I vaguely remember reading Kurt Vonnegut many years ago who wrote that cigarette smokers were suicidal. He explained that the real smokers did not smoke filtered cigarettes, because that might get in the way of the effect of the smoke. The “dilettantes,” as he referred to them, smoked Pall Malls.
I thought of this when I read that Foley was in rehab because it seemed like a way to blame pederasty on the booze . In fact, real members of professional alcoholics would blame the kids for driving them to drink, not the other way around. So Foley comes up as a categorical dilettante when it comes to being an alcy wannabe.
Foley’s not even the subject of this post—dilettante as a word, is. Woodward’s Book, State of Denial, is surprisingly fascinating. Why “surprising?” Because we knew all the important factual information from all the prior-to-publication points and all the interviews and recaps. What was not part of this hype, and the best part of the book, is the nuance “fleshing-out” of all the details of big bucks, arrogant power, high-end relationships, and down and out insider dialogue. For instance:
[Surprise party for Barbara Bush’s 75th birthday at Kennebunkport June, 2000] George W. pulled Bandar [Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US] aside.
“Bandar, I guess you’re the best asshole who knows about the world.
Explain to me one thing.”
"Governor, what is it?”
“Why should I care about North Korea?”
It goes on but the language and the attitude are clear: arrogance, opportunism, and ambition.
I’ve heard elected representatives in the US referred to as “public servants.” That’s like referring to the rubber-stamp aristocracy who cowered in the shadow of Julius Caesar 2,050 years ago, "representatives of the people of Rome." Caesar's was a dictatorship, and the US is brewing a similar one now: a simmering stew which, while we’re not looking, becomes a comforting home-made meal with all the substance, but none of the nourishment, of the original ingredients.
It is frustrating to see the “Lying Liars” -- as Al Franken titled his book -- say what they want, while innocent lives are squandered and, in fact, Americans at home are constantly put in danger. Chris Matthews told Jay Leno last night that every vote counts. If you don’t like the Iraq occupation and what else the Republicans are doing, vote them out. Yet even the voting method is under question with the possibility of computer voting records to be hacked and altered to the advantage of…whoever is in charge.
Woodward’s book may be “tardy journalism,” as Chris Matthews said on Jay Leno. We’ve known the "knowns" of the meat of it for a while. And while Matthews describes Woodward as “unbiased,” let’s not forget the background info we’ve supplied before in this blog: Woodward was a courier for military intel prior to his initial stint at the Washington Post and his muckraking of Watergate’s bowels. That’s where he met and befriended Deep Throat—FBI uber-agent Mark Felt. And don’t forget the number of “disclaimers” over the years that Woodward was in fact a Republican…
Bob Woodward is also a pre-eminent journalist in the ancient tradition of the art. He’s on the inside, with no axe to grind as far as we can tell, and he’s precisely accurate and writes a page-turner as well as any best-selling novelist. So, as a current history of what’s going on in the Bush White House, and from an insider who has the access to, and respect of, the powers-that-be, Woodward’s book definitely tells the tale. He’s no dilettante, but his book is all about one who is president.