Apparently I have been taken in.
Apparently not only I, but dozens of news agencies were taken in. Laura Bush is now saying it wasn't his after all. ("Well, of course, he didn't really write the poem. But a lot of people really believed that he did.")
In my previous post, I took umbrage at this assault on literacy and demanded an apology from Bush voters. As such, I owe any of said people who may be reading my journal an apology of my own. I made a demand based on what in hindsight appears to have been completely mistaken.
Mmmm, tasty crow.
However, I won't retract my apology request. There's plenty of reasons our current leader deserves one. They're just not so speedily explainable any more.
... All that aside, what really gets me about the whole thing is the calculated deception of it.
Of course, it wasn't a lie. Mrs. Bush very carefully never said it was George's in the first place:
President Bush is a great leader and husband —- but I bet you didn't know, he is also quite the poet. Upon returning home last night from my long trip, I found a lovely poem waiting for me.
There are probably several useful lessons to be learned from this, but I can't get one particular thought unstuck from my mind: What a perfect analogue to the run-up to the War in Iraq.
Anyone remember the 16 Words? "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"? The "we don't want the smoking gun to come in the form of a mushroom cloud"? The yellowcake? All of it? Any of it? None of it has been shown yet to be as obviously and blatantly a lie as "the moon is green" -- but it sure left a lot of people believing he was sitting on a stockpile of thousands of tons of liquid death.
A lot of partisans have claimed "But Bush didn't lie." (Then they change the subject. Anyway --) Depending on how you parse "lie", this may or may not be technically true. But our metric is not and should not be technical truth. Our metric -- especially when our leaders are concerned -- should be trust. If a presidential statement implies Saddam is sitting atop three fully assembled nuclear warheads, we should be able to take him at his word and be confident we're not getting played. Likewise -- but far less substantially -- if Laura Bush says "George Bush is quite the poet," and proceeds to read a sappy and excruciating love poem in which the author calls her xir "lump in the bed" (a phrase Bush himself has in fact used for her, at least as far as news reports can be believed any more) ... we should be able to trust that implication.
Of course, this just honestly doesn't matter. Nobody died because of the poem. (Except a few million of my brain cells, but I'll be generous and exclude those.) Taking a principled stand on this is just silly. So I'm not going to try. (Aw, heck, let's stop for a moment of admiration: You go, Laura Bush. Way to swindle the nation!)
But it certainly treads too close for comfort to an administration that has been the most insular, the most nakedly partisan, and the most smugly hair-splitting I've seen in my existence here -- yes, beating even Bill Clinton, who doesn't score any honesty points with me either.
And right now I'm just left with a raw, dead feeling, a sense of being used, and not even being used for any comprehensible reason other than the pleasure of the control; a feeling which stares into a corner and mumbles to itself over and over again:
WTF? Does the Oval Office emit mind-control rays that turn people into pathological liars?