Cut him some slack

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jonah Goldberg :

LORD KNOWS I have my problems with President Bush. He taps the federal coffers like a monkey smacking the bar for another cocaine pellet in an addiction study. Some of his sentences give me the same sensation as falling backward in one of those "trust" exercises, in which you just have to hope things work out. Yes, the Iraq invasion has gone badly, and to deny this is to suggest that Bush meant for things to turn out this way, which is even crueler than saying he failed to get it right.

But you know what? It's time to cut the guy some slack.

Of course, I will get hippo-choking amounts of e-mail from Bush-haters telling me that all I ever do is cut Bush slack. But these folks grade on the curve. By their standards, anything short of demanding that a live, half-starved badger be sewn into his belly flunks.

Besides, the Bush-bashers have lost credibility. The most delicious example came this week when it was finally revealed that Colin Powell's oak-necked major-domo Richard Armitage — and not some star chamber neocon — "outed" Valerie Plame, the spousal prop of Washington's biggest ham, Joe Wilson. Now it turns out that instead of "Bush blows CIA agent's cover to silence a brave dissenter" — as Wilson practices saying into the mirror every morning — the story is, "One Bush enemy inadvertently taken out by another's friendly fire."

And then there's Hurricane Katrina. Yes, the federal government could have responded better. And of course there were real tragedies involved in that disaster. But you know what? Bad stuff happens during disasters, which is why we don't call them tickle-parties.

The anti-Bush chorus, including enormous segments of the mainstream media, see Katrina as nothing more than a good stick for beating on piñata Bush's "competence." The hypocrisy is astounding because the media did such an abysmal job covering the reality of New Orleans (contrary to their reports, there were no bands of rapists, no disproportionate deaths of poor blacks, nothing close to 10,000 dead, etc.). It seems indisputable that Katrina highlighted the tragedy of New Orleans rather than create it. Long before Katrina, New Orleans was a dysfunctional city in a state with famously corrupt and incompetent leadership, many of whose residents think that it is the job of the federal government to make everyone whole.

The Mississippi coast was hit harder by Katrina than New Orleans was. And although New Orleans' levee failure was a unique problem — one the local leadership ignored for decades — the devastation in Mississippi was in many respects more severe. And you know what? Mississippi has the same federal government as Louisiana, and reconstruction there is going gangbusters while, after more than $120 billion in federal spending, New Orleans remains a basket case. Here's a wacky idea: Maybe it's not all Bush's fault.

It is worth reading it all.


Knucklehead said...

There is a large "I voted for the guy but now I think he's inept and doing a terrible job" gang. Getting at any substantive discussion of the "terrible job" part is impossible. They're all over the map.

They have will admit that the economy is pretty good but they have anxiety about it. The anxiety is, as far as I can tell, from 3 major sources. One is that people are just flat out insecure about their jobs. Whether job security is at reasonable levels or not I can't say but the general perception is that it is not.

The next is that gasoline is expensive. People don't want to know diddley about whether gas costs what it should cost or what it would take for it to cost less. All they know is that it went from $2/gal to $3/gal and they want $2. $3 pisses 'em off and it bites 'em every time they fill their tank. (I was having a laugh with a coworker recently who mentioned that she never fills her tank anymore because she just can't bear handing over $40. Instead she buys $20 worth twice as often. She is fully aware that economically it is the same thing but psychologically it makes her feel better.)

The 3rd major thing is interest rates. A large portion of the middle class has borrowed against home equity for all sorts of things. Cars, home improvements, college tuition, vacation property, etc. And they did so with variable rate loans and interest rates have gone up enough to make them nervous about it. The rate increase has become "real money". They bought houses 15 or so years ago, they remember 10% fixed rates, they refinanced and took out equity at 6 and 7, and thoughts of 8 and 9 make them real nervous.

Iraq is another matter entirely. There's not much there that is understandable. For folks who were somewhat skitterish about the whole thing anyway there are really only two things they would judge as success. One would be if we'd gone in at max power and laid waste to anyone who so much as grumbled until there was nobody left capable of causing anyone any trouble. The other extreme is folks who think it would have been possible to send in one four man assassination team to kill off the top dozen problem guys and another 4 man team to find and put to work the Iraqi Woodwind Quartet consisting of Military Pied Piper, Religious Pied Piper, Political Pied Piper, and Economic Pied Piper behind which all Iraqis would have lined up and danced off to blissful agreement and peaceful modernity.

It is not possible to go through the checklist of their complaints and talk them down off each ledge. Instead I've settled on the following approximation.

I voted for GWB the first time with strong reservations because I did not want the likes of Al Gore becoming president. (That generally gets a positive acknowledgement.) I voted for him the second time with no reservations because was vastly superior to John F'in Kerry. (That generally gets another positive acknowledgment.) He can't run again but if he could I'd be likely to vote for him again because there isn't any Dem I'd vote for and I'd need to see Gulliani go through the nomination process before I'd consider him over GWB. This rarely gets much positive acknowledgement. People aren't giving much thought to who is out there and whether or how they'd vote given various pairings. They just wish things were better and figure that since they aren't better - or perceived to be better - it is "Bush's fault".

If I need to trim this down to a few seconds I basically put it like this.

The choice in 2000 was Bush or Gore. Gore snapped from the stress of losing an election. Whattaya think he would have done under the stress of 9/11? I'm glad we got Bush. The choice in 2004 was Bush or John F'in Kerry. Name one good thing about JFK II. Thank Gaia we got Bush 'cause nobody would have any idea what the heck was or should be going on if we'd gotten Senator Munchausen von Wisheewashee and his Magic Hat.