2.10.2004

POLITICS - Bush Meets The Press

Bush was interviewed by Tim Russert on Meet the Press this morning. Here is the transcript. For the next day or so, Memeorandum points out the reactions across the blogosphere.

Bush certainly didn't offer any new perspective on his Administration's record, and it's still painfully obvious that "this talkin' stuff" is not Bush's strong suit as a candidate. The reaction from the left side of the media has been relatively low-key. A progressive friend noted last night, "It was just same 'ol, same 'ol." Bush performed as expected yesterday: slow, uninformed, all rhetoric.

But I am surprised by some of the reactions from the right. Peggy Noonan, Reagan's best speech writer, accused Bush of appearing "tired, unsure, and often bumbling". Instead of criticizing the president's performance, David Brooks' offers an alternative to one of Bush's replies. However, I think that these replies would leave the President vulnerable to criticism, too.
I'm not good at explaining the ideology that unites our foes and propels them to fight freedom. But I know that the threats we face are part of a universal hatred, and the only solution to that hatred is freedom — that we must undertake a generational challenge to spread democracy so people whose souls are now twisted can learn to love peace. We could not have allowed the Middle East to continue to drift down its former course.

Let's forget that such an eloquent response is beyond Bush's cognitive abilities (and the Republican party will suffer for it this year.) This is another example of the neocons attempting to use progressive values to displace the underlying reason for the new Bush Doctrine. The US has to be more proactive on the war on terror, and the Hussein family was a skeleton in our closet that had to be purged. I doubt that any Dem will argue those points. Unfortunately, Tony Blair provided the best arguments for military action that did more than pay lip service to contemporary progressives, while Bush went to the UN with his best Dirty Harry impression and challenged American liberals that we were either with him or against him.

Brooks sums one of the real divides between right and left in two sentences:
I look around and observe that many of my fellow Americans don't seem to be living on Sept. 12, the way I am. And if they don't feel in their bones the presence of war, I don't know what argument I can use to persuade them.

"War" is a strong word in our language, and is often used without appropriate context. Is this a military war like the first one that we fought in the Gulf war or this more like the war on organized crime? Conservatives continue to argue that this is primarily a military war, and I don't think they have made a successful argument to wit. The war on terror has been fought as far back as the 1976 Orlando Letelier assassination in Washington DC. (Whoops. We're not supposed to mention that name around the Bush family!)

In the three decades that we have fought terrorism against national and foreign interests, we have found considerable success when working within pre-existing legal and diplomatic structures. That is, of course, when we are not bypassing them to provide material support and training to people like Osama bin Laden. It appears that we've used our military to provide a necessary distraction to keep the terrorists on their side of the sand box, but our military solutions have not effectively stopped the Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or even the Ba'athists. And this Administration has yet to bring the mastermind of 9/11 to justice with the military or international law or even renegade Texas bounty hunters.

Brooks concludes his quasi Bush reply with this:
I could lose this election. I don't know whether the American people are with me or not. But I know our hair-trigger reputation has jolted dictators in Libya, North Korea and elsewhere. I know that if in 20 years Iraq is free and the Arab world is progressing toward normalcy, no one will doubt that I did the right thing.

Bush can only hope that the US public refuses to read newspapers and magazines, too. The progress in North Korea and Libya owe little credit to our cowboy diplomacy, rather that progress is the result of decades long economic turmoil, ineffective leaders, and our increased intelligence about their programs. And what exactly would qualify the Arab world as progressing toward 'normalcy'. Considering the history of that region, I'd say that the country is about as normal as it gets whenever a group of white people come over disrupt the power balance. If Iraq (and the Arab world) move toward a progressive democracy in the next twenty years, it will be the result of the intervention of an effective statesman. The guy who was on Meet the Press last weekend sure can't do the job.

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