Glossies Turn on Bush
I grabbed a stack of magazines out of the kiosk for my plane ride yesterday and I was a bit shocked to see how universally negative they were about Bush and the GOP machine in general. Yes I know the poll numbers are sagging but in the past that has been cause for the press to cheer louder. Most of it comes from people who have already been critical of BushCo.; I’m not seeing a bunch of converts by any means, but it comes at a time when many hawkish pundits are dissappearing into the woodwork (as Jim Sleeper notes in his American Propsect post entitled Armchair Warriors, Exeunt Omnes).
Rather than being lone pockets of dissent, in this context these articles set the tone. So just for pure enjoyment, here were some of my faves that are filling up the magazine stands of 7-11s across the country.
Matt Taibbi, from Thank You, Tom DeLay in Rolling Stone:
What was terrifying about DeLay was that he was that he was the barking voice of that afternoon talk-radio caller given full reign of Washington. He was the same angry lout, not invoked and and used by clever academics and con men, but actually in charge: a narrow, selfish, envious, mean-spirited prick who had the whole capital on its knees. What kind of man was he? He only went into national politics in the first place because the federal government had banned a potentially carcinogenic pesticide called Mirex that DeLay had used to kill ants. That was his idea of injustice. He invoked God and counseled a business owner in Saipan to "resist evil," when the "evil" was a set of worker protections designed to prevent atrocities like forced abortions. He neearly overhrew the government over a blow job. And for that, DeLay now exits politics with surely only one regret: that he was once described as a "moderate" by The Washington Times.
Also in Rolling Stone (no, not Confessions of Nick Lachley, though I’m sure that’s fabulous too), Princeton University history professor and historian-in-residence at Bob Dylan’s official Web site Sean Wilentz on The Worst President in History:
How does any president’s reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.
Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.
And in Vanity Fair, Michael Wolff writes about Scott McClellan (prior to his exit) in Words Fail Him:
In McClellan’s case, almost all of his sentences are dead on arrival. Even the pre-written sentences (most every briefing begins with a statement about the president’s schedule or the plausibly positive developments at hand—we’ve turned the corner in Iraq, etc.) are so bald and flat-footed that they become a kind of insult—he doesn’t disguise the bull.
Herewith another emotional complication: among the overrated jobs in American journalism is being a daily assignment reporter covering the White House. You are, in essence, a transcriber. The White House dishes out relative baloney and you serve it. So if you’re the press secretary, your job is to make the baloney palatable. You have to help provide press people with the wherewithal to maintain the belief that they are doing something more than writing up your spin—you have to go the extra lingua-mile to make the spin seem plausible, clever, elegant, seductive, uplifting even. It is not just the stubbornness of McClellan’s baloney but the inartfulness that makes everybody nuts. He offers nobody any cover.
I don’t see this trend reversing, and my biggest worry is that an administration which cares about almost nothing other than poll numbers will believe they have to do something drastic to turn this around. A saner group might jettison Donald Rumsfeld; this bunch of crazies prefers to unload bombs.
I once had a wounded coyote in my back yard. I called animal control, warned all the neighbors and kept the dogs inside for days. As I thumbed through my stack of magazines somewhere over Lake Tahoe I was struck with much the same feeling.
(graphic by NeoJoe)