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The Virtual Presidency

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Frank Rich write$ in the Sunday New York Times about George Bush and "the vision thing." It seems there never was one:

Like his father, George W. Bush always disdained the vision thing. He rode into office on the heels of a boom, preaching minimalist ambitions reminiscent of the 1920s boom Republicanism of Harding and Coolidge. Bush's most fervent missions were to cut taxes, pass a placebo patients' bill of rights and institute the education program he sold as No Child Left Behind. His agenda was largely exhausted by the time of his fateful Crawford vacation in August 2001, so he talked vaguely of immigration reform and announced a stem-cell research "compromise." But he failed to seriously lead on either issue, both of which remain subjects of toxic debate today.

To appear busy once he returned to Washington after Labor Day, he cooked up a typically alliterative "program" called Communities of Character, a grab bag of "values" initiatives inspired by polling data. That was forgotten after the Qaeda attacks. But the day that changed everything didn't change the fundamental character of the Bush presidency. The so-called doctrine of pre-emption, a repackaging of the long- held Cheney-Rumsfeld post-Cold-War mantra of unilateralism, was just another gaudy float in the propaganda parade ginned up to take America to war against a country that did not attack the United States on 9/11.

As the president's chief of staff then, Andrew Card, famously said of the Iraq war just after Labor Day 2002, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." The Bush doctrine was rolled out officially two weeks later, just days after the administration's brass had fanned out en masse on the Sunday-morning talk shows to warn that Saddam's smoking gun would soon come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

The Bush doctrine was a doctrine in name only, a sales strategy contrived to dress up the single mission of regime change in Iraq with philosophical grandiosity worthy of FDR. There was never any serious intention of militarily pre- empting either Iran or North Korea, whose nuclear ambitions were as naked then as they are now, or of striking the countries that unlike Iraq were major enablers of Islamic terrorism. "Axis of Evil" was merely a clever brand name from the same sloganeering folks who gave us "compassionate conservatism" and "a uniter, not a divider" - so clever that the wife of a presidential speechwriter, David Frum, sent e-mails around Washington boasting that her husband was the "Axis of Evil" author. (Actually, only "axis" was his.)

Since then, the administration has fiddled in Iraq while Islamic radicalism has burned brighter and the rest of the Axis of Evil, not to mention Afghanistan and the Middle East, have grown into just the gathering threat that Saddam was not. And there's still no policy. As Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution writes on his foreign-affairs blog, Bush isn't pursuing diplomacy in his post- cowboy phase so much as "a foreign policy of empty gestures" consisting of "strong words here; a soothing telephone call and hasty meetings there." The ambition is not to control events but "to kick the proverbial can down the road - far enough so the next president can deal with it." There is no plan for victory in Iraq, only a wish and a prayer that the apocalypse won't arrive before Bush retires to his ranch.

Rich writes the epitaph for the Dubya years:

The Bush era has not been defined by big government or small government but by virtual government. Its enduring shrine will be a hollow Department of Homeland Security that finds more potential terrorist targets in Indiana than in New York.

As I always ask myself when somebody's looking up my butt in the airport, "Are we safer, or just more annoyed?"

Mooooo.

Posted by aalkon at July 17, 2006 1:35 PM

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Comments

The last thing in the world we want is a president with vision. We hire these clowns to serve, not lead.

> The Bush doctrine was a doctrine in name
> only, a sales strategy contrived to dress up
> the single mission of regime change in Iraq
> with philosophical grandiosity worthy of FDR.

This is absolutely, handsomely true.

> There was never any serious intention of
> militarily pre- empting either Iran or
> North Korea

Rich's swinging his dick too far. If he really wants us to invade these countries, he ought to have the courage to say so plainly.

> the wife of a presidential speechwriter,
> David Frum, sent e-mails around
> Washington boasting

Everyone catch the full teenage-gossip flavor of this? This is just media gossip, like Finke & Seipp or soemthing.

> Are we safer, or just more annoyed?"

> Mooooo.

Double true.

Posted by: Crid at July 17, 2006 8:31 AM

"You eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country. Takes him eight hours to fly home. Not Coke, diet Coke. ... Russia's big and so is China. Yo Blair, what're you doing? Are you leaving?"

~George speaking candidly to the G8 leaders today, not aware the microphone was still on... reality is now like a "Will Ferrel accidentally gets appointed President" movie.

Posted by: eric at July 17, 2006 9:57 AM

There was a strategy. Set up forts in Iraq just like sending soldiers into Injun Territory. Award plum contracts to political associates and supporters. Stroke the "movers and shakers" with tax breaks. Use ad techniques to sell programs by associating them with popular ideas or as a cureall for phony emergencies. Lie. Again. Rinse. Repeat.

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