Saturday, November 13, 2010

"This beast dares to exist without shame"--W.H. Auden, "Mundus et Infans."

"There ain't nothin' more powerful than the odor of mendacity."--Big Daddy Pollitt in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

If Big Daddy were to visit the U.S. today, he would find the stench overwhelming, from Sarah Palin's seemingly willful determination that everything she says contradict reality to the myriad lies we are told by various self-important people on a daily basis: Afghanistan is a "war of Obama's choosing;" letting the Bush tax cuts expire would be disastrous for small businesses.

But even in the factory of lies that is American public discourse these days, George W. Bush has done something unprecedented in the history of dishonesty: he's plagiarized sections of his own memoirs, an act the very idea of which is so bizarre I don't know how to even begin describing what's wrong with it. You would think that being President of the United States would give you interesting writing material: you get to meet other world leaders, a ringside seat for the pressing issues of the day, you get the occasional shoe thrown at you...but no.

Bush lifted whole passages from memoirs by former administration employees and described himself being at events he did not attend, such as Hamid Karzai's inauguration.

Even when assisted by a former speechwriter and a research assistant, he's still too lazy to even remember what happened to him and write it down. Or say it on tape for an assistant to transcribe.

Or it's possible that he's so brain-damaged he actually doesn't remember anything. Or that Cheney locked him in a kennel and only let him out for public appearances and he doesn't want to write about sitting in the dark and getting tossed the occasional dog biscuit.

Either way, the man who was our non-president for 8 years has written a non-memoir. The question is whether this will matter to any of his supporters. Partisan loyalists seem oblivious to facts.

Fortunately we're still at the stage at which some people can be offended by dishonesty. But not for long, if the current crop of college students is any indication. A professor at the University of Central Florida caught one-third of a class of 600 students cheating on their mid-terms.

And guess what? They're in the business school. Maybe that's how Dubya got his Harvard MBA.

Naturally, some students see nothing wrong this. UCF student Konstantin Rawin: "This is college. Everybody cheats.Everyone cheats in life in general. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn't cheated on an exam. They're making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if they want to teach us some kind of moral lesson."

I hope those words come back to haunt Konstantin. But they probably won't. I predict a brilliant career.

Meanwhile, Big Daddy--sit back and enjoy the smell.

Hat tip to Dr. Jeffrey Fisher for the UCF story.

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