Saturday, December 16, 2006

Doubling Down

Something else I found interesting from the very end of Froomkin's Friday column was this little bit about Bush's sleep habits, which maybe lends some insight into the thought processes (or lack of) at work:

"People's interviewer also mentioned that readers had asked if he takes sleep aids. Bush said generally not, but he does occasionally when he travels.

"'I must tell you, I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume,' he said."

I don't even know what to make of this anymore. I know he needs his naps and bike rides for all these good, crisp decisions the rest of us have to live with, but jeebus. At some point you have to take the guy at his word, and figure he means precisely what he is saying. Bush will eternally be infamous for his oratorical imprecision, but that's his problem. Eventually people have to quit trying to divine "what he meant" and decide that, as a graduate of Harvard and Yale, he meant exactly what he said.

And what he said, it appears, is that he can live with the decisions that he has made, and by association the consequences. He thinks this is a blip, a comma in the inevitable narrative of history, and that future events will vindicate him. He thinks he is Truman, even though Truman, flawed as he was, got where he got with street smarts, muscle, and gall, rather than a bunch of daddy's rich friends buying him a political Porsche to wrap around a telephone pole.

This is positively delusional, and very dangerously so. By absolving himself thusly from his inept courses of action, he in turn escapes responsibility for future decisions that turn out to be catastrophic for everyone but himself. That is why he is so blithe about his review of the (flawed, but at least a step in the right direction, as opposed to the current strategery) ISG Report. That is why he is so unconcerned about addressing constant rumors of attacking Syria or Iran, neither of which is feasible without a lot of the usual collateral damage (and probably not even then).

Iraq Study Group member Leon E. Panetta believed that his panel's unanimous bipartisan recommendations about a new way forward in Iraq would give President Bush the political cover needed for a dramatic policy shift. So the former chief of staff to President Clinton has watched with alarm as Bush this week signaled that he may reject suggestions about diplomacy and withdrawing most US troops from Iraq by 2008.

Bush has even criticized the idea that the group was providing a "graceful exit" from the war -- which is what Panetta and other panel members figured Bush most wanted.

"I think he has been trapped by his own rhetoric," Panetta said in a telephone interview from his California office. Referring to a recent poll suggesting that 70 percent of those surveyed disapprove of Bush's handling of the war, Panetta said, "His ratings are so low now that he has got to do something to pull this country together."

"Pull this country together". I do not think that phrase means what Panetta seems to think it means. Seventy percent of Americans have consistently voiced their disapproval of Bush's handling of things. That sounds fairly unified to me. That sounds like a constituency which has "pulled together" just fine. That they have pulled together in opposition to Bush is a different matter, and one which might be better framed in terms of competence and vision, and the aforementioned emotional compartmentalization of what sensible people understand to be horrendously expensive and deadly mistakes that will take a generation to undo, if indeed they can even be undone.

It's nice that Panetta is trying to as diplomatic and ecumenical about this subject as he can muster, but it has been clear for some time that what Bush and his insular cadre have long needed is an intervention. The electoral drubbing they took last month was precisely that, and Bush has chosen to ignore it like he does everything else. So the Serious Thinkamators put on their Serious Centrist Face, and natter on about "graceful exits" and "peace with honor" and "pulling the country together" and such, as if any of those things appeared viable without about a dozen boilermakers under one's belt.

But to those who know Bush best, the president's approach is not surprising. Bush's former chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. , who was by Bush's side as he formulated many of his key decisions on the war, said Bush hears many opinions and thus believes that "his knowledge is more complete than anyone who is advising him."

Bush will still be "The Decider," to use the president's description of himself. Bush's aides said this week that he is listening to many opinions and is still deciding what to do. After initially saying Bush would make a speech to the nation before Christmas about his Iraq plan, the White House this week said the address would be put off until after New Year's Day because Bush doesn't want to be rushed into making a decision.

But the decision to reject some of the Iraq Study Group's 79 recommendations already seems clear, notwithstanding a comment from panel co chairman James A. Baker III that, "I hope we don't treat this like a fruit salad, saying, 'I like this, but I don't like that.' "

Yeah, I know. He "doesn't want to be rushed into making a decision". This has been a certifiable clusterfuck for about three years, and he doesn't want anyone "rushing" him. And when Baker of all people is voicing concerns about Mister Man cherry-picking this thing like a Chinese take-out menu, taking one from column A and one from column B and so on, that oughta be a pretty strong signal that that's exactly what's going to happen.

The metaphor has been played out to cliché level, but it is still inescapably true -- Bush is the proverbial bad gambler. His supporters in the base look at that as a good thing, that he's "laying it all on the table", as it were. He's "taking a calculated risk", with a "huge potential payoff", blah blah blah.

It would be bad enough if he was just an ordinary dipshit putting the deed to his house on 33-Black. Sure, the payoff is 35:1, but so are the odds. You hate to see people lose their houses, savings, marriages, families, etc., on stupid shit, but what are ya gonna do if they refuse to go to Gamblers Anonymous and confront their problem?

Now imagine that the same moron is insisting on putting your house on 33-Black, and he only wants to listen to people who think that 33-Black is the best available number on the wheel. How do you like them odds now?


freq flag said...

How do you like them odds now?

Not a damn bit better than I liked 'em before...the thing is, there are an incredible number of people (some of whom vote) who have *no idea* that 35:1 are bad odds.

This is a pretty good parable about how indefatigably immune to reality Bush and his worshippers are. One of the biggest problems with the inevitable unraveling heading our way (which we will all end up paying for) is that he and his 0.1% cohort can afford it and will be largely untouched by it.

The great mass of blindly supportive sheep, happily ignorant that Fearless Leader is betting their future at 35:1 against? Not so much.

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