* Oh Lord, ain’t it hard to be humble
When you’re perfect in every way.
I can’t wait to look in the mirror —
Cuz I get better lookin’ each day…
The curious thing about George Bush’s State of the Union speech is that anybody who’s paid attention to Bush over the last four years — or 40 years — would find it, or him for that matter, even remotely curious.
Those who expected Bush to be different in his Second Coming, who thought they would at long last hear specifics on the true state of the union rather than the usual soaring generalities, have to be a bit disappointed.
Or not. After all, most Americans seem hesitant to question Bush’s grand scheme to fight terror by creating even more terror with his "doctrine" of assassination and collateral damage. Only a few have dared to approach him with even a tentative suggestion that perhaps the public deserves an explanation for the heinous torture, abuse and even murder of those unfortunate enough to be scooped up and detained in prisons such as Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. And, sadly, nobody seems to notice the growing daily death toll of American citizens in Iraq.
It’s possible that Bush doesn’t know the actual state of the union. If you stop to think about it, how could he? He has reportedly issued a "good news only" directive to anyone tasked with bringing him information. He refuses to listen to anything that does not indicate he is making "great progress," or that does not support his vision of himself as God’s warrior striding across the international landscape smearing freedom like putrid jam over every oil-rich nation inhabited by dark-skinned people. By his own admission, Bush only "glances at the headlines just to get a flavor of what’s moving," and gets briefed by people who "probably read the news."
What’s "moving" is Bush himself, the only flavor of any interest to him. He has moved on from the obscene lies and illegal actions that should have members throughout his administration doing the perp-walk shuffle rather than their current boot-scootin’ boogie.
Bush is flying by the seat of his pants, unperturbed by the destruction he leaves in his wake or by the bags stuffed with American bodies that continue to pile up around him. He is confident, as am I, that there will be no oversight, no holding him to account, from any quarter.
If Bush has learned nothing else, he knows two things — a moving target is harder to hit, and the "God Thing" works. Both tactics were front and center, not only in his SOTU, but in his self-congratulatory inaugural speech. Flush from an election victory which he boasted was an "accountability" moment that absolved him of all responsibility and put a resounding stamp of approval on his grand vision, Bush rambled on for 20 minutes in a threatening "Climb Aboard the Bush Freedom Train or You’re Dead Meat" diatribe.
Strangely, I had a "vision" of my own during that 20 minutes — the real people broke through the hundred-block green zone, outran the armada of fighter jets and black helicopters and the 13,000 armed troops and snipers on the rooftops and dodged the tasers and bullets and pepper spray and exercised their freedom to tar and feather the cocky little bully. Because they know, and the rest of the world knows, that Bush has literally been loosed upon the planet, and is now free to seize even greater opportunities, to achieve what he perceives is his rightful place in history and to pursue with missionary zeal his grandoise goals of changing the face of the world.
"So," he said, "it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Every man and woman on the earth has a right to freedom," Bush announced defiantly as his spellbound audience inexplicably cheered the idea of engaging in unending, eternal war, "because they bear the image of the maker of heaven and earth." He warned "every ruler of every nation" that they will face a moral choice" — their way which is always wrong, or our way, which is eternally right.
Operation Freedom Crusade is underway. Bush says he has lit (sic) a fire in the minds of men — "an untamed fire of freedom" that he promises will "reach the darkest corners of our world."
Is anybody OUT there? How hot do the flames of freedom have to get before it occurs to somebody to call the fire department…?
Some folks say that I’m egotistical.
Hell I don’t even know what that means.
I guess it has something to do with the way
That I fill out my skin-tight blue jeans.
This freedom thing is all about George Bush, you know. It always has been. If your name is Bush, freedom means you’re entitled to do whatever you please to whomever you please, whenever you please. As he sought to succeed as a Texas businessman, Bush was free to destroy everything he touched, which he promptly did, knowing that his messes were the responsibility of daddy’s friends and donors who for years served as his personal clean-up crew.
He was free to abandon his military post during a time of war…free to insult one of his mother’s friends at her 50th birthday party by drunkenly braying, "So — what’s sex like after 50, anyway?"…free to swagger into a meeting in the oval office between his father and the Queen of England and accost Her Royal Highness with Yo Mama impertinence, "Do you have any black sheep in your family?"
Bush tells us he is now sober, and has been for 18 years. His religious awakening, coupled with what he perceives as entitlement, gives him the freedom to lecture us on God’s intentions — that of endorsing Bush’s efforts to bring evildoers to justice and to rid the world of tyranny. Bush has the power; the political capital, and is running off in all directions on a giddy shopping spree. What a high — to be 18 and have God Himself hold you up for all the world to adore — to be chosen, as Bush promised in his SOTU, to lead an entire generation confidently along the "road of Providence" — destination Freedom.
Richard Perle, one of Bush’s discredited former advisers, said in January, "His (Bush’s) importance as a world leader will turn out to be far larger than the sort of tactical issues that are widely debated and for which he is sometimes reviled. Put this in a historic perspective: He’s already created profound change. All around the Middle East, they’re talking about the issue of democracy. They’re talking about his agenda. It’s an extraordinary thing."
Ah, to be 18 and to have the world’s leaders begging for your attention — the world’s population trembling at the mention of your name. "…I like it," Bush gushed to Hardball’s Chris Matthews during the 2000 campaign, "when I’m talking about — when I’m talking about myself, and when he’s talking about myself, all of us are talking about me."
Of course, Bush was only 14 at the time, so such exuberance could likely be excused. But, alas, little has changed since then. Like a kid playing dress-up, his life — and ours — can be anything he wants it to be.
Just look at him, standing there in his Super Hero stance — smirking, arms akimbo. You don’t see a cape flowing behind him, but it’s there. Watch him strut to the podium to deliver his inaugural, swagger to the Capitol for his SOTU; arrogantly hit the hustings to perform Social Security sleight-of-hand before an enraptured, albeit ticketed and vetted audience. Cod-piece proudly in place? Yep. You don’t see it, but it’s there.
To know me is to love me;
I must be a hell of a man.
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble–
But I’m doin’ the best that I can.
They love him. They really love him. And that’s the curious thing, because the media has known him since his first job after Jesus changed his heart — that of hit man for Poppy’s 1988 presidential campaign.
According to Kitty Kelly in her best-selling book, The Family (pp. 446-451), Poppy’s staff called Bush Junior "the enforcer from hell."
Kelly said that Bush, like the hotheaded Sonny Corleone in The Godfather, "became savage about avenging his father’s honor and preserving the family’s political fortunes. Profane, abusive, and ugly, he lashed out at reporters whose stories he did not like, sometimes becoming frighteningly confrontational."
Bush once accosted former Wall Street Journal reporter Al Hunt and his wife, CNN’s Judy Woodruff, in a Dallas restaurant after Hunt predicted an ’88 Republican ticket that did not include Poppy, and roared, "You no-good (expletive) son of a b**ch! I saw what you wrote. We’re not going to forget this."
The list of reporters who have felt Bush’s wrath is long and is still growing — from Washington journalist Sandra McElwaine, who told Kelly that Bush’s attack on her was "so hostile I got scared"; to Women’s Wear Daily correspondent Susan Watters, verbally assaulted by Bush for talking to his sister, who said, "He was scary, really scary"; to the unsinkable Helen Thomas, who — in spite of being demoted, banished, and cast aside for four years — says, "Bite me…."
For whatever reason — ratings, advertising revenue, or corporate perks — the performance of the mainstream media is shameful and destructive. We no longer live in a real world where real things happen, but are caught up in a "1984" Orwellian time warp where "reality" is what the corporate media tells us it is.
In late 2002, a top Bush adviser told journalist Ron Suskind that it is no longer possible for Americans to arrive at solutions by a "judicious study of discernible reality."
"That’s not the way the world really works anymore," the adviser said. "We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors," he concluded, "…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
The reality is that the few reporters like Suskind, the New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, NBC’s Ashley Banfield or the BBC’s Kate Addie, and others who have the courage to kick against the pricks are soon discredited, denied access, disciplined or fired. It’s much easier for journalists to choose the freedom of Bush’s way — freedom to keep your job, freedom to put food on your family…
Maybe that’s why, when Bush speaks, the media are driven into an obscene adjectival frenzy. Each word is Soaring. Idealistic. Visionary. Breathtaking. Inspirational.
And that’s just Fox News.
Over at CNN, on the morning of the inaugural, White House prop Suzanne Malvoux giddily revealed that Bush "has a glow about him!" Judy Woodruff, who moaned when Bush heroically climbed from the fighter jet on the U.S.S Abraham Lincoln after he "won" the war in Iraq — "Oh, just look at him! He looks like a rock star!" — picked up the phrase and dutifully reported, "It’s being said at the White House that President Bush has a glow about him this morning…" Not to be outdone, later that evening, Wolf Blitzer gravely announced, "Some officials are saying that President Bush is more relaxed for his second inaugural. They’re saying he has a glow about him…"
It matters little to the media that perhaps Bush has a perpetual glow about him because his pants are continuously on fire. What does matter to the US media is that, each time Bush parrots, "Because I am resolved. Because I never make mistakes. Because I say so," they’re free to pile on without asking questions — they’re free to wallow in a sloppy, damage-control heap in a parallel Abu Ghraib reality.
And when History snaps this photograph, you can bet there will be a smirking George Bush crouching over them, giving the ol’ Texas "Hook Em Horns" victory sign…
* Mac Davis CW song