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The Parallel Presidency
September 3, 2002
By Mike Shannon

There are two kinds of liars. There is the larger group that bends, twists, embellishes and otherwise reworks the truth into something that either makes for a better story or helps to cover a dangerously exposed posterior. Then there is the thankfully smaller group; these are the people who takes positions or make statements that are completely contrary to reality. Like this guy I used to work with. When this guy told a fish story it wasn't like when you and I do. He didn't just make the fish bigger or the fight to land it more exciting; he never even went fishing. The problem was he was the boss so in order to maintain a tranquil work environment we all had to stand around as he told these tales of his forays to some parallel universe with a bemused look on our faces. Unfortunately, and with far more grave consequences, that same principle is now on daily display by our parallel President.

Watching Bush and Rumsfeld stand there in hot dusty wind of Texas and look into the cameras and ask -- with a startling decree of sincerity and incredulousness -- how this "churning/frenzy" of speculation regarding Iraq came to be was just such a moment. I imagine it must have taken enormous self control -- if it didn't require such an effort than those present truly are lap dogs -- for the reporters on hand not to laugh (or cry) as their President so blatantly disregarded the truth.

Not that such behavior was not to expected.

Even if, for the purpose of this discussion, you accept the legitimacy of the Bush Presidency it is impossible not to be amazed by the audacity of its underlying mendacity. Mr Bush was unelected in perhaps the most contentious election in American history. Yet from the very earliest days of his administration he has acted as though he had a clear and decisive mandate. Working off an agenda that picked up from where Reagan/Bush had left off eight years earlier as though no time had passed -- and the conditions and world order had remained set in place -- they quickly established as their modus operandi the creation of well woven fictional rationalizations for policies arrived upon as a matter of faith. Rather than have the circumstances dictate the response, these people do what it is they wish and then create a reason to justify it.

The Republican/corporate establishment wants to build a missile defense; brand North Korea -- a nation that had up until that point slowly but surely begun the process of reassimilation with the world community -- as an imminent threat to national security. You want to give a massive tax break to your wealthiest supporters? Justify it by siting a -- grossly inflated mind you -- budget surplus figures. The economy turns south and the surplus disappears? Not a problem, just relabel the tax cut as an economic stimulus.

This reshaping the argument to fit the moment is not unique to the Bush administration but rarely has it been done in such an obvious and oblivious manner. They not only are not ashamed of their disingenuous nature they couldn't care less that you think they should be.

And if they had been prone to even considering rethinking their approach, the carnage of September 11th has proven to be an endless source of cover for all manner of policy initiative. The campaign to link the war on drugs to the financing of global terrorism is an absurd case in point. How smoking homegrown American pot is helping Bin Laden is beyond me.

The danger here, of course, is not that the federal government is spending time or money on issues that are less than pressing or in neglect of some that are. Now they have now moved under the all forgiving umbrella of "national security". And as any reading of history will tell you, no greater sins have ever been committed by this nation than those committed in the name of national security. And now we may very well be doing all over again.

In spite of an ever growing chorus of restraint -- the comparison made by those who are screaming for Hussein's overthrow to the appeasement of Hitler is baseless. Czechoslovakia in particular was pleading for western help as Hitler massed his rhetoric and armor against them. With the exception of Israel, who is perfectly capable of taking care of any threat from Iraq, there is not one nation in Iraq's sphere of influence that believes they are in imminent danger of military action by Hussein -- the Bush administration seems hellbent on making their deluded version of reality into an all too real nightmare.

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