GEORGE W. BUSH
I decided to punish myself today by listening to (most of) Bush's non-political/political speech today in Salt Lake City. It was the first of what is promised to be far too many speeches by Bush and company as they attempt to turn the tide of public sentiment against the Iraq War.
Two things struck me as I listened to him while I was driving around the bowels of Mississippi. The first is that, when he works from a script, he really does sound like a semi-competent communicator, and if you didn't know that most of what was coming from his mouth was bullshit, the strength of conviction with which he conveys his talking points (and make no mistake; that's about all he said today) is almost believable. Of course, put him in a setting like last week's press conference and we'll be back to the same mumbling and inarticulate chimp that we all know and despise.
The second thing that really stuck with me is Bush's basic need to paint his pictures as black and white, us versus them. There are no gray shades in Bush's worldview. Unfortunately, the office of President of the United States requires that the person holding that office not only recognize these nuances but that they also be thoroughly comprehended when processing information and making decisions. I know that this would be a colossal leap for a man that wasn't aware that there are three distinct ethnic divisions in Iraq right before he launched his ill-advised war, but it is a lesson that should be pounded into him every single day until his final day in office.
I made mention a couple of days ago about something Al Franken said on his radio show; the biggest mistake this administration has made when dealing with the Middle East is their attempts to simplify what is a complex situation. Throughout his little speech today, he kept speaking in generalities like "enemies of freedom" and "terrorists" as if all terrorists the world over are just part of one singular entity, one terrorist group completely interchangeable with anther as if they all have the same rationalizations and motivations.
Now that type of overgeneralization or oversimplification is an effective tool when used by political cartoonists, but when it is utilized as the main context for defining real world scenarios, then the description falls far short of being effective and, even worse, demonstrates a woeful disregard and outright ignorance to what the mechanics of the violence in Iraq truly are all about. And this has been going on for over three years!!
Kevin Drum over at Washington Monthly, when speaking about this administration's insistence on using the misnomer, "islamofacist," wrote something that I think relates nicely to what I'm getting at here:
The modern Republican Party has mastered the art of winning elections by beating culture war campaign tropes to death in 30-second ad spots, and they seem to think that you can solve actual real-world problems the same way.Back during the 2004 campaign, John Kerry said, "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history." And I'm sure you will all recall that he was of course widely ridiculed by an administration that doesn't understand concepts like subtlety and nuance. It has been over two years since Kerry made that statement and in all that time Bush still has not learned that it is going to take more than oversimplifications and soundbytes to defeat this enemy in the real world.