Friday, March 04, 2005


"Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar."

-- Drew Carey

The C.I.A. is America's elite intelligence service, conspiring and plotting and planning with some pretty shady characters in all corners of the globe, known for its covert, relentless attempts to achieve whatever it is that it wants to achieve, at whatever the cost -- so I was pretty surprised to see its new director, Porter J.Gross, basically whining about his new job in public.

The other day he gave a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, where he mentioned how he had to spend five hours a day simply preparing President Bush's daily security briefings; he also said: "The jobs I'm being asked to do, the five hats that I wear, are too much for this mortal." He went on to mention that he's not exactly sure what his duties are, given all of the new intelligence apparatuses that are now being established.

Doesn't this strike anyone else as supremely, possibly galactically, weird?

Bush thinks so -- he went to C.I.A. headquarters yesterday for some much-needed morale boosting and damage control.

Think about it. Put aside the fact that the C.I.A. has a pretty strong, secure image it has to uphold and maintain. Put aside the fact that its new director is basically saying he's stressed, overworked, can't handle it. Just think of it from the 'new job' angle -- can you imagine the CEO of McDonald's, Procter-Gamble or Toshiba reading a speech where he states, quite clearly, that the demands of the job are too much for him to handle. I've never heard of that, anywhere, by anyone. Is he shooting himself in the foot?

Maybe not.

Before travelling abroad, I was basically politically ignorant, but I now I try to follow what governments say and do, and why. (I'm usually wrong, but...) And I'm starting to think that politics is all about the signals you send. It's all about indirection.

So brand-new-CIA-director Gross says publicly, at a major event at a major institution, that his job sucks big time, and he's not sure what he's supposed to do, and what signal does that send to Dubya?

It says: We're in trouble here. Things aren't working. And if you aren't going to pay attention to me, I'm going to say this publicly, loud and clear, plain and simple. Maybe his whining was a ploy and a tactic; seems like it, anyways.

I just find this fascinating. (But I also found the final episode of St.Elsewhere fascinating, too, so there you go. The thing is, it actually was a really weird episode, because it turned out that the whole hospital, the whole series, for that matter, all took place in the imagination of a young autistic boy who stared for hours on end at a little shake-em-up-and-watch-the-snow-fall-Christmas-thingee that held a tiny building that looked exactly like the hospital. It was all a dream, the whole show. Haven't seen the series since I was a kid, but I remember liking it even then. Denzel Washington started out there. Canadian comedian Howie Mandel was suprisingly effective in a dramatic turn. But what the hell was that snow globe about, anyway?)

Politics is a big game that involves money, power and death. Assassinations. Coups. The media. Even fashion. (I'm serious. Imagine Laura Bush strolling out onto a stage dressed like Courtney Love. People would freak out. Actually, the same thing would happen if the opposite occurred, too, only there would probably be more beer involved. And crystal meth. Not that Laura doesn't partake in a little of both now and then.)

And sometimes, if your boss isn't listening well, all you have to do is give a speech.

And then call it a day, take Drew Carey's advice, and head on over to the bar. There'll be a lot of folks waiting for you.

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