"Did I just say that out loud?"
The widowhood of every government - signs for all to see. - Leonard Cohen
From Florida, which enjoys Bush rule squared, comes this story of last week's ceremony naming Marco Rubio as the 2007-08 Speaker of the State Legislature.
Near the close, Governor Jeb Bush took the podium in the House chamber and spoke about his friend. No, not Representative Rubio, but Jeb's "Mystical Warrior Chang."
Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.
I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.
Bush then unsheathed a golden sword and presented it to Rubio, saying "I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior." The crowd went wild.
There may be a reasonable, though not entirely logical, explanation to this. "Unleash Chiang" was a popular phrase with the American far right in the early 1950s, and referred of course to Chiang Kai-shek, and the fantasy of "permitting" his Kuomintang to retake the mainland. It seems to have been handed down through the family: the Gainsville article recalls a Washington Post feature on the politics of tennis from 1989, which had George HW Bush threatening to "unleash Chang" as a method of intimidation.
I wouldn't suggest taking Jeb at his word here. We should doubt the public word of every Bush. I don't think "Warrior Chang" is Bush's occultic avatar or Secret Chief. But I think we should take note of his rhetorical flourish, for what it reveals of Jeb, and for what Jeb wants to reveal of himself.
We know a lot of nasty and weird things about the Bush family, and we have good cause to suspect a lot worse. What's more, they know we know. (Of course I'm not just talking about us, but I am also talking about us: I've logged a visitor to the blog using an IP assigned to the Executive Office of the Governor of Florida.) And they know, and we know, that these things will not be spoken in the mass media. And so they enjoy the liberty of winking at us. Like two years ago, when Jeb "joked" during a cabinet meeting that the people of San Francisco were "an endangered species, which may not be a bad thing. That's probably good news for the country." As the room erupted in laughter he added disingenuously, "Did I just say that out loud?" Like George HW Bush posing in bed with his granddaughters, a model of an Illuminati pyramid in his lap. Like Dick Cheney's delighting in his underground reputation as a conspiracrat. Like Jeb speaking matter-of-factly before a partisan crowd about his habitual summoning of a warrior entity. They know what signs they send. As many dynasties near the end of their runs, the rulers often feel so secure about their station that they lift the veil on their own weirdness to revel publically in their own exceptionalism.
And even the most mundane interpretation of the Chang story is alarming, for its depiction of the militant imagination of these people. They are bringers of swords and conflicts, and their victories are bloody. And the blood is our own.