Topic: Election Notes
Listen to the Women: Points to Consider
Dahlia Lithwick, the attorney who writes a column for Slate on legal issues and provides insider views of the give and take at sessions of the Supreme Court, and who now and then appears on the news show as an expert on legal matters, is doing a turn as a guest columnist at the New York Times. Yes, a few of the regular Times columnists do take summer vacations.
Here she takes to task critics who portray George Bush as a kind of child, or, shall we say, as a childish frat-boy.
Babies and Bath Water
Dahlia Lithwick, The New York Times, August 19, 2004
Her point is that we should not be framing a national conversation about the president this way, as it doesn't do his opponents any good at all.
What she's talking about?
Ah, guilty as charged here.
But Lithwick says that thinking of Bushas a not-particularly-smart third grader make me look bad. Why? Because "it plays to every stereotype of liberals as snotty know-it-alls who think everyone in a red state is anti-intellectual or simple-minded. It answers name-calling from the right with name-calling from the left."
That is perhaps true.
And Lithwick also points out that this is an implicit insult to anyone who voted for Bush last time around. Those who maintain this Bush-as-petulant-child view are just sneering, as she says, and saying a little under half of all voters last time around "voted for a kid - and a dumb kid at that."
Well, if the shoe fits....
Then Lithwick discusses this in relation to the Bush-Gore debates four years ago and suggests Gore's behavior - the deep sighs and the eye rolling and all that - shows how dangerous such a view is. Gore came off badly.
[The media watchdog Bob Somerby here suggests this was not the case at all.]
Be that as it may, she says there is a bigger problem than Bush opponents of this sort coming off as arrogant, smug, condescending twits -
Oh yeah, those guys, the old white men who run the country. Almost forgot about them.
The she lays another one out there - the psychological consequences of pointing out that the president is, perhaps in fact, an incurious frat-boy.
Hey, who said anything about exoneration?
Yes, jokes may not be useful, and she cites the one about Laura Bush tying the president's shoes each morning before she points him toward the Oval Office. But the "child" thing may be absolutely true, and at the same time, no one is excusing anything here.
Jeff Popovich here says he agrees with most of the Times essay, but says what's wrong is the implication is that the portrayal of Bush "as a dope" is strictly the screeching of the left. He suggests the Bush team is using this image carefully.
Curious. Our Bush may be a spoiled, nasty child, just as you say, but your Kerry is an old man and wimp?
That may be a successful ploy. Energy, however mindless and destructive, is always more interesting than plodding and dull thoughtfulness. And that thought comes to you from out here in Hollywood. It is the first law of the box office - just basic marketing.
Molly Ivins, the Texas liberal (a strange species) has a slightly different take. She takes us back to Thucydides writing about the day when the leaders in Athens watched their fleet leave port to go off and conquer Sicily. That would be 2,419 years ago, if you keep track of such things. And of course, the Greeks got trounced - they lost the whole fleet. Oops.
Thucydides had this to say -
"To think of the future and wait was merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just another attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; ability to understand the question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action; fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man... Anyone who held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to them became a suspect."
Nothing much changes, does it? Ivins runs with that idea.
What. A. Mess.
Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate 08.19.04 -
She sets the stage thusly -
Well, she goes on to explain that her gripe is that Kerry is running such a cautious campaign that Bush can get away with falsely claiming that Kerry would have supported the war even if he had known then what he knows today.
And she thinks this is just painful, given how things are going in Iraq - thus the title of her essay.
But what to do now?
It seems she is counseling Kerry and his folks to flaunt this "nuance" or "sensitivity" business, just as the other side flaunts the opposites. And let the people decide which approach will get us out of this mess.
Lithwick and Ivins? We need more such women.