Bush and the American Right Wing: Top Ten Ways they are Like the Children of an Alcoholic

It is a well-known syndrome in alcoholic and/or abusive families that the child runs to the abusive parent, and makes excuses for him or her. In fact there are a whole set of syndromes afflicting the poor adults who lived through that horror as children.

The fawning interviews attending the opening of the George W. Bush presidential library, for the least bookish of all our presidents, struck me as having a lot of resemblance to those syndromes. America has a problem holding its high elected officials to account. A republic as the founding generation envisaged it is a collective of equals. We have no king, no one who is above the law. Some of us serve the public through elective office for a while. If we do it honorably we get thanks. If we do it dishonorably, we should be tried for our crimes or at the very least suffer opprobrium in polite society. The emergence of the imperial presidency in the twentieth century and until now is an affront to those republican values, a descent into empire and monarchy and lack of accountability. For ex-presidents everything is forgiven over time. We named the airport in our national capital for a man who sold weapons stolen from Pentagon warehouses to Ayatollah Khomeini at at time the latter was on a terror watch list, and used the black money thus gained to support right wing death squads in Central America. We let a war criminal pronounce himself comfortable with his crimes against humanity.

1. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. They have to constantly make excuses for the criminal behavior of their ex-president. For instance, it is often alleged that all international intelligence agencies agreed with the Bush administration that Iraq had ‘weapons mass destruction.’ But the French did not, and the Germans had serious questions. It is not true, just a lie that we are forced to tell in order to protect an war-addicted president. Likewise, they often maintain that WMD actually was found in Iraq (wrong) or that it was moved to Syria (not true) or that Saddam Hussein was tied to al-Qaeda (false). Or they may downplay the number of Iraqis killed as a result of the illegal US invasion. Or they may say that waterboarding and stress positions are not torture and that ‘the US does not torture.’

2. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents are super responsible or super irresponsible.

Some supporters of a criminal ex-president become controlling and need everything to be in order all the time, suffering from anxiety and perfectionism. They have a compulsion to bust unions to prevent strikes, and to send troops to places like Iran and Syria, to put them in order, or to insist on enormous military budgets several times larger than any other country in the world.

Others become highly irresponsible party animals, insisting that the rich be exempted from taxes, opposing all gun control, arguing for further deregulation of banks, spoiling the environment, abusing minorities, and becoming addicted to Fox Cable News.

3. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents are supremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

They are used to dealing with a habitual offender. They take care of him, and are told ‘it wasn’t his fault’ or ‘he didn’t really mean it.’ They have such lowered expectations for their politicians that they will vote for the Tea Party or Michelle Bachmann. They often end up in an unhealthy relationship with another abusive politician.

4. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents have difficulty completing political projects. They were used to being interrupted constantly by the abuser during his administration. They might have been balancing the budget in 1999 but when the abuser showed up they’d have to cut taxes so deeply on the rich and devote so many trillions to foreign military adventures that they’d just forget about the health of the budget. Afterward, they might take up gun registration reform but then just abandon it in the middle. Since they weren’t accustomed to successful follow-through, they became chronically flaky.

5. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents have difficulty with intimate political relationships. Since their previous president constantly lied to them in order to trick them into supporting illegal wars, they develop a deep distrust of others. Having learned that politicians are not trustworthy, they think a subsequent president wasn’t really born in America, or that universal health care involves death panels, or that scientists are lying about global warming or that the United Nations is not really a collective seeking world peace but a sinister conspiracy with Blackhawk helicopters positioned in Montana.

6. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents have to guess at what normal behavior is. Having been lied to, sent to war under false pretexts, and told that regulating banks or polluting industries is wrong, they do not have any idea what normal political life is like. They occasionally get glimpses of it on MSNBC on television, or when they visit their friends (if they have any) who vote for the Democratic Party, or just by guessing at what normal politics might be like.

7. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents have difficulty having fun. Having been constantly traumatized by being told they are in a war on terror, a war on drugs, and several actual wars, adult followers of abusive ex-presidents don’t know how to enjoy life. They don’t know how to look forward to the prospect that by 2015 the US will not be at war for the first time in 14 years. They cannot enjoy video games, which they blame for gun violence, or television, which they see as immoral and basically gay, or Comedy Central shows like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, which they see as part of a liberal conspiracy.

8. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents take themselves very seriously. Because they were told that other people hate their values and they are the indispensable nation that must intervene everywhere in the world, they cannot ever lighten up. They are holding up the world, which if left to the effeminate Europeans, dictatorial Chinese or violent Muslims, would go to hell in a hand basket.

9. Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents overreact to changes over which they have no control. They obsess 24/7 over any act of terrorism not committed by white supremacists. They grew up with an unpredictable president who might invade a new country any time, producing anxiety.

10. Adult constituents of abusive ex-president are impulsive. They tend to commit themselves to a course of action without giving serious consideration to other possibilities or to what might happen if they act this way. They’ll suddenly start maintaining that raped women cannot get pregnant or that the 17,000 women a year who become pregnant as a result of rape don’t exist or don’t matter. They cannot imagine that this stance might cause them to lose political elections. Then they beat themselves up for being the party of stupid or they say “we’ve had enough Bushes’ because of their self-loathing.

18 Responses

  1. Early on into Bush43’s first term, there were many several articles that dealt with his on-going alcoholism. While not in an active state, he exhibited learned behaviours, very much pronounced and evident. The articles were written by persons with an appropriate background in the studies of human weaknesses, substance abuse among them.
    The so-called “right wing” became the party (!) of B43’s codependents long before he even became the purported governor of Texas (the Texas governor being of a different, lesser level of power than other states’ chief executives, essentially in the hands of caretakers*). Once he became a political player, the party and family cronies rallied and closed ranks. Now that he’s an “ex,” there are enough of his minders left to suggest that his behaviours (reinforced by their continuing support) were and are justifiably valid.
    I had to chuckle when seeing Bill Jeff Blythe IV Clinton there … and what he probably had to say to those who still cling to his own redeemed self. And, and even broader grin came to my face when reading that Mrs B41 stated that there had been enough Bushes in the White House (sorry, John Ellis).
    It’s a motley crew that shows up for these affairs, given that B41 was in on the moves to keep Jimmy from getting a second term and Bill Jeff returned the favour by limiting B41 to a single term. And then there was Barry. But: they all belong to a very exclusive club, limited to only 44 people in the whole history of the United States, and only – what? – five of them still able to move (mostly) under their own power.
    Nevertheless, we can now look at B43 in context of a building instead of a person. Jon Stewart made some telling comments about the event and what it represents.** Yet, the whole eight years has been reduced to a solid, immovable structure that has been designed and constructed to reflect a particular mindset (in the sense of dense concrete). This is similar to the stretch of highway somewhere in Dallas named after B43, the George Bush Center for Intelligence, and, not least interesting, the J. Edgar Hoover Building with its ‘Brutalist’ style.~ It will be up to the political archaeologists to make sense of the historical value of what has been done – again – for B43 and others, whether or not their edifices will go the way of the JEHB and fall into decay and be eventually abandoned. What has yet to be revealed is whether or not George “the Artist” has donated any of the results of his occupational therapy to the facility, making it perhaps somewhat more human and living, although remaining without maturity.^
    A question does arise, though: “Who would go to SMU for a visit?” This is in view of the choice of this private institution and ignoring B43’s alma maters, Yale and Harvard. Would it have to do with the school’s ‘colours,’ Harvard Crimson, Yale Blue?^^ Was that as close as he was allowed to come?

    * link to mindwanderingsinsanantonio.blogspot.com
    ** Mediaite linque link to bit.ly
    ^ link to georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu
    ^^ link to en.wikipedia.org
    ~ link to en.wikipedia.org
    link to en.wikipedia.org

  2. While rolling on the floor laughing, I have to say, thank you, thank you once again, Juan Cole.

    Now I happen to know that you were in a sunny West Coast city today, attending a (presumably very nice) conference of historians, giving the same very informative talk on Minorities in the Arab Spring twice, once to the conference and once again to us in the public (and being incredibly generous and gracious in answering our questions after the talk).

    How the heck did you also find the time to write this hilarious, yet oh-so-truthful piece? If someone were to pitch me a good yarn on your superhuman powers, I could go there. Thank you again for everything you have done, as a reader for the last eleven years.

  3. Excellent!

    They don’t know how to look forward to the prospect that by 2015 the US will not be at war for the first time in 14 years”

    I just only disagree with it, American empire cannot live without war.

  4. All of yesterday’s fawning over George W. Bush, who led the worst and most destructive presidency in American history, made me want to wretch. Did the parade of non-entities on CNN live on another planet between 2001 and 2009? As Charles Pierce wrote at his Esquire blog, “the Creation Museum is more honest in its crackpot interpretation of history than another manure locker that happens to be opening today. And the courtier media is preparing once again to disgrace itself in the kind of epic fashion it has not displayed since rolling over” for igniting a war that lasted eight years, took nearly 200,000 lives, cost more than $2-trillion and caused untold economic and emotional devastation for the Iraqi people.

    At the library opening, Bush actually had the gall to claim, “We liberated nations from dictatorship.”

    The idiot still believes his own nonsense. Why is he opening a “library” instead of languishing in a cell at The Hague or Ft. Leavenworth?

  5. One does not have to be a conspiracy theorist to doubt whether “the United Nations (is) a collective seeking world peace”. Is such a claim justified by its membership? Certainly the pretense is quite convenient for what is, in plainspeak, a club of dictators.

    • Oddly, there are quite a lot fewer dictators in the world today than during the Cold War. Between the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the collapse of the US-backed juntas of Latin America, things have gotten shaky for dictators everywhere. Now there are plenty of authoritarian leaders whose elections are fishy. But even Africa no longer has the flamboyant tyrants of the recent past like Mobutu or Charles Taylor who butchered at will. Consider also the fall of Ferdinand Marcos, Suharto, the old juntas of South Korea, Turkey, and Thailand. Finally the ongoing struggle in the Arab world.

      The problem is, regardless of whom the rulers are or how they got there, few of them seem to obey American orders anymore, and we Americans seem only to recognize human rights violations by those who don’t follow orders. Both the peace problem and the human rights problem increasingly involve the wealthy and powerful countries, not least the United States of America.

  6. You are right on all counts about the Republicans, but too generous to Democrats.

    What’s wrong with people who allow their president and representatives in Congress to not only agree with the party they voted against, not just in final compromises, but in starting negotiations and appointments to cabinet positions?

    When a president’s education, health care reform, foreign, trade, and Social Security policies come straight from the right wing Heritage Foundation, and only differs with Republicans on gay rights and slight tax increases for the rich, that’s not enough difference between the two parties to be a democracy.

    We are the children of TWO alcoholic parents: one an angry drunk who rules through fear and says only he can protect us from the scary brown people, and the quiet drunk who tells us all the nice things he’d like to do for us, but leaves the cupboard nearly as bare as the other drunk.

    After a while, you get hungry enough for the small difference not to matter.

    • You’re assuming that the Heritage Foundation actually took those past positions sincerely, as opposed to carrying out a long-term scheme to keep moving further Right as they succeeded in indoctrinating the public, including Democrats, to stomach reactionary barbarism. You can’t imagine how much worse the Right Wing is intending to get, unless you read the words of their idea guys, or the extremist rags where they communicate honestly with their fellow fanatics until they get into elected office in turn.

      Put it this way; one sign of far-right magazines, like militia-tinted gun mags, is the phrase “America is a republic, not a democracy.” Understand the Constitutional implications of that, and you know how far back into the past we are to be led.

  7. And Adult constituents of abusive ex-presidents don’t trust anyone but they will believe anything. Hence the distrust of our relatively right wing media (the liberal media) and the belief in Rush, the Bible as science, the Bengazi, Newtown and Boston plotitudes.

  8. There was a study conducted (a couple of years back), published in the Economist that examined the rationale and “why” behind support of this type of revisionism/forgiveness. It concluded that those who have been beaten down, abused in their early childhood, who were never loved, grow up wanting to crush another vulnerable group, supressing their own internal hell for which they escaped.

    Chris Hedges goes further to say: “The steady rise of ethnic nationalism over the past decade, the replacing of history with mendacious and sanitized versions of lost glory, is part of the moral decay that infects a dying culture. It is a frightening attempt, by those who are desperate and trapped, to escape through invented history their despair, impoverishment and hopelessness.”

    “Many of the tens of millions within the Christian right live on the edge of poverty. The Bible, interpreted for them by pastors whose connection with God means they cannot be questioned, is their handbook for daily life. The rigidity and simplicity of their belief are potent weapons in the fight against their own demons and the struggle to keep their lives on track. The reality-based world, one where Satan, miracles, destiny, angels and magic did not exist, battered them like driftwood. It took their jobs and destroyed their future. It rotted their communities. It flooded their lives with alcohol, drugs, physical violence, deprivation and despair. And then they discovered that God has a plan for them. God will save them. God intervenes in their lives to promote and protect them. The emotional distance they have traveled from the real world to the world of Christian fantasy is immense. And the rational, secular forces, those that speak in the language of fact and evidence, are hated and ultimately feared, for they seek to pull believers back into “the culture of death” that nearly destroyed them.”

    from “The Christian Fascists Are Growing Stronger”

    • I’ve read a provocative book, “Broken Words”, by Jonathan Dudley, about the war against science in the Christian Right. It argues that abortion was strictly a Catholic issue until the 1970s, with Evangelicals disagreeing but mostly disinterested in when life begins. But then right-wing provocateur Francis Schaeffer created films alleging that abortion was part of a sinister eugenics agenda from secular humanists that must inevitably lead to the extermination of inferior, backward Americans. Then he toured the redneck zones with this film and got an overwhelming response that completely shocked Evangelical Right leaders – who quickly fell into line. The question is, did the potency of this ridiculous smear come from a subconscious fear among the very folks infamous for their own racism that by objective standards they really were inferior to their enemies, and thus they had to fight back, literally with irrationalism, to avoid being consigned to the ashheap of history?

  9. A few things I’d like to add to this excellent essay. As a former CIA officer said on The Young Turks, it was only those at the top of the CIA who were bowing to political pressure that put the CIA on record about the Iraqi intelligence. The analysts all knew it was bullshit and this former analyst said one supervisor said Bush wanted this war so they were going to give it to him. Regarding Reagan, he probably would have been impeached (he certainly deserved it) if we hadn’t gone through the Nixon mess so recently. Also, I find it incredibly ironic that Congress chose the airport in DC to name after Reagan since it was Reagan who fired all the air traffic controllers.

    Regarding supporters/right wingers, I would add that they live in fear and their media outlets foster that fear in order to further their political aims. This fear is maybe the major component of the political control the elite has. Also, the psychological term cognitive dissonance applies so directly and often to their positions. When facts conflict with their beliefs, they just ignore the facts rather than re-evaluate their conclusions. In short, delusion plays a major role in their actions and opinions. Finally, they politicize everything and, at the extremes, spin conspiracies into every little event, convinced that the other side thinks and acts the same way they do. Projection is endemic among right wingers, much more so than among liberals or moderates in my experience.

  10. You ought to cc this to Dr. Justin Frank, who had a lot to say about the psychopathology of Junior.

  11. I read Friday an essay by Montaigne — in which he argues that loyal servants who continue to praise a dead ruler (I’m extending ‘dead’ here to ‘out of office’) who was bad deprive us of an example of exemplary service, owed to the ruler even if he is evil because of his office. And that they continue to praise him only from base motives.
    Exotic ethics of an earlier day …

  12. we allowed the village idiot to bring us along as Accomplices To Mass Murder. Our subconscious is committing suicide as a result.

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