John Holbo writes:
Possible slogan for ‘08: ‘Anybody can make a mistake. To really screw things up requires a Republican.’ Maybe with a cute kitten, wearing a Goldwater button, barely clinging to a clothesline. And I’m talking slogans for the Republicans here. The Republican party is in some danger of becoming the party for those who don’t care about the harms of epic misgovernment. It may be that the Republican party is now the party of those personally more enriched than harmed by epic mismanagement (privileged island in an ever-rising ocean). And the party whose philosophy is, perversely, pseudo-confirmed by every fresh revelation of mismanagement. Did FEMA screw up following Katrina? Then David Brooks wrote a toldja so column about how government can’t solve our problems. And so he did. (What is the Republican incentive to do something right when doing it right means missing an opportunity to dance with the ones what brung you; and when doing it wrong will just produce a laudatory David Brooks column? Talk about perverse incentives.)
This just hammers home my realization of what the Cheney Administration — and yes, damn you this is the first time I’ve indulged in that neologism, and the first time I think it perfectly appropriate — what the Cheney Administration has discovered. They have found the “exploit” within the United States Government. As I watched Congressmen and Senators stumble and fumble and thrash, unable to bring to heel men and women who were plainly lying to them under oath, unable to eject from public office toadies of a boot-licking expertise unseen since Versailles, it struck me. The sheer, simple elegance of it. The “exploit”.
The exploit is shame.
Our representatives — and to a great degree we as a culture — are completely buffaloed by shamelessness. You reveal a man’s corrupt, or lying, or incompetent, and what does he do? He resigns. He attempts to escape attention, often to aid in his escape of legal pursuit. Public shame has up to now been the silver bullet of American political life. But people who are willing to just do the wrong thing and wait you out, to be publicly guilty … dammmnnnn.
which reminded me, somewhat tangentially, of this post at A Tiny Revolution:
But the people who work for the New York Times, ABC, and NBC aren’t nuts, nor is Matt Drudge. Their actions are completely rational. They’re just doing what their bosses want them to do, because they want to keep their jobs.
It’s true they seem nuts if you believe their constant yammering about how their only motivation is the search for Truth and Beauty. Likewise, Saddam seemed nuts if you believed his constant yammering about his only motivation being his luv for Iraq. And Bush seems nuts if you believe he’s motivated by luv for America.
Why is it so difficult for societies to understand this about those in authority? I suspect it’s connected to family dynamics. It’s less scary to believe dad loves you, but is acting crazy, than to accept he’s not crazy but genuinely doesn’t care whether you live or die.
Which reminded me of everything Arthur Silber’s ever written.
And here’s where I end up: I blame Leni Riefenstahl. She was so damned good at her job that the putrefying body of the German republic appeared on film as a terrible bronze god. So now when a democracy goes rotten, we expect to see Triumph of the Will, not cable news.