Thursday, August 17, 2006

Dan Froomkin on Bush's Bubble

Someone asked me tonight if blogs do nothing more than just sing to the choir. There's probably some truth to that but I believe there's a great deal more going on. I make no pretense of being an objective and detached journalist which these day seems to consist of splitting the difference between largely imagined positions on the right and left. There are a lot of different positons in this country and I've alway felt it unwise to reduce everybody to two or three types of political views. For convenience, I call myself a liberal Democrat and sometimes I also mention that I'm a pragmatist but that hardly covers all my views.

Another way to look at politics is to listen to people who describe themselves as conservatives. Most conservatives I know are liberal on at least one or two issues. My oldest brother voted for George W. Bush twice and yet he's knowledgeable and active on environmental issues to an extent that would earn the respect of most liberals; I can't pretend to be able to reconcile the contradictions. Human nature is complex and unfortunately the worst of the right wingers do their best to deny it or walk away from it. In a world of nuclear weapons and scores of cultures and languages and a dozen or so religions with hundreds of sects, it's a simple fact of today's reality that we as a nation can't afford to walk away from complexity.

Thus, one of the things that deeply concerns me about the modern right-wing conservative movement is that it deliberately tries to simplify things; Karl Rove and his mouthpiece, George W. Bush are masters at simplifying things to the point that what they say is largely useless, but for a long time they got positive numbers in the polls because of what they said. To be honest, I have no idea how often Bush really believes what he says and how often he knowingly saying things strictly for political purposes.

At this point, thanks to hundreds of articles gathered by discussion threads and finally blogs, there's no question in my mind that Bush and his top advisers knew the evidence suggested Iraq had no significant WMDs when they were making their case for war in 2002 but because of the negligence of Congress and the media, it took time to understand the full picture and to realize how truly cynical the case for war was. In the fall of 2002, if the media and Congress had done their homework, much of Bush's case for war would probably have unravelled. Perhaps, if blogs had been as fully developed as they are now, we may have put the brakes on an optional war we did not need, a war we now realize was strategically flawed on many levels, a war that distracted from dealing with the real issues of terrorism and finishing the job in Afghanistan.

Congress and the media have traditionally been America's watchdogs but that function has been breaking down for a long time and finally broke down almost completely from late 2001 to about early 2005; by default, blogs have become watchdogs, flawed though they may be as a young medium. Blogs are doing far more than just singing to the choir. In fact, blogs spread a lot of news from the conventional media. I, for one, still find reporters in many places I respect and seek when looking for hard, reasonably objective news. I may have a particular view, but I try to be honest and work very hard to find out what the facts are.

The latest watchdog role of blogs is simply pointing out as strongly as possible that we have a broken government and a very broken foreign policy. Dan Froomkin of The Washington Post has a post on the subject on his 'blog':
I've written a fair amount about the Bush Bubble over the past nearly three years. And it seems to me that, with a tiny handful of exceptions, the bubble is still fully operational.

When it comes to Iraq in particular, Bush has no interest in engaging in genuine dialogue with people who disagree with him -- even though polls suggest those people now represent a large majority of the American public.

He has no interest in actually arguing the merits of his approach, or substantively defending against the increasingly focused critique by congressional Democrats.

Rather, he describes his approach in platitudes, and uses inflated rhetoric to mock the made-up arguments of imaginary opponents. He counts on the skillful use of imagery and human backdrops to deliver his very simple core message -- "I am protecting you" -- without actually making his case.

He hides behind the presidency.

Eventually it becomes impossible for a president to protect his nation if he insists on living inside a bubble where he's still strutting on the deck of the Abraham Lincoln delivering his oversimplified and erroneous messages. Like the media, Congress is supposed to be a watchdog but, more important, it is the body that has availble a wide range of traditional tools for dealing with a president who clearly needs to alter his failing policies. In a time when the number of newspapers in the nation is decreasing, think of blogs as small magazines adding their editorial voices in a call to Washington for action. The inaction and lack of accountability in our government has been going on for far too long.


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