QUIET YEARNING

Posted in Rants on November 9th, 2009 by Ed

We know how much right wingers love their revenge fantasies. You know, the masturbatory daydreams in which all of America – no, let's say the whole world – comes back on their hands and knees groveling for Dick Cheney and George W. Bush and the John Birch Society and Joe McCarthy to save them. They look at the results of the last few elections and ruefully point out that We'll Be Sorry for our naive folly, reminding us that we will look back on 2001 through 2008 as the golden age of the American Empire. I understand the psychological causes of this kind of juvenile fantasizing. Like the kid with no social skills on a playground, Republicans have to compensate for their near-complete inability to relate to other human beings by telling themselves that soon the entire public, most of which thinks Republicans are incompetent assholes, will have a change of heart and declare the GOP the most popular kids in school. If you're Dick Armey, it makes perfect sense that you need to tell that to yourself. I understand the value of protecting one's ego with delusions.

This, on the other hand, is just stupid.

Perhaps the Brits give us even less credit for intelligence than we deserve as a nation, but the headline-as-premise "Bloodless President Barack Obama makes Americans wistful for George W. Bush" breaks new ground in the art of projecting one's own desires as public opinion. His premise is not, to his credit, that George W. Bush was a better president or even an adequate one. It is that Bush was more exciting. He was clearer about his goals and preferences. He was more "real." It was easier to relate to him. He governed with emotion, and Americans want to see some "fire in the belly," as the author calls it. All of these statements are both true and completely ridiculous.

Yes, Bush made clearer decisions. But they were terrible decisions. Repeatedly, and almost unfailingly. He "shot from the hip" or whatever stupid metaphor you want to use, but that is merely a positive spin on the act of making decisions without thinking them through, without considering the consequences, and with little or no information. People who can't tell their ass from a hole in the ground did find him very easy to relate to because he can't figure out the difference either. He governed with emotion because he lacked the brainpower to govern otherwise. All of these sexy, exciting characteristics led us to the brink of ruin.

Say we have two basketball players. One is a master showman – dressing flamboyantly, diving around the court theatrically, passionately berating the officials, and generally making a great drama of everything he does – who can't make a shot to save his soul. The second is as drab and unremarkable as one can be and he makes shot after shot reliably in every game. Fans might get a kick out of the first player, but which will help you win the game? So even if the author's premise is right (and it isn't, given the mountains of polling data showing that no one is wistfully recalling the last eight years) it would be a damning critique of the public and its inability to tell style from substance. Or to realize that substance is indeed the more important of the two. Yes, Obama is cold and technocratic; Bush was fiery and passionate. The former is cold and technocratic about good ideas; the latter was wildly passionate about terrible ones.