaning of the state and of our covert alliances, a full inquiry into the origins of the defeat, and a resolute declaration in favor of a fight to the end for secular and humanist values: a fight which would make friends of the democratic and secular forces in the Muslim world. And instead, the near-majority of 'Left' intellectuals started sounding like Falwell, and bleating that the main problem was Bush's legitimacy. So I don't even muster a hollow laugh when this pathetic faction says that I, and not they, are in bed with the forces of reaction.
New Rule: You don't have to teach both sides of a debate if one side is a load of crap. President Bush recently suggested that public schools should teach "intelligent design" alongside the theory of evolution, because after all, evolution is "just a theory." Then the president renewed his vow to "drive the terrorists straight over the edge of the earth." Here's what I don't get: President Bush is a brilliant scientist. He's the man who proved you could mix two parts booze with one part cocaine and still fly a jet fighter. And yet he just can't seem to accept that we descended from apes. It seems pathetic to be so insecure about your biological superiority to a group of feces-flinging, rouge-buttocked monkeys that you have to make up fairy tales like "We came from Adam and Eve," and then cover stories for Adam and Eve, like intelligent design! Yeah, leaving the earth in the hands of two naked teenagers, that's a real intelligent design. I'm sorry, folks, but it may very well be that life is just a series of random events, and that there is no master plan--but enough about Iraq. There aren't necessarily two sides to every issue. If there were, the Republicans would have an opposition party. And an opposition party would point out that even though there's a debate in schools and government about this, there is no debate among scientists. Evolution is supported by the entire scientific community. Intelligent design is supported by the guys on line to see The Dukes of Hazzard. And the reason there is no real debate is that intelligent design isn't real science. It's the equivalent of saying that the Thermos keeps hot things hot and cold things cold because it's a god. It's so willfully ignorant you might as well worship the U.S. mail. "It came again! Praise Jesus!" Stupidity isn't a form of knowing things. Thunder is high-pressure air meeting low-pressure air--it's not God bowling. "Babies come from storks" is not a competing school of throught in medical school. We shouldn't teach both. The media shouldn't equate both. If Thomas Jefferson knew we were blurring the line this much between Church and State, he would turn over in his slave. As for me, I believe in evolution and intelligent design. I think God designed us in his image, but I also think God is a monkey.
Mrs. Clinton, speaking to a black church audience on Martin Luther King Day last year, did describe President George W. Bush as treating the Congress of the United States like 'a plantation,' adding in a significant tone of voice that 'you know what I mean ...' She did not repeat this trope, for some reason, when addressing the electors of Iowa or New Hampshire. She's willing to ring the other bell, though, if it suits her. But when an actual African-American challenger comes along, she rather tends to pout and wince at his presumption (or did until recently).
Six-Pack didn't despise George W. Bush to the degree that Ketchum did, but she thought the president was a smirking twerp and a dumbed-down daddy's boy, and she agreed with Ketchum's assessment that Bush would be as worthless as wet crap in even the smallest crisis. If a fight broke out between two small dogs, for example, Ketchum claimed that Bush would call the fire department and ask them to bring a hose; then the president would position himself at a safe distance from the dogfight, and wait for the firemen to show up. The part Pam liked best about this assessment was that Ketchum said the president would instantly look self-important, and would appear to be actively involved--that is, once the firefighters and their hose arrived, and provided there was anything remaining of the mess the two dogs might have made of each other in the interim.
During the Senate debate on the intervention in Iraq, Sen. Clinton made considerable use of her background and 'experience' to argue that, yes, Saddam Hussein was indeed a threat. She did not argue so much from the position adopted by the Bush administration as she emphasized the stand taken, by both her husband and Al Gore, when they were in office, to the effect that another and final confrontation with the Baathist regime was more or less inevitable. Now, it does not especially matter whether you agree or agreed with her about this (as I, for once, do and did). What does matter is that she has since altered her position and attempted, with her husband’s help, to make people forget that she ever held it. And this, on a grave matter of national honor and security, merely to influence her short-term standing in the Iowa caucuses. Surely that on its own should be sufficient to disqualify her from consideration?
Bush violated FISA [...] because he wanted to violate the law in order to establish the general 'principle' that he was not bound by the law, to show that he has the power to break the law, that he is more powerful than the law.
Obama had campaigned against Bush's ideas and approaches. But, Donilon, for one, thought that Obama had perhaps underestimated the extent to which he had inherited George W. Bush's presidency - the apparatus, personnel and mind-set of war making.
Such impulses have displayed themselves very widely across left and liberal opinion in recent months. Why? For some, because what the US government and its allies do, whatever they do, has to be opposed—and opposed however thuggish and benighted the forces which this threatens to put your anti-war critic into close company with. For some, because of an uncontrollable animus towards George Bush and his administration. For some, because of a one-eyed perspective on international legality and its relation to issues of international justice and morality. Whatever the case or the combination, it has produced a calamitous compromise of the core values of socialism, or liberalism or both, on the part of thousands of people who claim attachment to them. You have to go back to the apologias for, and fellow-travelling with, the crimes of Stalinism to find as shameful a moral failure of liberal and left opinion as in the wrong-headed—and too often, in the circumstances, sickeningly smug—opposition to the freeing of the Iraqi people from one of the foulest regimes on the planet.
The President is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that's what you get if you catch the President on a golf course. If Eisenhower had done this, as he often did, it would have been presented as calm statesmanship. If Clinton had done it, as he often did, it would have shown his charm.
And just like that, as if I hadn't said anything at all, the ladies sprang into a conversation about the sinful nature the Jews possessed when killing their Lord Jesus. I didn't know if I was hearing this right because I had become so intoxicated, but I couldn't believe that anyone would talk about religion while on vacation. How could Miss Nebraska think this was a proper environment to discuss something so controversial? One woman went on to say that if she had her way not only would President Bush serve a second four-year term, but she hoped they would overturn Roe v. Wade. This woman was obviously a menace to society and needed to be stopped.
You might think that the Left could have a regime-change perspective of its own, based on solidarity with its comrades abroad. After all, Saddam's ruling Ba'ath Party consolidated its power by first destroying the Iraqi communist and labor movements, and then turning on the Kurds (whose cause, historically, has been one of the main priorities of the Left in the Middle East). When I first became a socialist, the imperative of international solidarity was the essential if not the defining thing, whether the cause was popular or risky or not. I haven't seen an anti-war meeting all this year at which you could even guess at the existence of the Iraqi and Kurdish opposition to Saddam, an opposition that was fighting for 'regime change' when both Republicans and Democrats were fawning over Baghdad as a profitable client and geopolitical ally. Not only does the 'peace' movement ignore the anti-Saddam civilian opposition, it sends missions to console the Ba'athists in their isolation, and speaks of the invader of Kuwait and Iran and the butcher of Kurdistan as if he were the victim and George W. Bush the aggressor.
Certainly there were obvious differences in policies between the various leaders, and an America run by a Bush, an Obama or a Clinton would have distinct contrasts. Those variables didn’t concern the secret elite rulers, however. As long as the Omega Agency and other clandestine groups ensured each administration sold out on the most lucrative issues – oil, banking, drug trafficking, arms sales – they couldn’t care less whether a political party poured a few more measly bucks into healthcare or schools.
Rolf Ekeus came round to my apartment one day and showed me the name of the Iraqi diplomat who had visited the little West African country of Niger: a statelet famous only for its production of yellowcake uranium. The name was Wissam Zahawi. He was the brother of my louche gay part-Kurdish friend, the by-now late Mazen. He was also, or had been at the time of his trip to Niger, Saddam Hussein's ambassador to the Vatican. I expressed incomprehension. What was an envoy to the Holy See doing in Niger? Obviously he was not taking a vacation. Rolf then explained two things to me. The first was that Wissam Zahawi had, when Rolf was at the United Nations, been one of Saddam Hussein's chief envoys for discussions on nuclear matters (this at a time when the Iraqis had functioning reactors). The second was that, during the period of sanctions that followed the Kuwait war, no Western European country had full diplomatic relations with Baghdad. TheVatican was the sole exception, so it was sent a very senior Iraqi envoy to act as a listening post. And this man, a specialist in nuclear matters, had made a discreet side trip to Niger. This was to suggest exactly what most right-thinking people were convinced was not the case: namely that British intelligence was on to something when it said that Saddam had not ceased seeking nuclear materials in Africa. I published a few columns on this, drawing at one point an angry email from Ambassador Zahawi that very satisfyingly blustered and bluffed on what he'd really been up to. I also received—this is what sometimes makes journalism worthwhile—a letter from a BBC correspondent named Gordon Correa who had been writing a book about A.Q. Khan. This was the Pakistani proprietor of the nuclear black market that had supplied fissile material to Libya, North Korea, very probably to Syria, and was open for business with any member of the 'rogue states' club. (Saddam's people, we already knew for sure, had been meeting North Korean missile salesmen in Damascus until just before the invasion, when Kim Jong Il's mercenary bargainers took fright and went home.) It turned out, said the highly interested Mr. Correa, that his man Khan had also been in Niger, and at about the same time that Zahawi had. The likelihood of the senior Iraqi diplomat in Europe and the senior Pakistani nuclear black-marketeer both choosing an off-season holiday in chic little uranium-rich Niger… well, you have to admit that it makes an affecting picture. But you must be ready to credit something as ridiculous as that if your touching belief is that Saddam Hussein was already 'contained,' and that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair were acting on panic reports, fabricated in turn by self-interested provocateurs.