Monday, April 02, 2007

Not the End of the World

[posted by Callimachus]

Or even, for that matter, the beginning of a fascist tyranny.

Let's say it up front: GWB and co. are a bad lot; arrogant and embodying the most resistant strains of cultural conservatism and capitalism in American society. Blame it on Texas, if you need an explanation, as the historical magnet for the most exaggerated and aggressive characters of the old South.

They have a predatory mentality, a game-winning mentality. The executive branch is their team base, and they go out every day in eye black to compete with Congress, the Democrats, the courts, the media, and they play to win. Whatever tactics serve them against you, they will use, however shamelessly hypocritical it is of them. If they can slip one past you, they will. It's up to you to catch them.

None of which is illegal. None of which is cheating. It's football; it's courtroom, it's stock exchange, it's boardroom, all the places all these people came from. If you expect your federal government to be collegial, more concerned with process than results, don't elect these guys. And if you do elect them, expect the game to change. A chess match can degenerate into a brawl, but a chess match never breaks out during a brawl.

Yet still, every day, with every fresh revelation, people are shocked ... or pretend to be, to cover their shame at being repeatedly snookered from 1600 Pa. Ave. Did the Rovian Republicans stuff a lot of moral pork and police powers into the Patriot Act? Hell, yes, they did. Who do you blame more? Them for following their nature, or the Congress for passing such a potent bill without, apparently, even reading it?

The game should have been clear after the Iraq War. I don't believe the administration told the Big Lie: Saying Iraq had WMD when the administration secretly believed the reverse to be true. I believe the White House believed Saddam had 'em. It was a reasonable belief -- believe it or not. Most of the world believed it at that time. [Eight "beliefs" in one graph; I think that's the record.]

But they couldn't prove it. Yet they went to the American people and the world and tried to prove it anyhow. Is that cheating? Does a prosecuting attorney cheat when he presents a court suit which emphasizes the facts that support the case he wishes to prove, and downplays or ignores those that contradict it?

I think the Bushies were doing just that. Playing a weak poker hand, or arguing a doubtful case -- not in a debate club, but in a cutthroat courtroom. Acting as a prosecutor, not a judge. Very well. It's not necessarily up to them to alert their opposition to their tactics or intentions. The opposition ought to have seen through it.

And by and large it did. We were warned. But an awful lot of the warning came with a lot of background noise about blood for oil and working class rebellion and bushitler. Which is one reason an awful lot of us didn't hear it.

The difference is, Bush tries to game the board. He tries every trick in the book, but he sticks to the book, or the Texas stretch version of it. Hitler cancels the game, stands the opposing team against the wall, and shoots them.

So that's Bush. Adjust! Stop falling for it! Expect the trick snap, the hail mary pass, the statue of liberty play.

It's pure capitalism, for chrissakes. Governmental competition. Red in tooth and claw. If you don't like it, as I said, don't elect them. But if you do, expect this. Don't tell us you were caught off-guard. It has been the timeless refrain of the left in America that the capitalist-dominated Republican party would do exactly this! It's the oldest thread in the Democratic party, going back to the Southern aristocracy before the war lamenting the Yankee industrialists soiling the halls of power.

It's happened before. That way of behaving used to be pretty typical in American politics. In the end, it may be the more appropriate way to conduct them. Rather than having the sort of lazy gentleman's agreement you get in country courthouses, where each side tacitly agrees not to play too hard, so they both can relax.

The power struggles involved here today are old ones. They are not driven by personalities; George Bush and Ulysses Grant both looked over the same conflicts: Turf wars of executive, judicial, legislative. In the past, presidential power and privilege has served liberal and progressive causes well. Imperious presidents were able to bypass conservative Congresses and sclerotic courts to implement, say, desegregation orders, to the wild applause of New York Times editorialists.

The system is working. It is correcting. The balances are not based on perfect stillness, but on stress and push, this way then that. The constitution is not brittle; it has to be as elastic as the marriage contract it is at heart.