Monday, October 29, 2007

Crazed Converts: Bush and Giuliani

Half a century after a book inspired President Eisenhower to warn about political fanatics, Americans have one in the White House and another who would get there by exploiting the hatred and fears described by Eric Hoffer back then.

The life paths of George W. Bush and now Rudy Giuliani fit Hoffer's description of how "The True Believer" converts personal failure to political success: "Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life. Thus people haunted by the purposelessness of their lives try to find a new content not only by dedicating themselves to a holy cause but also by nursing a fanatical grievance."

The disastrous consequences of Bush's midlife crisis are now clear, but the effects of Giuliani's conversion are just coming to light. On September 11, 2001, a lackadaisical lame-duck mayor with no political prospects and two failed marriages was transformed into a money-making preacher and then the zealous leader of a crusade against Islamofascism.

In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman cites the Republican front runner's dedication to spreading what Franklin Roosevelt called “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror” inspired by those described by Frank Rich as "the mad neocon bombers shaping his apocalyptic policy toward Iran" after giving Bush an outlet for his new-found religious zeal in attacking Iraq.

For a time, Giuliani seemed merely cynical in courting Republican extremists who find his social values distasteful, but more and more, the alarming truth seems to be that he may really believe what he is saying about a holy war.

As he surrounds himself with more and more Podhoretzes and Kristols, the future Republican nominee may want to ponder the words of Hoffer, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan: "The rule seems to be that those who find no difficulty in deceiving themselves are easily deceived by others. They are easily persuaded and led."

The rest of us will have to take comfort in another Hoffer observation: “It is cheering to see that the rats are still around--the ship is not sinking.”

1 comment:

Shimmy said...

We've learned that in the 1980s, before he became the Mayor of America, Rudy Giuliani narrowly escaped a death plot hatched by John Gotti, who ran the Gambino mafia family.

Pravda newscaster Martha MacCallum asks viewers: "In terms of Rudy Giuliani and his presidential aspirations, does this help him, this story? Does it make him, you know, even more, sort of, invincible?"

Look, just because Rudy Giuliani descends among us as Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future, he nevertheless might choose NOT to give verbal teachings. Instead he might work for sentient beings by sending beams of light from his holy body.