Matthew Yglesias writes about the worst idea ever, a rumored notion that we might drop a couple of tactical nukes (sic) on Iranian nuclear research sites and then claim that in fact we used conventional weapons and the resultant radiation was the result of, well, the nuclear programs related activities programs at the destroyed sites, a plan for which I can claim some credit, as it was obviously cribbed directly, if loosely, from my childhood strategy of grabbing my little brother's hand, forcing him to pound himself on the head with it, and yelling at him, "Stop hitting yourself! Stop hitting yourself!" Matt writes:
Now I rather doubt that's going to happen. Typically, Bush dials down the crazy factor a notch or two relative to what comes out of the OVP. Nevertheless, it's a sobering reminder that we have genuine lunatics operating in the highest councils of government at the moment. It's an extremely dangerous situation.Meanwhile, Jim is not blaming liberals for the Bush administration, leaving that instead to bloggers like IOZ, who'd be happy to point to a dozen different reasons why liberals are responsible for the Bush administration, a contention sure to win me an ABC miniseries writer gig, although they're all pretty much variations on: liberals abandoned liberalism in pursuit of electoralism and found that once denuded of a distinct ideology--or as distinct as an ideology can be in This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land--they could neither consistently win elections nor act in opposition to the nationalistic, expansionistic imperatives of the right, which they themselves now endorsed, if less stentorially. Anyhoo, Jim feels obligated to write in this caveat because of the paragraph which preceeds it:
That only leaves the really depressing theory, which I’m not the first to advance. The White House is picking a fight with Congress over torture because the White House thinks it will help the President (and his party’s) standing with the voters. What makes the theory depressing is, it may be right. And what I want to know is, how do you like your blue-eyed boy, government power, Mr. Managerial Liberalism?Unfortunately, Mr. Managerial Liberalism still believes that our deliverance will come in the form of sage technocrats--that, conversely his feelings about, say, torture at abu Ghraib, the problem with the American Government is Bad Applistic rather than systemic. The asylum, in other words, only needs to get itself some new lunatics, et tout va bien.
I use Yglesias as proof of this thesis, because although he's much, much wiser than his Democratic elders, he still engages the unpleasant, but comforting notion that the Bush Administration is unique-because-it's-crazy, rather than simply uniquely crazy, and perhaps not even that. The "highest councils of government" have always been populated by genuine lunatics, with the level of lunacy increasing in inverse proportion to distance from The Bomb. I mean, Paul Nitze was crazy. Lewis Strauss was crazy. J. Edgar was crazy. Curtis Lemay was really crazy. The inhabitants of the oval office have been uniformly crazy since Truman, and yes, I include Eisenhower in that assessment. Consider that in the last 40 years alone we've had Nixon, Johnson, Reagan, and our regnant Dauphin. Is anyone really going to propose that Crazy is the outlier of this particular presidential cohort?
To an extent, this is just variation on the old power corrupts theme, but it bears repeating because at the heart of contemporary liberalism, even the smart sort espoused by your various and sundry Yglesii, there remains a belief that at some infinitely-vanishing point there will be a new FDR who will weild the extraordinary powers of government to the near-universal advantage of all Americans and all the rest of the world. But the Dauphin teaches us that the willpower and nastiness necessary to bring the full apparatus of our immense, creaky, dangerous state to full operational status more likely comes in the form of an even more perverse Wilsonianism than Wilsonianism, which is to say crazy, racist, deluded, messianic, and mean. State power is not the sword in the stone, in other words. Any dynastic schmuck with muscles sufficiently developed by brush-clearing can yank that fucker out of its resting place and go chopping randomly around the ranch. State power exists indepently from its operators; it is relentlessly self-accumulating, and its effect on those within its orbit and influence is insidious. I will here resist making a Lord of the Rings allusion, but there it is. The lesson to be learned is not that George Bush is crazy, nor that his predecessors were often crazy, nor that his advisors are crazy, nor their antecedents neither. The lesson is that there is precious little that can check men in power, which obliges our vigilance in combatting and checking the power itself that we grant them.