As I read some of the responses, mostly detailing the distinct, provable lying on the part of the Bush administration, something struck me. The fast talking, the quickly shifting story, the fast retreat and reconciliatory tone... I recognized it. And I was ashamed to realize how.
One year, on a visit home from College, I almost killed my step-father, Skip. This was (very shortly) before he finally quit drinking and cleaned up his act, which he has managed to stick to for over 20 years now. That's important to note -- it doesn't excuse his bad behavior, but (in some small way) it bodes well for his redemption, at least in my eyes.
It was a typical pattern -- he and mom would go out drinking, they would eventually come home, and he would want to go out partying some more, they'd have a huge fight, and he'd leave.
No, let's try that again.
He would drag my mom out drinking until she finally talked him into going home, he would often abuse her physically and verbally, abuse my (younger) sisters and myself physically and verbally, and either pass out on the couch or drunk drive around and about the environs of Long Island basically looking for trouble.
I was 19 and sleeping in the basement over one of my school breaks when they came home, and the yelling began. Something inside me... snapped.
It really is like a snapping of a stretched piece of rubber inside your head. At least it was for me. I had HAD it. Completely, utterly, and totally.
Skip once told me that, when confronted with someone bigger than you are, to fight dirty -- in his words "Pick up a brick and bash their fucking head in". Mind you, that was in the context of the fact that I was often beat up and attacked by the assorted neighborhood wastrels.
I don't think he ever thought I would have had the balls to pick up a baseball bat and walk upstairs... and wait.
The yelling kept getting louder, yet even so I wouldn't act until I was sure that it was the right thing for me to do. When my mom cried out, and I leaned out so that I could see what was happening, I saw his fist coming back to hit her again.
Skip came within a second... the smallest split thereof... of having his head bashed in.
I came around that corner faster than I thought possible. I wasn't thinking, I wasn't planning. I wasn't ever going to let that mother-fucker lay a finger on my mother again. I had a clear shot, and he was already tangled with my mother, facing away from me. I had the advantage. I had him.
7 years of constant abuse pushed me forward, screaming mayhem with a beat up wooden club gripped firmly in two hands, pulled back and ready to let fly with all the fury a mother's son could muster.
I HAD him.
And I hesitated.
Again, not consciously thinking, so I can't take credit for any sudden surge of latent conscience. I didn't swing when I so WANTED to hurt this man for making my mommy cry.
The pause was all he needed. He grabbed for the bat.
Cold, naked terror shot through me. somehow we wound up on facing each other, a hand on each end of the bat, now the only thing keeping me from being pummeled. If I wasn't terrified beyond the capacity of logical thought I might have realized that he COULDN'T let go of the bat to hit me with either hand -- I was no longer the weak and under-nourished 12 year old he shoved up into a ceiling with one hand. However, at that moment I might as well have been 12 all over again.
A few seconds of his fury, spittle flying as he swore at me, calling me a "pussy faggot" and a variety of worse epithets, pushing me backwards through the house, and I realized that (at the very least) he wasn't going after mom anymore.
I started talking. Really fast. I honestly can't remember what I said, but I remember that I would shift my story with each angry reaction from Skip, bobbing and weaving with my words where I couldn't with my body.
I wound up at the doorway of my old room at the back of the house (I think I was making for the back door in that room), and my legs went out from under me. I was submitting like a beaten and chastised wolf cub, alternately begging, praising, attacking and misdirecting with my voice. I lied shamelessly. I did whatever I had to.
And somehow... it worked. At the time I didn't realize Skip had ADD, especially since I didn't even know about the syndrome at the time. I think, between the alcohol and the time I bought by my craven uttering, he actually cooled off enough to wonder what the hell he was doing talking to me when he could be out drinking. He literally lost interest and walked away.
Shame and anger. I think that did more to black my memories of whatever I did or said next. I don't even remember getting back to bed. Skip never mentioned the incident to me again.
At the time I hated my cowardice, hated myself, for not being able to go through with it. Countless debates since that night, when people asked the question: "Could you kill someone to save your life? Someone else's? Your Child?" I argued that yes, there was a point where I could, all the while a voice screamed "LIAR!!" at the top of its lungs in my head. I rationalized the lie as irrelevant to a hypothetical philosophical discussion, and told the livid 12 year old to shut the fuck up, already.
Eventually, I made peace with that incident. I now know that I didn't have to kill him to stop the situation, and that if my words were weapon enough to defuse something that could have dramatically altered my life, and the lives of so many other people, for the worse, then there was no need for shame.
Yet watching those debates about Bush and his latest behavior it struck me. I knew, with as much certainty I anyone outside that man's head could, what he was doing.
That night, almost a quarter century ago, I was playing President G. W. Bush to Skip's american public.
Keep talking. Keep changing the focus. Buy time. Delay, obstruct. Attack, retreat, apologize, attack, explain, re-define... Razzle dazzle them so that they can't parse enough to realize that you're spouting pure bullshit.
I remember how stunned I was when I realized Mom and Skip BOTH had ADD, and what it meant in terms of my life and memories. This shock, that I comprehend something about the nature of W, however obliquely, makes me physically ill.
W is terrified. He KNOWS he's not up for the job of POTUSA, and the carefully constructed support team designed to shore up these failings is beginning to collapse and malfunction around him.
Much like Nixon before him, W is descending into a pit of fear that he can only escape if he feels that he CAN'T make a mistake, by definition. That would require the kind of ultimate extra-constitutional authority he's claiming now.
His latest lie about Congress "authorizing" this power to him is based on the flimsiest of reasoning, one with several major flaws: Even if congress had explicitly given him that power, there is precedent that the ceding of constitutional authority is, in itself, unconstitutional. Remember Line Item Vetos? Overturned by the supreme court for just that reason.
He isn't even doing a good job of lying any more. I see a president running scared whilst making a good show of strength, and my shame is that I see myself.