Sunday, October 08, 2006

Dealing With Foley; Unable to Deal With Iraq

There are Republican scandals that are "fun" to report and relish amid, and there are scandals too horrific to even smirk at now.

It is a strange, but reliable, quirk of human nature that makes the Foley-Hastert-Reynolds-(insert local GOP Congressperson here) scandal so funny to so many. I mean we are talking about a middle age creepy guy hitting on underage and barely-age young people using every technological and propositional tool available to him. And we're also talking about a bunch of crystal-clear-obvious morally repressed old guys showing their true Machiavellian colors by trying to back-stab each other press conference after press conference.

Schadenfreude aside, I don't find it that funny.

But that's nothing compared to today's Iraq. The War/Occupation's political damage to the Republicans is tempered somewhat at this point by the sheer obviousness of the stupidity, and the resulting shame for this country. The occupation is so overwhelmed at this point, so lost that even Americans who opposed the war from before the onset are having a hard time stomaching how the outcome has so closely fit their concerns way back in 2002/2003.

As one of those who has always opposed the invasion, etc., sure, it's nice to be right I guess. Yet, reading stories like today's at ABC News about a daily stream of bodies found floating in the Tigris isn't nice. And that story is just one under the radar blip of a constantly filled viewing screen of killings, torture, kidnappings and more killings.

I get the sense that the deep embarrassment created by the Iraq situation has gone past screaming activists and "Support Our Troops" stickers to a widespread denial. The dysfunctional family that is the U.S. has, rather subconsciously, chosen to sweep Iraq under the Foley, gas prices, saguaro cactus rug. We still get the daily stories from Iraq, but feeling helpless to physically do anything about it, and unable to handle the embarrassment psychologically, we gravitate toward stories on Foley's IM messages asking about penis measurements. So much easier to wrap our brains around; so much easier to deal with, really.

Of course, many of my friends on the farther Left will cite my little "dysfunction" theory as incredibly naive: 1. "We" aren't in "denial", we are still calling for our troops to come home; 2. The public isn't "gravitating" toward Foley-gate instead of Iraq, the Republican-controlled government and media is leading the public there.

To my farther Left friends: sorry, I think it's a two-way transaction. Remember the days when a U.S. soldier being killed in Iraq was front-page above-the-fold news? The count of soldiers killed was a number noted and memorized almost like Babe Ruth hitting 714 home runs. Remember when ABC "Nightline" got in hot water for merely listing and naming the U.S. dead? Those days are long gone. Why?

Many farther Lefters would, of course, say the change was dictated by the Bush Administration and slavishly followed by the tightly-corporate-controlled media. I'm not saying it didn't play a role. But I'm also saying that we Americans, as humans, have a natural predisposition to avoid a certain level of bad news. A little bad news is okay, but a tipping point is sometimes reached, a point that triggers a flood of psychological survival mechanisms.

I think Iraq has reached this point, and it has several interesting ramifications:
  1. Regardless of how bad things get in Iraq, my guess is that public support for the War/Invasion will never get much lower than it has always been. War defenders now unable to handle all the bad news are much more likely to just bunker down, avoid facts, and support the War/Invasion just as a battered spouse defends a loveless marriage.
  2. The War/Invasion has now seemingly become less of an election year issue than it should be. Instead, analysts are now forecasting crazy swings in House/Senate control because of Foley-Gate. That may be true, but it's interesting that Foley/Hastert/Reynolds/(insert local GOP Congressperson here) would seem to be having such a profound impact, an impact some are analogizing to the 1994 Republican "Revolution".
  3. Personally, I think the impact of Foley-Gate is actually a response to the War/Invasion. Many Americans don't want to "cut and run", "send troops home" or, really, have anything more to say, do or think about Iraq. Foley-gate gives these voters a chance to sublimate their personal disgust with Iraq, using under and barely-age Page contacts as an alibi.
  4. Naturally, it helps that Foley-Gate tramples almost every "family value" argument ever made by a Republican since the "Revolution" of 1994, but I wonder if Foley, etc. would have had the impact if it had come out in 2004 just before the election. My guess is that Americans were still too engaged in the War/Invasion at that time for it to make a significant difference. I also wonder, given that the Foley shenanigans have been going for years that perhaps a Democrat somewhere/someplace in early Fall 2004 didn't think about at least outing Foley for the political gain.
  5. I hope none of the Pages involved in Foley-Gate are scarred psychologically. I hope the only people twisted by these events are Mark Foley and soon-to-be-former House Speaker Hastert, etc., but if this is what it takes for a majority of American voters to finally feel good about lessening the political power of a Bush Administration gone amok, I say focus away on Foley-Gate and other relatively insignificant things compared to Iraq.
And I think that, at least as of October 8th, is exactly what's happening. Strangely however, after having personally long dreamed of a post-2006 Election environment with a Lame Duck W and a, finally, more active and assertive Congress I'm having a hard time celebrating the prospect right now.

Reading stories about bodies floating in the Tigris will do that to you.

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