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Friday, September 23, 2005


American Duck

My parents came out to visit recently (to see their second grandchild for the first time) and on a walk with my father talk turned to politics. My dad is a committed Democratic voter, prone to angry outbursts against the Bush administration. As time passes his ability to discuss the Republican party without becoming visibly angry decreases. I only mention this to establish that this is not a person who is going to deviate much from standard "liberal" positions.

So I was pretty surprised to hear that he is leery of pulling out from Iraq immediately. He fears, probably not unreasonably, that leaving now will result in a quickening of the coming civil war and many more Iraqi civilian deaths. My position was that the U.S. has lost all credibility in Iraq with Iraqis, a growing proportion of the U.S. population, and the citizens/governments of other countries. We've lost the initiative and anything we do is just a holding action that only delays the inevitable, whatever horrible variant on gruesome bloodbath that turns out to be. Why waste American lives and resources? It's not that I don't care, it's that I don't think anything we do will ultimately make much difference.

Before long, our conversation turned to Bush's declining popularity and his apparently early movement toward lame duck status. I explained to my father that although it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, I was a little worried to have a President with such limited power. What if the country needs leadership and we don't have anyone in charge? My father replied that when Bush did have political capital he used it all in the service of policies both he and I thought were terrible for the country. He had already proven his unwillingness to provide leadership on issues that might actually better the lives of the majority of U.S. citizens.

I think you can see where I'm going with this.

Although there are not international voters who elect the U.S. "leader of the free world", we seem to have managed to achieve an international lame duck status. I think this is due to our current situation of one party rule. There isn't a credible opposition for the world to look at and say, well I don't like the President, but the U.S. isn't all bad - here's another leader who appears to be on the rise who will set things right.

The Republicans appear to be losing control of the country, but without a recognizable compensating ascendency on the part of the Democrats. We've managed to become the American Duck.

How many people in other countries gave up on the U.S. after Bush won in '04? At that point it couldn't be written off as a fluke. Even if the result was thrown to some degree, it showed that the party in power is capable of fixing elections consistently.

The reasons why the Democratic Party seems so broken and unable to step up and fill the power vacuum have been hashed over ad infinitum. But the result, as you point out, is that we have been effectively stripped of our authority, despite all the guns and bombs and the economic stick we beat over peoples' heads.

Ironically, the Bush junta's attempt to make a grab for empire, coupled with a lack of effective opposition, dissipated any empire we had actually built. The President, for all his sneering and inflexibility, is a weak man. His decisions have led to a weakened military, a weakened economy, weakened schools. The basic social contract between government and its citizens has been frayed. Weakness is the defining element of this historical moment for the U.S.

Donald Duck is characterized by righteous bluster--and staggering ineffectiveness. The only difference with our President is that Bush wears pants in public.
Also, you forgot that the President appears to have many relatives who are morons. Uncle Scrooge, Huey, Dewie and Louie were very intelligent. Not like those damn Beagle Boys!

Anyhow, even more than a weak man I'd call Bush a "weakening" man - he weakens/destroys what he touches.
If we pull the troops now, the Iraqi factions disintegrate into civil war. If we wait until another thousand or so Americans are blown to bits, the Iraqi factions disintegrate into civil war, right?
Cole's dumb mom
Ah, yes, but the question is, does Iraq descend into civil war with Bush as President, or after the presidency in dumped into the lap of the next sucker, so the inevitable collapse can be blamed on him/her? If it's a Democrat, all the better for the GOP. I think Bush is "staying the course" in part because it's hard to drop those dreams of an American imperial outpost in the Middle East with shiny new permanent military bases, but primarily to delay the domestic political ramifications of cutting and running--especially after vowing he would never preside over another Viet Nam. To him I guess that doesn't mean avoiding stupid, unwinnable wars, it means fighting them indefinitely.
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