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December 20, 2006

Never counting the cost
Posted by Teresa at 01:30 AM * 133 comments

Patrick just came in to say that Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings put up a post about Bush’s rejection of the Iraq Study Group’s report that more or less duplicated the rant I delivered to him while cooking dinner this evening.* It’s a good post. Here’s a chunk of it:

A lot of us assume that people operate within certain normal parameters: we assume that someone who looks like a normal person won’t pull out a machine gun over lunch for no reason, and don’t worry about that possibility unless something suggests it, even though it would be pretty bad if it actually happened. Likewise, I assume that my friends won’t go out of their way to seriously harm me just for fun, and [I make] all the rest of those basic, unnoticed assumptions that allow life to go on.

I think that Bush violates those assumptions. He is more or less completely irresponsible. You can see this tripping people up over and over. For instance, when Colin Powell gives Bush his ‘hey, think really hard about Iraq; you break it, you own it’ speech: that seems to have been, for Powell, a big deal to do, and for him, assuming responsibility for a whole country would be a big deal as well. I don’t think Powell understood that he was dealing with someone to whom those words would mean nothing.

…[A]fter the ISG report came out, I heard a number of people say things like: “Bush can’t ignore this report.”

With normal people, they’d be right. (And normalcy here is pretty minimal.) Normal people would not be able to ignore a report like this, either because it would be flatly unreasonably to just ignore a report with these authors or because it would be imprudent. Similarly, normal people couldn’t possibly invade Iraq without making sure that someone had drawn up careful and detailed plans about what would happen after the fall of Baghdad. I mean, how could someone possibly overlook that?

The problem is that Bush is not, in this sense, a normal person. … [The] sense of “can’t” that’s at work in statements like “he can’t just ignore the combination of the ISG report, the election, his own unpopularity, and the unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff” has no purchase on him whatsoever.

She notes that unlike the pundits, Atrios, Ezra Klein, and Atrios again knew that Bush would insist on continuing to fight his disastrous war, because that’s what he’s been saying he’d do all along.

Fancy that.

I’ve written about Bushspeak before, mostly to point out its unashamed lack of meaning. (Bush is to public discourse as Three Card Monte is to card game.) The other side of that is spotting the times Bush does mean something. Briefly: if he says it over and over again; if changing circumstances cause him to make changing arguments that nevertheless arrive at identical conclusions; and if it consistently commands his time and attention, odds are he actually means it. This yields a short list: going to war in Iraq, cutting taxes in the upper brackets, getting rid of the estate tax, privatizing Social Security, continuing to fight in Iraq … and not much else.

I keep telling Jim Macdonald, when he’s trying to figure out Bush’s Iraq policy, that he’s crediting the man with excessively complex and detailed thought processes. Why does Bush insist on staying the course, and/or making One Last Big Push? Because if he agrees to pull out, he doesn’t get what he wants. However, he might get what he wants if he keeps insisting that we keep fighting the war, no matter what the consequences. That’s all. This is a man who’s never paid the cost of anything in his life, and has no interest in the costs to others.

From a recent Bush/Blair joint press conference:

Q. Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group said that leaders must be candid and forthright with people. So let me test that. Are you capable of admitting your failures in the past, and perhaps much more importantly, are you capable of changing course, perhaps in the next few weeks?

BUSH: I think you’re probably going to have to pay attention to my speech coming up here when I get all the recommendations in, and you can answer that question, yourself. I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed. I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped. And therefore, it makes sense to analyze the situation and to devise a set of tactics and strategies to achieve the objective that I have stated.

The correct answer would have been “No. I am not capable of admitting failure. I am also incapable of changing course, no matter how desperately it’s needed.”

There’s no assumption of responsibility in his statement. No admission of doubt. No regret. No acknowledgement that he’s presiding over one of the greatest military and foreign relations disasters in United States history. No acknowledgement that the cost of his proposed course of action will be unacceptably high in six different ways. Just “We have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed,” and a final admission that his objective has not changed.

Bush has of late been pushing the “We can only lose if we quit” line, and invoking analogies to Vietnam. That is: disaster can be turned into success, if only we try hard enough. There’s a very simple counter to that argument: Forget trying harder. We’ll try as hard as we need to. The real question is, what do we define as success, and how much are we willing to pay for it?

(That is, by the way, the response to assertions that we could have won in Vietnam if only we hadn’t been hamstrung by our own leaders: What do you mean by “win,” and how much would you have been willing to pay for it? The varieties of “winning” that were still possible were looking nastier and more pointless all the time, and the costs were running most unreasonably high.)

The Iraq Study Group’s recommendations were aimed at getting our troops out without having the situation around them collapse into civil war, chaos, and running guerrilla battles all the way to the sea. Also, without leaving behind every bit of military gear that’s too big to pick up and run with. Their estimate that this might be possible was based on the assumption that preparations for it would start soon, and be pursued in a determined and orderly fashion.

Do you imagine that if dumping more troops into Iraq and making One More Big Push were enough to win the war, the Iraq Study Group wouldn’t have mentioned it? Bush’s plan doesn’t address any of the actual, identifiable problems of the Iraq occupation. He’s just throwing good money after bad, only now he’s going to throw it harder, and use both hands.

A quote from Ingvar Kamprad:

A design without a pricetag is meaningless.
And a last quote from Hilzoy:
Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that someone has no limits whatsoever.
Comments on Never counting the cost:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:50 AM:

I think there's another motive for this brave talk about staying until the job is done and one big push & etcetera:

When the new Congress and/or the pissed off military establishment and/or a disgusted public say "enough, we're not enabling your neurotic frat boy loser dick-waving game anymore," and the inevitable* happens -- chaos, hundreds of thousands more dead, societal collapse, a region in turmoil -- Bush and the neoconservatives and the peanut gallery of stern principled realists will be able to shake a finger and say: "We could have won if it wasn't for you! You condemned millions to misery and tyranny! Why didn't you listen?"

Bastards.

* Inevitable, as in, would happen no matter what.

#2 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:17 AM:

I'm sure that Bush and McCain have that in mind. It's much like the "we wuz robbed in Vietnam" argument.

#3 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:34 AM:

This is a man who’s never paid the cost of anything in his life, and has no interest in the costs to others.
This is precisely the point, in part, of Justin Frank's BUSH ON THE COUCH.

I keep telling Jim Macdonald, when he’s trying to figure out Bush’s Iraq policy, that he’s crediting the man with excessively complex and detailed thought processes.
Bush has too hard a time just keeping his own private little world together to have any sort of complex thought process. A very brief excerpt from Frank's book:

"Bush's aids say he 'never anguishes over decisions, preferring to gather information, make a decision, and move on,' according to a U.S. News and World Report cover story. The president is also known for keeping a strictly regimented daily routine, in which short, heavily scheduled workdays with brief meetings are punctuated by regular breaks for exercise. Some would praise this as evidence of a disciplined mind, but it points equally to a desire to minimize the impact of a short attention span, and avoid the impulsive behavior that can otherwise result. As commentators Eric Alterman and Mark Green have reported, Bush's 'advisors have admitted that the staff usually limits him to three or four thirty- to forty-five minute "policy time" sessions per week, about what Bill Clinton engaged in per day. Then, more often than not, the president sloughs off responsibility with the admonishment, "You guys decide it."'" (BUSH ON THE COUCH, Justin A. Frank, M.D., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2004, p. 26-27)

The other side of that is spotting the times Bush does mean something. Briefly: if he says it over and over again...
Part of the Frank's point in the passage cited above is that Bush exhibits the classic signs of ADHD, and that he resorts to very simple statements and repeating certain phrases again and again to help him to "stay on message."

#4 ::: steve ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:51 AM:

It is an important observation that Bush does not behave as we expect him to. When I started imagining that Bush simply wanted to become dictator, overthrowing the laws of the land and the Constitution, I found that it was hard to find any act that did not make sense. Assume that the war in Iraq is being fought not to win. Nor to lose. Only to fight. Then the special powers of a "wartime President" begin to have real, and permanent, meaning. So do the rather bizzare provisions of the Patriot and Military Comissions act that build a whole dysfunctional judiciary within the executive and throw people in jail without charge, without public trial, without hope of seeing the light of day.

Of course, it is impossible to prove; but assuming the worst makes the cognitive dissonance go away. And one can focus less on fighting the incomprehensibly massive incompetence, and more on fighting the very comprehensible but massive malfeasance.

#5 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:12 AM:

Anyone else wondering if the DSM VII will include the diagnosis "OCD: Warring", or "OCD: Destiny"?

I don't see his behavior as being much different from your standard fill-your-garden variety hoarder. Because those cats need the loving care of the hoarder, it cannot be the case that each additional cat makes the stench worse. If you'd just let them have their 100th cat, you'll see the proof of how right they were to take in and let happen the first 99.

Because it is his destiny, because the US needs him, it will all work out. If you'll just let him have his 100th battalion, you'll see how right he was to sending in the first 99.

#6 ::: Leslie in CA ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:38 AM:

This is also why Bush is the figurehead for the Cheney presidency, who is the real "theorist" behind the unitary executive. Bush is indifferent to, and willfully ignorant of, the complexities surrounding almost every action his administration has undertaken.

Of course he likes the idea of being dictator, as steve points out; but he doesn't really care about the reasoning behind it, or any of the legal or Constitutional violations it entails. That's Cheney's problem, and Gonzalez's, Hadley's, Yoo's, etc. Let them worry about the details; Bush just wants the perks, like the narcissistic child he still is.

This is a man who’s never paid the cost of anything in his life ...

And he's not about to start now. Hence the surge; it postpones accountability and leaves the mess for the next person to clean up, and be the scapegoat for whatever tragedies occur when we finally do withdraw.

#7 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:56 AM:

Oops! O.O I wrote "...part of the Frank's point...", when I meant to say "...part of Frank's point..." I had originally written "...part of the book's point..." This is what I get for editing my comment and then not rereading the ENTIRE sentence afterwards to make sure it made sense. :shakes head: LOL

#8 ::: Naomi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:04 AM:

Please don't forget that in the UK we have good old Tony BLiar who is also incapable of admitting he has made any errors. insufficient or incorrect equipment for the troops in Iraq, ignoring counsel from the military, and on and on and on, and how it would beht coward's way out to give upnow, bla, bla bla... these two sing from the same hymn sheet! It is unforgivable that the 'Allies' went into Iraq without any plan for what to do when they got there- Jo Soap in the street knez that they would open up a sectarian can of worms but not our two heroes... We can get rid of Blair by May, but you're stuck wwith Shrub for longer, so please, tell me, how could Clinton be threatened by impeachment for one lie and a blow-job, and yet Bush, and his puppetmaster, and cohorts lie every time they open their mouths - and GET AWAY WITH IT over and over again! How sad.
Happy Christmas Teresa anyway...

#9 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:41 AM:

Let's not forget the indefatigable John W Howard, utterly loyal (in his way) follower of George W Bush.

At least if Oz throws out the Coalition Government he heads in the next election (due sometime before January 2008, current speculation centres on October 2007), we'll have an Australian Labor Party government that sorta-kinda, not-out-loud, disapproved of the original push to war. (Tho' — despite huge popular demonstrations against it — they did vote with the Liberal/National coalition to send Australian troops (not Anzacs, the Kiwis stayed well clear) along.)

If UK Labour is defeated, won't the tories be even more behind the politically-similar Republican US policies?

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:10 AM:

Epacris @9

If UK Labour is defeated, won't the tories be even more behind the politically-similar Republican US policies?

At the moment, as Labour sounds more and more like the Tories, we're seeing the Tory leader sounding more and more like Labour used to.

Whether that would continue once they were actually in power, considering how far to the right much of the rump of the Conservative Party is, is another question.

Writing from up here in Scotland, I do wonder what another Tory government would do to the independence movement. The Conservative party has generally not done well by the folk north of the Border, and any slight or oversight would open up old wounds.

(Of course, by then I'll be in the Netherlands, and relegated to the status of interested observer. And Dutch politics are just bizarre.)

#11 ::: marrije ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:26 AM:

For a good primer on the bizarrity of Dutch politics, see the Quirksmode Dutch politics homepage. Peter-Paul knows what he's talking about, and he explains it better than most of us Dutch could, I think.

#12 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:33 AM:

marrije @11
Quirksmode is the only way I had any notion what was going on at the last election. It's an excellent site.

#13 ::: janeyolen ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:56 AM:

Peggy Noonan--of all people--wrote this in a column!


"Unlike anguished wartime presidents of old, he seems resolutely un-anguished. Think of the shattered Lincoln of the last Mathew Brady photographs, taken just weeks before he was assassinated. He’d gone from a bounding man of young middle age who awed his secretaries by his ability to hold a heavy ax from his fully outstretched arm, to, four years later, “the old tycoon.” Or anguished Lyndon B. Johnson sitting in the cabinet room by himself, literally with his head in his hands. History takes a toll.
But George W. Bush seems, in the day to day, the same as he was. It is part of the Bush conundrum—a supernal serenity or a confidence born of cluelessness? You decide. Where you stand on the war will likely determine your answer. But I’ll tell you, I wonder about it and do not understand it, either what it is or what it means. I’d ask someone in the White House, but they’re still stuck in Rote Talking Point Land: The president of course has moments of weariness but is sustained by his knowledge of the ultimate rightness of his course . . .
If he suffers, they might tell us; it would make him seem more normal, which is always a heartening thing to see in a president.
But maybe there is no suffering.
Maybe he outsources suffering. Maybe he leaves it to his father."


--Jane

#14 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:00 AM:

Epacris @ #9

I think the Howard government are currently flat-out busy arranging things to make it as difficult as possible for *any* successor to John Howard at home, in the optimistic hope that they'll be too busy dealling with rotten poll figures to do anything to annoy the US, such as withdrawing from their war. Certainly they appear to have resurrected the Australia Card (last shot down ignominiously in the late 1980s) and are planning to send it lurching off toward the Australian public in 2008. If that isn't a poisoned chalice, I don't know *what* is, since no matter what happens, the next incumbent of the Lodge will arrive too late to derail the whole process, and too soon to make any reasonable changes.

About the only thing I can see to be thankful for about it at the moment is that there aren't plans for it to have our tax file numbers on there. Oh, and that the minister who wrote the pamphlet I picked up announcing it (Special Minister of State, The Hon Gary Nairn MP) decided to title the silly thing "Soon One Card Could Replace Them All"...

Hopefully I'm not the only paranoid fan of LOTR out here.

#15 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:20 AM:

I've been arguing for a while that Bush is chaotic evil. This seems to be a hard thing for a lot of people to wrap their heads around--perhaps because they just don't want to believe that things are that bad, or perhaps because Bush *looks* like the head of a government with a legal system, and besides he likes the idea of punishment.

One of the markers for chaotic was how irritable he'd get when people asked him about his plans--he didn't want to risk getting pinned down.

I've been wondering how the people who chose Bush as a Presidential candidate (not the voters--the people who put him on the ballot) could have thought he was a reasonable choice. Surely some of them should have had some idea of his personality.

It may not have been reasonable to expect someone like Bush to have known he wasn't fit to be President--this means other people have to make that decision.

#16 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:33 AM:

Bush's short list of mind-numbingly dumb, destructive objectives: don't forget gutting the U.S. Treasury and destroying Social Security by turning it over to stock brokers (or replacing the rest of the country's social services infrastructure with faith-based graft).

#17 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:48 AM:

Naomi@8: so please, tell me, how could Clinton be threatened by impeachment for one lie and a blow-job, and yet Bush, and his puppetmaster, and cohorts lie every time they open their mouths - and GET AWAY WITH IT over and over again!

Our esteemed hostess once said one of the reasons she didn't believe in magic is that if it were real, we'd be seeing evidence of it. She meant in terms of spells going spectactularly wrong, but I'd like to suggest that many things about this country's response to the Bush administration could be explained by bad magic.

They even taunt us with Mordor references. This is just like the Bond villain revealing his secret plan to 007, or the YA villain doing the same and saying, "Go ahead and tell. Who will believe you?"

#18 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:26 AM:

The executive summary of the ISG:

"Blah blah blah George blah blah blah blah..."

#19 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:27 AM:

Nancy @ 15:

Bush was chosen because he loves campaigning. Runs for the presidency start three years before the election, minimum. McCain, Clinton, Obama, and everyone else with a toe in the water has already taken swimming lessons and put on their bathing suit, so to speak. The ones who are real contenders will work forty to sixty hours a week between the middle of 2007 and the early primaries. After the primaries it'll be more like seventy hours a week.

It's not impossibly hard work--meeting lots of people, asking for money and support, trying not to make too many promises. But there's an awful lot of it. The closest equivalent is a long road tour for a musician, only without the opportunity to get plastered and trash your hotel room.

Bush's actual talent at the job itself, being a President, wasn't a consideration. If it hadn't been for 9/11, we would have muddled through with damage to the EPA, the Justice department, and the other places that get stuffed with appointees. There's even a good chance he would have served only a single term, which would have denied him the Alito and Roberts appointments.

But for crying out loud, the man has famously said that when he makes a decision, he "goes with his gut." Why on earth does anyone expect to get anywhere talking to his brain?

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:38 AM:

Big Hank (19), because we have trouble believing that when the auguries are this bad and the stakes are this high, he still won't stop to reconsider.

#21 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:46 AM:

I've been thinking Bush has some sort of mental limitation the consequences of which is that (1) he can't empathize and (2) therefore cannot understand the consequences his actions have on others. He also (3) can't seem to grasp any concept other than the most direct statement. A nested conditional statement would be gibberish to him.

For a while, I used to wonder whether it was a result of nature or nurture. Whether he'd been born with a defective brain or whether his upbringing had trained him that money replaced thinking. But then at some point, I decided I didnt care.

Either way, our president is a buffoon.

#22 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:58 AM:

#19 BigHank: I think you're right about Bush's major qualification. In fact, that's the major qualification of most presidential candidates--they're good at getting elected. Bush was singularly unqualified to be president, but he was very good at getting elected, and he's been very good at keeping and consolodating power.

I'm very skeptical of attempts to psychoanalyze Bush remotely. What we see of Bush (or Hillary, or Bill, or McCain, or Obama) is professionally produced and spun image. The real people probably leak through now and again, but I don't think anyone can have much sense of what kind of people they are.

This is why (to beat a dead horse) McCain is an anti-corruption outsider, and Bush is just a good old boy from flyover country. Because those are the images they've cultivated, with help from people who are as good at spinning the media as any of us are at our jobs. It's important to remember this: think of the person you know who's best at your line of work. That's Karl Rove at winning elections. The Bush administration has been a disaster for the country, but for the first six years, he held onto power, and expanded his power, despite a string of failures.

People largely seem to vote on perceived personality. This would be a great way to choose the mayor of a small town, since you'd probably know the candidates or at least know people who knew them. For choosing the leader of the most powerful country on earth, it's a disaster.

#23 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:09 AM:

One kind of surprising thing to me is how much harm we seem to be doing to ourselves in Iraq. I thought invading Iraq was a bad idea when we did it, but I honestly thought it would be a moderate-sized screwup, something that would blight Bush's presidency and cost us a lot of lives and money, but from which we would quickly recover. I'm no longer so sure of that.

I believe the best way to understand the Bush administration is to assume he wants power and prestige--that's about as close to psychanalysis as I want to come. Those drives seem necessary for anyone who becomes president.

In order to keep power for his party, and to rescue his prestige, Bush has to find a way to turn this into something other than a disaster. Sending more troops, invading Iran, doing some spectacular thing to save the day is necessary if Bush isn't to be remembered as a failure. This scares me far more than any of the other stuff going on. Because it looks to me (I'll admit this is beyond my competence, but then, so was evaluating the likely result of invading Iraq) like most of the ways we can try to save the day will lead to a much bigger disaster.

#24 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:18 AM:

I'm very skeptical of attempts to psychoanalyze Bush remotely. What we see of Bush (or Hillary, or Bill, or McCain, or Obama) is professionally produced and spun image. The real people probably leak through now and again, but I don't think anyone can have much sense of what kind of people they are.

Considering how carefully crafted Bush's image is, and that he still comes off as a buffoon who's a little shaky on the concept of 2+2=4, I'm kind of scared to think of what he must be like in private.

#25 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:18 AM:

#22 albatross: You reminded me of Josephine Tey's quote regarding Mary Queen of Scots:

"Her tragedy was that she was born a queen with the outlook of a suburban housewife. Scoring off Mrs. Tudor in the next street is harmless and amusing; it may lead you into unwarrantable indulgence in hire-purchase, but it affects only yourself. When you use the same technique on kingdoms the result is disastrous. If you are willing to put a country of ten million people in pawn in order to score off a royal rival, then you end by being a friendless failure."

We can only hope; not that it will help matters.

#26 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:24 AM:

This irresponsible something-o-pathic streak may come to a head in George Bush, but it seems to me that he's really just an avatar for the same deeply broken behavior throughout the leadership of the GOP machine during the past generation. Think of all the things, from offering bribes on the floor of the house to assaulting election observers to putting 15% of all campaign contributions in your family's pocket to holding up the entire business of the nation over videotapes of a dying woman (to another list a hundred times as long about actual policy). All things no one could imagine sane people with a basic sense of decency would do.

This brokenness has been a source of republican power for a long time, in fact: do something (do a lot of things simultaneously) so bugf*** crazy that your opponents don't have a ready response, or indeed any response at all if they're confined to polite, rational discourse. Since it's an article of faith in the national media narrative that legislators and executive-branch officers don't just pull out submachineguns over breakfast, the people who should be shouting, "This is bugf*** crazy!" are reduced to a strange sort of play-acting where they ignore the complete trashing of the institutions around them, or even actively pretend that the craziness is normal.

#27 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:28 AM:

I imagine that they're still trying to create the right conditions for an invasion into Iran. All they need is an appropriate incident such as an attack on a US military unit by Iran's forces. Then they'll add to that the fact that Iran's revolution took over our embassy which was an act of war and point out that Iran's been supporting the insurgents by permitting weapons and terrorists to cross into Iraq and Afghanistan. Only then a draft will become necessary and Congress might very well agree in order to raise enough forces to support what's in the field so those don't get slaughtered.

#28 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:39 AM:

Some analyses of Bush just say he's clueless and Cheney is really running the country (with the possible "help" of Rove). But the way things are going, that means Cheney is as thoroughly incompetent as Bush -- unless he really is Evil Incarnate. Has anyone bothered to probe into the VP's mindset the way they're examining Bush?

Maybe Cheney's the Rasputin to our clueless Czar, but he's also supposed to be a more seasoned politician (right?). Is the only explanation for his behavior a lust for surrogate dictatorship? (Bwa ha ha....)

#29 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:45 AM:

Theresa: believe it. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon--all smarter, more motivated, and more flexible than Bush--continued to wade deeper into the swamp that was Vietnam, despite ample evidence that not only was there no light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel was filled with rabid alligators* carrying chainsaws.

The source of Bush's inflexibility (immaturity, ADHD, malice, imbalanced thetans) doesn't matter. But the sooner people realize that the tools of rhetoric are useless, the better off we'll all be. Stop trying to use the pressure cooker and oven tongs to fix your car's transmission, accept that Photoshop will not cure your lower back pain, and realize that the only option left open to you with regard to the Bush administration is damage control.


*I know they can't get rabies.

#30 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:45 AM:

You know, I agree with practically everything that's being said here; but I wonder at the fact that no commenter has come to Bush's defense. Does that mean that at this stage, he has no sane defenders? I mean, you can't possibly have frightened them all away.

#31 ::: mimi ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:51 AM:

#27 Dave: I thought the administration was decidedly against the draft? After all, that means their kids might end up having to fight.

#32 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:08 AM:

As the father of a soon-to-be six-year-old, I have seen behavior very like GWB's recently, and for the last several years (my elder child is eight).

"I want that."

"Sorry, honey, we can't [won't] get that for $REASON."

"But I want it!"

Really, dear, no."

"I WANT IT!"

It's lots easier to say no from a position of authority and adulthood than it is for the members of Congress and/or the cabinet to deny this overgrown three-year-old what he wants, when he's The Deciderer.

How to make him grow up, when he's never had to yet, is beyond me.

#33 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:09 AM:

#28 Faren:

I believe entirely that Cheney knows that he has as much political power right now as it is possible for him to ever have, and that after this he will have very little.

I also believe that for every decision he asks one question: how much money from this can I shoot directly to my old friends?

The moment the war stops being profitable to Cheney he will stop it. However after this his political influence is largely over, so he needs to get as many billions of dollars out of the government before he loses his chances. The thing is, at this rate and with the exclusivity of contracts, it will never stop being profitable to him.

#34 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:16 AM:

#31: mimi: I thought the administration was decidedly against the draft?

I think it is. The sneaky thing to do would be to let Chuck Rangel's bill to pass on a party line vote. (i.e., the Republicans in the Senate do not filibuster. However, this would also mean that all the Democrats in the Senate would have to vote for it which seems unlikely.) Then let the bill reinstating the draft become law without Bush's signature. That way, the administration gets the bodies it needs to throw at Iraq and still get to blame the Democrats for the draft.

My other thought was that the administration would hire more mercenaries. (That seems very "fall of the Roman Empire" though.)

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:29 AM:

I read Teresa's original post, and the followup comments, and I found myself asking myself if we're looking at Bush's actions thru the same lens of hatred that led the other side to call Bill Clinton evil. Then the moment passed and I thought: "Nah. Dubya is a dangerous loon."

#36 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:27 PM:

One thought that occurred to me is that Cheney does plan to run for President and that Bush is merely the surrogate for the first two terms so Cheney can get past the current term limits imposed since FDR's time. If so, we'll have to see how many potential nominees are asked to go quail hunting with him and subsequently decline to run.

#37 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:30 PM:

#23 albatross: I thought invading Iraq was a bad idea when we did it, but I honestly thought it would be a moderate-sized screwup, something that would blight Bush's presidency and cost us a lot of lives and money, but from which we would quickly recover. I'm no longer so sure of that.
I well remember when he first announced that we would be going to war in Iraq, and the reason he gave for it, and especially my own reaction to it, which can pretty much be summed up as, "Oh shit. We're fucked."

My mum, who survived the bombing of London by the Germans (and who is still alive and well today), practically had flashbacks at the memory of what it's like to be in the midst of a war.

Bush wants to be a war hero like his daddy was, yet he has no concept of what it means to go to war. The idea of consequences has no meaning for him and he's completely devoid of empathy, so he can take a sadistic pride (think of that smirk of his) in the mounting numbers of dead on the other side as well as a "not give a shit" attitude about those who have died on our side.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:31 PM:

Cheney has a bad ticker, Dave, and the charm of the pre-Christmas conversion Ebenezer Scrooge. In other words, he'd have a snowball's chance in Hell to become Prez.

#39 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:33 PM:

Dave @ 36:

Given Cheney's publicly-known health history (multiple heart attacks and an implanted defibrillator/pacemaker), he'd have to get an awful lot of potential candidates to drop out, like all of them.

#40 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:37 PM:

Anent Gary Townsend in #3 Part of the Frank's point in the passage cited above is that Bush exhibits the classic signs of ADHD, and that he resorts to very simple statements and repeating certain phrases again and again to help him to "stay on message."

This was a matter of some discussion in the ADHD communities I used to hang out in, about the time of the 2000 election. Our consensus was that he might be ADHD, but that if so it was comorbid with some sort of Autistic Spectrum disorder and/or a very bad case of enabling mother.


#41 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:53 PM:

Never discount a politician's chances. After all, Tricky Dick got elected. So can Cheney.

Mimi, as to the draft, those from either rich or influential families generally avoided the draft so I doubt that there would be much reluctance not to reinstitute one. The politicians would placate the voters by claiming it would be more equitably managed this time. That means they'd just bribe the appropriate lower officials with the promise of a higher position later not to draft their own sons and daughters.

#42 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:00 PM:

Bruce Adelson says, at #32:

"I want that."

"Sorry, honey, we can't [won't] get that for $REASON."

"But I want it!"

Really, dear, no."

"I WANT IT!"

To which I say, that is why one of the first things my kids heard from me (right after "Don't scream unless you're actually bleeding" and "Life is not fair") was "I want doesn't mean I get."

Not wanting to raise another GWB is a good reason for being a really mean parent who refuses to accede to ones offspring's desires. (Mine are 18 and 20, mostly good people, and don't seem to hate me much).

#43 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Dave @ #41, remember that towards the end of Vietnam there was a lottery system in place for the draft. It had at least the perception of being more fair than the draft that had been in place. (I had #266 in the initial draw which took place in 1969.)

The wealthy kid buyout was supposed to be one of the byproducts of the new system.

#44 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:27 PM:

JESR #42 Yep. That's why I note that we say "no" and make it stick. But making it stick when the child in question is, in theory, the person ultimately empowered to make the decisions, is a real problem. One of the normal mechanisms intended to curb such foolishness has been out of operation for the past six years, and he's been working on disabling some others (see courts, Federal) for years to come.

I have great hopes for the power of the new Congress to unearth truth. What I don't have is much hope that it can (a) get that truth covered effectively by the biased Washington press corps or (b) prevent the Idiot-In-Chief from continuing his lunacy. (What would happen if they decided not to fund the war -- or insisted that it reflect in the Federal budget? Would that be an effective tactic, or would it backfire? I haven't thought it through fully yet, but it seems to be one of the few things they could use as a threat.)

#45 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:32 PM:

#40 JESR: Our consensus was that he might be ADHD, but that if so it was comorbid with some sort of Autistic Spectrum disorder and/or a very bad case of enabling mother.
Frank addresses the issue of the Deciderer's mother, as well. He points out that Bush grew up in a family with a father who was perpetually absent, and with a mother who was emotionally distant. Thus, with parents who both were effectively 'never there,' he remains to this day a toddler-in-a-man's-skin.

I'll be finished with this book today and it has left me with some conflicting emotions: I feel sorry for him because of the lack of parenting which he experienced, and I feel angry at him for all the things he has done to my country and to the world we live in. I think the best thing that can happen to him at the moment (not that it would help much at this stage) would be for him to be held accountable for all that he's done. Ultimately, I think the lesson would be completely lost on him. Lesson lost or not, however, it's something I believe needs to be done.

#46 ::: Lis Carey ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Carrie #24:
Considering how carefully crafted Bush's image is, and that he still comes off as a buffoon who's a little shaky on the concept of 2+2=4, I'm kind of scared to think of what he must be like in private.

Why are you assuming that this is not the intended image? For most of the past six years the "aw shucks" image has served him well, helping to disarm people, both politicians and voters, who had niggling doubts about his policies. And it has caused those who couldn't be disarmed to underestimate him.

Now, things are obviously coming apart, and the "aw shucks" image isn't playing quite so well, but it's still somewhat effective in conning people into putting the real blame somewhere other than on W.

#47 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:38 PM:

Is anyone else, when looking at the whole "victory in Vietnam was stolen by disloyalty on the homefront" routine reminded of the complaints after WWI of certain elements of the German populace that they could have won if it wasn't for weakness at home?

And now we've reached the state where the commander hides in his bunker and commands nonexistent troops into magical maneuvers that will some how turn disaster into victory.

#48 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:46 PM:

Ursula @ #47, that's why I think Bruce's suggestion in #44 about de-funding would backfire bigtime. You don't have to go back to post-WW1 Germany to find the "stab in the back" phrase used against political enemies. You can find it successfully used against Democrats for years (and to this day) after Vietnam, and Congress never defunded the Army; what Congress did do was reduce funding for the South Vietnamese government from $1M or so to $750k or so (numbers may be slightly misremembered).

#49 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:59 PM:

#33: YES YES YES YES YES. YES. YES.

"The moment the war stops being profitable to Cheney he will stop it....The thing is, at this rate and with the exclusivity of contracts, it will never stop being profitable to him."

This is exactly what we need to remember when talking about these people. "Win" or "lose" just don't matter. They win whether they win or lose, because they'll be making money either way.

I've long said that Bush is not an idiot, and that even if he is, it doesn't matter. People who know what they're doing are running things. They gave us a leader who looks like an idiot to trick his opposition into focusing on that rather than on what he's doing. We (and by "we" I mean anyone and everyone opposed to the administration) have wasted our time making jokes and shaking our heads in disbelief at his buffoonery. Any time we spend doing that is time we spend not focusing on how he knows what he wants, he knows how to get it, and what he wants is evil, or as close to it as exists in real life.

This administration is a war profiteering machine. That's why they need a constant state of warfare; the extended dictatorial powers of the presidency are a side benefit, one that they can then use to enhance the constant state of war. Even if Democrats continue to regain control (which, don't get me wrong, I hope they do), the people in this administration will continue to profit, because the war will continue (and it will, for years). They don't care about political power for its own sake. They've set up a perpetual motion machine that will continue to make themselves richer and richer and richer for years to come. Nothing else matters.

Remember the end of Network, when we're told that all the things we see--politicians, governments, countries--are illusions, and what's actually going on is completely out of our ability to grasp? That everything's being run by the corporations for their own benifit and their own private, ineffible reasons? Yeah. That was true then, and it's a hell of a lot more true now.

#50 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:02 PM:

Lis Carey at #46 said part of my point better than I did while I was in the midst of typing my tirade.

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:02 PM:

#30: No, he has no sane defenders. None.

Well...

He may have EVIL defenders. But not here.

#52 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:21 PM:

Gary @ 45: Frank addresses the issue of the Deciderer's mother, as well. He points out that Bush grew up in a family with a father who was perpetually absent, and with a mother who was emotionally distant. Thus, with parents who both were effectively 'never there,' he remains to this day a toddler-in-a-man's-skin.

IIRC there's been an anecdote that while still in prep school, Bush wrote about "the lacerates running down [his] face" when his sister Robin had died, years before. It seems a surprisingly sensitive topic for a teen boy to've chosen to write about, regardless of thesaurus abuse.

Considering that (according to various sources) his parents didn't even tell him Robin was sick until after she died, *and* they decided to go play golf immediately afterward-- sources seem to conflict on whether the golfing took place the day after Robin's death or the day of her funeral-- her rippleless disappearance really must have messed up whatever capacity for empathy and emotion he was born with.

#53 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:28 PM:

Hank@29 --- Johnson and Nixon kept going deeper into the swamp. As for Kennedy, there are oval office tapes from shortly before his assassination on which he can be heard ordering a withdrawal. My reference is a Boston review article by James K. Galbraith son of John. It's an odd read --- for some reason he goes on for pages describing the controversy over whether the order was ever issued before disclosing the existence of the tapes which definitively settle the question. But then again, you may need that background to understand why there is a controversy --- it turns out that some events were scrubbed from even the classified history of Vietnam that surfaced as the Pentagon Papers. "Documents from November 1, 1963, through early December are conspicuously missing." Scary stuff --- further ruminations here.

#54 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 02:46 PM:

For some reason I'm reminded of Douglas Adams' "Zapphod Plays It Safe," with a name change at the end.

#55 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:02 PM:

I listened to the first half hour or so of this morning's "news conference."

What the hell?

He's still rattling off the same old crap, still ducking and dodging serious questions.

I think I am totally justified in despising anyone who still takes that putz seriously. He's down to loyalty from people who got too much alcohol in their blood surrogate, folks brainwashed from birth, and those liable to go to jail with him.

#56 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:04 PM:

#46 Lis:

Yes! The economist pointed this out awhile ago--his dialect has moved south, and his vocabulary has gone down market, as his political career has progressed. He's just a down-home country boy from flyover country, and he has a lot in common with you normal voters. (Didn't most people in flyover country go to exclusive private grade and high schools, then on to Yale and Harvard? Didn't most folks use their connections to get to fly fighter jets in the military, instead of, say, fixing tank motors or slinging hash or something?)

He comes off as sort of dumb but sincere. In exactly the same way that McCain comes off as an anti-corruption maverick outsider, in the same way that Bill Clinton came off as someone who felt your pain, in the same way that Gore came off as an extremely intelligent but kind-of annoying know-it-all. (Grades and test scores suggest that Gore and Bush probably had pretty similar IQ scores.)

Their business is convincing lots of people to empathize with them, to identify with them, and to decide to vote for them. They're very, very good at their business--as good at this as an NBA point guard is at making plays. They're in a business that is about that competitive, and unlike the point guard, they can have fantastically talented and expensive consultants guide them through most of their choices.

One effect of this is that most of the election is not about anything sensible. Did Kerry have botox injections? Did he throw away his medals? Did Bill Clinton inhale? Was he going to have another bimbo eruption? Did Bush do the occasional line of coke in his misspent youth? Is Hillary electable? Or is she too domineering?

#57 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:15 PM:

#56:Is Hillary electable? Or is she too domineering?

I apologize for the tangent, but I noticed something very odd on NPR last night: the sheer number of people who said that they, personally, would have no problems with a female president but the country isn't ready for one. If we add this to the poll results which show Hillary currently polling ahead of McCain, Giuliani and Obama, and I am suddenly very confused.

BTW, I realize those polls are meaningless because we do not elect our president by a straight nationwide vote and because about all they measure right now is name recognition. However, it does point out that there are a lot of people for whom gender is not an issue. OTOH, NPR interviewed someone last night who mentioned that 14% of voting age Americans would not vote for a female presidential candidate. I find this an appallingly high number.

#58 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:18 PM:

I think there are two key words here: "personality disorder."

There are a number of variants, and they often overlap a bit, but they generally include a core of not seeing anybody but oneself as "real". Hence they all result in lack of genuine empathy - in fact, in a complete disinterest in the well-being or opinions of others, except as it appears necessary to pretend an interest or to act out ones own melodramas.

I see Bush's behavior as suggesting many of the features of narcissistic personality disorder, which often goes along with considerable personal charm. (Usually interrupted with incredible rages if thwarted - which Bush essentially never is.)

#59 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:20 PM:

#56 albatross, "Grades and test scores suggest that Gore and Bush probably had pretty similar IQ scores.)"

Are you sure you didn't mean Kerry and Bush, both C students?

And I think I've pointed it out, GW lost his first election bid (State Senate, I think) because he came off as being too intelligent.

But yeah, that's one of the last "tells" of our President. When he's fibbing or zagging out form under the truth, his Texas accent gets deeper. He used to do that pursed lips to the side thing, but they've cured him of that.

#60 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:21 PM:

JC @ 57:

That 14% is most likely the same group that will follow Shrub even if, as the phrase has it, he's found on the South Lawn with a dead girl and a live boy. Or a dead boy and a live sheep. You can't change their minds (assuming they have minds to change).

#61 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:27 PM:

Albatross (22):

"I'm very skeptical of attempts to psychoanalyze Bush remotely. What we see of Bush (or Hillary, or Bill, or McCain, or Obama) is professionally produced and spun image. The real people probably leak through now and again, but I don't think anyone can have much sense of what kind of people they are."
I know. That's why my approach to figuring out what Bush actually cares about is at bottom statistical, measured in the time, resources, and attention span he's willing to devote to a given issue.

Here's a cheerful thing I can tell you: they're not all equally spun. The trick is to watch who's willing to enter into uncontrolled situations, and what they do there. McCain can walk and talk on his own, and do passable improvisations. Bill Clinton will be out there in a hot minute, and he'll talk to absolutely anyone. What he did when he got to NYC after 9/11 was just start walking south from Union Square, talking to people and letting them literally cry on his shoulder. That's how he arrived at Ground Zero: way different from Bush's scripted, controlled, hermetically sealed photo shoots.

Hillary doesn't have the near-supernatural people skills Bill does, but I know that when national health care was being debated, she at one point testified before a committee for hours on end -- facts, figures, anecdotes, statistics, interpretive models, the whole shebang, just a huge amount of information -- and did the whole thing without notes. Also, the Clintons have that get-together they do every yuletide -- sort of a relaxacon for policy geeks -- which is a performance they could never sustain if they weren't basically intelligent, presentable, and human.

Barack Obama's so far made his reputation in situations where he had neither the time nor the opportunity nor the resources to have everything spin-controlled in advance. We can't know what's in his head and heart, no more than we can know it of anyone else; but what he does and says, and how he reacts, are so far pretty darn knowable.

Big Hank (29):

"Theresa: believe it. Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon--all smarter, more motivated, and more flexible than Bush--continued to wade deeper into the swamp that was Vietnam, despite ample evidence that not only was there no light at the end of the tunnel, the tunnel was filled with rabid alligators* carrying chainsaws."
Believe me, I remember that sense of terrible momentum. It was like watching a quarrel turn into a spitting fight turn into an assault and irretrievable breakup with the police called. You kept thinking they could somehow pull out of it; but instead it just kept getting worse, so that you were constantly having to discard your previous notions of "how bad it could get" as hopelessly naive.
"The source of Bush's inflexibility (immaturity, ADHD, malice, imbalanced thetans) doesn't matter. But the sooner people realize that the tools of rhetoric are useless, the better off we'll all be. Stop trying to use the pressure cooker and oven tongs to fix your car's transmission, accept that Photoshop will not cure your lower back pain, and realize that the only option left open to you with regard to the Bush administration is damage control."
I'm in complete agreement. Words do what words can, but in Bush's case only the coordinated exercise of power is going to have any impact. I've known all along that he doesn't think people like us are real players in the same game he's playing. He wouldn't lie to us so shamelessly, and change his lies so unapologetically, if he did.

Theophylact (30), what would it take for a sane and morally upright citizen to be supporting Bush at this point? The fluorosphere crew can be mighty and dreadful, sometimes; but even we can't frighten away all the right-wingers. I have to think they're a lot more dispirited than they used to be. I hope so, at any rate.

Comrade Kuzminski (36), Cheney's approval ratings are so low that they're actually getting hard to interpret. He couldn't get elected dogcatcher if he ran on his own.

Ursula (47), you're not alone in thinking that the "victory in Vietnam was denied us by backstabbers at home" routine sounds a lot like post-WWI German rhetoric.

Any fool can say after a war that if only their side had fought harder, sacrificed more, hung on longer, they would have won, and that therefore the blame for the loss belongs to those who advocated less intransigent policies.

That perception was behind Hitler's "no retreat allowed" orders to his troops on the collapsing Eastern Front. They just had to keep trying harder in the positions they already held. So they did; and they got killed and captured in quantities that are hard to match in the history of warfare. They also lost the fight faster and more devastatingly than they otherwise would have, because they weren't allowed to make tactical retreats and consolidate their forces.

In fact, "You can't lose unless you quit" was pretty much Hitler's attitude all the way to the end. He was absolutely insisted that Germany keep up the fight, even when its people were exhausted, starving, and bombed to flinders, and the troops they were sending out to meet well-equipped advancing armies consisted of boys and old men.

When it came down to those last days in the bunker, Hitler's take on it was that the German people deserved their defeat because they had failed him.

You saw that statement Bush made at the joint press conference. Even now, he can't be brought to believe there's anything wrong with the job he's doing, or that he's in any way responsible for this mess. Not for a minute. As he sees it, the problem is that our troops aren't succeeding fast enough. Progress is not as rapid as he'd hoped. And therefore, the appropriate response is to "...devise a [new] set of tactics and strategies to achieve the objective that I have stated."

If that man singlehandedly started WWIII, he still wouldn't think anyone had the right to criticize his performance.

#62 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:37 PM:

JC (57), there's weirder stuff going on with the polling figures on Hillary Clinton than I think you know. Tell me if you need any of this explained. I'll bet you don't.

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/011618.php
http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/electioncentral/2006/dec/19/newsweek_editor_speaks_on_missing_hillary_poll_numbers

Clifton (58), re "rage if thwarted": If you ever get the chance, watch the election-night video footage from Bush's first New Hampshire primary, right after he was beaten by McCain. There are moments where you can see it as clear as day. If I had no other context than the look on his face, I'd still know I didn't want to be in the same building with him.

#63 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 03:54 PM:

Teresa, all through W's life, his problems have been solved by other people throwing more X at the problem, be it money, influence, or whatever. I doubt he understands what anything costs; he doesn't understand the difference between the cost of achieving a goal, and the additional cost it takes to solve the problems created by fscking everything up in the attempt.

#64 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:06 PM:

It's entirely possible that Bush has started WWIII, but we don't see it yet.

Meanwhile, "you can't lose unless you quit" is almost an exact quote from Bush during his recent visit to Vietnam.

Bush's mental problems may also have been caused by his long-term drug and alcohol abuse.

The only people still supporting Bush are the insane, the stupid, folks with really poor reading comprehension skills, and folks who are both directly profitting from his presence and morally bankrupt.

#65 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:13 PM:

James D. Macdonald @64: And yet, somehow, the people who opposed him from the beginning are still bitter America-hating partisan paranoid conspiracy-theorist whackos.

Can you say "cognitive dissonance," boys and girls? I knew you could.

#66 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:50 PM:

TNH: It seems to me that what you say, and I agree with you, boils down to Bush having not grown emotionally beyond the age of three, and not having developed intellectually beyond the age of 15. He combines a teenager's petulance and a three-year-old's self-centredness perfectly.

#67 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 04:52 PM:

Albatross (22)
I'm very skeptical of attempts to psychoanalyze Bush remotely

I don't want to psychoanalyze him. I want to find the minimally workable analogy that'll get people to say "You've got a point- he isn't reacting the way I'd expect him to. The way he can't let go of an idea- that's familiar."

Thus my analogy to cat hoarding. OCD hoarding is a dreadful illness. But, I think the perception of it has elements of quirk, humor and pity, rather than the fear and horror as seen for other mental illnesses.

Any meme that gets people to see Bush isn't reacting logically helps. I think people are more likely to accept the idea that Bush's actions are like OCD, rather than that he's paranoid, or brain damaged, or stupid.

Before people can contemplate how badly he's not normal, they have to take in that he's not normal.

(The 99th Cat theory of diplomacy: there's an essay in there I should write.)

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:00 PM:

Abi #10: Dutch politics are what you get when every vote quite literally counts (it only takes 3/4 of one percent of the vote to get elected to the Tweede Kamer). Personal note: My dissertation adviser was a Dutch political scientist, Arend Lijphart.

#69 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:15 PM:

The big "Special Report" graphic breaks into the Today show with its blaring, excited fanfare and I wonder, "Oh shit, what now?" But it's just a Bush "news" conference, and with it, the unbearable lightness of listening to the Deluded Decider stumble along and do the same old same old one more time. The Unbearable Lightness of Listening to Bush. Not winning, not losing, gonna hang in there, more troops, wouldn't be there if we couldn't succeed. Nothing new and I drive off to work, scanning the radio stations for the news conference. Can't find it. That figures. Must not be important.

#70 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:33 PM:

I am impressed to hear that someone listened to even a little teeny bit of Bush's press conference; I couldn't. I can't listen to him or look at him, he weirds me out so much, and besides, I end up shouting things and frightening the cats. But I did turn it on in the car for 10 seconds, and in that 10 seconds I heard the President of the United States be rude to a reporter, because he can, and no one is going to call him a bully, which is what he is.

Why, psychologically speaking, is he that way? I find I no longer care. Mamma Bush, too much privilege, too much money, childhood issues, nature, nurture, drugs, insufficient drugs, the wrong drugs, I don't give a shit. Upthread someone pointed out that damage control is what we should all be thinking of. It's so.

Or else -- George Bush is gonna break more of it. It being, the world.

Teresa at 61, you are so on it.

#71 ::: Gary Townsend ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:51 PM:

Julie L @ 52: Considering that (according to various sources) his parents didn't even tell him Robin was sick until after she died, *and* they decided to go play golf immediately afterward-- sources seem to conflict on whether the golfing took place the day after Robin's death or the day of her funeral-- her rippleless disappearance really must have messed up whatever capacity for empathy and emotion he was born with.

I don't see that Frank cites his source, but on p. 3 of his book he says they "spent the next day golfing in Rye, attending a small memorial service the following day before flying back to Texas. George learned of his sister's illness only after her death,, when his parents returned to Texas, where the family remained while the child's body was buried in a Connecticut family plot. There was no funeral."

Frank draws the same conclusion as you do re: his empathy and emotion.

Makes me glad that I saw my mother grieve when I was 9, when she received news that her mum had died back in London, and that she explained to me why she was crying. It didn't help that at the time my father was on a remote tour to Thailand with the Air Force and that, living in Biloxi at the time, we had to deal with Hurricane Camille, as well, but such is the life of a military brat; '69 was a rather rough year for my family, obviously.

Clifton @ 58: I see Bush's behavior as suggesting many of the features of narcissistic personality disorder, which often goes along with considerable personal charm.

Don't forget megalomaniacal.

#72 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 05:55 PM:

Jim, #64: Dammit, I'm getting those last episode of Dinosaurs flashbacks again....

#73 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:02 PM:

Radio stations here being what they are, I never listen to anything but NPR; my commute is long, and work starts at 11:00, so I ended up listening to large portions of the Bush speech.

I especially despised the part where he encouraged people to spend their money. No real wage growth, enormous credit card debt, rampant consumerism, a growing divide between rich and poor...and we're supposed to spend more money?
There was the bullying, too; everything else was bad, but it's what I expect from him.

#74 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:38 PM:

I have pretty much come around to the belief that only three things might ever stop Bush:

a) The expiration of his term of office
b) Impeachment
c) Death

a) is too slow (even assuming he doesn't find some way to suspend elections and declare himself dictator-for-life) and it's generally considered beyond the pale to actively hope for (let alone work toward) c); the conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.

The clearly expressed will of the American people won't stop him; he knows better.
More laws declaring his behavoir illegal won't stop him; he'll just ignore them like he has already been doing.
Supreme Court cases ruling that yes, he does too have to obey the law won't stop him; he has people whose job it is to come up with some bullshit explanation for why he can ignore them.
His own subordinates telling him he's making a mistake won't stop him; he'll fire them and find better yes-men.

#75 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:46 PM:

Like Bush becoming folksy, George Allen, who was born in California, became a cowboy. He was sure that would win him the VA governorship and then the presidency. Fortunately, he screwed up enough to lose the first and, I hope, the second. He can't be the only politician following in Bush's costume.

#76 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 06:58 PM:

Jay Rosen has a good piece on the sources of the difficulty many people, and media people in particular, have with coming to grips with the Bush-Cheney regime. Via Laura Rozen.

The dim bulb psychopath and the rightist who knows how to work him will do absolutely anything to keep the troops in Iraq until the end of their term. Including invading another country.

No, it doesn't make sense or even sound possible to you or me or the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but I think Jay Rosen's absolutely right:

Good policy was to Bush, Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld action-based. It worked in creative friction with facts on the ground. Fogs of confusion inside the government were fine because deeper within the government a few had the clarity of action.
#77 ::: Dan S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:07 PM:

"I think that Bush violates those assumptions. He is more or less completely irresponsible. You can see this tripping people up over and over. For instance, when Colin Powell gives Bush his ‘hey, think really hard about Iraq; you break it, you own it’ speech: that seems to have been, for Powell, a big deal to do, and for him, assuming responsibility for a whole country would be a big deal as well. I don’t think Powell understood that he was dealing with someone to whom those words would mean nothing.

Hmm. I've come to think of the post-9/11 insanity as the Fear - and indeed, the atmosphere aboard the Salyut in "Red Star, Winter Orbit" is all too fitting - but I've generally considered it in terms of literal perceptions & reactions to that event. Y'know, what was for so many folks the great unreality, the fantastical nature of it - a real horror, yet on the tv screen, in a place that was for them a faraway tourist destination or movie stageset or rhetorical backdrop, encouraging not practical responses, but freefloating mythologizing. The great need for catharsis mostly denied any access but the one - nationalistic displays - best channeled by those in power. Etc.

But especially in re: the lead-up to the Iraq War, Hilzoy's post brings up another aspect I hadn't really considered, a kind of fear - perhaps most prevalent among the some of the liberalish hawks? - unmentioned, not admitted to themselves, desperately squashed, the fear that that Bush&Co. weren't being sane, rational, prudent actors, that they were being entirely irresponsible, that the guy with his hand on the wheel was driving us straight off the cliff. Perhaps this explains the oddness of people who seemingly should have known better making great efforts to refute antiwar arguments - real or straw - while somehow never noticing what was actually happening?

#78 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:41 PM:

Nell at #76, thank you for the link to Rosen. I haven't been looking at his site for a while, thinking he was still talking solely about his relatively new project.

It's a very good analysis. The thesis is that there's been a retreat from empiricism both in the Bush Administration and in the media since 9/11 which may have been halted post-Katrina.

#79 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 07:56 PM:

#73: "I especially despised the part where he encouraged people to spend their money."

OH! So I didn't imagine that.

"Mr. President, we need you to work shopping into the speech."

"Yeah, yeah, I can do that. Americans got to shop. Make the kids happy. Shoppin'."

#80 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 08:31 PM:

I listened to the question and answer portion on my way home on NPR, he started an answer with a 'dont' you dare' kind of statement and then trailed off with 'well, you have every right to ask that.' then tried to bail. I really can't stand to listen to him because I think he lies as he moves his lips. Sigh.

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:28 PM:

I saw said troll literally for half a second before he poofed out of existence. I infer from this that Yog the Great and Mighty is on the prowl.

#83 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:53 PM:

#74: I can't shake the feeling that, if the last six years were a work of fiction, then the only really dramatically satisfying ending would be for the President character to suffer a violent, spittle-flecked, obscenity-laden mental breakdown on live TV. I see the film version ending with a crane shot of him sedated, strapped to gurney, and being loaded into an ambulance, in an homage to Altman's M*A*S*H.

We've already seen the Father character break down in tears as he contemplates the end of the House of Bush, which is a great opening for the final act, so I'm hopeful that The Great Author does not let us down (and that The Great Producer does not interfere).

(I long ago decided that I was living in a work of fiction when the Republican congressional leaders were named Dick Armey and Newt Gingrich. I mean, how perfect is that?)

#84 ::: Dave ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 09:56 PM:

I was going to note that (re 48) the continental term for "we wuz robbed..." is Dolchstosslegende. But Wikipedia's way ahead of me, and the Dolchstosslegende page already has a subsection for the War in Iraq.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolchstosslegende

For instances of Dolchstoss in context, see the trial of the White Rose.

cf. "Godwin via Babelfish"
http://xent.com/pipermail/fork/Week-of-Mon-20060925/042978.html

#85 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:17 PM:

Re #83 I can't shake the feeling that, if the last six years were a work of fiction, then the only really dramatically satisfying ending...

I'm rather fond of Charlie Stross's Halloween short short.

I don't think I can post a relevant excerpt without spoiling, but it's only 300-some words, so please read it.

#86 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 10:22 PM:

Howard @ 83

I keep hoping we can fast-Penta these guys. On live TV. With video cameras running, also. And then show it to every government and civics class in the country, for the next century or so, as a dire warning about ambition and greed in government.

I also want a starship.

#88 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:15 PM:

Lis Riba, after hearing him today, I still think he's as dumb as my youngest cat (=sentient rock) and believes whatever his handlers tell him. I also think he needs his handlers constantly, because he really flailed when he was asked something that he clearly was not coached to respond to.

I think he's a pathetic human being. It does not mean I don't hate him any less though. And the power of his position scares the fsck out of me.

#89 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:19 PM:

Gary @ 71:

Clifton @ 58: I see Bush's behavior as suggesting many of the features of narcissistic personality disorder, which often goes along with considerable personal charm.
Don't forget megalomaniacal.

Well, since I just happen to have Marshall McLuhan, sorry, I mean the DSM-IV, right here:

Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder
A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achivements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements) [*]
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unliited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love [*]
  3. believes that he or she is special and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e. unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e. takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

I'll let everyone ponder for themselves how well this pattern fits; remember, he only needs 5 to "win".

* That's your megalomaniacal right there.

#90 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:19 PM:

TNH @ #57:

Fast-penta. A truth drug used in the Vorkosigan universe.

Please tell me you're familar with the Vorkosigan stories...

I want to be Cordilia Vorkosigan when I grow up. (But who doesn't?)

#91 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:27 PM:

Teresa @ #87: Lois Bujold's notional "truth serum which really works" in the Vorkosigan books. Tends to leave people babbling embarassing personal content as well as the answers to all the questions they're asked.

#92 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:33 PM:

I don't have links handy, but there have been good profiles of Cheney written in the last few years. Joshua Micah Marshall, I believe it was, pointed out that Cheney's political career is an almost unbroken string of failures embarked upon in the face of better advice. He has a reputation for being brilliant primarily because of his manner - he acts as though he's brilliant, and staff say he's utterly uninterested in others' feelings, so he's not given to self-doubt because of anyone else's skepticism or contrary facts.

Digby has a reconstruction of Bush Jr's selection that makes sense to me. Cheney realized he couldn't get the nomination for himself, so determined right off to be VP. He favored W because he knows the family well enough to know that W is more malleable than Jeb, besides having won rather than lost his last election. Rove went for W because of crush, and deluded himself into thinking that he could make the object of his affections triumph over all.

#93 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 11:56 PM:

Oh yes, Teresa in re your main post:

If you try out the assumption that he is a complete narcissist, suddenly most of his actual priorities you list make sense:

Cutting taxes in the upper brackets - that reduces his taxes and leaves him more spending money.

Getting rid of the estate tax - is an even bigger priority because Daddy Bush has a lot more money than he does, and he doesn't want anything getting in the way of getting it all.

Who cares if it bankrupts the government? That's not his problem, as long as he gets more money.

#94 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 12:15 AM:

Foop. Sorry. Didn't carry over from one context to the other.

#95 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 12:30 AM:

Clifton, I don't think Bush counts on getting his money from his parents. I think he expects to get it from his extremely wealthy buddies. Besides, they've already given him lots of money to buy what he wanted most: a position commanding huge power and respect for which he was completely unqualified.

I also quite seriously believe Bush's supposed Christianity is at bottom nothing more than a conviction that God loves him more than just about anybody else, and has special plans for him. You couldn't infer much about Christian belief if all you had to go on was Bush's behavior.

I've been thinking about the death of Bush's sister Robin. If I'd been in that family, the lesson I would have taken from the episode is that you can be dead and buried before anyone else in the family even knows you've got a problem, and all they'll know is what your parents tell them. Your parents say they love you? Why, sure, of course they do -- but they said they loved Robin, too.

#96 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 12:43 AM:

Teresa,


I also quite seriously believe Bush's supposed Christianity is at bottom nothing more than a conviction that God loves him more than just about anybody else, and has special plans for him.

So he just has a particular case of the more generalized "chosen people" problem? He feels he's the chosen person?

Drawing on biblical precedent, this never ends up well (see three patriarchs, Jospeh, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon...)

It really makes you wonder if he's gone so far as to read the bible. 'Cause if he would have, he'd be pretty worried about that 'chosen' status, I think.

#97 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 12:48 AM:

Dena Shunra: 'Cause if he would have, he'd be pretty worried about that 'chosen' status, I think.

But those Chosen weren't as Chosen as he is.

#98 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:21 AM:

I had no idea that there ever was a Robin Bush, but it does shed some light on the character of the whole clan. Of course, if she had been the child of any prominent Democrat, I'm sure that the tale would be legend. Ugh.

#99 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:44 AM:

Aconite @97, the Most Chosen got nailed to a cross.

I'd much prefer having Bush nailed by a prosecutor than to anything.

#100 ::: Tehanu ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 03:42 AM:

#34 ::: JC
...
My other thought was that the administration would hire more mercenaries. (That seems very "fall of the Roman Empire" though.)

I keep thinking it's more like the rise of the Roman Empire. We already had the assassinations of the Gracchi/Kennedys. Now, in the person of Darth Cheney, we seem to be getting Sulla and Crassus rolled into one. After this....

#49 ::: Ethan

Ethan: everything you said rings horribly, horribly true.

#101 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 04:07 AM:

Everything rings true, perhaps, except for the typo on the word "benefit," which, sheesh, I just noticed. And I pride myself on that crap.

By the way, does anyone know of a way to see video of these old Bush speeches (before he played dumb) on the information superhighway? A quick search of youtube didn't turn anything up.

#102 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 08:13 AM:

Tehanu @100

We certainly have the Optimates in charge: As they are the "best people", this must be the best of all possible governments/plans/wars.

After this, of course, is the backlash of the "Populists".

#103 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 08:18 AM:

Populists? How do you figure that?

#104 ::: Paul Herzberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 08:30 AM:

Clifton @ #89 reminds me of a post a while back in the Guardian titled "Is your boss a psychopath?"

Board and Fritzon found that three of 11 personality disorders (PDs) were actually commoner in managers than in disturbed criminals. The first was histrionic PD, entailing superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulativeness. There was also a higher incidence of narcissism: grandiosity, self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitativeness and independence. Finally, there was more compulsive PD in the managers, including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work, rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.

I seem to remember a post here that, essentially, posited that Bush is a distillation of all the bad managers you'd ever had. I'm not sure if this article is totally conclusive, but...

#105 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 08:48 AM:

Dena Shunra: the Most Chosen got nailed to a cross.

I'm nervously unsure that Bush sees that person as More Chosen than Bush himself. More like one of the Also-Rans--one of the wimpy ones who didn't bring a sword, and so failed and got himself crucified.

Bush, of course, won't make that mistake, by gumbo.

#106 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 09:50 AM:

#95 Teresa and others:

The notion that Bush or Cheney's main motive is riches just doesn't ring true to me. With the effort they've invested in politics, they presumably could have made more money doing something else. I think this is about power and prestige. Bush gets power partly by courting supporters, who do care more about money than power. But riches doesn't make sense as a motivator here.

Wouldn't anyone who wound up as president have a certain sense of being chosen for great things, by God or destiny? Especially anyone who had the kind of ego necessary to run for president?

Bush is a young man, and he is looking at spendnig the rest of his life somewhere between Nixon and Carter in the ex-president ratings--probably not resigning in disgrace, but probably widely considered a failure because of the Iraq war. I predict that if he could cost himself half his future net worth to be seen as well as Clinton (who's hardly untarnished!), he'd do it.

One other thing Bush has probably done is ensure that Jeb won't ever be president. Again, this is likely something that everyone in his family knows (politics is the family business, and they know it well), and I predict that Bush would give a great deal to change this--to at least not be seen as the reason Jeb will never be president.

#107 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 09:56 AM:

#61 TNH: "That perception was behind Hitler's "no retreat allowed" orders to his troops on the collapsing Eastern Front. They just had to keep trying harder in the positions they already held. So they did; and they got killed and captured in quantities that are hard to match in the history of warfare. They also lost the fight faster and more devastatingly than they otherwise would have, because they weren't allowed to make tactical retreats and consolidate their forces."

Same in the Pacific Theatre: Japan's entire strategy depended upon wearing the Americans down through sheer, bloody obstinacy. Thus, strategy of fighting for every island, the training with bamboo spears for women and children on the home islands. Banzai charges, as it turned out, didn't really work very well. But clearly that was the fault of the women and children back home, who didn't stitch their thousand-stitch belts with enough enthusiasm.

I looked at the Dolchstosslegende Wiki page, and was mildly disappointed to see they don't have an entry for Japan. The influence of the nationalists in Japan is growing depressingly fast, and is in large part driven by that sort of "we wuz robbed" revisionism.

"For the last 50 years, right-wing Japanese nationalism has always been bound up with the promotion of the emperor and the defence of his wartime regime. Last month Obuchi himself provoked criticism at home when, in an essay in the US edition of Time magazine, he nominated Hirohito as “Person of the Century”."

#108 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:12 AM:

#61 Teresa:

Well, you're right that they can't spin everything and they can't hide everything. But I don't think we get enough detail to understand that much about their personalities, or necessarily even their intelligence.

One thing that's hard to spin is verbal quickness--not the same thing as intelligence, exactly, but surely correlated with it. People can be very smart but not verbally quick--I can think of collegues in my field (whose abilities I can judge by their work) who cover a wide range, between very verbally quick to people who almost can't hold a real-time conversation because they need to go think about each response.

Sometimes we get slip-ups, like George Allen's macaca comment. But it's really hard for me to see whether this slip-up reflects the real person or just a stupid comment that rises up to bite him. What's that Niven quote? We all speak first draft. The usual routine is that people forgive missteps by their own side, and assume the worst possible interpretation of the other side's missteps.

Sometimes we get flashes of emotion, which are probably sometimes genunine, and sometimes scripted. Bush does a lot of emoting determination. Is that because he's really determined, or because he's in a trade where emoting determination is a critical skill? Clinton did the same thing with sincerity and sorrow and all kinds of stuff. Do you think he was really sincerely sorrowful about the bimbos? (About getting caught, yes, but about the bimbos he didn't get caught with?)

#109 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:15 AM:

Ursula L #90: I want to be Gregor Vorbarra....

#110 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:21 AM:

albatross, 106: I predict that Bush would give a great deal to change this--to at least not be seen as the reason Jeb will never be president.

No, the worst thing for Mad King George would be Jeb's election. Because then he'd be even more firmly labeled as The Bush What Sucks. He's already a total failure at outdoing his daddy; to be outdone by the Good Brother would be insupportable. (I use "good" in a relative sense, of course.)

#111 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:30 AM:

I think all politicians should be allowed to speak in public only under the influence of fast-penta. Chaos would ensue, but it would be such fun.

Fragano, I identified with him too, but I wouldn't go so far as saying I want to be him. I'd like to live on Beta Colony, though. (LMB was a bit startled when I told her I wouldn't care to live on Athos. I'd miss my women friends, and being-friends-with-women more generally, and besides men behave abominably when there are no women around. More trivially, fathers have to wear beards there, yuck.)

#112 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:38 AM:

Xopher #111: As a father with a beard, I should take umbrage at that last! I rather like the Earth of Bujold's universe. However, for some reason, I wouldn't mind living on Escobar. Jackson's Whole, however, would be right out. On t'other hand, it would be a good place to send W.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:44 AM:

Yes, Xopher, what have you got against bearded men? (Meanwhile, did you know that the French's old-fashioned slang word for 'spy' was 'barbouze'? Apparently, beards were a favorite elements of their disguises.)

#114 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:46 AM:

Serge #113: A more recent use of 'barbouze' was for the Gaullist hard men who fought the OAS in Algeria in the early 1960s.

#115 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:51 AM:

I want to be Gregor Vorbarra....

To which my first reaction was, "Dear God, why?!"

But I guess if you go for the reasonably content post-marriage Gregor, it wouldn't be so bad.

#116 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:52 AM:

Xopher: I'm with you--give me Beta Colony any day, where weird relationship headgames are Frowned Upon.

Why, oh why, do so many straight people assume queers would enjoy living in single-sex enclaves (or on single-sex planets, as the case may be)?

#117 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 10:54 AM:

Duly noted, Fragano. Interesting how the meaning of a word changes or spreads out.

#118 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 11:05 AM:

Carrie S #115: He seems by far the sanest character in the Vorkosigan novels. Even counting his attempt to escape the rigours of the job, and his being misled by flattery.

#119 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 11:09 AM:

#116: Beta Colony also has a president that no one seems to have voted for.

Somehow, I don't think Lois Bujold would have used that joke if she had written "Shards of Honor" after December 2000.

#120 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 11:34 AM:

Why, oh why, do so many straight people assume queers would enjoy living in single-sex enclaves (or on single-sex planets, as the case may be)?

If I remember correctly, having read Ethan of Athos only once, Athos was started as an enclave of seriously weird, women-are-the-root-of-all-evil, whackjob gender seperatists. They set out to make a society of no women, and actually succeeded.

Then, a few generations later, it's just the way things are. It's not that Ethan and his contemporaries are queer; it's just that they have relationships with the other people around them, who are all male. Being gay implies the option of being straight, which on Athos doesn't exist. I don't know if you can call that homosexual in the way it's currently understood--there's no other possibility to contrast it with as long as you stay on Athos, and most men aren't going to pine so much after something they've never had (i.e. women) as to uproot their whole lives and leave the planet in search of it.

You'd just get a lot of guys who go for shorter, less hairy guys. :)

Actually, one of the things I rather liked about Ethan as a character was his complete lack of sexism. Having grown up in a place where gender wasn't something you had to consider about a person, it never occurs to him to look down on Ellie for being female--he grasps in short order that she's not going to attempt to drag his soul into hell, and after that he never once says anything like "Well, only a woman would think of that." It's just not an issue for him.

#121 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 11:53 AM:

Bush also returns to christianity often in his speaking; it's probably fair to say that he believes in something he calls christianity, though it may not be anything anyone with much charity or compassion would recognize as christian. He is very like, I think, a zealous priest, willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to achieve his vision. As to "winning"--the reason, ultimately, that 'nam could not be won was that sufficient escalation would have led to World War III. The leaders and policymakers of the period, even Kissenger, even Nixon, drew back from that. The war in Iraq has already enormously exacerbated the conflict between the USA and the Arab/Islamic world, weakened the USA in both militarily and politically, and raised the overall global conflict level. Sufficient escalation in Iraq would lead to--what? Finally--I think we talk too much of Bush, and too little of Congress and, indeed, the public. Part of what the success of Bush's zeal shows us is the failure of constitutional protections in the Congress, the problem of a consolidate mass media, and the depressing ease with which our public can be sold, at least for a while, a war.

#122 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 12:38 PM:

#95, #106: I'm not saying that Bush's main motivation is riches. As a narcissist, his main motivation would be to be admired and envied. (Think of the people you see with bumper stickers or window stickers reading "You want to be me.")

I'm saying that it is worth a look for obvious self-directed motives in each of his obsessive goals. With narcissists, it isn't always more complicated than that.

The war in Iraq - clearly that's all about self-gratification as powerful. "I'm the war president."

#123 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:00 PM:

Being the "war president"?

Nah. I think it's just him trying to prove to his mom that his dick is bigger than his dad's.

#124 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:03 PM:

trying to prove to his mom that his dick is bigger than his dad's.

Veering into Oedipus territory...

#125 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:10 PM:

Carrie S.--I was talking about LMB's surprise at Xopher's sentiment, not about the culture on Athos. I may very well be reading much into her surprise, and why she'd be surprised, because I have met so many straight people who assume it's every gay person's dream to live exclusively among others of the same sex. I don't understand that at all. I like living around all kinds of people I don't want to sleep with. I assume most humans do, but I may be wrong about that.

#126 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 01:31 PM:

Good God, a whole planet of gay men...gay bars are hard enough for me. (And yes, I know a planet of gay men is exactly not what you were talking about, it's just that the suggestion gave me shivers.)

#106 Albatross: I still think making money is pretty much enough motivation. If you were in the Bush family and wanted to accumulate as much wealth as possible, wouldn't politics be one of your main tools? Notice I say one of; I don't think for a second that politics is any of these people's primary job.

By the way, if we factor in some sort of distorted Christianity, everything makes even more sense. In current Christian Conservativism, there's that whole weird neo-Calvinist thought that if you're rich it's because you're one of God's chosen. Hence, if you make yourself as rich as possible, you're the chosenest. God's choosiest choice.

But all that aside, I firmly believe that what these people are after, what their schemes are, are borderline unknowable to people like us. All of the stuff we debate about is, at bottom, a distraction from what's really going on. That belief may be the result of some chemical imbalance or whatever, but it's what I believe.

#127 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 02:11 PM:

#112, 113: I have NOTHING against bearded men, any more than I have anything against women. Put another way, I have the same thing against men with big bushy beards as I have against women: only (only!) the fact that I'm not attracted to them.

So if I wanted to live with an Athosian and our kids, he'd wear a beard, and that would be a turnoff for me. No fun.

My closest friends are a couple I introduced, and later married, consisting of a bearded man and a woman. I don't want to have sex with either one, but I enjoy their company.

Athos, by the way, is the namesake of a Greek island where women are (still? Not sure) not allowed to set foot. But they are monks, and repopulate from the general community, so they don't have anyone who's never seen a woman.

#128 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 02:20 PM:

It really doesn't take much twisting of Christian theology to wind up with someone as abhorrent as Shrub.

If you're saved by the proverbial Protestant faith alone, it doesn't matter how evil your actions are, because you're saved. And the people you harm have to forgive you, or they go to hell, because good Christians forgive, and everyone else goes to hell. Wanting to hold you accountable only shows their sinful nature.

And the Christians of this persuasion have no reason to temper their actions with kindness or good sense, because they are exempt from both earthly and spiritual accountability.

Add in some Calvinist ideas about wealth being proof of divine favor, and you've got an absolute monster, who will do anything for his own benefit, and has no reason to consider others.

#129 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 02:24 PM:

Xopher #127: Oh, good.

BTW, Athos is a peninsula not an island.

#130 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2006, 02:39 PM:

#34: The sneaky thing to do would be to let Chuck Rangel's bill to pass on a party line vote.

Nope. The sneaky thing to do would be to propose the "Take This Job And Shove It Act". All military personnel may resign with two weeks notice, unless the US Military is engaged in a Congressionally declared war.

End this Iraq thing right quick, you betcha.

#89: has a grandiose sense of self-importance

I can agree with all the other symptoms except this one. The man has the most powerful arsenal in the world at his fingertips. His decisions and mental state affect billions of people. He IS important, for the next 761 days. Never forget that.

#131 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 08:50 PM:

I forget where I heard it proposed, but:

for every month we're in Iraq, the tax rate on the richest 1% of the country goes up by 2%.

We'd be out in no time.

#132 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2006, 06:47 PM:

Anyone else noticed that while the US has been busy playing "British Empire: Part 2", Putin has been quietly reinstating the Russian empire big time? Only this time he doesn't need tanks, cos he's got the whole of western europe dependent on his gas supply.

I suspect that scattering Polonium 210 around London wasn't just about scaring the opposition - it was also a gentle reminder that he can do whatever he likes, and the west can't do anything about it - cos he can turn the lights out.

#133 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2007, 08:24 AM:

Teresa @103 - that's what I'm wondering now. I think it's best if I stop mapping the late Roman Republic onto the 21st Century until I can tell the differnece between the end of the roman republic and the end of the galactic republic.

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