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Sledge Hammer Bush

In the mid-1980s there was a very funny comedy show on TV called Sledge Hammer which, alas, lasted for only two seasons. (I hear that it is now available on DVD.) The title character was a police detective who was an over-the-top parody of all the hard-boiled, tough detectives ever portrayed, taking particular aim at the iconic Dirty Harry, the character portrayed by Clint Eastwood in a series of highly popular films of that period

Dirty Harry made his own judgments about who was guilty and innocent and acted accordingly. He did not think much of the slow legal processes of justice. If he thought someone was guilty, then he felt justified in using any methods to extract justice, even if it meant dealing it out in summary and violent form. He had little use for legal niceties such as “innocent until proven guilty”, Miranda rights, right to a lawyer, and other constitutional protections, seeing them as the mollycoddling behavior of wimpy do-gooders that allowed the guilty to go free.

Sledge Hammer took this attitude to a wacky extreme. Of all the options available to him to deal with any situation, he would choose the most violent. Doors were meant to be kicked down, guns were meant to be fired, noses to be broken, violence to be used whenever possible. He had little use for the rules of evidence. If he felt in his gut that someone was guilty, that was enough for him to use any means he saw fit to deal with that person. He saw things as stark contrasts and had a deep hatred of Communists (the enemy of that time). He loved violence so much that he slept with his gun by his pillow and would speak lovingly to it.

Sledge Hammer’s signature line was uttered whenever he was about to embark on any action that was going to result in massive amounts of mayhem and destruction. To those around him who expressed doubt and dismay about his reckless plans and tried to dissuade him, he would say reassuringly “Trust me, I know what I’m doing” before he went and proved exactly the opposite.

George W. Bush reminds me a lot of Sledge Hammer except that he, and what he does, is not funny. We have already seen with Iraq and Afghanistan that although he had many options, he chose those that were the most violent and reckless, and that violated the most norms of behavior. As a result, the US is now mired in increasingly hopeless situations in both those countries. We see Bush’s contempt for “legal niceties” with the way detainees are being treated, the justifications for the use of torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, illegal and secret prisons in other countries, trying to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to provide legal cover for torture, and his cavalier disregard for the serious consequences of such actions.

We find him doing the same thing now with Iran that he did with Iraq, ratcheting up alarmist rhetoric, trying to mislead the people on the facts of Iran’s nuclear program, and setting up the public debate in such a way that the country is almost inexorably being drawn into another war.

Bush likes to portray things in black and white, good and evil, and once he has made that determination, he has little patience with those who question his summary judgments. He patronizingly and condescendingly keeps saying that his job is to “protect the American people” and to those who doubt him, the only thing he offers as reassurance are practically the same words as Sledge Hammer: “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

Frankly, I have no trust in his judgment. If the record of him and his administration shows anything clearly, it is that you cannot trust them on anything, either their motives or their competence in executing their plans. With his awful record plainly apparent, thinking that he is reassuring people by saying that he is the one who will “protect the American people” indicates how seriously out of touch he is.
The conventions of TV sitcoms are such that one has to have a happy ending at the end of each half hour episode and Sledge Hammer was no exception. Thanks to the efforts of his sensible and long-suffering partner, or his police chief, or simply due to dumb luck, events would turn out well in the end and Sledge Hammer’s disastrous actions cause no permanent harm.

But real life is not a sitcom. We have no guarantees that the actions of Sledge Hammer Bush currently occupying the White House will have a happy ending. Real life problems are complicated and you cannot address them adequately if the only tools at your disposal are gut instinct in making judgments and steely resolve in implementing your decisions, which are the only things that Bush, like Sledge Hammer, has. It does not help that the administration’s allies in Congress and the media seem to behave more like a laugh track rather than in providing the critical oversight that is so essential for good government.

In fact, if Iraq and Afghanistan are any indication, we are in for another calamitous episode, this time with Iran cast as the villain. Sledge Hammer Bush is probably already preparing his speech to the nation to be delivered when he begins that war. And the speech will begin: “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

POST SCRIPT: More media monopoly on the way?

Robert McChesney describes how the administration and its compliant Federal Communication Commission (FCC) are trying to allow even greater monopolistic control of the media by the media conglomerates who are supporters of the Bush administration (Tribune, Sinclair, News Corp., Clear Channel, Gannett, Belo and Media General), and suppressing research that shows the negative effects of media consolidation.

Comments

  1. says

    Mr. Singham,
    I agree, Bush is Sledgehammer. Bush is a criminal, a corrupt politician. I think he is a sociopath and a meglomaniac with a pronounced messianic complex. In other words this man has a serious character disorder. Neither he nor his family have any humanity in them. They don’t seem to care who or how many human beings they kill.

    What worries me as much if not more is that this pope and the last one have aligned the Catholic Church, my church, with the Republican party and given it the unqualified support of the church and catholic voters, but most assuredly not me even though I am a lifelong catholic.

    What I am trying to say is that the catholic church completely endorses and supports the murderous nature and on going intentions of Bush. How could any religion so completely support someone who is all about war and killing.

    I am stunned at where the church is heading, which is on the wrong path just as Bush, Cheney and the entire Republican party is on a path of destruction.

    The religious right seems to be mostly composed of two fundamentalist religions, Catholicism and the white southern Baptists. I just don’t understand how any religion could support the killing of people instead of negotiating with them.

    t bob
    Cleve, Oh

    BTW, I am a huge fan of the science of physics ever since high school where I had a great physics teacher. I love physics with a passion. I read two science newsletters everyday. I have a Google alert on String Theory, even though there is not one shred of evidence to prove it. I have been following it for the past 25yrs ever since Shwartz and his collegue in England first came up with the idea.

    I follow the work of those such as Edward Witten (M theory) and Lisa Randall and everyone else I can read about on-line and on TV.

    String theory, if ever proven, really could be the theory of everything. It is so elegant as Brian Greene says.

    I think every high school student should have to take physics because it is that important. Much of the math could be left out for the non-science physics students.

    Some say that Richard Fynman was probably the best teacher of physics. I plan to get some of his lectures and teaching materials even though they are very expensive via Amazon.com.

    I am also fascinated by the Global Consciousness Project taking place at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study and must set up a Google Alert on that subject.

    Also I try to follow RNAi research. Dr. Kaiser at Cleveland Clinic is working in that area and has produced some remarkable results. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory out on Long Island, NY seems to be among the first to jumped into that field.

    I read a little cosmology as well, especially the theories about black holes and the thinking that the blackness may all be due to that fact that space is full of black holes.

    However in the last six months politics has been consuming all of my time.

    Best of Luck

    Bob DAmico
    Willowick, Oh
    [email protected]

  2. says

    Well, I can tell you that the producer of Sledge Hammer! will prolly agree with your flawed assessment of Geoge W. Bush in comparing him with Sledge Hammer. But, it’s interesting that the author of two books and someone as intelliegent as you leave out some VERY important facts with regard to the lead up to both wars the United States is currently involved in and what we are doing to deal with Iran and the DPRK at as of late.

    First, Afghanistan: Bush waited almost an entire month and gave the Taliban every chance to hand bin Laden over. The ENTIRE world was by our side as we invaded on October 7th 2001. They had harbored and supported Al Qaeda since the late 90s. Remember, that it was Clinton who bombed a known Al Qaeda training camp in the days following the Afrikan embassy bombings. YOu are one of the few who do not support the invasion of Afghanistan, which leads me to believe that you are one of the few who do not agree that war is sometimes neccesary. Well, I hate to break it to you. But, just as Sledge said, “I don’t negotiate with terrorists!”. When Alan Spencer created this show, he prolly didn’t realize how much people looked up to Sledge because he didn’t take crap from the liberal weenies out there. And, though it was an amplified and satire of the “peace through strength” philosophy of the great Ronald Reagan, it was fun and it was loved by the most conservative and pro-military, pro-cop, pro-war among us. On the forums, there are a lot more conservatives than there are liberals. You are welcome to stop by and post if you’d like, btw. All view points are welcome.

    With regard to Iraq. Bush used EVERY diplomatic means possible to reason with another madman and supporter of terrorists, Saddam Hussein. With very little effort, one can do a litte googling and find out from unbiased sources that Saddam Hussein had defied the international community for 12+ years. He funded palestinian suicide bombers. He used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He tried to start a nuclear weapons program. He lead UN weapons inspectors on a wild goose chase. He kicked them out in 1998. Clinton bombed him WITHOUT UN apporval in December of 1998 (and rightlfully so. I guess Clinton could be called a Sledge Hammer too, eh?. Nah, I’ll lump him in with Adam Ant one of Sledge Enemies) Saddam was given EVERY opportunity to comply with the rsolutions passed by the United Abominations including 1441, which specifically called for serious consequences if he did not disclose his weapons programs. This specifically placed the burden of proof on Hussein to comply, NOT for the US or UN to prove he had them or not. EVEN after all of this and res 1441 was voted on by all members of the security council. Saddam didn’t comply. Bush, acted very presidential and gave Saddam and his sons fair warnign to leave Iraq within 48 hours of the announcement. After they failed to leave, the military tried to cut the head off the snale so to speak by taking out Saddam. Then the war happened. So, it is grossly irresponsible to characterize Bush as a warmonger. He gave every level of diplomacy a chance.

    He is doing the same thing with Iran and the DPRK. Clinton failed with bilateral talks in 1994. Bush is encouraging multi-lateral talks with the nations most affected in the region. With Iram, it is the same thing. Sanctions. If Bush wanted to invade Iran, he would have done it by now. But, he is doing what you liberals love first. He is working through the UN and our allies. He is giving diploamcy a chance, just as he did with Iraq.

    So, with regard to foreign policy, I DO trust Bush. He knows what he is doing and he is doing a GREAT job at standing up to the liberal media and defending America and her interests.

    Remember, guns don’t kill people, bullets do!

  3. David Powell says

    Another point people miss is, more often than not, Sledge was right. Plus he always got flack for going after the bad guys but “no one else would.” Sort of like Dirty Harry at the end of the first DH movie.

    Mark is absolutely right about the Afghan events and the UN appeals before the attack on Iraq, and George W. Bush wanting UN talks and six party talks so as to involve Japan, China, Russia and South Korea (Who all have their own concerns with the situation) in the talks with North Korea.

    Sledge! was a great comedy, and it is great on DVD. That said, in terms of real politcs, which are gravely serious, there are some parallels. However, they don’t necessarily make Bush a bad guy. He is a man trying to deal with a world with some really bad people in it. And, like Sledge, if he needs a better idea, it is about time the rest of the world made like Sledge’s partner and started giving him some of those ideas instead of just running him down all the time while not helping any themselves. Remember – When Sledge had his partner, that was when he was most effective.

    Regards, Dave in NJ

    “I hope he didn’t go out watching Mr. Belvedere. I’d hate to think the poorguy suffered.”

  4. David Powell says

    Another point people miss is, more often than not, Sledge was right. Plus he always got flack for going after the bad guys but “no one else would.” Sort of like Dirty Harry at the end of the first DH movie.

    Mark is absolutely right about the Afghan events and the UN appeals before the attack on Iraq, and George W. Bush wanting UN talks and six party talks so as to involve Japan, China, Russia and South Korea (Who all have their own concerns with the situation) in the talks with North Korea.

    Sledge! was a great comedy, and it is great on DVD. That said, in terms of real politcs, which are gravely serious, there are some parallels. However, they don’t necessarily make Bush a bad guy. He is a man trying to deal with a world with some really bad people in it. And, like Sledge, if he needs a better idea, it is about time the rest of the world made like Sledge’s partner and started giving him some of those ideas instead of just running him down all the time while not helping any themselves. Remember – When Sledge had his partner, that was when he was most effective.

    Regards, Dave in NJ

    “I hope he didn’t go out watching Mr. Belvedere. I’d hate to think the poorguy suffered.”

  5. John says

    I’m curious, how would you have handled the situation? It’s easy to point fingers, but hard to do it yourself.

  6. says

    John,

    The fact is that Iraq never attacked the US or even threatened to. Hence there was no moral or legal justification for the invasion of that country. In the absence of self-defense, the only possible argument for attacking a country is massive and imminent threat to a huge number of people, which was never the case.

    I have posted extensively on this situation, so a search on keywords will give you a lot of information on my views.

  7. Mark says

    Mano,

    Did you see my comments above? I searched through some of your previous blogs and i didn’t see anything about the crux of the argument for the Iraqi invasion, which is 1441. I’m curious as to how you would respond to that resolution which called on Saddam to prove he didn’t have WMD. The burden of proof was never on the US or UN. So, therefore, he was a gathering threat.. In a post 9/11 world, we can’t let gathering threats alone to pursue WMD or transfer them to terrorists.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment on your blogs.

  8. Anonymous says

    I’m curious as to how you would respond to that resolution which called on Saddam to prove he didn’t have WMD.

    It is very hard to prove something does not exist. Often no proof exists but someone’s word. Would or do you believe Saddam’s statements?

  9. Mark says

    No, I wouldn’t believe Saddam’s statements. Neither did Bush, which proves my point. The whole world knew he had WMD in the past and had used these weapons against his own people and Iran during the Iran/Iraq war.

    So, the burden of PROOF was on Saddam to prove he didn’t have WMD aside from mere words.

    Trust me, that if Bush had not invaded, the liberal media would be criticizing him for not doing enough to stop the gathering threats from Saddam Hussein. After all, it was under the Clinton administration that it becaem official US policy that there should be regime change in Iraq. I applaud Clinton for this.

  10. Mel Cashman says

    Sledge Hammer usually acted alone, just like Dirty Harry, as he was a vigilante. For a President of the United States who is supposed to represent all people to act in such an autocratic fashion by invading Iraq, without sufficient proof that it was justified, is truly what has led to this complete disaster and utter failure. Not everyone wants democracy and to shove it down another culture’s throat was a huge miscalculation. The result is the disaster we witness before us. The death toll hasn’t stopped.

  11. Anonymous says

    So, the burden of PROOF was on Saddam to prove he didn’t have WMD aside from mere words.

    It is very hard to prove something does NOT exist. when something does not exist, there is no evidence showing that. It is much easier to prove something exists, and Bush was not able to directly do that in this case.

  12. says

    Mark,

    I second the points made by the previous commenters regarding the impossibility of proving a negative.

    But in addition, the history of enforcement of UN resolutions indicates that the US demands compliance with them when it affects those nations it does not like and ignores them for friendly countries.

    As for 1441 itself, it was never seen as authorizing force when it was voted on, even by the US and UK. The US and UK were planning to bring a force authorization resolution but when they realized that they were not going to get a majority vote for it in the Security Council and also that France would veto such a resolution, they went back and reinterpreted 1441 as authorizing force. So the legal basis for military action was always highly questionable.

    I think that events have shown that the White House deliberately ignored all the intelligence that suggested that there were no weapons and hyped highly dubious claims such as the infamous aluminum tubes.

    The history of the whole episode seems to indicate quite clearly that the decision was first made to invade Iraq and then they cast about for a reason.

  13. Mark says

    Mano and previous posters. In a post 9/11 world as I explained before, we cannot let gathering threats “gather”. Everyone ion the world knew that Saddam had WMD in the past and had used them. Weapons inspectors were on the gorund in Iraq led by Hans Blix, who himself admitted that Saddam was being elusive at best. You make the assumption that weapons didn’t exist just becuase coalition forces didn’t find any (Although, they in fact did find 500 pre-Gulf war weapons not accounted for in the 12,000 page report submitted by the regime). That report along with Saddam’s attempt to evade and squirm out of compliance was condemned by the whole world, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, etc.
    If Bush is as dumb as most of the liberal media, then how could he fool the world into falling hook line & sinker about Saddam?

    And, there is a reason why a famous heavy metal band calls the UN the United Abominations. because they are. They pass resolutions without teeth. And they pass resolutions condemning our friends Israel, when they should be punishing the aggressors. There is obvious and blatant anti-semitismin the UN. Of course, back in the 90s when Babs Streisand was paling around with Bill Clinton in the white house, then it was cool to be jewish.

    So, the US and UK relaized that the language of 1441 had to be interpreted to give the resolution some meaning behind just condemnation. After 16 prior resolutions that did nothing to tame Saddam, this was the time to act finally.

    No, there was no connection between Saddam and 9/11 its self. But, becasue the world changed that day, Bush as our president has a duty to do what he can to protect us. WMD were not found in Iraq of any significance.But, they could have been moved to another country or buried in the sand in Anbar like the Mig 29s that were found in 04. Who knows? But, the burden of proof should have never been placed on the US. The threat was legitimate based on Saddam’s past actions and his constant defiance of the US and UN.
    This war was justified. I do think we underestimated th einsurgency though and we need to be more proactive in getting the terrorists in Iraq. Also, the Iraqi Govt. needs to do more to make an environment that gives both Sunni and Shi’ia say in the government of Iraq.

  14. Mike says

    Mark is correct in his assertions regarding both Iraq and Afganistan. Primarily, the burden of proof was on Saddam to destroy the WMD before the international community, not to just say, “we got rid of ‘em, trust me” that would be tantamount to believing him when he says no worries, I won’t invade my neighbors any more.
    You seriously can’t be that naive!
    just like with a child who is a drug user, a parent can’t “just trust” the child that they aren’t using anymore. As Ronald Reagan used to say “trust but verify” and Saddam didn’t allow verification.
    For as smart as the liberals want us to belive they are, and as dumb as they want us to believe Bush is, to compare a real life person to a sit com character is not very smart. Of Course Sledge Hammer was not effective in real life, he was a fictional character. Just like Dirty Harry, which if you ever watched the first movie was more like the movie High Noon than a conservative rant for facism. (High Noon by the way was written by a writer who was black listed as part of the black listing scandal of the 50s and was a protest to people turning against their fellows). Look at the end of Dirty Harry, he throws his badge away and had it not been for the success of the movie, it would have ended there. But why Dirty Harry was so successful, and why, during Reagan’s ear in the 80s that Hammer struck such a cord is tied into the creativity of creator Alan Spencer, but also that people do find something appealing in the loner, take care of business arch-type that Hammer and Harry represent.
    Also, remember most folks in the Harry movies dislike him, he got his nickname not from how violent and “dirty” harry got in fighting crime, but instead Harry was dirty because handled all the “dirty jobs”. So too, is it with Bush. Liberals may be hated by the left, but he does what he has destrimed needs to be done, no matter how “dirty” the job seems to be.
    And Bush did not create North Korea, nor tell them to set of nuclear bombs or have Iraq’s president threaten Isreal with utter destruction, he takes them at their word, as should we all,
    I take Bush at his word.

  15. says

    I can’t say that I agree with everything Bush has ever done, I don’t know anyone that I could back like that. But I do know there are some good things he did that I agree with, the most important to me is not backing down from terrorism. Yes, we ended up in a war, but I think if we had shrunk from the task as many wanted him to, we still would have ended up in a war. Only we may have found that our country was the one being torn apart by war instead of someone else’s.

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