Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Some things defy all attempts at satire. It is not that it is difficult to satirize them, but that they are immune. Like black holes, they pull all humor near them to a certain event horizon and then beyond, where it is torn to shreds, never to be seen again.
Such an event might be, oh, let's say... the great Bush administration legal and foreign policy minds, John Yoo and John Bolton, penning an opinion piece in the New York Times warning that a sneaky, malevolent Obama might seek to overreach his presidential powers:
The Constitution’s Treaty Clause has long been seen, rightly, as a bulwark against presidential inclinations to lock the United States into unwise foreign commitments. The clause will likely be tested by Barack Obama’s administration, as the new president and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, led by the legal academics in whose circles they have long traveled, contemplate binding down American power and interests in a dense web of treaties and international bureaucracies.
And so on. I am absolutely certain that seeing the foreign policy stylings of Bolton and Yoo objecting to unencumbered presidential power is goddamn comedy gold of the highest caliber, but therein lies the problem. It has passed the event horizon: there is no accurate way to describe its level of self-satire. Would it be like a vampire owning a blood bank, or a chicken owning a poultry processing plant? Is it larger than a breadbox? If you light a match to it, does it smell like a cinnamon-sprinkled tire fire?
And what level of Dante's hell might it be in which lost souls are given nothing to read but joint Bolton/Yoo policy pronouncements? I am sure it would be down there somewhere, somewhere near the adulterers but not quite past the cheapskates.
Let me attempt to describe this. Suppose a dozen clowns die in a circus fire. Not funny. Now, if a dozen clowns burst into flames while attempting in unison to program their VCR: funnier. Now suppose a dozen clowns beat each other to death with whole, unfrozen bluefin tuna: goddamn hilarious. (Let it be said, for the record, that I am indifferent to clowns, except that I have it on good authority that circus clowns have no souls.) Watching the legal wranglers of torture, "preemptive" military action and Unitary Executive-ism pen an ode to the proper encumbrance of executive power? It is at least clown-and-tuna funny.
Now, one could ponder, if one were so inclined, exactly what parallel dimension we have entered in which Satan's own personal attorney, John Freaking Yoo, Bush administration apologist and go-to legal word-wrangler for seemingly every vicious, Constitution-dismissing, Geneva-convention-violating abomination that the administration could come up with for eight treaty-shredding, conscience-shocking years, suddenly comes to a point of epiphany and declares that Presidential power must now be studiously circumscribed. The answer, however, is so obvious as to defy even humor: he cares because now a Democrat will be president, and the outcome might be less to his liking.
One could similarly ponder, if one were into mental self-mutilation of the most crass nature, what would cause Satan's own foreign policy ambassador, John Bolton, a diplomat whose entire schtick is his complete lack of and distain for anything even resembling diplomacy, a man whose very presence can send shivers down the spine of even our most trusted and supposedly valued international allies, why he suddenly gives a flying, U.N.-burning damn about the Senate's long-abused, long-ignored treaty powers. The answer? Because he is concerned a president might actually be tempted to sign one.
Of course, Bolton and Yoo have been goaded into objecting to Obama's purely hypothetical presidential powers because of their impeccably wingnutty fear of, as they coin it, "global governance" -- the premise that the Obama administration will threaten American "sovereignity and autonomy" through such dastardly actions as working with other nations on climate change, or bending to the terrors of environmentalism, or (most keenly felt, perhaps) recognizing the International Criminal Court, leading us into a bleak future where we may be bound by the same laws and conventions that we expect other nations to adhere to.
So fear not: it is not that these two arch-conservatives have abandoned every premise held during their years of political service and punditry merely on some base whim. They have abandoned avery premise held during their years of political service and punditry because now it is to the momentary advantage of their particular brand of hypersensitive neoconservative new-world-order environmentalists-are-scary paranoia to do so. Al Qaeda, two wars, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and an ongoing presidentially-backed domestic espionage effort could not shake their belief in unitary executive power, but talking about potentially lowering carbon emissions is a bridge too far. For that, these grand and noble hucksters of the Bush administration are willing to alter their foundational beliefs.
And to any even moderately aware observer, the only surprising thing is that they managed to make it all the way to January before doing it.