by Thomas Knapp
Politicians say the darnedest things.
On a daily basis they regale us with fairy tales like “the best way to prevent a humanitarian crisis is to bomb that country’s already starving and demoralized populace back to the Stone Age,” or “the best way to get the economy going is for me to steal half your money, blow a huge chunk of it on bureaucratic ‘administration’ costs, and hand the rest over to my campaign donors.”
At some point, with any given politician, we find ourselves entertaining an important question: Does this guy really believe the nonsense he’s talking, or is he just trying to distract us while he fumbles for our wallets?
Frankly, I believe we’re better off dealing with plain vanilla criminals — confidence men out to maximize their take of graft and loot — than with death cultists who really believe their own guff.
Think about it.
Remember Bill Clinton? Nobody ever mistook that guy for a wild-eyed prophet type, wandering around in the desert communing with nature and receiving messages from God. It was obvious that he was all about the rake-off: Work the DC rope line for a few years, collect IOUs from the right lobbyists, and cash out with enough to travel the world, gorge on barbecue, and give his daughter a nice wedding in Rhinebeck (“Hamptons North”). He wasn’t harmless, but at least he could be bought off and would eventually go away.
With George W. Bush on the other hand, it was hard to be sure. There he sat, gobbling pretzels and guzzling bourbon with one hand, the other hand thumping idly on the nuclear “football,” musing that Jesus had probably made him President at that very moment because the War on Terra was too important to leave to anyone else. And who could help thinking that maybe he really believed he was telling it like it was?
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a crook over a crazy six days a week and twice on Sunday. Crooks usually maintain some sense of proportion between cost (to them, not you) and benefit (for them, not you). Crazies just do whatever the voices in their head tell them to do.
So … which kind of politician is US President Barack Obama? Medicine show pitchman or barmy, bananas, batty?
My guess, based on the available evidence and actual results, is that we’ve lucked out. Yes, he chants a smooth “bleeding heart progressive” mantra, but at the end of the day his administration has pretty much just expansively riffed on the usual racket: Put a bunch of lobbyists in charge of the treasury, let them dole out the loot to their connections in “private enterprise,” and await the kickbacks coming in four to eight years.
A real cultist doesn’t make dissemble about what he’s doing. When Pol Pot talks about wiping out the bourgeoisie, we get pyramids of skulls. When Bill Clinton talks about wiping out al Qaeda, we get a defunct aspirin factory and a stained blue dress.
Greg Stillson, the antagonist in Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, wouldn’t try to pass off war on Libya as a mere “kinetic military action” (read: “Excuse to keep the JDAM line running at Boeing so I don’t lose out on that future directorship”), hardly worth Congress’s notice. He’d just announce a crusade and get on with it.
Still, you have to wonder sometimes. Obama’s program for completing the transformation of the US into a third world economy and political banana republic does seem a bit … well, aggressive. If it’s just a caper, it makes the Great Brinks Robbery look like a workaday liquor store holdup.
The solution to either problem, of course, is the same: Quit centralizing power in places that are vulnerable to crooks or crazies. Places like monopoly political government, where a concentration of criminal money or cockamamie charisma can be leveraged to maximum effect, at our expense.
Like the poor, the crooks and the crazies will always be with us. That doesn’t mean we have to put them in charge of our lives.