Political Dislocation

In an article in the New York Review of Books about the transcript of the conversation between President Bush and Spanish Prime Minister Aznar before the Iraq war, Mark Danner writes a comment that I found interesting:

Surely one of the agonizing attributes of our post–September 11 age is the unending need to reaffirm realities that have been proved, and proved again, but just as doggedly denied by those in power, forcing us to live trapped between two narratives of present history, the one gaining life and color and vigor as more facts become known, the other growing ever paler, brittler, more desiccated, barely sustained by the life support of official power.

This really struck a chord with me, because it neatly encapsulates my feeling about what the Bush administration is trying to do. The administration seems to try to make statements true by repeating them. When that eventually fails, they don’t apologize, or admit that they said anything wrong. They simply stop talking about it. Thus we heard again and again that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi agents in Prague, or that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium from Nigeria. And then we didn’t hear anything about those facts, or former facts, at all. George Tenet got the Medal of Freedom even though by any sane standard he failed horribly; anybody can fail, and Tenet didn’t have to be punished, but he certainly didn’t deserve the highest civilian award granted by the U.S. government. What was that all about?

Bill Clinton had a rather casual relationship with the truth, but at least he was eventually able to admit it when he got something wrong. George W. Bush doesn’t seem to have that ability. That is very strange to me, and it leads to that strange sense of dislocation described by Danner’s quote above.

I find it very worrying that Hilary Clinton also seems to find it difficult to admit when she got something wrong. Obviously I’m thinking of her vote for the Iraq war, or as far as I know she hasn’t really admitted that her 1993 health care plan was a complicated debacle even before the health care industry trashed it. Though things can change fast, at the moment Hilary seems to be the person to beat to become our next president. Can we really handle another four or eight years of dislocation? Or will she make more sense when she no longer has to run for office?

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