Tuesday, October 19, 2004


Two memes floating round the blogosphere this morning which I thought I'd bring to your attention. The first is Matthew Yglesias' coining of a new phrase: the Putinization of American life, in reference to

the Sinclair incident, the threatening letter to Rock The Vote, the specter of the top official in the House of Representatives making totally baseless charges of criminal conduct against a major financier of the political opposition [shades of Mikhail Khodorovsky], the increasing evidence that the 'terror alert' system is nothing more than a political prop, the 'torture memo' asserting that the president is above the law, the imposition of rigid discipline on the congress, the abuse of the conference committee procedure, the ability of the administration to lie to congress without penalty, the exclusion of non-supporters from Bush's public appearances, etc.

He's right - under the Bush administration, there has been a disturbing trend in American politics towards the sort of dictatorial tactics used in Russia. But hopefully, they'll be able to correct that in a couple of weeks.

The second is a piece by Ron Suskind from the New York Times which discusses the role of faith and certainty - rather than facts - in the Bush administration. It's packed with anecdotes of Bush being (as Kerry put it) certain and wrong, or just plain dumbshit ignorant - but it's not just Bush. As Suskind points out,

Each administration, over the course of a term, is steadily shaped by its president, by his character, personality and priorities. It is a process that unfolds on many levels. There are, of course, a chief executive's policies, which are executed by a staff and attending bureaucracies. But a few months along, officials, top to bottom, will also start to adopt the boss's phraseology, his presumptions, his rhythms. If a president fishes, people buy poles; if he expresses displeasure, aides get busy finding evidence to support the judgment. A staff channels the leader.

A cluster of particularly vivid qualities was shaping George W. Bush's White House through the summer of 2001: a disdain for contemplation or deliberation, an embrace of decisiveness, a retreat from empiricism, a sometimes bullying impatience with doubters and even friendly questioners. Already Bush was saying, Have faith in me and my decisions, and you'll be rewarded. All through the White House, people were channeling the boss. He didn't second-guess himself; why should they?

The resulting attitudes are truely scary:

In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn't like about Bush's former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House's displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

The aide said that guys like me were ''in what we call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

Once upon a time, comments about the "faith-based Presidency" were a joke. Now it's a mark of pride for the Bush administration that it rejects reality in favour of its own faith in itself. The results of that faith - that deliberate rejection of facts, analysis, or "discernible reality", not to mention self-doubt or second thoughts - are beamed live into our homes from Iraq every evening, and can be seen in the bodycounter to your left.