Sunday, March 12, 2006

Double Schadenfreude

Gentle Reader(s), we're gathered here to day to celebrate bad things happening to a couple of bad people.. Perhaps that's not the noblest of impulses, but let's be honest. They both earned what they got.

Our first schadenfreudee is a certain Mr. Claude Allen, until quite recently GWB's domestic policy adviser, one-time aide to Jesse Helms, and professional fundie nutcase. He's been arrested for running a classic grift job against his local Target store. What you do is buy a bunch of merchandise, take it out to your car, go back in the store with your receipt, fill your cart with identical merchandise, and "return" it for a full refund. At Target, no less. It's not surprising that a Bushoid would turn out to be a crook. But an incompetent, small-time crook? That's just really sad. I mean, I'm not saying it would be better if they'd all go back to running elaborate arms-for-hostages schemes, but ripping off your neighborhood discount store is in a weird way an affront to the dignity of your office. If that's the best crime you can come up with, it's clear you never belonged in DC in the first place.

So two points about Claude Allen:

First, the thing that makes this a fun story (besides the pathetic and pedestrian nature of the crime), is the hypocrisy. From the Sunday Times story about the arrest:

At the time of his departure Washington insiders speculated that Allen, a staunch evangelical conservative, was leaving because he was unhappy military chaplains were being forced to conduct non-denominational services. In a previous job at the health department he was an advocate of abstinence-only Aids prevention programmes.

As a health administrator in Virginia he once blocked welfare payments to a rape victim who wanted an abortion. In 2003 Bush nominated Allen as a federal appeals court judge, but he was rejected by Democrats who unearthed an old statement he had once made disparaging “queers”.

See also the longer profile of Allen by the Washington Post, with a photo of Allen standing with Bush and Rove.

What we have here is conservative "morality" in a nutshell. On one hand, absolutely rigid rules about sex and so-called "culture of life" issues, strictly enforced by unlimited government intrusion into citizens' private lives. On the other, a far more nuanced and forgiving stance on a lot of other things, like "thou shalt not kill", "thou shalt not bear false witness", and of course stealing. Suddenly they see all sorts of grey areas and loopholes everywhere, so that (for example) neither war nor capital punishment have any negative moral aspect at all to them. And if you have to lie to get your war started, apparently that's peachy keen too, since it proves you're a strong, tough leader, or something. Just so long as you don't fool around with any interns. That's far, far worse.

Second point, GWB's reaction to the arrest is rather telling. From the Telegraph story:

Mr Bush said: "If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of staff and legal counsel the truth, and that's deeply disappointing.

"If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life, and that is really sad."

So let me get this straight: The stealing itself is just a sign that "something went wrong" in the guy's life, which in itself is certainly no big deal. The real sin here, the real thing all right-thinking Americans should be outraged over, is Allen's unforgivable lapse in personal loyalty to the president. The moment he knew he was in legal trouble, he apparently ought to have told Karl & Rupert so they could've come up with some idiotic spindoctoring and a plan to manage the media. Blame it all on Hillary Clinton or something, since the specifics don't really matter anyway, and they certainly never have to be true. But instead, Allen selfishly focused on saving his own skin, even though a truly loyal Republican's every waking moment is supposed be slavishly devoted to adoring thoughts about the Glorious Leader. Bush can't quite say he never knew the guy (a la Abramoff), but his cold, distant remarks are about the next closest thing. Now it's possible Allen may never work inside the beltway again. Which would be fine with me, quite honestly. Good riddance.

The second schadenfreudee got his in an even more dramatic and final way. I'm talking, of course, about Slobodan Milosevic, who died miserable and alone in a foreign prison, while on trial for war crimes. Some people have argued it's a big disappointment because he hadn't been convicted or sentenced yet. And yes, that would've been nice, of course, but in the end it would've been mostly a symbolic victory. There's nothing a civilized society could do that could adequately punish him for his actions, so a conviction would ultimately be disappointing as well, no matter what the sentence. In the end, what matters is that he's gone, not one more person will die on his orders, and he lived just long enough to see all his dreams die. He's gone, and the world's a better place for it. That should count for something. And if we're really lucky, next it'll be Pinochet's turn, and maybe Mugabe after that.


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