Saturday, November 04, 2006

ASSHOLE BUDDIES. As the rats exeunt the flotation-challenged U.S.S. Mission Accomplished, we hear by way of a horrifying Vanity Fair article their excuse that no one could have expected shipwreck with such fine men at the helm. Kenneth Adelman:
I just presumed that what I considered to be the most competent national-security team since Truman was indeed going to be competent. They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional...

I've worked with [Rumsfeld] three times in my life. I've been to each of his houses, in Chicago, Taos, Santa Fe, Santo Domingo, and Las Vegas. I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance. Did he change, or were we wrong in the past? Or is it that he was never really challenged before? I don't know. He certainly fooled me.
Over at The American Scene, Ross Douthat is similarly puzzled by the performance of the Best and the Brightest:
If you had asked me, circa 1999, to pick out a group of senior GOPers who I would have wanted at the table in a national-security crisis - well, I'm not sure I could have done better than Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Condi Rice and Donald Rumsfeld, with (in theory, though of course it didn't turn out that way) Brent Scowcroft whispering in Condi's ear, and George H.W. whispering in his son's. This is how the Bush Administration was sold to people, on foreign affairs at least, and I remember watching television after 9/11 and being so relieved to have Powell around, and Cheney, and Rummy, instead of, say, Anthony Lake or Madeleine Albright.
In the immortal words of "Seinfeld"'s Elaine Bennis: well, that's because you're an idiot.

I am but a shabby poetaster who don't know nothin' about nothin', yet I've had a bad feeling about this thing from the beginning, and continued to express that bad feeling throughout the days when the current former war fans were calling us all traitors.

So what did I catch that these geniuses missed?

I like to think that it was mainly common sense. Rome could subdue, enslave, and Romanize far-flung populations for decades. On the other hand, America's style has mostly been to cut and run and let the United Fruit Company sort things out. A great exception was World War II, which was run by a crew very different from the lot that has presided over the Iraq debacle.

Vanity Fair's neocons grumble that their dream of pacifying the Middle East at the point of a gun was deferred by mere screwups. Yet Cheney, Rumsfeld, et alia are not screwups -- on their own terms, they've been marvelously successful. They have made the GOP a War Party exuding strength, confidence, and animal vitality. This has won a few elections and may win another on Tuesday. Perhaps more importantly, they have managed to siphon from the U.S. Treasury a considerable amount of cash for their buddies, and they are in the process of kicking over their traces so that We the People will not get a chance to take some of it back. When it's all over, Rumsfeld will be able to buy himself five more homes, at least.

So maybe, despite my failings, I have managed to obtain in the course of a long and checkered life some skills that these professors and pundits failed to pick up: I can spot a scumbag at ten paces. I can smell bullshit. I know that the laws of the universe will not necessarily be reversed because I so very badly want them to be. And though I sometimes find that I have left a store counter with short change, I certainly know better than to patronize that establishment again.

Hopefully a few voters out there have acquired the same skills.

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