Just Above Sunset Archives
February 15, 2004 - Plato's Cave, the Titanic in the Caribbean?
What was that Bush interview last weekend really about?
Take your pick.
In the last issue of Just
Above Sunset I posted an item on our leader, George Bush - February 8, 2004 - Is our leader dumb as a post, a liar, or mad as a hatter? - and now that he's done the interview with Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" people
are weighing in on the matter.
Going over the transcript of Tim Russert's interview with President Bush, a disturbing question comes to mind: Is the president telling lies and playing with semantics, or is he unaware of what's going on - including inside his own administration?
First, President Bush seems to be vastly enlarging his doctrine of pre-emptive warfare. This doctrine originally declared that the United States has the right to attack a hostile power that possesses
weapons of mass destruction. The idea was that we must sometimes strike first,
in order to prevent the other side from striking us.
Oh heck, either way, we're
in trouble. Its either nonsense or... nonsense.
Also worthy of note were Bush's comments on the war in Vietnam.
Russert asked him whether he supported that war. Bush replied that he
did, sort of. The president added: "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles
me, as I look back, was it was a political war. We had politicians making military
decisions, and it is a lesson that any president must learn, and that is to set the goal and the objective and allow the military
to come up with the plans to achieve that objective."
Fred, Fred... assume he
Realistic. Dangers that exist. The world the way it is. These are strange words to hear from
a president whose prewar descriptions of Iraqi weapons programs are so starkly at odds with the postwar findings of his own
inspectors. A week ago, David Kay, the man picked by Bush to supervise the inspections,
told the Senate Armed Services Committee that his team had found almost none of the threats Bush had advertised. No chemical and biological weapons stockpiles. No evidence
of a renewed nuclear weapons program. No evidence of illicit weapons delivered
to terrorists. "We were all wrong," said Kay.
This big-picture notion of reality, existence, and the world as it is dates back 2,400 years to the Greek philosopher Plato. Plato believed that what's real isn't the things you can touch and see: your computer, your desk, those empty barrels in Iraq that Bush thought were full of chemical weapons. What's real is the general idea of these things.
Ah, Bush the Platonic Idealist. That explains it!
In Bush's Platonic reality, the world is dangerous, threats exist, and the evidence of our senses
must be interpreted to fit that larger truth. On the night he launched the war,
for example, Bush told the nation, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime
continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised." Russert asked Bush whether, in retrospect,
that statement was false. Bush replied, "I made a decision based upon that intelligence
in the context of the war against terror." In other words, we were attacked,
and therefore every threat had to be reanalyzed. Every threat had to be looked
at. Every potential harm to America had to be judged in the context of this war
Well, you could count the
coffins of our sons and daughters.
Why did Americans elect a president who thinks this way?
Because they wanted a leader different from Bill Clinton. They liked some
things about Clinton, but they were sick of his dishonesty in the Monica Lewinsky affair and his constant shifting in the
political winds. Bush promised that he would say what he believed and stick to
And I don't know the answer
to that question.
Michael Graham: President Bush
looks like he's afraid of Tim Russert. He's stammering and unsteady. For the first time, I've felt a twinge of fear myself about the November election.
I'm not one of those who believes that a good president has to have the debating skills of a Tony Blair or the rhetorical facility of Bill Clinton. I cannot help liking the president as a person. I still believe he did a great and important thing in liberating Iraq (although we have much, much more to do). But, if this is the level of coherence, grasp of reality, and honesty that is really at work in his understanding of domestic fiscal policy, then we are in even worse trouble than we thought. We have a captain on the fiscal Titanic who thinks he's in the Caribbean.
I am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed... managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units ... Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country.
Powell should have never
Getting to the heart of matters... some recommended reading...
Steve Erickson has written
about politics for The New York Times ("The End of Cynicism," 1992), the Los Angeles Times Magazine ("American
Weimar," 1995) and Rolling Stone ("A Nation of Nomads," 1995), as well as two books about American politics and culture. As an editor at the L.A. Weekly from 1989 until 1993, he covered such stories
as Bill Clinton's first inauguration ("The Last-Chance President," January 1993). He's
the author of seven novels, including the forthcoming Our Ecstatic Days from Simon and Schuster, and is also
the film critic for Los Angeles magazine and the editor of Black Clock, a literary journal published by CalArts -
out north in Valencia, where he teaches writing.
Whether it's Christian or Islamic, an uncompromising religious vision can't recognize the legitimacy
of democracy without betraying itself. Democracy insists on a pluralism that
entertains the possibility that one's religious beliefs might be wrong and another's might be right, and that all religious
beliefs may be varying degrees of wrong or right - what traditionalists despise as "relativism." Almost by definition,
democracy is at least a little bit blasphemous. It's a breach of rigorous spiritual
discipline, and its mechanisms are among the human works of the modern age, which itself is viewed by fundamentalism as an
abomination. Doubt is a critical component of both democracy and its leadership. In the eyes of democracy, doubt is not just moral but necessary; the psychology of
democracy must allow for doubt about the rightness of any given political position, because otherwise the position can never
be questioned. The Bill of Rights and the First Amendment in particular are monuments
to the right to doubt, and to the right of one person to doubt the rightness of 200 million.
In contrast, the psychology of theocracy not only denies doubt but views it as a cancer on the congregation, prideful
temerity in the face of divine righteousness as it's communicated by God to the leaders of the state.
And that's just part of
To secularists, including those who believe in God and attend church or synagogue or mosque on a more or less regular basis, the revelation of a CIA operatives identity by someone in the government as a form of political retribution seems beyond the pale, particularly in an era of terror. It's a deliberate violation of national security for partisan purposes. But in the theocratic view of power, national security and political self-interest are inseparable when both are factors in a presidential power that's in the service of Divine Will. From the vantage point of the theocratic psyche, a divinely interpreted national interest overwhelms narrow ideas of security as held by secularists whose insight lacks a divine scope. The theocratic rationale for the Iraq war and the United States' subsequent presence in Iraq exists far above petty secular anxieties about justifying either. If the president could barely conceal his impatience on last Sunday's Meet the Press with distinctions between Iraq actually having weapons or having the capacity to make weapons, between imminent threats or threats that might become imminent, it's because such distinctions couldn't be more beside the point. It was never a matter of reasons justifying the war. Rather, the war justifies the reasoning. Some might suggest that the president's case for the war was made in bad faith, but there is no "bad" in the president's perception of faith, there's only true faith that sometimes is confronted with hard tests posed by divine destiny, the hardest of which is whether the president can work his will on God's behalf, however it must be done. That Iraq had nothing to do with those who attacked America almost two and a half years ago is only a distracting detour in moral reasoning, fine print for those whom God hasn't called.
Now go read it all.