The Masquerade is Revived


We’re hearing drumbeats and fanfare again, the familiar sound effects of the Bush Circus back on the road.

The story line of the recycled circus heralds the re-discovery of the White House vision of the future. The vision is said to be on the brink of fulfillment, in time for the mid-terms in November. Our newly self-sufficient clients in Iraq are about take control of their destiny. The wartime president in the White House is firmly in charge of their reformation, democracy is about to blossom in full glow in the Middle East, the overdue income tax cuts for the oppressed wealthy in America have evened the economic playing field for all Americans and we should be grateful that God sits in the cabinet meetings.

These revelations should not have taken us by surprise. It was the same kind of proud and unblinking vision that propelled us into a river of blood in of Iraq, the chaos of New Orleans and the theft of the American treasury.

The White House does not apologize for selling counterfeit versions of reality to the American public. The White House believes it’s being generous. The White House believes that it’s unfair to force the public to be led astray by the truth, especially when it’s confronted by choices in the voting booth on election day.

The White House vision is that the American public deserves to be spared the suspicion that its leaders in Washington are bunglers and deceivers who are obsessed with power and with perpetuating power. The interpreters of the Bush vision are also convinced that nobody can be more gullible than the American public if you work it shrewdly, and the way to do it is with fairy tales and sideshows.

The softening-up phase of this assault on reality is to tell the American people each step of the way that no one on earth loves country, honor and equality as ardently as Americans. Nobody works that calculus better or more confidently than the Bush White House and its surrogates. They have seen it work before. You can do it if you conscript enough robots on the TV cables to tell it the way it isn’t. You can do it if you’re crafty enough or hold onto the monopoly ferociously enough to hide evidence of the fraud and manipulation.

The strategy maintains that as long as you monopolize the government you can hog the political show without giving nosy investigators a sniff of the evidence or the public a clue of how badly it’s been fleeced. These people are betting that circuses and make believe will beat reality and body counts every day of the week if the show is recycled often enough. Done right, it will also outlast those millions of puzzled citizens who for three or four months were truly convinced that George Bush was basically a cartoon character who got lost on the set of “Let’s Pretend.’

The American people wondered for months how an imposter like that could be elevated to the White House while their share of the American largesse was siphoned off to oil cartels and to military contractors, and their schools systematically got squeezed. It was getting squirmy for the Bush crowd until the Bushies remembered the old mantras just in time: If you can’t get them to love you, dazzle them with make-believe.

It worked flawlessly. If you were able to do that for three years with the kind of round-the-clock burlesques that are being recycled on television this week, you can persuade the American public that killing one terrorist honcho and a flight to Baghdad ranks with Valley Forge, Gettysburg and Normandy Beach among the tide-turning events in American history.

“Mission Accomplished” was the old sideshow. The reviews weren’t all that snappy for the next three years of anarchy in the desert and unending war. So it came time to exorcise the bad vibes that pushed the Bush ratings below freezing. This week they rewrote the scenario. The commander in chief flies to Iraq and certifies that he was inspired by the transformation he saw there.

There were witnesses to prove that this remarkable event of psychic levitation actually took place. And the week is full of photo ops, slogans, press conferences and prophesies that the end is in sight. All that’s missing is a plan.

Privately, the Bush government realizes that circuses may not always be enough. Democracy has its limitations, especially when you have to deal with noisy veterans who are worried about things like benefits they were promised, better armor for fighting men and women, and identity documents that were stolen en masse out of the jaws of a neurotically security-happy administration

Veterans are supposed to wave flags and serve, things like that. When they start telling the government they need to know what’s going down and how it happened, they need to be protected against the own curiosity.

So Republican members of the House of Representatives met last week with the Veterans Affairs secretary, Jim Nicholson, to talk about the investigation of the ID theft.

Democrats weren’t invited.

No such party distinctions are made when service men and women are regimented to stand as props for the president’s sideshows on television. No such party distinctions are made when foot soldiers are sent into desert in the three-year campaign to extricate George Bush from the war he and his handlers invented.

Democrats, we are now hearing as part of the sideshow, wouldn’t have had the will to kill the terrorist honcho.

That is how the campaign begins.

Drums and trumpets, smoke and mirrors, defamatory rhetoric, warping the language, war is peace, night is day. And the schools keep getting squeezed, war profiteers are in the saddle, 60 million voters have no role in the decisions that rule their lives, and the monopoly government headed by an incompetent says “trust us.”

Yes, on the day hippos fly. And while this is happening, Democrats—fielding better candidates than they have in years—are driven by the force of tradition and the screamers on the far left to quibble about words: when do we leave Iraq? Labor Day? Thanksgiving? All at once?

What matters is that Democrats, without power in Washington today, can force a decision not by arguing about the dates of troop withdrawal but only by changing the government. To do that they have to win in November.

If they can’t come together, they can’t win.

Former Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar writes at “”: