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September 05, 2005

Who’s the Man?

As Neil noted below, Ezra asked us:

I'm interested in the idea that, if Bush asked for sacrifice, a one time tax increase, a something -- if he said he and his VP and his cabinet would lead it by foregoing salaries for the year -- his numbers would skyrocket. Why, then, doesn't he do that? Why is this admin so allergic to sacrifice, to tax increases, to all of it? I don't think it's ideology -- they're more craven, and have proved themselves to willing to contradict conviction for that. So what is it? Just an ethical failure?

Like Neil, I’m not sure that Bush’s poll numbers would skyrocket if he asked for or offered a sacrifice, not at this point, because it would just be seen as a political maneuver rather than a genuinely altruistic proposal. My husband said earlier today, “The problem is that this administration is incompetent at absolutely everything except politics, at which they are extraordinarily good,” and not only is he right, but I think most people are starting to agree—even those who resolutely support him know that they’re better at politics than anything else; they just don’t care. So with the thought that it would likely be regarded as a wholly empty gesture, I doubt it would garner much enthusiasm.

That said, I’m not sure that’s not the main reason he’s not doing it. I think the main reason is that which has informed his aversion to sacrifice all along—it’s a sign of weakness. Part of the flag-waving, USA!-chanting, nationalistic jingoism that’s been a staple of Bush’s presidency is the belief that the United States is invulnerable. That’s why “remembering 9/11” isn’t for Bush and his supporters about exploring the policies that lead to our being a target, but instead about everything we’ve done since to fortify the American fortress. That much of it is smoke and mirrors is inconsequential when they can point to our not having been hit again as proof of Bush’s success in securing the country.

They’re not interested in sacrifice, but bravado. The indestructible American economy can handle tax cuts at a time of war. American security is so failsafe that we can handle sending our National Guard to foreign soil. We don’t need no stinkin’ international aid after a national crisis. It’s all untrue, of course, but Bush & Co. have determined (quite rightly, much to our collective chagrin) that “projecting strength” is all that’s necessary to keep their minions clinging to the veneer of infallibility that grants them carte blanche to rule like asinine bullies.

When you read through the Freeper responses to the disaster in New Orleans, it isn’t hard to figure why Bush doesn’t ask for a sacrifice. The comments are laden with expressions of disgust at the thought of donating to help out—why should I have to help out people who were too stupid to leave? They deny the fundamental vulnerabilities of the people who were trapped and combat any creeping remnants of a social conscience with contempt for the concept of societal responsibility. Bush isn’t about to show weakness now by offering to make or asking for a sacrifice. The only true believers he’s got left are the ones who mistake pigheaded callousness for strength.

September 5, 2005 | Permalink


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And get ready for the urban legend stories concerning the evacuees: they'll make a handful of miscreants charged with a crime symbolic of thousands.

Posted by: Chris R | Sep 5, 2005 5:11:59 PM

Like Neil, I’m not sure that Bush’s poll numbers would skyrocket...

Never, never underestimate the willingness of the Americanm People to believe. The Conservative base and much of the Soft Chewy Center™ would eat it up. We here in Blogdonia would be left scratching our heads in wonder. Again.

Posted by: Doozer | Sep 5, 2005 6:10:12 PM

I don't know about that. I live in a very red area, and people are really angry at the moment. They've certainly never been so angry to the point of not being able to defend him before. And they're attaching this failure to his having national guard troops in Iraq, making their displeasure with that endeavor all the greater. As I've said before, he's so inextricably linked his presidency to that war that as support for the war wanes, so does his.

Of course, if you're right, and they bounce right back into his corner, I wouldn't be totally surprised, either. If there's one thing the American people have in spades, it's the capacity to disappoint.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Sep 5, 2005 9:05:42 PM

Reminds me of an idea I had during the 2004 campaign. It seemed to me that, if BushCo was vulnerable on any point, it was how many people - especially in red states - were out of work. So I figured, since his base consisted in no small measure of employers, he or Rove would tell them they could best contribute to his re-election by hiring people. And of course he'd let them know that they could pink-slip the lot of 'em on November 3rd, after the deal went down.

Needless to say, they never did any such thing. Point being, any policy that gives us suckers an even break, even for a nanosecond, is anathema. So why call for sacrifice, why stir noble emotions, where the people might eventually demand commensurate results? The more efficient and safer plan is just to allocate several tens of billions to New Orleans disaster recovery as administered by Halliburton.

Posted by: squeech | Sep 6, 2005 1:18:01 PM

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