Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Designer Presidency

If there’s one thing that all of the recent scandals in the Obama administration have in common, it’s that the president is always the last to know.  His response in each case has been of the Sgt. Schultz type -- “I know nut-ting!”  Now, the understandable reaction of the Republicans/conservatives to all of this is, “Bull!  Of course the president knows about it, and always knew about it.  After all, isn’t he in charge?”  Et cetera.  And it’s true that what happens in any given administration always reflects the “spirit”, so to speak, of the president, even if it doesn’t reflect his direct intent.  Take a few of the recent examples, for instance:

1.  The IRS harassing conservative groups.  Allegedly the work of “low-level employees” in Cincinnati, of all places.  Or, even better, of “rogue employees”.  OK… (deep sigh)… to begin with, there is no such thing as a “rogue” IRS employee.  These people are rigid, anal, Puritanical, and above all authoritarian.  They don’t move a muscle unless ordered to by someone up the line.  That most that can be said is that low-level bureaucrats love to do things in order to please the boss -- and who, pray tell, is ultimately the boss of every IRS employee?  Obama, who “knows nut-ting”. 

2.  Benghazi -- obviously a political ploy.  I don’t know for sure that those who wound up dead were “set up” in order to make a point, but they were certainly sacrificed after the fact by the blatant ass-covering operation, of which Susan Rice was only a small, if picturesque, part.  In any case, Obama knew nothing, and continues to know nothing -- and his secretary of state didn’t know enough to constitute criminal negligence.  Or so she claims. 

3.  NSA -- The question here is not unlike the question that arose concerning nuclear weapons.  If you’ve got it, you’re going to use it -- eventually.  Now, we somehow (miraculously!) managed to not get into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union or anyone else, but there were those minor incidents in Japan in 1945.  By the same token, information that is gathered will be used, and, likely as not, in an illegal or at least extra-Constitutional way, by someone at some point.  Democrat, Republican, it matters not.  Each administration sets the stage and makes the bed for the one to follow.  Today’s “outrage”, if you’re in the minority, becomes a useful tool once you’re in charge.  And so on.  In any case, the president… well, you know.   

4.  AP phone records etc.  This one has more than a hint of irony, since all of a sudden one of the countless lap-dog media outlets has developed a case of strange new self-respect and integrity, and is objecting to the fact that The Anointed One’s Justice Department is spying on its media allies (as well as the “acceptable opposition”, i.e. Fox News).  It recalls a classic Groucho Marx line, “I’m fighting for this woman’s reputation -- which is more than she ever did.”  Sorry, folks, but I’m not buying it.  You take all the goodies the administration has to offer -- you luxuriate in your front-row seat at White House press conferences -- then you object when they get in your shorts.  Frankly, I wish the government would just establish a Ministry of Propaganda, welcome the mainstream media into its ranks, and proceed as always; at least that would be honest.  And no, there would be no “loyal opposition” -- the opposition would be the real thing, not loyal, not subservient, always questioning, ever skeptical.  In other words, they would be journalists.

And, regarding the collection of information on citizens, any argument that begins “It will only be used for…” has about as much credibility as the original argument regarding the income tax, that it would only apply to the very rich.

5.  Weapons to the Syrian rebels (“This just in”) -- what will trigger the Sgt. Schultz response in this case?  Well, it could be when we find out that we’ve been sending weapons to Islamic militants who then turn around and use them on us -- either in Syria itself or elsewhere in the Middle East.  Or it could be when the “red line” turns out to be as bogus as the Gulf of Tonkin incident or the “babies in incubators” myth in Kuwait.  And that point will come, mark my word; it’s just a matter of time.

OK, so we’ve established a standard operating procedure here -- a meme, if you will… or almost a “tic”, because that’s what seems to afflict Obama every time something like this comes up.  It’s what a group therapist I had referred to as the “innocent and helpless” attitude.  And the Republicans/conservatives are, as I said, skeptical, because they cling to the notion that the president is still in charge.  (They has this odd idea during George W. Bush’s administration as well.)  But I, for one, am coming out in public and saying that I believe Obama.  Yes, I really do believe that when he says he knew nothing, he really means it, and that it’s, in most if not all cases, perfectly true.  But how can this be, you ask?   

The problem is that the president is not in charge -- of much of anything.  And this has been the case since, I would say roughly, the LBJ presidency.  Now there was a guy who really was in charge, and we are still suffering the consequences.  But since then -- not so much.  See, LBJ got put in place through his own efforts and through those of a vast cabal of like-minded folks.  They all had “issues” with JFK but the thing they had in common was that they all wanted him dead -- so dead he became.  So in a sense, LBJ owed them and they owed him -- kind of like some sort of Mafia deal.  But ever since, presidents have been used, abused, manipulated, exploited, scapegoated -- some more than others, certainly, but all to a considerable and conclusive degree.  The main difference among them has been the degree to which they appeared to be in charge.  Nixon was responsible for his own isolation, but was also exploited by the pro-war, pro-empire crowd.  Ford was a placeholder.  Carter was ignored by pretty much everyone, and deservedly so.  Reagan was a kindly avuncular figure rocking on the front porch… Bush I, certainly a member of the ruling elite, but also its servant… Clinton, a face in a suit who took an 8-year paid vacation called his “administration”… Bush II, the guy who gave sock puppets a bad name… and now The Anointed One, who has turned the entire country into Chicago gang turf on one level, but who, on a deeper level, is an abject servant of those who are really in charge. 

What does it all mean?  For one thing, it means that presidents are no longer elected, but appointed.  The two-party system is a sham, and our national elections are a sham.  For another thing, it means that the power is, and remains, in the “right” hands -- not those of any pathetic figurehead.  I mean, really… as I’ve argued before… if you were in charge of pretty much everything that matters, would you leave the fate of any of your empire in the hands of some buffoon who happened to be elected president of the U.S.?  I don’t think so.   

So if the presidency is no longer important, or a factor in what really goes on, why do we even need it?  Well, to keep up appearances.  It’s still a bit too soon in our history for the truth to come out, and it may, in fact, always be too soon.  In an ideational society in particular, the most important thing is to keep up illusions and delusions.  Ignorance is the most valuable tool of the Regime -- bolstered by language manipulation, the propaganda apparatus, and, as ever, games and circuses (literal or figurative). 

So what makes for good “presidential material”?  The answer is simple -- a face in a suit.  (Let’s abbreviate it FIAS.)  The guy (or gal) has to have curb appeal -- to be attractive and have an attractive family -- to be “good on his feet” -- to be a good speaker -- to be, in short, a politician, but nothing more.  “No substance required, or desired” is the watchword.  Wouldn’t want anyone straining against or bucking the reins now, would we? 

So let’s think back once again.  Was LBJ a FIAS?  Far from it.  The guy had all the curb appeal of a rottweiler -- and about the same bedside manner.  But he was the last of his kind, for which we can all be thankful.  Nixon was, likewise, no FIAS, and fatally flawed to boot.  Carter -- well, his presidency was best described as an interregnum, and his face continues to haunt us because he just won‘t leave.  But then we had Reagan, and he was the first bonafide FIAS since Kennedy, albeit he did have some substance and was smarter than his countless enemies gave him credit for.  Bush I, pretty much a FIAS -- basically a stand-in between Reagan and whoever the Regime could come up with next.  Clinton, the greatest FIAS of all time, to give credit where credit is due -- and still the spiritual (if that is the word) head of the Democratic Party.  Bush II -- a FIAS, Republican style (which means he didn’t blab about the kind of underwear he wore).  Obama?  A FIAS second only to Clinton… or third to Clinton and Kennedy.  Or fourth to Clinton, Kennedy, and FDR.  Whatever.  (Notice that all the most successful FIAS’s are Democrats -- obviously a fact requiring further analysis at a later date.)  

Please notice that genuine leadership, substance, ideas, ethics, gravitas, wisdom, etc. have all been relegated to the ash heap of history when it comes to presidents; good teeth and good hair are more important than all of those qualities combined.  Not only are those qualities not desired or needed, they are studiously avoided.  In the early years of the Republic, we had what almost amounted to philosopher kings -- the most obvious example being Jefferson.  But then came the slow deterioration (some would say it began with Jackson and that gigantic cheese), and we wound up where we are today.  It is much easier for the Regime to have placeholders in the White House than people with ideas, and so they have developed a procedure, not unlike that in professional sports, of spotting good prospects early on, cultivating them, shaping them, eliminating the ones who don’t measure up… until we have this quadrennial spectacle of the twin anointed ones -- the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of the hour -- being presented as “the only viable and realistic choices”.  Make no mistake -- if any of the losing candidates over the past 30-odd years had won, the result would be the same.  Do you think Mondale, Dukakis, Dole, Gore, Kerry, McCain, or Romney would have made a difference?  Please.  They would have been sucked into the maw of the Regime just like everyone else -- and, in fact, already had been, or they would never have been allowed to run.  And they were, arguably, also faces in suits -- well, except for Dole and McCain maybe.  The Republicans still haven’t quite figured out the face thing yet -- but they’re making progress (not that it’s not too late).

Is there a "plus side" to all this?  Well, for one thing, we can quit making a fetish out of the presidency, and quit treating the president like a monarch.  Other countries have what we (derisively) call "largely ceremonial offices" and no one has any problem with it.  The problem for us is that the president has served, for so long, as a scapegoat for anything and everything that goes wrong, we would be lost without him.  Who would we then blame?  Congress?  The media?  Or -- perish the thought -- ourselves? 

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