Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Hunting Of The President

I was reading the American Prospect interview of Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, on the occasion of the release of the documentary The Hunting Of The President, and I remembered something that was a revelation to me back in the mid-90s and still applies today. Back then I didn't follow politics as closely as I do now, but I was a regular news watcher (aside: its ironic that the more closely I have gotten involved in politics the less time I waste consuming the news. TV news is to Politics what high school history is to History: the more credence you give to the former the less you will understand about the latter). I can remember all the news stories about Whitewater and Travelgate and Hairgate and what-not and thinking to myself that all these stories were very confusing and that I couldn't understand exactly what the hullaballoo was all about.

It was then I picked up Fools for Scandal, Gene Lyons' first book on the whole era of Clinton scandals (I highly recommend this book as an introduction to the more voluminous material in The Hunting Of The President, the book upon which the documentary was based). Gene's book was a revelation because it was the first time I had seen the suggestion that there wasn't anything to the Whitewater scandal and that the reason it had become such a big story was that the media had convinced itself that there was a pony somewhere in that pile of shit and they just wouldn't listen to suggestions that it was all just crap. The establishment press had become devoted to the idea that the Clintons must have done something wrong so they kept pursuing the story, despite the fact that it was a story that made sense only if you assumed that they were guilty.

The reason this still applies today is that, in the case of George W. Bush, we have the same phenomena, but in the opposite direction. The establishment press convinced itself that Bush was a competent and strong leader and thus refused to listen to evidence to the contrary. The last four years look sensible only if you have convinced yourself that Bush is a good guy with the best intentions and the right plan for where to lead this country. If you have doubts about that, then the suggestion becomes more plausible that his management of this country's domestic and foreign policy has been incompetent and corrupt.

I had doubts about Bush even before the election. Those doubts were confirmed in my mind by his behavior in the post-election Florida fiasco. Therefore, I was open to considering the idea that Bush and the people around him really don't know what they are talking about and that they are corrupt to the bone. Those who didn't learn that lesson from Florida took far longer to wake up to the true character of the Bush administration.

Some of them still haven't woken up.


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