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October 30, 2003

Groundlings
Posted by Teresa at 12:27 AM *

From the NYTimes, Keepers of Bush image lift stagecraft to new heights:

George W. Bush’s “Top Gun” landing on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln will be remembered as one of the most audacious moments of presidential theater in American history. But it was only the latest example of how the Bush administration, going far beyond the foundations in stagecraft set by the Reagan White House, is using the powers of television and technology to promote a presidency like never before.

Officials of past Democratic and Republican administrations marvel at how the White House does not seem to miss an opportunity to showcase Mr. Bush in dramatic and perfectly lighted settings. It is all by design: the White House has stocked its communications operation with people from network television who have expertise in lighting, camera angles and the importance of backdrops.

On Tuesday, at a speech promoting his economic plan in Indianapolis, White House aides went so far as to ask people in the crowd behind Mr. Bush to take off their ties, WISH-TV in Indianapolis reported, so they would look more like the ordinary folk the president said would benefit from his tax cut. …

The White House efforts have been ambitious97and costly. For the prime-time television address that Mr. Bush delivered to the nation on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House rented three barges of giant Musco lights, the kind used to illuminate sports stadiums and rock concerts, sent them across New York Harbor, tethered them in the water around the base of the Statue of Liberty and then blasted them upward to illuminate all 305 feet of America’s symbol of freedom. It was the ultimate patriotic backdrop for Mr. Bush, who spoke from Ellis Island.
I remember that occasion. It was the first anniversary: a very tough day. Our own officials—the ones who actually went through it; who were here to help afterwards, not just for photo shoots; and who afterward kept their promises about what the were going to do to help—had all agreed to refrain from speechifying. Instead, we were going to have memorial marches by the departments that lost so many people, and lots and lots of candles and prayers, and the reading-out of the names of the dead, and solemn and dignified musical performances. In place of any one person’s words, we were going to have readings of the Gettysburg Address and other well-loved texts from the days of the republic.

Which we did. Only right in the middle of it, we got ol’ Georgie Boy, carried live on the PA system, making his self-regarding and artfully theatrical speech from Ellis Island. That man has never seen an occasion he thought was more important than he was. Patrick and I walked away, deeper into Prospect Park, for the duration of the speech. Better to risk getting mugged than stay and listen to that.

I’ve mentioned it before here, but I’ll say it again: Bush showed up to get his picture taken with our firefighters and EMTs and police officers, but afterward he stiffed them on all those fine-sounding promises of help. He had money for three barges’ worth of fancy theatrical lights to give him just the right backdrop for one speech. He didn’t come through with money to help replace our emergency services’ squashed and shattered vehicles, much less help out with anything else.

Know what else? He’s a physical coward. Ellis Island was ringed with major amounts of heavy-duty security, at no small cost. Bush’s public appearances tend to involve shutting down and securing everything for a mile or so in all directions. This includes peaceable citizens going about their daily business. They can agree to be part of the rally, or they can choose house arrest for the better part of the day, but they can’t come and go in any normal fashion. They also aren’t allowed to put any kind of opinionated signs (no matter how mildly the opinions are expressed) on their parked cars or front lawns, which is clearly a violation of the First Amendment but so far hasn’t gone to court in any effective way.

Wuss, wuss wuss.

I’m trying to remember the chronology now. I think that in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Chirac may have gotten here before Bush did. What I do know is that Clinton almost made it back here from Australia before Bush got here from D.C. Bush did his little publicity turn under heavy security and took off again.

Clinton, with just a dab of Secret Service keeping an eye on him, started out from Union Square/14th Street—which was then the northern boundary for vehicular traffic—and just walked southward through the Manhattan streets. People came up and talked to him, and shook his hand, and told him their stories; and a lot of them hugged him and literally cried on his shoulder. That was okay. He was there for them.

Comments on Groundlings:
#1 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 01:59 AM:

Frightening. Form over substance. Symbol over reality. And this is the time I pick to re-read REVOLT IN 2100 by Heinlein? Nehemiah Scudder is alive and well.

Sigh.

Tom

#2 ::: Scott Janssens ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 03:01 AM:

Bush may be a wuss, no argument there, but the security isn't just Bush. Back in 97 or 98 when I lived in Chicago I was denied access to a bar we used to go to after work because barricades were placed across the road and sidewalk. The President's motorcade was to pass, not stop, just pass two blocks away.

In early 2000, while working at Microsoft, Al Gore came to pay us a visit. (I still don't know why, he had no friends there.) The road the RedWest campus is just off of was lined with motorcycle cops, and traffic was halted for twenty minutes before a line of about eight limos pulled up. The secret service men fanned out and swarmed over everything. Some were even on the roofs of the buildings. It was a good five minutes after the limos arrived that Gore stepped out of one of them. The most interesting thing about his visit was the speculation that the man trailing closest behind Gore was the one who had the nuclear codes.

#3 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 05:59 AM:

Given all this attention to detail, how is it possible that McLellan ever believed he could convince anyone that the White House had nothing to do with the notorious Mission Accomplished banner? (Bush evidently believed he could turn the story off by saying it was the Navy's doing...) (Actually, I just saw that the White House have finally admitted they produced it... but have they admitted that it was all part of their stage-managed and planned backdrop for the President?)

#4 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 08:09 AM:

I remember not feeling OK again until I saw footage of Bill doing that walk.

Why is it, when WJC says things are going to be OK, life will go on despite this loss, I feel better, but when GWB says anything, I just feel queasy?

That was rhetorical. I know the answer.

Bill was stage managed, primped, preened, and well-lit, but the man has a soul, he has empathy, he's engaged, and its easy to see. Idiotstick is unengaged in anything but himself, and when he's readied for the cameras, that soullessness shows through.

#5 ::: Adam ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 09:07 AM:

I don't think Shrub is an idiot - it's comforting to think that, but he's not. He's managed to avaoid actuallly educating himself about reality, but he strikes me as a shrewd manipulator and cunning little rodent.

He's not even arrogant - he is simply unable to empathize or connect with anything beyond his limited experience of relaity. I think that, like Reagan, he really believes the lies he tells about himself. That's why he's dangerous.

#6 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 09:55 AM:

I knew there was a fundamental change when I saw the Bush/Gore debate. A smaller theater than the debates of previous years, only one reporter asking the questions. This sent me the message that GWB is afraid of the questions, afraid of the crowds. This was my first impression of him, in a medium-is-the-message kind of way.

Well, if he wants to stay away from the people, that just might give someone a chance to rally the crowd in his absence.

#7 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 09:57 AM:

I suspect others of you have seen the Oct. 13 New Yorker mag cover, "The Vision Thing", featuring a noble/determined looking GWB on a galloping horse in a southwestern landscape. It's GWB who has the blinkers on, while the horse looks properly panicked. So true! I guess in the real world, media "opportunities" have replaced the official imperial portrait a la Napoleon.

#8 ::: Justine ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 10:25 AM:

And he does the same thing when he's overseas.

When Bush was in Australia, the Australian press was not allowed anywhere near him (only the handpicked US press who travel with him). There was no press conference, no nothing. This is unprecedented. Mr. Bush sure don't like qustions or crowds.

As you can imagine the Aussie press went ape shit about it. Here's my favourite scathing account from Richard Glover in the Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/24/1066974326179.html

Just after Bush left, the Chinese head honcho, Hu, showed up. For the first time in Australian parliamentary history, guests (of the Green Party--Tibetans) were banned from the public gallery. It was hard to pick the difference between the two despots.

#9 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 10:26 AM:

In today's visual world, it's not all that surprising that the White House is starting to operate more like a television show. Doesn't make it right, of course, but it only makes me shrug. I'm sure Clinton had this sort of thing going on to a larger degree than his predecessors, and I bet the men after Bush will do the same thing to an even bigger scale.

About stopping daily work, didn't Clinton shut down an airport and surrounding areas to get a haircut? Every president and high profile figure with gobs of security is going to throw monkey wrenches into the system when traveling.

BSD - Of course Bill has empathy. He told us so on a regular basis. "I feel your pain" etc.

Clinton strikes me as a smart man with ambitions who has his best interest at heart more than mine - and that scares me. Bush strikes me as a vapid puppet - and looking at the people pulling the strings scares me. I miss the days of Reagan. At least then I was too young to know any better.

#10 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 12:10 PM:

Kellie, no, Clinton didn't shut down an airport to get a haircut. That lie was exposed almost immediately, and has been exposed repeatedly in the intervening years, every time the Republicans bring it up again.

And anyone who thinks W. is either stupid or a puppet is not paying attention.

#11 ::: Sven ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 12:38 PM:

Let's not forget Bush's visit to Senegal last summer, when the locals were rounded up and jammed in a soccer stadium so he could speak about 97a0slavery.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 12:51 PM:

Lis, I'd love some links to stuff debunking the haircut story.

#13 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 12:55 PM:

About stopping daily work, didn't Clinton shut down an airport and surrounding areas to get a haircut?

No. In fact, this was, quite simply, a lie foisted off on the media, who never -- not *one of them* -- called LAX's airport director to confirm the story, or pulled the NOTAMs to see if there was in fact a long hold placed on LAX or in the ZLA airspace.

There was not. It was another lie.

#14 ::: Gareth Wilson ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 02:32 PM:

"I don't think Shrub is an idiot - it's comforting to think that, but he's not."

Indeed. There's a obvious logical problem in saying that your opponent is an idiot when he keeps winning.

#15 ::: darms ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 03:01 PM:

pro-bush opinions within camera range seem to be just fine, it's just everything else that seems to get shunted off to the free-speech zones a mile or two away....

#16 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 03:21 PM:

Gareth Wilson writes:
"Indeed. There's a obvious logical problem in saying that your opponent is an idiot when he keeps winning."

That would be relevant if Bush were competing in chess rather than politics.

It's entirely reasonable for Bush to be stupid and win because he's surrounded by smart people. (And a pliable, non-critical media, but that's beside the point.)

Expecting Bush's campaign to act stupidly is a bad idea, but I don't think anyone expects that. I think everyone expects that, even if Bush himself is an idiot, his campaign will act intelligently, and ruthlessly.

#17 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 03:49 PM:

But they aren't acting intelligently, really; they're acting in a way that functions to destroy American security and power.

Now, some of them are so unwilling to address quantifiable evidence that they're young earth creationists, an opinion only maintainable by wholesale outright denial, but it's interesting to consider what motivation is moving so strongly in the rest of them.

It would be a peculiar and spectacular irony if this was being done to uphold the beauty and moral purity of a childhood America which never actually existed, but I have no better explanation.

#18 ::: Genesis ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 04:35 PM:

I don't think Bush is stupid. I might even call him shrewd. But he does appear to be willfully ignorant, which is in some ways more frightening to me than sheer stupidity.

#19 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 04:56 PM:

Now, now. How can anyone call him ignorant? He does all the research he needs to in order to confirm whatever it is he already believes to be true.

(I wonder whether he's using the Weekly World News headline stories about Saddam and Osama's gay wedding, and their adoption of a shaved ape, to track down these enemies of freedom-loving people everywhere. His other well-planned efforts haven't produced any better results than these would be likely to.)

#20 ::: Arthur D. Hlavaty ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 05:21 PM:

The sculpted heads of the presidents forced their way into the picture with him at Mount Rushmore.

#21 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 05:37 PM:

Lis, I'm with Stefan. Let's see some links about the haircut rebuttal. Granted, my knowledge of that "alleged" incident is limited to rants from my Republican, retired Air Force father, so I could very well have skewed info on that.

And if Shrubya's not a puppet, then he sure does a damn good job of playing one on TV.

#22 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 06:32 PM:

On the haircut incident that didn't happen that way I can find two good links right now. The first is from the Sept/Oct 1993 Columbia Journalism Review:

LAUREL to New York Newsday, and to staff writer Glenn Kessler, for a record-breaking solo flight. With most of the nation's news media zooming in on the president's $ 200 haircut on the Los Angeles Airport runway and roaring about the disruptions his hirsutic hubris caused, Kessler took off in a different direction -- and landed on some hard, concrete facts. His analysis of Federal Aviation Administration records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that, contrary to stories of circling planes, jammed-up runways, and inconvenienced passengers (and contrary, too, to the apology the White House felt pressured to make), only one (unscheduled) air taxi reported an actual (two-minute) delay. Unfortunately, most of the nation's news media, in usual near-perfect formation, found neither time nor space to correct a story that had been wildly off course.

Unfortunately the Newsday archive requires a fee and I have not been able to find a copy of the story somewhere else. Then there is this PBS Frontline interview with Dee Dee Myers on how it all occurred which ends:

And, you know, what? It took him years to overcome that because when I left the White House and for years I would travel around and go, "How many of you know the president got his hair cut on Air Force One?" Every person in the audience would always raise their hand. And how many people know that it's really not true, the way the story was reported? And ... I think perceptions of him have changed so much he's finally gotten past that. But it took years for people to get past that.

That's a start.

#23 ::: Rachael HD ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 06:42 PM:

You are too right about the inconvenience of Bush-boy coming to town. I was in NYC on business in September and I made the mistake of trying to take a cab up sixth while Bush was enroute. A half an hour later I gave up and walked uptown, pouring rain too, the bastard. I just read something about the "Mission Acomplished" sign on the boat he flew onto, blah. What a poseur.

#24 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 07:37 PM:

Ah, so he got the haircut, but only slightly delayed one plane. From the "it's a lie" comments, it sounded like I was being told the entire incident never took place. I wish I had my hands on those FAA records, due to the language of that first snippet. Only one plane reported an actual delay. What about planes that would've landed early? Or how about planes taking off? It does seem like the story was blown out of proportion, but I find it highly unlikely that Air Force One lands at LAX and only inconveniences one plane.

#25 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 07:50 PM:


Kellie,

There is a big difference between the disruptions which Air Force One may cause (and usually, when flying into the LA area it uses an old Navy field at the edge of Orange County, Though I do recall Bush pere flying something (probably Marine One) into Santa Monica and disrupting an otherwise peaceful Sunday) and the allegded disruption of Hundreds of planes, and thousands of people, so he could get a haircut from a barber he happened to like in a concession at LAX.

Which was how the story played in the press.

Terry K.

#26 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 07:54 PM:

My thoughts on the haircut thing: Imagine the disruption if he had to *leave* the plane to go to a barber downtown.

#27 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2003, 11:01 PM:

There's always a bit of truth at the bottom of the worst sort of lies. Clinton's plane landed. Clinton got a haircut. Air traffic was disrupted to accomodate this.

That the traffic which was disrupted was miniscule, and the time period for which this happened negligible, is lost in the rapacious chorus that follows.

Scoring such lies on the basis of if they were utterly untrue, marginally untrue, or factual save for ugly spin is, in my opinion, to play the game of the liars. What I've learned to note is, a lie is itself a stinking heap of dung. So the relevant questions then become, who told it? Why did they tell it? Who gains?

#28 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:53 AM:

"Indeed. There's a obvious logical problem in saying that your opponent is an idiot when he keeps winning."

Well, it helps if you cheat.

#29 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 10:14 AM:

Pericat said: "Scoring such lies on the basis of if they were utterly untrue, marginally untrue, or factual save for ugly spin is, in my opinion, to play the game of the liars. What I've learned to note is, a lie is itself a stinking heap of dung. So the relevant questions then become, who told it? Why did they tell it? Who gains?"

I'm unsure what you're saying. Are we to ignore the grain of truth? Are we to dismiss the entire incident as a lie just because someone decided to bury that grain in a pile of dung?

Terry, my point was that the it sounds like the nay-sayers in those snippets are just as guilty of distorting the truth. In trying to discredit the big hoopla circus the haircut supposedly caused, they instead said it was nothing at all, which is a pile of dung, only maybe not so big. But apparently we're not supposed to be comparing piles.

#30 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 11:30 AM:

There's a quote from Ayn Rand I came across recently which I like, which is a rarity. It's from The Fountainhead:

There's always a purpose to nonsense. Don't bother to examine a folly--ask yourself only what it accomplishes.

The nonsense about Clinton disrupting traffic around LAX was just that: nonsense. There is no verifiable evidence that significant disruptions were caused, but the story was reported widely. What did the story accomplish?

The "grain of truth" is insigificant compared to the steaming bucket of dung in which it was delivered. That's no way to run a restaurant I'd want to eat at.

#31 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 11:55 AM:

Kellie --

There is nothing true about a story of widespread disruption at LAX.

Did Airforce One have an affect on the traffic pattern at LAX? Sure. (it has better, after all.)

Was this larger than the disruption associated with any other 747 flying in?

Given that the only records are a 2 minute delay for an unscheduled flight -- which has to take pot luck anyway -- the answer is 'no'.

The imputation that air traffic control scheduling records would be falsified or that no one would report delays is, well, tinfoil hat land. There isn't time and planes crash, respectively.

It's important to recognize that 'pro business' is to a large extent 'anti government', a position that no function of government is legitimate. That faction lied shamelessly and constantly about Bill Clinton, secure in the knowledge that repitition creates belief.

#32 ::: Barry ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 12:09 PM:

"But they aren't acting intelligently, really; they're acting in a way that functions to destroy American security and power."

Posted by: Graydon on October 30, 2003 03:49 PM

Think of it this way, Graydon. They're parasites, to a large degree. In a healthy system, there are limits to what they can do. The present US system hasn't been healthy for a while (somebody made a comment about them tasking twenty years to trash the press for Watergate). The US system ~2000 AD would have let them get away with a lot; 9/11 acted like a shock to an already weakened system.

So we end up with parasites who face a lowered level of resistance from the host.

#33 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 12:13 PM:

secure in the knowledge that repetition creates belief.

I hear a lot of complaints about left-wing bias in the media, but the only nonsense that ever seems to be repeated intensely enough for it to be widely believed is right-wing nonsense. Where are my Angry Liberal Media, dammit?!

#34 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 12:16 PM:

My impression is that the original news stories claimed that Clinton had his plane held on the runway when it hadn't been scheduled to stay there in order to get his hair cut. The result of this unscheduled hold was supposedly that there were a lot of delays of other traffic in the area. I remember "2 hours" being mentioned; I'm not sure if that was how long the deviation from his schedule was, or if that was the alleged typical delay suffered by other travellers.

It sounds like Kessler debunked that story, finding there was only one unscheduled delay, which lasted 2 minutes.

Of course there were all sorts of scheduled delays, just as there are any time the President goes anywhere.

Clinton's critics skillfully took the existance of unavoidable scheduled delays and gave people the impression that all those delays were unscheduled, due to Clinton's selfish unconcern with other people.

Every good lie has kernels of truth in it. They help confuse listeners when someone tries to debunk the lie. If a liar says "A and B, causing C", and a debunker says "A is false", the liar can loudly proclaim "He says I lie, but here's uncontested proof of B! So who's the liar?"

#35 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 12:40 PM:

Are we to ignore the grain of truth? Are we to dismiss the entire incident as a lie just because someone decided to bury that grain in a pile of dung?

In a word, yes.

-- Because, the grain is just there to draw you in and mire you above the elbows in dung. Ask yourself... suppose you do dig out this grain of truth and hold it in your hand, is it going to be worth having to shower and burn all your clothing? There'd better be a grain of pure diamond in it, otherwise you're smarter to say, "Forget it guys, that's a bucket of filth. No way am I going to root through it -- go find some other sucker."

If literally offered a grain of... oh say, wheat, in a pile of stinking dung, practically everyone would apply a reasonable sense of proportion, and decline. Not worth my attention, they'd say. Yet somehow when it's a miniscule "truth" that you'd have to squint to see, at the bottom of a heaped-up bucket of obviously malodorous lies, plenty of people go, "Ohhh! Hey, it's a Truth. A TRUTH!!" and are conned into accepting the whole pile.

So. For a 2-minute delay to one unscheduled plane, is this story worth even five seconds of your attention? If you've done any flying lately, you know that any scheduled flight that arrives or departs within 2 minutes of its schedule is, umm, doing remarkably well on the punctuality front. If you need a Truth, try this: no-one was even slightly inconvenienced.

And anyone who tries to make you believe that a lot of people were held up that day, is, well... Lying.

#36 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 12:49 PM:

Damn, I meant to say:

no-one was even slightly inconvenienced by the haircut.

(Obviously, the mere presence of the POTUS does unavoidably inconvenience people everywhere he goes. But that goes with the job, and isn't something you can reasonably blame a President for. Even Bush. I'll gladly blame him for other things, but disrupting people's schedules just by being in a place -- that's not his fault, or anyone's. It's just a result of being the President.)

#37 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 12:53 PM:

Gray said: "The imputation that air traffic control scheduling records would be falsified or that no one would report delays is, well, tinfoil hat land. There isn't time and planes crash, respectively."

*looks at her hat* Actually, I'm wearing a black pointy hat today. Maybe next year I'll do the tinfoil thing.

I neither implied a falsification of records nor that delays would not be reported due to some Clinton Conspiracy. I questioned what Kessler had chosen to report from the records and how he reported it. My emphasis of the word report came mainly from the "actual" and an ignorance of how delays would be reported. For example, Flight 1031 from Transylvania was scheduled to land at LAX at 5AM. But werewolves ate all but two of the passengers in the airport, thus greatly reducing boarding time, and the plane ended up arriving into LAX airspace a good thirty minutes early. Due to the presence of Air Force One, however, they couldn't land, but still were able to make it into the gate for their 5AM scheduled arrival. Would this have counted as a delay in the records? Would Kessler have reported it if it had? And so on and so forth. That was the point I was trying to make.

Jeremy said: "Clinton's critics skillfully took the existance of unavoidable scheduled delays and gave people the impression that all those delays were unscheduled, due to Clinton's selfish unconcern with other people."

Similarly, Clinton's supporters have taken the existance of exaggeration and distortion of the delays caused and given people the impression that the media and other groups were out to get Clinton (the implication being that he neither deserved such attacks nor did anything remotely selfish in this case).

#38 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:03 PM:

Sylvia, In this case, the kernal of truth was pretty much sitting on top of the pile of dung. The distortion still doesn't negate the truth that he decided to bring in the circus (which, given the unscheduled delay of one plane, LAX and Air Force One handled well) to get a haircut. It's not like he was landing to make a speech or do anything even remotely presidential. If the President is going to cause the inconvenience his position usually does, I would prefer he try to keep his visits to those that are required of his office.

And whether the truth in the dung is diamond or wheat depends on perspective. To know that the truth could reflect negatively on Clinton might send some folks digging and others ignoring. To know that the truth could reflect negatively on Bush would reverse the crowd.

#39 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:09 PM:

And they're doing it again--Bush and Co. are lying to us and getting away with it, because their supporters are ranting about Clinton. Why are we worrying about Clinton, when Reagan had a secret government in the White House?

#40 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:29 PM:

Why is a visit by the POTUS so disruptive?

For a reference point, look at Tony Blair or Queen Elizabeth -- both VIPs from the very top level of a country that's a nuclear power and oscillates between #4 and #5 in the world economic stakes depending on the phase of the moon.

The head of state, and the guy with the nuclear release codes, typically travel with two plainclothes armed police as bodyguards. When attending public functions security at the event and along their routes to and from it -- which are known in advance -- are stepped up a bit, but they are perfectly able to go out in public or visit a provincial city without shutting down all air travel for a radius of 100 kilometres. Hell, Liz II is noted for being seen in public drinking tea in cafes while in mufti, mingling with ordinary members of the public.

Interestingly, their security compares very accurately with that of an ex-POTUS such as Bill Clinton (i.e. two secret service bodyguards in the background).

From this perspective there is something deeply weird and a bit sick about the insane levels of security the POTUS is surrounded by at all times. Especially given that there's a hot standby waiting to step in at all times. I am unconvinced that there's any greater level of threat to a POTUS than to any other head of state or ex-head of state the world over.

So what's with the convoys of armoured limousines and the shutdown of traffic?

#41 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:35 PM:

Kellie, no. The grain was buried at the bottom of the bucket, because if it hadn't been for that one reporter, the multiply-repeated exaggerations and lies would have completely obscured what actually took place.

If the President is going to cause the inconvenience his position usually does, I would prefer he try to keep his visits to those that are required of his office.

Ah. Presidents should do the job - nothing more, and nothing less. No stopping for a haircut, ever. No descending on NYC, or aircraft carriers, or warehouses, just to accumulate staged photos for re-election. Right. Sounds like a deal. Now... you convince Rove.

#42 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:43 PM:

Charlie, the fact that we've had presidential assassinations and assassination attempts with the memory of everyone old enough to vote may somewhat color our attitude towards what's appropriate presidential security.

Kellie, are you seriously suggesting that the unavoidable _scheduled_ disruptions caused by a presidential visit constitute a meaningful "grain of truth" inside the dungheap of the entirely false claim that President Clinton caused Unscheduled two-hour delays for hundreds of planes and thousands of ordinary travelers by an impromptu stop for a haircut? Or that a two-minute delay of a single unscheduled air taxi constitutes that meaningful grain of truth inside the dungheap?

It's entirely true that the President causes scheduled delays whenever he stops anywhere. I've got a news flash for you: it's not just Clinton; W. does, too, and so did Bush I, and Reagan, and Carter and Ford, for that matter.

But the claim about Clinton and his haircut isn't that it was especially inconsiderate of him to cause these _scheduled_ delays by his selfish desire to get a haircut from a stylist he particularly liked; it's that he caused major disruption by a two-hour delay that _wasn't_ scheduled. And that's a lie, start to finish, with malice aforethought.

#43 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:45 PM:

Charlie, I believe the security correlates with the number of guns loose in the country, the number of gun nuts, and the number of successful assassinations on record.

As for the hot standby... I would venture to suggest that in this particular case, Cheney's existence as the next in line is indeed a major factor safeguarding Bush's life. Nevertheless, one must always consider the risk that a person so irrational as to attempt to assassinate Bush, might not be sufficiently rational to be deterred by the reflection that Cheney would then become President.

#44 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 01:49 PM:

Charlie, my guess is that it's partly ass-covering.

If some nut takes a pot-shot at the POTUS, someone's going to be blamed for a sin of omission that could have stopped the shooter, and that's going to end their career.

I don't know if it has anything to do with gun control (and I don't really want to open that particular 50-gallon drum full of mutant brain-eating worms), but in my lifetime, the US has had one president assassinated and a second near miss. Each such event probably greatly increases the pressure to avoid being The Guy Who Let It Happen Again.

I know the UK has had some trouble with political violence, but when's the last time you lost a head of state (I guess that term could cover a King, Queen, or Prime Minister)?

There are also the PR advantages of having complete control of every venue at which you appear; it doesn't just keep away loonies with embarassing signs, it helps keep the press in their place, too. And it has subtler effects, too; making everyone defer to you on your way to a meeting tends to exert psychological pressure on whomever you're meeting with. Of course it also can make you look arrogant and inconsiderate, but you deflect that onto your security people, saying self-deprecatingly "I don't really need all this, but the Secret Service worries so."

#45 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 02:08 PM:

And they're doing it again--Bush and Co. are lying to us and getting away with it, because their supporters are ranting about Clinton. Why are we worrying about Clinton, when Reagan had a secret government in the White House?

Oh, brother. Why does it follow that because I don't like Clinton, I must like Bush? The only president I've ever cared for is Bartlett (and my cable company finally decided to air Bravo in place of the Hallmark Channel - yay!). I'm an equal opportunity critic.

Sylvia and Lis, the truth is simple: Clinton descended on LAX in true Air Force One fashion (which, as we've mentioned is already an inconvenience, not matter if it's scheduled or not) in order to get a $200 haircut from his fave stylist. That wasn't buried at all. The fact that "true Air Force One fashion" doesn't constitute 2 hour delays and the like is what got buried. Whether that simple truth is meaningful or not is up to the hearer of it. Some people might find it extremely important that Clinton used his office for selfish means. Others might find it extremely uninteresting that Clinton is just as human as the rest of us and likes to treat himself. Tomayto, tomahto.

Ah. Presidents should do the job - nothing more, and nothing less. No stopping for a haircut, ever.

I have no problem with a president getting a haircut. But a $200 haircut that disrupts national air traffic? Why is that necessary?

#46 ::: Adam ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 02:43 PM:

Kellie:

I have no problem with a president getting a haircut. But a $200 haircut that disrupts national air traffic? Why is that necessary?

It's been established that there was no disruption of air traffic, nationally or locally for this haircut.

Why did we care about this non-issue in the first place?

Why is it a big deal now?

I'd say that things like the national disruption of travel schedules due to increased security at airports (security that, BTW, does diddly-fucking-squat, as recently shown us by a college student) is of more concern. The fact that Shrub is laying off airport screeners, and that TSA is still not properly funded, is of more concern, if you want to get all worked up about transportation issues.

#47 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 03:08 PM:

Charlie Stross wrote:

"I am unconvinced that there's any greater level of threat to a POTUS than to any other head of state or ex-head of state the world over."

Um. Demonstrably, Charlie, people are gunning for the guy in the White House *all the time*, and the methods keep on getting stranger.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2001/02/07/national/main270258.shtml

Tell me, who's gunning for John Major? And why are they bothering?

C.

#48 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 03:24 PM:

Adam - No, it was established (in these comments, at least) that there was no disruption of air traffic beyond the normal amount of disruption Air Force One causes. As to why we care about it, I brought it up as a demonstration that every traveling President is guilty of screwing with the normal routines of folks, whether their reasons for causing the disruption were valid or not. The discussion then came into full force when it was pointed out that the press ran amok with exaggerating the story, which some of us had not known. Dunno why it's a big deal now. I just go where the argument takes me.

#49 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 03:37 PM:

I'd say the IRA mortar attacks on Downing Street must count for something. Or the three-minute-miss at Brighton in 1986 (where an IRA bomb brought down a hotel and came within seconds of nailing Margaret Thatcher in person -- she just nipped out of her bedroom which was directly over the room the bomb had been smuggled into).

Every British prime minister for the past third of a century has been a big fat terrorist target.

The Queen? Only one guy fired a pistol at her in the past couple of years. But there are regular incidents with loonies who decide that they really need a private conversation with her up close and personal to see if she's an alien space lizard.

Other countries have had assassinations of heads of state in recent memory. If that was an issue, you'd expect India to keep their prime minister in a bank vault -- exactly how many have they had assassinated since 1947?

The point is, there are regular threats to Prime Ministers and the Queen, and assassination attempts by terrorist groups. This is Business As Usual. It's the same everywhere. But as far as I know, only the USA goes for the particularly insane level of security we're bitching about on this thread. And the high level of gun ownership in the USA isn't a logical reason -- you guys don't have home grown highly organized guerilla insurgencies like the IRA to deal with, or the sort of jokers who tried to do in Eduard Sheverdnadze with heavy machine guns and anti-tank rockets.

#50 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 04:13 PM:

Jeremy Leader writes: "in my lifetime, the US has had one president assassinated and a second near miss."

There was also a failed attempt on Ford, wasn't there? (Squeaky Fromme?)

#51 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 04:48 PM:

Um, Charlie, surely you can see the difference between a set of terrorist groups with discernable modes of operation and goals acting against government officials, as in Britain, and the American pattern?

And again, I ask: John Major, who's gunning for him? Just to remind you: "I am unconvinced that there's any greater level of threat to a POTUS than to any other head of state or ex-head of state the world over."

C.

#52 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 04:50 PM:

Two failed attempts on Ford, and more than one attempt on Clinton, even if you don't count the small plane that crashed the White House. And multiple occasions for Bush I and Clinton when people with guns and apparent hostile intentions didn't get close enough to even try to take a shot.

Nearly losing Reagan made the Secret Service a lot more careful and suspicious. One would think that two attempts on Ford that failed only due to the failure of the guns would done that, but perhaps that was too long ago and the comic-opera aspects dulled the effect.

#53 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 05:41 PM:

Jon, I'm sure there have also been lots of failed attempts that we never hear about, too.

But Charlie's right; we'd be foolish to assume that US security forces are that much more inclined to ass-covering than any other countries' forces.

I suspect feedback is a factor. If you don't have much security, adding more feels odd, and awkward, and perhaps silly. If you have a lot, adding more doesn't feel that much different, and if you needed a lot (and you must need it, otherwise why would you have it, right?), then maybe you need even more. I guess I'm postulating a metastable system, with two relatively stable states: a little security, and a lot.

It might also be related to the nature of the threat: the IRA are in some sense rational, they have a reasonably consistent set of goals and means, and they can be targetted for infiltration. Lone wackos with guns are much less predictable, and harder to locate and investigate before they attack.

#54 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 06:58 PM:

Nevertheless, there are lone wackos with guns in the UK, too. It may be illegal to own handguns, but that doesn't stop people getting them -- it just means that only people who're already happy to commit a crime carrying a 5-year sentence own them.

Granted, the main threat to a British PM comes from organized terrorist groups. But the guy who broke into Queen Elizabeth's bedroom a few years ago wasn't a terrorist: he was a loony of the hearing-voices variety. Frankly, the argument that you've got more loonies only goes so far -- a population of sixty million generates fewer than a population of three hundred million, but I seem to recall reading that the SS investigated more than thirty attempts on Bill Clinton's life, and even if you factor for relative populations that gives you multiple threats to a British head of state -- or any other head of state.

Do I have to keep on adding examples? Israel: Yitzhak Rabin. Sweden: Olof Palme. Sri Lanka: Ranasinghe Premadasa. Congo: Laurent Kabila. India: Rajiv Ghandi, Indira Ghandi, and of course their famous relative. Egypt: Anwar Sadat. All of the above were assassinated while head of state or prime minister in the past fifty years, and it's not a complete list -- it's an off-the-cuff compilation.

Bluntly, anyone who runs for that kind of office ought to be aware that being bumped off by either politically motivated terrorists or a random nutjob is one of the occupational hazards. It has yet to be demonstrated that shutting down all airports within a fifty nautical mile radius or whatever it is actually reduces the hazard -- or that it's even a cost-effective measure.

#55 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 07:01 PM:

And lest my point be submerged in the nit-picking verbiage:

I think there's something deeply weird and a bit pathological about the quasi-mystical respect with which Americans view the office of the Presidency. It's a bit like the attitude of pre-WW1 Europeans towards their King-Emperors. The insane security measures are part and parcel of this veneration and symptomatic of the numinous quality of being above and beyond political interrogation that the office confers on the body in the hot-seat. It is a mystique, and it is a Bad Thing for democracy in general.

#56 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 07:42 PM:

Hmm, Charlie, are you arguing that there's an advantage to having a figurehead monarch, to deflect the public need for pomp and circumstance away from the functions of government?

#57 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2003, 09:24 PM:

Tsk. Charlie, you should know better than to try playing that game with _me_.

Out of the names you list, there's only one country that fits the US pattern of randomly motivated assassinations. I guess it would really crimp your theory about some hypothetical US mystical attachment to the presidency to notice this was Sweden.

Or are you seriously comparing John Hinckley, John Schrank, Squeaky Fromme, Charles Guiteau, Giuseppe Zangara, Leon Czolgosz and Lee Harvey Oswald to Gandhi's pissed-off Sikh bodyguards? There's only been one major attempt like that here in the last century -- two Puerto Rican nationalists tried shooting Truman in 1950, Collazo and Torresola. I doubt you've heard of them.

"When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?" You know about the BE. Don't let it take that first bite.

C.

#58 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 01:04 AM:

Kellie,

The discussion's moved on, but I did want to say in clarification that there's at least two separate issues involved in the Clinton haircut airport extravaganza that I see:

1) that a non-problem was elevated to problem status. I believe, looking at who said what, that this was done for political gain. In terms of how I make decisions as to who and what I support or oppose, that matters. People who foist a lie into the public arena in order to advance their cause, lose my support. I may still seek to support the cause itself, but I will not accept or condone the "help" such lies may give. It's why I think it's important to note lies as such and to pay attention to the people behind the curtains working the levers.

2) that it is meet and proper for any president's personal activities to be disruptive to the daily lives of the nearest citizenry. This is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one I suspect is not necessary at all to ensure his safety, but which is thought necessary in order to demonstrate, at home and abroad, the lengths to which the US government will go to keep its executive safe. If those lengths seem absurd, their very absurdity is itself a diplomatic signal.

#59 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 02:22 AM:

Kellie wrote:

Sylvia and Lis, the truth is simple: Clinton descended on LAX in true Air Force One fashion (which, as we've mentioned is already an inconvenience, not matter if it's scheduled or not) in order to get a $200 haircut from his fave stylist.

No, that's a lie. Clinton traveled to Los Angeles for other reasons. While he was there, he altered his schedule slightly to get a haircut. He did not land his plane in Los Angeles specifically to get a haircut--that would be absurd. I find it hard to believe that you honestly believe that.

#60 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 06:30 AM:

Carlos: I'm arguing that in part your heavy presidential security is symptomatic of a problem you've got with whackos -- and the whackos are responding to the appearance of monarchical exceptionalism. Wasps to a honeypot. You've got a country that is notionally founded on a revolutionary agenda of equality before the law (at least, it was revolutionary in the late 18th century), which has reinvented the monarchy and is rapidly reinventing aristocracy. I suspect that if your presidents got rid of the heavyweight security (and de-emphasized the political mystique that separates the presidency from other elected offices) they'd also get rid of the random nutjobs.

#61 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 07:56 AM:

Charlie, you know, this is a hypothesis you can *test*. You don't have to speak ex ano.

Here: come up with a reasonable measure (I hate that faux-scientific word, "metric") of "the appearance of monarchical exceptionalism". You know, like having a corps of ethnic bodyguards. Not the weirdest measurement I've seen in a serious paper, not by a long shot.

I will bet you, dollars to donuts, that much of your list comes up far higher on that scale than the current incumbent, or in fact any American president.

Apply the measure to as many countries as you can. Then compare to the rate of assassination attempts, both 'mainstream' and random, ditto. You might want to separate out eras within a given country's history: Second Empire, Fourth Republic.

Then you'll have something to argue with.

I should note that in the US, there's a definite cluster of assassinations during the Gilded Age, an era so far from monarchical exceptionalism that even lifetime political operators were surprised at the non-entities that were coming into the White House. And yet, bang bang bang bang.

I think you believe your theory because you *want* to believe your theory, not because you have any actual evidence one way or another, other than your political prejudices. And that's just not a good place to be. I won't make the pointed analogy.

C.

#62 ::: Simon ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 10:37 AM:

The random nutjobs showed up before the heavy security did. What's motivating the nutjobs is not the security, but the perceived importance of the President as the Leader of the Free World and all that jazz. British prime ministers may consider themselves fortunate in this regard that the UK is no longer a superpower.

But otherwise, Charlie is right. Things like shutting down entire neighborhoods because a presidential motorcade will pass two blocks away do seem a little excessive. Secret Service agents talking off-duty (see the memoirs of some - Dennis McCarthy, I think his name was, wrote a good one) will admit that you can't stop a sufficiently determined assassin. And there comes a point where additional marginal protection just causes more trouble and inconvenience than it's worth. We're long past that point in airport "security" for instance, as has been often observed.

I'm not sure why Carlos thinks that John Major is still prime minister of the UK. Tony Blair may not have as much security as W, but he has a fair amount; and Clinton, as Teresa pointed out, now as ex-president travels with minimally disruptive security.

About the haircut incident, it's worth pointing out that if Clinton had not gotten a $200 haircut, he (or any president, including W) would have been mercilessly razzed by the press for his bad haircut. I agree that W's stage-management goes way over the top (and what's worse, his people deny they're doing it), but the press, and even the people, expect a certain amount of that. Look at how Kucinich, who disdains all such things, gets razzed. Even Jeanne D'Arc, who admires him greatly, criticizes his haircut and clothing. He looked fine to me in the photo she posted: but then, I dress like that too.

#63 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 02:16 PM:

The problems with security measures and their effects, or just maybe general looniness continues: Car Bursts Through Bush Security Cordon in Mississippi. (He had just attended a funraiser for Haley Barbour). Reports are that the driver was a woman with three kids in the car, and she never got near to Bush. I wonder if she was just in a hurry . . .

#64 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 04:39 PM:

Late last year, Buzzflash tried to promote the meme that Woody Rutherford Bush wears $14,000 suits. You know, since, well, he does. If people were outraged over Bill Clinton or John Kerry getting haircuts that cost $200, shouldn't people be outraged at Bush wearing suits which each cost more than a full-time minimum wage worker makes in a year?

Strangely, the Outrage Factories seem not to have chosen to pump that one up. I wonder how they managed to avoid it?

#65 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 06:06 PM:

pericat, I agree with issue #1. My point was that, in figuring out who was saying lies and why, it is also important to remember the truth the lie was based on. Otherwise it sounds like we're to ignore truth when its covered in shit - which is just as bad as believing the lies, if you ask me. And it means we're going to be ignoring a lot of truth with today's general media practices in shoveling dung.

As for issue #2, I'm trying to get this straight. You're saying it's a sign of how great our diplomacy is that Clinton can get a haircut in the middle of an LAX runway? Yeah, power to the people.

Stevan, I was under the impression Air Force One may have been in the Los Angeles area for other presidential things, but that it touched down at LAX just for the haircut. I could be wrong. I've spent some time trying to find an account or three of this incident but with no luck. It may be absurd, but I did believe it happened that way. After all, Clinton's the man who said, "It depends on what your definition of 'is' is." To me, that's more absurd than taking a brief pit stop at a major airport for a $200 trim. But I've been accused of not paying attention, running with conspiracy theories, and believing nonsense, so don't take my word for anything.

#66 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 07:45 PM:

Kellie,

on #1, okay.

on #2, I said nothing of the sort. I was exploring possible reasons for an "excessive protection" policy to have developed. I could well be wrong in my speculations, but your restatement is so far from what I intended that I cannot address any part of it.

#67 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 09:03 PM:

pericat, my bad. Glad that's not what you were saying on #2. Not sure why I thought that was what you were saying. Must have had a couple thoughts crossed there.

Kevin, I don't know about the Outrage Factories, but I'm outraged. I also find it outrageous that he can't say words longer than two syllables unless someone coaches him in a "read my lips" fashion. Hmmm, wonder if Daddy Dearest is the coach, then?

#68 ::: Isabeau ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 10:11 PM:

The American obsession with security extends to everyone 93important94, not just American politicians. A year or two ago Pervez Musharraf landed at Midway Airport during the morning rush hour, and a lot of people where I work were late that day because the police closed off the through streets all around it.

#69 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 10:47 PM:


What I find most interesting about the discussion of haircuts and disruption is that so few people seem to care that Bush, to stage his photo op, delayed the return of the Carrier Battle Group.

Forget the couple of hours (and the $200) that Clinton is supposed to have spent delaying traffic, no, Bush (that paragon of support for the military) saw to it that the longest Naval deployment in the USN's history was longer, that thousands of seaman were delayed in returning to their families.

Not only did that cost money, it put those seamen at risk of life and limb (anyone who has ever been on a Naval vessel can tell you that OSHA would shut them down in a heartbeat).

That offends me more than any haircut, or any suit, no matter how expensive.

Terry K.

#70 ::: Stuart ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 10:54 PM:

I think Charlie has touched on a number of important issues all tied together in the twisted American psyche. The majority of people I've known who are gun owners have them because they feel a need for protection or security. (This despite the fact that you are at least 20 times more likely to die from a gunshot from a gun you own than from one someone else owns.)

What is it in the mind and emotions of so many Americans that makes them feel this insecure? This plays itself out on the larger stage of the world in the overblown symbolic efforts to protect the President, in the security efforts in reaction to 9/11, and the new American foreign policy that we will feel free to make war another country because they might at some time in the future be a threat.

I grew up constantly hearing about the threat of communism. We have spent fortunes maintaining the most powerful army in the world. We have reacted hysterically to any attack on us while no one has ever done anything to us remotely as awful as the two bombs we dropped on Japan or the fire bombing of Dresden. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we used in WW II.

Why are we so freaking paranoid?

I think our imperial presidency is an outgrowth of the same twisted need for security. We want somebody that potent to protect us. The push for a missile defense system is poisoned by the same insanity. The rational defense is to conduct our affairs in this world in such a way that we won't need the defense. Hey it won't work anyway but the people who are pushing it function from the same kind of denial that we see about what is happening in Iraq.

"Why are you snapping your fingers?"
"It keeps the lions away."
"There aren't any lions around here."
"See it works!"

#71 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2003, 11:01 PM:


Kellie,

Regarding delays.

If AF ONE had landed at LAX, for an unscheduled stop, the only delays would be for the landing, and then for the takeoff.

While he is sitting on the taxi-way, no delays, planes are diverted to other taxiways.

As I recall the story he was not accused of landing just to get a haircut, but rather of electing to get his hair cut before he left, which delayed AF ONE for two-hours, but no one else (save perhaps the General Aviation plane referenced above).

To argue that because some delay might have occured, which we know nothing of, and that such possible delays indicate a grievous abuse of power is, to be blunt, fatuous.


As for your claim that you only went where the arguement led you, I beg to differ... this is what you said, " today's visual world, it's not all that surprising that the White House is starting to operate more like a television show. Doesn't make it right, of course, but it only makes me shrug. I'm sure Clinton had this sort of thing going on to a larger degree than his predecessors, and I bet the men after Bush will do the same thing to an even bigger scale.

About stopping daily work, didn't Clinton shut down an airport and surrounding areas to get a haircut? Every president and high profile figure with gobs of security is going to throw monkey wrenches into the system when traveling.

BSD - Of course Bill has empathy. He told us so on a regular basis. "I feel your pain" etc.

Clinton strikes me as a smart man with ambitions who has his best interest at heart more than mine - and that scares me. Bush strikes me as a vapid puppet - and looking at the people pulling the strings scares me. I miss the days of Reagan. At least then I was too young to know any better."

There was no prior mention of the Airport function, and the only prior mention of Clinton was to praise his going to NYC after That Tuesday,

When you protest that you are not, prima facie, a fan of Bush fils, just because you elected to drag an alleged mis-deed of Clinton's (which you admit to not really knowing all the details of) into a discussion of Bush's failings... well a reasonable man might be forgiven thinking you are trying to show that the behavior of Bush is at least no worse than Clinton's was.

And that such a defense is because you believe Bush was not in error of the charge you are defending.

Terry K.

#72 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2003, 12:59 AM:

We are talking about a country where there were very vocal protests when Utah Republicans were told they would have to check their guns at the door before they came to hear Cheney speak (shortly after the election, IIRC). The State AG had to rent lockers on his own dime to quell the uprising.

Here in Canada, the worst to happen in recent memory was when Chretien and his wife were confronted by an intruder at 24 Sussex Drive (the official residence of the PM) in the middle of the night, and good ol' Jean bopped him on the head with an Inuit soapstone carving. Chretien also throttled a supposed protester who dared get in his way (the guy broke a denture, whatever that means).

As he is about to step off into retirement, perhaps his next job can be replacing the Secret Service detail for GW.

D

#73 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 02, 2003, 10:36 PM:

Terry, well said.

I would say that Kellie choosing to believe an absurd story (that Clinton diverted his plane to LAX solely to get a haircut) over a plausible claim (that he delayed his takeoff to get his haircut) also casts his/her impartiality in question.

(And now he/she is dragging in the "It depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" meme in, which in real life was an example of Clinton not being slippery or evasive, but of him pointing out to lawyers questioning him that they had asked a question in present tense rather than past and helping them rephrase it properly, instead of simply giving a technically accurate but possibly misleading answer. The right-wing malice machine has been sufficiently successful in spreading this quote out of context that Kellie is perhaps not acting in bad faith in further promulgating it, but it does not speak well towards his/her concern for accuracy and fairness.)

#74 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 08:51 AM:

Simon wrote:

"I'm not sure why Carlos thinks that John Major is still prime minister of the UK."

I don't. Charlie Stross said, "I am unconvinced that there's any greater level of threat to a POTUS than to any other head of state or ex-head of state the world over."

Note the "ex-head of state".

So, apparently, CS thinks that John Major is currently under the same level of threat (or even greater!) as GWB is.

It was a silly thing for Charlie to say, but it formed a major (hm) part of his argument. Which makes his argument... silly.

C.

#75 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 09:24 AM:

Say what, Carlos?

The quote you give works out to John Major being under the same =or less= threat than GWB.

I think that John Major is under a lesser threat than Bush. Which fits right in with what Charlie said.

How that turns into John Major still being Prime Minister, I can't fathom.

#76 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 10:55 AM:

Terry, as the sister of a Marine who fought on the front lines of this latest war, I quite agree that delaying troops is more offensive than either the suits or the haircuts. Thank you for the information.

As for your other claims....

As for your claim that you only went where the arguement led you, I beg to differ...

I beg to differ. I mentioned the haircut as a point that all presidents disrupt people's lives, and all of them do it in various and sundry ridiculous ways (some more ridiculous than others). The "I go where the argument takes me" was in reference to why we were discussing it here and why it was still somehow deemed "important". Once I mentioned the haircut, I heard several accounts debunking it, and the argument went from there and took me to several places. Please do not imply that I was trying to say "Don't look at me, I didn't start this." I was saying nothing of the sort.

When you protest that you are not, prima facie, a fan of Bush fils, just because you elected to drag an alleged mis-deed of Clinton's (which you admit to not really knowing all the details of) into a discussion of Bush's failings... well a reasonable man might be forgiven thinking you are trying to show that the behavior of Bush is at least no worse than Clinton's was.

I will not forgive you for thinking that. I will applaud you for it. That is indeed what I am trying to say (in so far as disruptions due to hyped-up security). My opinion of politicians is so low that I have a hard time comparing one as better than the other. I go for the "lesser of two evils" concept. Plus, I do have a hard time when people try to tell me that Clinton's dung didn't smell, or sometimes that he didn't have the filth at all. And that's what I felt was happening, so I decided to bring up an incident that (I thought) demonstrated Clinton's buffoonery. I was told the details behind the incident, and my only problem with it now is that he had to get the haircut at all in the way he did it. It just makes his "I feel your pain" claims feel even less sincere. Which, given my thoughts on politics in general, should hardly surprise me, but the idealist in me still takes a hit.

To argue that because some delay might have occured, which we know nothing of, and that such possible delays indicate a grievous abuse of power is, to be blunt, fatuous.

Yay, I can add "fatuous" to my list of transgressions on this thread! I was wondering how long it would take someone to get there. Unfortunately, you haven't accurately summed my argument. The thread had concluded that Air Force One, in general, always causes a disruption (therefore making the delays actual - I believe the term used was "scheduled"). The president when traveling always causes a disruption. Hence the discussion on why that should even be the case given the security of other prominent politcal figures in the world. So, given that Air Force One always makes a ruckus to some degree, why make it last longer than it has to if the reason you've extended the disruption is not a part of presidential duties? I do think that is an abuse of power. And any abuse is grievous, if you ask me.

And that such a defense is because you believe Bush was not in error of the charge you are defending.

I was going to agree with Steven's "well said" up until this point. A thousand times wrong. How does it follow that because I can't stand Clinton that I must like Bush? Or because I decide to bring up Clinton's transgressions, that I must believe Bush innocent of the same? I truly do not understand this logic. Is it impossible to look at politicians as a whole and despise the whole bunch? Is it impossible to see the stupidity and selfishness of both a Republican AND a democrat at once? Is it impossible to say "Clinton abused power" and say "so did Bush" at the same time? The reason I haven't really gone into Bush's fun list of dirty laundry is because Teresa does a very good job of it. Why try to repeat badly what she's already said quite well?

Steven, first off, I'm female. Thanks for not assuming. Second, as to the "impartiality" business, see above paragraph. And, third, I have freely admitted that my information regarding this incident may be biased. I was fifteen at the time and living on an Air Force base in Germany in a Republican household. The tenor towards Clinton was never very favorable. As for believe something absurd over something plausible, that's more evidence of my opinion of politicians in general, not Clinton or Bush. I am more likely to believe the absurd in any politician because I mistrust the breed, and past scandals have also shown the absurd to be the more likely of the explanations when dealing with that lot.

#77 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 11:19 AM:

Kellie, since your information about "past scandals" has been shown to be highly suspect, you might consider that the lessons you've drawn from them should be considered suspect as well. I find, as a rule of thumb, that when a story about a politician seems absurd, it's usually because it's not true.

#78 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 12:42 PM:

Hm. I am parsing "I am unconvinced that there is any greater threat to A than to B" as saying "IMO A is under the same or lesser level of threat as B (and I would have to be convinced otherwise)". Negating a greater than sign.

Or turning that inequality around, "IMO B is under a greater or equal threat as A (et cetera)."

A is the POTUS, whom for all practical purposes is Dubya, and B is "any other head of state or ex-head of state the world over".

So I chose as my specific instance of B one John Major, an EX-head of state (and current non-entity) from somewhere in this world. "Any other."

And that's where I went, "Charlie, whaaa?"

Is the logic valid? Or have I convinced myself of the opposite?

(But just try it straight out: "I am unconvinced that there is any greater threat to Dubya than there is to John Major, for example." I still get "Whaaa?")

C.

#79 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 12:50 PM:

Steven, if you can believe in a right-wing malicious conspiracy, why can't I believe in absurd political scandals? Or should I only believe the ones involving Republicans? And how is the information on my past scandals "highly" suspect? Biased, perhaps, up until 1996 when I went to college. But biased only in the sense that the people around me didn't question the dung surrounding the truth. Unless you're suddenly putting my father into the right-wing malice machine simply because he didn't like Clinton?

And the truth of the "scandal" is still there. Clinton delayed presidential duties and the removal of the Air Force One security disruptions so he could get an expensive haircut. As we've been saying, there's a grain of truth with every good lie. No matter the resulting hype/dung/right-wing malice/whathaveyou in which the truth gets buried, the absurdity is still there. Clinto received sexual favors from an intern while in the oval office. Bush choked on a pretzel (maybe while trying to say "nuclear"?). Clinton got a haircut for a pricey stylist instead of getting Air Force One back up into the skies. Bush knew about the shadiness of the depleted uranium business and yet emphasized it as truth in his speech. Condit denied having affairs. Limbaugh abused pain killers and blames everyone but himself. Ollie North shredded documents at someone's command (Reagan's? I'm *really* reaching into my cobwebby memory for that one). And my final word on the "absurd scandals aren't true" matter: Watergate.

#80 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 01:48 PM:

Kellie, there was no disruption at LAX when Clinton got his haircut. We've given you references that prove that. Having Air Force One on the ground does involve some heightened security procedures that a columnist speculated could delay flights (which is the "grain of truth" in the story), but in practice it did not cause any inconvenience to anyone.

And your claim that "Clinton delayed presidential duties" to get a haircut is, umm, astonishing. His presidential duties would have been delayed whether he got the haircut aboard Air Force One or not. (The reason he got his hair cut on board the plane in the first place, you will recall, is to save time and allow him to keep working. He would have been delaying his presidential duties more if he hadn't gotten his hair cut there.) The assertion that it's irresponsible for presidents to get haircuts is one of the most astonishing that I've ever seen. Am I to assume that you think Clinton should have ended his term like Samson?

You keep asserting that Clinton shouldn't have had his hair cut at LAX because it inconvenienced people. Is it too much to ask that you post one single shred of evidence in support of this claim, in light of the many rebuttals that have been presented?

The story as I see it seems entirely plausible. Clinton had the opportunity to squeeze a haircut into his schedule, and by having the stylist come to Air Force One he was able to keep working. The FAA records show that this did not cause any disruption in air traffic, and it's plausible to assume that the Secret Service had enough experience with the security procedures to predict that keeping Air Force One idle on the runway wouldn't disrupt air traffic.

For the record, I don't think there's anything absurd in a politician having an affair, or lying about it, or a politician committing an illegal act and trying to cover it up, or in a radio host abusing drugs and trying to hide it. I'll grant you that the pretzel choking incident had elements of absurdity, but it wasn't a scandal. It's not absurd to suppose that idling Air Force One might cause planes to be delayed (and that a president might be thoughtless enough not to consider the impact of his security procedures) but that supposition has been shown to be false. It is absurd to claim that a president, particularly one as notoriously workaholic as Clinton, would divert his plane to an airport just to get a haircut. Which is what you did, and what I said you should not have done.

I'm not saying that your father is part of the right-wing malice machine. I am saying that your father was used by the right-wing malice machine. I'm saying that when you take away the dung surrounding the truth, what's left is generally not a scandal. I'm saying that accepting a scandal as true based on what your father (or any other poorly-informed third party) thinks is like accepting an urban legend as true without checking it at snopes.com. I'm saying that you should always follow the story to the source before you believe it.

I don't believe every story that makes the right wing look bad. For instance, the Bush quote that surfaced last week: "The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the97the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice." That's hilarious, it's in accord with my predisposition to think of Bush as inarticulate, and it immediately triggered my bull---- detector. I would have blogged it if it had checked out, but when you look at the transcript of the press conference and put the quote in context, the pronoun confusion isn't as bad as it looks out of context. That's a recent case where I gave my enemy the benefit of the doubt and he deserved it.

Believing phony scandals is like believing urban legends. It happens. But if you cultivate skepticism and a good instinct for when you need to check a story out, it doesn't happen as often. And while there's nothing blameworthy in being fooled, it is wrong to insist you're right even after being presented with evidence showing that the true facts had been twisted out of recognition.

#81 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 02:12 PM:

Well, they succeeded. Teresa's eloquent posting about her own personal experiences of Bush at the 9/11 anniversary has been derailed by the old discredited Limbaugh lie about Clinton's haircut. Has everyone forgotten what started this thread?

#82 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 02:35 PM:

Steven, I'm not sure where you're getting the "no disruption" proof. We had one snippet where one reporter mentioned that only one plane reported an actual unsheduled delay of some minutes. Everything else has been rhetoric and opinions that it was right-wing and/or anti-govt/pro-business mudslinging. And somewhere in this thread, several parties agreed that Air Force One and the president's security cause disruptions no matter what. Hence, a disruption was caused. I fully agree and I belive I've stated it several times that I now see how the disruption was blown out of proportion and made to be something it was not.

As for getting his haircut, I've also stated that I have no problem with Clinton attending to issues of personal hygiene. But $200 on Air Force One from his stylist pal when he was trying to feel my pain? I do think that's absurd, especially when I was under the impression that there were folks at the White House that could take care of this for the Pres and why not use them? The very idea that I don't think Clinton should've ever gotten his haircut because I don't like the manner in which he got this particular trim is an amusing straw man argument, but otherwise a waste of everyone's time.

I accepted this scandal as true then, and saw nothing to dispute it until now. And guess what? I believe the disputes and rebuttals. Is that suddenly going to make me change my mind that the haircut incident doesn't reflect negatively on Clinton? No. It just reflects negatively on a larger group of people now.

For the record, I don't think there's anything absurd in a politician having an affair, or lying about it, or a politician committing an illegal act and trying to cover it up, or in a radio host abusing drugs and trying to hide it.

The absurdity in this case is to assume that these personality traits are separate and distinct from their others and had no bearing on their jobs. If you're willing to go to great lengths (or even small ones) to cover your behind in some areas, you're probably willing to do so in others. And the absurdity is further compounded when some of these same figures try to tell you about the sancitity of marriage or how drugs are bad.

It is absurd to claim that a president, particularly one as notoriously workaholic as Clinton, would divert his plane to an airport just to get a haircut. Which is what you did, and what I said you should not have done.

And then I went trying to figure out the rest of that part of the story. From the accounts I was able to find, it does sound like I had another misunderstanding of the incident. Have I tried to stick to the story that he landed just for that? No, I merely stated that I often have no trouble swallowing the absurd when it came to Clinton and politicians as a whole.

Believing phony scandals is like believing urban legends. It happens. But if you cultivate skepticism and a good instinct for when you need to check a story out, it doesn't happen as often. And while there's nothing blameworthy in being fooled, it is wrong to insist you're right even after being presented with evidence showing that the true facts had been twisted out of recognition.

I have not been insisting I am right. I have admitted where I mistaken and mislead. What I will NOT do is suddenly think Clinton did no wrong in this case for reasons I have stated repeatedly. And the facts haven't been twisted out of recognition. We've found the facts right here in this thread. I'm a scientist - my skepticism is well cultivated for most things. The only thing I'm skeptical of in politics is that there can be any honesty or selflessness in it.

#83 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 02:41 PM:

I resent the implication that I alone derailed these comments. I had a lot of help. My main point in posting was that Bush isn't the only president who has done stupid things to the public. And because Teresa compared Bush's actions with those of Chirac and Clinton, I felt the need to make that point.

I'd gladly let this haircut business die. I seem to be repeating myself. It's just that I don't enjoy being misrepresented any more than the folks who don't like the same being done to Clinton.

#84 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 03:25 PM:

Kellie -

Part of the president's job -- actual, fundamental job -- is to present a public image.

Now, leaving aside the 'not at the White House' part and the 'it does actually matter who cuts your hair' part, and even the 'what's the staff barber's annual salary?' part, two hundred bucks for a haircut at the CEO/Senator/Governor level is nothing, chump change.

This even makes market sense -- you need a really good barber, after all, because you can't afford to ever be seen in public a bad haircut.

Thought experiment one -- what happens when people laugh at the CEO, or (worse) the CEO is sure they want to?

Thought experiement two -- what does it cost a politician to be laughed at? (If this one is at all difficult, try to picture George W. Bush with his head shaved.)

So you're paying a serious, serious premium for the barber's skill level and willingness to undertake commercial risk. (Nor is there an oversupply of such people, though I'll bet you there's a particular concentration of them in LA.)

So on the one hand, we've got a nice bit of time management in pursuit of the actual duties of the president -- presenting a positive public image -- which happened to get lied about, and which might, hypothetically, for the sake of argument, be said to have inconvienced some unspecified number of travelers in the range of minutes, and on the other hand, we've got a carrier landing to publically lie about the success of a controversial policy that delayed the homecoming of thousands of sailors returning from a combat mission by a low number of days.

It seems very strange to draw an equivalence between these two actions.

#85 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 03:41 PM:

Graydon, in response to this, I will post what I said before:

"As for getting his haircut, I've also stated that I have no problem with Clinton attending to issues of personal hygiene. But $200 on Air Force One from his stylist pal when he was trying to feel my pain? I do think that's absurd, especially when I was under the impression that there were folks at the White House that could take care of this for the Pres and why not use them? The very idea that I don't think Clinton should've ever gotten his haircut because I don't like the manner in which he got this particular trim is an amusing straw man argument, but otherwise a waste of everyone's time."

I will add this: Are you telling me that we should discredit all of Clinton's other haircuts because they were not given him by Cristophe? Or that Clinton was more at risk of failing in his public image because he visited his usual barber?

It seems very strange to draw an equivalence between these two actions.

As I mentioned before, I believe that any abuse of power is grievous and to start arguing which is the lesser of evils is ridiculous (which I find I have to do at election day just so I can stomach my civic duty). But I've never claimed to be normal and "strange" oftentimes seems like a compliment. By all means, think of me as strange.

#86 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 04:13 PM:

As someone who's just come through a period of being an executive, I'd like to say that the difference between "abuse of power" and "using a bit of power to make the job smoother" is a very fuzzy one. I try not to use power when I have it; nevertheless, occasionally as Worldcon chair I'd do something that random members of the convention weren't allowed to do, like go into the exhibits area after they had closed in order to chat with people for reasons that were not obviously related to chairing the convention. It's hard not to do things like that, at least occasionally. I could be accused of "abuse of power" by someone who was an absolutist.

On the other hand, I think there is enough of a difference between "delaying leaving an airport in order to get a haircut" or "having sex with an intern" and "sending the US to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and lying about the attempts of a foreign power to get nuclear materials" (hint -- the latter involves people dying) to make a difference of kind, not of degree.

Sorry, Kellie -- in my book this goes beyond strange, or weird, or eccentric, and into flaming absolutist whacko-hood. And if you think I'm too judgmental in this, you might ask anyone here who knows me how judgmental I tend to be.

Sincerely,
Tom

#87 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 04:15 PM:

All abuses of power are equivalent, huh?

Interesting moral philosophy; the person who gets the admissions process fudged so their kid gets into Harvard is doing exactly the same thing as someone who arranges for the entire family of their political rival to be dismembered and fed to dogs? No meaningful difference between evils whatsoever?

#88 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 04:31 PM:

"And somewhere in this thread, several parties agreed that Air Force One and the president's security cause disruptions no matter what. Hence, a disruption was caused."

Kellie, this is not true. I skimmed through the entire thread, and everyone except you agrees that (1) Air Force One causes some disruption when it flies into or out of an airport; and (2) Air Force One causes no disruption when it is simply sitting idle on a runway.

If it were true that Air Force One caused a disruption during the LAX incident, there would be evidence. The FAA records, mentioned earlier in the thread, would have shown delays. The airport director, who spoke to a reporter, would have known of any disruption. Air traffic controllers would know if Air Force One was making it harder to do their jobs. All the evidence shows that the claim that Clinton inconsiderately inconvenienced people, that you have been clinging to from the beginning, and that you still cling to, is false. And if you're right, you should (assuming you're moderately capable with Google) be able to prove it.

I apologize if I seem overly frustrated or testy. I think that you are in fact doing a very good job of remained civil and rational in the face of strong opposition. But I don't think that you've been quite as open-minded as you think you've been.

What you said about the haircut that I objected to was "Clinton delayed presidential duties and the removal of the Air Force One security disruptions so he could get an expensive haircut." I pointed out that he actually got the haircut the way he did in order to minimize the impact on his presidential duties. Any other haircut, even from the White House staff barber (if such a person exists), would interrupt his duties at least as much and possibly more. So your point was invalid unless you believe that any haircut is an irresponsible distraction from his official responsibilities, which I think can fairly be characterized as a ridiculous position. The fact that you consider a $200 haircut to be an absurd extravagance is irrelevant; tossing out a new argument against the haircut doesn't make your previous bad argument any more valid.

It sounds like our differences on "absurdity" may be because we've been applying the word differently. My point was that when the facts as presented are absurd, then you should be skeptical of the facts until you've verified them. But when you say "The absurdity in this case is to assume that these personality traits are separate and distinct from their others and had no bearing on their jobs" you aren't suggesting that any of the facts are absurd, you're arguing that a defense of the facts is absurd. I agree that there's no reason to question the underlying facts simply because someone's argument that they aren't important doesn't hold water. There's a big difference between thinking that Rush Limbaugh used drugs and believing that a grown man would actually claim that he "invented the Internet".

"The only thing I'm skeptical of in politics is that there can be any honesty or selflessness in it." I think this, like many absolutes, is a dangerously irrational opinion. When you arbitrarily exclude two powerful human motivations from an entire realm of human endeavor, your model of how the world works is likely to be bizarrely inaccurate. I think, for instance, that some politicians have selfish reasons for supporting the space program (bringing pork to their district, going along with the ones who are getting the pork), but that others support it because they genuinely believe that scientific discovery is a wonderful thing. Anyone who can't see even the possibility of the latter is blind.

(Incidentally, I turned up another false story about Bush while I was writing this post. I thought of comparing Clinton's $200 haircut to Bush's $14,000 suits, but when I checked that story I couldn't find any evidence that his suits actually cost that much. The type of suits that he wears ordinarily cost from $2000 to $14,000. It seems that the higher figure has been picked up by people without justification, and that his suits could be anywhere in that range. Another lesson in the need to be skeptical.)

#89 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: November 03, 2003, 10:59 PM:

Jeez. After reading the thread here, I have this strong urge to vote for CarrotTop in the next presidential election.

#90 ::: Jesurgislac ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 08:40 AM:

Kellie: I resent the implication that I alone derailed these comments. I had a lot of help.

Sure. If everyone had simply ignored your reference to the lying story about Clinton causing disruption at LAX in order to get a haircut, you wouldn't have successfully derailed the thread: we could have carried on discussing the ways in which Bush has abused power.

Instead, several people pointed out to you, carefully and clearly, that the story you cited was not true. It was the combination of your initial citation of a lying story about Clinton with your stubborn refusal to accept that the story you had heard was a lie, that derailed the thread. Trying to blame the people who were trying to give you the facts is not nice.

My main point in posting was that Bush isn't the only president who has done stupid things to the public. And because Teresa compared Bush's actions with those of Chirac and Clinton, I felt the need to make that point.

But if this was your point, you derailed it yourself, by making a reference to a Clinton incident that never happened the way you described it.

#91 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2003, 03:29 PM:


My, so much heat, even a little light (though into what dark corners is still less than clear).

Kellie, I suppose I am flattered that my comment added to your sense of self-worth (it seems all criticism must either be bland, or it adds to the value of the critiqued... If I wasn't right I wouldn't be abused, but I digress).


"To argue that because some delay might have occured, which we know nothing of, and that such possible delays indicate a grievous abuse of power is, to be blunt, fatuous.

Yay, I can add "fatuous" to my list of transgressions on this thread! I was wondering how long it would take someone to get there. Unfortunately, you haven't accurately summed my argument. The thread had concluded that Air Force One, in general, always causes a disruption (therefore making the delays actual - I believe the term used was "scheduled"). "


That is not what was agreed, nor what you argued. You said there were delays we knew not of, and those were abuses. The scheduled delays are just that, built in. When the flight plans are filed the affect the other planes.

Story: One day, many moons ago, I was in a small plane (we were flying it to Vancouver, BC for a WesterCon) and we were on IFR. One of our stops was this little airport we chose because it had no radar.

We called the tower to see how they did things (ladders of paper with plane numbers, very cool, and remarkable efficent) wereupon we were treated to a, very polite, ass-chewing.

Seems that we had disrupted a number of flights (we had help, there was an idiot who couldn't make his approach and kept getting called off) because Instrument Flight Rules meant we had an ironclad place in the line. We could not be sent around. Had we called the tower and changed to Visual Flight Rules we could have been inserted in the pattern at any useful place. As it was there were planes who had to wait on us.

Did we abuse our power (not all pilots have instrument rated pilots)? Depends on how one looks at it.

More to the point, regarding Bush. I did not say I thought you liked him, what I said was your defense (and esp. your method) implies, to a reasonable man, that **in this case** you don't see anything wrong with his actions.

Further comment by you seems to make that less clear... but the flip side, that you don't agree with his actions because any action of a politician is suspect, and all abuses are equal, is so repellent to me that I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and limit my opinion, for the nonce, to an imlicit willingness to accept Bush's actions as, "politics as usual", and accept that you found the usual politics of his predecessor to be, in some way (despite protestations to the contrary) to be worse.

Terry K.

#92 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 06, 2003, 05:38 PM:

One excellent thing has come from this thread: I've realized that I *want* to hate all politicians because it's "easier" than risking the gradual and not so gradual chipping away of my idealism by seeing what most politicians will do in the name of public service. It's interesting that this is the second time I've gone a little whacko in Teresa's blog - and it's the second time that I've realized some little psychological trick I'm doing to myself to deal with some big, painful issues. I do feel bad for, in effect, inflicting my own process of self-discovery on an entire group of commenters and readers. For that I apologize, but I also thank you. While I may never think of Clinton as anything other than a bad man, at least I may try to give future leaders the benefit of the doubt that they may actually have some wish to do their jobs.

Jesurgislac, the pointing out of the haircut falsehood was not done very effectively until someone asked for proof. And then, yes, I did sustain the argument because I found the language of the Kessler thing suspect in one or two places. As a scientist and aspiring author, I pay attention to that kind of thing (obviously now more so than ten years ago). But instead of either side acknowledging my point of abuses and disruptions on both sides of the political divide, we all willfully went nuts about a haircut (we did talk a little about abuses, but it centered around the haircut, which did a disservice to the point). And, since I had no idea that the episode was in the least bit doubted, I had no idea I would be derailing the thread. I thought I was using a given piece of knowledge as evidence to support my claim. Nothing more, nothing less.

Steven said: I apologize if I seem overly frustrated or testy. I think that you are in fact doing a very good job of remained civil and rational in the face of strong opposition. But I don't think that you've been quite as open-minded as you think you've been.

No apology necessary. Thank you. And right back at ya. :) Strong beliefs, no matter how intelligent or well-intentioned, often shutter the mind. It does us all good to get a little heated and testy now and then to realize where our own blinders are and if we really need them.

Tom said: Sorry, Kellie -- in my book this goes beyond strange, or weird, or eccentric, and into flaming absolutist whacko-hood. And if you think I'm too judgmental in this, you might ask anyone here who knows me how judgmental I tend to be.

Well, I do happen to think "flaming absolutist whacko-hood" is too judgmental, given the somewhat *ahem* absurd and limited nature of the discussion. You said that the line between abusing power and just making things smoother was a bit fuzzy. I just think it's so fuzzy as to be invisible. And, the examples provided in support of a "all abuses are not equal" were hardly comforting. Nor were the consequences for any of the abuses accurately detailed. This made my position seem far more skewed than it actually was.

When entrusted into an office that serves the public, you should not abuse that power. Period. Whether it be to get a haircut or send soldiers into battle. Otherwise, what's the point of the office? Is it to serve the public or abuse the public? What constitutes an abuse of power and its punishment is, of course, left to the judicial system. But learning of an abuse of power, no matter how "small" will cause the loss of my respect, my support, and my vote (unless, on that terrifying of days when I cannot be an absolutist in this matter, I must decide who is less abusive just to cast my vote).

Had I been at the worldcon where you "used a bit of power to make the job smoother", I would've walked away with a bad taste in my mouth. The example you gave, however, didn't seem like anything other than doing your job of keeping the "customers" happy (this, in my worldcon ignorance, assumes that the exhibits are run by folks from whom you want repeat "business"). Had you used a power to bring to those closed exhibits a pal who was nothing more than a participant in the con, that's an abuse. Unless you managed provided all participants with the opportunity for such a chance. Perhaps I need to define "abuse of power" the way I'm using it. If you are given a position by a group of people and then use the power of that position for personal gain at the expense (however minute) of the people who gave you that power, then you are guilty of an abuse. And, yes, I do believe they are all equal. Call me an idealist, but I hardly think it in the realm of whacko-hood. Unless you are an absolutist yourself in this case and think that all absolutists are part of a flaming whacko-hood. And wouldn't that be a fun judgment (she said, wondering wildly which spelling of the word Teresa prefers...e, no e, e, no e...).

Steven, there is plenty more I could say about the haircut, the level of rebutting proof offered here, the language of the one snippet that referred to FAA records, disruptions Air Force One must cause no matter what, etc etc. But it's pointless. You see a mountain of proof where I don't. I see delays where you never will (and neither of us have seen the FAA records - fancy that). We may have tapped our abilities to effectively communicate our points about this matter.

One last thing about letting Clinton go untrimmed, since Steven brought it up yet again. If Christophe can on the fly cut Clinton's hair with minimal to no interruption of presidential duties, why does it follow that the white house barber must cause more of a disruption? I do not understand this. In fact, I would think they have a better, more fluid way of dealing with such matters of presidential hygiene in his residence than they do on Air Force One while parked at LAX. Why reinvent the wheel and pay $200 for it when you can just use the excellent tire you already have and spend nothing? (My analogy is not perfect, but I hope it conveys my point.)

Anyone who can't see even the possibility of the latter is blind.

Not paying attention, tinfoil hat territory, believing nonsense, fatuous, flaming absolutist whacko-hood, not nice, and now blind. I do not list these things in attempt to, as Terry K mentioned, give me a sense of self-worth. I mention them in tongue-in-cheek fashion to bring a little levity to the situation (for myself at least, though I hope others found it entertaining), and to point out that things were starting to get away from the realm of good debate tactics. But in this case, blind's a damn good descriptor. My anger about politics has blinded me to those who don't deserve it.

You said there were delays we knew not of, and those were abuses.

No, that is not what I said. I said there had to be delays (which, built in or not, would piss me off if I knew we could've landed a half hour early but for Air Force One - "me" and "we" used to give a sense of immediacy to the point, not to suggest I was actually there), then remarked on the language the Kessler snippet chose to use, and professed a curiosity as to how delays were reported.

As for the Bush business that keeps coming up, I really don't understand how I can be detailed as an absolutist and then told that it could be implied that I think Clinton's actions constituted a worse abuse of power than Bush's.

#93 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 01:02 AM:

Kellie,

I recognize myself in what you said here:

"One excellent thing has come from this thread: I've realized that I *want* to hate all politicians because it's 'easier' than risking the gradual and not so gradual chipping away of my idealism by seeing what most politicians will do in the name of public service."

I've quit that point of view, though I held it for a long time, and sympathize with people who still hold it. I thought I was holding on to idealism part of the time I believed it, and later thought I was being realistic--that shift should've told me something. What I eventually decided was that I was holding on to an unrealistic and destructive idea of purity, both personal and political.

There's more to my changes over the years--is there ever!--but that's one of them. I'd never articulated it in the way you did, but I do see myself in it now, looking back.

Whether this applies to you, or to anyone other than myself--I'm an odd duck--I just can't say.

#94 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 01:13 AM:

Kellie, I remember the story when it first came out. Thinking "that was a dumb thing for Clinton to do", then finding out, "oh, it didn't happen that way". If somebody suggests that Clinton might have caused delays, offering no proof, and somebody else says Clinton didn't, offering evidence, and nobody ever comes back with counter-evidence, I'm going to believe the person who seems to know what they're talking about.

You, on the other hand, seem determined to believe that Clinton delayed people without any evidence at all. "I said there had to be delays (which, built in or not, would piss me off if I knew we could've landed a half hour early but for Air Force One - "me" and "we" used to give a sense of immediacy to the point, not to suggest I was actually there)", but you don't say why there "had" to be delays. There doesn't seem to be any obvious reason why having Air Force One sit on an unused runway would cause delays, anymore than having the President sit in the Oval Office should back up traffic on Constitution Avenue. Your persistent belief that this is a fact, unsupported by any evidence, seems outright insane. So let me ask you: Is there any evidence, any at all, above and beyond the apparent absence of the half-hour delays you continue to insist happened, that would convince you that there were no half-hour delays? As an alleged scientist, surely you must be aware of how rational people will react when you hold what appears to be a non-falsifiable hypothesis? Especially when you distort data in support of it? (I note you never responded to my point that you had misremembered or misstated what other people had conceded in this thread.)

I acknowledge that there are abuses and disruptions on both sides of the political aisle, among politicians and voters, adults and children, lesbians and Aquarians. I acknowledge that everyone who walks the Earth has at one time or another abused the privileges that they possess. I acknowledge that perfection not existing in this world, it is impossible to condemn anyone merely for imperfection. Instead I acknowledge that a rational person will acknowledge differences in degree and magnitude of imperfection, and exercise judgement in deciding who to condemn. That judgement necessarily entails, among other things, deciding whether an alleged offense be true or false, and great or small. Do you deny that the vast majority people are of my opinion, Kellie, and not yours? Or are you merely being disingenuous in expressing surprise that people chose to challenge your errors instead of engage with a "point" they consider absurd?

#95 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 04:44 AM:

Kellie, maybe you should just have stuck with your original admission "Granted, my knowledge of that 'alleged' incident [the Clinton haircut] is limited to rants from my Republican, retired Air Force father, so I could very well have skewed info on that."

Evidently.

#96 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 02:30 PM:

I finally spotted part of what bothers me, and makes me return to this point.

You keep reminding us that you pratice science, but keep offering up a requirement that we prove a negative.

The record shows non-scheduled restrictions causing one unplanned delay (and that is what happens, be it AF One, or a 747 full of passsengers from Japan which lands at LAX, those things restrict the use of the runway. The belief that the President is entitled to certain extra treatment, as primus inter pares means AF One has slightly greater effect, but that is of degree, not kind).

You argue there must have been more, and so we should think it a greater abuse than most of us seem to see it as.

In part (and this is a tad personal, so I may not be the most objective of judges on this) my objection is because I do see a vast, and grave, difference between electing to get a haircut in LA, instead of waiting until I get back to the White House (whenever that may be) and sending troops to war under false-pretense.

If a president regularly causes large-scale inconvience to the public, to satisfy his grooming whims, I still don't see it as the same (though worthy of some condemnation). A delay at the airport is far less heinous than coffins at Dover Air Base, in the cause of a combat which fails my personal smell test.

Personally I don't think what Cltinton did was an abuse. If I (to make an analogy) decide to go to a given barber, some distance from my home, because I like the way he cuts hair, I am going to disrupt someone. I take up a space on the road. I take up limited parking in the lot. I take up time in the chair.

Just because there is a barber who is on the staff of the White House does not mean the President must be a slave to using that barber.

And, to play Devil's Advocate, we don't know he was going to be able to see that White House barber. Where was AF One headed when it left LAX?


Terry K.

#97 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 02:44 PM:

Yonmei, quite so. I wish I had never used it as an example of abuse of power on both sides of the political aisle. I would much rather have had that discussion than one of an old incident that is apparently a hot button. However, if people are going to attack my logic and insist something didn't happen the way it did while presenting only one snippet of evidence (and said snippet had language that provided wiggle-room for the truth), then excuse me for still remaining skeptical that it "didn't" happen. This does not mean that I choose to believe the incident as it was originally reported. It just means that I don't buy the "nothing happened at all" story either. I'm more inclined to believe that the truth is somewhere between the two stories. Which is often the case with that squirrely thing called truth.

adamsj, I thank you for your insight. Especially the "unrealistic and destructive view of purity" comment. That really struck a chord. My struggle now is striving to keep my idealism but to not let reality piss me off so much (ie making my view of purity realistic and constructive).

Steven, point the way to the FAA records, and I bet I can come up with some counter evidence. I doubt I'll find anything the likes of which was originally reported, but I also believe that I'll find quite a few scheduled delays that wouldn't be there but for Air Force One. This is a belief based not on my desire to hate Clinton, but just on my own observations of how airports run. Granted, I've never been to LAX, but I am an Air Force brat and planes have been a part of my life since I was five months old (my first word was "jet" - thank you, Dad). Maybe LAX always has a designated unused runway for emergencies and shaggy-haired presidents. I don't know. But this strikes me as unusual and *ahem* absurd in airplane scenarios. I'm used to "unused" runways becoming roads and other useful things. Or was the runway unused simply because Air Force One was sitting on it? And LAX then had to start using only X number of runways for the same air traffic that normally X+1 runways handle?

If somebody suggests that Clinton might have caused delays, offering no proof, and somebody else says Clinton didn't, offering evidence, and nobody ever comes back with counter-evidence, I'm going to believe the person who seems to know what they're talking about.

Just so we're clear, do you count as solid evidence a snippet from somewhere that basically translates to "another reporter told me that he looked at the records and only one unscheduled delay was reported"? This is actually third-hand evidence. First-hand evidence would be the FAA records. Kessler then analyzed them making the evidence second-hand. The snippet then reported on Kessler's analysis, making the evidence third-hand. Not exactly the best evidence to counter the original deluge of claims regarding the incident. And DeeDee Myers' snippet only mentioned something to the effect of it didn't really happen that way. Anecdotal at best, more wiggle-room for the truth, and nothing concrete presented to counter the claim except "that's a lie". What am I supposed to do with that? Silly me, I want to see the records (or at least one other report of them, or perhaps even Kessler's report itself) before believing either side of the story now as I re-categorize this incident in my mind.

but you don't say why there "had" to be delays.

The very nature of Air Force One (which I have stated repeatedly and others have agreed that it's never business as usual with such a plane or POTUS's travels in general), and my own understanding of airport SOPs.

(I note you never responded to my point that you had misremembered or misstated what other people had conceded in this thread.)

Well, let's see what people actually said:

From Terry K: 93There is a big difference between the disruptions which Air Force One may cause (and usually, when flying into the LA area it uses an old Navy field at the edge of Orange County, Though I do recall Bush pere flying something (probably Marine One) into Santa Monica and disrupting an otherwise peaceful Sunday) and the allegded disruption of Hundreds of planes, and thousands of people, so he could get a haircut from a barber he happened to like in a concession at LAX.94

From Stefan: 93My thoughts on the haircut thing: Imagine the disruption if he had to *leave* the plane to go to a barber downtown.94

From pericat: 93There's always a bit of truth at the bottom of the worst sort of lies. Clinton's plane landed. Clinton got a haircut. Air traffic was disrupted to accomodate this. That the traffic which was disrupted was miniscule, and the time period for which this happened negligible, is lost in the rapacious chorus that follows.94

From Kevin: 93The nonsense about Clinton disrupting traffic around LAX was just that: nonsense. There is no verifiable evidence that significant disruptions were caused, but the story was reported widely.94 (emphasis mine)

From Graydon: 93Did Airforce One have an affect on the traffic pattern at LAX? Sure. (it has better, after all.) Was this larger than the disruption associated with any other 747 flying in?94

From Jeremy: 93Of course there were all sorts of scheduled delays, just as there are any time the President goes anywhere.94

I stopped rather early in the thread, so maybe things suddenly take a turn. But these comments and others like it gave me the impression we all agreed that a disruption of somesort was inevitable in regards to Air Force One and a traveling POTUS.

Do you deny that the vast majority people are of my opinion, Kellie, and not yours?

Yes, I would say that most people are of your opinion. I would like to point out that I merely stated my absolutist ideals on abuse of power, not any other misdeed or imperfection. Just because I think all abuses of power must be held equal, doesn't mean I think the same of, say, falsehoods or murder. The human mind is hardly uniform and consistent on such matters of fault, blame, and imperfection. Some will tolerate one more than the other. What does bother me about your opinion on abuse of power is that it seems to end up allowing the "more" grievous of the sin. To dismiss one (e.g. pulling strings to get your offspring into Prestigious U) because it's "not as bad as" the other (e.g. giving suspect/outright false evidence to the country to get support for a war) sends the message that there's a gray area, and it invites testing. Well, if he can get away with that, perhaps I can get away with this. And so on and so forth. I don't see that as anything remotely beneficial only in as much as we need to choose one abuser over another to be the leader of the free world. Which just gets me angry again, so I'll stop there.

Or are you merely being disingenuous in expressing surprise that people chose to challenge your errors instead of engage with a "point" they consider absurd?

The point was that there are abuses on both sides of the aisle, which you agree to as well. The absurdity for you was then that I thought all abuses were equal. So, yes, I am surprised that the abuse of power discussion was an afterthought. That you suggest it was disingenuous rather than miscommunicated gives me quite a bit more credit than you seem to give me elsewhere. Should I thank you?

As an alleged scientist, surely you must be aware of how rational people will react when you hold what appears to be a non-falsifiable hypothesis?

Calling me an "alleged scientist" is probably the most insulting thing I've seen here. Using "alleged" is a very sophisticated way of calling me a liar about my training, my station in life, and my own personal view of myself. I have no idea if you meant to imply anything of the sort. I truly hope you did not.

#98 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 03:00 PM:

Terry,

In science, when it is accepted that one thing is true based on years of studies and the like, one report will hardly make the world of science go "Hey, we've had it wrong all these years! How 'bout that?" And if the report is not even given to scientists directly, but reported to them via someone else who is summarizing someone else's analysis...well, you might get a resounding laugh.

Like any scientist, I want to see it with my own eyes and make my own analysis. Everything I knew before told me Clinton caused innumerable delays to get a very expensive haircut at the cost of the taxpayers. I've now realized that the delays were not innumerable and nowhere even near that exaggeration. I also, in an entirely separate issue, smell a distinct whiff of "bogus" when told that Cristophe's $200 bill was given to the taxpayers. However, to ask me to dismiss the entire incident because one reporter tells of another reporter's analysis of records is a bit ludicrous.

You argue there must have been more, and so we should think it a greater abuse than most of us seem to see it as.

No, I argue nothing of the sort. I argue there must have been more, and I argue that all abuses are equal. They are separate thoughts.

If you need/want to weigh abuses and tolerate some and rail against others, be my guest. I don't agree with it, and I haven't seen anyone try to tell me why I should agree with it (except to say "you think these are the same? really? that's whack").

And I'm going to play Devil's Advocate as well. What if Clinton didn't need a haircut for another two weeks?

#99 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 04:03 PM:

Kellie, do you really think all abuses are equally bad? That implies that you don't believe there's a gray area, where 2 objective observers could disagree about whether something was actually an abuse.

I think anyone with any authority will eventually be in a situation where they want X to happen for selfish reasons, and also think X needs to be done for the good of their constituency. If they engage in any sort of self-examination, they'll probably sometimes wonder how strongly their decision to do X was influenced by the personal reward involved. Sometimes, though, the cost of doing X is pretty small, and so it's not worth wasting too much time worrying about it, even if it really is an abuse of power. But if all abuses are equally bad, then every time the president wants a piece of candy, he should consider whether eating it (at taxpayer expense) would be an abuse of power, as bad as using his confidential access to intelligence to lie to the public in order to get support for invading a foreign country at great expense.

The only way you'll get someone in authority who never, ever abuses their power in even the slightest trivial way, is if you get someone who has no desires and no emotions. I think that's unreasonable; I'd rather have a real human who sometimes oversteps the line a short ways, but on big issues does their very best to play fair, than a robot.

Re-reading your original post where you brought up the haircut, I don't agree that the phony PR aspect of the presidency has been monotonically increasing, and that they've all been just as bad. I think PR has always been an aspect of the presidency, though the technology has changed (oratory and written communications, then radio, now television). I think the level of phonyness has varied; some presidents have been more honest than others, and some have been more deceitful than others. Reagan certainly was an expert at phony photo-ops; after all, being photographed and filmed was his profession! I remember a friend poking fun at the way Reagan tended to cross his arms with his hands under his biceps, so he could push them up to look bigger.

Personally, I miss Kennedy, but only because that's when I was too young to know better. I got cynical at an exceptionally early age; it may have helped that the first newspapers I was able to read were reporting on the Vietnam war, and then Watergate by the time I was in junior high.

#100 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 04:55 PM:

re: Clinton's Haircut; the Search for Bush's Brain

Didn't George Washington rip off Congress?
Please correct me if I've fallen for another Urban Myth, but I vaguely recall that George Washington was offered a salary as compensation for becoming #1 General of the Continental or Colonial Army, or whatever, but demurred, saying that he was a gentleman after all, and he would settle for much less, i.e. reimbursement of expenses.

And that he then spent about triple the offered salary on fine wine and munchies, which he and his colonels consumed even as others starved at Valley Forge.

Again, I may have been misled here, but my point is that Washington had a finely honed PR machine of his own, and so have all his successors. That whole Cherry Tree story -- an utterly bogus, soundbite, right?

And wasn't it the other Clinton whose haircuts mattered, namely:
hilaryshair.com

#101 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 05:03 PM:

Kellie, you're right. I shouldn't have said "alleged scientist". That was snotty and rude, and I apologize. I can't verify from my own knowledge that you are a scientist (which is what I was thinking when I wrote that), but I can and should take your word for it.

I said I'm not going to argue with you any more, but I will make one point. You say that my sources are third hand, but the sources you weigh against them are sixth-hand or tenth-hand or hundredth-hand. At least the sources I rely on can be traced step by step back to somebody looking at the facts. Yours can't. On that basis, I dismiss your counterargument that "it must be so, everyone says so" as worthless. If your version were true, then I believe that somebody would have investigated the story and found facts to support it, and you (or I) could quickly turn this up. So do you believe that nobody ever investigated it? Or that the results of his/her investigation were somehow kept obscure, perhaps by the reluctance of right-wingers on the web to publicize information which makes Clinton look bad?

#102 ::: Steven desJardins ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 05:08 PM:

Jonathan, the cherry tree story wasn't concocted until 1806, after Washington had died. I don't think you can chalk it up to his desire for PR.

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 07:45 PM:

Okay, Kellie, here are two things I did as one of the Chairs of ConJose, which are things that might be considered "abuses of power". I'm curious as to whether you think either one is. As I look at them, I think both fall into the gray area that Jeremy talks about.
1. We had Patrick Stewart come in for about two hours, of which an hour was his scheduled talk. I seriously wanted to be one of the people who got to greet him and hang out with him for parts of the other hour. I did. I don't think I prevented any other *appropriate* person from getting to that small reception, but it was something I wanted and chose to have as one of the few perks of my office (note that, among other things, I paid for a full membership, bid committee dues and my own hotel room for the convention -- these were things I felt strongly were my own responsibility). Was getting this an abuse of power? Since I couldn't offer it to everyone at the con, it was certainly a perk!
2. There's an unwritten rule (this may be the first time it's been mentioned in print) that if there are spare Hugos (after ties and such have been dealt with) the chair of the convention gets to have one, appropriately engraved. Not something that can get offered even to every Worldcon chair -- was it an abuse of power for me to accept it?

Your emotional decisions are your own. In many ways, you've indicated that this particular bit of what I've called whacko-hood is known-to-you-to-be-internal-weirdness. I'm actually quite curious as to where that bit comes from, and what good it actually does you (it strikes me as an indication of a missing experience in your life, and, given your very forebearing response to some rhetoric that might easily be characterized as vituperation, you pique my curiosity about this). I don't want to change it at this point, but I'd really like to know what advantage you get from it, for you. Do you know?

Cheers,
Tom

#104 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 07, 2003, 11:31 PM:

Just in case it wasn't obvious, I'd prefer public answers to the questions in my first paragraph, and would be perfectly happy with private answers to my second paragraph (or none at all -- those are pretty nosy questions I'm asking in the second!).

cheers,
Tom

#105 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 12:44 AM:

Terry, nobody here has to prove a negative. Kellie, your argument hit the point of absurdity days ago, and the whole story about Clinton's "abuse of power" was absurd from day one. There are only two reasons to give that story credence. I'll return to them later.

For now, I'd like you to read "The Price of Being Poppy", the first chapter of Richard Ben Cramer's What It Takes (Random House: New York, 1992), pages 3-29. If you can't provide yourself with a copy, let me know and I'll send you the extra copy that by pure coincidence I picked up yesterday from a sidewalk vendor. That chapter's a tour-de-force piece of journalism. What it does is describe everything that goes into getting Vice President George H. W. Bush from DC to the Houston Astrodome to throw out the first ball of the National League Series for the Astros. Here's one bit of it, pp. 4-6:

The thing is, it couldn't just happen. George Bush couldn't just fly in, catch a cab to the ballpark, get his ticket torn, and grab a beer on his way to his seat. Now, he'd come too far for that.

Weeks before the trip, the Director of Advance in the Office of the Vice President (OVP) had to tell the White House Military Office (WHMO) to lay on a plane,

Air Force Two, and the backup Air Force Two. That meant coordination with the squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, for a Special Air Mission (SAM). Luckily, the trip was to Houston, where Bush went all the time, so the Air Force didn't have to fly in his cars. The Secret Service kept a Vice Presidential limousine, a black, armored, stretch Cadillac, with a discreet seal on the door, parked and secured twenty-four hours a day in the basement of the Houston Civic Center. They wouldn't even fly in a backup limo, they'd just use a regular sedan.

Of course, the Vice President would stay where he always did, the Houstonian Hotel (which he listed as his voting residence), and that would save effort, too. The White House Communications Agency (WHCA, pronounced "Wocka" by the cognoscenti) already had the Houstonian wired for secure phones, direct to the White House on land lines, so satellites couldn't listen in. Still, the Astrodome would have to be wired, so that meant an Air Force transport plane to fly in the new communications gear and extra Secret Service materiel. That, in turn, required an alert for the CVAM at the Pentagon, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff in charge of Special Air Missions, who would task the Military Airlift Command (MAC) with this Vice Presidential support mission, or in Pentagon parlance, a Volant Silver. (Presidential missions are Volant Banner.)

Meanwhile, in Houston, the local office of the Secret Service started looking over the Astrodome, picking out the holding rooms, secure hallways, choke points, command posts, and pathways for the Vice President. This information was bumped up the ladder to the Secret Service VPPD, the Vice Presidential Protective Detail in Washington, which in ten days would have its own Advance team on scene. When that team arrived, the Lead Advance man would convene his own staff of three Site Advance and a Press Advance, along with the four Secret Service Advance, the chief of the local office of the Secret Service, two Wocka Advance men and the captain of the Houston Police Department's Dignitary Protection Division, to sit down for a meeting with the host of the affair, the Astros' owner, Dr. John McMullen. 85

In the course of the next two days, this dozen men would walk over every foot of ground that the Vice President would tread, scouting this bit of his future life. They were seeing it as his eyes might, then improving the view, imagining and removing every let or hindrance. They were determined that nothing would be unforeseen. And, of course, they were timing every movement. The, for all the following days, and most of the nights, they would fan out to their respective turfs: the Site Advance to each location the Vice President would visit; the Press Advance to local papers, TV and radio stations, then to the sites to inspect for sound cables, platforms, camera angles, and backdrops; the Service to all the sites, for inch-by-inch security checks; the Houston PD to its command post; the WHCA to its phones, cables, switchboxes, walkie-talkies, cellulars, and other wondrous gizmos the Vice President might require; the head of the VP92s Houston operation and the Lead Advance to the three-room office created for the occasion, fully equipped and volunteer-staffed, in a wing of the Houstonian. ...

And, on page 8:

9485some four hundred people, a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and a couple of hundred million dollars in government equpment got the Vice President to the ball game in perfect security and comfort. They also made it possible for him to spend the better part of a day, leave his office, board an airplane, travel halfway across the nation, land in another city and travel overland thirty miles to a ballpark, and never see one person who was not a friend or someone whose sole purpose it was to serve or protect him.
You really have to read the whole thing; for instance, the section where in Houston, at rush hour, Harley-riding members of the police force are zooming ahead of Bush92s motorcade to block off the freeway entrances, each team staying at its freeway entrance until after the motorcade has passed, at which point they zoom on ahead again, passing the motorcade, to take up their posts at freeway entrances further on up their travel path. This enables Bush92s motorcade to travel up the freeway in a traffic-free bubble, even though they92re in a bustling and crowded city renowned for its traffic jams.

Shall I leave it to you to imagine what92s happening to the traffic around that thirty-mile section of Houston freeway? I don92t know where you live. Perhaps you don92t understand this. Bigwigs coming into your city are like an ice storm, like an overturned eighteen-wheeler full of toxic chemicals, like a heavy construction project that entirely shuts down the road that92s being worked on. Where I live, our traffic columnist, Gridlock Sam, keeps track of the UN92s meeting schedule (and everything else he knows about) , and predicts congestion accordingly. I used to work in an office two blocks from the UN. When something big was going on, traffic froze.

It92s not just the cars. One time Patrick and I were flying home from a convention in the Bay Area. We waited in the boarding area while our plane got later and later.The odd part was that the airline didn92t explain. Delays just kept stacking up, and that was that. We took off 96 what, three or four hours late? Something like that. Some while after we took off, Patrick and I realized that the last dozen or so rows of cheap seats on the plane were almost entirely empty, and that there was one guy and his small staff sitting in the center of that seating area, guarded by Guys In Suits. The important guy in the back of the plane was Jesse Jackson. This was while he was running for President. There must have been some kind of snafu or delay. That must have been why they held the plane.

We got into New York very late indeed, so late that it was hard to find transit back into the city from the airport. That was pretty inconvenient. On the other hand, we got to meet Reverend Jackson, which was cool. He92s a lot taller in person.

Here92s the point. In our society, important politicians travel in a sort of huge moving bubble of security and other arrangements. Anything they do can have cascading effects for people in the vicinity. That92s just the way it is. And Clinton on the runway? That was nothing. The difference between him, and the Reagan or Bush administration, is that Clinton cops to his delays.

The cohorts, contingents, and cabals that were tasked with pulling down the Clinton presidency frequently used the tactic of publicizing some perfectly normal thing as though it were a complete departure from previous procedure. And since most people don92t know what is and isn92t normal procedure for high government officials, and the 93normal procedure94 for high government officials is so weird, the technique worked. The American public was made to believe there was something extraordinary, or improper, or [insert pejorative adjective here] about actions that in previous administrations wouldn92t have warranted a raised eyebrow.

Way back at the beginning of this message, I said there were only two reasons to believe that Clinton committed an abuse of power on that day.

The first reason is that you92re honestly gullible. Maybe you92re in that group. I wouldn92t know. Seemingly, a lot of people are. They get told by paid political operatives that Clinton did something extraordinarily inconsiderate when he got his hair cut that day, and they believe it. This pains me, since many of them are people who92d know better than to believe (say) a television commercial; but there it is.

Let me ask. Did you notice when Newt Gingrich shut down the federal government in a fit of pique? He did. It was that petty. He was ticked because, I forget, I think he wasn92t getting the seats on Air Force One he thought he deserved. Anyway, he pulled some parliamentary maneuvers and pretty much shut down the federal government for days. I heard about this in detail because one of my authors was living in DC at the time, and shutting down the federales meant her city effectively had severely curtailed services for the duration. Her remarks on the subject were pungent.

Then there were the rolling brownouts in California. Do you remember those? Did you catch the part later about how Enron helped engineer those? Do you have any idea how much misery, inconvenience, and sheer dislocation those caused? Infrastructure is not a trivial matter. Urban environments are intensely interconnected and interdependent. Take out basic infrastructure services like power, and everything ties itself into knots. The worst of the burden falls on the poor, the needy, the sick, and the afflicted.

How much blame fell on those responsible? Not much. Not a continuing supply. The reason a continuing supply of blame falls on Clinton for his relatively trivial peccadillos is that there are communications professionals out there whose job it is to make sure that happens. No, don92t argue with me. This is not a matter of opinion. This is simply true. Those people exist. Their funding exists. This is known. If it92s not known by you, wise up. This is the way your world works.

There92s a second reason to believe that Clinton committed a major abuse of power on the plane that day: because you want to.

Believing that Clinton is a major source of evil in the universe is like believing in The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Are you familiar with it? It92s one of the wellsprings of modern anti-Semitism.

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, like Mein Kampf and The Two Babylons, has this distinction: that no one was ever unwillingly persuaded to believe its preachings through the force of its arguments and the evidence it musters. Like the other two titles, it92s a farrago of ahistorical nonsense. Yet people believe it, because they want to believe it.

Believing in Clinton92s unique iniquity is much like that. There are people who for some reason are determined to believe William Jefferson Clinton to be a font of willfully evil behavior. This is such a load of old codswallop that I have trouble believing any grownup sane person believes it, but it92s undeniably true that some do. For some reason Vachel Lindsay92s line comes to mind: 94Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.94

I can92t help you. Baaaah.

#106 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2003, 09:48 AM:

Wow.

#107 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 05:18 PM:

Not having read any other comments but Teresa's (and that one taking considerable time!), I just wanted to say that I said I wanted to hate Clinton due to my own need to hate all politicians. Having placed them all in the same level of hell (too bad Dante didn't come up with something beyond getting eaten eternally and slowly), I never worked hard to distinguish evils. If I missed out on something great in Clinton because of that need, that prejudice, then I'll just have to live with it and figure out how not to do it again.

The fact that I can talk about it in such terms means that I learned a lot from my own arguments and the points made in this thread. For that, I thank you and everyone else who participated.

I'm glad some "abuse of power" discussion came out of this. That's what I was shooting for, but my aim was horribly off. I thank you for the excerpts of the book about Bush's list of evils, but they were unnecessary as I hate him just as much as the rest. But nobody seems to believe me when I say that. Or when I say that the only President/politician I like is TV's Bartlett, and even he's starting to get too much like the norm politician for me to stomach at times. Reagan worked for me simply because I was eight and he had jelly beans on his desk and used to be in movies and I didn't know any better.

From what I've seen of politics lately in blogs, news, articles, editorials, opinions, etc, is that each "side" seems out to get the other. Liberals v conservatives. Democrats v Republicans. Us v Them. There's always a machine cranking out bile and lies with a smattering of truth, hoping someone swallows it and joins their cause. Sometimes those who are just presenting the facts get lost in the glut. I apologize for lumping you in with the bile and lies lot. We pick our battles, and mine was best served for a group in the glut, assuming they would do half as decent a job hearing me out.

But off I go to graze, apparently.

#108 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 12, 2003, 06:48 PM:

Kellie:

Kinda hating to berate the obvious one more time: I'm still interested in the question of whether the events I posted actually are abuses of power, to you. You, personally.

Not asking you to graze; trying to figure out how you sort out the world.

If you send me a personal response, put Making Light in the header; I'm deleting a lot of spam by just looking at headers right now.

cheers
tom

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