Is BDS catching?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006
We most often associate BDS with the left, but it seems to me that a lot of people on the right are not immune. Bush is either too conservative or not conservative enough, take your pick. I have posted here before that I thought Bush had become a sort of political sin eater. His function is to absorb all the shortcomings of the political class and leave them free of sin. Whether it be the existence of wmd, the ongoing and ever present promise/threat/prediction of civil war in Iraq, government spending or natural disasters it is this one man who bears the weight of it all.

So George Will can question Bush's intelligence just as easily as any Koskid. Blogs like Malkin's and LGF can assume that Bush is soft on security over a port deal with Arabs while Feingold can threaten censure because Bush is over zealous in protecting the same.

There is a certain measure of self gratification here. These folks are saying If only he had listened to me everything would be ok now. There would be no AlQaida, no over the top government spending, no illegal immigration, Americans would own and run America and everyone would either be our friend or be too afraid of us to strike. If only he had listened to me.

I am wondering if the very office of the president is being somehow transformed here. The President of the United States is not a deity. He can not control the weather, solve all the world's problems, make people agree with one another. In fact often as not he can not even give an order and be sure it will be carried out. I read somewhere that Truman once said {I paraphrase} that he could not wait until that General {Eisenhower} got in there and gave an order and nothing happened. Things are just not the simple, the United States is not the Enterprise with the president standing on the bridge, saying Make it so.

I wonder if the BDS is about Bush or if in fact it is about our growing fear and uncertainty about the world. When I see the wrong direction/right direction numbers it seems to me that nobody..right or left feels we are going in the right direction. This feeling is I believe exacerbated by the incessant doom mongering and bad news from a 24 hour news cycle that does its best to present the world as a place of misery and chaos. Forget the wonder in life, the great strides in science and technology, the improved standards of living.... it all sucks all the time all the world over.

I think Bush is being blamed by both sides for his failure to make it all go away. Once upon a time that was not a president's job...when and why did that change?


David Thomson said...

You might be onto something. Is it the evolving role of the president to be our punching bag? Indeed, something to think about.

Syl said...

political sin eater

Love it.

Do you have any idea? any idea at all how good you're getting at this, Terrye? I mean you were always good. Your ideas, your common sense, your straight talk.

But I think you've reached another level lately.

And I'm lovin' every word.

terrye said...


If you call me a pundit, I will slap you. Them is fightin words.

Thank you really, I blush.

I saw that the new CBS poll has Bush at 34% approval rating. I would not buy a used car from those people at CBS, but I think that Bush's numbers are down, and this is why. bitch bitch bitch.

Snippet said...

It is, quite simply, all about Iraq at this point.

A dramatic improvement over their would boost his numbers.

Continued mayhem drags them down.

bjl said...


This post was spot on. I have been reading this blog and followed all of you here from Roger Simon's site. This is the first post that caused me to post a comment rather than remain a lurker. Please keep up all of the excellent posts. It is refreshing to come to a blog with intelligent discussion even when you disagree with each other.

As for the "political sin eater" comment, that should be repeated widely. The president is not responsible for every last detail of our lives. Is there such a thing as personal responsibility any more?

B. Lowder

Eric Blair said...

I'm thinking the problem is, that if you repeat something enough times, it tends to stick.

The Left's constant "Bush is responsible for.." refrain has actually taken root on the other side such that now unhappy right wing clowns are also blaming the President for whatever their pet cause is.

People are looking for a savior. Somethings never change.

(Cute avatar, Syl)

Alan said...

Maybe, on the right, it has to do with the feeling that the GOP is leaderless?

Barry Dauphin said...


Nice post for a pundit :>).

But seriously, I think that BDS is a combination of both the uncertainties and anxieties of the WoT and Iraq as well as the nature of contemporary mass communication. Today political opinion, especially intense and vitriolic opinion, has an echo chamber on steroids via cable and the internet. Not too long ago we had "Clinton fatigue". Now, I had a lot of problems with Clinton, but there really were (are) people that were "Clinton haters". The nature of media has changed substantially since 2000 (says he who is posting on a blog in a nonchalant way when that wasn't even something I knew about 6 years ago).

I think your post is well thought out. Maybe it could be worked into a piece for the American Thinker?

Seneca the Younger said...

And you say I'm smart.

Seneca the Younger said...

Terrye, ditto Barry on American Thinker. Hell, just submit it.

Knucklehead said...


I always recognized you as a pundit of prodigious skills!

As always a number of things are at work here. As has been mentioned numerous times the steady, seditionist negativity of the Presse Ancienne has an effect. I think there's a cyclic element to that effect - the negativity it generates is periodically turned back on the delivery mechanism and somewhat away from the target - but it has the desired effect of generating negativity toward the administration.

Another thing at work is that people feel negatively about a lot of things: the MSM, the government being two. Whoever is POTUS will always serve as a focal point, to at least some degree, for negative feelings among the population.

Another thing I think is at work is that people forget what the choices were the two times Bush was elected. In Nov. 2000 our choices were Bush or Gore. The fact that if Bush hadn't won we'd have been subjected to at least four years of a stark, raving, loon is now long forgotten by many of those who voted for him and many of those who voted for Gore still seem unaware, or unwilling to admit, that the man has some very serious issues.

And in Nov. 2004 our choices were Bush and Kerry. Kerry was flawed in a number of ways.

What this leads to (and I don't know that any POTUS escapes this) is people, over time, confusing "imperfect" for "we could have done better".

Our US electoral system delivers to us, every four years, two legitimated choices and a number of "protest" choices. Now, in the sixth year of Bush's presidency a great many of us have long since forgotten that our choices in the last two elections were not "The Perfect Person for the job" vs. "Someone Not As Good" but, rather, "A decent, sensible man" vs. "a stark, raving lunatic" the first time and "is there anything good about this dope?" the second time.

I'm not subject to BDS infection because I thank Gaia that neither of the other choices won. Additionally I recognize that we're in a war and the other choices for POTUS would have moved the enemy significantly closer to victory by now whereas Bush, although he hasn't gotten us to victory yet, has moved us closer. Just listen to the shrieking from the enemy if you don't believe they believe they are losing.

Rick Ballard said...

"The nature of media has changed substantially since 2000."

If by nature you mean inclination I don't believe that it has. If you mean its composition, certainly the internet ha forced some changes upon it. Bush issued a declaration of war on the press right from the beginning - making "Clymer" an epithet. Adam Clymer was the premier political reporter for the MSM. sitting on top of the steaming pile at the NYT. Bush hasn't backed down from the fight and won't.

The MSM promised Kerry 15 points and delivered 5-6 (based the Princeton econometricians model). The MSM knows that low approval ratings for the President have historically meant bad midterm results for his party. That's CW of an illusory nature, as we will see in November. (The Reps may lose a few seats but not the majority.)

The MSM is scared and the Dems are scared. Both are headed for oblivion, both know it, and there is absolutely nothing that they can do to avoid it.

The whinging on the right - at least from the pundits - isn't particularly puzzling. GHWB wasn't conservative enough for many and RR wasn't conservative enough for some. The farther out you get to either edge of the spectrum the less sense you find.

The correct polling numbers at the moment are 45-55, a relatively high negative but not an insurmountable obstacle.

Terrye - great post. I remember your original 'sin eater' post and this one is better. Don't forget that there are still a number of people - like 88% of registered Republicans, who are quite satisfied with Bush. Pundits make noise, not history.

Barry Dauphin said...


Yeah, my post wasn't being clear on that point. I wasn't thinking of MSM (and political persuasions) but of the structure of media (as in the deeper penetration of cable/satellite, the greater emphasis on niche programming, deeper penetration of high speed internet and the internet itself, like blogs and such, the ipod and like devices, digital photography and digital video, DVDs, faster computers, satellite radio, etc.). I agree with you about the inclincations of MSM, but now there exists more tools to "check out their story" and to say something back to them as well as for those who think the MSM are not liberal enough to also lash out.

Although something like the recent al Qaeda warning hasn't drawn much MSM coverage, I think most people have a sense of how dangerous and unpredictable a time we live in. I think a lot of people don't let themselves think actively about it, but the anxieties will be there nonetheless IMHO. Because al Qaeda is so "elusive" and a nuclear bomb could go off at any time, this is bound to engender some degree of paranoia. Paranoia will always seek a target, because uncertainty can feel so intolerable for many people. Because so many people can't "grasp" al Qaeda (i.e., they aren't a nation state, they hide, they move, they use our openness against us, etc.), the "target" may become the most visible person charged with responsibility for protecting us from them, i.e., the President.

Although this is a very imperfect analogy, many times scared children don't lash out at the genuine source of the fear (often because they aren't able to nor powerful enough too), they might lash out instaed at their parents or others in authority as a substitute. It's not rational, but it is understandable. It becomes an indirect way for the scared child to say "you're supposed to protect me; I blame you for not being more powerful."

We overthrew Saddam in three weeks, but the war has lasted longer than the fantasies of many would suggest that it "should". I think many people are disillusioned that we aren't as powerful as they dreamt we should be. Katrina happens, and we weren't as powerful as we "should" be, etc. I think that many people will try to protect themselves from feeling powerless (or less powerful than desired) by targeting the quote-unquote most powerful person in the world.

chuck said...

Great post Terrye!

I was struck by your comment that Bush wasn't the deity. The Pharoahs, the Inca, the Aztec kings, *were* deities. The divine right of kings was a belief of Louis XIV. Charles I was also a believer and passed his beliefs on to his offspring. Wasn't the Czar God's chosen? Weren't Lenin, Stalin, and Mao deities, their fancy mausoleums a reminder of the pyramids? There is something in human nature that yearns for a leader with the attributes of a God. Perhaps, as you postulate, it is a way of coping with a dangerous world. There is something soothing in the conviction that someone has the power to make it all better, that there is a big daddy. It is a pretty thought, no?

Rick Ballard said...


That comment is well worth expansion into a post of its own. Americans lived in the shadow of 'MAD' for fifty years and coped, in large part, because the other side had 'rational' people at the top. Mullahs emanting green auras don't match up well with 'rational'. Nuts with nukes tends to raise the level of unease, if not fear, to the point where people do revert to "Daddy, make the boogeyman go away."

When the boogeyman doesn't disappear, Daddy pays a price. There is also a component of "reality as entertainment", as you note, movie wars last 120 minutes and end with a nice winner/loser determination. This war won't end in that manner - not even if we do the right thing and put Iran's mullahs in the ground.

terrye said...


Yes, it is a pretty thought.

I remember that Ronald Reagan retreated from the jihadis in Lebanon, Clinton ignored the USS Cole...but somehow Bush is attacked by his own for allowing Dubai to take over some freight terminals.

Clinton was president when 87 Americans died in that compound in Waco Texas..but Bush is suspected of sending Americans off to war to die for oil. Imagine the reaction today if Bush and Gonzales allowed something like that to happen.

Once upon a time we realized that presidents were people and were themselves subject to circumstances.

Now all of a sudden the man in the Oval Office is supposed to deal with and react to everything from bad weather to cartoon riots to private business transaction in such away that will make everyone everywhere happy all the time. Not gonna happen.

truepeers said...

No doubt what puts the D in BDS is the cumulative total of everything people are talking about. The sin eater idea is very good, but perhaps there is one thing yet missing. His name. Not only do I remember the odd fascination with the idea of a President "Bush" when George Sr. was first running for pres. But after years of joking about and bashing Bush Sr., Bush fun becomes second nature.

And everyone knows that when you talk to God, the ideal mediator is a bush, preferably burning :)

But seriously, it is worth remembering that, historically, humanity models itself on the Gods, not vice versa, and there still remains something of that in us. We find ourselves first in relation to a center with its transcendent, later fallen, figures. We chop down gods in our resentful desire to take their place. That is why history encourages decentralization, making everyone a center in her own right. Can the role of American President remain for long what it presently is? Or does it just now attract too much delusional resentment to serve us in any useful way?

Rick Ballard said...

"Can the role of American President remain for long what it presently is?"

It's present incarnation dates back to the '30's as an artifact of the three major "leaders for life" who all drew water from the same poisoned progressive well. Prior to Rossevelt's entirely unjustified elevation to the godhead the President was not regarded as Mr. Fixit. Some Presidents pushed particular agendas, to be sure, but none assumed the mantle of divinity as did Roosevelt.

As the MSM dies the illusion of the President as the ultimate font of resolution may die with it. I have no idea as to what the next evolutionary step would be wrt defining the Presidency but hopefully it will not involve further deification.

Pastorius said...

I vamped on your idea a bit, here:

terrye said...


Thanks and I left a link at your place. Nice place.