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The Gipper Within

Bush has equaled at least one of his professed idols

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 29, 2006.

I suppose we’ll all remember where we were and what we were doing when Republican Senator Bill Frist announced that he would not run for President and retire from public life. Um. That happened today, by the way.

The utterly clueless Frist – the man who in violation of oath and dignity diagnosed Terri Schiavo by illegal videotape made by my soon-to-be fellow felon Ralph Reed and enhanced the horror by getting it totally wrong – the man with the henna job as convincing as Tom DeLay’s smile, had zero chance of getting his own party’s nomination, much less win the election, and apparently the dawn was painful in Tennessee this morning. Frist is a seriously educated and smart man. What gave his psyche permission to pretend to such absurdities?

There was something eerie about Frist’s devolution. He was a great surgeon by all accounts and a passable senator, but his elevation to Trent Lott’s job as majority leader was distinguished by two realities: his disingenuous lust for the job and his backstabbing of Lott, and his monumental incompetence at the post, apparent early on, and the refusal of the Republicans to admit it.

It’s eerie because George W. Bush shares all these attributes: stunning incompetence, denial of reality, sense of self and destiny nowhere evident. And few have stood up to call him on it. Unlike Reagan, Bush has none of the amiability, and his pouting presence in the Baltic States yesterday and his increasing instability in public and with the press are evident.

For this shared idiocy, I blame Ronald Reagan, specifically a heritage from the Gipper rarely discussed. By this, I mean the installation of appearance and image over substance and reality. Reagan created an utterly fabricated myth that ensorcelled an America of middle managers, religious hysterics, and xenophobes which could merge with military vets on the right and Hollywood on the left. With such a consortium of those dependent upon superficiality for self worth, our then President could pretend to have fought the enemy in a world war, although he never left Culver City, and then to have been at Auschwitz, and few stood up and called him either a liar or deranged, and he had to have been one of the two. Unless he lied about the Alzheimer’s, as well.

Reagan also said that ICBM’s could be recalled in flight, and that the Russian language had no word for "freedom," although first year Russian students know different. Reagan professed that he couldn’t understand why people called his idiotic missile defense system Star Wars, although he’d concluded his speech on the subject with "May the force be with you." Reagan scared the Soviets with his musings on invasions from Mars and the coming Biblical End Times.

Reagan approved the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, sent in the Marines, then cut and ran from Lebanon when the Marine barracks were bombed, and then blamed it on the Democratic Congress. Reagan sold heavy weapons to the Iranian mullahs and illegally applied the proceeds to the Contras. Absent Presidential pardons, some of his cabinet would have gone to prison, and justly.

But, he is the example all Republicans chose to emulate, including our current President. At least, when Bush isn’t trying to compare himself to Churchill, Truman, and Lincoln. But Bush has succeeded with Reagan, because he’s guilty of all the same things.

Bush pretends he doesn’t understand why people focus on ‘stay the course,’ and has his groveling former FoxNews press secretary say he’d only used it eight times, when it was beyond that by a factor of at least 10 and maybe 1000. He pretends, by implication, to have been in combat, but he avoided it with dubious legality. His own little war of personal self expression in Iraq – one in which he cannot define the enemy or our own goals in anything approaching the specifics any military requires and ours deserves - has turned on him, and he prepares to blame the loss on the Democrats when we inevitably pull out.

As Reagan would never admit he bribed hostage-holding Iran, Bush won’t admit he’s leaving Iraq in a Civil War. Although, it’s not civil, but religious, and so vicious beyond all civil stripe.

One of the Republicans lining up to replace Bush, and with the same heft as Frist, is Rudolph Giuliani, a noted adulterer, whose first of three marriages was to his cousin before having the marriage annulled, and who seriously proposed convicted and let off-easy criminal Bernie Kerik for Director of Homeland Security after he served as Giuliani’s police commissioner and pillaged Iraq after the mission accomplished ceremony, is considered a faithful Roman Catholic and family values man. He, too, applauds the divorced family values Reagan.

I’d like to think that we’ve all shorn ourselves of Reagan’s America, but it seems the Gipper will be with us for a while longer.