Tuesday, August 22

Life in two completely different universes

There's this.

Bush has virtually never in his political career made a decision that he didn't think was the right thing to do and the right way to do it. Conservatives who are piling on the anti-Bush bandwagon should consider that this trait—which makes the Bush family historically great—is a historical rarity to be treasured. This administration would do well to be more concerned with its popularity — the President and even Vice President should appear every week in press conferences and on the Sunday talk shows — if only to strengthen the political viability of their agenda, and be able to shape the terms of debate. But it was not so long ago that Americans could only wish for a president who was obviously trustworthy, upstanding, and principled. And the day is not far off when we will think ourselves lucky to have seen this President defend the honor and integrity of his office—and the American people—for eight years. The times are difficult, and nobody could have gotten through the last five years without making mistakes. But in that station to which God called him, George W. Bush has been himself honestly, and thank God for that.

And then there's this.

The most egregious consequences of Bush’s lack of intellectual curiosity have come in regard to foreign policy. But domestic policy making has suffered, too. Indeed, Bush’s disengagement has arguably been more severe in this arena. Abroad, one can at least say that Bush made some choices he believed at the time to be the right ones. But on the home front, the president’s lack of commitment to any idea (beyond a blind faith in the power of tax cuts to cure all) has turned the policy process into a joke and consistently marginalized serious analysts in favor of the entirely political counsel proffered by Karl Rove and other hacks. “It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis,” as former faith-based-initiatives coordinator John DiIulio famously put it.


But no one tries to assert that Bush is a deeply engaged decision-maker. In fact, the known record suggests that he takes the advice of the last person he listened to, whether that person was making sense or not, and his advisers understand it as their responsibility to jockey to be that person.

Obviously, you know which passage I think boasts an obvious sheen of truth and which wears the stink of bullshit. Yes, I know: Pitting Matthew Yglesias against a blogger at NRO's The Corner is like ... um ... something about big-footed giants versus ants or whatever suitable analogy would make you chuckle (think of one yourself; I'm not your monkey!!) But as far as I can tell, this is a nearly perfect illustration of the dichotomy of the current political discourse: One side offers creepy idolatry and the other offers well-reasoned arguments. (I'm not saying there's no idolatry on the Left and I'm not saying there are no reasoned debates from the right; I'm just saying right now, as of this posting, this is the kind of thing I see more and more. Bush's defenders are taking a pure "stay the course" stance and crossing their fingers and hoping like hell that Bush'll be vindicated or that shit will stay together at least until he's out of office, and the Left's arguments -- while not radically different from the ones offered two or three years ago -- are getting stronger and stronger as more and more people wise up to the bungledom that is a Bush presidency.)

I was thinking the other night that I am at a point now where if you still support Bush and the bulk of his policies with more than a faint shrug of reluctance, I honestly don't even know how to relate to you on anything more than the basics (blink, breathe, swallow, etc.). These ra-ra Bush cheerleaders must inhabit a strange and unfamiliar space in reality where brainpower is less important than tasteless bravura, where irony is dead (or beaten into submission and ignored), and where fear and intimidation are money-making, power-sucking cattle prods.

(If you've got a minute, you should read the entire second essay linked; it's excellent. HT: Ezra Klein at Tapped, who has a good post up about how ridiculous it is for the president's peeps to claim he's read sixty books this year.)


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