Keeping it Simple, Stupid

George W. Bush has turned America into the world's biggest scold. Ironic, isn't it? This was the guy who, during his first run for President, pontificated on how the US needed to become less arrogant and mind its own business -- we needed to stop telling the rest of the world how it should live, and let it govern itself.

There was never an ounce of truth in that, and we should have known it. Because there was a single defining fact we knew about George: he's an evangelical. That fact is, and remains, the only thing Americans need to know to understand George W., because it dictates all he is, all he thinks and all he does.

To be evangelical is to banish doubt from your life. The term is most commonly used to describe born-again, fundamentalist Christians who believe all truth resides exclusively in the Christian Bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. To an evangelical Christian, all nuance is Satan's nose in the tent of blissful certainty. And, if nuance is the Devil's nose, any facts that might challenge their narrow views, such as evolution and the real geological age of the earth, are Satan personified.  

When facts become a problem for evangelicals, they simply dismiss them. If pushed, they attack the offending facts, no matter how nonsensical, absurd, untrue, juvenile or just plain silly their rebuttal has to be.   

For those of the evangelical bent, there is always only one true way. This is precisely the mindset we put in the White House when we elected George W. Bush. The press has misinterpreted it, calling Bush's behavior "stubborn." No -- that's not it. He's not "stubborn." Nelson Mandela was stubborn. Winston Churchill, Rev. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Gen. George Patton, Rosa Parks... they were stubborn.

George W. Bush is simply "right." And I mean "simply."  Maintaining simplicity has been George's salvation. After years of quiet desperation, a rich frat boy, a certifiable putz and a drunk Bush was "saved." Until that moment, life's plethora of choices, conflicting options, moral and personal issues overwhelmed poor young George. Then someone turned him on to Jesus... the one-stop, one-track, one-size-fits-all solution. For young George, the Bible became his life's owner's manual.

Suddenly life's complications, choices and confusions were culled down to a handful of easy-to-understand instructions. Life's once-intimidating blank canvas was transformed to a paint-by-numbers set. He now not only knew what the picture was, but all he had to do was not mix his colors to end up with a perfect painting every time.  

So here we are, five years after electing un-curious George to the highest office on earth. He has been true to his evangelical mindset, not just in his adherence to his Christian faith, but in his public policies as well. It is that behavior that has led the press to call him stubborn.

Global warming, stem cell research, war, Terry Schiavo, evolution -- each are issues about which volumes have, and will, be written. But George W. will not -- cannot -- be moved by a single word. Being saved taught Bush that the key to keeping his personal demons at bay is to narrow the flow of information to a trickle. Establish certainty -- the simpler the certainty, the better. Keep it simple, stupid. Then don't just stick to that certainty, but evangelize it. Others must be saved, too.  

We see George's evangelical proclivities most clearly in his proselytizing on the glories of democracy to what he views as "heathen regimes" around the world. Undemocratic governments are, to George, the equivalent of unrepentant sinners. They shall be saved. (Resistance is futile; they will be assimilated.)

Here we clearly see the "damn the facts" behavior of the evangelical mind. First, when George says another country should become "democratic," he means it the same way he does when he suggests non-believers should become Christians. He doesn't mean they should become Mormons, or that they should join the Greek Orthodox Church. He means they should become Bible thumping, Lord-praising, born-again, like him. Ditto with democracy. George is not interested in hearing about other forms of Christianity, or democracy. There is only one right form of both: his, and his.  

Inconvenient fact: Iran had its version of a democratic election last week. Voters had two choices, "the bad candidate" and "the worse candidate." They overwhelmingly chose "worse."  Iran's new fundamentalist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told reporters this weekend, "We didn't fight a revolution to have a democracy."  (And no, he's not related to Katherine Harris.)  

Even as that exercise in Middle Eastern democracy was unfolding in Iran, Bush apostle Condi Rice was in Cairo, preaching to the Egyptians. The crux of her sermon was that Egyptians needed to get some democratic salvation, and fast.  

Inconvenient fact: Rice didn't betray even a hint of irony that Egypt is a country where our CIA routinely sends terror suspects to be tortured. Italian police last week issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents accused of snatching a terror suspect off the streets in Milan and sending him to Egypt to be "interrogated." When the Egyptians were done, he was released. The first thing he did was call his family in Italy to tell them the Egyptians had damn near killed him. The call was intercepted by the CIA, which had the Egyptians re-arrest the guy to shut him up. Democracy for Egypt? Really now.  

Inconvenient fact: Also while preaching in Egypt, Condi avoided meeting with members of Egypt's most popular political party, the Muslim Brotherhood. These guys are decidedly not an Islamic version of the Knights of Columbus. They are radical Muslims and on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations. Nevertheless, if there were free elections in Egypt tomorrow, the anti-American, anti-Israel, Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood would win hands down -- a replay of what just happened in Iran. But if Condi had met with MB, it would have cluttered Bush's democratic crusade with pesky facts and contradictions, and that could lead to devilish uncertainties.  

Bush gets particularly excited when he talks about Lebanon, which he sees as a born-again democracy candidate.  But he also sees Satan at work there in the form of undemocratic Syria. Bush is demanding Syria stop meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs.  

Inconvenient fact: Even as George Bush lectures Syria on interfering in Lebanon, he commands 200,000 heavily armed US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they are actively trying to remake both countries into his democratic vision. Somehow George sees no contradiction there -- that Syria's behavior constitutes interference, while US policy doesn't. That nuance, he surely believes, is just one of Satan's many traps.  

Virtually all George W. Bush's behavior in office can be explained by that single event in his life: being saved. Complexity had driven George to drink. In simplicity he found peace, self-confidence and salvation. ''I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe­I believe what I believe is right."­ George W. Bush, Rome, July 22, 2001.
So, as the world becomes an increasingly complicated place, expect George W. Bush to keep keeping it simple and "regard-less" of facts.  

It's enough to drive even an un-saved sinner like me to say, "God help us."  


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