March 11, 2008. This afternoon I noticed on the MSNBC website, under “video highlights,” the headline “Bush goes country, sings about Libby.”
Even before clicking on the headline I thought it disturbing.
Remember “Scooter” Libby? He was chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, the man who selected the personnel in Bush’s first-term cabinet, that cabinet seeded with neoconservatives who systematically dispensed disinformation to generate public support for the attack on Iraq. That cabal that has slickly left the scene of the crime and moved on, somehow retaining credibility as mainstream media commentators and respectable academics—Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Bolton, etc.—or dug in its heels within the administration, agitating for the bombing of Iran (Elliott Abrams).
Libby and his boss were infuriated when their lie about Saddam Hussein’s supposed effort to acquire uranium from Niger was exposed by Joseph Wilson, and so attacked and punished the honest former U.S. diplomat by “outing” his CIA wife. For lying about his role in that episode, Libby was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison before Bush pardoned him.
That wasn’t very funny, actually. The judicial system acted to punish a top official for an egregious violation of the law, and a president discredited among the American people and recognized globally as responsible for war crimes—a president who disdains and ignores the rule of law—let him off the hook.
But NBC’s infotainment moment makes light of the Libby episode, already receding from indignant public memory. In the video clip, the Today Show’s Ann Curry cheerily begins: “President Bush showed his lighter side over the weekend taking to the microphone and stealing the show in the annual Gridiron club dinner on Saturday. Listen to this.” Ha ha ha ha ha.
(There follows an audio clip, to the tune of “Green, Green Grass of Home.’ Bush in an off-key arguably drunken voice sings: ‘Down the lane I look and here comes Scooter, finally freed of the prosecutor…’ [and after some inaudible material:] “…brown, brown grass of home.” Makes me remember Bush’s nickname for Karl Rove: “Turd Blossom.”)
“Ha ha ha,” chortles Ann. “The president’s singing debut was reportedly a shock to the hundreds of residents who were just expecting him to speak at the event. The lyrics were written and customized for the president. His performance brought down the house!”
Matt Lauer, Meredith Viera and Willard Scott all join in the fun, laughing at this “karaoke” and the president’s cowboy hat.
This is the TV channel that features “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” offering about the best critical thinking the system can tolerate on prime time. But then it offers this—the smirking frat-boy president mocking honest prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and boasting of his own role of freeing the convicted criminal Scooter from serious consequences of his actions. And it adds affectionate Bush-promoting commentary.
About that song—“Green, Green Grass of Home.” I sing it myself; it’s very moving. It starts as the celebration of a nostalgic homecoming, but by the end you realize the singer has been condemned to death by the legal system. He awakens from his dream of going home, seeing his mama and papa, kissing his “sweet Mary, hair of gold, and lips like cherries,” and then tells you what’s really going to happen.
Then I awake and look around me
At the four grey walls that surround me
And I realize I was only dreamin’
There’s a guard and there’s a sad old padre,
Arm and arm we’ll walk at daybreak —
Again I’ll touch the green, green grass of home
It’s a song about doom and death, but also about a kind of redemption. Bush sings a farcical version to celebrate the impunity his dictates confer, the compassion he systematically denies. Encircling thousands of detainees with grey walls, subjecting them to torture, he frees poor Scooter from the prosecutor. Where does Scooter wind up? On the “brown, brown grass of home.” Ha ha ha ha ha! Very funny indeed. That’s about as funny as those photos of Iraqis smeared with feces in Abu Ghraib.
Why would NBC want to smear itself with this brown, brown thing? Why would Ann, Matt, Meredith, and Willard all cooperate in this prettification of the Libby Affair? Because their editor told them, “Let’s put a light-hearted spin on this story?” Because they’re incapable of realizing that this light-hearted treatment covers the crimes of the Cheney cabal, discourages critical reasoning about the Libby case, and rewards Bush for his cavalier commutation of Libby’s sentence?
Totally disgusting. I wish Keith would comment on this.