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From the life imitates art department.

The president in particular is very much a figurehead - he wields no real power whatsoever. He is apparently chosen by the government, but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the president is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it...

- Douglas Adams from the 'Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy'

More below the fold on how relevant this quote is to understanding the bush administration and where your money is going.

This Douglas Adams quote has been used on dKos before, but I bring it up because I think it is relevant to Jerome a Paris' diary More graphs on poverty and how to fight it - or not today. Jerome's diary provides details on the growing poverty rate, the transfer of wealth to the already wealthy and, the relationship between the two. It is, of course, already well known that the bush administration is raping the middle class and the federal budgets to provide tax cuts for the wealthy. This did not begin with the bush administration though, it goes back to the Reagan administration and is the underlying operational plan of the republican party leadership since that time. If you look at republican administrations in the light of the Douglas Adams quote, I believe it goes a long way towards explaining their behavior.

The best quote I ever heard about the Reagan administration was from a co-worker of mine who had lived in California when Reagan was governor. He said that they used to joke that, "A bunch of rich californians got together and hired an actor to portray the governor of california."

At the time it was funny, but by the end of the Reagan adminstration I also believed it was not only true, but so successful that they decided to take the show national.

Reagan was by all accounts a very charismatic person. I met a full colonel who new him personally and believed he could do no wrong, the effect seemed almost hypnotic. Charisma does not translate into good leadership or good governance. Despite this Reagan's charisma has been used to portray his administration as popular though this is not supported by polling numbers. The myth of Reagan's popularity is a staple of the right-wing media and the fact that this is often accepted unquestioned points to right wings influence on the MSM.

In reality, many things that where a direct result of the Reagan administration and its policies are not popularly attributed to him. Most notably the Savings and Loan deregulation and resulting $800 billion bailout were Reagan administration actions. The Iran-Contra Scandal along with the Nicaraguan death squads were results of Reagan administration policies and directives(Read Bob Woodwards 'Veil'). Interest rates peaked at over 22% during his first term due in part to his economic policies. Finally, his cabinet included several notably detestable people such as James Watt, Caspar Weinberger and Frank Carlucci(The Carlyle Group).

The true Reagan legacy though is different from the myth of his popularity or the notable failures of his administration. The true Reagan legacy is that his administration demonstrated two important effects to his handlers, the people who hired him to portray the president. These effects would form the basis of the Bush 41 and 43 presidencies

The first of these effects was the realization that the perception of the president could be divorced from the actions of the administration. Since the Nixon adminstration, the dominant news media had shifted from the print press to the television press. Detailed reporting in the Washington Post and the New York Times had been effective in exposing the practices and policies of the Nixon administration. By the Reagan administration the television press was the more dominant news media which also brought about a changing role for the president. In the print press which allows for more careful examination of policies before they become public, the president was the leader of a policy organization, the administration. With the move to TV which does not support the in depth review of policies, the president became an entertainment asset, the MC of the administration if you will. Whether by intention or not, Reagan was consumate in his role as the Entertainer in Chief, a good quip, would eclipse any serious consideration of the underlying policy issue. This effect was not lost on the behind the scenes people and the stage was set for the ascendancy of K street. The presidency was about branding and marketing.

The second effect had to do with privatization. Government had taken a beating since the Nixon administration. Nixon, Watergate, and Vietnam had increased the distrust of people. The Golden Fleece awards, the Iranian hostage crisis and, stagflation had taken their toll. Reagan declared that, "Government was the problem" and upon taking office pursued the privatization of government functions and in some cases assets. James Watt was putting management of public lands into the hands of logging and energy interests. Weinberger and to a greater degree Carlucci pursued the privatization of DOD functions. Col Oliver North sold government missiles to the Iranians to finance operations in Central America that had been banned by Congress. Many of these privatization efforts where justified as cost cutting efforts even while the federal debt went from $900 billion to over $3.5 trillion dollars. The Savings and Loan bailout was in some cases a direct pipeline for public funds to the people who put the Savings and Loans at risk. This effect was not lost either and represents the profit motive for the people who hired Reagan to portray the president either. The federal governments functions once privatized represent a continuous funding stream. The public assets the government manages for the people of the United States was a vast capital reserve to be plundered.

Move forward to the george w. bush administration. Even as it may crumble around him I do not believe many people may see what the bush administration is about, Looting. Looting pure and simple. The privatization of government continues under the bush administration. Billions have been given away to Halliburton, KBR etc. in noncompetive contracts and billions of cannot be accounted for. Billions of dollars in cash were literally shipped to Iraq to be handed out. Iraq itself, represents a decade long funding stream to the defense industry especially, service providers like Blackwater USA We the people of the United States have a nearly $8 trillion dollar public debt with nothing to show for it in terms of infrastructure or assets. Where did it go?

And, even as his presidency fails and his popularity is free falls george w. bush is doing his job provided that you understand that his job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. This is a job george w. bush is spectacularly well suited for. His life and career provide no clear accomplishments that would decide the question of whether he is a shrewd politician and businessman or a lucky fool guaranteeing a continuous stream of controversy and that he would fit into whatever costume Karl Rove and K Street ask him to wear. Since his first term, reports from inside the whitehouse have said that the bush was a purely political operation with no policy apparatus, governance, if it happens at all, is a side effect, to the central goal of the administration which is continuous access to the assets and tax dollars of the government. This is pursued through politics which is no longer about appealing to the people but using K street to sell what you are going to do to the people by whatever means necessary.

george w. bush is the sideshow to what is really happening in the backround. Republicans themselves are finding this out now. People who supported bush hoping for conservative appointments to the Supreme Court are finding their concerns are no more important than that of the democrats. The real work continues unabated in the backround, delivering the wealth of the United States to the people who hired george w. bush to portray the president.

Is this a conspiracy? I'd say that it is within the realm of possibility but not a likelyhood. Rather, I think it is the system effects of changes that have occured in the media, government and elswhere, for which we do not have effective controls. Enacting effective controls is the work we need to do to avoid george w. bushes in the future. We need to relentlessly pursue limiting the influence of money in the election system. I think this needs to occur not only legislatively but by providing competition to the money by requiring networks, including cable, to provide equal time to all candidates free of charge. I think we need to enact constitutional limitation on the amount of debt a congress can legislate, and the rate at which they can legislate it. I think we need a permanent independent counsel law to prevent abuses. Finally, we need to fix our election system first by eliminating the possibility of private influence from companies like Diebold and second by a constitutional amendment that requires states to certify that the error in the vote count is less than the number of votes difference between any candidates.

Originally posted to beerm on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 02:06 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Not a conspiracy (none)
    just advertising.  Anyone who believes the shtick deserves to get taken.  

    Which reminds me:  the Marlborough Man smoked menthols.  Just so you know.

    "Freedom Isn't Free ... but Osama Is"


    by Grand Moff Texan on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 02:15:59 PM PDT

  •  John Dean argues that this is NOT true (none)
    Bush PLAYS the figurehead because it lets HIM escape blame and attention... it fits the "regular guy" personna he needed to adopt to get elected....

    Bush is not tremendously educated or informed but he is "clever" in the sense that he knows EXACTLY what's going on and is complicit - if not the lead - in all of it.

    Besides, isn't this the perfect set-up, one used by how many Mafia dons.... he's not competent.... look at his behavior...  though Cheney will go with the wheelchair and oxygen bottle approach...

    •  Not an excuse (none)

      I am not arguing that bush is not culpable or merely a puppet of greater beings.

      In fact, I doubt whether any on the administration inside would feel this accurately represents their behavior or motivations much like alcoholics don't feel they have a problem and paranoid psychotics know someone is out to get them. I would expect that bush feels he is fully in charge and the administration feels nobly motivated. However, if they would change their behavior in any way, they would quickly find that it is their usefulness and not them that is required. They crave acceptance by a specific set of people and naturaly take actions to remain within the norms of their group which feels entitled to what they take

      An empty limosine pulled up and George W. Bush got out.

      by beerm on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 02:47:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent essay (none)
    It seems to me to be an accurate portrayal of what national politics have become.

    It reminded me of some other things with a similar theme:

    Potemkin World... or the President in the Zone -- a nice article at Tom Dispatch about the Presidential bubble and reality

    The Century of the Self - a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis which talks about how Clinton, Bush and Tony Blair came to power by adapting their policies to fit the polls

    I think the days of a leader that is fully 100% in control of the political machine are long behind us.  

    Elections are won by the machine, not the person, and the leader that works best within the political machine's framework is the leader that's going to win the next election.

    Bush is falling flat on his face.  But he's not up for reelection anyways.  The best thing for the Republican machine right now is for Bush to soak up all the blame for the war and the derailed economy, so they can go forward with their agenda.  That's why it's possible to go overboard with the Bush-hate.

    •  Exactly (none)

      Exactly to the point. We have to look beyond bush and work to correct the systems that put him in the presidency. Bush is an unpleasant symptom of the problem, not the core problem.

      An empty limosine pulled up and George W. Bush got out.

      by beerm on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 02:51:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the links. (none)

      Both of the links were interesting.

      I knew of Edward Bernays and his work. I did not know that he was the nephew of Sigmund Freud. That is an interesting link.

      The use of focus groups could be a whole other diary. Clinton was of course criticized as a poll watcher which I think he is. I don't think he realizes it though. If you listen to him speak, he is so deeply immersed in the politics of the situation that he knows and can cite the figures. I also think that it reflects his great interest in people, a desire to understand what they want, not just to manipulate them. Of course all politicians want to minimize the impact of bad news and trumpet accomplishment and Clinton no doubt uses his considerable political skill towards that end.

      bush, I feel is different. He has no great respect for people and works to isolate himself from them. Clinton would wade into a crowd in the middle of Africa to shake hands. bush only appears before hand picked audiences. bush himself may not be the poll watcher, Rove and K Street do that for him. I see bush's interest in what people want limited to understanding how best to market what he intends to do to them. I also think that bush has distinguished himself in his willingness to lie and distort information and stage events. To me there is a difference between using information to present yourself in the best light and distorting information to present a false version of yourself. Some may view this as an artificial distinction and it may be but I think Clinton and bush use mass marketing differently.

      Tony Blair is another discussion. I always enjoyed watching him on CSpan when they would show  Parliment on Sunday nights but other than that I do not know enough about him. I alway enjoyed the watching the parliment because they participate, boo, and seem more willing to call something for what it is. I am sure part of this impression is due to my not knowing British politics. I have of course been greatly disappointed by Blair's actions in supporting the invasion of Iraq. He seems to be greatly out of touch with the british people at this point.

      In the end, I don't think the use of poll information and focus groups is inherently evil. Ideally, we want an administration and government that reflects our will. The question for me is can   mass marketing be used to understand what the american people want and be prevented from being used to manipulate people. The answer I believe lies with us, the people, and I fear that the battle may not be won.

      An empty limosine pulled up and George W. Bush got out.

      by beerm on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 07:33:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  interesting (none)
    analysis and topic. Hope to read more from you.

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