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December 19, 2006

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under different circumstances, i can see that kind of attitude being a good thing. Bush's problem is that he's not smart, pretty or talented enough to be able to pull off such ambitious projects while completely disregarding the rules.

1m n ur wh!te hous, wr3ckin ur c0untri

"Once the Wise Old Men finally got around to realizing that Iraq was a disaster, they assumed They Would Be Heeded, especially if they did it in a nice way which didn't blame anybody for anything and let Bush off the hook."

Seems to me that Atrios's argument requires that the elite pundits, having not been heeded, now turn on Bush with the full force of their disdain. I'll believe it when I see it.

Seems to me that Atrios's argument requires that the elite pundits, having not been heeded, now turn on Bush with the full force of their disdain. I'll believe it when I see it.

I don't know. It seems to me that they could respond to Bush's failure to Heed Their Message by scratching their head and thinking "WTF?"

GWB: im in ur conscience, eatin my way to the surface.

Great post, thanks. Don't know if you've seen these three short videos from Iraq yet or not, but both show the US Military engaging in some very dubious actions. I have them up on my site at www.minor-ripper.blogspot.com

I'll believe it when I see it.

Yes. I think Hilzoy is putting far too much of the blame on Bush. He's an incredibly dangerous idiot, but a healthy political system would never have allowed him to come to power, or at least would have managed to sideline him long ago.

The problem isn't George Bush. It's David Broder and the Brookings Institution and the Washington Post. They actually would have the power to stop Bush if they were willing to pay the price. But they're not.

Hilzoy -

I'm really tempted by the analysis in this post, but aren't you going to have trouble explaining the existence of things which are a) physically possible, b) Bush wanted them, and c) didn't happen?

I'm working on coming up with examples. Harriet Miers is my first instinct, though I suppose if he had been informed that she was certainly going to be voted down that might explain it.

You don't mean 'physically possible' there, you mean 'things that Bush can do by fiat', don't you? And appointing judges isn't something he can do by fiat.

Man, sometimes I write parody of the way Bush speaks when he doesn't have a script, but there really is no substitute for the real thing:

I'm going to wait for Secretary Gates. As I say, I'm inclined to believe it's important and necessary to do so. The reason why is, it is a accurate reflection that this ideological war we're in is going to last for a while, and that we're going to need a military that's capable of being able to sustain our efforts and to help us achieve peace.
...
I have not, Mike, I have not. And we'll spend some more time -- Secretary Gates, as he indicated, is going to head to the region at some point in time. I need to talk to him when he gets back. I've got more consultations to do with the national security team, which will be consulting with other folks. And I'm going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we are -- have got a new way forward to achieve an important objective, which is a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself.

This came thru to me a while ago, in Bush's response to a question about the sovereign status of Native American tribes

When President Bush was questioned about tribal sovereignty in the 21st century at a gathering of minority journalists he responded: "Tribal sovereignty means that. It's sovereign. You're a ... you're a ... you've been given sovereignty and you're viewed as a sovereign entity."

Ironically, a lot of folks focussed in on the 'given', thinking that Bush was presenting some thought out answer, but one blog (which I can't find right now) pointed out that Bush's answer is the same as a schoolboy trying to answer the teacher's question by restating it.

It's the "Nobody could have imagined" Administration. Nobody could have imagined that Bush and Cheney (don't forget Ol' Pumphead) operate well beyond normal limits. Nobody could have imagined. That is their signature line.

Our children are going to ask about this time and we're going to have to say "you know, at the time nobody could have imagined..."

LB, two things, the first kind of a sub-issue of the second:

1) The post, if it's taken to be a complete explanation of Bush's behavior, doesn't really explain why Bush accepts explicit constitutional structural checks, butI think it's uncharitable to read the post that broadly.

2) But I don't mean quite by fiat, it's a question of what kind of obstacle has to be in Bush's way to explain why he didn't do something.

L'etat c'est moi!

Bush may formally be a President, but he is, in fact, a Monarch. A strange, 21st-Century Monarch who believes in the American Dream. He can be anything he wants to be, including a salmon-colored prime number, if he believes in himself and works hard enough at it. Anyone who says otherwise is probably European. Or amongst the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

what kind of obstacle has to be in Bush's way to explain why he didn't do something.

I think Hilzoy's point is that "it will clearly have terrible results" isn't an obstacle that works on Bush. To stop him from doing something he wants to do, an obstacle has to be a practical obstacle.

washerdreyer: what LB said is right. I should probably have added: he can't do things that don't entirely depend on him without the support of others, and thus can't appoint Harriet Miers at will. (Though it's not clear to me that he always recognizes those limits in advance.) But that's not what e.g. Panetta had in mind when he said "he has got to do something to pull this country together." True of a normal person; not true of Bush.

Why do you say that "Bush accepts explicit constitutional structural checks"? I don't really think he does.

maybe washerdreyer meant "checks" as in "blank checks".

that's certainly how he has treated the "commander in chief" clause--it's a constitutional blank check, to be filled in for any amount he feels like.

How did I turn back into guilt?

(Nb: that's the only one of the pseudonymous 'Im in ur X, killin ur Y' posts I'm responsible for.)

I just mean that, while he has made use of the recess appointment power, he hasn't yet done something like pretend that the advice and consent clause doesn't exist.

>>He can be anything he wants to be, including a salmon-colored prime number, if he believes in himself and works hard enough at it<<

The obvious connection here between this stubborn denial of reality and his fundamentalist religious beliefs if one that, I think, is going to be coming up a lot more in the months ahead. That is, if the situation continues to deteriorate and Bush refuses to pay attention to the sirens and flashing red lights in the control room. The very bedrock of his existence, and that of his hard-core supporters, is faith. Their narratives are all variations on Job – the tale that if you just believe hard enough, in defiance of all facts and good sense, that in the end, things will turn out OK.

That is, unless you are give the dolchstoss. Which, of course, is a narrative that is gaining strength over on the right wing…

(Nb: that's the only one of the pseudonymous 'Im in ur X, killin ur Y' posts I'm responsible for.)

I'll fess up to the George W. Bush one in the second comment to the thread (though the email address gives it away). I have an idea on who it was 'Dying for Denial' thread.

Atrios has it exactly right. (Wow – there is a sentence you can bet I never thought I would write.)

For 6 years, Bush says he is going to do A, B, and C. Then he does it. Then pundits big and small all scratch their heads and say, “Where did that come from?” It’s like he constantly surprises people (the pundits/elites anyway) – but he is only doing what he told you he planned to do.


"he can't just ignore the combination of the ISG report, the election, his own unpopularity, and the unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff"

The ISG report is suspect at best – both sides had problems with it. Any committee report that strives for consensus over solid and workable recommendations is destined to be worse than useless. As to his unpopularity – I credit him for not making decisions based on that. The election was more a rebuke of congress to me. If he is truly ignoring the JCS that is more troubling, and the only thing in that list that would give me pause. However, ‘not listening to’ is not the same thing as ‘not agreeing with’.

He is getting advice from a variety of sources; something the left has faulted him for not doing for years. Now he is, but instead of weighing the advice from various sources, he is supposed to just jump on what the old out to pasture should have stayed there elite have to say, or on what the JCS has to say. The left wanted Rummy gone for years. Now he is. The implied reason for that would be to give a new SecDef a shot. Yet now Bush should just do what the ISG or JCS says without even giving his new SecDef a chance to get his bearings and see what his advice is. Should he undercut his new SecDef before he’s had a chance to find his office?

The advice of the Pentagon, the JCS, and his new SecDef is where he needs to put the most weight IMO. I’d at least like to hear what the SecDef has to say before I condemn him for decisions he may or may not have made yet.

I know – I’m wasting my time and the bandwidth posting this.

"They [Broder et al] actually would have the power to stop Bush if they were willing to pay the price. But they're not." jon(s)

"Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that someone is has no limits whatsoever." ...hilzoy

Well, could it be that Broder and Klein do understand Bush very well, do agree with hilzoy's assessment, and take "no limits" very seriously indeed? Given that I do believe that Bush has "no limits" and loyal supporters numbering in the tens of millions, I am cautious in what I would recommend as a solution (or would be if I was responsible), and quite frightened of the consequences.

Do I fear a right-wing fascist dictatorship?
Not really. Low odds.

Domestic political violence and/or suppression, supported or tolerated by the Administration?
Been there, seen it. More than once.

"The advice of the Pentagon, the JCS, and his new SecDef is where he needs to put the most weight IMO."

The JCS is unanimously against. The SecDef just started and is not I imagine going to state a position that might be contradicted by (then used against) his boss in a week. Not quite sure what "the Pentagon" means separate from the JCS - anyway it was recently cited here: "The Pentagon has cautioned that a modest surge could lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents and fuel the jihadist appeal for more foreign fighters to flock to Iraq to attack U.S. troops". Plus, well, what hilzoy said.

'Well, could it be that Broder and Klein do understand Bush very well, do agree with hilzoy's assessment, and take "no limits" very seriously indeed?'

No.

To expand - Broder&Klein don't understand, don't belong in a sentence with hilzoy, don't take anything seriously except their self-importance.

Above I said that Atrios's view of the "Wise Old Men" would require them to turn on Bush. I should clarify that I don't disagree with him; I think the reason they won't is that it would throw their earlier refusal to understand, to belong, to be serious into sharp relief.

From the WaPo: "Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces."

Not quite sure what "the Pentagon" means separate from the JCS

Well, 6 days ago, it was senior Pentagon officials calling for more troops, to “double down".

On Nov. 30:
All six members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, amid an ongoing Pentagon review of strategy for Iraq, oppose pulling out U.S. troops now, and are also against a specific withdrawal timetable, a defense source said yesterday. "The chiefs are solid. They want victory," the source said. "There is no dissent."

So some senior Pentagon officials want more troops. JCS wants victory with no withdrawal timetable. But they’re against a surge?

I suppose all you can draw from that is that there is no unanimous Pentagon opinion.

Gates, part of the ISG, may reflect their “consensus”, or he may have yet another opinion once he gets up to speed.

I suppose all you can draw from that is that there is no unanimous Pentagon opinion.

I should have added, it would be SecDef's job to pull all these folks together, let them hash it out, and then present a unified opinion to the president.

Yeah, I'm naive.

I agree that the new Sec of Def should be given a chance. I believe that even though I have no faith whatsoever in his decisions. That's beside hilzoy's point,however, which is that Bush has a personality disorder and that Beltway elites seem unable to process this fact. It all goes to show that people's assumptions are more real to them than external realities.
Bush, himself, is a case for pshyclogical evaluation, but to me that's not the worst aspect of having him for President. The greater problem is that he represents a subset of the electorate, the people who are by nature authoritarian and who, like Bush, cannot tolerate the possibility that their war might be lost and certainly cannot assign responisbity to themselves.

As a veteran of the Air National Guard, and former Governor of Texas, George W. Bush had a unique appreciation for the National Guard. In December 1998, National Guard Review sat down with him to explore his views on leadership and the future of the National Guard.

NGR: During one of your speeches in 1996, when speaking about American society, you were quoted as saying:

"Across the board, [in the 1960s] we went from a culture of sacrifice and saving to a culture obsessed with `grabbing all the gusto'. We went from accepting responsibility to assigning blame. As government did more and more, individuals were required to do less and less, and they responded with a vengeance. Dependency and laziness are easy when someone else is responsible and someone else is to blame. We became a nation of victims. Blame it on the Prozac, the parenting, or the bosa nova take your pick."

When many of these cultural trends were beginning to develop in American society, you were a member of the Air National Guard. From a personal perspective, did your time in the service help to instill an appreciation for the values that you champion today?

Bush: The way I summarize today's culture is if it feels good, do it and if you've got a problem blame somebody else. My awareness of what the current culture has done to our society is really rather new relative to thirty years ago when I was in the Guard. The warning signs of the cultural shift are more evident today. Such as, in our state, thirty percent of babies are born out of wedlock. This is very troublesome to me. If this were to happen for several generations it would lead to disparity of incomes and a lot of strain on young moms who are forced to raise a child without the support of a dad. This would be a very difficult environment for values, good values, honorable values to be passed on from one generation to the next. So I speak a lot about the cultural situation we find ourselves in. I also speak to people and tell them how optimistic I am about how cultures can change. Since I have seen it change once in my lifetime I know it can change again to what I would call the responsibility era.

Among other things, the military excels at focusing on individual achievement and the promotion of teamwork and responsibility. I can remember walking up to my F-102 fighter and seeing the mechanics there. I was on the same team as them, and I relied on them to make sure that I wasn't jumping out of an airplane. There was a sense of shared responsibility in that case. The responsibility to get the airplane down. The responsibility to show up and do your job. There are a lot of lessons learned in the Guard for current Guardsmen and some of us old Guardsmen.

{…}

NGR: Would you say that those two traits define your leadership style today?

Bush: Yes, I would hope so. Here are the traits that I think define my leadership style: First of all, knowing where I am going to lead. I can't lead if I don't know where we are going. And secondly, once we know where we are going, defining it in clear terms so that everybody understands, because if I can see the goal but can't convey what the goal is to others then we aren't going anywhere. Thirdly, surrounding myself with smart people and motivating them to do their mission. That applies to the Guard leadership as well as any leadership. So surround yourself with people that are well motivated and concerned, and keep them motivated in the line of authority and responsibility. One of the failed areas of leadership is when people are given the responsibility to do something but not the authority because some central figure refuses to give power, power in politics, power in military tearms. Power can be very corruptive. If used properly goals are met. If used improperly reputations can get ruined.

NGR: Do you think that the leaders of the next century are going to need any special characteristics that today's leaders don't have?

Bush: I think that in order for leaders to function in the military, the United States had better have a Commander in Chief that clearly defines the mission. And the mission is to fight and win wars. That is the primary mission. There is a little different mission for the Guard. It is to fight and win wars if called upon and to handle emergency situations if called upon. I am concerned about missions. The military is not a social organization. Therefore, to answer your question, if that is the mission then those who can lead will be those who can best fulfill the mission. Somehow we have a mixed message in today's military. The key to a successful military is high morale, a sense of purpose, sense of mission, sense of accomplishment, and I suspect a sense of national pride. It is very difficult to have a sense of moral if there is a mixed message coming from the top.

From:
George Bush's National Guard Interview

Please visit link. What's weird is I can't find the original interview source.

OCSteve: "I know – I’m wasting my time and the bandwidth posting this."

It's always a puzzle to me why the people who say things like this are never the people who need to worry about wasting time and bandwidth with what they say. In any case, you don't. ;)

What's bandwidth?

I have an idea on who it was 'Dying for Denial' thread.

maybe you have an idea. but you have no proof.

For 6 years, Bush says he is going to do A, B, and C. Then he does it.

or, he tries to do it. he often ends up making a mess of things. he's ambitious, determined, and incompetent.

Republicans spent 6 years giving him credit for the first two while trying to sweep the third under the rug. well, fellas, you done run out of rug - can't stuff n'more under it!

Hilzoy: Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that someone is has no limits whatsoever. Atrios managed to do it.

I think Atrios saw something clearly and correctly that I've resisted taking seriously until recently: the president is a psychopath.

In April 2003, a guest post by a commenter at Digby's blog ran down some of the characteristics that are in the actual professional psychological checklist for psychopaths. At the time I pushed it aside as over the top, a selective over-reading to produce a memorable post -- albeit one that served as a sanity vent for the deep Bush loathing shared by all of us who knew already at that point that the war was a lie and a crime.

Now? I think we've got quite a pair on our hands -- a dim bulb psychopath and a power-grabbing rightist who knows how to work him.

"For 6 years, Bush says he is going to do A, B, and C. Then he does it."

So... he gets points for doing what he said he'd do, and the actual results and consequences that ensue are, what? Irrelevant?

"I suppose all you can draw from that is that there is no unanimous Pentagon opinion."

Is anyone in the Pentagon saying that the situation in Iraq is good?

Is anyone in the Pentagon saying that the policies Bush has pursued so far are working?

Is anyone in the Pentagon saying putting 20,000 more troops in will definitely turn the tide? Are they saying what they'll do if 20,000 more troops doesn't definitely turn the tide?

Is anyone in the Pentagon coming up with a worst-case scenario: a situation that, if it happens, means the troops have to come out? If so, is anyone in the Pentagon planning for that possibility?

Re: Jon (S) | December 19, 2006 at 05:45 PM

Jon,

I think it's interesting that you don't list the electoral system itself in your list of villains. To me -- and admittedly, I come to this discussion full of preconceptions -- GWB is the epitome of so many things wrong with the US electoral system.

In our two party primary + general system, the presidential "semifinal" weeds out anyone with any substantive centrist credentials, while giving great advantages to an extremist who can command the party base in the primaries. If, like GWB, he pretends to be an electable centrist then so much the better. (The fascinating question is not why the Republicans have ended up with such extremist candidates but how the Democrats had managed to avoid extremism for several cycles until convincing themselves that Kerry was some kind of centrist anti-Dean. A corollary is whether losing will make the Republicans more interested in "electability", but the smart money says not yet.)

But aside from the "Left-Right" axis, GWB just wasn't a very strong candidate in resume terms. He's certain not someone you'd want as your company's CEO. Basically his track record amounted to beating Ann Richards (admittedly a notable electoral feat), getting reelected, and apparently running Texas moderately well. (At least I don't recall any warning signs like invading Arkansas to get back at Lousiana.) But those six years are all -- that and name recognition.

And that's another obvious problem with our system. It's so dependent on influence through the mass media that it really does tend to overrate name recognition. I don't know the solution, even less so since I'm actually a big believer in the free market of ideas. I'm not really proposing that we limit the franchise and hold a wonk-off. If the people want to vote based on the candidate's father's name, the people can live with the dire consequences. But somehow there's gotta be a better way.

And my faith in the public is so little that I don't even expect them to learn from the experience. Oh, sure, they'll vote Democratic a couple of cycles, and the Republicans might even lose a whole generation. But I don't expect any systemic changes to make it harder for really bad candidates to make it this far.

he hasn't yet done something like pretend that the advice and consent clause doesn't exist.

"Doesn't exist" meaning, is not a physical/literal constituent of the Constitution? No. "Doesn't exist" meaning, has no force whatsoever, that it's a mere pro forma courtesy whereby the Senate simply rubber-stamps the President's choices? Absolutely.

PS: See also Yoo, I think it was, on the Senate's power to declare war...

The Washington Establishment behaved in the same way during the Lewinsky/Impeachment episode. People now tend to focus on the 'trashed the place' quote -- and fairly so -- but at the same time, there was a constant undercurrent that some sanction short of total breakdown would be crafted and implemented by Wise Men. Sorry, some deals just can't be made, either because the price is too high, because there's no negotiating partner, or some other obvious reason.

The President can't back off on the transformation agenda, because he'd then have to admit that the whole gamble he took, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives, and beyond, was a failure. Insterad, he'll hang on to the hope of vindication. It doesn't matter at all what anyone at the Pentagon thinks or says -- when the C-in-C says go, they'll go.

Complaining about feckless journalists is like complaining about the weather, imo.

"Complaining about feckless journalists is like complaining about the weather, imo."

There's no hope that the weather can be shamed, while conversely - never mind, you're right.

Nell, there's a reason I have a "sociopathy" tag on my blog. The tag debuted in August of last year, but strangely I haven't used it since January. I think I'm suffering sociopathy-outrage fatigue.

Complaining about feckless journalists is like complaining about the weather, imo.

You mean like Global Warming and hurricanes?

"Doesn't exist" meaning, has no force whatsoever, that it's a mere pro forma courtesy whereby the Senate simply rubber-stamps the President's choices? Absolutely.

This isn't an issue I have strong feelings about, but I'm not sure that's right. While it's certainly the case that the President would strongly prefer that all his nominees may be approved, and it may even be the case that he (delusionally) believes that Senators are per se acting wrongfully when they either vote down or bottle up his nominees, it's not as if he's caused a constitutional crisis by acting as if unapproved nominees are actually holding the office he's nominated them for. And that's what he'd have to be doing to not be "accept[ing] explicit constitutional structural checks," which is how this originally came up.

I'm also, in case it comes up, not denying that he's done other things which perhaps should cause a constitutional crisis.

Equal Opportunity Cynic: In our two party primary + general system, the presidential "semifinal" weeds out anyone with any substantive centrist credentials, while giving great advantages to an extremist who can command the party base in the primaries. is just wrong. In fact it's exactly and precisely inverted from the real problem on the left: the public supports a lot of things no Democratic candidate can support without getting mulched by party machinery and the punditocracy. No Democratic candidate with the slightest chance of winning is as pro-abortion, pro-peace, pro-labor, or pro-health care as the general public. No Democratic who expressed the widely held skepticism about the merits of free trade as embodied in NAFTA and successors would get a hearing.

Note that this isn't about candidates trying to push the public in a particular direction - this is about the inability of successful candidates on what's allegedly the left to follow the public. The apparatus of electioneering excludes not just the leftmost 5%, or 10%, or 25%, but solid majorities on most major issues.

Random question on the subject: can anyone name an example of a policy that a) Bush wanted to enact, that b) he was advised against and such that c) he took that advice and didn't enact that policy? I can think of several examples where he bulled ahead and failed miserably; I can't think of any where he never tried in the first place.

Well, there's the replacement of Social Security by individual accounts. That has to rank at the top of the list of things he seemed genuinely interested in but didn't get. There's the Harriet Miers nomination, and the re-nomination of John Bolton.

I admit it's not a long list.

No, he tried all of those, he just failed to accomplish them. [Much like, say, bringing a liberty to Iraq.] I'm looking for something that he reconsidered based on other people's advice before actually attempting them.

I agree with Atrios and in particular Ezra, but as I've said many times before, nobody has explained and predicted this phenomenon better than Krugman did in The Great Unravelling:

In those first few pages, Kissinger describes the problems confronting a heretofore stable diplomatic system when it is faced with a "revolutionary power" — a power that does not accept that system's legitimacy....It seems clear to me that one should regard America's right-wing movement — which now in effect controls the administration, both houses of Congress, much of the judiciary, and a good slice of the media — as a revolutionary power in Kissinger's sense. That is, it is a movement whose leaders do not accept the legitimacy of our current political system.
....
If you read the literature emanating from the Heritage Foundation, which drives the Bush administration's economic ideology, you discover a very radical agenda: Heritage doesn't just want to scale back New Deal and Great Society programs, it regards the very existence of those programs as a violation of basic principles.
Or consider foreign policy. Since World War II the United States has built its foreign policy around international institutions, and has tried to make it clear that it is not an old-fashioned imperialist power, which uses military force as it sees fit. But if you follow the foreign policy views of the neo-conservative intellectuals who fomented the war with Iraq, you learn that they have contempt for all that — Richard Perle, chairman of a key Pentagon advisory board, dismissed the "liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions." They aren't hesitant about the use of force; one prominent thinker close to the administration, Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, declared that "we are a warlike people and we love war." The idea that war in Iraq is just a pilot project for a series of splendid little wars seemed, at first, a leftist fantasy — but many people close to the administration have made it clear that they regard this war as only a beginning, and a senior State Department official, John Bolton, told Israeli officials that after Iraq the United States would "deal with" Syria, Iran, and North Korea.
Nor is even that the whole story. The separation of church and state is one of the fundamental principles of the US Constitution. But Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has told constituents that he is in office to promote a "biblical worldview" — and that his relentless pursuit of Bill Clinton was motivated by Clinton's failure to share that view. (Delay has also denounced the teaching of evolution in schools, going so far as to blame that teaching for the Columbine school shootings).
...
Yet those who take the hard-line rightists now in power at their word, and suggest they may really attempt to realize such a radical goal, are usually accused of being "shrill," of going over the top. Surely, says the conventional wisdom, we should discount the rhetoric: the goals of the right are more limited than this picture suggests. Or are they?

Shorter hilzoy (if I may):

GW Bush will do whatever he wants and can get away with, because he does not give a flying f*#k.

I find this analysis to be absolutely, completely correct. It certainly does explain a lot of things, including his appeal to a lot of people.

Thanks -

Ginger Yellow: it's interesting; I actually considered citing that part of Krugman as a related example of the phenomenon I was talking about, but decided the post was getting too long. Because that's exactly his point: when confronted by a revolutionary (in his sense) movement, other people tend to assume that it will be constrained by all the normal rules, when in fact it is willing to do anything. Seeing this is hard.

Bush may formally be a President, but he is, in fact, a Monarch.

I was caught aback when I realized yesterday, for the first time, that Bush actually is a dictator -- since it has now been amply shown, and affirmed by the judiciary, that Bush rules over lands where the Constitution does not apply. He makes law by fiat, he can kill with impunity.

Bush is a dictator. Just not the dictator of the U.S.

The man has stated that he makes decisions based on his gut feelings. Arguement, reason, and logic all work on the brain--we shouldn't be suprised that they've had little effect so far.

(An aside regarding the Miers nomination: I think it worked exactly the way it was supposed to, by driving Mike Brown and Katrina off the front pages. Actually getting her on the court would just have been a giant cherry on the publicity sundae.)

"Random question on the subject: can anyone name an example of a policy that a) Bush wanted to enact, that b) he was advised against"

"The man has stated that he makes decisions based on his gut feelings."

It's my impression that Bush has been for the most part a feather for every breeze that blows. I think Anarch's question is mostly answered by Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove having told Bush what he wants (and perhaps being unable to untell him when circumstances warrant).

OCSteve, check it out: Abizaid is retiring.

Abizaid has been the primary architect of U.S. military strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan since becoming head of the U.S. Central Command more than three years ago. He has strenuously resisted calls to increase troop levels to quell rising violence in Baghdad, arguing it would increase Iraqi dependence on Americans.

But a growing number of current and former officers have embraced the idea, some of whom have briefed President Bush as part of his monthlong review of Iraq policy, and the White House is believed to be considering the move.

"If you're going to change the strategy, in fairness to [Abizaid], let him go," said a former senior Pentagon official who has worked closely with the general. "He's given it all he's got, in terms of personal sacrifice."

Seems to me that Atrios's argument requires that the elite pundits, having not been heeded, now turn on Bush with the full force of their disdain. I'll believe it when I see it.

As already noted, to do so would require some degree of admission of prior error on their part, which will not happen. Far more likely is the tragedy storyline -- someone basically good with a good idea taken down by a tragic flaw (such as a messianic quality that blinded him to the faults of those implementing his wonderfulness). They just have not settled on a storyline yet because too much is still up in the air.

The Bush sycophants are looking for a "stabbed in the back " storyline, like the current nonsense being pedaled about Viet Nam. They don't want to admit any fault.

OCSteve

I should have added, it would be SecDef's job to pull all these folks together, let them hash it out, and then present a unified opinion to the president.

I recognize that you have written what should be happening at the Pentagon as opposed to a prediction of what is actually happening. But do you have any belief that anything resembling this is actually happening? The past six years have shown that the Bush administration does not act in this manner -- gathering a range of opinions from subordinates and hashing it out to forge policy. Many many voices have described the utter lack of any policy mechanism in the Bush administration.

Bush is searching for the political cover that will let him to continue to do what he wants -- not for alternative strategies to fixed a flawed policy. He had no intention of taking the ISG study seriously -- he did not want it to begin with, and has been as busy undermining it as he did with the 911 Commission. The voices in the Pentagon that will get his attention are the boot lickers that will say what he wants to hear. The JCS has already come out against the "surge" -- isn't that opinion already the result of subordinates hashing out alternatives to forge policy?

The "surge" creates the illusion that something new is being done when it is in reality just more of the same. And it allows him to stay the course without openly asserting that as policy. Its a politically convenient sham, and nothing more.

If you read the literature emanating from the Heritage Foundation, which drives the Bush administration's economic ideology, you discover a very radical agenda: Heritage doesn't just want to scale back New Deal and Great Society programs, it regards the very existence of those programs as a violation of basic principles.

The overall Krugman quote is great -- I flagged this part in order to refer to this stunning example Did the Progressives Destroy America?. That's right -- as in the Progressives circa 1910.

That's who we are dealing with.

Posted by: Bruce Baugh | December 20, 2006 at 02:47 AM

Not sure if you'll see this so I'll keep it short.

If I grant your premise about D nominees being more centrist than the electorate for the sake of argument, then why does this happen to Democrats but not Republicans?

Apparently Bush said, during his press conference, that "We aren't winning" in Iraq. He added that we aren't losing either, but saying that we aren't winning is, for him, a concession.
It doesn't mean that he will become rational all of a sudden, however. He still HAS to WIN because that's his nature as a authoritarian personity type with the addition of a personaity disorder.
So now he wants a bigger army.

Equal Opportunity Cynic: The Republican Party has cliques that have been far more dedicated to and successful at working the mass media in their favor, and the center-left part of the political spectrum is particularly vulnerable to some kinds of exploitation when it's dressed up in the language of fairness. This is a legacy from the defective "vital center" ideology that has yet ot be acknowledged, let alone taken seriously, by people who actually want anything like traditional centrism; the current moderately progressive trend in Democratic activism is what happens as people abandon the old notion of balance as a governing value and start looking at the positive ends they'd like to achieve.

Or more compactly, the Democratic Party and semi-independent punditry have been lead by saps in decades during which amoral wolves pushed themselves into authority over the Republican Party and media culture.

But don't grant my premise for the sake of an argument. Go look at public opinion on health care, war, abortion, education, and a bunch else, and you'll see that the public stands well to the left of the Democratic establishment. Either I'm right about that or I'm wrong - it's a matter of fact, not a hypothetical to argue about, and you should check out the facts. I believe you'll find them against you here.

If I grant your premise about D nominees being more centrist than the electorate for the sake of argument, then why does this happen to Democrats but not Republicans?

Not to put words in anyone's mouth, but Republicans seem more accepting of "authority," so when they (or some subset of "they") are told "this is our guy, and he is good." They shrug their shoulders and go along, even if the guy is much more conservative than they might like. "The Dem would be worse" as it were.

Off topic - someone in the administration is itching for a war with Syria.

Jay Rosen has a worthwhile stab at this theme (via Laura Rozen).

To me, the interesting part comes after this question: "Confronted with “…when we act, we create our own reality,” what could the press have done differently?"

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I agree with almost all the comments above. I was a Bush voter, and at this point I just want to scream and scream and scream. And scream.

And scream.

"Ezra responds that it's because Atrios was just listening to what Bush said, instead of creating a brand new Bush in his imagination."

This is a good lesson, but one might also want to apply to other leaders. I was really struck by:

You can see this when people talk about what Bush "has to" do, or what he "can't" do. For instance, the Globe piece quotes Panetta as saying: "His ratings are so low now that he has got to do something to pull this country together." Likewise, after the ISG report came out, I heard a number of people say things like: "Bush can't ignore this report."

With normal people, they'd be right. (And normalcy here is pretty minimal.) Normal people would not be able to ignore a report like this, either because it would be flatly unreasonably to just ignore a report with these authors or because it would be imprudent. Similarly, normal people couldn't possibly invade Iraq without making sure that someone had drawn up careful and detailed plans about what would happen after the fall of Baghdad. I mean, how could someone possibly overlook that?

The problem is that Bush is not, in this sense, a normal person. There are things he can't do. He can't do things that are logically impossible, like being both married and unmarried at the same time. He can't do things that are conceptually impossible, like being a salmon-colored prime number. He can't do things that are physically impossible, like flying by flapping his arms in the air.

But as far as I can tell, the quite different sense of "can't" that's at work in statements like "he can't just ignore the combination of the ISG report, the election, his own unpopularity, and the unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff" has no purchase on him whatsoever. Normal people couldn't do that. Faced with so much opposition from so many very credible sources, and with the prospect of wrecking his ability to govern for the next two years, a normal person couldn't send soldiers off to die just because, as Scarecrow at FDL put it, "He will break the Army before he risks breaking himself."

Normal people can't do that. Bush, however, can.

[Added about 5 minutes later, when I realized I forgot this para.: Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that someone is has no limits whatsoever. Atrios managed to do it. For whatever reason, perhaps because they assume that someone who is one of them just had to know the same limits they recognize, most of the pundits did not. -- End of added para.]

It struck me (and this sadly may be just a sign of my own obsessions) that these are exactly the same arguments used to state that Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad could not possibly mean what they say about Israel and nuclear weapons.

"Go look at public opinion on health care, war, abortion, education, and a bunch else, and you'll see that the public stands well to the left of the Democratic establishment."

What precisely do you mean by that on abortion and education. The public seems much more willing to accept change in education than the Democratic--our teachers' unions right or wrong--Party. And on abortion it is perfectly clear that neither party is in step with public opinion--last I checked there were vast amounts of people willing to ban abortion except for severe physical health risk, rape or incest (why are those considered separate?) much earlier than the Democratic Party. The only way you get public support is if you ask a super-general approve/disapprove of Roe question while studiously avoiding asking about anything that reveals what people actually know about Roe.

Sebastian: last I checked there were vast amounts of people willing to ban abortion except for severe physical health risk, rape or incest

Or so they say. Pro-lifers have, bizarrely, succeeded in making it look moral to support a policy that turns women into chattels, removing basic human rights from women when pregnant. But, practically, everyone but the most misogynistic or the m most ignorantly naive or the daftest pro-lifers recognizes that denying women access to safe legal abortion when needed* simply means that women die or are made sterile. It's not an academic debate, after all, though many men (and some women) like to pretend it is.

Every clinic that provides abortions, it seems, can tell stories of pro-lifers coming in to have abortions - because, just like Derbyshire, when their principles affected their own life, they recognized the basic injustice behind their principles - and sometimes even realized that they'd been unjust to other women, too.

*Or trying to argue that some other person than the woman who's pregnant should get to decide when an abortion is needed.

Actually, I'm willing to grant both abortion and education where the public isn't in a simple way just to the left of the allowable Democratic consensus, but that tehre are multiple angles to each which are popular but unrepresented. The war and health care are both simpler, with stable or steadily evolving public views when not marred by specific crises or expensive coordinated efforts to decieve them about specific proposals.

I think Anarch's question is mostly answered by Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rove having told Bush what he wants (and perhaps being unable to untell him when circumstances warrant).

That's entirely possible but that's a second-order consideration (and only alters the question of intransigence one remove). I'm still gunning for the facts on the ground first.

Pro-lifers have, bizarrely, succeeded in making it look moral to support a policy that turns women into chattels, removing basic human rights from women when pregnant.

That's about right.

The anti-abortion movement and many other right-wingers keep making the act of killing a fetus the same as murdering a child. And slaughtering hundreds and thousands of whole families in the Middle-East as noble and rightious to spread democracy and/or avenge 9-11.

The Culture of Life?

They raped irony.

They raped irony.

Irony was asking for it by pretending not to.

Well, if Irony would stop dressing up like History...

It was an honor rape. Sarcasm had mortally offended the Culture of Life, so they raped Irony as revenge on Sarcasm.

Seb: we're not so bad that you have to be actually ashamed... ;)

About Ahmedinejad: the point of what I wrote (and I suspect Atrios might agree, though I'm just guessing based on reading him) is not that you have to accept what people say as a reflection of their views, completely uncritically. I, at least, try not to do that, and there are all sorts of topics on which I do not think that Bush means what he says. (I suspect he's actually a lot more moderate on gay marriage than he lets on in public, for instance.)

I think that if "constructing a Bush (or: an X, for any value of X) in your imagination" means "interpreting what he says, rather than just thinking: oh, he said this, so he must mean it", then that's something we all do, and a good thing too. The interesting thing about the pundits and Bush is just that they were, and are, so spectacularly wrong. I suspect it's harder for them to see what Bush is like partly because of one of Atrios' points combined with mine: it's always hard to realize that someone has no limits at all, but it;s especially hard when you think that he's a member of a class that includes you, and about which you make special extra assumptions.

Analogy: luckily, the number of occasions on which it crosses anyone's mind that the side of me that isn't pure Swedish peasant is pretty serious old family WASP is very small. (Actually, since I dropped off the Bok Tower board, it has declined to zero.) But when it happens, the WASPy people around tend to make all sorts of assumptions about me: what I'm like, what my life is like, what my politics are like, what sorts of statements I will find completely unobjectionable, etc., etc. It just doesn't cross their mind that those assumptions might be false, because their whole way of thinking relies on the idea that there really is something special about people like them (and me). Since most of those assumptions are false, the comedic possibilities are just endless (and frequently realized -- I am always not figuring out until it's too late that I really shouldn't say this or that.)

Likewise, I suspect that if one took oneself to be a member of the DC ruling class, one might make all manner of assumptions about other members of it. This does not include Clinton (or: it didn't until recently), but it definitely includes Bush.

I've been saying for years that Bush is a classic example of narcissistic personality disorder. Read this and tell me it does not describe Bush to a T. Then consider that we have two years left. Be very afraid.

I was a Bush voter

Sebastian, I have to ask:

I've read your stuff here and elsewhere, and you're an intelligent guy. Insightful, thoughtful, and intelligent.

What was the appeal? I'm not trying to yank your chain, I really want to know -- what was the appeal?

Cause I don't get it.

Thanks -

I just posted this on Making Light, where a number of people are discussing your post. I see "Potato Head" beat me to it, but I'll put my same two cents in anyway:

I see Bush's behavior as suggesting many of the features of narcissistic personality disorder, which often goes along with considerable personal charm.

Since I just happen to have Marshall McLuhan, sorry, I mean the DSM-IV, right here:

Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achivements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e. unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

I'll let everyone ponder for themselves how well this pattern fits; remember, he only needs 5 to "win".

It struck me (and this sadly may be just a sign of my own obsessions) that these are exactly the same arguments used to state that Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad could not possibly mean what they say about Israel and nuclear weapons.

Damn, one day I find myself just trying to be civil to Sebastian, and the next day I'm actually agreeing with him! This is, IMHO, a very nice point.

My only caveat is that most politicians do not mean what they say. (Oh, a few do, but they're the ones who wind up with only about 13 votes, because everyone knows they're crazy.) I've tracked (informally) many of the leaders of Southeast Asia over the past few decades, and nearly all of them "talked" far more than they "walked." A prime example was Malaysia Muhammad b. Mahathir, who was vocally anti-American (and anti-Australian even more!), to the point where many Westerners demonized him - yet in most respects Malaysia under his rule remained as open to the West and to capitalism as ever, and only slightly less democratic. From an earlier era Manuel Quezon in the Philippines used to rip into American "colonialists" in speeches, then go straight from the public platform into the back room to play poker with the American reporters (who liked him and called him "Casey"), assuring them that he didn't mean a word of it.

The one huge exception in Southeast Asia was the Khmer Rouge leadership (which turned out to be the Pol Pot gang, but we didn't know that at first). They said what they were doing and we didn't believe it because, frankly, it was unbelievable and irrational and counter-productive (not to say murderous) and no sane government would do what they appeared to be doing. But they did it anyway.

Reverting to the situation at hand, I think I know Bush well enough by now to suspect that Hilzoy (and others) are right about him. I do not know anything like the same about Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad - perhaps I could, but I've never made the effort to inform myself thoroughly - so I'm not willing to make the same judgment. Instead I rest for the nonce in my default assumption that they're politicians, and therefore hypocrites. I hope I'm right.

I've seen lefties make two different points about Ahmadinejad--one is that wiping Israel off the map may mean, in effect, the one-state solution with the Palestinians all back inside the borders. Which in his mind probably means an Islamic state and not the ideal secular democracy that one-state advocates in the West usually mean (unrealistic or not), but isn't the same as nuking the place. Or maybe he means nuking it. But that's the argument.

The other point is that he doesn't actually have much power and is only appealing to the apparently large number of Iranians who like this kind of rhetoric. Which is disturbing in itself, but no more so than the very large number of Westerners (some of whom I know personally) who take an equally dangerous Manichean view of the world.

On hilzoy's post--I agree with Jon S way up above. Yes, Bush is a very unpleasant, dangerous crazy person. But in a healthy political environment he never would have gotten as far as he has. And yeah, complaining about Broder and Friedman (my addition) and the Washington Post is like complaining about the weather, but we've been suffering from a drought of sensible mainstream political commentary for as long as I can remember and under the circumstances it's natural to complain about it.

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