The other night, I purposely avoided listening to the President's State of the Union address. It's not that I'm above or disintered in politics; it's just that I've almost found more interest in how people react to this President than in what -- if at all -- he actually bothers saying.
I found my way into a non-political chatroom I frequent -- where people know my name, etc. -- and just hung back a bit and watched as the reactions frothed over. "This guy's such a fucking asshole" was among the more frequent observations, although "He is such a liar" was pretty typical as well. One of the people with whom I am friendly happened to offer up this nugget: "I can't believe he is our president. He is so stupid he is an embarassment, and he's fucking up this country!"
Now, while I happened to vote for the colossal fuck-up -- Bush, not the aforementioned chat-room buddy -- I am far from naive regarding the fact that he's not among the most intellectually-gifted people with whom I'll ever have contact, and I think his second term has been, relatively speaking, a failure thus far. But I had had enough of hearing people letting off steam with anything of substance, so I asked her point-blank if his being a moron made him a bad president.
She told me that he was doing an awful job and that he was a schmuck, and an embarassment, and that she thought part of his ineptitude was due to his stupidity.
I responded by saying that Jimmy Carter was -- and still is -- a very intelligent man who was one of America's worst modern-era Presidents, excepting Gerald Ford. Conversely, I advised her that Ike was a moron but got the job done.
She kept on asking me if I thought "Dubya" was a schmuck, and I kept on agreeing with her. And each time I agreed, I kept asking her "why does that matter?" She didn't get the correlation -- or, rather, the lack thereof -- between intelligence and ability to lead. And I didn't even bother pulling out the big guns -- I didn't mention the fact that Ronald Reagan was barely conscious (no disrespect to Reagan -- I dug the guy big-time) for his second term, and yet the nation was almost on auto-pilot under his leadership.
And no, we're not going to have a pissing contest over how badly Reaganomics sent us head-first into a recession that Reagan's successor, George "Herr" Bush, didn't survive. Read my lips: not another four years.
But I think people, like my emotionally-charged but factually-challenged friend the other night, are so quick to point out the fact that Bush is a putz that they don't acknowledge what it is he's doing right or wrong. There are plenty of wrongs: he's pushing a religiously conservative agenda through the White House and Congress that will take years to tear down; he's anti-abortion and has swapped in two judges (Roberts and Alito) that will likely vote against upholding the protection established in Roe v. Wade; and he's side-stepped the Constitution with the recently-announced freedom of spying and wiretapping without warrants.
However -- all that aside -- while a lot of people also criticize our presence in Iraq, I'm not as quick to assume that US soldiers are there because of oil or because of some personal vendetta against Saddam Hussein. People have asked me if the US -- or any entity -- found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the American intervention there, and the answer, for the most part, is no. There is evidence that WMD existed and was present there; they've found evidence of refinement of nuclear material, they've found information that suggests Iraq had strong interests in manufacturing or researching nuclear capability, and according to satellite imagery obtained by the NSA and (unofficially) by Israel, Saddam’s regime had mobile labs which were mobile in order to avoid the UN watchdogs.
I provided an example to said friend the other night in the chat-room. If I have $5,000 I keep in an envelope on a bookshelf but, one day, remove said money and discreetly divide it up and give it to friends, and then if someone were to come to my apartment and search for it – they wouldn’t find it. They might surmise it had been there at one point by the smell of money in the envelope, but the money itself would be gone. And assuming it was gone, would that then be evidence that the money was never there in the first place? I concluded my point by saying that people are so quick to attack Dubya for being an idiot that they ignore facts, common sense and reality in doing so. Or they suggest he had some vendetta against Saddam for trying to assassinate his father. Or that he just wanted the oil in the Middle East. They rarely bother mentioning that a half-dozen stealth bombers could have more easily killed Saddam Hussein without a full-blown, publicly-announced invasion would have. And they ignore the fact that Hugo Chavez in Venezuela’s sitting on a bounty of oil that would be easier to access and import if he was suddenly to disappear.
Unfortunately, when it comes to “Dubya,” I feel as if I’m in the minority of people who think first and criticize later.
The other night I was asked if I knew how naïve I was. Without skipping a beat, I responded “Yup.”
They say irony can be very ironic. They also say ignorance is bliss.
Suffice to say, they are usually right.