Just Above Sunset
April 18, 2004 - The Triumph of Hope Over Experience
on Tuesday of last week we had an anniversary – on that date in 1743 Thomas Jefferson was born in Shadwell, Virginia.
Dennis Nelson paused from eating a slice of pizza at a Tampa American
Legion Hall Tuesday night to listen to President Bush, who said just what he wanted to hear: The United States will not be
deterred in Iraq.
And on the left:
On Chicago's South Side, viewers included about 20 members of the
Task Force for Black Political Empowerment, a political activist group that has come out against the Iraq war.
And further left, Hesiod over at CounterSpin offered this immediate reaction:
But tonight was the first time I have truly been afraid. Yes... afraid for our country.
Some of the press conference was a rerun of typical Bush behaviors. He suggested that criticizing him or our actions in Iraq sends a bad message to our troops and our enemies--i.e., dissent is treason.
we all caught that. That’s understood.
…. Bush approaches
the world as if the good things that happen to him are the result of virtue and the bad things the result of environment,
but with other people it's the exact opposite. We're all susceptible to that
mistake. But with Bush it's reached a truly bizarre level, and makes listening
to him an unsettling experience.
Don't listen to the doomsayers.
The current situation in Iraq is the best thing that's happened to America since 9-11.
Remember that day? Remember how it united America? We're going to see a lot more of that kind of unification very soon.
another reference if you haven’t been following the news. Arial Sharon
visited Bush at the ranch late last week and the big announcement was that we now support Arial Sharon’s new peace initiative
– Israel abandons everything in the Gaza Strip (let the Palestinians have it all) and keeps and expands all the Israeli
settlements in the West Bank. Everyone now bursts into a chorus of the theme
song from the movie Exodus – “This land is mine… God gave this land to me…”
course! How can you lead without specific instructions? Hey, what good is having subordinates if they don’t tell you what you should do? And that presidential briefing from August 6th of that year wasn’t full of warnings, even if the
title said it was full of warnings. Who you gonna believe, Condi or your own
eyes? Be a patriot – ya gotta believe Condi!
And then a day later, when folks had time to think things through,
and write clearly? Well, noted above were immediate and visceral reactions.
Give it a day and folks produce better analyses. Scanning opinion on the
net I think I found one of the more thoughtful reactions.
One thing is for certain, though, about me, and the world has learned
this: When I say something, I mean it. And the credibility of the United States
is incredibly important for keeping world peace and freedom.
explores how, to Bush, credibility means that you keep saying today what you said yesterday, and that you do today what you
"A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word,
once given, can be relied upon," he argued Tuesday night. When the situation
is clear and requires pure courage, this steadfastness is Bush's most useful trait.
But when the situation is unclear, Bush's notion of credibility turns out to be dangerously unhinged. The only words and deeds that have to match are his. No correspondence
to reality is required. Bush can say today what he said yesterday, and do today
what he promised yesterday, even if nothing he believes about the rest of the world is true.
perhaps reality is overrated.
it is clever.
To many Americans, the gap between Bush's statements about the months
before 9/11, on the one hand, and the emerging evidence about those months, on the other, raises doubts about the credibility
of their government. To other nations, the gap between Bush's statements about
Iraqi weapons, on the one hand, and the emerging evidence about those weapons, on the other, has become the central reason
to distrust the United States in other matters of enormous consequence, such as North Korea's nuclear program.
he’s not wishy-washy. And people like that.
Finally, this weekend we have a scholarly look at things.
Lewis Gould is the author of "The Modern American Presidency" (University Press of Kansas) and is professor emeritus of American history at the University of Texas at Austin. And he has a long view of the matter in this:
Lewis L. Gould, The Washington Post, Sunday, April 18, 2004; Page B01
Gould discusses the idea it’s not exactly Bush that was the problem I it’s that the nature of the office, the presidency, has changed.
Here’s a bit of it:
The modern presidency has become embedded in a cultural environment that stresses the proclamation of large national goals at the expense of analysis. The news media and their audiences tend to find the intricacies of policymaking boring subjects to discuss at length. Better to focus on how the president looked, what reporters said to each other and how the event rated as a performance. (The New York Daily News lamented the jiggling rainbow effect the tiny checks on Bush's tie created on TV.) Bush, Barry Bonds and Paris Hilton exist in the same universe of celebrity discourse. Then shooting starts in Iraq, clerics advance largely unfamiliar Islamic concepts and soldiers die. Suddenly fame and ratings don't seem sufficient to the demands of the moment. The people and the media look to the president for answers and guidance for the future.
The modern presidency has not prepared George W. Bush for a moment when he would have to become an analytic strategist for his fellow citizens. Even in the wake of 9/11, he decided that what the nation wanted was a leader who could say that our adversaries would be brought to justice and that those who were not with us were against us. Meanwhile, the government, the military and the private sector would see to the implementation of the broad goals that the president had established.
In an odd way, the tragedy of 9/11 did not shake this president's sense of confidence and purpose; it only heightened it. The president is said to have told friends that he felt that God had marked him out to lead the nation in its moment of peril. And it was belief, not analysis or policy, that he fell back on Tuesday night. "I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world," he said. "And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom…. That is what we have been called to do, as far as I'm concerned." With the Deity on the team, Bush tried to make his other deficiencies as a persuader seem inconsequential.
Well, to some these deficiencies as a persuader are inconsequential. Not to all of us.
The issue may well indeed be persuasion. What the heck are we doing in and with Iraq, and why? Do we need someone up there who is an analytic strategist for his fellow citizens? Yes, we probably do. And that was Bill Clinton’s strong suit. Ah, but he had other problems.
But is that what we want?
Gould thinks so.
…Citizens are prepared to "stay the course" when they have a pilot who explains the dangers ahead, options available and troubles to be surmounted. What the nation got on Tuesday night were the words of a presidential preacher and adroit campaigner. No president can be successful in this modern world without those qualities. But what the president experienced on Tuesday night in the most painful public way is the reality that a chief executive with only those attributes at his command falls short. The ability to persuade and convince, which Bush up to this point has not shown that he possesses, could well determine whether the American people will give him four more years in the modern presidency.
Yes, there is a difference between confidence and competence. The latter seem to matter right now. Or perhaps it doesn’t and Bush will get four more years, simply because he’s so very sure of himself – thoughtless and unknowledgeable and simple-minded, yes, no doubt – but confident.
Many believe that is enough. Samuel Johnson was speaking of something else entirely, but this is surely “the triumph of hope over experience.”
This issue updated and published on...
Paris readers add nine hours....