Where Did the Worst of Bush's Cronies Go? To Work for Corporate Media
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When you consider the respective achievements of the folks who peopled the upper echelons of the Bush administration, I think you’ll agree that after their incompetence, ideological obsession, and general malevolence, their most impressive characteristic was, and remains, their audacity.
Think about it: George W. Bush is widely considered to be, if not America’s worst president ever, than certainly in the bottom four or five. His legacy to his successor includes: the worst economic crisis in eighty years, two unsuccessful wars, a thoroughly corrupt Justice Department, the destruction of time-honored civil liberties and hard-won rights, and the widespread contempt of almost everyone on the planet who was not a committed member of the conservative Republican base. And yet not only did Bush and company never own up to the catastrophic consequences of their actions, they gave one another medals for it. (It’s only a rumor, however, that Bush tried to rename the Presidential Medal of Freedom the “Heckuva Job” medal.)
In a society with any memory whatever -- much less one whose public servants enjoyed a modicum of self respect -- these folks would slink off into the sunset and lay low for a decade or two before taking up new careers doing something useful -- if not ministering to the poor like Jimmy Carter than at least sticking to charity golf tournaments like Gerald Ford.
Instead they’ve become pundits. And unlike ex-Democratic pundits, who tend to want to prove their mettle as independent analysts by attacking their ex-friends using Republican talking points -- demanding to know why presidential candidates do not wear flag pins and are BFFs with Louis Farrakhan and the like -- they keep up exactly the same shenanigans that landed this country in the screwed up place they left it. Admit it, it’s impressive.
Exhibit A in this category is ex-chief speechwriter Michael Gerson. Using the same kind of impeccable logic that led him to write speeches demanding that we invade a different country than the one that attacked us on 9/11, Gerson was punished for his crimes against the English language with a regular gig in The Washington Post and Newsweek, and a fancy fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations. This week, he took the occasion of a recent poll by the Pew to attack Barack Obama as “the most polarizing new president of recent times.”
“Obama has been a unifier, of sorts,” he quips. “He has united Democrats and united Republicans -- against each other.”
As with so many Gerson-authored speeches for George W. Bush, the question one has to ask oneself upon hearing this is not whether the man uttering the words believes them, but whether he can even comprehend them. In Gerson’s case, he appears to understand his own audaciously dishonest claim because he undermines it a few paragraphs later. “The Pew report notes that this is the extension of a long-term trend,” he admits. Well, yes, there’s that. (The poll itself is here.)
And there are also a few obvious-to-everybody-else explanations for the tendency. As Michael Dimock, Pew’s associate director told Gerson’s Post colleague Greg Sargent, “It’s unfair to say that Obama has caused this divisiveness or to say that he is a polarizing president.” Not only is the trend one that’s been building over time, but it is driven in part by the fact that partisan divide is always stronger under Democratic presidents -- Bush II being the exception -- because Democrats tend to give their opponents a chance while Republicans do not. Second, two Bush terms that went about as well as Biblical flood -- see above -- have left the party denuded of all but its most ideologically-driven elements. A party answerable to Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh is going disapprove of just about anyone and anything in what during the Bush years became known as the “reality-based community” simply because, well, it’s there.