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Saturday, June 21, 2003

Counterfeit Warhol

Reader Kathryn Zalewski forwarded this to me some time ago. I had planned to post it and then the war happened.

This is what Rove understands about America and the Democrats don't:

They call my President a "cowboy"?

It used to tick me off when the liberals called our President a
cowboy, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.

When I was a kid, cowboys were heroes. You know, the ones in the
white hats, not the black hats. There was Tom Mix, Buck Jones,
Johnny Mack Brown, Hopalong Cassidy, Red Ryder, Gene Autry, Roy
Rogers, then later Marshall Matt Dillon. Personally, I think Gene
Autry could whip em all, and then sing a song to his girl friend. He
was my favorite.

What were common attributes of these legendary cowboys? Here are a

1. They never looked for trouble.
2. When it came, they faced it with courage.
3. They were always on the side of right.
4. They defended good people against bad people.
5. They had high morals.
6. They had good manners.
7. They were honest.
8. They spoke their minds and they spoke the truth, regardless of
what people thought or "political correctness," which no one had
ever heard of back then.
9. They were a beacon of integrity in the
wild, wild west.
10. They were respected. When they walked into a
saloon (where they usually drank only sarsaparilla), the place
became quiet, and the bad guys kept their distance.
11. If in a gunfight, they could outdraw anyone. If in a fistfight,
they could whip anyone.
12. They always won. They always got their man. In victory, they
rode off into the sunset.

Those were the days when there was such a thing as right and wrong,
something blurred in our modern world, and denied by many. Those
were the days when women were respected and treated as ladies,
because they acted like ladies.

They represent something good, something pure that America has been missing.
Ronald Reagan was a cowboy. I like Ronald Reagan, he was brave,
positive, and he gave us hope. He wore a white hat. To the
consternation of his liberal critics, he had the courage to call a
spade a spade and call the former Soviet Union what it was -- the
evil empire. Liberals hated Ronald Reagan.

They also hate President Bush because he distinguishes between good
and evil He calls a spade a spade, and after 9-11 called evil
"evil," without mincing any words, to the shock of the liberal
establishment. That's what cowboys do, you know. He also told the
French to "put their cards on the table" (old west talk), which they
did, exposing their cowardice and greed.

The Arabs are wrong. In the old West, might did not make right.
Right made right. Cowboys in white hats were always on the side of
right, and that was their might.

I am glad my President is a cowboy. He will get his man. Cowboys do,
you know.

OK. Obviously we are dealing with someone who is on serious medication. But, this is actually pretty representative of the kind of feeling that Junior engenders in a good portion of the citizenry. Sure, some of it's just team loyalty, but there are a number of people who think he's a straight shooter, an everyman of simple values and authentic virtues, masculine, good hearted and tough.

Needless to say, those paying attention to even the most obvious biographical details know that none of this is true. He's a spoiled, rich, playboy who fell into politics by trading on his father's name and contacts. He's a failed businessman and ex-alcoholic who's masculine virtues are defined by bullying towel snapping and homoerotic hazing rituals. He's stupid, thin skinned and easily rattled. He consistently shafts the weak in favor of the powerful and he has a callous bloodthirsty streak.

In Bush's Brain, How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential the authors quote Rove as saying that most Americans understand politics as "watching TV with the sound turned off." The thing with Bush is that he looks right in his costumes, whether codpiece or chaps, and his 10 second soundbites are well crafted and effective. And, it's not because people are dupes or morons that they buy this nonsense, it's simply because they understand everything in their lives through simplistic TV images.

The poor lady who wrote this surreal tribute to the code of the west doesn't even know that she was actually writing a paeon to a bunch of smart Jewish immigrants who took the cheap fiction of dimestore novels and created a picture of the American West for the sole purpose of appealing to masses of uneducated urban factory workers. She's so unaware that she doesn't seem to recognise that she's talking about movie actors.

Ronald Reagan wasn't a cowboy. He was a guy who played a cowboy who later became president. George W. Bush is a guy playing Ronald Reagan playing a cowboy who later became president. And it doesn't make any difference. Karl Rove, like Michael Deaver before him, realizes that most Americans see life through a media prism that's now completely self-referential.

It has always been true that politicians and leaders evoked archetypal images for political purposes-- Lincoln the rail splitter, TR the virile "mans man." But, starting with Reagan, we saw for the first time a circular reference between the mythmaker and the image itself. He was a professional actor engaged in making a myth that later became the image for his Presidency.

Junior is like a second generation copy of that same image, slightly off center and lacking clarity. He's a counterfeit Warhol, an ironic image of an image, made valuable only by the wilfull acquiesence of a lazy media that depends upon the Republican establishment to write its scripts and fill its yawning, greedy mouth. (It is no accident that the Bush team has planted the meme of John Kerry as "Thurston Howell III." That's the kind of image the American people understand instantly. According to Salon Kerry's spokesman, David Wade, suggested the GOP "should lay off the 'Gilligan's Island' imagery before we cast George W. Bush as Gilligan in the remake." Oh how perfect that would be...)

The Democrats can do better than President Blurry with almost any candidate in the race if they will just feed the beast what it needs to live (a good story) and recognize that the American people don't care anymore about what a president actually says but only that he is "presidential," however that image is defined by the current zeitgeist.

We must, of course, give them the subtance this country so desperately needs, but we must realize that that substance is relevant only to the 22 bloggers and 367 activists who give a damn. To win, our candidate must be a first generation copy of an image that the entertainment media have taught the American people to love.

That's what we've come to folks. But then, when you read the kind of drivel that this poor misguided "liberal" hater believes, it's pretty obvious that there is no turning back.

Clarification: Kathryn Zalewski did not personally write the cowboy nonsense. It was sent to her and she merely forwarded it to me. You can understand why she would not want anyone to be even slightly confused on that issue. Sorry Kathryn.