I never really understood Hunter S. Thompson's visceral loathing of Richard M. Nixon, but I'm getting closer.
Seven years of watching George Bush neuter government agencies, loot the treasury and edit the Constitution will do that. It wasn't so at first: he seemed like an affable front man for Business, as usual. Someone who could become best buddies with a former opponent, like his father and Bill Clinton. Maybe it was the affected Texas drawl, or that I really did want to think he was just another Good Ol' Boy.
Now I watch his eyes. In unguarded moments the 'aw shucks' wide-eyed innocence disappears and you see the mean Machiavellian squint of Dick Cheney. I've come to believe he regains his composure by imagining his tormenter in Gitmo.
'You don't support the troops if you're against the war', he wheedles, 'embedding' brave men and women in our consciousness so we ignore the privatized bounty he's bestowed on favored corporations. Where's Dwight Eisenhower when we need him?
Or Teddy Roosevelt, for that matter. Environmental agencies have been filled with eunuchs who roll over and present their empty sacks when his underlings start editing scientific publications. Their staffs have been gutted, their rules watered down.
There is so much incompetence in so many agencies it must be intentional. That's one way to fight big government: starve it and sell off what's left.
We had a chance to show how a great nation deals with its enemies in 2001. The world was behind us. They, and the U.S., got George Bush instead, shrilling sound bites and campaign slogans from the back of his hobby horse.
Now we've got our Homeland Security superagency. It can't deal with hurricanes, but by golly it can require that every state look out for Improvised Explosive Devices. Why shouldn't the government monitor calls and confiscate laptops? It's a small price to pay: there hasn't been another 911. Absolutely right. The U.S. Postal Service should be opening all of our mail to prevent another anthrax attack.
How do you disprove a negative? More specifically, exactly which of our preventive measures would have saved the World Trade Center and 3,000 lives? The buildings had already been attacked, and by Islamic radicals. I wouldn't call it a failure of intelligence, but a failure to be intelligent.