FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Incredible Shrinking President

by Alexander Cockburn

Because it’s thirty years since Watergate we’ve been treated to plenty of photos of Richard Nixon, mostly at the moment he was leaving office. I was among those happy to see him go, but today am sad that for obvious reasons the National Archive will never be in a position to release Nixon’s unvarnished comments on the man whose father he made chairman of the Republican National Committee.

How aghast that malign political genius would have been at the ignoramus occupying the Oval Office once fragrant with Dick’s curses. What a falling off is there! From malediction to malapropism. I’m sure W’s speech is less burdened by obscenity than that of the Navy vet and seasoned poker player, but this is the purity of the born-again imbecile. W. has the vocabulary of a 12-year old, though most 12-year olds have an infinitely stronger grasp of world affairs.

Our spaniel press makes herculean efforts to pass over the fact in silence, but the fact is that George W. Bush is the laughing stock of the world, by dint of the obvious fact that his maximum level of competence was that of greeter at the ball park in Arlington, which as David Vest recently remarked on this site, is the only real job he ever had before he met Ken Lay.

Nixon had policies, strategies. Bush has notes (often contradictory) from his staff, which he bears no sign of comprehending for longer than the brief moments in which he lurches his way through them in some public forum.

Take the Middle East. Don’t even go back to last year. Just take the last few weeks, in which Bush told Mubarak of his hopes for a Palestinian state, hopes that promptly vanished with the arrival of his next visitor, Ariel Sharon. How long can Secretary of State Colin Powell endure the humiliation of being dispatched on one ludicrous mission after another, even as press secretary Ari Fleischer, (a man who makes Nixon’s Ron Ziegler look like George Washington) tells the press that Powell’s statements are irrelevant as expressions of presidential policy.

Edward Said puts it well in a recent column: “To say that he and his disheveled administration ‘want’ anything is to dignify a series of spurts, fits, starts, retractions, denunciations, totally contradictory statements, sterile missions by various officials of his administration, and about-faces, with the status of an over-all desire, which of course doesn’t exist. Incoherent, except when it comes to the pressures and agendas of the Israeli lobby and the Christian Right whose spiritual head he now is, Bush’s policy consists in reality of calls for Arafat to end terrorism, and (when he wants to placate the Arabs) for someone somewhere somehow to produce a Palestinian state and a big conference, and finally, for Israel to go on getting full and unconditional US support including most probably ending Arafat’s career. Beyond that, US policy waits to be formulated, by someone, somewhere, somehow.”

Iraq? It was the acme of the axis of evil. Then it wasn’t, because the Joint Chiefs said it would be tough to invade the place. Now we’ve got something billed as a new preemptive policy. What’s new about it? Throughout the cold war America’s strategic policy never set aside the possibility of a preemptive first strike against the foe. We’re now told that the CIA (yes, the same agency that has just made the worst screw-up in its history) should try to kill Saddam, on the grounds that if he makes any move to avoid being killed by the CIA, that can be construed as aggression, meriting assassination.

Never mind that the US has been trying to kill Saddam since 1991, tried to mount coups against through the first half of the 1990s, concluded that it was impossible and that the best thing to do was throw some money around to groups like the Iraqi National Accord. Never mind all that. Here we are in the wake of a terrorist attack on the US embassy in Karachi that killed eleven (another major intelligence failure, right?) and the Bush regime (until it decided to hang Ashcroft out to dry) tries to change the subject with mighty boasts about the capture of a Puerto Rican gangbanger who took an H-bomb blueprint off the internet, and with a “new” finding for the CIA to finish off Saddam.

How about national security? Should Bush have fired the FBI’s and the CIA’s director long since, along with that lunatic Clarke, a White House terror commissar under both Clinton and Bush. Of course he should. Should he have appointed a commission to reorganize America’s intelligence agencies? Of course. But here we are in June of 2002 and all we have is a proposal to create a new alphabet soup of agencies now bracing to spend the next decade battling over bureaucratic and budgetary.

Last time Bush was in Europe, a German newspaper ran a headline on its front page announcing Bush’s bold new vision. Then it left the rest of the page blank. The Europeans are a snotty, self-regarding bunch, but this time they’re on the money. The leader of the World, free and unfree, simply isn’t up to par. He’s not qualified for the job. He never was. And that means big trouble ahead for the World, Free and Unfree. At least Nixon knew what he was doing, which is why the world was frightened by him. When it’s not laughing at him the world is frightened of George W. Bush because it knows he hasn’t a clue. That’s truly terrifying.

 

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail