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September 20, 2007

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Thank you for the privilege of responding to your post.

See also this.

Bush's attitude towards Iraq is like that. It's as though he thinks that giving up losing and giving up drinking are one and the same: all either of them requires is a demonstration of resolve and a refusal to give way.

Well, for Bush's purposes, that's all the US occupation of Iraq does require.

"Bush is a classic insecure authoritarian..."

When I was younger (before I became an academic), we had other names for that sort of thing: bully and coward.

Stop and think for a moment: if your assistant greeted you every morning with the words "Thank you for the privilege of serving today", how would you respond?

The local phone company makes their customer service people answer the phone "How may I give you excellent service today?" I can't even let that go by, usually responding "Geez, you must be tired of saying that."

Worse still, some phone workers have turned the word into a verb -- "how may I service you today?" I always have to bite my tongue to stop myself from responding as if they meant that verb in its more usual meaning. I'm pretty sure they're not actually that determined to satisfy my needs.

I haven't heard that one, trilobite. I might choke on my phone if I did. And why does none of this story about Bush surprise me?

Gawd, doesn't 'serving' require an object? Or would it be over the top to have the staff say 'Thank you for the privilege of serving you today?' See, even Bush has his limits.

When Colin Powell was several minutes late to a Cabinet meeting, Bush ordered that the door to the Cabinet Room be locked.

WTF?!?! Astonishing, almost mind-bending. Bush runs his gummint like a 4th grade class?

Maybe everyone has to put their heads down on the desk when they vote.

I'm trying and failing to picture the events following the locking of the door - did Powell knock on the door? Kick it down? Go have a coffee?

did Powell knock on the door? Kick it down? Go have a coffee?

Salute?

That man sold his balls for a mess of pottage. The amount of s**t he swallowed in that job is truly impressive, but I have no idea why he thought that was what the job entailed. He was Secretary of State, for gossake, not a dern lieutenant. The duty of a Cabinet member is very different from the duty of even a top military officer, and he never seemed to grasp that fact.

Anon nails it; Bush acts so revoltingly tough, or "tuff" rather, because he is a coward.

The outrage of the day in Bizarroworld is apparently that the President of Iran might visit the 9/11 site and speak to Columbia U. students in a Q&A session.

Can you imagine Bush letting a bunch of Columbia students ask him questions for an hour?

I'm trying and failing to picture the events following the locking of the door

Clearly you've never seen the episode of 'Yes, Prime Minister' where Sir Humphrey is relieved of his key to the PM's office.

Stop and think for a moment: if your assistant greeted you every morning with the words "Thank you for the privilege of serving today", how would you respond?

"This isn't McDonalds". Who has assistants, anyway?

Bush interrupted Rove when he joined in the discussion, saying, "Karl, hang up my jacket."

Never work for a guy who calls you "Turd Blossom". Actually, never spend more than five minutes in a room with a guy who calls you "Turd Blossom", unless your plan is to punch him in the face.

All it takes is a simple decision and a determination to stick to it come what may.

I'd say quitting after something like 20 or 25 years of steady daily intoxication is a little harder than that. I'm happy to give Bush his due.

That said, I can take you around my town on any given evening and introduce you to a church basement full of people who've accomplished the same thing. None of them should be President.

As far as I can tell, George W Bush is, hands down, by any measure you care to use, the single most spectacularly unqualified individual to have ever held his office. We'll all be paying for his childishness and his mulish ignorance and stupidity for another generation at least.

Thanks -

The one thing I really can't imagine is letting someone go on saying that day after day. It's just too crazy.

You might not be able to imagine it, and I might not be able to imagine it, but neither of us was chosen by God from before the beginning of all time, as a special dispensation, to save the American Republic from the twin spectres of oral sex and slightly higher marginal rates of income tax.

George was.

He is sensitive about asserting his supremacy over others, but especially his father.

No. Bush is compulsive, insistent, obnoxious--anything but sensitive about asserting his supremacy over others.

From The Price of Loyalty*, Ron Suskind/Paul O'Neill's collaboration about the latter's stint as treasury secretary:

"Go get me Andy Card," Bush said to one of the Secret Service agents. Card, the designee as chief of staff, entered from an adjoining room . . . Bush looked impatiently at Card, hard-eyed. "You're the chief of staff. You think you're up to getting us some cheeseburgers?"

Card nodded. No one laughed. He all but raced out of the room.

NB: This was pre-9/11, so no there are no "war-time president" stressors.

*I ganked this quote from a footnote in a DailyKos diary, with the underlying link to the late lamented Billmon, so I can't vouch for its absolute verbatimness.

yeah, hil, that bolten line caught my eye too. and my gag-reflex.

i think you could re-read suetonius, procopius, and the annals of the chinese emperors, and not find any god-king asking for a more abject and debased expression of obsequious self-humiliation than that.

people who know that they may be killed on a whim say this sort of thing; people who know that their fate and the fate of their loved ones depends on placating an insane and insatiable tyrant, get very used to talking like that.

indeed, i imagine that members of idi amin's household staff used to say things like this, or saddam hussein's inner circle.

but free citizens of a republic? never.

dammit. the founders wrote such a *good* constitution. so *carefully* crafted to avoid just this sort of thing. and yet, when we really need it, the constitution is not working to protect us from tyranny.

but free citizens of a republic? never.

The citizens of Free Republic, however...

Bush is, apparently, Alfred E. Neuman. They even look alike.

Hilzoy, your secret is out now! Not Bush!

Draper confirms a lot of suspicions about Bush. The detail is very useful. I'll be ordering a copy tonight.

When I was younger (before I became an academic), we had other names for that sort of thing: bully and coward.

Posted by: Anonymouse | September 20, 2007 at 07:16 PM

Bush is a spoiled brat.

The title "Dead Certain" sounds like one of those lousy B horror flicks in which young adults stupidly check out the noises in the attic and the basement and the barn and end up garrotted, impaled, and sloppily dissected.

Even the detective investigating the case finds himself being hacked to death.

I'm glad the Constitution limits this eight-year Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue to only one sequel.

I can't stop being amazed at how people who claim to believe character is important voted for this man for president.

The only real problem with this is that comparing Bush to Douglas Haig does a grave disservice to Haig. Remember, he won his war. British generals also adapted much better to conditions than is conventional wisdom, though I would say that others, such as Gough and Plumer, were more adaptable than Haig. Still, it's a horrible comparison.

Then again, I think that a lot of the conventional wisdom about World war One is wrong.

The only real problem with this is that comparing Bush to Douglas Haig does a grave disservice to Haig. Remember, he won his war. British generals also adapted much better to conditions than is conventional wisdom, though I would say that others, such as Gough and Plumer, were more adaptable than Haig. Still, it's a horrible comparison.

Then again, I think that a lot of the conventional wisdom about World war One is wrong.

Arg.

As far as I can tell, George W Bush is, hands down, by any measure you care to use, the single most spectacularly unqualified individual to have ever held his office.

Now, now, there's still Warren Gamaliel Harding. He may have exceeded Bush's inability to use the English language. Though, 'tis true, Harding didn't start any stupid land wars in Asia. Still, Bush will have to acquire better critics to top Mencken's criticism of Harding's speaking style:

"He writes the worst English that I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up the topmost pinnacle of posh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash."

And before this august audience is won over by the campaign to defend the indefensible record of General Douglas Haig, let the ghosts of four hundred thousand British dead rise up and petrify those fingers poised on their keyboards. Haig was not as bad as his worst detractors would have it; but he is still one of the worst generals in Western European history, and a massive river of blood marks his eternal reckoning.

Haig was not as bad as his worst detractors would have it; but he is still one of the worst generals in Western European history, and a massive river of blood marks his eternal reckoning.

Somme say.....

I can't stop being amazed at how people who claim to believe character is important voted for this man for president.

Look on the bright side: Bush lost both elections in which he ran for President. Most American voters knew he shouldn't be President.

I think he needs Smithers for an assistant...

Wait, wait -- the President has remained steadfast as God has sent one test after another of his resolve. Doesn't that count for anything?

[Not in my reality, but there are apparently others . . .]

Think Blackadder. There's a George Bush in all four series.

One day I will finish that book "Bush is...".
I find it interesting that in most in-depth comparisions Bush looks the worse and one finds oneself in defense of some of the worst people in human history*. Maybe it is because Bush simply lacks the class of the true villains and just beats them in the more outwardly bad character traits.
Why hasn't the cosmic script writer selected a better main heavy (even Chain-Eye is at best a second class fiend).
One for Haig: He did not start the war he mismanaged and he could have been replaced anytime, so part of the blame lies with others.

* this can be especially embarassing, if one finds someone like Hitler a less unpleasant and more capable character and the main "advantage" of Bush being that he has not caused the death of >50E6 people (yet).

OK, Tim, how does Bush map to each series of Blackadder? Maybe General Melchett in Forth, but I can't think of any other good matches right now.

(BTW, Stephen Fry is now blogging. Pack a lunch for his first entry on PDAs and smart phones.)

"I can't stop being amazed at how people who claim to believe character is important voted for this man for president."

It is sadly my experience that many people are more than happy to watch others being humilated for entertainment (think of all the reality shows where this is the main attraction). Therefore, I suspect that these actions would not disqualify Bush's character in the minds of many Americans.

"when we really need it, the constitution is not working to protect us from tyranny."

[Woman in crowd watching delegates exit Constitutional Convention]: "Well, Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?"

[Dr. Franklin]: "A republic, if you can keep it."

Series 1 - Edmund Blackadder
Series 2 - Queen Elizabeth
Series 3 - The Prince of Wales
Series 4 - General Melchett

IMO, two years from now Hugh Laurie will be playing Bush. He just has to combine the Prince of Wales, Bertie Wooster, and Gregory House with no intelligence.

By the way, if we're going all World War I, wouldn't Bush be closest to Kaiser Wilhelm?

You know, one of the fantasies I have (this is the one that will not invite Secret Service scrutiny) is that the President will finally be forced to comprehend, on live television, the full scope of his inadequacies and failures, resulting in an on-air mental breakdown. That would be nice.

I'm just waiting for some widespread sense of outrage to boil up over the Bush clan's (and all their personal retainers; I'm talking to you, James Baker, you slut) belief that their boy Georgie, with his history of failure and his sub-average IQ, was just what this country needed as its leader. "The most spectacularly unqualified" indeed. I'd call it a shared award.

The upper-class arrogance of that filthy lot never ceases to amaze. They must get a real chuckle every time they hear the Scion mention "the ownership society", since they obviously know who owns what around here. As far as American dynasties go, at least the Kennedys have had the class to actually govern and not spend their time stealing the fucking silverware and letting their pets shit all over the carpets.

The question I keep coming back to when we get insights like this is who decided this man should be president? He seems to have been a hand-picked puppet, but by whose hand?

I know the conventional wisdom is that that Cheney's really running the show, but Cheney wasn't brought in until after Bush had the nomination.

A conspiracy theorist friend of mine suggests it's Pappa Bush, and that all the chatter about his being out of the loop is smoke and mirrors. (As my own Pop would say, he was the head of the CIA...it's not hard to imagine he could pull off such a stunt.) I know that leaves the big question of why his mortal enemies Cheney and Rumsfeld were brought in, but then, but perhaps that's more smoke and mirrors as well.

I just can't believe, with all the kid-gloves handling this man seemed to have needed each step of the way, that he built up the kind of loyalty he enjoys through his people skills alone. Even if Bush initially attracted Rove with some of that Texan charm, you'd think after the barrage of humiliation he endured that some kernel of self-respect would kick in and lead him to say "screw you" eventually.

Truthfully, I find it less frightening a scenario to imagine someone higher up is pulling the strings here than I do to think these folks were so desperate to be in power they willingly let someone they knew to be unqualified pose as president.

these folks were so desperate to be in power they willingly let someone they knew to be unqualified pose as president.

But that's the far more likely explanation. It's a group thing. But it's not an especially large group, and there are specific people who 'anointed' Bush and made sure the money was there to drive almost everyone else out of the race.

Lots of people involved once the campaign was rolling fooled themselves that it would be Poppa Bush all over again.

But that's the far more likely explanation.

Perhaps. Or at least the far more credible explanation, but even if they were willing to let him pose as president, that still leaves some questions. Were they running the White House merely by the power of suggestion? Is W really that gullible? When I add it up, it seems so unlikely he wouldn't eventually catch on.

IIRC, running the White House in 1999,2000 seemed like a pretty easy job - or at least Clinton made it look easy.

you're a GOP bigwig in 1999. the economy is booming and the world is pretty calm. you and your clique think the current President is an utter lightweight, totally political, completely undisciplined, and even though he's been through a lot of political trouble (at your hand) he's got huge approval ratings. the country feels good, everything's looking up.

so, you get W - a young guy that everybody'd like to have a beer with - to make the most of that good feeling.

I was just now pondering this phenomenon of how Bush has commandeered such loyalty from, well, everyone inside the Republican Party political structure, his current and former staff, the so-called liberal press (until lately), and how the real story to be told someday is how this loyalty is enforced via implicit threats to the 4th estate and down through all of the federal agencies.

Then I read over at Josh Marshall's that Vincente Fox's new book alleges that Bush is afraid of horses --- this from an encounter they had years ago, and remember, there are no horses on Bush's "ranch". (No doubt Bush smirked as he backed away and broke into some Desi Arnez pidgin Spanish involving the words "horses .... they loco".)

This fits character. A confident rider uses spur, rein, bit, sugar, carrot, mouth clucks, and deft whispering effortlessly to fully control the horse.

But horses ARE loco and can kick your butt unexpectedly.

Bush knows this instinctively. You see, horses are not part of Bush's base. They aren't susceptible to cheap faith and fake Texas drawls, like Bush's and his base, and they smell fear.

Here's the kind of horse Bush likes: One that has been taken behind the barn by some rough handlers and beaten and broken repeatedly into a weary docility. Then Bush can walk into the corral in his sequined duds wielding a lasso someone else tied for him, get up on the stool to mount (like Alan Ladd in "Shane") the animal, and call the horse, not by his or her (how do you like that: I'm politically correct in the animal kingdom) name, but by a series of humiliating nicknames.

He leans down awkwardly and whispers the word "glue" in the animal's ear and makes sure the horse notices the rough handlers sitting on the corral fence.

The horse comes to believe he is Jack Palance from "Shane".

Gee, it sounds like I know something about horses. Only this: I learned to ride on an old horse named "Sir", which established the pecking order immediately. His eyes were always rolling around in his head. He was a biter, and every time my arms went up to saddle him, his head came around and nipped at my ribs, once getting me a really good one. Arm up, head around; arm half-way up, head half-way around; arm up and then quickly down to juke him, and he'd turn his head and then jerk it back and look forward like, you know, he was minding his own business, what's the problem?

One day, one of the attractive female equesterian instructers noticed this ongoing minuet and came over and said: "Here's what you do" and she took that horse's nose in one hand and, just like the Mel Brooks movie, punched Sir right between the eyes.

Both Sir and I started in the stall.

Then she gave me a significant, but withering look and she and her tailored Levis and her riding crop and her turquiose belt buckle strode off in those formidable boots to attend to something else, leaving me and Sir to consider this slight shift in the universe. She might have spat in disgust on the stable floor for good measure.

Nothing changed, but come to think of it, SHE was Jack Palance.

All it takes is a simple decision and a determination to stick to it come what may.

It's more complicated than that. What you describe is simply the act of stopping drinking, but that's not enough. True recovery requires much more, which Bush has not been willing to do: turning one's life over to a higher power, acknowledging one's character flaws, making amends, etc.

Lacking these steps, Bush remains an alcoholic, a "dry drunk," and all of the character flaws described in your post are characteristic of that disoder.

One more thought. Proclamations like "I'm the Decider" sound defensive. Like he's trying to convince someone, possibly even himself, that he's really in charge.

Perhaps he meant to say "Thanks for the pleasure of Servicing You Mr President?

I can't stop being amazed at how people who claim to believe character is important voted for this man for president.

so, you get W - a young guy that everybody'd like to have a beer with - to make the most of that good feeling.

Well, just to play contrarian, Democrats and the primary process in general deserve some credit (blame). They’ve put up candidates that just don’t click with the average Joe. Clinton was the last really personable D candidate. The nicest descriptions I recall of Gore and Kerry are things like wooden, arrogant, blow-dried, detached, cold, condescending, smug, elitist… Maybe those characteristics are OK or even desirable on the coasts – but for much of the country they are not.

And based on anecdotes I’m sure that in person or in small groups Kerry and Gore (well Gore 2000 anyway) come across much differently, much more personable. But TV matters (and YouTube matters in 08).

When you boil down “someone I’d like to have a beer with” it just means that Bush came across as down to earth and charismatic. His apparent problems with the English language simply made him appear more humble. He came across as confident even while displaying human frailties. “Cowboy” is not a derogatory label for much of the country.

People who don’t follow politics closely can base their entire opinion on these quickly formed impressions.

That’s why I’m starting to think that 08 won’t actually be a lock for Democrats next year after all. It seems more certain every day that HRC is the front runner. Democrats would be hard pressed to come up with someone who comes across more arrogant, elitist, cold, calculating, condescending, etc. to much of the country.

Obama comes across as much more personable and likable as an individual. But he isn’t going to beat the Clinton machine.

I’m sure that no one hanging out here likes to contemplate that many voters make a decision based on these things rather than carefully weighing the important issues of the day. But those are the breaks.

Steve--
You've got a point, but I think maybe it should be more narrowly aimed towards the elder statesment of the Democratic party, in particular the campaign managers.
Gore, in particular, got massively unfair treatment from the press in the course of his campaign. This is very well-documented, by Bob Somerby for instance.

Molly Ivins watched W's entire Texas careeer, and nailed his lack of character in Shrub
To our sorrow, too few of us could hear her.

Well, just to play contrarian...

Everything OC says sounds exactly right to me. Very clearly and concisely stated, too.

The reason George Bush is President is because a lot of folks voted for him. He lost the popular vote in '00, but not in '04. In spite of everything that has happened over the last six years, there's a solid 1/3 of the country that thinks he's the bees knees.

It doesn't really matter if his cornpone thing is genuine, or an act. It resonates with people. A lot of people. Not necessarily dumb or ignorant people. Bush doesn't do anything for me, at all, but he is an appealing guy to lots of folks.

It should be a layup for Democrats to connect with those people. Certainly on any bread and butter issue, the traditional democratic positions are far better for rank and file heartland folks.

Better minds than mine have tried to crack this particular nut, and I have no particular answers to offer here. I'll just say that I agree with OC's analysis that a Republican presidency in '08 is far from improbable.

The one thing I would say is that professional Dems, by which I mean Democrats who do politics for a living, would most likely do far better to focus on what they bring to the table, rather than on Bush's failings. The latter speak for themselves, and really don't need pointing out.

Thanks -

Not much to add, other than to reaffirm my mancrush on Thullen.

I'm certainly looking forward to the way all those heartland voters are going to take to their heart that warm, personable, down-to-earth regular guy Rudy Giuliani.

Nell, if the media do the same bang-up job they did with Bush-Gore and Bush-Kerry, that's exactly what they'll be doing.

“Cowboy” is not a derogatory label for much of the country.

LOL, tell the conservative voters that went wild when that was the label he received internationally after 9/11

Frankly the only thing the last few years have tought me is (besides the fact that there are many admirable Americans than I thought) that the USA does not realize the nut they voted in office is similar to the nut Iran voted in office. They probabely voted for the same reasons as well.

Maybe MAD is the right strategy. All the idiots advocating nucleair bombing or saying the the lack of nucleair bombing proves their moral superiority appearantly are wrong. Go Iran, go....

isn't it weird that I in current circumstances would feel safer in a world where Iran had the A-bomb?

there should be a 'more' between many and admirable of course.

OCSteve: That’s why I’m starting to think that 08 won’t actually be a lock for Democrats next year after all. It seems more certain every day that HRC is the front runner. Democrats would be hard pressed to come up with someone who comes across more arrogant, elitist, cold, calculating, condescending, etc. to much of the country.

Obama comes across as much more personable and likable as an individual. But he isn’t going to beat the Clinton machine.

A lot can happen between now and the primaries/caucases.

Gromit: One can hope. ;)

Democrats would be hard pressed to come up with someone who comes across more arrogant, elitist, cold, calculating, condescending, etc. to much of the country.
I'm not thrilled with HRC, and I hope that somehow we can get someone else nominated, but I think one reason her numbers have been increasing is that people who've seen her in the debates have been pleasantly surprised that she doesn't match the fake Hillary the Republicans have constructed in their minds.

They’ve put up candidates that just don’t click with the average Joe. Clinton was the last really personable D candidate. The nicest descriptions I recall of Gore and Kerry are things like wooden, arrogant, blow-dried, detached, cold, condescending, smug, elitist…

I believe that people who watched debate footage believed that Gore "won" the debates, as did early analysis in the media, but that afterwards, media analysis swung to fixate on Gore's "sighing" and people who didn't watch the debate but saw the follow on media coverage (which is a very large group) believed that Gore lost.

That suggests to me that the fact that the media devoted itself to "servicing" Bush while randomly making up crap to smear Gore may have played more of a role.

Given that both Gore and Kerry have consistently won elections, I'm skeptical of the theory that they just don't "click with the average joe". Perhaps the average voter in TN simply a latte-drinking coastal liberal.

I note that in your example, you just described your impressions, but there is no reason to believe that your impressions come from direct observation as opposed to after the fact media suggestion.


Maybe those characteristics are OK or even desirable on the coasts – but for much of the country they are not.

Consider a thought experiment: if you needed surgery and your choices were between a brilliant but detached, cold, condescending surgeon (i.e., all the surgeons in the real world) and an idiotic but warm surgeon, who would you choose?

I read your comment as suggesting that people on the coasts would choose the brilliant guy while people not on the coasts would go for the idiot? Is that what you're actually saying? Because that sounds pretty insulting to people that don't live on the coast. Most inland-dwellers that I know actually do insist on getting the best experts they can for serious problems, even if they have to endure some extra arrogance.

I think the Dems should help Guliani to selfdestruct by putting the spotlight on his "advisors" like Podhoretz. Bush seemed to have a lot of "wise and experienced" people around him that could compensate for his own inexperience. Rudy has some certified nutcases instead. No need to sink to the "family values" attack level.
Are there any solid rumours about VP candidates?

Turbulence, the selection of a doctor has a direct effect on you and in the short term too. Voting for a politician has much more to do with sympathy/antipathy and the results are far more fuzzy. Voting for the wrong guy is usually non-lethal (despite GOP claims to the contrary).

Hartmut, if the Democrats think Rudy is going to self-destruct, then clearly they'd want that to happen after he becomes the Republican nominee. There's no point in damaging him now and ending up having to face another, stronger candidate instead. The problem is it's very hard to decide which of the Republican candidates is worst as a candidate (or as a possible president, for that matter).

OT, but this is something.

I was just reading that, Charley. I just don't understand why we're not winning hearts and minds over there. It must be because they hate our freedom (to kill them for kicks with no consequences).

Also OT: When you finish that article you can read about Lieberman's latest move in the ongoing push for a new war to get our minds off Iraq -- though at this point I'm thinking the idea may be to take on Iran and Syria both.

l just say that I agree with OC's analysis that a Republican presidency in '08 is far from improbable.

I think it's very improbable. Maybe some ideal GOP nominee could beat some non-ideal Dem nominee, but that's not the situation. We know who the probable nominees are going to be: Romney or Giuliani or (heaven help us) Gingrich for the GOP; Clinton or Obama for the Dems.

How do those match-ups work out? What's the dynamic?

On the GOP side, neither Giuliani nor Gingrich can play "affable, humble man of the Earth." Maybe Romney can, but that just points up his artificiality. The usual "God, guns and gays" party line is so stale, I doubt it'll appeal to anyone outside the 30% who won't vote for the Democrat no matter what. The "War on Terror(ism)" won't fly outside that demographic either, because the the country hates the Folly in Iraq and none of the major GOP candidates can offer anything more than more Bush-like policies.

What can they offer that will make voters outside that 30% "like" them? More tax cuts? More degradation of government services? More Christianism? More vilification of Democrats? What have they said or done that indicates they're even interested in, much less able to, reach out beyond the deadenders?

And on the Dem side, you have one probable nominee (Clinton) who has confounded everyone by how she does not, in fact, resemble the "manipulative, cold, scripted opportunistic" caricature the GOP and the MSM have created. And the other probable nominee (Obama) speaks constantly of hope, inspiration, and community - words we've never, ever heard from the probable GOP nominees.

If it's going to come down to "likability," I frankly don't see how the GOP can beat the Dems.

And that's before we even factor in policy differences, where all of the probable GOP nominees offer warmed over versions of Bushism, which the country is disgusted with.

Even assuming that the MSM follows its pattern, established in '00 and '04, of lazy, dishonest, syncophantism; and even assuming the GOP follows its pattern of constant smear and demonization... I think a GOP victory, though not impossible, is hardly probable. I think the country is so angry at the GOP that the vote against the GOP will be more than vote-count fraud can overcome.

How do you see it differently?

CaseyL, I hope you're right, but a lot of things can change in the next 13 months. People's views of the candidates may be quite different by then, and who knows what effect terrorist attacks or various other events might have?

And what about the possibility of a third party candidate? I've been hearing a lot of Naderist "Democrats are no different from Republicans" comments out there. If people really believe that, then we could be in for a presidency that makes Bush's look good by comparison.

KCinDC, how would events help the GOP nominee?

How would another terrorist attack help? It would happen on Bush's watch, after he's had all those expanded powers for years. It would only emphasize how useless the GOP is. The GOP has been making war on 'Islamofascism' since 2003, and all we have to show for it is a quagmire in Iraq, political instability in Pakistan, the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, brinksmanship with Iran, and another terrorist attack? Not exactly the best argument for "more of the same," is it?

As for the Naderists... oy. Those people are stupid down to the bone. I just hope there aren't all that many, and that they wouldn't have voted at all if Nader or someone like him weren't in the race.

I'd like to point out, once again, that for the American multitudes for whom "cowboy" is a term of approbation, phoniness isn't a drawback. It's taken as appreciation for their shared values.

Millions consider John Wayne a genuine hero, and Reagan had that status even before he ran for office. Country music stars share that aura despite their Hollywoody lifestyle. Here, "authenticity" is a particular pose rather than an intrinsic attribute.

CaseyL, I agree with you about the rational response to a terrorist attack. Unfortunately terrorist attacks tend not to produce rational responses. Certainly there are a lot of us who wouldn't rally around the president and his party -- it wouldn't be anything like 2001 -- but I'm not so sure that all those people in the middle would be so resistant.

And when I said "Naderist" I didn't really mean the people who voted for Nader, in 2000 or 2004. I meant all those people in comment threads saying there's no difference between the current Congress and what we'd have had if the Republicans had won last year, and saying they're not going to bother to vote next time.

KCinDC, I agree that the Dems should save their powder for the GOP primary winner. But that should not stop them to collect the material to be used against him now while keeping up a base hum of disapproval (i.e. not completely ignoring what digestive final product is emanating from the mouthes of likely candidates and their associates).
---
I fear the right is prepared for the case of another terror attack. The Dems will be blamed despite giving Bush most of what he wanted because there are still some limits to what Bush can do. Not to forget all the "giving comfort to the enemy".
If it happens at the "right" time, it will probably even fly. Given that most people are not experts on the details, Bush&Co could even successfully claim that they did not have the power (that they have) because the Dems denied it to them (which they didn't).
Combined with dirty election tricks that could suffice to install Dubya II - with an extra 1000 elephants.

KCinDC: I think one reason her numbers have been increasing is that people who've seen her in the debates have been pleasantly surprised that she doesn't match the fake Hillary the Republicans have constructed in their minds

They’ve had debates? ;) It seems to me that even political junkies aren’t paying much attention to those debates right now. I’d guess that 75% of the country hasn’t seen anything more than a few sound bites from any of them. I think she has a long way to go to improve her image, justified or not.


Turb: I note that in your example, you just described your impressions, but there is no reason to believe that your impressions come from direct observation as opposed to after the fact media suggestion.

Actually I did not describe my impressions. I wrote: The nicest descriptions I recall - meaning other people’s impressions. That would be a combination of media, personal anecdotes, etc. – but mostly impressions of people I knew, even some Democrats. My impressions were actually much worse. ;)

I read your comment as suggesting that people on the coasts would choose the brilliant guy while people not on the coasts would go for the idiot?

I don’t think that the analogy really works. Maybe people should put as much thought into choosing a politician as a surgeon – but if that’s how it works in the real world I’ve yet to see it. Like it or not, justified or not, many people in the flyover states are turned off by arrogance, condescending, elitism, etc. Heck I am as well and I’m as much on the coast as you can get.


CaseyL: How do you see it differently?

I still expect a Dem to win – I just don’t think it is as much of a lock as I once did. I don’t agree with your assessment that HRC has really improved her “humanity factor” (for lack of a better word). 30% will never change their opinion of her no matter what she does. She can work on the rest but any attempts I’ve seen so far come across as pandering and insincere.

If it's going to come down to "likability," I frankly don't see how the GOP can beat the Dems.

Gingrich is a non-issue. Forget Romney or Giuliani. Thompson is the threat in terms of “likability”. He has stumbled and he is slow out of the gate, but he is honing his act on the right-roots as we speak.

Not sure if you caught it, but he picked some prominent right-wing blogs to solicit questions from their readers. The bloggers submit 5 of the best questions. Then he is responding, not in writing, but via YouTube.

For example: Questions here.

Response here.

Be sure to watch the video. Baseball cap, no tie, collar unbuttoned, relaxed off the cuff response, etc. His campaign is following the response and it seems obvious to me that he is working on his “act” prior to taking it to the main stage.

By which I mean – just as with any acting role he may play he is rehearsing and getting into character.

"30% will never change their opinion of her no matter what she does."

Of course that can be said about any candidate.

I am not a Hillary fan, and I would take at least 3 of the Democratic candidates over her for the nomination.

However, I don't think any of the Republic candidates are even close to being good for this country, and I would take Hillary over any of them in a heart beat.

In terms of the impressions concerning Gore and Kerry, there has been a lot of evidence that the public's reaction to either of them were anything but what you described until two things started happening.

First the Republic candidates started spreading those terms and then the media picked up on it and continued the meme.

Additionally, the media spread made up quotes that were never said that were consistent with the tersm you used.

Finally, the media spread the thinking about Bush that he had a low bar of expectations to meet, so that even though he sounded inarticulate most of the time, he at least met those expectations.

To put it a different way, based upon media accounts, Gore was supposed to hit home runs and only hit triples, so he didn't meet expectations. Bush was supposed to be lucky if he even hit the ball, and he reached base on an error, so he exceeded expectations. Based upon that, Bush did better than Gore (or Kerry).

What a crock.

john miller: I’m not even really talking about who was perceived to “win” in terms of debates etc – just the general impressions I recall people having at the time.

I’m certain we disagree about whether the characterizations were carefully orchestrated smears or self-inflicted wounds as well as where media bias lays. So let’s put that aside.

My contention is that the D candidate has to be capable of both coming across to most of the country as genuine and likable most of the time and of being able to correct any mischaracterizations being spread by whomever. Gore is going back a ways so I’ll stick with Kerry as an example. It seemed to me that the harder he tried to come across as “one of the guys” the more “Dukakis” moments he produced, and it was obvious that he had to try and wasn’t comfortable in that role – it just wasn’t a natural fit for him.

Now I think that HRC is too shrewd to pull a full Dukakis. But her attempts to connect with various groups still comes across as insincere to me (Selma springs first to mind.)

So I think that Obama is by far the most personable D candidate, but I don’t think he’ll beat HRC for the nomination.

I’m not saying that these factors are the most important in winning – but they certainly come into play at the margins, and that’s where the last two elections were won. With outcomes running close to 50/50 on other issues if 2% won’t vote for you because they believe (mistaken or otherwise) that you are an elitist snob you just lost the election. (Note I’m not saying anything is or will be 50/50 in this next election.)

OCSteve,


Thanks for your responses; I appreciate the time you spend on them.


I'm still confused about the whole arrogance/condescension/elitism thing. I mean, human beings in general don't like arrogant people and they don't like to be condescended to. Are you saying that coastal folk are more tolerant of arrogance and condescension? That flyover state dwellers have more fragile egos and are more sensitive?


I think elitism is a more subtle issue: how do you feel about West Point graduates? What about Green Berets? Did Petreus get any credibility boost in your eyes from being associated with the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions? He did in my eyes, and I suspect that he got a similar boost from people like me: those who know something about the military (but are not experts) and were paying close enough attention to notice that bit of his biography. I don't see anything wrong with this kind of elitism, which makes me suspect that you mean something different when you use the word elitism in this critique. To be honest, I picked the examples that I did because I have a funny feeling that when people say elite in these discussion, they also imply effete, but that's just a hunch.

I'm still trying to understand how someone who can't stand arrogant and condescending people could vote for Bush, of all people. I think it's more about anti-intellectualism than reaction to arrogance.

Turbulence: Undoubtedly I’m not explaining it very well. I have to run out now but I’ll try to expand on this tomorrow.

As a great oversimplification: rural vs. urban, country-folk vs. city-folk. Of course those lines are blurred more every day.

OCSteve: I’m certain we disagree about whether the characterizations were carefully orchestrated smears or self-inflicted wounds as well as where media bias lays. So let’s put that aside.

Well, we know you're still clinging to the notion that the carefully orchestrated smears of Kerry were just "veterans criticizing veterans" etc.

But: the Republican campaign against Gore was discredited even more badly than the Republican campaign against Kerry. Even the media workers who took part in it are admitting that it was a crock.

And, while we can guess (based on exit polls rather than riggable voting machines) that Kerry probably won in 2004, despite the vicious smears, we know that Gore won in 2000.

It may be for a Democratic candidate to cvercome the systematic vote-rigging, they need to be able to win by a landslide (2006 demonstrated that the vote-rigging tactics that worked in 2004 will not overcome a massive swing to the Democratic candidates) but both Gore and Kerry were able to win, in the strictly democratic sense of getting more people to vote for them than voted for Bush. They just weren't able to take the Presidency, because Bush had dishonest electioneering on his side.

My guess is probably any one of the Democratic candidates could win against whoever the Republicans have to settle for - but unless it's a landslide victory that's unriggable, or unless the candidate has prepared a strategy to deal with election-rigging, the winner will not get to be President: 2008 will be a re-run of 2000 and 2004.

Turbulence: Trying to think of a better way to express this, the best example I can think of comes from a particular rural Democrat I know. Her most consistent comment on Kerry was, “He’s not talking to me, he’s talking down to me.”

What I mean by elitism probably goes beyond the dictionary definition. In the realm of politics I think it includes a person believing that their opinions and beliefs are so superior to the masses that they deserve to govern based just on that. They come across as, “I know what’s best for you.” When a person comes across that way to a group of voters they aren’t going to make much traction with that group.

Are you saying that coastal folk are more tolerant of arrogance and condescension? That flyover state dwellers have more fragile egos and are more sensitive?

Not at all. Democrats have a lock on the cities. For the most part they don’t have to try to connect with voters in the city. They know their issues and they speak the language. But with rural voters they are often out of their element. But they need the rural vote. They try to court that vote by acting as if they understand what rural voters care about. They try to project an image that they are really just like these rural folks. But people see through it. Take as an example Kerry’s staged hunting trip in Ohio a couple weeks before the election.

To believe that rural voters will forget about his track record on the Second Amendment because he borrows a shotgun and some camo and wings a goose is the height of condescension. At least he managed not to shoot anyone in the face a la Cheney.

And don’t throw around a football to try to look like one of the guys unless you ah, actually are used to throwing and catching a football. You end up looking like a fool.

And picking a rich trial lawyer as a running mate because he is from the south and speaks with a bit of a twang isn’t going to dupe those rubes out there in the hinterlands.

Bill Clinton could pull it of. Kerry could not. HRC can’t.

Jes: I realize that “stolen” elections are an article of faith with you. You seem to be pretty unshakable in your belief so I don’t usually rise to the bait. But I figure maybe one out of ten times I should at least throw out a “Bull”. ;) And I promise to get you that swift vet post if for no other reason than that maybe after we go ten rounds you’ll stop throwing it out in your every response to me. (OK, probably not.)

OCSteve, if Kerry's staged hunting trip is offensive, isn't Bush's staged ranch, built in 2000, even more so? What about his staged landing on an aircraft carrier? Don't you think your view of the candidates' fakeness or arrogance or whatever has a lot to do with how the media covers them (and what you got through right-wing information sources)? Read some Bob Somerby.

OCSteve: Jes: I realize that “stolen” elections are an article of faith with you.

No, OCSteve, they're not. "Article of faith" is how I would describe the conviction of many Americans, despite all available evidence, that the 2000 election was not stolen, that evolution is "just a theory" equivalent to Intelligent Design, and that you can see the Great Wall of China from the surface of the Moon.

I go with the available evidence. You prefer to go with your faith.

OCSteve: [HRC's] attempts to connect with various groups still comes across as insincere to me (Selma springs first to mind.)

That struck me as phony, too, but it's really irrelevant. Black voters have been one of the pillars of her high poll numbers since she entered the race. The other? Try real hard to imagine what group of voters might find it fairly natural to connect with heer... [Hint: they make up half or more of Democratic voters, and about half of voters overall.]

What I mean by elitism probably goes beyond the dictionary definition. In the realm of politics I think it includes a person believing that their opinions and beliefs are so superior to the masses that they deserve to govern based just on that. They come across as, “I know what’s best for you.” When a person comes across that way to a group of voters they aren’t going to make much traction with that group.

This paragraph describes Rudolph Giuliani almost as if you were writing his biography, and yet the conservative voters that you claim don't like this behavior are eating it up. Why is that?


But with rural voters [Democrats] are often out of their element. But they need the rural vote. They try to court that vote by acting as if they understand what rural voters care about. They try to project an image that they are really just like these rural folks. But people see through it.

Um, they don't appear to see through it when it's being pepetrated by, e.g., Fred Thompson, like his little pickup truck stunt, or the stuff you note above. Thompson, who in reality is Mr. Big-City-Lawyer-and-Hollywood-Insider, is playing this role and the conservatives -- along with the He-Man-Woman-Hater-Pundit-Club -- are eating it up. Why is that?

What I mean by elitism probably goes beyond the dictionary definition. In the realm of politics I think it includes a person believing that their opinions and beliefs are so superior to the masses that they deserve to govern based just on that. They come across as, “I know what’s best for you.”

This is exactly right. And, if there is a Democratic strategist with a brain in their head, this is exactly the Republicans' Achilles' heel.

Current day Republican policy -- foreign, domestic, social, and economic -- is not a program that bubbled up from the grass roots. It's driven by policy shops like AEI, Cato, Heritage, and their like.

It's motivated to an extraordinary degree by theory and ideology, rather than by attention to the traditional responsibilities of government, which is to say, the practical business of keeping the wheels on.

It would be very, very hard for me to think of a more elitist, "we know better than you" crew than the folks who have defined and enforced Republican policy for the last 30 years or so.

Republicans have benefited for at least a generation from the image of liberal Democrats as elitist social engineers with big plans for your money.

Might have been true during the New Deal, although until quite recently few folks have had the gall to see that as a bad thing in context. I think it's only now that most folks who lived through it are passing away that anyone is willing to try revising that history.

Might have been true during the days of LBJ's Great Society, although I'd say responsibility for the errors of those days, however well meaning, fall pretty equally across both parties.

In any case, the New Deal was 70 years ago, and the Great Society was 40 years ago. These days, IMO it's conservative Republicans who are the privileged elites wearing the social engineering hat.

I'm always surprised that nobody points that out.

Thanks -

John Kerry

"I have always been for the war in front of pro-war crowds and against the war in front of anti-war crowds, this is NOT flip-flopping, it's pandering, and I believe the American people have a right to know the difference."

Oops, no. That was an SNL skit.
But I do think that the American people, especially yokels, have more of a "pander detector" than they are given credit for.

As always folks – my advice to the Democratic Party is worth every penny they pay me for it. ;)

DaveC: But I do think that the American people, especially yokels, have more of a "pander detector" than they are given credit for.

I think so too: that's why Bush never managed to win either Presidential election fair and square.

But I do think that the American people, especially yokels, have more of a "pander detector" than they are given credit for.

I want to talk about this "American people" thing.

I'm a middle aged guy, living in the burbs. Married to my one and only wife, to whom I'm faithful, and have been since we met lo these many years ago.

I pay my bills on time. I pay enough taxes to choke a horse. My wife and I both work at white collar professional jobs, but I've done manual labor. We both frequently work 60+ hour weeks. We both love, and are involved with the lives of, our families and friends.

I live in one of the bluest corners of the bluest state in the union. The town I live in was settled in 1639. Folks in this town crewed the first ship commissioned for the US Navy, and also crewed the boats that ferried Washington across the Delaware. A guy from my town that was killed in Afghanistan comes from a family that's had members fighting in every war this nation has ever fought, going back to the Revolution.

My father, step-father, and father in law all served in WWII. My uncle died in that war. My mother in law spent the war building Corsairs in Akron.

Another uncle served in Korea. Two uncles were NYC firemen. My grandmother's name is on a plaque in Ellis Island.

Kind of just makes you all misty-eyed, doesn't it?

Here's my question. When do I get to be one of the "American people" we hear so much about? When am I part of the "heartland"?

Here are the basic, fundamental liberal values I grew up with.

Live and let live.
Nobody's better than anyone else.
Nobody gets left behind when things are tough.
When things are good, we all get our fair piece of the pie.
When we make sure everyone has the things they need, everyone benefits.

To my mind, those are all core American heartland values. It would be really, really hard for me to imagine any "heartland" person finding them objectionable, in any way, although who knows, I could be wrong about that. In any case, as far as I'm concerned, they're bedrock.

As far as I can tell, I'm about as "heartland America" as it gets. So, let's please leave the "American people" thing out of it. We (excluding the many wonderful folks who post here from abroad) are all American people.

Thanks -

What Russel said.

Plus this: for snobbery and self-serving hypocrisy and elitism rural voters cannot be beat. City people don't think they are the "real Americans." City people don't assume some kind of moral superiority by virtue of their chosen lifestyle. That kind of arrogance is a rural phenomenon. Also city people don't simultaneously make a cult of "independence" while demanding subsidies for their jobs. It's the rural folks who have been parasites on the taxpayers for generations. I don't mind subsidizing timber companies, cattle and sheep ranchers, farmers and so on. What I mind is when those folks take their subsidies, bitch about high taxes (high largely to pay their flippin' subsidies), and then have the effrontery to call me a snob and call themselves the real Americans, while voting for Republicans who run for office claiming that they intend to fight special interest groups!

So OSCteve, I think you are parroting a party line. Republicans have been chanting in unison for decades that they are the real true moral patriotic just plain folks and that Democrats are the elitist panderers. It's just propaganda, about as true as Republican claims to be fiscally conservative, pro-life, pro-family and all the rest of their crap.

Judge by actions. Over the last hundred years which party has the best track record of legislation that actually addressed real problems and met real needs of ordinary people?

Like it or not, russell, the "American people" thing is a huge issue in politics. Remember, Bush 41 was ridiculed for not being familiar with grocery prices and supermarket checkout line technology. So it works both for Democrats and Republicans.

I object to the many wonderful folks who post here from abroad :) telling me about the electoral process here in the US:

It may be for a Democratic candidate to cvercome the systematic vote-rigging, they need to be able to win by a landslide (2006 demonstrated that the vote-rigging tactics that worked in 2004 will not overcome a massive swing to the Democratic candidates) but both Gore and Kerry were able to win, in the strictly democratic sense of getting more people to vote for them than voted for Bush. They just weren't able to take the Presidency, because Bush had dishonest electioneering on his side.

This is completely misinformed. Neither Gore nor Kerry won. The Florida vote in 2000 was a tie, and Bush won all the "tie breakers".

Dave: Like it or not, russell, the "American people" thing is a huge issue in politics.

Indeed. But it would be interesting if you responded to russel's point, which is that many Americans are being defined by conservatives as not part of "the American people" - not because they're unfamiliar with grocery prices and supermarket checkout line technology, but because they hold liberal views.

Neither Gore nor Kerry won.

Once all the votes cast in Florida had been counted - which the Republicans actively fought against, and the results of which were not published until October 2001 - it was, in fact, established that had all the votes cast been counted, according to the requirements of Florida electoral law, Gore would have won the electoral college votes and so the Presidency. You are completely misinformed because no media source in the US chose to publish the final results - every single American media source decided they would not admit to the American people that the President who had just let the worst terrorist attack in US history happen on his watch had, in fact, lost the election that made him President. Odd, that.

The results from 2004 are less clear-cut. However, the exit polls have Kerry as the winner - though the voting machines, which can be untraceably rigged and are less honest and reliable than a gambling machine is required to be, had Bush winning.

It's not my fault that the US media declines to report honestly that your elections are no longer honest and do not deliver the candidate the voters actually wanted. But that's why I, living outside the US, am better informed than you are on how broken your elections are.

Also: look, who you guys pick for President has direct effects, not just on your own country (which is your business) but on the whole world. That you guys elected sensible, effective, and experienced candidates in 2000 and 2004 is to your credit. That neither of them were allowed to take office, because senior members of the Republican party preferred George W. Bush and got him into power, is not.

Like it or not, russell, the "American people" thing is a huge issue in politics

Yes, I get that.

At some point, the Republican pimping of the "heartland" is going to bite them on their butts. Ditto with their pimping of the victims of 9/11.

My guess is that at some point, "average Americans" are going to figure out that American political conservative policies don't really do much for them at all. Maybe right about the time they lose their house.

But, you know, maybe you're right, and maybe all that is needed is to flatter the dumb bastards with teary-eyed talk about the "heartland". That point of view doesn't fit much with your comments about their being able to smell pandering from 100 yards, but I won't hold you to it.

In the meantime, I'll be spending my money and time doing my best to squash every conservative Republican politico I can find, because by my lights all they've done for the last 6, or maybe 30, years is wreck the place.

And, not for nothing, but GHW Bush got tagged as a clueless, out of touch elitist because he was a clueless, out of touch elitist. So's his kid.

Thanks -

hey russell,

come on over to TiO and get all the dirt on me.

I'm still waiting for OCSteve to get Jes cranked up (like she needs it) with a post on the Swift Boat Veterans.

This might be sobering for some Democrats.

Gary, not for any that have read the numerous attacks on the poll at Atrios and TPM and elsewhere.

Gary, just reading the article you linked to, I see:

Some people say [your Democratic incumbent] is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and will support her liberal agenda of big government and higher taxes if she becomes president," the poll stated, before asking respondents whether they would still vote for their incumbent or choose a Republican candidate.

That's absurd. What result would they get with "Some say that your representative is a strong supporter of Rudolph Giuliani and will support his conservative agenda of phone-tapping, endless war, and weakening the dollar"?

Of course, the latter description would be far more accurate, considering that Clinton I shrank the government. But either way, you're not going to get a good prediction out of a poll like that.

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