... the cast of characters in what is arguably the worst administration since Nixon's strikes me as devoid of literary interest. Practically the only enduring contribution of this crew to America's writers is its patented brand of cant ... But behind the words lurk people who have, for seven years, refused to grant room for ambiguity, complexity, and doubt - preconditions for the moral universe in which modern literature is possible. Instead, we get a stilted reduction whose protagonists, depending on who's reading, are either simply Good, or simply Wicked. We get Nicholson Baker's Checkpoint. We get "Stuff Happens" and "Guantanamo" - bracing theatrical experiences, but not dramas per se. A mark of the current administration's moral failure, and perhaps of its artistic triumph, is that it has sterilized many of the avenues for protest against itself. It brings out the worst in us, and has, by its relentless aestheticization of every aspect of American life, made the aesthetic feel insufficient. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps some artist or press secretary somewhere is even now working up a giant masterwork that illuminates W as a tragic hero caught on the horns of history. Somehow, though, I'm not convinced such a work would ring true. Anyway, I'm not holding my breath.
So wait ... it's the Bushies' fault that all the anti-Bush agitprop of the last six years has been such artistic rubbish? Because the Administration has "made the aesthetic feel insufficient" and "sterilized many of the avenues for protest against itself"? Because its members are "devoid of literary interest?" I'm happy to blame the current Administration for all sorts of sins, but this is just pathetic. If Soviet Communism didn't make "the aesthetic feel insufficient" for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, then I don't want to hear a peep from the poor delicate darlings who think they're too traumatized by the Bush years to write anything that's any good.
Moreover, you don't have to view our current President as a "tragic hero caught on the horns of history" to think that there might be some good drama to be found inside this White House - in, say, the ruin of Paul Wolfowitz's idealistic dreams; or the tangled, rivalrous interplay of Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice; or the peculiar family dynamic between Dubya and his father; or the President's strange, semi-spousal relationships with inner-circle women like Karen Hughes and Harriet Miers ... and that's just to take the first few examples that spring to mind. No, the fact that none of our artists have managed to make something out of this Administration tells us way more about the artists than the Bushies. It suggests that there aren't any interesting Republicans in our fiction not because Republicans aren't interesting, but because our intelligentsia's political prejudices blind them to the possibility that a Republican might be, well, a complicated human being rather than just the sum of every liberal's fears.