Tuesday, August 31, 2004


Sorry I can't let this go, but I truly am perplexed at the remarkably low standards people have for a president when they are able to dismiss Bush's comment yesterday that he doesn't believe that the war on terror is winnable with a casual "ohh, he misspoke." Are Republicans so desperate to hold onto power that they will accept a president whose words have become meaningless and whose meaning is of their own invention? "I know what he meant" said my Republican father as he went about explaining his president away, something hours earlier his surrogates did as well on various news programs. When did it become too much to ask of the president to say what he means? Why has it become OK to brush off the words of the leader of the free world and insert our own meaning as if he's a walking talking Mad Libs? Or perhaps a more appropos children's toy that he resembles would be Etch-A-Sketch -- you don't like what he says, you can erase it and re-write it the very next day as if the original words had never been spoken. I am heartened by online media that won't erase the story from their memory: WashingtonPost.com says Bush "Backtracks On Terrorism Remark" and NYTimes.com said Bush "Recants," which has been downgraded now to "Is In Retreat." There's at least some semblance of accountability.

I can't help but be reminded of a line from Broadcast News, when the somewhat dorky but sharp Albert Brooks bemoans the fact that the slick, handsome and quite dim William Hurt has not only gotten the job but he's also gotten the girl, he says:

Don't get me wrong when I tell you that Tom, while being a very nice guy, is the devil...What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing...he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit.

Not that I'm saying Bush is the devil, really, hold up those letters to the editor, I'm just saying, it's an interesting parallel...James L Brooks may have been onto something. If we extend the metaphor, could we possibly predict the outcome in November? That's not so easy. The girl gets neither guy in the end but Albert Brooks's integrity is intact while William Hurt is revealed to be a dishonest prick. But guess who gets the job? Brooks quits his job at the Washington newsroom and takes a much more rewarding job in the less flashy Portland and Hurt is promoted, unbeknownst to him, to London and eventually gets the network anchor slot.

Bush got the job in 2000. Here's hoping this time, substance wins over flash.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Your exasperation with no one in the Republican party taking the president to task for his comment on not being able to win the war in Iraq, I think there is nothing the president could do -- nothing -- that would cause his fervent core supporters to go away. He could be discovered in a strip club with Monica Lewinski and Osama bin Laden. He could stop speaking English altogether. He could do anything... and still his loyalists would find a way to explain it all away. They do this because they are so desperate for a leader... and after Bush vanishes from the national scene -- and sooner or later he will -- after his presidency has been relegated to a bizarre footnote in the annals of American politics, the republicans will again be leaderless.

I looked at the photos of and interviews with these republican delegates in New York and I think: "Who are these people?" I understand them not at all, starting with their clothes. Polo shirts covering bulging bellies and tucked into pleated kahki pants with loafers -- AND cowboy hats. Like kids on a snow day, they gleefully flit around the city in taxis, nose pressed against the glass to get a glimpse of Rockefeller Center or scurrying into Broadway shows, oblivious to the reality right in front of their eyes --of a city turned into a fortress, requiring tens of thousands of armored police with automatic weapons to protect them against the outrage of their fellow citizens. Maybe they aren't oblivious -- maybe they take a perverse delight in their power to command such attention.

Today's New York Times did quick profiles of young Republican delegates -- all in their 20s -- and asked them to specific what it was that attracted them to the Republican party. Almost all of them mentioned tax relief, of course. And I do think the republicans deserve some credit for attempting to spend less of the people's money. However, they also intimated that the Republicans were more religious and that they would protect our right to pray. Now... I've been praying for most of my life and have never felt this right was ever in jeopardy from politicians. Another delegate felt the republicans were for less intrusive government. But what about the invasions of civil liberties contained in the Patriot Act? The same goes for the fiction of republicans being the party of small government. Maybe during the time of Bush I, but after 4 years of Bush II, our 43rd president has not eliminated a single government agency and spending is out of control, consuming a full one-fifth of the US gross domestic product. If anyone shrank government, it was Bill Clinton.

It's clear there is a vast disconnect between how republicans and democrats see the world. To some extent, we're all biased, were all myopic. I think people probably are just wired a certain way, and that determines their political outlook.

But those terrible pleated kahki pants... no excuse for those.

- Ben

8:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This was an especially wonderful rant. I'm enjoying your reporting. Have you heard any reaction to the speeches last night? Especially Cheney and the turn-coat "democrat"?

Anne - 9/2/04

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