THE BLOG

Orwell in Wonderland

Why does George W. Bush's Attorney General (and Charles Schumer's and Diane Feinstein's Attorney General, of course), Michael B. Mukasey, have a portrait of George Orwell hanging on the wall of his office? This is a question that has been agitating a number of great minds lately (let's include everyone who knows anything at all about Orwell or Mukasey, shall we?), even that of one of our few real heroes, Keith Olbermann, who puzzled distractedly over it on Countdown Friday night.

Mukasey and Orwell.

Imagine the scene: Orwell's intelligent, shy, honest, vulnerable visage--Orwell's eyes--fixed on the little man sitting in his chair, where he reposes, every now and then, under that gaze, to continue mulling over whether waterboarding can possibly be considered torture if George and Dick say it's all right. The very meaning of the word torture morphs in such a context, doesn't it? Doesn't it? (Tip for Mr. Mukasey: have a look at Orwell's essay, "Politics and the English Language." The prose style is very nice and clear, just the way you like it, and the meaning is even better. Or, if you don't have time for the whole essay, just have a look at Alice in Wonderland, at the brief conversation Alice has with Humpty Dumpty. There's "glory" for you! You'll see what that means when you read it. Oh, this will set you straight!)

I think I've figured out why Mukasey decorates with Orwell: Orwell wrote the single sentence that expresses the essence of Mukasey's public service. I'm quoting from memory now, but I think I've got this right. Close enough, anyway:

ALL BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT . . . that's it, go on . . . ALL BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT ARE EQUAL . . . right, right . . . ALL BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT ARE EQUAL, BUT . . . stay with me . . . BUT . . . SOME BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT . . . here we go . . . SOME BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.

Q.E.D.