Thursday, September 3, 2009

Deleting the Bush Personality Cult from history

by Glenn Greenwald

National Review's Jay Nordlinger -- and others at that magazine -- are upset that a school is showing a year-old video in which various celebrities spout feel-good platitudes about public service, and -- for a fleeting second -- Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher vow to "be of service to the President."  This sentiment -- a desire to serve the President -- is something conservatives would never adopt, apparently:

When I read about that celebrity video where they say, "I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama," I thought that the people do not deserve to be American citizens, because they have no idea what America or a liberal republic is. . . . Also, it strikes me that "I pledge to be of service to Barack Obama" is the product of a thoroughly secular mind, which is another marker of contemporary America. . . . Did conservatives ever say "I pledge to be of service to Ronald Reagan"? I never heard it -- and the notion is preposterous.

I'm always amazed -- even though I know I shouldn't be -- at people's capacity simply to block out events, literally refuse to acknowledge them, when they are inconsistent with their desire to believe things.  Do Nordlinger and the other National Review political experts really not know about this episode, obviously much more consequential than some admittedly creepy though entirely trivial moment in a celebrity "pledge" video:

According to the [Justice Department] OIG report released today, Angela Williamson, a deputy to Monica Goodling at the [Bush] DOJ, was intimately involved in her bosses' scurrilous hiring practices, attending interviews and often conducting interviews herself.  Here's a sampling of the same questions that Goodling:

After Goodling resigned, Williamson typed from memory the list of questions Goodling asked as a guide for future interviews. Among other questions, the list included the following:

Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative, Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.

[W]hat is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?

Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.

Prior to Goodling herself testifying before the House Judiciary Committee about her screening of prospective DOJ hires to make certain they were sufficiently devoted to serving George Bush, she shared with a Justice Department official this vow:  "All I ever wanted to do was serve this president."  And she didn't have a "secular mind."  Even as Attorney General, Alberto Gonazles actually thought his "client" was the President.  The entire DOJ was structured to ensure that its employees, including prosecutors required to act with apolitical independence, were what they called "loyal Bushies."  Pledging "to be of service to George W. Bush" was the prime mandate of the Justice Department, which is why it was headed for his second term by Bush's most loyal servant.

Beyond the DOJ, huge swaths of the right-wing movement were devoted to an unprecedented veneration of George Bush.  A whole industry on the Right was created to convert him into a warrior-deity, including truly creepy reverence books by National Review writers (see here for various illustrations).  Some on the Right actually speculated that God intervened in our elections because he had hand-picked Bush to be our leader.  Even Bill Kristol admitted that the GOP had turned into little more than a Bush-centered personality cult, telling the New York Times:  "Bush was the movement and the cause."  More than any single, discrete issue, what motivated me to begin writing about political issues was the warped climate of hero worship constructed -- by the Right and the media -- around George Bush as a "War President."

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