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April 18, 2006

Bush says he hears voices
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM * 67 comments

Faced with unprecedented public criticism of Rumsfeld by Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, Maj. Gen. Charles H Swannack Jr., Maj. Gen. John Riggs, and Gen. Wesley Clark, Army, and Gen. Anthony Zinni and Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Marines, Mr. Bush has opted to simply ignore the whole thing. From the BBC:

In the past month, seven retired generals have called for Mr Rumsfeld to quit over the Iraq war, but the White House said it was happy with his work. Mr Rumsfeld has also dismissed suggestions that he should resign.

Asked about Mr Rumsfeld at a news conference, Mr Bush said he had “strong confidence” in his defence secretary.

“I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation,” he said. “But I’m the decider and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defence.”

To quote Stanley Baldwin, “Power without responsibility—the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

One of the critics, retired Marine Gen Anthony Zinni, told CNN Mr Rumsfeld should be held responsible for a series of mistakes. The first, he said, was “throwing away 10 years worth of… plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq”.

In a radio interview, Maj Gen John Riggs, a former division commander, said Mr Rumsfeld fostered an atmosphere of “arrogance” among the Pentagon’s top civilian leadership. “They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda,” he told National Public Radio. “I think that’s a mistake, and that’s why I think he should resign.”

Is anyone surprised? I had my hopes up there for a minute; but in end, Bush no more wants to fire Rumsfeld than a drunk wants to fire his bartender.
Comments on Bush says he hears voices:
#1 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:05 PM:

ďBut Iím the decider and I decide whatís best. And whatís best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defence.Ē

...because I say so, that's why!

I did't buy "because I say so" reasoning when I was seven. I see less reason to buy it now.

#2 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:20 PM:

In other words: Rummy, you're doing a heck of a job.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:22 PM:

Robert, he already said that. That's why I briefly got my hopes up.

#4 ::: Raw Data ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 03:58 PM:

There shouldn't be too much surprise here -- though hope springs eternal -- if you read Woodward's "Plan of Attack" which paints a portrait (undisputed by anyone quoted in the book) that of a President who doesn't encourage discussion or ask question.

What I found most extraordinary is that GW never asked, discussed, consulted etc the wisdom or even the conduct of the war with his own father, a man so uniquely situated to give advice on warring with Saddam Hussein that if it weren't fact, one would simply call the situation amongst those three men fiction...too amazing to be credible.

#5 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:01 PM:

I heard someone the other day, probably on NPR, talking about the history of Presidents dumping various cabinet members. This Illustrious Person was saying that, historically, if there is a policy creating problems for a Prez, dumping the cabinet member in charge helps a bit at first, but if the problem remains, the public eventually sees the problem was never really the cabinet member's fault so much as it was the President's.

His guess was that either Bush or Bush's people know this, and that the problem of Iraq is not going to go away for a very long time, and that is why this Illustrious Person's prediction is that Bush will never, ever dump Rumsfeld.

Bush will get to look like the Square-Jawed Loyal Guy, the cut of whose jib his supporters will indubitably adore, and at the same time he'll get to have Rummy keep taking it up the bum for the nightmare policies Bush himself created.

What a bargain!

#6 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:01 PM:

"Bush no more wants to fire Rumsfeld than a drunk wants to fire his bartender."

She shoots! She scores! And another zinger goes into the TNH quotefile.

#7 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:36 PM:

Rumsfeld is the only person in what we might call Bush's 'war cabinet' with actual military experience. With whom would Chimpy replace him?

#8 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:38 PM:

Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

Because I'm the Daddy. So there. Neener neener neener.

Jesus, this is the basis for a government?

#9 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 04:57 PM:

Rumsfeld is the only person in what we might call Bush's 'war cabinet' with actual military experience. With whom would Chimpy replace him?

Well, a lot of people in charge of federal departments and agencies (EPA, Interior, Labor) right now were chosen because of their lifelong opposition to the goals of those agencies. Maybe the new Secretary of Defense could be Ward Churchill.

#10 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Pretend, for the moment, that Rumsfeld tendered his resignation again and said "Seriously, Mr President. I'm not showing up for work tomorrow. Good luck."

Who would GW be able to find who would willingly step into that tar pit? Or if not willingly, just what would GW need to do to coerce this hypothetical replacement? Send his wife and kids to Gitmo?

And then, think of the confirmation hearings. Oh, what fun they'd be.

#11 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:40 PM:

ďI hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation."

Wait. So does he no longer make a point of not reading the papers? Or was this just another lie--sorry, a rhetorical device?

#12 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 05:48 PM:

And here I thought he was a uniter, not a decider.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:03 PM:

Bruce, I cannot tell a lie: it's a good line, but it's Jim Macdonald's. I only get a fraction of a point for spotting it and using it.

#14 ::: Things That Ain't So ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:15 PM:

Bush hears voices.

We all suspected this, didn't we?

Such a sad thing, really.

#15 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:16 PM:

A thought that I hope won't produce annoyance, (although I fear that it might):

If we're serious about contributing to a public consensus that Bush is really, really wrong -- and a threat to public safety, I'm not sure how useful it is to deliberately misconstrue his broken English.

I believe that it will be obvious to fencesitters that this Bushism is not a statement that he's hearing imaginary voices. It's a characteristic, poorly-formed acknowledgement of public criticism -- criticism that he intends to ignore.

The simple fact that Bush sees a pre-emptive nuclear strike as a possible military option for the United States should be enough to raise the questions about his mental competence that we wish to raise. My instinct about mass media tells me that the terrible stupidity of that idea is what needs to be explained again and again, for people who don't get it, instinctively. (Obvious op cit: Billmon.)

I worry that ironic burlesque about clinical symptoms of mental illness (that aren't obviously present) may tip fencesitters in the opposite direction. I'm scared that we can't afford to do that. In this case, "hearing voices in his head" is the wrong clinical symptom. Republican fencesitters might fixate on that insinuation being wrong, instead of registering the egotism and cognitive disability that Bush's speech patterns actually suggest.

ML isn't the "mass media." My sense of proportion about irony alienating Republican fencesitters may be misplaced, here. And for all I know, Bush really *does* hear voices in his head. I'm just a bit obsessed right now, that everyone needs a clear path to explanations of Bush's *demonstrable* insanity. I apologize if I'm being presumptuous and silly.

#16 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 06:21 PM:

So does he no longer make a point of not reading the papers?

To be fair, the quote only says "I read the front page" and doesn't imply that he reads any further. For that matter, he doesn't say what front page he's talking about. It may be the front page of his daily briefing. Or the front page of My Pet Goat.

Or perhaps that's giving him too much credit. (I mean for studied ambiguity, rather than for reading...)


#17 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 07:41 PM:

Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

It gives me the chills.

#18 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:29 PM:

Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

I don't know: to some extent that's a perfectly reasonable description of what it means to have executive authority. The problem is that his decisions are, I presume, supposed to be taken with a mind to the best interests of the USA. No-one is disputing his right to decide: they are disputing the correctness of the decisions he makes (and perhaps also his competence to make them).

I take Lenny's point, but there is a legitimate point to be made about the president's difficulty in expressing himself clearly; and there is also a wider point to be made about the whole idea of political opposition. Ironic burlesque, or satire, can certainly backfire; but it is just as easy to be accused of humourlessness by going in the opposite direction. (Remember Al Gore?) I don't know that it's good policy to be trying to convert the Republican blogs, who will surely oppose even the most reasoned argument. It might be better to hope that people will cease to vote for a President who has been made to look ridiculous. OK, it's a bit of a forlorn hope, but I'm damned if my political opponents are going to be off-limits for jokes.

Besides, it's fun to be pedantic.

#19 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:31 PM:

Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

So was Stalin, just to pick a name to drop. It's a long list and now, sadly, we've got ours. Dammit.

#20 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:31 PM:

Actually, my main worry is not that the voices Bush hears are imaginary (or pathological) but that they belong only to Cheney, Rumsfeld and his other close advisers. It would almost be a relief if he started to act unpredictably.

#21 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:40 PM:

Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

I don't know: to some extent that's a perfectly reasonable description of what it means to have executive authority.

The "to some extent" is controlling here. The executive decides what happens, not what is best. What was best is usually decided several hundred years later by people who never got out of college (I'm not anti-historian, just being snarky).

#22 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 08:57 PM:

Perhaps "I'm the decider, and I decide what's best" might be construed to mean: "The responsibility for choosing a course of action is mine alone, as the Chief Executive. I take advice as to the lawfulness, propriety, ethics, wisdom, effect and efficacy of the various decisions I must make, always placing first the honour and the service of the Republic and the public weal; but the decisions I take are my decisions and my responsibility alone."

Or on the other hand, perhaps that would be reading too much into it.

#23 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:02 PM:

I miss Reagan. At least when he said something I disagreed with, I think he actually understood what he was saying and he actually articulated it.

Did I just say that? Wait...why are those men with white coats here?

#24 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:03 PM:

"Iím the decider..."

Okay, word-people...Is "decider" even a word? And if it isn't, doesn't that, alone, fill you with anger?

#25 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:06 PM:

The executive decides what happens, not what is best.

That's true - I hadn't thought of that. I suppose the American people decides what's best and loan the President the power to implement it. That, of course, depends on exciting historical things like transparency and honesty and oversight and fair elections.

I wonder how much of Bush's political understanding is summed up in the phrase "I'm the decider"?

#26 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:16 PM:

Candle: I think all of it. It's like he's stuck in the second grade: "When I grow up I'm gonna be President an' I'll never hafta go to bed early again! And you'll be sorry you were mean to me!" (Of course, I'm sure Babs and Poppy never made him go to bed early, or deprived him of dessert, or anything at all that might have disturbed his fragile widdle ego.)

#27 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 09:24 PM:

Okay, word-people...Is "decider" even a word? And if it isn't, doesn't that, alone, fill you with anger?
1. m-w.com (Merriam Webster) believes that decider is a word. Though I would guess that the word means "only germane factor in a decision" more than "decision maker"
2. No, the P.USA making up words doesn't make me angry. I do it all the time. It's something that native speakers of a language do. Sometimes because it's funny, sometimes because it's witty, sometimes because it gets a point across, sometimes because it's a mistake. It does make me a little sad that the head of state for one of the richest and most highly educated nations in the world would not refrain from that activity when speaking publically.

I wonder how much of Bush's political understanding is summed up in the phrase "I'm the decider"?
I would guess the exact same proportion as how much of his ethical belief is summed up in the phrase "Act confidently and you will be respected as a man."
With a special note that I am entirely aware that the phrase I put forward for Bush's ethics is utterly without ethical basis or impact.

#28 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 10:35 PM:

"Who would GW be able to find who would willingly step into that tar pit? Or if not willingly, just what would GW need to do to coerce this hypothetical replacement? Send his wife and kids to Gitmo?"

Not such a joke--that's exactly John Snow is still Secretary of the Treasury.

#29 ::: The other Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 10:52 PM:

I'm just happy somebody else but me commented on the downright weirdness of the word "decider". It's like, some people have a way with words, and other people ... don't ... have a way.

#30 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2006, 11:27 PM:

Not such a joke--that's exactly John Snow is still Secretary of the Treasury.

Elucidate?

#31 ::: moe99 ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 01:39 AM:

Ok, I am agreed that Bush is the. worst. president. ever.

And his willing tools are in the same category.

But I have two concerns.

The first is that, we fire Rummy, who will replace him? No one better, and probably just the same or a little bit worse. Doug Feith?
Confirmation is not going to be a problem b/c Bush will do what he did w/ Bolton: recess appointment.

But the second concern is more fundamental. And it goes to the very nature of our government.

Cedant Armae Togae.

Let the civilians govern the military.

There are good, solid reasons for why we do not let the military rule us, and this is borne out by history. Let's look at Rome, for staters, the source of this quotation. When the civilians ran the Roman military, the Empire flourished. When the army took it over, that was the slippery slope down. No accountability. Think tin pot dictatorships in Central and Latin America, such as Argentina under the generals.

I agree with what the military are saying about Bush, hell I predicted 3 years ago that an Iraqi invasion would be doomed, for many of the same reasons that have actually come to pass. But I do not want this to be a turning point where the military can use the execrable unfitness of the current civilian powers that be to be the ones who determine our path and thereby take upon them the mantle of governance. I want us to be very clear about this point, the military have every right, when out of active/inactive duty, to criticize the CiC and his factotums for their many failures. But don't let the power, therefore, flow to them.

#32 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 02:31 AM:

Candle: I just get confused, sometimes, about the context of blog posts as urgent public appeals to reason versus blog posts as personal editorial expressions. Making Light isn't the New York Times, (or even The Sideshow) and Teresa is under no constraint to write as if it were either of those things.

I'm overworried about what looks to me like casual acceptance of Bush's ideas about tactical nukes in mass media, and caught up in the concept of political blogs as a last battlefield for public common sense.

#33 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 02:59 AM:

moe: I don't see anyone suggesting that the retired generals be granted a right over civilian authority. What I see is that the things "we civilians, who know nothing about the military" etcetera, have been saying about the mismanagement of DoD in general and Bush's wars in particular, are being echoed by people with undeniable and distinguished military credentials. (Though, in the usual fashion, their pasts are being defamed as well.)

There are very good reasons why Secretary of Defense is a civilian job. He is supposed to see that the American military doesn't act like the Praetorian Guard. (Just like the protections of the Constitution were installed in response to abuses that the guys who wrote the rules had seen in action.) But the SecDef needs to have some kind of understanding of military operations, so he can tell when the advice he's getting lines up with real capabilities and not wishful thinking, whoever the advice happens to come from.

And a Secretary whose evident aims are to run the military on the cheap in human terms -- cutting people and all their associated costs, like benefits and for god's sake body armor, while transferring as much of its budget as possible to outside contractors without accountability for performance, is a waste of everyone's time and money -- not to mention soldiers' lives.

#34 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 03:16 AM:

CHip: there's of course a "why" missing from that sentence, but I believe its point is that no one with the requisite grasp of our economic situation would want to be Secretary of the Treasury at this particular historical moment, so no one is going to jump up to replace Snow. (I believe Max Sawicky recently had something to say about this.)

Treasury isn't a meaningless, phone-in job that anyone sober enough to utter a soundbite without falling unconscious can hold, like, say, FEMA.* The larger economic community pay attention to who holds the job, and their responses can be significant.

This and the other one were way too much political posting for one evening. Apologies all round.

*Irony. So it's clear.

#35 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 03:29 AM:

moe, you say there'd be a recess app't to replace SecDef. Here's the Congressional schedule from now till Election Day:

May 14 -- Mother's Day
May 29 -- Memorial Day
May 29 -- June 2 District Work Period
June 14 -- Flag Day
June 18 -- Father's Day
July 3 -- July 7 District Work Period
July 4 -- Independence Day
July 31 - September 1 -- District Work Period
September 4 -- Labor Day
September 22 -- Rosh Hashanah
October 2 -- Yom Kippur
October 6 -- Target date for Adjournment
October 9 -- Columbus Day

The only time he could politically do it would be in August, and even then I think there'd be one helluva firestorm from the Dems and some Republicans if he tried it.

Those confirmation hearings would be a donnybrook, I'm betting. They'd turn into a referendum on Bush and war policy, and I'm sure that's the last thing they want in an election year.

So I think Rummy stays, but he's a very wounded Secretary.

#36 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 03:47 AM:

This may just be outrage fatigue speaking, but I can't see why there'd be any significant fuss at all at hearings for a Rumsfeld replacement. The major players on the Republican side would keep it cool. The centrist/respectable wing of the Democratic side would do the same, with bloviating speeches and pointless questions. Any actually interesting question or illuminating answer would be generally ignored in media coverage and misrepresented to the extent it was covered. And we'd get a new secretary of defense just like we got new justices.

I'd like to believe otherwise but I still don't see any sign that the entrenched powers of the Democratic party regard stopping Bush's agenda as a priority, high or low. And certainly neither the Republicans nor the mass media do.

#37 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 05:32 AM:

'Is "decider" even a word? '

Yes, de cider is what you drink when you're trying get off de hard stuff.

#38 ::: Anna in Cairo ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 07:53 AM:

The Sadly, No! people did a terrific Seuss take off based on "I'm the decider" as they correctly pointed out that it looks a lot like something a Seuss character would say:
http://www.sadlyno.com/archives/002598.html

Enjoy...

#39 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 08:39 AM:

I think Bush regards Rumsfeld, Rove, and Cheney as disciples (and himself as christ-like).

Good grief!

#40 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 08:46 AM:

The only way Rummy goes right now is if a serving General (and I mean "select name from Generals where stars = 4;") sacrifices his career and quite possibly his freedom to stand up to him.

BushCo can't afford the firestorm -- the only thing worse than keeping Rummy would be to try and replace him. They can brush off retired generals with a wink and a nod to "well, there's a reason he's retired, of course he's out for revenge, just politics, he couldn't take the new, modern army, blah blah...."

However, if the top brass -- the ones selected by Rummy -- stand up and say "You can destroy me, my career, my retirment, everything -- but this is wrong, and it must stop" then the dynamics change.

Why? Because the only thing worse that replacing Rummy would be to have to publically court martial a General in order to keep him -- esp. if that General can pull an Ollie North with the press.

Of course, even if Rummy did go, that officer's career would be over -- and he may well find that his service record will end with his discharge as an E-1 with all pay forfeit.

#41 ::: LaPopessa ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 11:16 AM:

That decider hears de voices is no surprise the most of us. Would that he could hear the voices of the people, and not just the psychosis in his brain. He can't fire Rumsfeld when the world is asking for it because that would make Bush seem to be taking the advice of the public. Since he appears to think he was placed in his position by God and serves at his pleasure, (those voices again), what the public thinks will never be of any consequence.

#42 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 11:38 AM:

As usual, Mark Morford has a good take on Bush's behavior.

As to the latest news (via the NY Times online) about the staff shake-up where Rummy stays, the White House spokesman flees or gets booted out, and Rove supposedly loses his job -- any comments?

#43 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 11:56 AM:

I decide whatís best. And whatís best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defence.

This is literally true, if one supplies the missing clause: I decide what's best for the cabal currently in power.

Of course, considering that his job description is to decide what's best for the country, this is yet another egregious failure to perform his job properly.

#44 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 12:13 PM:

Morford's column (You may have to cut and paste, I'm horrible at making links...)

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2006/04/19/notes041906.DTL

#45 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 12:31 PM:

I'm pleasantly surprised that anyone could still believe that President Bush might willingly and knowingly take any action to change things for the better, or at all. It seems clear that he believes he is living in (and running) the best of all possible worlds, and the tragedy (if he thinks about it, which he probably doesn't) is that nobody else sees that obvious fact.

If we are to be saved, or even reprieved, it will not be by any action of Bush or anyone in his administration: I'm tempted to say anyone in current world politics.

#46 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 12:49 PM:

Popessa: Megalomania (delusions of grandeur) is usually considered to be a separate psychiatric disorder from dissociative schizophrenia (part of the brain splits off from the main personality and starts sending messages that the main personality perceives as voices speaking inside the head).

Bush exhibits behavior more obviously associated with the first disorder than the second. The breakdown he's shown in the last five years in constructing clear complete sentences is probably associated with a third condition.

These may be irrelevant distinctions to most people. What I worry about is voters with an intuitive grasp of the distinctions between various types of mental illness buying into Republican spinmeister propaganda that Democrats lie and distort everything Bush does. "He's obviously *not* a paranoid schizophrenic -- look at the way they distort things to score points."

In the meantime, it may not be as easy for spinmeisters to convince people that he's not a megalomaniac. It makes more sense to me to pick on the "I am the Decider" part of his statement (which a number of people are now doing) than on the "I hear the voices" part.

At this point, I've probably generated more verbiage on the subject than it's worth.

#47 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 01:41 PM:

Erik Olson writes:
The only way Rummy goes right now is if a serving General (and I
mean "select name from Generals where stars = 4;") sacrifices his
career and quite possibly his freedom to stand up to him.

Perhaps, but it was worth giving "revolt of the retired generals" a try, before going to that step.

#48 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 02:32 PM:

Cedant Armae Togae

[pedantry] cedant arma togae I think. "arma" ought to be neuter plural. (If I'm right in thinking the intended meaning is "they exchange their weapons for the toga".) [/pedantry]

Lenny: I do see where you are coming from, I think. Perhaps I'm optimistic - or perhaps, as I'm not American[*], I'm not grasping the hopelessness of the situation - but I don't want to believe that blogs are our only hope. I still want them to be pleasant and entertaining diversions. Of course, my wanting it isn't going to make it true.

[*] Although I do live in Oregon.

#49 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 06:14 PM:

Faren Miller: As to the latest news (via the NY Times online) about the staff shake-up where Rummy stays, the White House spokesman flees or gets booted out, and Rove supposedly loses his job -- any comments?

The referenced article states that "Karl Rove gave up his portfolio as senior policy coordinator. The change may reduce his overall stature at the White House, but it appears to leave him in charge of political strategy." This was also what the CNN article I saw was suggesting. I took it to mean that Rove was meant to take an even more active hand in running or at least eminence-grising campaigns.

Sounds to me like moderate pre-election jitters/panic, and they don't want Rove distracted from doing that voodoo that he does all too well.

I wonder what happens now if Rove sees some policy as being bad for a campaign?

#50 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 06:39 PM:

I think the change in Rove's job description means he'll wear black clothes and makeup when he stands behind Bush making his mouth move.

#51 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 07:19 PM:

At this point, I'm not sure if anyone who replaced Ramsfield would be able to accomplish the mission of preventing Iraqi civil war, establishing democracy there, etc. But I think that there are likely to be a number of reality-based candidates who could, at the very least, take us down the exact same results that Ramsfield will get us, but with far fewer casualties. At this point, that may be the only gravy in this. But to me, thats gravy enough.

#52 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 07:53 PM:

"'Not such a joke--that's exactly John Snow is still Secretary of the Treasury.'

"Elucidate?"

To elucidate, they've been leaking rumors about firing John Snow for a year or so, but they can't find anyone of stature willing to take the position.

#53 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 09:54 PM:

they can't find anyone of stature willing to take the position

All the smart ones are looking at what's coming down the road and saying 'I don't want to be in that office when that hits!'

#54 ::: JDRhoades ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 10:56 PM:

Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

I don't know: to some extent that's a perfectly reasonable description of what it means to have executive authority.

Not in a Republic with a system of checks and balances.

#55 ::: Jonathan Shaw ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2006, 11:20 PM:

I just had a conversation with my son, in which I said that at least John W Howard, the PM of Australia, in contrast to GWB, talks to people. He engages regularly with callers on talkback radio and gives some kind of account of his decisions. My son wouldn't have a bar of it. He simply wouldn't acknowledge that there's a difference between, "I'm the decider and I decide what's best, so Rumsfeld stays" on the one hand, and on the other, "I believe my ministers when they say they had no knowledge of [in this case] the illegal payment of bribes to Saddam Hussein by the Australian Wheat Board, so Vaile and Downer stay." It's a distinction I cling to, all the same, hoping that democracy is in marginally better condition in this country.

#56 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 02:57 AM:

But Iím the decider and I decide whatís best.

I think this is Bush's version of "The buck stops here." It's a pretty twisted reworking, more like "the buck starts here" or "Scott McClellan, I want you to eat that buck".

I for one hope the press and the Democrats hang Rumsfeld and this whole dirty war around Bush's neck. High time for the CEO president to get the new earnings reports.

The real point of "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation" is that Bush is trying to talk according to a template he has heard elsewhere, "brave politician standing up for his friend being crucified in the press, no matter the fallout, because it's the right thing to do dammit". It comes out like a parody, clipped and uninviting. It doesn't flow. It betrays no deeper integrity. It provides no explanations.

If Bill Clinton had said it, it would've been about a paragraph longer, and it would make you feel all warm inside, like watching a movie.

#57 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 12:16 PM:

I donít think Bush is mentally illóthatís too easyóor stupid (in general)óthough I wish he were smarter. What I think we really see here is a man who is a product of privilege. (Taking out my big generalization broom) old-money-types* tend to have an utter cluelessness and indifference to practically everyone and everything outside their social class. Bush ignores the masses, because they *are* the masses. They are outside his worldview because heís the product of an upbringing that constantly reinforces that he really is better than everyone else. His ďIím the deciderĒ is not an assertion of competent authority; itís an assertion of expected privilege.

He comes from a world where money and connections trump results. Screw up? Move on to some new adventure with similar milquetoasts because they canÖsomeone else will clean up the mess. Witness his recent statement about a future president deciding when to pull out of Iraq. Itís like dumping a company that isnít performing quite as expected. Move on. Drive up the national debt. And move on.

Layer on his conversion to a religious faith that claims the one truth about god and everything else is wrong, and you have a very sharp double-edged sword.


*the actual dollar figure is irrelevant---there are richer people than the Bushes, but the Bushes have traveled in these circles for a couple of generations now.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Mark DF: Don't forget that he's used to having someone else handle the messes he may or may not know he's leaving behind. He's been rescued more times than Pauline ever was.

#59 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 02:09 PM:

When Bush says "I am the decider",
this is what he means.

#60 ::: Mark DF ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2006, 03:56 PM:

P J: Exactly. You know, it just occurred to me: Bush was a useless drunk until he was my current age. Now, I may have an ego (and I leave to others to debate how big it is!) but I can sit here and honestly say that I have no expectation of being President of the US someday. Even as he bowed before the porcelain god, I doubt Bush actively thought the presidency of anything--including the country---was out of his reach. And that's what privileged thinking is all about.

#61 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 01:16 AM:

I think term "privileged" has simply become pejorative code for "someone who grew up with more money than I did" and even if stripped of the pejorative, is still a highly relative term like "tall." You can point to who is more privileged or less privileged than yourself or someone else, but it's a gradient, and there are certain various privileges more open to some folk than others.

George W. Bush may have spent many years as a silly drunken wastrel before embarking on a political career, but given his family, considering that he might one day be President if he played his cards right is no more unusual than a Medici thinking me might one day become Pope. George W. Bush becoming Pope or even the King of England? I think even in his most drunken state, he probably didn't think that.

As for keeping Rumsfeld, this is pretty much a no-brainer for Bush: If he fires Rumsfeld, he not only admits defeat, but it's not as if there anyone out there who could magically turn defeat into victory or at least not in the two and a half years he has left in office, and that's all he cares about anyway. If he keeps Rumsfeld, he not only looks like the staunch steadfast guy to all the people who voted for him, but all the people who hate him and his policies will spend a great deal of time hating Rumsfeld first.

#62 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:20 AM:

Jon Carroll tackles the "decider" thing in today's SFGate column. Rather than going for the fancy link, I'll just give the info: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2006/04/21/DDGNSGUG7J1.DTL&type=printable

#63 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2006, 11:56 AM:

Bush Senior had no way with words either.

And he was a hell of a lot smarter and more able than his son.

The chance of me going a week without saying something stupid in public is small, and I am saved only by the lack of cameras and mics everywhere I go.

Which is to say: He's an idiot, and dangerous, and utterly out of touch. . . but I don't think "the decider" or "I hear the voices" is the point on which to spike him.

"Mission Accomplished", yeah. "Wanted: Dead or Alive" vs "We never really were that concerned with Osama Bin Laden" *, yeah. Even that thing in the first presidential debate where he said that if oil prices go up, we just need to have a good discussion with OPEC.

But, though it may be illustrative of his unclear state in general, I think that mocking his verbal spasms is like trimming the edges of a tumor.

* I am too lazy to find the actual quote.

#64 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2006, 10:37 AM:

In some ways, Buish isn't the problem. He's a frontman for a faction with roots going back to the Nixon era, and their tactics, even if they worked in the Eighties, are failing now.

That's what I'm wary of Republican dissatisfaction; for anything to change any clean-out has to go much deeper than the figurehead.

And, while I can see how the US system might alter the dynamics, and how the Democratic Party might want to get the Primaries out of the way, the clock is ticking. Is there time to discredit the party and the figureheads? If the Democratic Party hasn't yet taken a stand on these issues, how can they blame the Republican incumbents for letting things slide?

Over here in the UK it's sometimes difficult, from what proposals they support, to tell one major party from another. I can't be sure of the USA, but the silence over the misdeeds of the Bush faction, and the apparent bias of US politics to what we Europeans think of as The Right, certainly doesn't make me confident that there can be change.

Still, it looks as though Mr. Berlusconi is finished. Which is a start.

#65 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:02 PM:

Here's a question that occurred to me, re: Rumsfeld's job security:

If you were the Secretary of Defense, wouldn't that put you in a position where you'd be able to obtain a complete and unaltered copy of some guy's National Guard records?

Just askin'.

#66 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 12:15 PM:

Bruce Arthurs: Or make sure it's very thoroughly lost?

#67 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2006, 02:04 PM:

It's pretty interesting that a hearing or something in one of the houses of congress I heard on NPR lambasting Bush about his oil policies (in regards to the fact that he and his buddies in office are all oil men) has gotten zero press coverage, as far as I can tell. Maybe just because it's the Democrats speaking.

Sigh.

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