a Hand, Little Fella?
April 22, 2002
At long last the bloom is off the Bush. Our boy's fatal flaw
- his inability to deal with or even recognize the complexity
of a subject, his simplistic need to see everything and everybody
in black and white terms - has come back to bite the little
man, as one of his associates would say, "Big Time".
Bush's stunning lack of depth actually served him well in
the early days after September 11. It may have been a mystery
to many of us but the public seemed to like his frontier sheriff
act and his "I'll get him dead-or-alive" rhetoric (I wonder
ever happened to the guy he was talking about). The Taliban,
of course, were very easy to dislike and made a nice enemy
for the early days of the open-ended ill-defined "War on Terror".
The fact that they headed for the hills at the first sign
of US bombs and surrogate troops made for a quick claim of
victory, soaring polls and virtual immunity from criticism.
Some of us who realized the that the world is not some dim-witted
cowboy movie may have grumbled but the public liked what they
saw and we either kept quiet or were told to shut up.
But even in Afghanistan there were signs that the situation
was a good deal more complex than it was made out to be. The
Bushies were unwilling to risk casualties (and those high
poll ratings) and so they allowed the surrogates to try to
capture the Al Qaeda. The surrogates, not appreciating the
cosmic import of the terror war allowed the bad guys to buy
themselves out of harms way. Ooops, this never happened to
From there it was all downhill. They needed a new bad guy.
Well, how about an old bad guy? Cheney was sent to country
after country to build support for expanding the war to Iraq.
Only there wasn't any support, only ominous warnings that
the Bushies had better look to the Arab-Israeli conflict before
they strike out after any new evildoers.
But in the Middle East the little man is totally out of his
element. It demands subtlety and nuance, characteristics that
Bush doesn't possess or appreciate. He briefly tried his tough
guy approach. He demanded an end to suicide bombings. He was
ignored. He demanded that Ariel Sharon pull his troops out
of the West Bank. Sharon flipped him the bird, several times.
He finally sent the one member of his administration with
an understanding of complexities of the region to mediate.
But Colin Powells mission was compromised from the start and
he ludicrously visited other countries (Spain?) before even
arriving in the Middle East. Powell's mission ended in failure.
Bush was left with a region spiraling out of control and no
Iraq war to fight. I mean it was all just so damn complicated.
And then something worse happened. He got an offer of help.
From Bill Clinton.
Yes, the simplistic little man was offered the assistance
of the man of ultimate complexity, the guy who can parse the
meaning of "is", the man who can engage in a full scale debate
about whether or not he's actually had sex with a woman when
he's had her impaled on a macanudo. Unlike Bush he's steeped
in the subtleties of international politics. And let's face
it; the guy has more diplomatic skill with an interns head
in his lap than Bush could garner from ten years of grad school.
Clinton made the offer in an AP interview this week in Little
Rock and said that his contribution would "depend on what
the Bush administration had in mind".
Now, of course, Bill Clinton knows full well that little
George can't take him up on his proposal to help out in the
Arab-Israeli conflict. Bush is politically beholden to the
crackpot wing of the GOP who thinks that Clinton is the anti-Christ
and who continue to believe that he whacked Vince Foster,
Ron Brown and half the population of Arkansas to cover up
his own evildoing. If Bush sent Clinton to mediate the conflict
the vermin farm at Free Republic alone would produce a couple
dozen cases of death through excessive hyperventilation.
So what was the purpose of Clintons offer? Did he want to
kick the Bushies when they were down? Probably. Did he want
to remind the world how close he was to getting a peace agreement
between these two parties just 18 months ago? Of course. Does
he think he could do a much better job than this gang of amateurs?
You better believe he does.
And if Bush had the diplomatic sense of a grapefruit he'd
make that call to Little Rock this week. He'd really have
nothing to lose - if Clinton failed he could blame it on Clinton.
If Clinton succeeded Bush would look like a genius for taking
the unconventional step of utilizing someone his political
But that would require Bush to do a little "out of the box"
thinking. It would require an appreciation of subtlety and
nuance and it would require a much bigger person than the
little man in the White House.