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Understatement

The British are, of course, the masters of the understated put-down. To wit, Andrew Sullivan back from his French-style vacances: "Waging war requires both determination and effectiveness. Bush has a lot more of the former than the latter." Indeed. Although I'm not really sure how much determination he has on a certain level, our Iraq policy 'lo the past six months has been marked by a rather high degree of drift, something I've previously attributed to divisions among the NSC Principals that have paralyzed the interagency process. What Bush has is a really determined look. What is true is that Bush clearly is determined not to give up and admit failure, what's less clear is whether he's determined to pursue a course likely to bring about success, or even any one course in particular.

August 30, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Obviously, all that matters to many in the U.S. is tough talk.

Orwell was only off by 20 years.

Posted by: MattB | Aug 30, 2004 3:23:25 PM

"What Bush has is a really determined look."

Damn it, Yglesias, sentences like that are why you're my favorite blogger.

Posted by: Kyle | Aug 30, 2004 3:24:42 PM

"Obviously, all that matters to many in the U.S. is tough talk."

I wonder where "catastrophic success" fits in the continuum of wuss-to-tough talk.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis | Aug 30, 2004 3:29:51 PM

"Nor is Bush's appeal to fiscal conservatives -- social issues aside -- particularly evident to me." ...From MY on Tapped

I don't understand what you don't understand. They are deliberately bankrupting the country. The full effects won't be clear for another 5-20 years, when we will all be working for the Chinese holders of Treasury bills, and there will be no money, at all, for social programs. They protest Bush's "profligate spending" simply to cover the deception. But it appears they and Krugman understand what you don't.

And David Brooks is amazing. A long piece in a prominent forum, and every single word was a lie. The idea is to get one last rush of big gov't spending combined with huge tax cuts, and then the mission will be accomplished and irrevocable.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 30, 2004 3:40:21 PM

a determined look, maybe. but his words are fast failing him:

"Can we win? I don't think you can win it [war on terra]. But I think you can create conditions so that the -- those who use terror as a tool are -- less acceptable in parts of the world."

can't win it. ok. come righties, reconcile that with the myth of straight-shootin w.

Posted by: cleek | Aug 30, 2004 3:54:10 PM

The boy emperor is so naked he's transparent. The unaided eye can easily discern his walnut-sized brain and stone heart. What is wrong with John Kerry that he cannot seem to put this dangerous fool away? Would Dean or Edwards be doing a better job right now? I am most perplexed.

Posted by: Donny | Aug 30, 2004 4:19:37 PM

When's the last time any challenger had "put away" an incumbent president at this stage of the campaign? Reagan certainly hadn't done that against Carter at this point in '80, or indeed at any point until the last week or so before the election, according to the polls.

Posted by: Haggai | Aug 30, 2004 4:24:06 PM

I question the aptness of your comparison, Haggai. After all, Carter's failing was political incompetence. Bush's is policy incompetence, both in formulation and execution. Carter=bad politician. Bush=bad president. Who gets punished?

Posted by: Donny | Aug 30, 2004 4:31:03 PM

Bush is determined to do one thing and one thing only, and that is to remain the President. He doesn't need to fear the public's knowledge of how Iraq is faring now that they're a fledgling democracy (har, har!!). The media will do a fine job of glossing over or not reporting any of the brutal realities over there. What little bad news leaks out he can look in the camera and tell us all is a pack of lies. As long as about 48% believe him he's reelected.

Posted by: STEVE DUNCAN | Aug 30, 2004 4:33:35 PM

Readers have been tearing The "Economist" a new one at DeLong's over similiar statements by one of its editors.

Posted by: Tom DC/VA | Aug 30, 2004 4:44:46 PM

Matthew Yglesias -- yes, the Matthew Yglesias -- sighted over at MaxSpeak!

By contrast, Matt "Babyface" Yglesias was spotted in the Stage Deli arguing ernestly about Nozickian ethics with an anarchist punk rock chick wearing a fishnet see-through t-shirt who had piercings through her eyelashes that made her look like Mr. Peepers.

Posted by: praktike | Aug 30, 2004 5:34:30 PM

A good rule of thumb is that an opinion that depends for its validity on (a) the public at large being fooled for years, (b) a person being evil (not just a not particularly nice guy, but evil) or (c) the press knowingly covering for Republicans is silly. Applying that rule of thumb, many of the posts here are silly at best.

Deliberately bankrupting the country? How much more evil (and stupid, for that matter) could you get?

Stone heart? Anything complex going on here? Nope. He's evil.

No need to fear the public figuring out what’s going on AND (extra bonus points!) the media glossing.

At least you guys are entertaining.

Posted by: ostap | Aug 30, 2004 5:37:38 PM

Determined? Perhaps you have to be from Texas to appreciate it. From where I'm standing, Bush looks like he's sitting on the john with constipation, and determined to squeeze one out.

Posted by: ahem | Aug 30, 2004 5:54:33 PM

Deliberately bankrupting the country? How much more evil (and stupid, for that matter) could you get?

Well, see, if you believe that:

(1) Government spending is inherently bad, especially on social programs, and
(2) The people are too stupid to realize this normally, and
(3) People will, when the government is bankrupt, reluctantly accept that social programs must be slashed to pay maintain essential services like defense and law enforcement.

Then its not "evil"; its "good" in the eyes of the people trying to bankrupt the country. Sure, paternalistic and deceitful, but not "evil" in its root motivation.

Posted by: cmdicely | Aug 30, 2004 6:11:28 PM

Bush is determined to win the war, absolutely.

And that, my friends, is why Bush will win this election. John Kerry has a determination, but it is a different kind of determination.

Kerry is determined to hold summits and go to conferences and meet with leaders and talk about agreements. And he seems REALLY REALLY determined to get the French to like us. But he is surely not detremined to win the war.

Posted by: Kevin Gregory | Aug 30, 2004 6:13:06 PM

Bush is determined to win the war, absolutely

then maybe he should quit saying that it can't be won. or, maybe you're just wishing he's determined to "win the war" (give you a shiny new quarter if you can realistically define "the war" in a way that makes it winnable).

Posted by: cleek | Aug 30, 2004 6:16:54 PM

You're missing Andy Sullivan's point, Kevin Gregory. "Determination" in the absence of intelligent, coherent policy is a prescription for disaster. With Bush we have bad policy prosecuted with determination. I'd rather have bad policy in the hands of a ditherer, wouldn't you?

Posted by: Donny | Aug 30, 2004 6:18:48 PM

New visitor Kevin Gregory's remarks fade in and out of reality, as for instance here: "And he seems REALLY REALLY determined to get the French to like us." For the record, don't expect more, or different, in any dialog you initiate with him.

Posted by: John Isbell | Aug 30, 2004 6:55:55 PM

Go piss up a rope, ostap. We've all heard that particular line of BS many times before.

If electoral politics is everything and Rove is in command (or if Rove and Bush are equal partners, both of them on the same wavelength), and if all decisions are made with an eye to public opinions and 51% of the voters, that might explain most of the Bush policy process. This is O'Neill's and Diulio's criticism, and it rings true to me.

My leftist friends (yes, people exist further left than me) always tell me that Bush is a figurehead, and that sinister geniusses are behind him pulling strings. I'm not at all sure. Maybe all the big money behind the scenes people all are only interested in specific favors and specific issues (low taxes, etc.), and that there is NO ONE except Bush and Rove fitting the particulars together into an overall policy. And they're going it entirely on the basis of votes and political fundraising.

Political rationalists rule out the possibility of system collapse, even though these are often seen in history.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 30, 2004 7:22:47 PM

BTW, Al the Communist has asked me to tell you that he won't be in today. He's been spending more time with his family.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 30, 2004 8:08:27 PM

Ostap, it isn't a theory, precisely, when it's something the other side came up with:

Starve The Beast.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Aug 30, 2004 9:00:16 PM

Bush looks like he needs to make a poopy really bad, but just can't let himself. Not until I get home, Pickles. Then I can make another lump in the bed.

Posted by: bigfoot | Aug 30, 2004 9:02:10 PM

Donny
"I'd rather have bad policy in the hands of a ditherer, wouldn't you?"

We already had that with Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr, and Clinton. I would like to remind you of:

Carter 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis
Reagan 1983 Beirut Embassy Bombing
Reagan 1983 Beirut Barracks Bombing
Reagan 1983 Kuwait Embassy Bombing
Reagan 1984 another Beirut Embassy Bombing
Reagan 1984 Kuwait Airways Flight 221
Reagan 1985 TWA Flight 847
Reagan 1985 Achille Laurel
Reagan 1986 German Disco Bombing
Reagan 1988 Pan Am 757 Lockerbie Bombing
Clinton 1993 World Trade Center Bombing
Clinton 1995 Riyadh Bombing
Clinton 1996 Khobar Towers
Clinton 1996 al Qaeda Declaration of War against America
Clinton 1998 Embassy Bombings
Clinton 2000 USS Cole bombing
W 2001 World Trade Center/Pentagon

Reagan did very little – but he had a Cold War to win.
Clinton did nothing – even less than Reagan
W launches full scale war against terrorism: military, economic, and diplomatic.

McCain is awesome…
I see Michael Moore was allowed in – but not in the Presidential Sky Box…

Posted by: BoghRD | Aug 30, 2004 10:50:37 PM

Did you gentlemen hear McCain's magnificent, Churchillian speech, and Rudi Guiliani's grand peroration? McCain and Guiliani are the two finest American statesmen today. Wny McCan is not president is a mystery to me. Oh yeah, the Jeezus freaks.

But Dubya, even though he can't talk good, is better than than that vapid gigolo John Kerry. Any man who can listen to McCain's and Rudy's speeches and vote for Kerry has no heart, and no balls.

Posted by: Joe Willingham | Aug 31, 2004 12:08:30 AM

Any man who can listen to McCain's and Rudy's speeches and vote for Kerry has no heart, and no balls.

Yes! It's been a while since I had my last Willingham fix. Keep that shit coming.

Posted by: JP | Aug 31, 2004 12:16:43 AM

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