There has been a bit of flap about Donald Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer being given a cameo appearance as part of the Emmys ceremony on Sunday, with critics saying that someone associated so closely with Trump should not be welcomed. But it is pretty much a given now that if you are a member of the elite in the financial-political world, you are immune from any long-term consequences for your actions, however appalling. Whatever you do while working in government, even advocating war crimes, you will be welcomed with open arms by the establishment when you leave.
Glenn Greenwald documents this nauseating spectacle that is repeated over and over again, that people who should be treated as pariahs and shunned by any decent person are instead absolved from all their past crimes and lavished with praise and honors and money. He says that the election of Donald Trump has helped in the rehabilitation of those who in the past were reviled, because the establishment needs to persuade the public that all the crimes of the government are temporary aberrations, not permanent features. And they do that by revising the past and absolving the criminals.
The Bush administration was filled with high-level officials who did not just lie from podiums, but did so in service of actual war crimes. They invaded and destroyed a country of 26 million people based on blatant falsehoods and relentless propaganda. They instituted a worldwide torture regime by issuing decrees that purported to redefine what that term meant. They spied on the communications of American citizens without the warrants required by law. They kidnapped innocent people from foreign soil and sent them to be tortured in the dungeons of the world’s worst regimes, and rounded up Muslims on domestic soil with no charges. They imprisoned Muslim journalists for years without a whiff of due process. And they generally embraced and implemented the fundamental tenets of authoritarianism by explicitly positioning the president and his White House above the law.
We’re supposed to all forget about that, or at least agree to minimize it, in service of this revisionist conceit that the United States has long been governed by noble, honorable and decent people until Donald Trump defaced the sanctity of the Oval Office with his band of gauche miscreants and evil clowns. Many of the same people who, just a decade ago, were depicting Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz — remember them? — as monsters of historic proportions are today propagating the mythology that Trump is desecrating what had always been sacred and benevolent American civic space.
Not only were all Bush officials fully immunized from the legal consequences of their crimes — in D.C., that’s a given — but they were also fully welcomed back into decent elite society with breakneck speed, lavished with honors, rewards, lucrative jobs and praise. Those same Bush officials responsible for the most horrific crimes are now beloved by many of the same circles which, today, are expressing such righteous rage that Sean Spicer is allowed onto the Emmy stage and a classroom at Harvard.
Greenwald names those who are complicit in this process of rehabilitation, even of people who should be in prison for war crimes.
The rehabilitation of George W. Bush has been as widespread as it has been nauseating, culminating with a recent appearance on the talk show of liberal icon Ellen Degeneres, who hugged him, hailed him as a personal friend, invited him to denounce Trump for sullying the office which Bush served with such honor, and then posted warm and loving pictures of the pair to her 48 million followers on Instagram.
Hillary Clinton, in her new book, fondly recalls how “George [W. Bush] actually called just minutes after I finished my concession speech, and graciously waited on the line while I hugged my team and supporters one last time. When we talked, he suggested we find time to get burgers together.” She added: “I think that’s Texan for ‘I feel your pain.’” We’ve put all that Iraq War, torture and rendition unpleasantness behind us — just some good faith policy disputes — and now see him as a nice, kind, decent and honorable statesman.
If you’re someone who employs David Frum or hires Ari Fleischer or treats Bush-era war criminals as respectable and honored sources, you really have no standing to object to the paradigm that has ushered Spicer into the halls of elite power.
That’s how it goes. The political-business-media elites have built a protective wall around themselves and look after their own and anyone inside gets a free pass whatever they do. I am just waiting for the day when Dick Cheney will be on TV laughing and joking with ‘liberal’ hosts as some kind of avuncular elder statesman. After all, if war criminal Henry Kissinger could pull that off (and recall that Hillary Clinton is a great admirer of him, considered him her friend, and courted him to endorse her campaign), then anybody can.