Saturday, September 17, 2005

JUST DESERTS

Or should I say, "Just Desserts", suggesting the barren wasteland of the American political landscape?

"People get the government they deserve." This oft-quoted bit of cynical wisdom could be attributed to one of the American founding fathers, or even an ancient Chinese philosopher. I don't know what the origin is. But it does seem a fitting epitaph to the United States as it stumbles into social and political decline, burden by unprecedented levels of government corruption and cronyism, bankrupting our finances as well as our national intellectual curiosity.

The relationship between the current White House Administration and corporate construction firms is obvious, insidious, and yet largely unexamined in the national news media. One has to ask: Just what is it about this relationship that newsroom editors and producers refuse to uncover for the American people to see? Surely there is no shortage of intrepid reporters eager to expose Halliburton as the corrupt, unpatriotic company that it is. Money before country every time.

To the people who voted for George W. Bush, it's not enough to ask them, as Michael Moore has, if they feel better now that thousands of troops in Iraq or hurrican victims along the Gulf Coast have died because of poor planning, federal incompetence, and inadequate support. Most of the Bush-supporters I know would angrily tell you Bush is their man no matter how abysmal certain situations are. They simply can't accept the fact that he has anything to do with failure. He's tough, conservative, Christian, and he's not a Clinton.

The mention of Clinton--always inevitable when debating the failures of Republicans--raises an interesting issue. When Clinton was president, everything that went wrong was his fault, despite the fact the Republicans held a majority in the Senate, derailed government, and themselves voted the infamous tax hike.

But when Bush is the leader, nothing is his fault. Not the soaring budget deficit. Not the increasingly disastrous war in Iraq. Not the escalating setbacks in Afghanistan. Not the freedom of Osama bin Laden. Nothing. He can do no wrong. All problems are the result of other, extenuating circumstances. A truly impressive instance of compartmentalization.

Now we read that the same construction companies with contracts in Iraq have secured no-bid contracts to rebuild the infrastructure along the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Bush's unprincipled political strategist Karl Rove has been appointed to oversee the reconstruction. What could be a more obvious example of corrupt cronyism than this? And yet, the Bush-supporters defiantly exclaim, "So what!" Or "Who cares?"

Saddest of all are the parents who have lost children to the war in Iraq, convinced that their loss must serve some higher purpose. That Bush would not deceive the nation--not like Clinton. That the U.S. is better off for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. That talk of corrupt no-bid reconstruction contracts are just the Bush-haters making noise. That it's better to fight the terrorists on their turf rather than here on American soil.

One can't argue with the logic behind this viewpoint. It's immutable and not open to any change of course. Some people call this attitude steadfast resolve and strength of character. Actually, it's more akin to stubborn ignorance tempered with cynicism. Even when confronted with the facts of failure and misguided decision-making, they are unable to change course. They are so proud of their single-minded clarity, their perceived courage, their resolve. History, they say, proves again and again that persistence pays off.

Persistence does pay off. But only when guided by reason, facts, and imagination. Bush is not persistent. He's just repetitious. And therefore stupid.