Wednesday, December 20, 2006

DKos diary, 12/20/06


Not Winning, not Losing: Fire up a Jumbo, Karl

President Bush acknowledged that we are losing the war in Iraq yesterday. But he’s coming up with a new strategy which he’s going to tell us about after Christmas. Already he has a new slogan: “We’re not winning, we’re not losing.”

This is likely to bring a major shift in American efforts in the world and it suggests a personality shift in Bush as well. To date, Bush has always prided himself on feeling resolute like a real soldier; like a great, archetypal warrior - one bred to the bone like Lord Nelson. Bush, like the Dungeons & Dragons Warriors at The Weekly Standard has always mistaking Acting like a Warrior for Actually Being a Warrior. Lately John McCain has as well and he should know better. It is the difference between Dress Up and Destiny.

“Bring it On,” Bush declared at the beginning of this fiasco, and indeed they did and the carnage as been flowing ever since. Then this November, when the Council of Elders were about to declare otherwise, Bush declared with the same stalwart delivery: “Absolutely, we’re winning.”

No one could master the bold phrase like Lord Nelson. “England expects that every man will do his duty,” he said, and when he said it, they did. When Nelson went into battle at Trafalgar in 1805 with an arm and an eye already missing, it was to his certain death. But Trafalgar would awaken England to a hundred years of Victorian glory and splendor. This is the real thing. This is how the world begins.

“We’re not winning, we’re not losing.” This is how the world ends.

Bush, champion of the Age of Incompetence, will go into history with this phrase. This phrase will be remembered always in the Museum of Banal Phrases and Empty Gestures: I’m Okay, You’re Okay. Not to Decide is to Decide. Whatever.

Bush has had this resolute thing from the beginning. Probably he resembles no one in personality more than William II, grandson of Victoria, who hated his own English blood and his fair-minded and moderate parents and longed instead for days of yore: The days of Teutonic manhood when real men wore pointy things on the top of their helmets.

When Bush declared his new “preemptive policy” in opposition to those flaky post-war modernists – Eisenhower, Telford Taylor, Hannah Arendt, Dag Hammarskjold, – it sent a shiver through Germany, as the phrase still resonated from its first use by William. And it showed the incompetence which would become characteristic of his administration. Germany faced a national election over the weekend and Condi Rice presented this phrase to the world on the eve of that election. The Conservatives were scheduled to win, but then the tide turned when Germany once again heard of the new pre-emptive policy. Had they waited until after the election, Bush could well have brought Germany with him into Iraq.

I think what’s happening here is that Bush is getting into his feminine side, as he perceives it. For people my age (60, Bush’s age) the thing that is odd and a little spooky about Bush is that he appears to have grown up in opposition to his own generation and he has always appeared to have hated his own generation. He seems to have no friends his own age which is totally weird and the people who he is surrounded by seem to have been provided to him by someone from an older generation appointed to that purpose. And he also seems to have been appointed President by an older generation who expected that he would represent this waning generation rather than his own generation.

When he first appeared, Maureen Dowd of the NYTs wrote, “He said he never liked the Beatles after they got into that ‘kind of a weird psychedelic period.’” Ten weeks into his presidency Dowd reported going hungry for a shred of modernity. Bush II has reeled backward so fast, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it’s redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas, she lamented. “What’s next?” she asked. “Asbestos, DDT, bomb shelters, filterless cigarettes? Patti Page?”

But it’s getting all different now: Bush’s Sixties side is coming out. Maybe it’s that inner child thing. When I first heard the not winning, not losing phrase I went back to that Sixties classic, Summerhill, written by an End-of-Empire Englishman, A.S. Neill, more than 100-years after Nelson. It was standard fare in education classes back in the Sixties. Neill says, “laziness doesn’t exist.” Children should never be assigned work which is distasteful to them. And they shouldn’t be taught things like math, science and geography. Those subjects are “unimportant” because the “average” student “isn’t much interested in any of those subjects.” The “learning side of school” doesn’t “matter a jot.” What you want is “inner happiness.”

Winning is not important, losing is not important. It’s all part of the karmic circle. I think we’re seeing now, at long last, the feeling side of President Bush.

Whatever. Nevermind. Fire up a jumbo, Karl.