Sunday, October 31, 2004

This is an insightful article by Ron Suskind about Bush and the centrality of certainty and ‘faith’ in his presidency. It’s really a rather great, high quality article. Do read it. Let us hope that it turns out to be an early attempt at a final analysis of the Bush presidency. Anyway, here are some thoughts I had when reading it, and some extracts. But I think you'd be better served by just reading the article.

First thought: oh my god, the culture of the Bush White House is just freaky. I mean, Bush doesn't see being informed as important. Also, he seems to actively discourage the idea that his staff are duty bound to keep him informed, or to challenge him, or to ask for his reasoning. But if that's the case, then, like, what are they for? It's weird. Bush credits himself with having the most diverse senior staff in terms of gender and race, which is all well and good. But, having a diverse representation of ‘advisers’ seems redundant when everyone takes their cues from one white guy, in a work culture where 'facts' are considered less important to decision-making than one man's 'instincts'. It’s strange, the most diverse administration has the most stifling culture and singular voice.

Suskind locates the “heart of the Bush presidency”, and he might be on to something.

In mid 2002, after I had written an article that the White House didn't like, I had a meeting with a senior Bush adviser. 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 those who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality". "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."

Doesn't it chill you to find out that they know that? We're an empire now and, when we act, we create our own reality. That awareness. Creeped me out. Like, my insides kinda dropped. And how they construct themselves in opposition to "what we call the reality-based community", and how they call it a distinct name, "the reality-based community", like it's a separate community to the one they inhabit, which maybe it is. And how they know that and accept it, untroubled. Creepy.

This next bit resonated with my wonderment about Bush becoming a leader at all, and how bizarre I think it is that he’s like, the president. I mean, he just strikes me as a guy who has never in his life been the best guy in the room. And yet he’s President.

In 1990, Bush was still bumping along. David Rubenstein, managing director of the Carlyle Group, a Washington investment firm that is one of the town's most powerful institutions, last year recalled that former Nixon aide Fred Malek approached him and said: "There is a guy who would like to be on the board. He's kind of down on his luck a bit. Needs a job... Needs some board positions." Though Rubenstein didn't think Bush "added much value", he put him on a board. "Came to all the meetings," Rubenstein said. "Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. And I kind of said to him, after about three years, 'You know, I'm not sure this is really for you. Maybe you should do something else, because I don't think you're adding that much value to the board'... He said, 'Well, I think I'm getting out of this business anyway. And I don't really like it that much, so I'm probably going to resign from the board'. And I said, 'Thanks'. Didn't think I'd ever see him again."
Around this time, Bush became the successful candidate for the Texas governorship. Six years later, he was elected leader of the free world

Just. Bizarre. I love that "after about three years" part. That's gold. But anyway, don't you think it's bizarre? I've never been able to get my head around it. The very idea that a George W. Bush presidency was even possible baffles me no end. He just seems like some random unimpressive dude, and yet... he's 'President'.

Moving on, Jason Mulgrew found this New Yorker editorial, and you just gotta read it. It's totally awesome and a forceful reminder of how unbelieveably badly the Bush administration has done its job. If Bush gets re-elected with his record, that's just, wow. Fucked up.

"...for many voters the desire to see the damage arrested is reason enough to vote for John Kerry. But the challenger has more to offer than the fact that he is not George W. Bush. In every crucial area of concern to Americans (the economy, health care, the environment, Social Security, the judiciary, national security, foreign policy, the war in Iraq, the fight against terrorism), Kerry offers a clear, corrective alternative to Bush’s curious blend of smugness, radicalism, and demagoguery."

I mean, how is there even a contest?

Anyway, the second part of The Choice 2004 will screen on the SBS’s Cutting Edge on Tuesday night. If you missed it last week, it’s about the personal and public histories of Bush and Kerry. Let's hope the massive distinction between them in terms of substance and quality, and demonstrated capacity for being the best guy in the room, is reflected in the election result.

Man, I'm anxious. Just think how awesome things could be come Wednesday? They could be, like, gloom liftingly awesome. Or not. Hence the anxiety. Because you just don't know. Well, I don't. I mean, I think a guy has done an excessively bad job, like, way beyond the bounds of an acceptably bad job, like, an obviously and undeniably and repeatedly bad job, and yet a lot of people still decide to give him more power than, like, ever. Man we suck. Please don't suck like us, America. Because, seriously, that dude is not cool. And you know it. Sure, we knew it too, but we are LOSERS.

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