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The Expansionist
Sunday, July 27, 2008
 
Two Deaths. Tony Snow, former press secretary to President Bush (the Younger) died July 12th. I was going to comment but let it pass. Then Randy Pausch died on Friday the 25th. The contrast between the two deaths impelled me to say something.
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Most people will know that Randy Pausch delivered a "Last Lecture" at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University after he found out that a cancerous condition had become terminal. The term "Last Lecture" apparently derives from a practice at that university of encouraging departing faculty to say to students what they would advise if they knew they were dying. In fact, Pausch did know he was dying, so his Last Lecture was more than hypothetical. His death, at 47, left a wife and three young children well provided for, but hurting. It also left the Nation, and more, grieving. Not just because he was a beautiful man who should not have died so much ahead of time, but also because he was generous and wise, and wanted his death to encourage people to pursue their dreams, not just live from day to day without even thinking about what they'd really like to do in the time they have, or actually aspiring to be what they wanted to be before "What do you want to be when you grow up?" became a question too late.
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When we look back on his life, we will be sad, but glad that he lived even as briefly as he did.
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When we look back on the life of RightwingerTony Snow, by contrast, we will remember his perfidy and utter lack of honor, and wish he had died long before he had disgraced himself in lying to the people to make excuses for the inexcusable behavior of the Bush Administration.
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One of his predecessors as White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellan, served as deputy press secretary to Bush during his first campaign for the White House. Bush chose Ari Fleischer as his initial press secretary, but sent to Texas for McClellan in advance of Fleischer's departure, then elevated McClellan to Press Secretary when Fleischer left. McClellan, who came from a family important in Texas Republican politics, would seem to have come to Washington all dewy-eyed and naively hopeful that a man who had been an admirable Governor could be an equally admirable President, even tho Bush had invaded Iraq before McClellan arrived. Given that timeline, McClellan was not involved in the discussions that preceded the invasion.
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Scott McClellan was an amiable, likable, harmless chubby guy you couldn't imagine being part of a conspiracy of lies to advance a despicable and unjustifiable war. His likability served to dull the sharp points of press questions. He thus lent himself to an Administration that kept the public in the dark about its dark motives. McClellan remained White House spokesman long after he should have accepted that the old Bush was gone and was now just a puppet for a malign conspiracy of Rightwingers in the service of some very ugly causes, like Radical Zionism and plutocracy.
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McClellan had the good grace to at least partly repent his sins, even tho he continues to insist that the Administration did not willfully lie to us.
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Tony Snow didn't go even that far, but died utterly unrepentant about his role in spouting the Bush Administration's lies and deceitful garbage. Tony Snow was inaptly named, unless his middle name was "Yellow" or "Brown". He was more like the soot-coated mounds of snow piled up on the sidewalks of a New York City street during an extended cold snap, or the muddy slush of such snow melted by salt spread by the Department of Sanitation when it couldn't remove the snow physically. He was, in short, a bad man.
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To evaluate the behavior of people like Tony Snow or Scott McClellan, who make excuses for foul crimes they do not themselves commit, we have to evaluate the honorableness or dishonorableness of Government service. Is it possible honorably to serve the Government of the United States when it is dominated by evil people at the top? That depends on what service you render. If you work in the Department of Agriculture to help train farmers in soil conservation or using new seed stocks; or in the National Park Service guiding tourists around Yellowstone; or you help people find low-cost healthcare or housing thru the Department of Health and Human Services, sure. But if what you do advances evil, or enables evil, then no, it is not possible to serve your Government honorably.
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We can clarify the issue here, as in so many other cases, with that old standby, comparison to Hitler. Could a German citizen serve the Hitler Government honorably? Sure, if all he did was build autobahns or something. Or could he? Autobahns were military roads. Hm.
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So if a person enlists in the U.S. Coast Guard to help boaters in distress, but finds himself intercepting people trying to flee Cuba and returning them to Communism, then what was intended to be honorable suddenly becomes dishonorable. And a person who enlists in the military to defend his country but instead invades a country that never attacked us and had no intention of attacking us, and ends up participating in a massive, monstrous crime against humanity that kills at least tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then s/he ends up doing evil.
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Government service is honorable only if that Government is honorable. And the Bush Administration is not honorable. Decent people must be very wary of serving an evil Administration, even if an initial evaluation suggests that the particular job will do no harm. You work on roads and those roads are used to carry military convoys toward yet another illegal and immoral attack, as for instance upon Iran, and you end up participating in evil. You enlist in the Foreign Service to help the U.S. implement aid for Latin America and suddenly find yourself forced to make excuses for Guantanamo, and you are "in on it".
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Tony Snow was "in on it" with the Bush Administration in everything it did during his tenure as Press Secretary (and even before his tenure, if he then had to 'explain' it). He's dead now, at age 53. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Now if only cancer would free us of George Bush, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, and the neocons who caused us to invade Iraq, we might regain some honor in Government even before President McCain takes office.
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(The current U.S. military death toll in Iraq, according to the website "Iraq Coalition Casualties", is 4,124 — for Israel.)

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