Thursday, July 05, 2007

Conservative compassion

It seems that I'm the only smith down here in Blogenheim who wasn't shocked -- shocked -- when Bush commuted the grueling 30-month prison term that I. Lewis Libby earned when he decided to obstruct justice and commit perjury. Writers who claimed they saw it coming even before the verdict were still trembling with outrage at such utter contempt for the rule of law, etc., even though the rule of law in this country wears the idiot grin of Alberto Gonzales and practically clamors for contempt. Surely even Bush couldn't comply with all the Libby fans who alternately pleaded with Judge Walton and threatened to fuck him and his family up. OK, maybe an out-the-door pardon, but he'd have to do at least as much time as Martha Stewart. As Paris Hilton?

I saw this coming, I blush to admit, back when Patrick Fitzgerald was still gathering evidence. Remember Hurricane Katrina? Of course you do. Worst natural disaster in a century, thousands dead, tens of thousands displaced, whole districts of New Orleans still MIA, and the end of Michael Brown's illustrious career of public service. When Bush finally noticed, apart from glancing out the window of Air Force One as he sped off to another vacation, it was to coin the immortal phrase "Heck of a job" for "Brownie," and to pose for some pictures with confused-looking children. Then it was off to Mississippi, where he finally managed to make a real, human connection with somebody. On and on he rattled about Trent Lott's lost beach house, the good times they had had on the porch and would have again, for the house, like the South, would rise again, a symbol of hope for America and the world. Even Lott looked embarrassed, and he's fairly shameless. At the time, it was dismissed as yet another manifestation of Bush's tin ear, his ability to say the wrong thing in any given situation.

Actually, Bush is 100% pure tin. He is incapable of empathizing with anyone who is not exactly like him -- white, rich and privileged. Certainly not the desperate of New Orleans, "so poor and so black," as Wolf Blitzer gracelessly put it. Not the death row inmates executed with mechanical regularity while he sat in the governor's office in Austin, most of them black and brown, all of them poor and obscure. (It is said that Gonzales, already a practiced toady, would amuse his master by reading the clemency petitions aloud in a comical manner -- he do the condemned in different voices -- so Bush could have a laugh before refusing them. It's all right to imagine Rigoletto and the dissolute Duke.) Did they have young children who would "suffer" like the Libby kids? Who cared? Time for the next fundraiser, the next prayer breakfast.

When you hear Bush's horrible mother chortling about how lucky the "underprivileged" were to find beds in the Astrodome, you begin to understand him. It takes an extraordinary individual to escape the gravitational pull of a powerful family, a powerful father, and create his own trajectory. The most Bush can manage is a bottled-up resentment of the man who did everything a little better, who even grew taller, and upon whom he has always depended to clean up his messes. Maybe if H.W. had let W. spend a few nights in the drunk tank or try to get into college on his own -- all right, vocational school -- he would have developed some character, and the, I can't bear to go into that. It may be George and Barbara's fault that he is what he is, but it's our fault that he is where he is. And what are we going to do about it?


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