Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Lay of the Land

Michael Jackson could have avoided all the unpleasantness by becoming a Republican politician. Whether scandals and trials occur in this country has far more to do with who controls the media and the Justice department than anything about the actual behavior of the people involved. Thus Clinton underwent grueling attacks because of old business dealings that proved to be utterly ethical, and Kerry was savaged for his heroic Vietnam record while drug use, desertion, insider trading, lying, torture, and war mongering somehow never counted against Bush because his side controls the machinery of demonization. Politics in these parts is like a game of football played on a hillside where one team permanently defends the heights, though in this case, the desirable terrain is scarcely the moral high ground.

What makes the tilt of playing field especially invidious is the way in which it affects everybody’s judgment and not just the casual observers. Liberals and moderates would very much like to believe that the game is fair even when devotion to fairness impairs objectivity. The strategy of lowered expectations works on all of us so that when something like the Iraqi election occurs, we applaud it for having happened at all even though it is a highly ambiguous development that may have more to do with the initiation of a civil war than the advent of democracy. In a world where everything that can possibly be credited to the maximum leader is hosannahed by a professional choir while everything that is problematic about his administration is excused by legions of well-paid shills, we need to make a general correction for the queered frame of reference of the public arena. Bush’s mistakes and crimes will look even worse, his accomplishments far smaller once the anesthesia wears off.

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