The Fog Of War
Saturday, October 23, 2004 at 11:44PM
The Artist Presently Known As Ed in bush politics, pathos, repentance, war

I just watched this movie tonight after putting it off for several months. I didn't know much about Robert McNamara before this, so I don't have much perspective, but nor do I have prejudices. I was impressed with the man for a few reasons. First, he has done and awful lot of stuff in his lifetime! But I think the real gem of the movie was his candor. He had all the curmudgeonly brevity you might expect of a guy who was tired of explaining himself. But that was only part of it.

There is something very disarming about seeing a man cry, and even more so a man who has left a mark on so many millions of people. It makes me wonder, will there ever be a time when we see a repentant Dick Cheney or Don Rumsfeld? Do these men have a heart in there? Will hindsight take them to a deeper understanding of the mistakes and unfortunate decisions they have made? As for our own period, it's not like Bush is any LBJ—Johnson could at least look back on an errant war but claim to have left the nation in a better state than when he and Kennedy found it. Johnson can at least claim his social programs as taking America in a better direction. The war was terrible, it was unforuntate, it was mistaken, but at least something was done that served as a counterbalance. Our president now was not elected to that position either, nor was he put there by some universal fate; from day one, Bush couldn't hold a candle to Johnson, even as both men were commanders-in-chief presiding over terrible and misguided wars. And since then, Bush has proceeded to make nearly everything worse, or has at least provided the setting for things to get worse, both abroad and at home. I'm not sure that Bush will ever be in a movie that allows him to tell his side of the story that might shed some light on his actions 35 years before.

Maybe if there was such a film, Bush would tell about how he never really finished being an alcoholic and instead turned to God as his drug of choice, abusing God as much as alcohol and cocaine, and like a drunk driver, has no scruples (but for lip service) about doing so, and even thinks there is no problem at all. Or maybe one day, Bush will have one of his daughters get knocked up under less than favorable conditions (forcing George and Laura into a political pickle), but she of course will be allowed and even encouraged to get an abortion so that whatever there is to hide can be hidden. I don't know, maybe a casual Bush/Bin Laden house party would lead to some reckless behavior on the part of a Bush daughter and a Bin Laden son... yeah, that would take some splainin' to the American people, how a Bush girl is hatching bin Laden babies! Better nip that one quick! Either that or forge the birth certificate and make it look like John McCain or some other political rival has an illegitimate offspring.

Oh, my mind is wandering. But really, is that such a stretch? The man and his cronies and cabinet have hijacked elections, national tragedy, and even the faith of the public. They have taken us into an ethically bankrupt war, even more indefensible than Vietnam. They have made conspiratorial buddies with the media who should be working for you and I, and has taken to outright lies that can be dispelled quite readily (enough times by consulting that same media!). Hey, don't underestimate his ability to sneak one past you. I don't think he's too authentic in his representation of self and purpose.

But back to my film review. It takes a man with a conscience to well up with emotion like McNamara did. You have to be human to do that. There actually has to be warm blood running through your veins. I don't see that more vulnerable side most of the time in our leaders. I wasn't a religious devotee of Clinton, but I detected some emotional underpinning to him, that he understood the severity and complexity of his job, and that he felt he had to answer to the people who gave it to him. But these days, when confronted with a direct question and an opportunity to be forthcoming with the public, Bush cackles and laughs it off, or speaks condescendingly like we are all idiots. Sorry, George. Not all of us are idiots. No, some of us have brains and hearts and we will plan to use them in a week and a half.

I suppose in big politics you need to at least project an image of tough, but after a while it carries no appeal when you are proven wrong. There is no heroism in being wrong and proud. Bush loves to be hardheaded in his appeal to other people who have eradicated from their minds any understanding of subtlety and nuance and frankly the overwhelming complexity of geopolitics and war. McNamara was adamant that these things are just more than overwhelming for anyone to understand. And, in knowing and admitting that, you can arrive at a reasonable justification that Bush is going about things all wrong. No, there is not one answer to our dilemma now. There are better ones, more impressive ones, and easier ones. But being a bullheaded man in the face of complexity is not what makes a good politician, especially in America. No, what makes a good politician, especially of the American sort, is the ability to come to a consensus, and you can't do that if you decide there is one answer and address only how or what needs to be done to get there. Consensus building is the heart of all democracy. "With us or against us" is not the key to consensus building, but that is the Bush/Cheney mantra repeated ad nauseum. In less Orwellian speak, let's just say their mantra is "doggedly determined to be rigid, no matter what the cost." That isn't wise or patriotic. It's idiotic, and it's not a "quality" I want in my president.

...But Bush isn't our president anyway, so what am I saying?

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