Prosecute the torture.

May 25, 2007

Tony Norman on George Bush's Press Conference Yesterday

In his movie A Bronx Tale, Chazz Palminteri has his main character, a young man named Calogero Anello, question whether it's better to be loved or feared. It's obvious Palminteri's read his Machiavelli as that same question is covered in Chapter 17 of The Prince. The man Calogero asks, a local mafioso named Sonny LoSpecchio, answers (as Machievelli does 4 centuries earlier) that he'd rather be feared because fear lasts longer than love. The trick, he adds, is in not being hated. If my memory serves though, being loved has to rank higher than being feared because Sonny ends up with a bullet in his head and no one's sad to see him gone.

Tony Norman (while I am pretty sure he's seen the movie) asks a different question in today's column: Whether it's better to be seen as stupid or evil. The subject, of course, is George W. Bush.

Though his news conference was a grim and listless performance, Mr. Bush stuck to the script and dutifully recited every talking point drilled into him by his subordinates -- all the while smirking like a man who would do anything to avoid the indignity of being thought an idiot.

That's when it occurred to me that George W. Bush is still at a stage of life where being considered evil by his interlocutors is preferable to being thought stupid.

A few paragraphs later:
With $300 billion already down a rat hole and another $120 billion in the pipeline thanks to the Democrats' tendency to blink under pressure, this insanity will go on until more principled congressional leadership musters the courage to pull the plug on the greatest foreign policy debacle in American history.
And finally his ending:

Mr. Bush spent part of the news conference trying to remove a splotch of bird droppings deposited on his sleeve by a sparrow -- a final sign that the mandate of heaven he once took for granted had been withdrawn.

When the definitive history of this war is written and a full account has been taken of its spillage of blood, its rituals of mutilation and its mindless embrace of death, Mr. Bush may be the first president to be regarded by future generations as both evil and stupid.

While the Democrats in Congress are just spineless (and probably just a little stupid for enabling Bush's actions), whether Bush is evil or stupid or both I can't really say.

In the end, I wish nothing more for dubya than to have a long and healthy life - in hopes that he'll realize that thousands of other human beings were denied long and/or healthy lives because of his decisions.

13 comments:

Schmuck Shitrock said...

The Bush Administration demonstrated long ago that any perception of a dichotomy between "incompetent" and "inimcal" is false -- that they could encompass both with ease and style. (All-hat-no-cattle cowboy style, that is.)

However, to excuse the Congressional Democrats as simply "spineless" is equally ingenuous. We put them into power because they promised to end the war; not because they agreed to finance another thousand or so American coffins for the purpose of cementing their hold on Congress. Both their actions and their motives are tinged with the same bitter flavor that pervades the White House -- a taste of evil; a taste that grows out of the practice of lying, cheating, and killing to retain and expand one's grip on power.

I congratulate Mike Doyle -- a man for whom I have little use most of the time -- for doing the right thing.

As for every one of you who voted for Bob Casey: You are only beginning to see the fruits of your folly. He will betray you again and again over the course of his long Federal career. You gave him permission to do that. Congratulations.

Jonathan Potts said...

Great movie. You do writers everywhere credit by calling it Palminteri's movie (it came from a play he wrote based on his own experiences growing up) since it was directed by Robert De Niro.

Anonymous said...

Another good lesson from that movie. Don't chase a person down that owes you 20 bucks. For 20 bucks you got rid of a person you would rather not deal with.

EdHeath said...

Tony Norman’s writing style is a bit baffling to me. “smirking like a man who would do anything to avoid the indignity of being thought an idiot” just doesn’t make sense to me. And again the claims people make about Bush’s place in history are a tad too hyperbolic for me, compared to perhaps president’s elected shortly before the Civil War.

Still, Bush is right up there, in my opinion, with bad President’s. But he still has the veto, so the democrats need to go along with him while they make a plan to get us out of Iraq, one that a veto-proof majority of the Congress could sign off on. At least, I hope that’s what the democratic leadership is doing.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Ed, please explain why "democrats need to go along with him while they make a plan to get us out of Iraq." What disaster would have befallen the US of A if they had kept sending back the bill with the timelines and he had kept vetoing it?

EdHeath said...

Weellll, one thing that Davoe did not print from the NYTimes story he linked to in a previous post is that a majority of Americans support funding the war if there are benchmarks for the Iraqis. So a repeated set of votes and vetos would be a public relations problem for the democrats. If the military did run out of money, there would be an embarrassing constitutional crisis as they tried to find money to pay soldiers and bills. The President might well claim Congress was usurping his constitutional powers to manage the military and theoretically courts could get involved. If repeated votes and vetos did force the military to leave Iraq abruptly, it would be very messy, as charges would fly back and forth about leaving allies in the middle of a civil war.

By buying themselves sometime, the democrats have first of all given the president his last affirmative vote on the war. Now any vote taken by the democrats will have the cover of specific failed benchmarks, as opposed to lack of support for the troops. Second, key presidential candidates got to vote against the war while temporarily avoiding the consequences of an actual Iraq pullout. Third the democrats can say to republican Congress persons, “we tried it your way and it didn’t work. Now how can you continue to justify voting for the war”. That works for republican candidates for Congressional seats as well. And fourth, democrats can now start making plans and speeches about how much equipment we leave behind and what phrases we use as we pull out, to get the public acclimated to the idea that we lost another one.

By the way, John, I voted for that college professor Pennacchio in the 2006 primary. Did you mean to suggest Pennsylvanians should have re-elected Rick Santorum?

Schmuck Shitrock said...

a majority of Americans support funding the war if there are benchmarks for the Iraqis. So a repeated set of votes and vetos would be a public relations problem for the democrats.
Huh? This is precisely what Bush threatened to veto. It would have made a PR problem for the Democrat party to deliver what the American public wants?

The President might well claim Congress was usurping his constitutional powers to manage the military and theoretically courts could get involved.
Theoretically, it is quite clear that the Congress controls the purse. The Democrats should pray for that kind of confrontation.

By buying themselves sometime, the democrats have first of all given the president his last affirmative vote on the war.
A rather bold prediction. I have $1,000 that says you're wrong. What say we let Maria hold the money?

Third the democrats can say to republican Congress persons, “we tried it your way and it didn’t work."
They can say that now. Instead they said, "Here's a whole buncha cash you can spend on killing American kids and ruining two countries at the same time."

Did you mean to suggest Pennsylvanians should have re-elected Rick Santorum?
Actually, I was hoping we would elect either a non-Republican or some other primate. Pity we chose Casey instead.

EdHeath said...

a majority of Americans support funding the war if there are benchmarks for the Iraqis. So a repeated set of votes and vetos would be a public relations problem for the democrats.
Huh? This is precisely what Bush threatened to veto. It would have made a PR problem for the Democrat party to deliver what the American public wants?”

Bush threatened to veto timelines , today’s bill had benchmarks.

By buying themselves sometime, the democrats have first of all given the president his last affirmative vote on the war.
A rather bold prediction. I have $1,000 that says you're wrong. What say we let Maria hold the money?”

Actually, I swear to god I heard someone say that very thing on either the PBS Newshour or Washington Week in Review. Maybe David Brooks. So at least I have company in my bold predictions.

The President might well claim Congress was usurping his constitutional powers to manage the military and theoretically courts could get involved.
Theoretically, it is quite clear that the Congress controls the purse. The Democrats should pray for that kind of confrontation.”

No, they shouldn’t. Creating a constitutional crisis carries a risk that public sympathy goes back to this jackass of a president. As well that the courts, if somehow brought in, agree with the president’s position and the Congress loses some part of the power of the purse. I mean, right now American’s do want us out of Iraq and also want Congress to continue funding the war (and particularly the troops) if there are benchmarks attached to the funding. So in polls Americans want conflicting things. Like in polls Americans want to keep abortion legal and also support late term restrictions and restrictions on teenagers getting abortions. Americans do not want to abruptly pull out of Iraq because they know its not ready, but they want the government to tell Iraq to get ready because we are leaving soon. That’s why I still think today’s bill was the best thing for a still conflicted public, and it even gave cover to a bunch of democrats with their particular constituencies (because they voted against it). By the way, you know the minimum wage bill was bundled in there, to ensure its passage. So Barack and Hillary voted against the minimum wage.

Anonymous said...

Bush is willifully ignorant and - for lack of a better phrase - willfully callow as well.

The key word here, I think, is "willfulllly." If he were a simpleton and/or ingoramus that'd be one thing, but he has had the ability - and he knows this - to find outside information and advice along. The sad part is is that this makes him evil by way of negilcence. If he were evil by were of active malfesence then at least there'd be a basic, perverese level of recognition by his foes that at least he was in control. But to stand by and willingly look the other way? Christ, what the Hell'd did you spend five decades working towards, you jackass? He's evil, but evil by default. Ultimately that's tragic not just for himself but for this country. At least Nixon had his shit together, y'know?

Smitty said...

http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110010107

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Creating a constitutional crisis carries a risk that public sympathy goes back to this jackass of a president.
Bush has been punching holes in the constitution since the beginning of his administration. He is the one creating the crisis. If there is no challenge, the Constitution is toast.

So at least I have company in my bold predictions.
I've still got the money, Ed. Got balls?

EdHeath said...

Creating a constitutional crisis carries a risk that public sympathy goes back to this jackass of a president.
Bush has been punching holes in the constitution since the beginning of his administration. He is the one creating the crisis. If there is no challenge, the Constitution is toast.”

You may have a point there, except I don’t think this is the battle the demos would want to choose, when there are lots of other ones that don’t involve risking their own power.

So at least I have company in my bold predictions.
I've still got the money, Ed. Got balls?”

Hmmm, bet money on the demos, or any politician, showing backbone? Nah, John, if good sense is your definition of balls-less, then I’m it. All I was trying to say is that this vote was not surprising, that the demos were reading the same tea leaves as everyone else and realized the country isn’t ready for a showdown using the troops as hostages, at least, not yet. Now the democrats have established themselves as willing to compromise in a key vote (plus the candidates have gotten a chance to vote against the war, without having to face consequences). But I believe Pelosi voted against it, signaling that next time the compromise will not likely be there. In fact, the republican authors of this bill have had a chance to show that they can face up to the president with benchmarks (pretty tough by their standards), and the bunch of democrats who did vote against the bill can wave to party’s left. And they got the minimum wage through and out of the way. This was the only way this bill would have gone, but it was a clear sign that unless the administration announces a plan to end the war or at least draw down troops real soon, the demos are going start playing games with vetos. I think. Frankly, I don’t care, I think the democrats ought to slap a windfall tax on the oil companies and slap a $2 per gallon tax on gas and the state should fully fund mass transit and the city should paint bike lanes all over the place and all those democrats aren’t going to do that because they want the terrorists to win and hate the troops, and America.
Cheers,
Ed
Oh yeah, was I right on the difference between timelines and benchmarks? I notice you didn't mention that. Not that I know what the benchmarks are ...

Anonymous said...

Since you all are so set on impeaching Bush, why don't you push for something valid to impeach him on? Like his stance on illegal immigration for fucks sakes?

Forget the war, and look at how he's dealing with illegal immigrants.