When did it all go bad, this world, this time, this country? Probably what we now recognize as our immediate problems took hold a quarter-century ago, in the middle of the Reagan years.
We stumbled along after World War Two behind mediocre leaders — which is to say, the dominant class, including all branches of government, large corporations, and major money interests. It wasn’t good, but for forty years it wasn’t all that bad either. It went like this.
- Eisenhower was a better man than he is generally pictured, but he wore out before he finished.
- John Kennedy’s charm went a long way — think Sarah Palin, only with balls and brains — but his brother Robert would have made a better President.
- Johnson was the prototype, alas, for Obama: a Democrat who comes in with good will, and dumps it trying to finesse the GOP rather than to lead the country. He could have eased out of Viet Nam, but saw macho Republicans circling and went for empty glory.
- Nixon was the nastiest piece of administration work before Cheney, but even he didn’t try to enrich himself and his buddies with American blood. (All right, so he did it with Asian blood.)
- Ford? Who was he? A blip on the screen, there only long enough to grant Nixon a pardon.
- Carter had good instincts — still does — but was so much of a Washington outsider that he never learned how to play the politico-media game.
Then we come to Reagan.
Note that, so far, the primary victims of bigshottery were the other side of one ocean or another. It’s when we come to Reagan… — and the toadies and manipulators around him — that we find our government routinely screwing us instead of foreigners. Reagan the quintessential Hollywood phony, then Bush One the quintessential Republican Mandarin, then Clinton the bullshit artist, Clinton the chubby gladhand sleaze, Clinton the quintessential po’ folks phony.
“It’s the economy, stupid!” Right. The Clinton economy.
Clinton, since leaving office, has been racking up substantial income, writing books — or at least putting his byline on books — and giving speeches. I noticed altogether by accident that Big Bill was a guest at Donald Trump’s wedding a few years back. Trump and Clinton, bosom buddies? I wonder. Was it that, or do some of Bill’s speaking engagements involve more posing and primping than oratory? What I mean is, does Bill sell himself off as a party ornament to the highest bidders? Maybe not, but it’s as much as you need to know about my opinion of the man that I even bring it up.
And Bush Two/Cheney One has to be the all-out worst administration this country has ever had. That pair — and Cheney primarily — more than anyone in our history drove us toward the cliff for their own personal aggrandizement. It is foolish, let along illegal, to suggest that any negative consequence befall such men unless through agencies of highest repute and legitimacy. So I will say only that Serbian generals and Cambodian despots and African warlords are no fairer game for the World Court than they.
Well, don’t just sit there. Elaborate. Debate. Complain.