Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reading: Pierce on "absolution without confession or penance"

Charles Pierce writes in Esquire this month, offering himself as proof that one person's cynic is another person's clear-eyed realist. Here, he says, is the real challenge facing a Democratic president in 2009:

Someone will have to measure the wreckage. Someone will have to walk through the ruins. Someone will have to count the cost.

More than anything else, the presidential election ongoing is -- or, as a right, ought to be -- about ending an era of complicity. There is no point anymore in blaming George Bush or the men he hired or the party he represented or the conservative movement that energized that party for what has happened to this country in the past seven years. They were all merely the vehicles through whom the fear and the lassitude and the neglect and the dry rot that had been afflicting the democratic structures for decades came to a dramatic and disastrous crescendo. The Bill of Rights had been rendered a nullity by degrees long before a passel of apparatchik hired lawyers found in its text enough gray space to allow a fecklessly incompetent president to command that torture be carried out in the country’s name. The war powers of the Congress had been deeded wholesale to the executive long before Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz and a passel of think-tank cowboys found within them the right of a fecklessly incompetent president to make war unilaterally on anyone, anywhere, forever. The war in Iraq is the powerful bastard child of the Iran-Contra scandal, which went unpunished.

The ownership of the people over their politics -- and, therefore, over their government -- had been placed in quitclaim long before the towers fell, and the president told the people to be just afraid enough to let him take them to war and just afraid enough to reelect him, but not to be so afraid that they stayed out of the malls.

He's been here before; last winter, near the height of Obama's reliance on the "end the politics of division" theme, which I found as poorly conceived as did Brother Pierce, he wrote:

If we're ever going to get past the depredations of the Bush Administration -- many of which, I guarantee you, are still deeply secret -- it is an insufficient remedy to declare that the "politics of division" are now over and we will now reunite under a banner and move forward together. […]

The next president's most critical function in the early days is not to make us all feel good about our country again. It is to be the head of an informal national Truth Commission.

Pierce's latest piece is going onto the Readings list in the sidebar.

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