Reagan's Legacy: Executive Amnesia

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory, c.1954

There's a very clever graphic on the cover of The Huffington Post this morning. A Warholesque pattern of 122 images of ex-Gonazales aide Kyle Sampson. One for every memory lapse he reported on the Senate floor yesterday. "I don't remember." Get used to that phrase. We'll be hearing it a lot in the coming weeks and months.

Reagan did it with an actor's flair, but it was Reagan who ushered in this age of executive exceptionalism. "I cannot recall," he said over and over in his Iran-Contra testimony. And with that endearing little nod, that seemed to say, "Why I am just a simple man. A man of the people, baffled by these dark political machinations."

I remember my grandfather cluck, cluck, clucking in disgust. "If he were the CEO of a company," he'd say, "You know how long he'd be tellin' that story? About as long as it took him to grab his things and walk to the front gate." But my grandfather was one of those men in "gray flannel" Paul Krugman writes about. He was the product of that bygone era, when the buck actually stopped somewhere.

This is Reagan's legacy. An era of unaccountability for those who achieve the requisite wealth and influence. A time when men of small skill, but excellent breeding, fail ever upwards and descend, when they do, on golden parachutes. An era when only the little people experience the consequences, not only of their personal failings, but of the colossal failings of their "betters." When average workers of a company like Enron lose their livelihoods, their savings, their homes. But can only stare in rapt amazement as the wheels of justice grind slowly on, bringing few prosecutions and vacating that of a dead architect of corporate failure.

There is no "pound 'em in the ass prison" for even token prosecutions like Scooter Libby. That nice white boy shouldn't see the inside of a jail cell says even his jury. He didn't mean any harm. He was just so forgetful.


Anonymous said...

Nicely done! Concise and AFAIK totally on the mark. We must continue to note out loud the state of the Emperor's couture and indeed, the eyesore that is his naked legions.