Monday, November 07, 2005

White Hot House

I saw for the first time a couple of weeks ago one of those great old black and white movies that for one reason or another become hailed as classics of the cinema – inspiring everything from remakes and parodies, to actually becoming part of societal discourse and jargon.
The Bad Seed was the film, and corny as it was, there was also something truly sinister in its portrayal of the little pig-tailed sociopath who nearly drives her mother mad as she tries to figure out if her offspring’s conscience-challenged murderous behaviour is the result of nature or nurture.
Without giving anything away I can tell you that the fictional film mother feared nature, but in the down to earth world of thee and me, a child being identified as good or bad seems to fall pretty much to the nurture argument these days.
Though it’s nothing new to argue the odds; it is a dependable truism that each succeeding generation bemoans their current generation of youth.
“Kids today!” goes the endlessly repeated opening salvo. “When I was a kid, we…” (choose from: a) respected authority, b) took responsibility, c) were maybe a little wild, but basically good deep down, d) were nowhere near as spoiled! Or e), f), g) and so on) fill in your own indignant complaint of how easy it is now compared to how hard it was then, or perhaps something closer to issues of indulgence, self-centered-ness, ‘dream world removal from real life reality’ – you know the drill.
And perhaps, sensitive new-age soul that you are, you’ve been involved in conversations that actually recognize how inevitable you sound, how plus ca change you appear, how just like your parents and theirs before them and so on and so on; still, you insist, this time and with THIS crop of underage citizens, there is a difference. The world really has changed – circumstances (familial, social, economic, legal, moral) have altered to a degree that Something! Must! Be! Done!
But I have a different beef, an alternate concern – a separate anger. My question is, “forget the kids - where are the adults?” Where are the bona fide grown ups that used to run the world and the family and provided the sense of safety and right and wrong that used to be adhered to as often as it was railed against.
Have you noticed? Do you wonder if the real change of the times is not so much in our youth as in our adults? And in particular, of those who are at least nominally the chief decision makers and society leaders that in days of yore, represented all that was responsible, hard working and wise.
Sure, sure… corruption, dishonesty, venality and even criminal stupidity have been and no doubt always will be hallmarks of a certain dependable proportion and percentage of politicians. Certainly anyone who reads history cannot fail to acknowledge the generous sprinkling of the mad, bad and the wildly and demonstrably wicked. But is it me, or has society descended to an all time lower than worms low in selecting and electing those we’ve chosen to represent us in all things worldly?
The top news story today – and every day for the past two weeks, or so it seems – has been about a guy named Scooter.
I am far from the first to note the utter ridiculousness of such a name for a senior White House official, but it bears repeating for all that. Scooter.
I don’t care if it was his dear old Dad’s nickname for him, it makes absolutely no difference to me whatsoever that it hearkens back to some dim and distant part of his storied past and his baseball abilities that were likened in some fashion to some other similarly goofily named baseball-playing soul. I just don’t want anyone near the Oval Office, the Situation Room or the panic button, whose name sounds more appropriate for a guy wearing a hat with a propeller. It isn’t seemly – but more than that, it indicates something about judgment that when combined with his vaunted position just doesn’t jive.
‘Scooter’ doesn’t even sound like a lying, deceptive pawn of evil; he sounds like he should be making a soap box racer in the garage or watching Saturday morning cartoons in the basement rumpus room, or helping his Dear Old Dad (Dod?) put up the storm windows – not leaking the name of a CIA spy to his minions in the media.
“Scooter’s been indicted!” must have been the near-unbelievable wedding of words communicated to the extended members of the Libby family (Grandpa Stinky, Auntie Skipper, Cousin Hootie…) a couple of ill-starred weeks ago. And since then, nothing’s been the same.
But still, no grown-ups emerge.
No responsibility from higher up is taken. Not even from Scooter. Beyond Scooter’s mouthpiece claiming that the outrageous charges will disappear following a vigorous defense, it’s business as usual at the White House, with republican dependables hitting the Sunday morning talk show circuit and adjudicating it ‘out of the question’ that Scooter’s boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, will feel any prosecutorial heat from the nation’s most recognizable (not to mention Special) Prosecutor.
But is it true? Is it so? Is there a possibility that someone is going to finally call the leaders – rather than their lackeys to task?
It’s possible.
After all, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald hasn’t charged Cheney Chief of Staff Libby with the considerably more difficult to prove underlying crime of deliberately naming CIA operative Plame, but rather with five counts of lying, including lying to a Grand Jury, making false statements to federal investigators, and obstruction of justice.
Libby’s lawyers made a big point around the fact that he would not take a deal – who was offering one? – but would plead ‘Not Guilty’, and let the chips fall where they may.
Let them. However hard it may be to prove perjury when some of the details and alleged conversations took place a couple of years back, Scooter made the mistake of being very clear from whom he suggests he heard the gossip about Joe Wilson’s wife and that person, he claims, was unfortunately one of the most respected names in television journalism, Tim Russert. And Russert is beyond clear – to the point of having proof he wasn’t even around, when he was supposed to have whispered the words “Joe’s wife is a spy” into Scooter’s shell-like – and in his manner and comportment, makes Libby’s accusation all the more specious.
So what’s a poor Vice Presidential Chief of Staff to do? Fall on his sword, or so goes the conventional wisdom. Protect the VP, the big P, take the heat, the sentence and the can tied to his ass with all the aplomb he can muster and wait for the Presidential Pardon… which he’ll likely have to wait for until the end of Bush’s Presidency so as to maintain whatever shreds of dignity the Leader of the Free World and his most senior aide are still clinging to like grim and inevitable death.
Should there be any shreds left in the three long years ahead of all of us.
And still I ask, where are the grown ups? Where are the people making the really tough decisions – like standing up and admitting to cutting down the cherry tree, or manufacturing intelligence on WMD’s or even ‘fessing up to trying to discredit former Ambassador Wilson by going after his wife.
(And if that isn’t indicative of the adolescent school yard bully mentality operating in the highest echelons of power, well, one has to wonder…)
Tough decisions are being made and an immense amount of loyalty is being demonstrated, but it’s to all the wrong people; to protect what is looking like an increasingly corrupt and dishonest administration and to continue to obscure the facts surrounding one of the biggest and most expensive (certainly if you include human life) boondoggles of all time: the war in Iraq.
Americans are not being protected, Americans are not being informed and Americans are not being respected.
Genuine American interests are not being looked after.
Americans are being governed by a modern day version of elderly Bad Seeds – and being led down a particularly weedy garden path whilst being told everything in the garden is lovely.

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