Monday, November 06, 2006
Trying to understand American politics is like stepping out into a blizzard. There are so many more names and faces and the issues frequently seem both exotic and morally overwrought. I had, for example, been vaguely following the story of Ted Haggard - here is the latest BBC account - an evangelical hot gospeller who has been shamed by the revelation that he bought drugs and a massage from a gay escort. Pastor Ted being somewhat homophobic - see this peculiarly scary clip - this is, of course, a good, if routine, story. But apparently it is much more than that. Arianna Huffington's post on the subject expands the significance of the Pastor's misadventures to take in what she sees as the sickness at the heart of the whole Bush administration. (Hellfire Ted has close White House contacts.) 'The fall of Ted Haggard,' she writes, 'is just the latest manifestation of the central disease of President Bush and his cohorts: the pathological refusal to accept reality, and the delusion that reality can be changed by rhetoric.' Is it really? Without defending Bush, Haggard or anybody else, I would point out that none of them can be shown to be deluding themselves. Here is a likelier interpretation: neither is deluded, Bush doesn't believe Iraq is going well and Haggard didn't believe his gay frolics were consistent with his religious beliefs. Both simply find themselves committed by their actions to public postures which they have no choice but to defend and sustain. These cannot be classified as pathological refusals to accept reality, but, rather, as abject submissions to its demands. And neither thinks that reality can be changed by rhetoric, merely than it can be disguised. I may be completely missing the point here, but Arianna's logic does seem painfully stretched. I shall, it seems, never find my way in this blizzard.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:11 am