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.