Knuckled Under

As Paul noted in his QotD, I have no love whatsoever for John McCain. He is the arch evil villain Huggy McClingman to my Zoologica, and should he get the GOP nomination in 2008, the written history of the ensuing battle will be worthy of no less than Homer himself.

But in terms of an antipathy from which I can draw little humor about its depths and causes, no one, but no one, is worse than Dubya. He is, truly, peerless in his capacity to send me into a red-faced, fist-clenching fury that even nearly two solid years of blog rants has not managed to assuage. In the best moments, I am only riddled with hopeless despair, as opposed to wanting to put my fist through the nearest wall.

The majority of my ire’s source is, of course, his policies, which are catastrophic—the ultimate realization of every extremist conservative wet dream, marching destructively across the American landscape and annihilating in their path any and all remnant of progressive policy or thought. And then there’s the other thing that fuels my indignant discontent, the flipside of that now-familiar canard about what a great drinking buddy Bush would be—I just don’t like the guy.

Yesterday, I read an excerpt of the much-discussed new Ron Suskind book, The One Percent Doctrine, at Drum’s place that perfectly encapsulated what it is I despise about the president. The scene is Harvard Business School, 1975. Bush is captain of his class' basketball team, which is playing the Class of '76 team.

The game was tight. The other team's captain, Gary Engle...went up for a shot. Bush slugged him — an elbow to the mouth, knocking him to the parquet. "What the hell are you doing?" Engle remembers saying. "What, you want to get into a fistfight and both of us end up in the fucking emergency room?" Bush just smiled.

Moments later, at the other end of the court, Engle went up high for a rebound and felt someone chop his legs out from under him. Bush again. Engle jumped up and threw the ball in Bush's face. The two went at it until two teams of future business leaders leapt on their captains, pulling them apart. Engle, angry and vexed by what had happened, began wondering why the hell Bush would have done what he did. He lost his composure, and his team lost its leader.

A few years later, Engle...bumped into Jeb Bush....Engle, a Republican contributor, had thought from time to time about his game against George. Nothing like that had happened to him before or since. This was his chance to get a little insight about it. He told the story. Jeb kind of laughed, Engle recalled. "In Texas, they call guys like George 'a hard case.' It wasn't easy being his brother, either. He truly enjoys getting people to knuckle under."
He truly enjoys getting people to knuckle under.

Drum comments, “This, apparently, is the real Bush Doctrine: America's goal is to get the rest of the world to knuckle under to us, one dimwitted action at a time.” Clearly, that’s right—but it’s also incomplete. The Bush doctrine is to get the rest of the world to knuckle under to America, and America to knuckle under to him.

He found his way into office because the SCOTUS knuckled under to him. He’s enjoyed unprecedented favorable coverage in the face of disaster because the media knuckled under to him. His administration acts outside the law with no accountability because Congress knuckled under to him. And those who don’t submit willingly to the threat of an elbow jab get that elbow in the mouth. What progressive, war dissenter, Republican who refuses to toe the party line—any person who disagrees with him in any measure—has not felt the crunch of bone against his or her jaw as Bush or one of his army of operatives lands the perfect shot with a mendacious smear, denied access, or an accusation of treason?

And worst of all, he enjoys it.

He always has. Illegal, but gratifying. Kind of like leaking the identity of a covert CIA operative. Or penning in signing statements and claiming executive privilege to ignore the law. Or going after Saddam on the basis of cherry-picked intelligence, delivered to a fear-paralyzed populace while asserting hopes that war is avoidable, even as it the plan is already in motion. He knows it’s wrong, but it feels so right.

Those of us who refuse to knuckle under gaze out at a country we no longer recognize through swollen and blackened eyes. We feel beat up— tired and weak to our very bones. Some days I swear I’d rather plunge a dull butter knife into my temple than write one more word documenting their endless stream of bullshit, even though I’ve no delusions about the importance of my individual action; it doesn’t mean a whole lot in the scheme of things. But I’ll be goddamned if I knuckle under for Bush and his thugs. I’ll never give them the satisfaction. And that means something to me.

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