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November 28, 2004 - Bush as Brezhnev (really)

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Eric Alterman is getting funny.

What does the new Bush team remind you of?  Funny you should ask. To me, the closest historical parallel would be the Soviet politburo under Brezhnev, where loyalty to the faultless was placed above competence and ideological fealty to a discredited belief system held trump over reality.  Think about it. John D’iulio, Anthony Zinni, Eric Shinseki, Paul O’Neil, Christy Whitman, George Tenet, Colin Powell, etc.  What do the people—all of whom have been forced out of the administration in one way or another--share with one another?  Each has, whether you agree with them or not, a certain degree of competence; a willingness to examine the realities of a problem before arriving at the solution; the respect of some of the professionals with whom they work; and a commitment to working with those around them who share their goals, regardless of party or ideology.  Sure some of them screwed up, Tenet being the most obvious example, but even his screw-ups pale besides those who have been promoted or asked to stay, including, particularly Ms. Rice and Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Hadley, and of course, Cheney.  The new rules for Mr. DeLay are another symbol of Soviet-style governance, as is the apparently immaculately conceived law to allow apparatchiks to examine our tax records whenever the spirit moves them.


How long can we expect this Soviet style regime to continue to stumble onward, normative failure after normative failure?  I have no idea.  The Brezhnevites eventually gave way to Gorby, but it took the humiliation of Afghanistan to drive the point home.  Iraq will, I think, eventually provide a similarly shock to our system, but it’s going to take quite a while; particularly when they get Pravda-like coverage like this and Izvetsia-like criticism like this.

The articles Alterman cites are –


In the New Bush Cabinet, Loyalty Trumps Celebrity

Elisabeth Bumiller, The New York Times, 22 November  2004


Short Version: Bush is such a salt-of-the-earth regular man-of-the-people he heroically ignores folks who are famous fancy-pants big shots and appoints those who a loyal to him, even if they are seen by most of the world as incompetent, he’s so warm-hearted and real - thus proving he’s a really good man and stands by his friends, which is why we all love him.


And this –


The case for unusually cheerful pessimism
The Weekly Standard - November 29, 2004 issue: William Kristol - 11/29/2004, Volume 010, Issue 11


Opening: We're cheerful. Why not? Bush won. And he won while hanging tough in Iraq. There was no talk of exit strategies, no phony promises that we were soon going to draw down our troop levels, no minimizing of the difficulties of the road that lay ahead. There was only the promise that we would continue to shoulder our responsibilities and do our duty.


Center: Much discussion of Alexander Hamilton….


Closing: As chief executive, since his reelection, President Bush has acted with the kind of "decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch" that [Alexander] Hamilton called for. Obviously a huge amount remains to be done. Obviously mistakes will be made. Obviously reality will provide its nasty comeuppances. Intellectually, it's always safer to be a pessimist than an optimist. But Bush's conduct in office since his reelection allows us, at least for now, to be unusually cheerful pessimists.


What is William Kristol saying?  Mistakes?  Oh well.  Reality?  Oh well.  Being honest about events in any basic way makes one really depressed.  Oh well.  Doesn’t matter, as his side won.  Everything is fine. 


Say what?


As for the new Bush administration being a mirror of the Soviet politburo under Brezhnev.  Yeah, well, that works.  The parallels are spooky.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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