Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gut Check

All your life you live so close to truth it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye. And when something nudges it into outline, it's like being ambushed by a grotesque.
-Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead
Cult of Deception
Published: June 1, 2008

Maureen Dowd reflects on the revelations of Scott McClellan’s book What Happened (which should really include a question mark in the title) and comes up with this conclusion:
They say that every president gets the psychoanalyst he deserves. And every Hamlet gets his Rosencrantz.
Either they had a James Coburn marathon on Movies With Maureen® last night or Dowd has been reading Bush On The Couch by Justin Frank. Either way she concludes that McClellan is Rosencrantz to Bush’s Hamlet, a former friend tasked with betraying the hero. Only in the Shakespearean version, the tables get turned and Rosencrantz gets the shaft.

In the nearly equally famous Tom Stoppard play, Rozencrantz (and mirror image Guildenstern) stumble around cluelessly never quite realizing the significance of the events around them. Either way, calling McClellan Rosencrantz is not quite a compliment.

Behind alliteration, one of Maureen Dowd’s favorite rhetorical devises is the Dowdversion®, a sentence with a parallel structure but with a twist or a pun in it. At the top of the column she tries three with little success.
So now comes Scott McClellan, once the most loyal of the Texas Bushies, to reveal “What Happened,” as the title of his book promises, to turn W. from a genial, humble, bipartisan good ol’ boy to a delusional, disconnected, arrogant, ideological flop.
The first one isn’t bad with lots and lots of adjectival opposites but no real panache. She moves on (while calling McClellan a bit of a dunce) to this one:
Although his analytical skills are extremely limited, the former White House press secretary — Secret Service code name Matrix — takes a stab at illuminating Junior’s bumpy and improbable boomerang journey from family black sheep and famous screw-up back to family black sheep and famous screw-up.
This one is better because the twist is that there is no twist. Dubya always has been and always will be a moronic loser besmirching the proud patrician Bush line. He aspires to be Jeb but only ends up making Neil look like the honest one.
How did W. start out wanting to restore honor and dignity to the White House and end up scraping all the honor and dignity off the White House?
This is the worst of the bunch with the only difference between the two being changing "restore" to "scraping". These three rhetorical retorts are not her best work and you can almost see the scratch-out lines as she keeps trying to come up with one worthy of her reputation.

Instead she goes with her gut and appropriates a recent best seller that insists that first instincts are best and that second guessing is counterproductive.
It turns out that our president is a one-man refutation of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller “Blink,” about the value of trusting your gut.

Every gut instinct he had was wildly off the mark and hideously damaging to all concerned.

It seems that if you trust your gut without ever feeding your gut any facts or news or contrary opinions, if you keep your gut on a steady diet of grandiosity, ignorance, sycophants, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, those snap decisions can be ruinous.
She ties the metaphorical meaning of gut with the word diet to mention PBJ sandwiches, Dubya’s favorite food. By doing so, she infantilizes Bush and makes him seem like a petulant school kid, which many other kiss-and-tell tomes have done as well.

The faint praise that Dowd throws McClellan’s way is that he finally did the right thing for the most petty of reasons.
We already know What Happened, but it feels good to hear Scott say it. His conscience was spurred by hurt feelings.

In Washington, it is rarely the geopolitical or human consequences that cause people to turn on leaders behaving immorally. The town is far more narcissistic and practical than that.
Dowd then compares him to Colin Powell and George Tenant, two other insiders turned pariah for the crime of leaving the administration inner circle. She claims that they didn’t jump off the Bush bandwagon out of any ideological or philosophical awakening, but because they caught on that they were being manipulated and used. McClellan’s camel straw was that Bush knew that Scooter Libby had dissembled about Victoria Plame and didn’t care.
And that was even before “the breaking point,” when he learned the worst about his idol — that the president who had denounced leaks about his warrantless surveillance program, who had promised to fire anyone leaking classified information about Plame, was himself the one who authorized Dick Cheney to let Scooter leak part of the top-secret National Intelligence Estimate.

“Yeah, I did,” Mr. Bush told his sap of a press secretary on Air Force One. His tone, the stunned McClellan said, was “as if discussing something no more important than a baseball score.”
Clearly, Dowd doesn't think highly of McClellan's skills. And the last Dowdversion® of the day is the most damning:
[Bush] was always wrong, but always very clear.
And that is clearly how Scottie the Press Secretary got duped for so long. He never quite knew what was so wrong about what he did. And he clearly never realized in his gut that he was being used and discarded like a bit player who thinks that the world has grown honest.

1 comment:

Grace Nearing said...

He aspires to be Jeb but only ends up making Neil look like the honest one.

Mo MoDo, that one's a classic!

And the thing about Junior's bumpy and improbable boomerang journey from family black sheep and famous screw-up back to family black sheep and famous screw-up is that he could not have traveled alone.