Sunday, 1 June 2003

Through A Glass Darkly

An Interpretation of Bush's Character

While I find those images on the Internet of a blunt little mustache digitally-scribbled onto President Bush's upper lip feeble and unhelpful, still, there are parts of Bush's character and behavior that strikingly resemble at least one major biographer's interpretation of Hitler. Ian Kershaw's two-volume life of Hitler puts great emphasis on his being a driving high-stakes gambler - with innate, animal-cunning about human psychology, few gifts of statesmanship or strategy, and little systematic learning - attributing most of his success and all of his failure to his compulsive quality.

When, for example, Bush waged his ferocious post-election pursuit of legitimacy through threats and court actions, finally securing appointment to office by America's Supreme Court, it resembled the way Hitler, never actually elected, worked ferociously behind the scenes and on the streets at a time of great political instability to secure appointment as Chancellor by President von Hindenburg.

Several observers have commented that Bush's recent stunt of flying to the deck of an aircraft carrier in order to make a televised speech might well have been copied directly from Hitler's flight to the gigantic Nuremberg rally, his plane dramatically circling in descent towards a million people gathered in barbarian tribute, his purpose being to make a filmed speech. Whether Bush's crowd consciously followed the script set down by Hitler nearly seventy years ago matters less than that the thinking is so similar, with the manipulation of dramatic, militaristic props for propaganda being identical.

Bush never goes anywhere where his stage crew has not first assembled giant flags as background. He always wears a sizeable American-flag pin on his lapel. This kind of totemic, obsessive use of flags was absolutely characteristic of Hitler.

Hitler was a troubled, difficult person, but there is no evidence of any genuine insanity or psychosis (see Dr. Fritz Redlich's excellent study, "Hitler, Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet"). It is precisely this fact that made him, and makes those like him, all the more dangerous. It is easy to dismiss a genuine lunatic.

Given any circumstances other than those of the unique and troubled period in which he embraced German politics, Hitler would have been an utter failure, likely to be laughed off the stage with his sputtering, eye-bulging speech and fantasy claims. He had never, except for extremely brief and intermittent times, before entering politics in the revolutionary ruin that was post-war Germany, made an honest living.

There is a close parallel here with Bush. Except when friends of his powerful father made attractive, low-risk, undemanding opportunities available to him, young Bush was a failure. He demonstrated no business acumen, no academic application, and he did a lot of aimless drifting, much like Hitler's time in Vienna before the First World War. There are totally unexplained periods in Bush's early adult life, an extraordinary thing for an American national public figure.

Even as governor of Texas, Bush showed no skill other than the kind of animal cunning one associates with some of the nation's shabbiest politics. Many do not realize that the office of governor of Texas, despite sounding important, is a relatively weak office, so the people putting Bush forward at the time took a small risk of his doing any serious damage.

Bush was not a national figure when he was put up for the Republican presidential nomination. Yet, suddenly, he appeared on the national stage, pockets bulging with $77 million in campaign contributions, an amount that could render even Kermit the Frog a formidable opponent in America's phony, advertising- and marketing-drenched politics. Of course, as quickly as these funds were depleted, they were topped up again.

The support of German industrialists was an important part of Hitler's being able to sustain his slow rise to power. Many of these business people thought they would heavily profit from the success of the odd, theatrical little man they bankrolled. The one absolute certainty was that Germany under Hitler would rearm, massively and quickly, with lots of profitable contracts coming available. Bush's measures for defense and security after 9/11, almost instantly swelled to tumor-like masses, offer an unprecedented opportunity for well-positioned people to make new fortunes.

Bush's apparent ability to be charming face-to-face has been publicized by insiders wishing to humanize his public image. Well, that is a characteristic Hitler possessed in abundance: on the one hand, he could intimidate people with fits of horrifying anger, and yet, as many attested, he could be utterly charming. He could order wholesale murder and yet have a gracious, polite tea with his hardworking secretaries.

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