erik lundegaard

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Friday August 22, 2008

"Bush II" by William Shakespeare

Ron Suskind’s book, The Way of the World, received some (but not nearly enough) attention recently for the revelation that the Bush administration knew, as early as January 2003, via “a top-drawer intelligence-gathering mission,” that there were no WMDs in Iraq and thus no reason to go to war with Saddam Hussein in March 2003.

That’s not the main reason I bought his book, though. I bought it because Ron Suskind is the guy who wrote the 2004 New York Times Magazine article that, through a smug Bush aide, introduced the phrase “the reality-based community” to the world. I remember how the article stunned me. I remember how it made me better aware of what we were up against. That certain Republicans were willing to overthrow centuries of rational thinking to keep winning elections. The money quote:
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” ... “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

Gotta be Rove, right?

I’ve only read the prologue of The Way of the World but I’m already glad I bought it. In the first pages Suskind gives a better reading of the presidential failures of George W. Bush than I’ve read anywhere else. And I’ve read a lot about the presidential failures of George W. Bush.

Bush came to power, Suskind says, relying on his gut, his instinct. “What he does,” Suskind writes, “is size up people, swiftly — he trusts his eyes, his ears, his touch — and acts… Once he landed in the Oval Office, however, he discovered that every relationship is altered, corrupted by the gravitational incongruities between the leader of the free world and everyone else.”

Other presidents have fought against this corruption, this alteration. Ford arranged Oval Office arguments between top aides. Nixon ordered subordinates to tell him something their superiors didn’t want him to hear. There was good old-fashioned eavesdropping and wire-tapping and polling. But W. continued to rely on his instinct, making him, to Suskind, a tragic figure worthy of Shakespeare: “A man who trusts only what he can touch placed in a realm where nothing he touches is authentic.” Or more brusquely: “...you can’t run the world on instinct from inside a bubble.”

Posted at 10:38 AM on Aug 22, 2008 in category Politics, Books
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Thursday August 14, 2008

"Dear Fellow Republican"

The Republican National Committee sent me a census the other day addressed to a “fellow Republican.”

I know. I assume they sent it to as many people as possible. Maybe they even want people to fulminate against the enclosed “Republican Party Census Document” and its leading questions. It’s not a census, after all, but a push poll, so the goal is to get the words repeated, to get them out there, so they can reside in the brains of unsuspecting passersby.

Here’s my version. Has the same basic gist with half the calories:

HOMELAND SECURITY ISSUES
1. Should Republicans do everything in their power to make you so scared of the world that you’re willing to give up your most basic rights?
2. Do you support the use of force against any country chickenhawk Republicans say shit about? Shit to include: WMDs, smoking guns, underage gymnasts.
3. Should guffawing Republicans continue to make you scared of Mexicans? And Negroes? And the Irish?

ECONOMIC ISSUES
1. Should greedy Republicans continue to use the phrase “massive tax hikes” when referring to taxes on the wealthiest of the wealthy (i.e., Republicans)?
2. President Bush’s idiotic tax cuts for rich bastards (known as the “Idiotic Tax Cuts for Rich Bastards” law) is set to expire. Should we make it permanent? Should we put in the Constitution? Should we make it the 11th Commandment?
3. Shouldn’t we balance the budget already? And by “we” I mean “your great great grand-children.” Ha!

DOMESTIC ISSUES
1. Are you still scared of Mexicans? Good!
2. Do you still hate trial lawyers? Yes!
3. Red tape? The other side likes it! You and I know better. Here’s a beer.

SOCIAL ISSUES
1. Homos? The worst!
2. What if we implied the other guys wanted to serve partial-birth aborted fetuses in government-run school lunch programs? Would it make you rent Soylent Green again?
3. You know what those other guys want to do? Ban God. But look at this muscle. Me stop them.

DEFENSE ISSUES
1. Hey, isn’t that a Mexican right outside your house? Vote now!
2. The United Nations? Losers!
3. The seeds of democracy? Yum!
4. Yes or no: All countries not the U.S. are alike. (Answer: Who gives a shit?)

REPUBLICAN PARTY
1. Look at this penis. Should we pass a law that says it's the best one ever?
2. I can run faster than you. Yes, I can. I already ran around the world, you just didn’t see me.
3. Would you join the Republican National Committee by making a contribution today? Like, a zillion dollars. OK, $35. OK, Other.
4. Look at this muscle. No, wait. No, look from this side.

The questionnaire includes a business reply envelope with the following printed on the outside: “By using your own first class stamp to return this envelope, you will be helping us save much needed funds.”

So if you get one of these, do what I did. Mail it back. Without the stamp. Empty.

Posted at 08:33 AM on Aug 14, 2008 in category Politics
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Saturday August 09, 2008

Reagan v. Founding Fathers

Another good observation from Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter:

As John Patrick Diggins, a Reagan biographer, astutely observes, the Founding Fathers believed that "The people are the problem and the government the solution" while Reagan convinced us that the people are virtuous and that government's the problem. "It worked," Diggins notes. "Reagan never lost an election."

Posted at 09:02 AM on Aug 09, 2008 in category Politics
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Friday August 08, 2008

G.O.P.: The Party of Stupid

Everyone needs to read Paul Krugman's column today, particularly this graf:

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

Posted at 08:21 AM on Aug 08, 2008 in category Politics
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Friday August 01, 2008

That McCain Rumor

Here’s the headline in yesterday’s New York Times: “McCain Is Trying to Define Obama as Out of Touch.” Here’s the unspoken subhed: “And we let him.”

Not that I don’t sympathize. It’s a tough gig being objective these days. The Republicans learned long ago how to use the mainstream media, always striving for objectivity, to their advantage: Pin what you want on your opponent and that becomes the talking point.

If I wrote, for example, that John McCain has no genitalia, merely a ball of fluff between his legs, and this rumor gained enough momentum, then that would become the story. Refutations, denials, headlines. “McCain: ‘I Have Genitalia’: But Refuses to Drop Pants for Media.” News cameras would focus on his crotch and news anchors, with resident experts, would analyze what we saw. “I believe there’s something there, Paula. Now whether it's actually genitalia...” The late night comedians would have a field day. Op-Ed columnists would opine that, even if the rumor were true, how does that relate to the act of governing? We’d get the European reaction, the Chinese reaction, and analysis of what this might mean for the War on Terror. Can we fight al Qaeda if our president literally has no balls? And no matter how many times the rumor was denied, and no matter from how many angles it was refuted, still, on election day, many voters would vote against him with this reasoning: Well, that McCain feller, he’s just got a ball of fluff between his legs.

So how do you fight this? How do you write about the process of the campaign without playing into one side’s strategy? How silly does it have to get before you throw up your hands and refuse to let the candidates dictate talking points?

At the least, Obama’s response to the lastest McCain attacks is exactly right: “Is that the best they got?” Hopefully, when Paris and Britney are mentioned during the rest of this campaign, most of us will simply be reminded of how trivial McCain and the Republicans want to make it all while the world burns.

Posted at 07:30 AM on Aug 01, 2008 in category Politics, Culture
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