The Invisible Man: George W. Bush and a Hole in History
After Donald Trump blew into his dog saxophone and invited “Second Amendment people” to assassinate Hillary Clinton before she could appoint any judges, American politics went into China Syndrome meltdown mode in a way not seen since Preston Brooks beat Charles Sumner very nearly to death in the well of the Senate, 160 years ago almost to the day. Republicans who had endorsed Trump immediately fled en masse to Outer Mongolia to become anonymous yak herders, and witnesses reported seeing House Speaker Paul Ryan climb a large oak tree while muttering, “I hate this job, I hate this job, there’s no place like home, I hate this job.”
This flame-decked train wreck has been a long time coming, and the GOP has nothing to blame but itself. Begin with the serial defections from the Democratic Party after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, augment with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” to promote racism and xenophobia within the party base, and then inject that strategy with steroids under Reagan by embracing right-wing fire-and-brimstone evangelical Christianity. Lose a war and collapse the economy in the middle.
Despise the immigrant, demonize the Other. Spend eight years howling THERE’S A BLACK KENYAN MUSLIM TERRORIST COMMUNIST SOCIALIST FASCIST MAN IN THE WHITE HOUSE, YOU GUYS, EVERYONE FREAK OUT, season to taste with millions of guns and the paranoia they pack, put it all in a bag and shake it, and what you get when you crack the seal is Donald Trump: a racist, sexist, xenophobic fool who doesn’t know that he doesn’t know anything, surrounded by a growling herd of loyalists.
There’s a missing page to this recipe, one that has been deliberately deleted like a classified email from The Book Of Days. Trump runs around blaming Secretary Clinton for the state of the economy while arguing in tandem that Clinton and President Obama created ISIS out of thin air. “He’s the founder of ISIS,” Trump said on Wednesday. “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS. I would say the co-founder would be crooked Hillary Clinton.” The corporate “news” media lap it up because it’s “good television,” and even his most ardent opponents fail to say the one missing word.
Noam Chomsky explained the phenomenon best, and it is remarkable to watch it unfold in real time. According to Chomsky, the most effective way to control a populace is to severely limit the parameters of debate, but have the debate within those hedged parameters be vigorous so people think something of worth is actually taking place. Hence, they shout and stomp about responsible budget priorities without ever discussing the bloated “defense” budget, because that topic has been deemed off limits. Likewise, they shout and stomp about ISIS and the economy without ever mentioning George W. Bush, because he is simply too embarrassing to too many people sitting behind important desks with a lot to lose.
Think on it. Even with his towering hubris, Donald Trump knows better than to bring up Bush, but instead will lay the whole mess on Obama and Clinton regardless of the incoherence of the argument, because it’s red meat for the base. Clinton wants no part of having Bush in the discussion because it underscores her craven Iraq War vote and its calamitous consequences. The corporate “news” media? Forget it. They hauled water for him like Gunga Din in the name of ratings and advertising dollars, and are now slicked to the elbows in innocent blood. Best not to bring all that up. Eight long years have been summarily erased.
Here’s the thing, though: Like many of us, I remember. They can ignore it all they want, but I was there and I wrote it down every day. I watched two towers explode while Bush was “protecting” us, watched two foolish wars collapse into a bloodbath of folly as the Treasury was looted, watched the budget surplus be given away to rich people by way of ruinous tax cuts, watched lawfully produced subpoenas be ignored by the highest office in the land, watched torture become mainstream, watched the dark wings of total surveillance unfold over the nation entire, and watched Dick Cheney say the Vice President was not part of the Executive Branch because he didn’t want to give his official papers to the National Archive as required by three different laws.
More than that, I remember plastic sheeting and duct tape, and an administration all too happy to peddle fear to lubricate the rails toward its goals. I remember a cowed populace being told to watch what they say, I remember terror alerts popping like firecrackers whenever the administration found itself in political hot water, I remember the serial lies, and I remember the adoration of the Republican base poured upon a strongman president who gave no damns for decorum or due process. George W. Bush and his crew trashed the economy, trashed Iraq and by proxy Syria, created ISIS by disbanding the Iraqi army and walked away with money falling out of their pockets.
Fear and hatred are powerful elixirs, and George W. Bush trained the nation well to imbibe them, and thus accept what he foisted upon us for personal gain. He is one page in a recipe that is more than 50 years old, and none of the people who pushed that poison want you to remember him. Trump is no mystery, no anomaly. He is the culmination of decades, the perfect avatar of the effort.
They don’t talk about Bush. Why? So they can avoid taking responsibility for Trump, and all he represents.