Thursday, 20 January 2005

Comparative Outrage

This won't be tidy. I just have some open questions, both to myself and to others old enough to compare.

Anyone in a position of power, no matter how benign or well-intended, will make decisions which are bound to result in justifiable outrage from some quarters. In a country as powerful as ours there will be some whoppers. Reagan and this Bush are the two Presidents who have most stoked my indignation, as I was still acquiring my political sensibilities during Vietnam and Watergate.

Finding myself nodding as I saw the "Worst President Ever" posters being held along the inaugural route as the event was piped into my kitchen today, got me to thinking about comparing outrages. I understand why many, even with a long political pedigree might justly so judge Bush 43. But the charge is not without some irony. To be sure, the sheer audacity of fabricating stories, or at the least shading the truth , to justify a military conquest of a sovereign state was unprecedented. But when one compares Saddam's regime or the Taliban to the Sandinistas, or Ho Chi Minh, or certainly Allende's democratically elected government, there's a pretty simple case to be made that at least Bush is ousting among the most illiberal tyrants imaginable. The factor going against Bush aside from audaciousness, is the likely foolishness of the enterprise from a purely nationalistic standpoint. This, rather than moral outrage, is the source of the trepidation coming from pundits on the right such as Buchanan or the center (I'd say leaning right) Friedman.

On the domestic front, the unabashed favoritism of big business over environment or the poor, is very comparable to what we had under Reagan. Indeed I'd say that perhaps the only reason Reagan wasn't much worse than Bush was that he had to work with the Democratic Congress. Bush has actually increased funding to every area of government, albeit much of that money has been piped through the hands of corporate interests to whom he is indebted. At least if one is to believe Jim Hightower, and his research, while likely cherry-picked, seems pretty solid to me.

On the secrecy front, Helen Thomas will tell us that Bush outdoes Nixon. Those whose indignation is stoked on entirely different fronts, will see Clinton, Carter, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, or Roosevelt as more outrageous. Comparing such outrages may be like comparing apples and oranges, but still comparisons can be made, and I'd love to hear some of yours. (I know Blogger has this annoying trait of wanting you to create a blog to respond with a name, but you can circumvent that by clicking the Anonymous button, and then signing your name if you want to.)

1 comment:

-epm said...

A topic far too deep for a mere blog....

There is a disturbing streak of visciousness -- of mercilessness -- that runs through W's veins. This is evident not only in the "tourture memo" case, goes back to his days as governor of Texas where he was totally disinterested in reviewing the cases of prisoners on death row. This, coupled with a contempt for the other two branches of government, make W a contemptable president, and I believe history will record it as such.

Looking at the areal shots of the inauguration I was caught off guard by the image it presented. Not to draw too close an analogy, but my immediate reaction was, "My God. It's like a scene from 'Triumph of the Will'."

In what other free country would you see such an excess of self-congratulatory pageantry? In what other free country would you see the armed guards standing shoulder to sholder in an unbroken line along the procession route just to ensure the sterility of the procession and security of the leader? In what other free country is the leader so afraid of the people?

W says he hates totalitarian regims, but I think it's more out of envy of their leaders' power than distaste for their treatment of their people.