Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Historians as the "Deciders"

In a recent poll, only 5% expressed any confidence in the ability of George Bush to manage the war in Iraq. In the face of that reality, it's remarkable that this inept administration is still able to bully Congress and the MSM into parroting its positions on Iraq at every turn. As Frank Rich points out in the column mentioned in an earlier posting:

The Democratic presidential candidates in the Senate need all the unity and focus they can muster to move this story forward, and that starts with the two marquee draws, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It's essential to turn up the heat full time in Washington for any and every legislative roadblock to administration policy that they and their peers can induce principled or frightened Republicans to endorse.


Mr. Bush, confident that he got away with repackaging the same bankrupt policies with a nonsensical new slogan ("Return on Success") Thursday night, is counting on the public's continued apathy as he kicks the can down the road and bides his time until Jan. 20, 2009; he, after all, has nothing more to lose. The job for real leaders is to wake up America to the urgent reality. We can't afford to punt until Inauguration Day in a war that each day drains America of resources and will. Our national security can't be held hostage indefinitely to a president's narcissistic need to compound his errors rather than admit them.

Rich makes some points that require a response...

First, Democrats can proceed with Rich's advice with or without the support of "principled or frightened Republicans," who may never be numerous enough to form the supermajority needed to get anything done in today's Senate.

Second, it seems unlikely that Bush will ever acknowledge any significant errors, even to himself in private. As he told Robert Draper, his official biographer, in an interview for Dead Certain: "You can't possibly figure out the history of the Bush presidency - until I'm dead."

Bush's statement is very revealing on several counts. Most importantly, it allows Bush to evade passing judgment on his own conduct because, a priori, he lacks the historical perspective to do so. (Since there's little evidence that he possesses a conscience, this isn't much of a cognitive leap for him. ) Bush also declares that he will continue to ignore the judgments of everyone else, since they're similarly lacking in any long-term perspective.

In effect, Bush claims that he cannot be held accountable by anyone during his lifetime.

If no one can judge his administration until he's dead, Bush simply doesn't have to concern himself about anything he does or what people say about him. He can imagine that he'll be vindicated no matter what the reality-based community concludes during his lifetime. As Sidney Blumenthal (another indispensable columnist) writes in The Guardian:
History has become a magical incantation for him, a kind of prayerful refuge where he is safe from having to think in the present. For Bush, history is supernatural, a deus ex machina, nothing less than a kind of divine intervention enabling him to enter presidential Valhalla. Through his fantasy about history as afterlife - the stairway to paradise - he rationalizes his current course.
The more profound and compounded his blunders, and the more he redoubles his certainty in ultimate victory, the greater his indifference to failure. He has entered a
phase of decadent perversity, where he accelerates his errors to vindicate his folly. As the sands of time run down he has decided that no matter what he does history will finally judge him as heroic.
The greater the chaos, the more he reinforces and rigidifies his views. The more havoc he wreaks, the more he insists he is succeeding. His intensified struggle for self-control is matched by his increased denial of responsibility.
This is a fair description of delusional thinking, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: "A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everybody else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary."

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