LATE TO THE REALITY-BASED PARTY
Here's the Ron Suskind piece
from this weekend that everyone's been talking about. It's on Bush's "faith" (in both the religious and abstract sense) and how it affects his decision-making process (as in, not letting facts get in the way).
What underlies Bush's certainty? And can it be assessed in the temporal realm of informed consent?
All of this -- the ''gut'' and ''instincts,'' the certainty and religiosity -connects to a single word, ''faith,'' and faith asserts its hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad. That a deep Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of George W. Bush is common knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in profound, nonreligious ways. The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party. Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position -- he expects complete faith in its rightness.
The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility -- a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House. As [former EPA administrator Christine Todd] Whitman told me on the day in May 2003 that she announced her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: ''In meetings, I'd ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!''
There's plenty more, a lot of it historical, but the passage that has a lot of people abuzz is not about Bush directly, but is a quote from a nameless White House official:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
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.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''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.''
That's... grand. Cue Christopher Hitchens telling us all how liberals are the Orwelian ones.
My general take on the piece is that Suskind tries too hard to wrap everything in a neat little package. Lyndon Johnson didn't need to be a fundamentalist nut to be simultaneously stubborn and wrong about Vietnam.
I think a lot of factors contribute to the overall critique of the Bush administration: the "faith" thing, the lie of "compassionate conservatism", that 8 or 9 neocons were the only people who truly had his ear in the run-up to Iraq, the politicization of 9/11 and homeland security, the rather un
Christian tax cuts for the affluent, the "bubble" he seems to exist in (on jobs, certainly)... all of these things are present, but can't all be shoe-horned into one negative narrative to describe Bush the way, say, the bad side of Nixon could be described. ("a ruthless prick")
The above quote, though, is important because it's the one thing that comes closest to a universal critique. It's not just Bush vs "reality" in that he's in a bubble, wearing rose-colored Iraq glasses and having his Treasury Sec call job losses "a myth". It's also Bush vs reality in that his administration is enforcing a new reality upon us; an active, aggressive bubble.
Top-down reality dissemination.
If I wanted that, I'd spend my next vacation here:
(that's the Ryugyong Hotel
in North Korea, by the way)
Anyway, seeing as I am late to the party, I'll defer to a number of others on this piece, some more skeptical of Suskind's conclusion than others...
thinks the "reality-based" quote is being misinterpreted, but I think that his personal interpretation of it is closer to what the masses believe it to mean than he realizes.