Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bush Meeting with Right Wing Journalists

Twenty-five years of increasing right wing conservatism has not only been damaging our country, it has damaged the clear vision and analysis that's needed to move forward in the world. There is a reason right wingers were never taken too seriously during the Cold War; they have a knack for making things worse. I'm not talking about Nixon or Reagan, whose policies were at times flawed but otherwise part of the bipartisan foreign policy we had for sixty years. I'm talking about the people who sometimes were invited into the Pentagon or White House to give the most hawkish position possible so that our leaders could clearly see the edge of what was possible and what was clearly reckless. With President Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, we have gone over that edge. Last May, Bush started pulling back a little from that edge (I suspect for reasons of political expendiency) but his flawed vision of the world is still alive and well.

Here's a transcript from the National Review of a very strange meeting that Bush had after his big news conference on Wednesday with right wing journalists (hat tip to Dan Froomkin of White House Briefing); it's a long and tedious transcript but here's a few excerpts in blue type with some of the stranger remarks that I've highlighted in bold:
... What I thought I would do is talk a little bit, share my mind with you, and then answer questions for a while. We're on the record until I tell you we're not on the record. And some times that works, and a lot of times it doesn't work. I'm a skeptical "off the record" guy.

I have no idea what that last means.
As I said in the press conference today, it is conceivable that 20 or 30 years from now the world will see a Middle East in which violent forms of — extreme forms of Islam compete for power, moderate governments will be toppled, oil will be used to extract concessions, and Iran will have a nuclear weapon, and writers such as yourself would say, what happened to them?

What happened to who?
How come they couldn't see the great conflict taking place in front of their very eyes? Why did they lose their nerve? Why did they not support moderate people who yearn for something better than the vision of the extremists? And my answer to it is, I see the threat, and will use American power to protect ourselves, and at the same time, try to create the first victory in this ideological — the first victories — in the ideological war of the 21st century.

Right wing conservatives are adept at using the word "they" without taking the trouble to define who they mean and why they have singled out a group of people; it's vague because a precise definition would lead to their argument being undermined. Also, Bush is apparently talking about an ill-defined threat related to Islam without mentioning he has his own ideology to bring forward that most Americans still poorly understand, partly because of Bush's incoherence and partly because he has chosen to hide so much of his agenda.
So, much of the thinking and decision-making that I do now is based upon my belief that we're in this grand ideological struggle. It is a struggle between moderate people, and a struggle between ideologues who are totalitarian and kill to achieve an objective without conscience. It's interesting, here in America, I ran into a kid the other day who used to work here and he goes to a famous law school, and he said, the problem, Mr. President, is people don't believe we're at war. I not only believe we're at war, I know we're at war.

First of all, beware of anyone who talks about grand ideological struggles as breezily as the president does. If Bush believe in grand ideological struggles as much as he says, then, by his own conception, he should have committed himself to finishing the job in Afghanistan instead of letting it languish. The comment about the law school reminds me of Nixon's famous resentment, a common enough flaw even among well-educated, wealthy and powerful right wing Republicans; the resentment is often used as an excuse for ethical shortcuts or blaming others for their failures. The comment about being at war is muddled; first, Bush is putting up a straw man that doesn't really exist; secondly, he vaguely seems to be responding to charges against him that he has not put the nation on a serious war footing because of his tax cuts and refusal to demand any sacrifices from much of America and general refusal to consider a bipartisan approach.
My biggest issue that I think about all the time is the next attack on America, because I am fully aware that there are people out there that would like nothing more than to have another spectacular moment by killing the American people. And they're coming. And we've got to do everything we can to stop them.

For an optimist, Bush chooses the most fear-invoking description of what may or may not come to pass. Actually, Bush has such a dark pessimistic view of human nature, I'm surprised the press let's him get away with calling himself an optimist. I know the president's language is frequently muddled, but let's be clear about this: nobody can kill the American people even with a larger 9/11 attack. And yet, to this date, Bush has avoided some of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission such as tighter port security. Let's also keep in mind that Bush actually had al Qaida on the run before deciding to go off to Iraq. His recklessness in starting an optional war has reenergized those who would turn to terrorism.
That's why I believe we ought to listen to their phone calls, obviously on a limited basis, one coming out of the country, and why I know we need to interrogate these people. That's why we need the Patriot Act. That's why we need to be on the offense all the time. Iraq is the central part of this global war right now. The extremists, radicals have made it clear that they want us to leave. You know, it's an interesting world in which people are not willing to listen to the words of an enemy, but in this case, we're able to listen to the enemy and find out what the enemy thinks and publish their thoughts. The Commander-in-Chief must listen carefully and take their words extremely seriously.

(Sigh.) Would somebody else like to take a crack at the nonsense in the above paragraph? I'll only mention that if Iraq is now the central part of the global war [on terrorism?], it was in part no thanks to Bush. By the way, what I have quoted so far was only the first paragraph of the National Review transcript.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

substitute "chief distraction" for "central front" in all instances. This gets you much closer to the truth.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Always Question said...

I got a little lost there, too.
In his reference, which ones are the moderates and which are the totalitarian ideologues who "kill to achieve an objective without conscience?"

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

S.W., 'chief distraction' sounds about right.

Always Question, good to hear from you again. I hope readers who see this might check out your blog.

You're right. Bush does make it difficult to follow him and in more senses than one.

I just finished reading another biography of Lincoln and I'm always impressed at how carefully he thought things through and how clearly he said things.

Bush's friends compare our president to Churchill which of course is a bit of a put on. Although Churchill had problems throughout his career, when he took the helm in World War Two, he was brilliant, and he was clear in what he said and there was a consistency between what he said and what he did (and I think it probably helped that he had a coalition government which enhanced his credibility and probably kept him credible).

1:47 PM  
Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Craign wrote:

"Bush's friends compare our president to Churchill which of course is a bit of a put on."

And, Bush's friends have OD'd on what??!! Churchill exhibited one of the keenest intellects of the 20th century. In many ways he was Rennaisance man updated.

Bush has exhibited one of the shallowest intellects to ever darken the White House door. Bush's idea of being well rounded is to augment his mountain bike with a Segue, thereby adding variety to his menu of things to fall off of — and who knows, maybe suffer a head injury, thereby making an already bad situation even worse.

Bush likened to Churchill. Incredible, literally.

2:08 PM  

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