Thursday, February 03, 2005

Points to Ponder

"Much of the anger inspired by Bush's presidency is a predictably liberal reaction to the earlier relentless assaults on Bill Clinton, which, if not exactly a 'vast, right-wing conspiracy' (its workings were largely out there in plain sight), did mark an attempt to deny the legitimacy of a twice-elected president. The right's fanatical hatred of Clinton ushered in a new era in contemporary politics remarkable for its absurd lack of proportion...In a broader sense, the feverish passions surrounding both Clinton and Bush are simply one expression of a culture increasingly goaded to extremes by the media's bottomless need for something exciting to talk about - be it Michael Jackson's weirdness, the Terminator's run for governor, Ann Coulter's self-aggrandizing rants, the trial of Martha Stewart, the American Idol voting, the D. C. sniper, Michael Jackson's arrest, the murder of five-year-old Samantha Runnion, the saga of New York Times faker Jayson Blair, Michael Jackson's plea of innocence, the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, or the endlessly replayed footage, graciously put to music by Fox News, of bombs pounding Baghdad. And, by the way, did I mention Michael Jackson's preliminary hearing? Americans may no longer join political parties or turn up at the polls, but they do go see Bowling for Columbine or click on The O'Reilly Factor and through this act of spectatorship feel that they're actually doing something - or at least have the satisfaction of hearing someone articulate their feelings of frustration, impotence, and rage. We live at a time in which hysteria has replaced politics and consumption passes for social action. Fueled by the media's taste for extreme positions, we spend our lives being confronted with specious either-ors, of which 'for us or against us' is only the tip of the iceberg: You either support invading Iraq or you are 'objectively pro-Saddam.' You either oppose invading Iraq or you don't know that Kissinger helped murder Salvadore Allende. You either dislike frivolous pop culture or you lack 'values.' You either oppose gay marriage or you are antiwedlock, antireligion, anticivilization. Such bogus oppositionalism is our modern American key signature. It's used to wind us up, get our attention, and open our wallets. Manichaeism sells.
"One could find no more fitting president for such a culture than George W. Bush, who, after winning a disputed election, governed as if he'd won in a landslide; who, in the era of great corporate scandals, runs an administration as secretive as Enron; who, in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack ever committed on American soil, called on his fellow citizens not to sacrifice but to keep shopping. Love him or loathe him, he is the political figure who defines our time, and like John Kennedy or Ronald Reagan before him, he casts a long shadow over our culture...We see his fractured image reflected all around us - in the rise of Fox News, the popularity of Darwinian game shows, the ubiquity of the neocon pundits, the left's crippling nostalgia, the reemergence of Cold War braggadocio, the $400 million box-office of The Passion of the Christ, the celebration of consumerism as self-expression, and the color-coded algebra of fear that has become part of every American's psyche. If you put together the President's policies, the artificiality of our political discourse, the shrieking of our pop culture, and the babble of information that bombards us every day, you have the unreal reality I think of as Bush World."

-- John Powers - an excerpt from Sore Winners (And the Rest of Us) in George Bush's America
(Doubleday, 2004)


At 10:35 PM, Anonymous Carly said...

I have to admit I have been thinking a lot lately about the term "Bush Bashing." It seems to me that Bush isn't receiving anything that Clinton or Bush Sr. didn't get...opposistion to the man's policies, yet it almost seems like he needs members of the right to champion him, when in fact it would be a good idea for him to maybe listen to what has everyone, who oppose him, either frightened or concerned and then perhaps at least try to meet in the middle. While there were some who felt the need to come to Clinton's defense, I didn't see it done with the same kind of fervor. Clinton could take care of himself. Shrug.

At 6:52 PM, Blogger fdtate said...

Bush isn't getting anywhere near what Clinton got. And it didn't have much to do with his policies either. Clinton was a pseudo-Republican with welfare reform and NAFTA and some of his other policies. But the right-wing attack machine was accusing him of murder, drug running and anything else they could think of, whether there was any kind of credible evidence or not.
Bush could do a lot more and have a lasting legacy if he would try to play better with others, but he is alienating even some in his own party, especially the fiscal conservatives.


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