Tantrums

You really don’t expect the president to throw a tantrum

 

President Bush lashed out at Congress today, the third time he has done so in two weeks, this time saying the House had wasted time on “a constant string of investigations” and the Senate had similarly wasted its efforts by trying to rein in the Iraq war. Its failure to send a single annual appropriations bill to his desk, he said, amounted to “the worst record for a Congress in 20 years.”

 

“Congress is not getting its work done,” the president said in brief remarks from the North Portico of the White House.

 

He really wants Congress to act on defense-funding legislation and on “a compromise” on that State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP – that is, Congress should fund it at its previous level and not add the millions of lower middle class kids who now cannot get insurance, or he’ll veto it.  And to make his point, he stood there between two of his two enforcers – John Boehner of Ohio, the House minority leader, and Roy Blunt of Missouri, the minority whip.  Yep, the whip.

 

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker –

 

The president calls Congressional oversight that has uncovered tens of billions of dollars in waste, fraud and abuse in Iraq a “waste of time.”  We call billions spent in no-bid contracts to Halliburton a waste of money. Instead of criticizing Congress the president’s time would be better spent working in a bipartisan way to end this disastrous war in Iraq, keep our promises to our veterans by providing the largest veterans’ health care investment in history, and providing health care for ten million children.

 

But Republicans have been really irritated by the “nearly continuous investigations” – the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is driving them nuts.  The panel’s Democratic leadership calls it “accountability.”  The president says it’s absurd –

 

We’re near the end of the year, and there really isn’t much to show for it. The House of Representatives has wasted valuable time on a constant stream of investigations, and the Senate has wasted valuable time on an endless series of failed votes to pull our troops out of Iraq.

 

He’s saying no one elected these Democrats to do such things.  Most everyone knows what the last elections were about, the midterms when the Republicans lost both houses of Congress.  No one elected these Democrats to do such things. Yes, they did.  He doesn’t like it much.

 

The president again ranted about the Democrats and that S-CHIP bill, saying the Senate had taken up a second version of the legislation passed by the House “despite knowing it does not have a chance of becoming law.”  And they passed it again.  And he’ll veto it again – he’s not giving in.  And he’s not at all happy with a plan by congressional leaders to combine the Defense Department appropriations bill with bills for domestic departments, but everyone knows things work that way, and when the Republicans ran things they did the same.  “It’s hard to imagine a more cynical political strategy than trying to hold hostage funding for our troops in combat and our wounded warriors in order to extract eleven billion in additional social spending” and so on.  One shrugs.

 

Actually, there is a pretty good response out there, as “Bill in Portland, Maine” has a few things to say

 

Since I help pay your salary, I thought I’d give you my opinion of your little tantrum.

 

It was great!

 

You looked more Nixonian than Nixon. Hooverisher than Hoover. Hardingier than Harding. Ashen, saggy, thoroughly whipped. Prissy, fussy, petulant and pouty. Just like a four-year-old child who’s been told by his parents that, no, you can’t have a Twinkie until you clean your room – which, in your case, is Iraq. The Republican leadership standing behind you with their matching haircuts and power ties looked like they wanted to swat your bottom and drag you kicking and screaming to your bedroom. But enough about their sexual proclivities…

 

The day after 9/11 you were a 90 percent president. Today you’re a 24 percent president. That 66-point swing didn’t just happen. You had to work at it. In fact, I remember you saying “It’s hard work” over 20 times during a debate in ’04. You weren’t kiddin’, pal! Collapses like yours only happen once or twice a century. I bet you occasionally even broke a sweat on your way to the bottom.

 

And now, to keep your hollow shell of an administration functional (if not relevant), you’re going to cut and run, fleeing the field of battle to take cowardly refuge behind petty rhetoric and administrative orders. I’d expect nothing less from a cowardly coward who breaks everything he touches, blames others, and then runs away. Welcome to the Frank Burns administration.

 

Administrative orders?  See this

 

The White House plans to try implementing as much new policy as it can by administrative order while stepping up its confrontational rhetoric with Congress after concluding that President Bush cannot do much business with the Democratic leadership, administration officials said.

 

According to those officials, Bush and his advisers blame Democrats for the holdup of Judge Michael B. Mukasey’s nomination to be attorney general, the failure to pass any of the 12 annual spending bills, and what they see as their refusal to involve the White House in any meaningful negotiations over the stalemated children’s health-care legislation.

 

White House aides say the only way Bush seems to be able to influence the process is by vetoing legislation or by issuing administrative orders, as he has in recent weeks on veterans’ health care, air-traffic congestion, protecting endangered fish and immigration. They say they expect Bush to issue more of such orders in the next several months, even as he speaks out on the need to limit spending and resist any tax increases.

 

No one agrees with you?  Rule by fiat.  What can they do about that, really?  It worked for Juan Peron, after all.

 

But “Bill” is happy –

 

Please – keep on ranting and raving and blaming and whining and stomping your Buster Browns on the pavement. Every time you do it’ll remind America that you’re a flop, a failure, a wimp, a whiner, a cut-and-runner and a thoroughly dislikable person.

 

I’ll write again when your poll numbers are in the teens (it’ll probably be a Christmas card). Love to Laura and the twins.

 

Bill

 

It is a bit absurd.  It would seem that after just a year of dealing with a Democratic Congress – even one as useless as this one – has overwhelmingly upset him.  He’s given up on reaching any accommodation with them at all.  He’s pouting now.

 

From Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post, some perspective

 

In his post-election press conference last November, Bush spoke passionately about working in a bipartisan fashion and challenged skeptics to watch not just his words but his deeds. “There are areas where I believe we can get some important things done,” he said. “And to answer your question, though, how do we convince Americans that we’re able to do it? Do it. That’s how you do it. You get something done. You actually sit down, work together, and I sign legislation that we all agree on. And my pledge today is I’ll work hard to try to see if we can’t get that done.”

 

But in the interim, it’s become clear what Bush means by working together involves Democrats caving in and giving him whatever he asks for.

 

At his October 17 press conference, he pronounced, once again, that “it’s time to put politics aside and seek common ground.” But Sheryl Stolberg of the New York Times followed up: “A year ago, after Republicans lost control of Congress, you said you wanted to find common ground. This morning you gave us a pretty scathing report card on Democrats. . . . I’m wondering how have you assessed yourself in dealing with Democrats this past year? How effective have you been in dealing with them on various issues, and do you think you’ve done a good job in finding common ground?”

 

And he replied that everyone now agrees we should stay in Iraq, as no one had any issue with David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker’s testimony.  And the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Congress temporarily approved, was a good sign – they caved in on everything, and that can be made permanent.

 

You see, you hold your ground and everyone comes around to your way of seeing things, and Thursday, November 1, he ratcheted things up a bit – Bush: No Attorney General If Not Mukasey.  If the Senate won’t confirm the guy he’ll just shut down the Justice Department, or something – and it will be the fault of the Democrats.

 

There is something profoundly wrong here.  The party of the manly men – the strong silent type, who stick their guns and never compromise – may have jumped the shark.  And in relation that it might be instructive to read “d” at Lawyers, Guns and Money with The End of Higher Education

 

I just finished teaching an upper-division US history course in which my students read – and I swear I’m not making this up – Kim Du Toit’s repellant 2003 essay on The Pussification of the Western Male. The class had just finished Gail Bederman’s Manliness and Civilization (1995), a marvelous examination of the cultural transformations of gender between the 1880s and World War I. We used du Toit as a companion piece to the chapters on Teddy Roosevelt and the psychologist G. Stanley Hall – each of whom were, in their own ways, as anxious as du Toit about what they perceived to be the devaluation of masculinity.

 

Well, that’s the issue isn’t it?  Teddy Roosevelt was distressed by the tendency for modern men to “shirk from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil.”  The item mentions the 1899 speech on “The Strenuous Life” – the vigor of “the race” depended upon men being “glad to do [men’s] work, to dare and endure and to labor.”  And as for women, TR merely pointed out that they “must be the housewife, the helpmeet of the homemaker, the wise and fearless mother of many healthy children.”  We’re told that any other arrangement would have risked what sociologist E. A. Ross termed “race suicide.”

 

But somehow that morphed into imperialism –

 

Roosevelt was particularly animated about the imperial demands of his age; he could not look kindly upon those men who feared “the strenuous life, the only national life which is really worth leading.” He commended England for taking hold of its colonies – especially its rule in Egypt and India – and called upon the US to do the same in the Philippines and elsewhere. He did not refer to his opponents as “pussies,” but he came frightfully close.

 

Hall, for his part, was preoccupied not with adult masculinity but rather with the incipient manhood of youth. Believing that developing children rehearsed the cultural evolution of the human race, he insisted that young boys should not be deterred from expressing “the instinct of the savage.”

 

And Hall is quoted –

 

Boys are naturally robbers; they are bandits and fighters by nature. A scientific study has been made of boys’ societies … In every instance these societies have been predatory. All of the members thirsted for blood, and all of their plans were for thievery and murder.

 

And “d” adds this –

 

Allow the young boy to beat the shit out of his companions, Hall suggested, and his mental and physical development will proceed in a smooth and healthy fashion. Divert him from his natural course Hall warned, and you will produce “a milk-sop, a lady-boy, or a sneak.” Such a child “lacks virility, [and] his masculinity does not ring true.” Perhaps he will – as Hall himself did – grow up to be a chronic masturbator, a helpless slave to “the lonely vice.”

 

Or he might grow up to be a Democrat.

 

And then there’s du Toit, ticked off by what he sees on Bravo –

 

Finally, we come to the TV show which to my mind epitomizes everything bad about what we have become: Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Playing on the homo Bravo Channel, this piece of excrement has taken over the popular culture by storm (and so far, the only counter has been the wonderful South Park episode which took it apart for the bullshit it is).

 

I’m sorry, but the premise of the show nauseates me. A bunch of homosexuals trying to “improve” ordinary men into something “better” (i.e. more acceptable to women): changing the guy’s clothes, his home decor, his music – for fuck’s sake, what kind of girly-man would allow these simpering butt-bandits to change his life around?

 

Yes, the men are, by and large, slobs. Big fucking deal. Last time I looked, that’s normal. Men are slobs, and that only changes when women try to civilize them by marriage. That’s the natural order of things.

 

Yeah, but what happened in the classroom?  This –

 

To be brief, my students were howling with laughter over this; they were also moved by his anti-Cheerio rant, about which the less said the better. Several of them simply refused to believe that du Toit had not, in fact, written this as a parody. I assured them of his pathetic sincerity – I even told them about the Worst Blogger Award he’d received a few years back – and they laughed even more.

 

But then there was this –

 

Speaking in April 1899 – just a few months after the Spanish-American war ended – Roosevelt condemned the “pussification” of American men while calling upon them to suppress the Philippine insurrection; over the next few years, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos would die as the country learned what “the strenuous life” was all about. Writing in November 2003 – just a few months after the Iraq War had supposedly ended – du Toit similarly condemned the “pussification” of American men while calling upon them to drive fast, get drunk, and emulate Donald Rumsfeld (who, he insisted at the time, could have laid nearly every woman in the country over the age of 50); over the past few years, thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, in large part so that men like Donald Rumsfeld would not have to wake up in the morning and see a “pussy” staring back at them in the mirror.

 

There seems to be a rule here.  Boys who have become men do not throw tantrums – at some point they gave up the hero stuff, the comic book stuff.  They are no longer deathly afraid they will not really be Superman or GI Joe, and not afraid that if they don’t watch out they’ll turn into some fluttery schoolgirl in the background of a minor scene.  That’s nonsense – kids’ stuff.  They grew up and moved on, into the real world.  There one does not “shirk from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil” – you just come to understand danger, hardship and bitter toil comes in all sorts of forms, and the challenge is seldom physical, requiring that you flex your biceps and threaten to kick some ass, say you’ll take no prisoners, and that you’ve made up your mind so there’s no point in talking.  When a grown man does his “manly hero” act it’s just disheartening.  It’s not even funny.  It seems pathetic.

 

You want some danger, hardship and bitter toil?  Ian Goldenberg offers some here

 

Iraq still does not have a functional central government. Half of the cabinet has quit and the national government has essentially given up on reconciliation. Moreover, the Iraqi government opposes the Administration’s “bottom up” approach in Anbar and has been actively working to undermine it. It is also not clear how the approach in Anbar, where American forces and Sunni tribes agreed to fight foreign extremist elements, translates to the rest of the country. It does not explain how warring Shi’a factions who are fighting a civil war in the South might reconcile or how to overcome the conflict between Kurds and Arabs over Kirkuk. In effect, while the central government is willing to work with the United States and the Sunni tribes are willing to work with the United States, there is no indication that they are willing to work with each other. If these questions are not addressed, the situation in Iraq may deteriorate further and in the long run we may find that the arming, organizing, and training of various Sunni and Shi’a groups will only exacerbate the civil war.

 

You could be manly like John McCain

 

In a small, mirror-paneled room guarded by a Secret Service agent and packed with some of the city’s wealthiest and most influential political donors, Mr. McCain got right to the point.

 

“One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, ‘Stop the bullshit,'” said Mr. McCain, according to Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, an invitee, and two other guests.

 

See?  Danger, hardship and bitter toil all fixed!   Or you could be a girly-man like Matthew Yglesias, here

 

Seems like a problem. Of course, insofar as you create a situation where you have three different factions who all dislike and distrust each other more than they dislike and distrust the United States, then you’ve laid the groundwork for a situation in which a long-term American military presence will be tolerated, if not exactly welcomed. This is one of the paradoxes of our current policy in Iraq. Insofar as the establishment of permanent military facilities in Iraq is one of the goals of the policy, national reconciliation is probably a bad thing since a unified Iraq would be more likely to tell us to get lost.

 

Grown men understand the real dangers, and the bitter toil coming up.  Yes, “the strenuous life” may well be “the only national life which is really worth leading” – but the strain is conceptual, no physical.  Some important things need attention, and posturing is far worse than useless, and hardly even rises to the level of pathetic.

 

This is why the former pro-Bush pro-war Republican, the widely-read John Cole, went to change is voter registration to Independent, and then decided it was time to grow up

 

Long story short, I got up there to register as an independent, said “Fuck it,” and now I am a Democrat. I certainly don’t agree with all their positions, but they are not bat-shit crazy like the GOP. That has to count for something. Additionally, I no longer have to read posts by the 24% crowd calling me a “true conservative” with quotes o’sarcasm (you know who they are). Not any more, bitches. I repudiate you, your party, and whatever the fuck it is you are currently pretending is “conservatism.” It isn’t.

 

Now send me my check from Soros and the 40 virgins.

 

Enough is enough.

 

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
This entry was posted in Cultural Notes, Iraq, Political Posturing, Political Theory, Power Struggles, Reality and all that.... Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tantrums

  1. etbnc says:

    When I look at the culture around me, I am saddened by the scarcity of healthy, mature, adult behaviors.

    I do think there are more grownups out there than it looks. I suspect many are embarrassed by their realization that they’ve allowed first-graders to drive the school bus, and they haven’t yet figured out how to re-assert themselves with grace and dignity.

    Meanwhile, the bus careens toward the cliff that all those signs have been warning us about…

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