APEC or was it OPEC or was it Fear

Where’s the door? Where am I? What’s going on here?

Normally, I avoid calling attention to Bush’s gaffs, but the latest are ironic howlers. More importantly, they led me to think more seriously about what has gone wrong these past eight years. What principle governs us as a nation? Who is our leader? How does he think? Although a leader cannot be held accountable for everything that goes wrong, he certainly creates the ethos that makes some things possible and some things impossible. So it must be with GW. With GW, it is, I think his simplicity, his “personal touch,” his unflagging vision of a Manichean world that has brought us to where we are.

For those unaware, Bush blundered at the APEC summit in Australia. Last night I saw those blunders in all their comic glory on Canadian t.v. If you need a text description, you can find a text description on
CBS News and elsewhere.

Curiously, I did not find the howlers in The New York Times or in the Washington Post, two papers I religiously read every morning. But then, I may have missed them.

At first, he confused the APEC summit with OPEC. Ironic? (The APEC summit was supposed to discuss global warming.) Oil, Iraq, and the War on Terror is all that Bush can think about. His blunders tell all.

Then he thanked Prime Minister Howard for sending Austrian troops to Iraq. The ironies do multiply. (Think Austrian troops in WWII.)

Then, when exiting the stage he went the wrong way. (Sorry, no door there!) He had to be gently guided to the appropriate exit. This is not the first time when the exit has befuddled our president. Perhaps arrows should be painted on the floor. Nonetheless, these gaffs do show the issues that really concern Bush. And, despite his efforts, there will be no easy exit from global warming.

Of course, the blogs have had enormous fun with Bush’s antics on the world stage. Remember how Gerald Ford’s stumble off the plane perhaps cost him the election and gave rise to the comment: Can’ walk and chew gum at the same time? Where has the press been with GW?

When I think back over the long history of gaffs and idiocies, not only verbal but physical (massaging the German Chancellor, for example), I am speechless. But then Bush likes the “personal touch.” Putin looked like such a pussycat when first Bush met him. “My kind of guy.” What’s wrong with this picture? Naive people rely on feelings, not on intelligence. Intuition completely substitutes for knowledge and thought.

I think back to the run-up to GW’s first election: David Gergen claimed we did not need an informed president. Good advisors will help him along. Then we got Cheney. And Gergen, whom I once admired, is still trotted forth as a learned commentator. I would love to ask Gergen to defend himself. Harvard professors are supposed honor intelligence, or so I thought.

I wonder what George Will really thinks of George? What do any of our so-called pundits seriously think about GW? If he were not president, would they invite him over for a serious discussion of world issues?

This has been a disastrous eight years: Iraq, global warming forgotten, denied; a misguided energy policy; trade policy that looks the other way as Mattel, Intel, and others reap fortunes off cheap labor; misguided tax cuts; protection of the wealthiest; gay, homophobic Republicans…hypocrisy that seems to have no limits… Everywhere corporate interests are protected. Fox News leads the patriotic charge. But Murdock is certainly willing to do what is necessary to get business in repressive China.

Fear, fear is the rivet that holds all this nonsense together. Always we hear about the War on Terror, an endless war, a war that will never end. Bush named it. That simple phrase now governs our thinking and our actions. Who we have for a leader does matter.

Fear has been tapped. All the politicians know it. Not to be appropriately fearful is not to be appropriately patriotic. Super patriotism and Fear go hand in hand. Shamelessly every politician now must use it. It is a great voter-getter, right, Guilliani?

And now that this monster from Pandora’s box has been released, who will stand against it? Who will not join its ranks? In addition to super patriotism, what other questionable virtues has fear release?

In his simplicity and foolishness, Bush released it. Why? Because he has little capacity to think deeply or with any complexity. Simple truisms are all he knows. Black and white; Good and Evil. Fear permits stupidity. You will glory in watching your enemies be humiliated and destroyed. Fear permits barbarity.

How else do we explain Abu Grav? or Guantanamo? or extraordinary renditions? or the fear that the institution of the family itself is at risk? Cast your enemy as Evil incarnate; call forth the demon Fear. War then is holy; any action is then justifiable. The only release from fear is the glorious destruction of everything you have named as evil. It does have a Messianic ring to it.

And how does Fear respond to a crisis at home. What happened, for example, with Katrina? A few shots were fired, rumors of rapes abounded. Rescue efforts slowed. Properly armed militia had to be circumspect; they had to be properly fearful. The specter of fear imprisoned those wretched in the Superdome. Meanwhile, news media and politicians came and went…unhindered. People sat and waited in squalor. Was anyone murdered? Raped? Any arrests? “Great job, Brownie.” Fear destroys compassion and selflessness.

When fear rules, you are for us or against us. No wonder Bush treasures personal loyalty above all else. In a Manichean world, loyalty is the ultimate virtue. Cronyism is the consequence. Knowledgeable people are suspect. Everyone must be on the president’s page regardless of qualifications. Rove knows. He was the dark manager who ensured everyone spoke with the same voice.

But then there are the cronies who cash in on “the action.” Not only cronies’ benefit, but also large institutions profit as well. Media ratings rise on every fear alarm. Money is to be made in Iraq and elsewhere. Thank you, Haliburton. Meanwhile, Americans will not see how their pockets are being picked, how slowly but surely their liberties are being eroded.

Yes, we have quite a president. Like it or not, we have all become GW’s. We easily forgive his blunders. We easily overlook his stupidity. We treat with reverence his style of thought. We are all afraid less we be called unpatriotic. Reminds me of Richard Rogers’ old ditty: “You’ve got to be taught to hate and to fear. You got to taught from year to year.”

I honestly do not think that Bush has a clue as to what he has done or how he has been used.

As I said, simple truisms are his bread and butter. Everything is Black and White. Good and evil. Personal loyalty, not knowledge or discernment, is now the requisite for advancement in Washington. The best and brightest shamelessly have played the game. Those who have spoken out are soon forgotten.

Mindless fear governs all.

The thinking mind has left Washington.