:: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 ::
One Of The Ways Karl Rove Sees The World
Via Smirking Chimp comes a take on national politics as a bad screenplay:
Bush had not defeated Al Gore fair and square, and was seen by most Americans as a spoiler, an illegitimate leader. As soon as the details of his proposed "supply side" voodoo economics hit the press, the markets went into a nosedive.
And already there were stories circulating in the media of his cozy relationship with corrupt oil barons like Ken Lay and the secret energy meetings in the Spring of 2001 - before 9/11 - in which Cheney, Lay, and others in the oil industry were apparently carving up the oil fields of Iraq. Bush, in short, was seen as a buffoonish pretender, an ineffectual manager, and a sellout to big oil and other scandal-ridden industries. He was the butt of late-night jokes, a former college cheerleader, a "dry drunk" (except when tempted by pretzels), an inside trader, a small man on the national and international stage.
George W. desperately needed his own Lex Luthor if he was to reinvent himself as Superman.
Rove and Bush realized that if they simply branded Osama as the criminal thug that he was - the leader of an obscure Islamic mafia with fewer than 20,000 serious members - they wouldn't have the super-villain they needed for George W. Bush to be seen as a super-hero. If Bush only authorized a police action, he'd miss a golden opportunity to position himself as the Battle Commander of The War Against Evil Incarnate.
And so began the building of the mythos. Osama as evil genius. Osama as worldwide mastermind. Even Osama as the antichrist (as General Boykin reminded us so candidly).
Even though Osama is almost certainly dead or badly disabled (otherwise we'd see him on the video he so loved to use before Tora Bora), Bush can't afford to acknowledge that - to retain his Superman pose, George must continue to have a Kryptonite-equipped foe....
...For George to remain SuperGeorge throughout his term of office, and thus to pull the country behind him for an FDR-sized transformation of the nation on behalf of his corporate masters, George needs a war every bit as huge as FDR's WWII. And that requires Osama to be as big as Hitler in the minds of Americans. Thus, Richard Perle writes in his breathless and hyperbolic new book An End To Evil: "There is no middle way for Americans: It is victory or holocaust."
Pearl laments (although his ilk fought Clinton's attacks on bin Laden) that "Terrorists attacked and murdered Americans in East Africa, in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia - and America responded to these acts of war as if they were ordinary crimes." (He conveniently leaves out the largest attack of all, on Reagan's watch, in Lebanon, which led Reagan to simply fold our tents and leave.) These were acts of WAR, Perle and Frum argue.
But there is no nation that has attacked us - these criminal acts were perpetrated by an Islamic mafia that no more represents the interests or opinions of the majority of the world's Muslims than Tim McVeigh represented the majority of America's Christians.
This archetypal transformation of George W. Bush from spoiled, rich pretender-to-the-presidency into the caped (well, flight-suited) SuperGeorge, Defender Of All Things Good And Right has had a powerful impact on the American people, and Rove hopes to ride it to victory in 2004.
But there is a weakness in it, which the Democrats can use to stop Bush's demagogic PR machine and ongoing destruction of American democracy.
Howard Dean was the first to raise a fist full of Kryptonite against SuperGeorge when he suggested we should internationalize the efforts against al-Qaeda and involve more police agencies. Dean's speeches - particularly his speech on foreign policy - make clear that while he realizes the very real danger al-Qaeda represents, he also knows that Bush's superhero go-it-alone posturing is doing us - and democracy itself - more harm than good.
To the extent Democrats can de-mythologize bin Laden, they will deprive Bush of his superhero costume. Bin Laden-as-wretched-criminal must become part of the lexicon of the Democratic worldview.
:: The Squire 10:32 PM :: email this post :: ::