November 2, 2008
Tomgram: The End of a Subprime Administration
[Note for TomDispatch Readers: As Election 2008 approaches, this seems like an appropriate time to look back, but also to say goodbye to all that. Yes, we have almost three months of the Bush administration to go; yes, so much that George W. did will be with us for an eternity. Still, the moment needs to be marked. I’ve done my best below. For new TomDispatch readers, in particular, let me suggest another way to mark this boundary moment: pick up a copy of The World According to TomDispatch: America in a New Age of Empire. It will bring you up to speed on this site, remind you of just what we’ve gone through since September 11, 2001, and offer you a sense of the ways in which our world has been changed that no new administration will be capable of ignoring. Tom]
The George W. Bush Story
By Tom Engelhardt
They may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen — if you’re talking about underwater land in Florida, or the Brooklyn Bridge, or three-card monte, or bizarre visions of Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles armed with chemical and biological weaponry let loose over the U.S., or Saddam Hussein’s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance.
When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, not on the shifting “central theaters” of the Global War on Terror, but on the theater that mattered most to them — the “home front” where they spent inordinate amounts of time selling the American people a bill of goods. Of his timing in ramping up a campaign to invade Iraq in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card infamously explained: “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total. They were always releasing “new product.”
And don’t forget their own set of soaring inside-the-Beltway fantasies. After all, if a salesman is going to sell you some defective product, it always helps if he can sell himself on it first. And on this score, they were world champs.