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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 30 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Now on line!
Just Above Sunset ...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, is online now.

Volume 2, Number 34 of contains...

[>] A special guest column from Rick Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta.
[>] Breaking news on the spy story from Friday
[>] Three sequential items on Political Character (if there is such a thing)
[>] A photo-essay on last week's celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of The Liberation of Paris, with words and pictures from Ric Erickson on the spot, along with links to items (in French) on how the French see California
[>] A surreal story, via Ric Erickson, of an odd event in Ch?tellerault
[>] Bob Patterson goes wild with two columns - digging deep for what is really what!
[>] Snazzy photography - working close-up and personal pretentious
[>] The usual odd quotes to amuse you...

... and more!

One of the photos?

Posted by Alan at 20:19 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Sunday, 29 August 2004

Topic: Photos

Coming soon!
Just Above Sunset should be on line in a few hours...

The new issue of Just Above Sunset, the parent site to this web log, should go online late today. If you wandered over here from there, last week's issue is still current. That would be Volume 2, Number 33.

Volume 2, Number 34 is almost completed, but the Just Above Sunset web hosting service has crapped out, again. Earthlink has been telling me since yesterday morning they are working on it. We shall see.

On this end I will be trying every workaround I can imagine.

In the meantime? A pretty picture -

Posted by Alan at 12:42 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Saturday, 28 August 2004

Topic: Couldn't be so...

News Cycles: Friday Afternoon Follies

Why does the interesting news break late Friday afternoon after the press put their Saturday newspapers to bed and the nightly newscasts were over, and the weekend television programming turns to sports? Sometimes if you have bad news you hold release of it for the least possible exposure. Maybe no one will notice. Then too, sometimes life just doesn't follow the news cycle.

Bush and the Texas Air National Guard

Is Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the person who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard? Late Friday a video clip [Windows Media] started going around, and the wire services started picking it up.

If you have a slow connection or cannot stream the video, Barnes says this -
Let's talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush and I know them both. And I'm not namedropping to say I know `em both. I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But I did it. And I got a lot of other people into the National Guard because I thought that was what people should do, when you're in office you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam Memorial the other day and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been because it was the worst thing that I did was that I helped a lot of wealthy supporters and a lot of people who had family names of importance get into the National Guard and I'm very sorry about that and I'm very ashamed and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.
Oh man, this is trouble

Jeff Horwitz adds this -
Barnes then condemned the Republican attacks on John Kerry's war service: "And I tell you that for the Republicans to jump on John Kerry and say that he is not a patriot after he went to Vietnam and was shot at and fought for our freedom and came back here and protested against the war, he's a flip-flopper, let me tell you: John Kerry is a 100 times better patriot than George Bush or Dick Cheney."

The video of Barnes was filmed by Todd Phelan and Mike Nicholson, organizers of a political group called Austin4Kerry. Phelan is currently an organizer for the Travis County Democrats. The video first appeared on the Austin4Kerry Web site on June 25, but was widely overlooked until Friday. The video also includes a separate interview conducted by the same two filmmakers in which Barnes speaks with admiration about Kerry's valor.

Phelan and Nicholson recall they were surprised by the candor of Barnes' remarks while they were filming him at the rally. "To be honest with you, my eyes lit up instantaneously," Phelan told Salon. "I looked at Mike, he looked at me, and it was like 'Did he just say that?'"
Yep, he did.

But is he lying? Did he help a rich white kid take the coward's way out of fighting in a war the kid said he totally supported? We shall see if this is so.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, wants the facts.
I'd like to hear him give some details as to how he did that. Who approached him? Is there evidence that George W Bush was aware it was happening? Was his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, demonstrably aware? What strings did Barnes have to pull?
Yep, Rick has the instincts of a newsman. This is just one guy saying he did this, and a lifelong Democrat at that. He is not happy with the younger Bush, but is he making this all up?

Did the younger Bush receive special favors? As noted here by James C. Moore, the fellow who wrote "Bush's Brain" - the recent book about Karl Rove - the answer from Bush is no, and Moore provides a direct quote from Bush: "I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

If Barnes is telling the truth? Bush can always say he had no idea Barnes did anything. Bush will say he didn't ask for any favors, nor did his father. Barnes must have been freelancing or something.

If Barnes is lying? Well then Bush looks good. Some guys are just lucky, as I'm sure you understand.


More interesting is the Friday late-breaking news that someone high up in Douglas Feith's office at the Pentagon has been feeding Israel top-secret planning documents and got caught. CBS broke the story late in the afternoon, Pacific Time.

The most detailed version of this mess is here, from an investigative reporter who has been working this story for many months and was going to publish soon - but got blindsided.

Of course this Isreali-mole-in-the-Pentagon expos? confirms everything the Muslim world knows, or think they know. This won't play well in all the capitals from Amman to Cairo to Islamabad. We are, it seems, really the Likud Party West and Israel is the fifty-first state. More fodder of the evil-doers who hate us. The only word is, for now, a "high level official" turns out to be a spy for Israel, and Sharon has had all our planning documents and details of our military array for some time. The word going around this is an employee at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, one Larry Franklin, reporting up through Douglas Feith to Rumsfeld. My money would have on Richard Perle, the former head advisor to Rumsfeld. Perle ran the Jerusalem Post for Conrad Black, and Perle was the chief advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu way back when. Oh well. The story will play out early next week, and it may have to do with how the US and Israel plan to deal with Iran and its nuclear threat - bomb them, or invade and occupy the place, or fund a coup? Whatever.

Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, adds this -
I do hope we nail and jail whoever is responsible. (Remember Jonathan Pollard? Is my recollection correct that Clinton would not pardon him during the mid east talks, nor would he as he left office?)

If Bush takes this lightly, which may help him in Israel and certain segments of the American Jewish community, it will definitely further hurt America's image around the world - which, of course, this crowd has heretofore not given a flying fart.
And as I said to Ric, yes, Pollard is still in jail. Clinton wouldn't let him out. And Israel is still protesting his sentence. And by the way, all polling I've seen shows Bush is not getting any more of the Jewish vote than he ever got - which is not much. Kissing Sharon's ass these last three years hasn't moved the figures at all. It must be frustrating.

As for America's image around the world, these guys prove they're tough by ticking off the number of former allies who are appalled and scornful of what we now do or say - their objections are a badge of honor.

This just gets more interesting all the time.

Posted by Alan at 12:38 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink

Friday, 27 August 2004

Topic: Election Notes

Trends: The Coming Bush Victory

Late in the week my friend Phillip in Atlanta asked me if I still believed Bush would win the election in November.

Will Bush win? Given this week's polls - I'm still pretty sure. Close, but trending to Bush - and I'll plug in some figures in Excel and do a regression analysis later (something I learned as a professional geek years ago - how to do double regression trend lines). Of course, the electoral vote is another matter. Rick Brown is on that one (see his column It's the Electoral College, Stupid! from earlier in the week).

You can always find the latest polling data at The Daily Kos, as Markos Moulitsas Z?niga (Kos) tracks it all -
CNN/Gallup Likely Voters - 8/25 (Prev: 8/1)
Bush 48% (51)
Kerry 46% (45)
Nader 3% (2)

FOX News
Likely Voters - 8/25 (Previous: 8/4)
Bush 43% (43)
Kerry 44% (47)
Nader 3% (2)

Registered Voters - 8/25 (Prev: 8/18)
Bush 44% (41)
Kerry 47% (48)
Nader 2% (2)

LA Times
Registered Voters - 8/24 (Prev: 7/21)
Bush 47% (44)
Kerry 44% (46)
Nader 3% (3)

Registered Voters - 8/23 (Prev: 8/5)
Bush 43% (42)
Kerry 43% (45)
Nader 5% (5)
Other factors? There's a new Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad due out soon. CNN has shifted its wording - and its folks all now say, as they introduce one more item on it all, that the facts are in dispute (Kerry may not have saved Rasmussen's life - we don't know - so he may be dead? But? Should we tell they guy?) Just being fair - the Swifties say this, all the Navy records and other facts of time and place say something else, so to be fair, all is in dispute (CNN can't take sides). [See footnote.]

Also the Republican Convention in New York City will give Bush a boost next week.

Beyond the Polls - The Economy

The economic numbers this week were bad for Bush - poverty is and issue - "The number of people living in poverty rose by 1.3 million to 35.9 million people, or 12.5 percent of the population, up from 12.1 percent in 2002." And this - "The poverty rate has risen from a recent low of 11.3 percent in 2000, meaning an additional 4.3 million people are living in poverty as defined by the government." Ands there is the issue of healthcare - "The number of people with health insurance increased by 1.0 million to 243.3 million between 2002 and 2003, and the number without such coverage rose by 1.4 million to 45.0 million. The percentage of the nation's population without coverage grew from 15.2 percent in 2002 to 15.6 percent in 2003."

But most folks would rather be jobless and starve as long as Lars and Spanky don't marry each other. Social issues regarding queers and perverts, so to speak, carry weight. And there is the idea Bush was chosen by God, so you know what to do.

And finally, after all, Bush may be dangerous, but Kerry is just dull, and he flip-flops, and he speaks French when no one is looking.

And folks get off when Bush smirks. They find it funny that he says "Fuck You" to the world - and it makes them proud. That's what everyone secretly wants to say to the world, about everything.

Thus he wins.


Ric Erickson, editor of MetropoleParis, has a question about these economic figures - "If 12.5 percent of Americans are impoverished; while 15.6 percent are without health insurance, doesn't this indicate that about 3.0 percent of the non-impoverished are maintaining their status by not having health insurance?"

Yes. That is exactly what happens. The three percent difference represents people whose employers no longer offer and health benefits at all - a growing number of firms large and small, as those who run businesses are supposed to show profits and growth to shareholders and health benefits are a drag on the bottom line. That's illegal in California, where if you have two hundred or more employees you must provide the benefits. No choice. But laws vary state to state. With the glut of folks on the market who need work, the desperate-but-qualified, no longer offering benefits just does not hamper a firm's ability to hire or retain good people. Folks would rather work without benefits than not work at all.

Employers too have shifted the cost of the benefits more and more to the employees - you must now chip in some of your own money if benefits are offered. We had a four-month grocery workers strike out here on that issue - and the union caved. Most everywhere the percent you as a worker must chip in will rise, next year, by an average of over nine percent more.

Wal-Mart has a benefits plan where they only cover "catastrophic" expenses - all else is your problem. Our emergency rooms here are thus not only flooded by the uninsured, and illegal immigrants, but also by fulltime employed Wal-Mart workers with broken bones and such. Three Los Angeles emergency rooms have shut down this year so far because they just cannot sustain the losses involved - no one can pay for the services and they are required by law to treat anyone who walks in the door. Catholic Healthcare West's Sherman Way room shut down last week - in Northridge, out in the San Fernando Valley. (I thinking they're closing the whole hospital, actually. I used to work for CHW and know their General Ledger and Accounts Payable systems well - that was my job for three years, managing those systems.) The remaining six emergency rooms in Los Angeles county are now even more flooded and making sounds like they too might shut down. The city and the county, and the state, don't have the money to do much about this. Our governor, Arnold, the charismatic Austrian fellow who speaks German and talks tough, has just arranged to float twenty-two billion in bonds to keep us solvent for a bit longer on borrowed money. There is nothing available for this. The Feds say it's not their problem.

Too, many of those employed, as Ric guessed, with bills and debts, opt to waive whatever heath coverage is offered - a growing number of young workers who feel healthy, and economically squeezed. It's a choice. You're young. You take your chances.

But we're free, and don't have to suffer under socialized medicine like in France, Canada or Sweden, or the UK. We are willing to pay the cost of freedom from the evil Marxist ideas of the old Soviet Union and those godless communists. Think of the state motto of New Hampshire - "Live Free or Die." Change the "or" to "and" and you get the idea.

Bush can campaign effectively on the evils of socialized medicine. That always works. As for the poverty figures? We have turned the corner? Harder to sell, but folks may buy it.

Steph, my friend in London, Ontario, says things in Canada are not that good there really -
Healthcare in Canada? If you were still here in Ontario, Alan, this year you would have to shell out $750 for a new Health Care tax above and beyond what already goes to health care from your income taxes.

Add to that an average auto insurance increase of 30-40% (yup, just this year compared to last) here in Ontario, and the city of London's 10.5% increase in property taxes and 7% on water taxes. Oddly enough I don't know anyone getting anywhere near the raise needed to keep up with all this.
I guess things are tough all over.

And Ric in Paris shot this back -
All that is a piffle. In France some companies are saying to workers that if they don't start working 40 hours a week for 35 hours' pay, they'll move the factory to Poland. Bosch did that two weeks ago. Their French help is now working longer - until Bosch decides to move the factory to Poland in two years anyway.

Other companies have not bothered with this 'politesse.' They call in the CRS riot police and moving vans, strip the factory and truck it to Poland - leaving the workers behind to carry on with their 35-hour work week in an empty shell. Shown on TV-news tonight. If it keeps up France should be totally delocalized within six months. The natives will be in an ugly mood; tourists need to be warned!

In situations like this it hardly matters how high taxes are getting. And in Canada's particular case we should remember that those huge percentage increases are based on piddly Canadian dollars, probably worth no more than a handful of alloy pesos. Heaven help us all if taxes had to be paid in petro-euros!
Ah, tough times everywhere. And is a reference, one US dollar is worth 0.85586 euros, and one Canadian dollar is worth 1.68789 USD - right now. You do the math.

Gee, Bush could run on the economy-is-fine idea. We don't have toy currency like Canada, and businesses are bailing out of France. So we must be doing just fine.

Still, I think Bush will probably run on the social issues, and character, as he calls it.

He will win.


The Press

Footnote on CNN:

On the function of the press there was this satiric exchange on Jon Stewart's Daily Show this week (it's a comic faux news show)
STEWART: Here's what puzzles me most, Rob. John Kerry's record in Vietnam is pretty much right there in the official records of the US military, and haven't been disputed for 35 years?

CORDDRY: That's right, Jon, and that's certainly the spin you'll be hearing coming from the Kerry campaign over the next few days.

STEWART: Th-that's not a spin thing, that's a fact. That's established.

CORDDRY: Exactly, Jon, and that established, incontrovertible fact is one side of the story.

STEWART: But that should be -- isn't that the end of the story? I mean, you've seen the records, haven't you? What's your opinion?

CORDDRY: I'm sorry, my *opinion*? No, I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons'. I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity' -- might wanna look it up some day.

STEWART: Doesn't objectivity mean objectively weighing the evidence, and calling out what's credible and what isn't?

CORDDRY: Whoa-ho! Well, well, well -- sounds like someone wants the media to act as a filter! [high-pitched, effeminate] 'Ooh, this allegation is spurious! Upon investigation this claim lacks any basis in reality! Mmm, mmm, mmm.' Listen buddy: not my job to stand between the people talking to me and the people listening to me.

STEWART: So, basically, you're saying that this back-and-forth is never going to end.

CORDDRY: No, Jon -- in fact a new group has emerged, this one composed of former Bush colleagues, challenging the president's activities during the Vietnam era. That group: Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability. They've apparently got some things to say about a certain Halloween party in '71 that involved trashcan punch and a sodomized pi?ata. Jon -- they just want to set the record straight. That's all they're out for.

STEWART: Well, thank you Rob, good luck out there. We'll be right back.
Well, Rick, The News Guy in Atlanta, who used to work for CNN and was actually in at the start of it, takes exception -
Naw, that phony journalist guy's confusing "objectivity" (which is when you try to get at the truth) with "fair and balanced" (which is when you try to give every bozo with a sizeable constituency a few moments control of the microphone).

The real problem with "fair and balanced," of course, is that liars have an advantage.

For example, you might find some group of right-wing veterans willing to fudge their recollections in defense of the "good cause," but there would be no such group as "Drunken Stateside Sons of Privilege for Plausible Deniability," because if they really were what they say they are, they'd all be voting for Bush and would just keep their mouths shut.

But if they weren't what they say they are? Then that would be lying, and once again, liars tend to voting for Bush, so once again, they would just keep their mouths shut!
Yep, but Rick's CNN, where his wife still works as one of the VP's, is in fact giving every bozo with a sizeable constituency a few moments control of the microphone.

Josh Marshall caught these:

Daryn Kagan from Tuesday morning...

KAGAN: And so here comes a new ad by the Swift Boat Veterans and they're not just attacking the medals that John Kerry might have won but they are attacking what he did after he came back from the war. Is that going to be effective?

Miles O'Brien the next day...

O'BRIEN: All right, we are listening to Max Cleland, former senator from Georgia and former Lieutenant Jim Rassmann, a former Green Beret whose life was saved by John Kerry in the Mekong Delta in 1969. Although, that is a point of dispute, given what has all transpired here with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Okay. A group of people say the moon is made of green cheese and the earth is flat, and you report it. You report others say it's not. You report that too. Fair is fair.

Bull. If you know something is just not so, don't you report that?

It's not just CNN, it's the Washington Post and many others -
Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said he believes the Swift Boat Veterans coverage had been fair and properly scrutinizing. "We have printed the facts and some of those facts have undermined Kerry's opponents," he said. "We are not judging the credibility of Kerry or the (Swift Boat) Veterans, we just print the facts."

He defended a lengthy Post story that ran Sunday which appeared to give equal credibility to both Kerry's version of the events in Vietnam (which is supported by his crewmates and largely backed up by a paper trail) and the Swift Boat Veterans, despite the fact that previous stories in the Post and the New York Times had debunked many of the group's accounts.
That is from a discussion of this all in Editor and Publisher you will find here.

Advantage Bush. Anything you say, even blatant lies, will be reported extensively, and given equal time. So if you are willing to lie through your teeth, the press will advance the story.

They just report, and report anything at all. It's not their business to sort out the truth. And that's another reason Bush will win.

Bush has called for an end to all these "issue ads" of course. From New York Times: President Bush said on Thursday that he did not believe Senator John Kerry lied about his war record, but he declined to condemn the television commercial paid for by a veterans group alleging that Mr. Kerry came by his war medals dishonestly. (Full story here.)

That's cute. Let the lies stay out there. The press will help out. And they will dutifully report you say you don't personally think the guy is a lair. But some do. And you think all such ads should stop, but won't say the one ad you clearly imply is full of lies, well, you have no comment. Cute.

The economy may be shaky, at best, and the war has turned out to be quite a mess, but the press is toothless and, if his friends spread enough poison, this is over now. Bush wins.

Posted by Alan at 21:41 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 27 August 2004 21:54 PDT home

Thursday, 26 August 2004

Topic: Bush

Follow-Up: The Meme Gathers Momentum

Last weekend, in Fitness for Command: No one wants to mention the elephant in the room, but things change, you will find a discussion of a new meme, or maybe an old meme returning.

Yes, in the last presidential election campaign, four years ago now, we were told that George Bush might have had little experience up to that point, and not much curiosity about anything, and he didn't know about a lot of places and people and things, and that, in fact, he might not be terribly smart - but that didn't matter. Intelligence didn't matter. Character mattered. You could look up all the shallow and stupid things Bush said - and see what he knew nothing about - and then find all the conservatives defending him. Bush would restore honor and dignity to the White House, they said, and his smart advisors, with their decades of experience in previous administrations, would keep him from stumbling.

We were sold his upright character, and a backup infield of great talent. And we bought it. Gore was too smart by half - but you couldn't trust Gore. Gore was liar who had been second in command to an even bigger liar. Honesty, directness, simplicity - in short, character - matter more than how smart you were, or how clever. We didn't need that.

And that was followed by a discussion of this.

The Brains Thing
Three years of watching Bush makes the point: Intelligence matters more than "character."
Matthew Yglesias. The American Prospect - Issue Date: 09.01.04

And now we get this.

It's the IQ, stupid
His supposed intellectual failings are the butt of countless jokes, but so far the question of George Bush's brainpower hasn't hampered his electoral prospects. Why not? In the latest of his dispatches for G2, former New York Times editor Howell Raines asks how important intelligence really is in an American president
The Guardian (UK), Friday August 27, 2004

Of course Howell Raines was the follow who had been Editor-in-Chief at the New York Times and resigned over the Jayson Blair scandal and all that faked reporting. Or he resigned because it seemed everyone who worked at the Times just hated him and his management style, and his favorite, Blair, filing false stories and getting them printed without question, provided a rather convenient lever to dump Raines. Whatever.

Here in the British press (maybe the Times won't print him) he drops in an essay that carries the Bush-is-unfit-for-command-because-he's-dumb-as-a-post meme a bit further. [Note this item was simultaneously printed in the Washington Post, Friday, August 27, 2004; Page A21.]

Raines covers much of the same ground Yglesias covers - the same quotes and facts - but adds a comment about this business with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (emphases in bold are mine and the British spelling isn't) -
Happily for the White House, this contrived debate over Kerry's war record diverts voters from a truly important national-security question related to the intellectual capability of the incumbent. Was George W dumb enough to be talked into adopting a flawed strategy for a phoney war by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney? The facts and authorship of these blunders are beyond dispute. Cheney and neo-conservative theorists wanted to make war on Iraq, not al-Qaida. Rumsfeld wanted to do it with a much smaller force than the military needed. What we don't know is why Bush went along.

Bush's former press secretary, Karen Hughes, in her awkwardly named book Ten Minutes from Normal, assures us that what "Bush does best of all" is "ask questions that bore to the heart of the matter". She says that during the 2000 campaign, she and a "brilliant" issues staff "never once succeeded" in anticipating all of Bush's penetrating questions. "He has a laserlike ability," Hughes writes, "to reduce an issue to its core."
And that's the meme in its new mutation. We went to war because Bush was too dumb to think it through. People may want to believe people like Karen Hughes must be right, but it's getting to be harder and harder to believe this laser vision crap.

Raines too finds an old source - Richard Brookhiser -
The millions of us who did not witness this and other potentially laserlike interactions must rely on speculation as to how Bush's mind works. The most informative writing I've seen on that score was an essay published over a year ago in the Atlantic Monthly by Richard Brookhiser, the historian and conservative columnist sympathetic to Bush. "Bush has intelligence, energy and humility," he writes, "but does he have imagination?"

Brookhiser goes on to worry that Bush's limited information "habitat" could cut him off from the ideas necessary to feed presidential creativity in activities like running a major war. ("Habitat" is a wonderfully chosen word in that it invokes the territoriality of White House advisers in general. Can we imagine Rumsfeld, the alpha-male advocate of hi-tech warfare, inviting the commander of an armoured division into the cabinet room to tell the president why it's stupid not to take more tanks to Iraq?)

Brookhiser goes on to speak of Bush's reliance on "instinct" and the fact that Bush's religious "faith means that he does not tolerate, or even recognise, ambiguity".
That's sympathetic?

Raines too thinks back to the Reagan campaigns and what the cartoonist Garry Trudeau called "the search for Reagan's brain." I remember that.

And Raines adds more.
Trudeau's meaning, of course, was that Reagan didn't have one, but these days the phrase is to me more evocative of the journalistic gropings of the White House press corps to explain what, if anything, was going on inside that big, smiling, glossy-haired head. In a filing cabinet I had not opened in over 20 years, I found my own attempt - a 6,000-word draft of "reflections" on "Reagan's mind". I had never turned the piece in to my editors at the New York Times because I felt I had not solved the mystery as to the quality of Reagan's intellect.

I was not the first, nor will I be the last writer to break his pick on that stone. But in reviewing what I wrote in 1982 after two years of close observation of Reagan on the campaign trail and in the White House, I saw a couple of points that seemed worth revisiting as Reagan's self-appointed heir seeks a second term. I characterised Reagan as a "political primitive" who valued "beliefs over knowledge" based on verifiable facts. The White House spin was that this was a positive in that it represented "rawbone American thinking". I also noted that Reagan had a "high tolerance for ambiguity" as to the outcome of policies that proceeded from such rough-hewn thought.
But Bush is no Reagan. And that bothers Raines, as he argues Bush is quite different in that Bush doesn't recognize, as Raines puts it, the mere existence of ambiguity. He says what we get in George Bush is a shadowy version of Reagan's strengths and an exaggerated version of his intellectual weaknesses.

And then we get an insider story - and you have to love those -
In 1982, at the height of my journalistic desire to explain Reagan's brain, I went to see David Gergen, then a presidential assistant in charge of communications. His was not an easy job, since it included such tasks as explaining Reagan's decision to throw thousands of the most disabled Americans off social security assistance. We're not talking "welfare queens" here. We're talking blind people in wheelchairs.

I told Gergen I wanted to write a piece for the sophisticated reader about exactly how Reagan's mind worked. With a twinkle in his eye, Gergen said, "It will be a long, long time before we can have that conversation."

It hardly seems worth the trouble now. Reagan is in the pantheon, and the American nation and its allies and adversaries escaped mutual assured destruction. Now the US is at war in Iraq in a conflict that could yet metastasise into regional strife or global terrorism. We'll never know how much Reagan thought and how much he gambled in regard to security and economics. My guess is the answer would be pretty scary. So for the 150,000 US troops in Iraq, for the 99% of taxpayers who will not get a five-figure windfall, for the millions of urbanites unsettled by talk of suitcase nukes, it's still worth asking how Bush's mind really works.
How it works? Try if it works.

By the way, in the opening of Raines' piece he refers to this - the official icon of the reborn meme. And this has been on the web distributed so widely and for so long it is probably in public domain now. It's not mine. (Someone will sue me?)

Posted by Alan at 21:49 PDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Thursday, 26 August 2004 22:05 PDT home

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