I'm going to tell you some things about the American people. You don't have to believe me about these things. I believe these things but you don't have to.
I watched the "60 Minutes" interview with Woodward tonight. I recorded it so I could watch it a few times. Watching it, I started thinking about lies and the American people.
The American people hate to be lied to. They hate it so much that they will resist almost to the bitter end believing that their President has lied to them. You will recall that one of the explanations for Bush's popularity among those who like him is that he seems to be a "regular guy". One of the definitions of a regular guy, of course, is that he won't lie to you.
A regular guy will always be straight with you. A regular guy also has his "head screwed on right". A regular guy is no fool. A regular guy is no sap. A regular guy brims with common sense.
Once the American people have decided that you are a regular guy, it's very difficult to persuade them otherwise. Why? Because the American people like to think of themselves as regular guys as well. A regular guy doesn't listen to bullshit about his friends. A regular guy sticks by his friends. A regular guy is loyal. Regular guys don't lie to each other, so how could we do anything but trust the President?
To the endless frustration of Bush's opponents and much of the rest of the world, this belief of the American people in the regular guyness of their president is nearly impossible to shake. It is a rock.
The problem is... once the rock starts to shift, there is no stopping it. This is Bush's, and the Republican's, swiftly approaching problem.
See because part of the American people's definition of a regular guy, as above, is that he has his head screwed on right. He is no fool. He is not a sap. He brims with common sense. The American people will stick with you for quite a long while after hints begin to emerge that you might be a little dicey on the regular guy front. After all, it isn't just your regular guyness at stake here; it's theirs as well. So you can push it a bit. You can push it some. In some cases you can push it a whole hell of a lot as Bush and the Republicans have done.
But then all of a sudden something happens. Call it... a loss of faith in your regular guyness. And when that happens, it is irretrievably over. You do not get a second chance at regular guyness.
Now all of this drives a lot of people completely out of their minds. I know it certainly drives me crazy. A lot of us have been trying for years to convince our fellow Americans that Bush and his cronies are not regular guys. They are idiots. They are glib. They are incompetent.
But... the American people were not having any of it. Bush was a regular guy. Game over.
Look... I don't know what to tell you. I don't know that there's anything that can be done about it. And get this... despite the horrors that come with such an approach... maybe there's nothing that should be done about it. I know, I know... thousands and thousands of people have been killed or maimed because "Bush is a regular guy". Jesus God, I wish that wasn't the case. I wish it didn't have to be the case. But it is, nevertheless, the case.
I think we should always struggle against this tendency of the American people to believe in their demonstrably flawed judgment about the regular guyness of American presidents. I don't think we will ever have much success in that struggle, but we have to engage in it nevertheless.
Still... at least the flip side of it is this:
Once the opinion of the American people shifts regarding your regular guyness, you have lost your regular guyness forever. That's the healthy side of the hard-headedness, that same hard-headedness that caused the problem in the first place.
You might think this next part is silly, but that's all right. I already said you didn't have to believe any of this.
But the thing is, I believe it's precisely this "once you are dead to me, you are dead to me forever" element in all of this that will keep this country from becoming the dictatorship many people see it becoming in the future. I don't think this is American exceptionalism or anything. I just think that because we have the power to turn our governments out of power, which we do, we will do it if we decide the President and in this case his congress are not the regular guys we thought they were.
See, because your non-regular-guyness will always out, if you are the President. If you fuck up as much as Bush has fucked up... well, fucking up that badly is not actually in the generally accepted definition of what it means to be a regular guy. Regular guys are not this stupid. Regular guys are not this arrogant. Regular guys are stubborn, but not to the point of killing this many people, screwing the pooch this deeply, all the time saying that things are going to be okay. We all now know things are not going to be okay.
Correction: all of us regular guys know that. Bush does not know that. Bush is no longer a regular guy. And neither is the Republican congress.
I stand in awe of this process. It is a force of nature. Once the hillside starts to slip, there isn't a man-made force on Earth that can stop it.
I was thinking earlier... You know how weather scientists are getting better at warning people to get the hell out of the way of an approaching storm, thus saving thousands of lives? And you know how vulcanologists are getting better at warning people to get the hell away from a volcano that's getting ready to blow, thus saving thousands of lives? We listen to these people because their science is proven. It works. To not listen to them would be foolish. They are, in short, regular guys. Scientific regular guys, to be sure, but regular guys nevertheless.
Don't you wish to hell the political scientists were that good? Don't you wish we could grant them legitimate regular guy status? Don't you wish they were capable of issuing Voter Evacuation Alerts so the next time somebody like Bush comes along everybody would head for the hills?
Well, their science isn't nearly that good yet and, of course, we can probably say it never will be. They aren't just studying piffle like planetary weather systems and geologic forces. They are studying people; in this case, the American people. They might as well be interrogating the spleens of ravens.