Second Thought: Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Oh, for a Reality-based President

Admitting error is now too awful for the Bushies.


On a September evening in 1956, Marian Keech, a middle-aged woman living in the American Midwest, claimed she received a message from a planet called Clarion, saying that the world would be destroyed by a catastrophic flood on Dec. 21. Keech said the message also informed her that several flying saucers from Clarion would come and rescue her and those close to her before the deluge.
Mrs. Keech’s revelation attracted a small group of ardent followers. They quit their jobs, gave away their money, and withdrew from friends and family; some left their spouses. And then they waited.
On the morning of Dec. 20, Mrs. Keech said that she had received another communication from Clarion: She and her followers would be picked up at midnight, and they should make sure there was no metal on their persons. Her followers dutifully removed metallic clasps, zippers, and buttons from their clothing.
When midnight came and went, the group became anxious. By 4 a.m., they were sitting in stunned silence.
Then, just when the gravity of their mistake had begun to sink in, Mrs. Keech received a third message: The rescue saucers had been canceled because the planetary cataclysm had been diverted by the unwavering faith of her group. Mrs. Keech and her followers rejoiced and began spreading the good news.
To outside observers, Mrs. Keech’s followers appear to have been incredibly gullible. But consider the alternative: If Mrs. Keech was a fraud, then they had uprooted their lives for nothing and, perhaps, worse than nothing, a lie. But if they had saved the world, they were part of a miracle. Their sacrifices of familial relations and worldly possessions had saved the rest of us.
Mrs. Keech’s followers remind me of contemporary Bush loyalists. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush once said his base was comprised of the “haves and the have-mores.” Today his base is made up of the “ignores and the ignore-mores” — folks who have invested so much of their energy, enthusiasm, and integrity in supporting Bush that it is now too hard to admit that they were lied to, have defended lies, and have politically embodied a lie for the last seven years. The evidence is all around them, but they refuse to face it.
Support for the Bush administration began tailing off after the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Valerie Plame leak. After investigations determined that there was no pre-war connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda and no WMDs in Iraq (just as Plame’s husband Joseph Wilson had originally insisted), Bush’s approval ratings nose-dived and never recovered. Since then staunch “Bushies” have no longer enjoyed the pseudo-cover of righteousness and patriotism once afforded them by an obsequious, muzzled press corps. The rapid public-opinion shift resulted in substantial election losses for their party. Suddenly, in a country where “W” decals once adorned every other car and truck on the road, it was hard to find any.
Now, as the war (or, better said, our occupation) in Iraq drags on, it has become painfully clear that the entire fiasco was based on lies. Big lies, compounded by dozens of ludicrous, outrageous smaller ones — on facts spun, truths distorted: Mission accomplished! The insurgency in Iraq is in its last throes. They hate us for our freedom. And so on.
Amazingly, Bush retains the support of millions of diehard followers, still repeating the party line from planet Clarion.
If Saddam didn’t have WMDs, well ... we know he was trying to get them.
If al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq under Saddam, uhhh ... well, they’re there now, and they must be stopped.
It’s just the liberal media twisting things around.
Freedom isn’t free.
The rest of you just don’t have the guts to finish the job.
Like Mrs. Keech’s group, loyal Bushies seem capable of believing anything that will allow them to postpone admitting they were wrong. Facing the facts would require an admission of guilt, of the blood on their hands. It’s easier to keep drinking the poison Kool-Aid than to own up to the horrors that their blind allegiance has helped bring to the world.
Unlike Mrs. Keech’s followers, Bush loyalists have no chance for a “happy” ending. The war in Iraq will not be won. And our conduct there will remain a blotch on our national self-esteem for decades.
In the end, the unfortunate soldiers who lost their lives, limbs, buddies, or peace of mind in Iraq will have done so for nothing.
I wish flying saucers from Clarion would come down and make our mistakes in Iraq disappear. But it’s not going to happen. This time, unwavering faith has doomed us to disgrace. And the sooner we accept it, the sooner the healing will begin.

E. R. Bills is a Fort Worth writer whose work also appears in The Paper of South Texas and Dissident Voice.

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