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Succumbing To the Inner Imp

Bush himself puts his world in conflict

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, September 05, 2007.

A few days ago, a very old, very sick Jerry Lewis, after obtaining a record amount of money for his Muscular Dystrophy charity, called someone a common epithet for a gay man or, if British, a cigarette. He caught himself when he realized what he’d said in reproduction of an old and unfunny comedy routine. He apologized. But the gay activists wouldn’t let it go and issued the boilerplate condemnation. It would have elevated them if they’d only noted that an 81 year old guy who has done far more good than ill in a state of exhaustion said something he and everyone wishes he had not. But, they cannot help themselves, and the template must play out.

The very human sensation Edgar Allen Poe called the Imp of the Perverse is well known, sometimes under different names, like “activist” and/or “Libertarian.” It forces you to say or do things not in your interest, and sometimes at direct odds with it. In the West, these incidents rarely put you in mortal danger. It certainly can elsewhere.

It strikes me that you have to be deprived of a brain not to find yourself rebelling against those in power to greater and lesser degree, and finding your opinion shifts against those with whom you campaigned when they themselves are elected or anointed or announced. This is partially because power installs mindsets common to anyone, and the new boss just about always sooner than later becomes the old boss.

Who is in power is not necessarily who is in office. For most of Bill Clinton’s Presidency, the power was in the hands of the Republicans, both in Congress and in many large areas of the country. Everyone contemplating a move had to factor in the rage or acceptance of the mostly far right clerics and poseurs who controlled vast amount of GOP money for advertising campaigns. This power of reactionary Christianity has always been to me the stigmata of the bitter and social climbing rather than compassionate contemplation of the Christ and what made him, if he existed, unique for his time, and ours.

Sometimes, the most florid demonstrations of rebellion, the ones that get covered, are the safest and least likely to demand retribution. Those who love to parade in Boulder in demonstration against some safely distant regime demean the term “activist” if they also apply it to those risking disappearance and death in those lands. This is a degradation of a necessary Glossary of Social Terminology in order to deceive. But in Boulder, gay activism is in power, as it is in show business at present, and Lewis, being human, sick, exhausted, and very old, may just have succumbed to the age old fueling engine of all comedians worth anything: speak derision to those in power. He gave in to his Imp of the Perverse.

When people or regimes or parties are in the state of falling out of power, whether by lame duck status or their own incompetence, or both, they themselves can be said to succumb as a way of lashing out at their enemies or confession of sin. If the new book on George Bush, Dead Certain, is correct, the very fact Bush allowed interviews for it was demonstration of ceding power to an inner authority that did not wish him well, at least in the short run.

Today, after returning from the lamest of all possible photo ops at an Iraq airbase where he declared the Surge working against all actual evidence, the revelations in Dead Certain show his only interest is to maintain a military presence in the Middle East forever, and that Iraq is just designed to replace Saudi Arabia as our land based aircraft carrier and assault vessel. And the troops are never coming home. We’re there just as we are in Korea and Europe.

It is to be doubted that a President would not have been aware he was being interviewed for a book not hagiographical in nature and known when it would be published. They have people paid to find that stuff out. So, why in the world would Bush have willingly allowed a book that contradicts much of what he himself has claimed, and this in his own words? The very damning contratemps between Bush and former Iraqi potentate Paul Bremer over which of them disbanded the Iraqi Army is alone enough to make Bush out a fool or dangerously incompetent. And yet, there is so much more.

It would be too much to think Bush is expressing his guilt or his shame and allowed a quite damning portrait of himself to arrive during the month of the Great Surge Report, already undermined if not crippled by the leaked report from the General Accounting Office. After all, he neither confesses nor expresses much remorse. Or comprehension, for that matter.

It is, though, as if he tried at some level to come clean. I’m not convinced. The Imp of the Perverse is often psychotic as well as sociopathic. Bush might have done it just to see what would happen. Unlike a mere Jerry Lewis, he hasn’t done more good than harm, and is far less likely to be forgiven.