Washington - We got a rare glimpse of the tortured soul of George W. Bush this past week.
During a speech at his presidential library in Dallas, Bush made the mother of all Freudian slips. He denounced “the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq.” He quickly corrected himself and clarified that he was talking about President Vladimir Putin of Russia, saying, “I mean of Ukraine.” But then added, shaking his head, “Iraq, too.”
The Bushes always told me that they did not like to be “put on the couch.” But this time, W. put himself on the couch. For the 75-year-old former president, it was a moment of self-incrimination worthy of Dostoyevsky — a display of conscience and a swerve into truth in a time when truth seems lost in the mist.
Everywhere we look, we are deluged with deception and Big Lies.
Putin has pulled the wool over the eyes of a nation, deceiving Russians about the Ukraine war the same way he deceived himself. When a retired colonel blurted out the truth Monday on Russian state television, saying “the situation for us will clearly get worse,” it was another uncommon confessional moment. The anchors with him looked uncomfortable as he spilled the tea and warned Russians not to take “informational sedatives.”
“We are in total geopolitical isolation and the whole world is against us, even if we don’t want to admit it,” said the colonel, Mikhail Khodaryonok, who is now a conservative columnist and TV analyst on military affairs.
A few days later, he came back on TV to change his tune and denounce Western-made weapons, even though the pathetic spectacle of outdated and ineffective Russian weapons in Ukraine has given U.S. military officials a snazzy new sales pitch to sell our weapon systems.
In the GOP primaries Tuesday, lies were rewarded. As Reid Epstein wrote in The New York Times, Republican voters in Pennsylvania anointed right-wing gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, “who helped lead the brazen effort to overturn the state’s 2020 election and chartered buses to the rally before the Capitol riot, and who has since promoted a constitutionally impossible effort to decertify President Biden’s victory in his state.”
Mastriano spread conspiracies about 2020 phantom ballots, hacked machines and dead voters. He bragged that he would be happy to purloin the 2024 election, noting: “I get to appoint the secretary of state who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen via the secretary of state.”
He also appeared at a far-right Christian conference organized by QAnon prophets that started with a video about “ritual child sacrifice” and a “global satanic blood cult.”
In another shameful spectacle, truth is a matter of no importance to the rabid fans of Johnny Depp. Depp fans resemble Trump fans in their blind loyalty and willingness to set aside ugly facts about their hero. Depp is locked in a lurid showdown with ex-wife Amber Heard in a courtroom in a Washington suburb, a trial that an insider described to me as “O.J. on cocaine.”
Like Trump fans, Depp fans act like they’re in a cult. They call Heard’s claims of domestic violence a hoax and cheer on Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez, in a sort of online Roman coliseum, whenever she asks a tough question of Heard.
Heard added to the circus atmosphere when she fired her well-respected PR firm and hired a PR guru who has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior himself.
Heard and Depp have shared the most debasing, sickening stories from a relationship where they clearly brought out the worst in each other. Whatever the jury decides, a man who was once the King of Cool now seems like a washed-up, abrasive shell of his former self.
He blamed Heard’s op-ed in The Washington Post, in which she said she was a victim of domestic abuse without naming Depp, for hurting his career as a pirate. But Disney honchos told me the Mouse House was already turned off by a 2015 incident when Heard falsified documents to smuggle their Yorkshire terriers into Australia, where the fifth installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise was being filmed, and then, when caught, sent the pups back to California on a private plane. Disney was also upset about the incident where part of Depp’s finger got cut off during a marital fight and delayed filming.
Surrounded by sycophants, Depp deceived himself that his alcohol and drug use was not upending his career, relationships and life. Contrary to his insouciant image, he was angry and jealous, those who knew him testified. His former business manager testified that the star was throwing away money, spending $300,000 a month on staff and thousands a month on prescription drugs.
Bruce Witkin, a former Depp friend, described the veil of pretense around him. “The people on the payroll won’t really say much,” he said. “They’ll try, but they don’t want to lose their job.” He added: “It’s a strange thing around people like him. Everybody wants something.”
And Depp stans at the courthouse will hear no evil about Captain Jack Sparrow.
All across the world, customized facts are the rage. Truth has left the building.
Maureen Dowd is a Pulizer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times.