If the mental image of Alberto Gonzales over in Iraq monitoring the judicial process there doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you have no sense of humor. As usual not a day passes that there aren’t dozens of administration gaffs and misnomers to giggle over. If only the mere fact of those numerous and humorous bumblings brought release and some mental respite from the terrible state the country is in.
But, the amusement is always short-lived because this White House is so deadly serious about every ill-conceived decision it makes. As Bill Maher pointed out recently, even when President Bush makes one of his mindless speeches the details of which he stumbles over and misrepresents with typical intellectual ineptitude, he walks off with an attitude that says “nailed it”. And when Bush met with the new French president and acknowledged he doesn’t speak French, he couldn’t resist adding ‘I hardly know how to speak English’. That’s our president – – the leader of the free world making self-deprecating jokes despite the fact that most people aren’t laughing with him but at him.
Astonishingly, a majority of Republican voters still support President Bush. What is it that keeps them in his camp – – fat-cat tax cuts, a putative war on terror that has wrecked one country and threatens to implode in another, forgotten promises of a smaller government that continues to grow as the tax structure groans under its weight. Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has stirred the pot by combining a call to vacate Iraq with his ultra-conservative views that the federal government should not participate in disaster relief, medical care, welfare or social security. Do supporters really understand what this man’s basic agenda is or do they just hang on to what they think he means?
The ability to deny and then reconstruct things everyone heard and understood remains a talent that has stood Bush and his entourage in good stead over the years. It is a tribute of sorts to politicians who are able to revise their rhetoric and coerce the electorate into disbelieving what they heard with their own ears, as in a quote attributed to Richard Nixon: “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”. Political correctness doesn’t necessarily mean taking care not to offend – – in today’s convoluted discourse it means rather, political claptrap, ‘corrected’.
Of course it is harder in these days of digital cameras and bloggers who ‘were there’ and made recordings, to get away with fudging one’s verbal missteps. So when Mitt Romney says his comment – – that his five strapping young sons showed their patriotism by stumping for him rather than serving in the military – -was taken out of context, it is a simple matter to check the videos of the speech when he actually made that remark. And Jon Stewart can wrap the whole thing up by showing Greta Van Susteren of Fox News riding with the sons on the campaign bus, and referring to her as being “embedded” with the Romney boys.
Similarly, Giuliani, who seems unwilling to dig himself out of the 911 rubble upon which he plans to build his political future, even went so far as to suggest in recent remarks that he was at ‘ground zero’ as often, for as long, and sometimes even longer, as the rescue workers engaged in cleanup and rescue efforts. What incredible chutzpah and total disrespect for the efforts of the dedicated workers who expended so much energy and endangered their health working to clear remains and debris from where the Trade Center Towers once stood.
What hubris induces the likes of Giuliani and Romney to make heroic claims about themselves? While self confidence is an attribute in anyone seeking a leadership position, grandiose notions of one’s self-worth do not ensure presidential gravitas as we have learned to our everlasting regret. And what shallow, self-serving candidates these two men are, filling the airwaves and debates with the same over-worked, inflammatory rhetoric we’ve heard during most of the Bush years, none of it truly informed or informative.
One has to wonder how Romney became a successful businessman although one suspects it must be a lot easier to move piles of money around and restructure companies than to articulate an intelligent foreign or domestic policy. As for Giuliani, his approach to everything from the streets of NYC to world conflict relies on toe-to-toe confrontations that fail to address underlying causes or seek other means of redress. After the straw poll in Iowa where Romney won by spending enormous sums of money, Mike Huckabee, in a scantily financed campaign, showed unexpected strength by coming in second. And some have suggested that Huckabee, as a vice presidential candidate, could help balance a Giuliani ticket not support a Romney run.
For those on the outside looking in some Republicans still hunger for a Fred Thompson candidacy while John McCain is hanging in with bold statements that we are in fact winning in Iraq which may come as a surprise to analysts charged with looking at the big picture there. The president’s War Czar opines that it may be time to reinstitute the draft, a sure sign that things aren’t going all that well with our adventure in The Middle East.
This is all laughable in a way, but it would be worth forgoing the laughs if Democratic and Republican candidates engaged in debate that plumbed the depths of their expertise or lack thereof. Bush likes to call himself “The Decider”, but it is the American people who have suffered the consequences of his flawed judgment and problems that will take years to resolve. Any future leader must be prepared to shoulder the enormous burden left in his wake, not mouth platitudes about terrorism and the glories of a tax-light society.

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