Saturday, August 14, 2004

The Ten-Word Answer 

The other night one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing was re-run on Bravo. It's called "Game On." President Bartlet is in a debate with his re-election opponent, Governor Robert Ritchie of Florida, a plain-spoken and unengaged conservative who is proud of the fact that he's not as "smart" as President Bartlet. In the debate prep, the president's staff is searching for the "the Ten-Word Answer;" a short snippet that can answer a complex question such as how to deal with Social Security or high crime rates. During the debate Governor Ritchie is able to zing out these folksy quips to the delight of his audience and aggravation of the liberals. But then he's asked by one of the panelists to explain the thinking behind the massive tax cut he's proposing, and he replies with a smirk that is eerily familiar: "The American people know best how to spend their money." For a second President Barlet stares at him, and then he grins. "That's it," he says. "That's the ten-word answer my staff has been looking for all week. But the problem is, Governor Ritchie, what are the next ten words? And the ten after that?"

It may be some cosmic coincidence that recently Vice President Cheney launched into John Kerry for saying he'd fight a more "sensitive" war. He derided his call to run a more nuanced and intelligent battle as namby-mamby liberalism, and he got a lot of mileage out of it from his hand-picked crowd. Cheney gave them the ten-word answer: We Know How to Fight Terrorism and They Do Not.

That may be the way to run a political rally, and it may even get some traction with some of the voters, but I don't believe that the American people, with all our faults, our idiosyncrasies, and our short attention span, really want to elect a president who cannot hold an unscripted press conference or who cannot explain how he plans to bring the war in Iraq to a conclusion. This country cannot afford to have as its leader someone who sneers at the concept of "nuance" (much less pronounce it properly) or who cannot appreciate the fact that the war that he has so blithely led us into is not some Arthurian battle of Right vs. Wrong and that those who oppose it are not unpatriotic, or worse, traitors. We cannot have a leader who thinks, acts, and reacts in sentence fragments and mocks those who actually think about things before they do them, such as launch a pre-emptive war against a country that presented no clear or present danger.

The Ten-Word Answer works best if it's done as a put-down with the intent to silence all opposition and end the discussion with a powerful measure of humiliation, directed both at the target and the questioner. They're very useful in putting people in their place, leaving no room for argument. It's the tactic of a bully. But if we are cowed into believing that seeking to understand and overcome the reasons other people in other countries scorn or even hate us is a sign of weakness, than the future of this country belongs to those who can manipulate our fears and keep us on the edge of terror, and we will have earned the right to our paranoia.

Elections have been fought - and sometimes won - on Ten-Word Anwsers, but the country can't run on them. And the country cannot afford to elect a man who does not know what the next ten words are. And the ten after that.

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.

This could be nothing... 

...Or it could be really huge.

The Financial Times is reporting in its Saturday editions that Dumb-ya, as part of a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars next Monday in Cincinnati, will be announcing a major troop pullout of Europe and Asia:

The US is expected to announce on Monday that it is pulling 70,000 troops out of Europe and Asia in the largest restructuring of its global military presence since the second world war.

People briefed on the plan say two-thirds of the reductions will come in Europe, most of them military personnel stationed in Germany who will be sent back to US bases.

An additional 100,000 support staff and military families worldwide will be part of the realignment.

Read the rest at Musing's musings.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


President, 2004

Unstable Psyches Need Not Apply

Book review:
"Bush on the Couch"

by Justin A Frank M.D.

George W. Bush has never graced a couch in Dr. Justin Frank’s office, but he has a public persona that we, as a nation, have come to know well over these past four years. We were already familiar with his family since his father was our 41st President. After nearly four years as president, we are familiar with GW Bush’s style, his facial expressions, his words, his attitudes about religion, and his attitudes regarding the rule of law. We’ve even come to know a bit about his personal demons—as much as this secretive president will allow us to know.

Dr. Frank, a Washington-based psychoanalyst and clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry at George Washington University Medical center, educates readers with a historical record provided by journalists, biographers, and those who’ve known the president well. He traces the development of Bush’s character from childhood to the present. Through psychoanalytic investigation, “Bush on the Couch” explores how the current president’s efforts to cope with his many anxieties weave their way through his familiar life story.

The purpose is not to reduce the president, but to enrich our way of being able to know and understand him. Dr. Frank's professionally developed conclusions are quite persuasive—some are very surprising. Dr. Frank asks us Americans to be compassionate yet realistically conscientious because we are, after all, the employers of the person in the Oval Office. It is our sober civic responsibility to determine and ensure that our leader is well suited for his position in every way.

Dr. Frank employs varied studies from both historic and contemporary luminaries in the field of psychoanalysis to help us understand the contradictions and inconsistencies which may cause us to seriously question our president’s sound ability to govern. I decided to format my review in the form of a number of questions and display Dr. Frank’s thoughts about them based upon his own psychoanalytic investigation.

**You can see the entire review at Iddybud**

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Joke on Wall Street 

Katrina vanden Heuvel quoted on SoonerThought:

Here's a joke which was circulating among Wall Street
traders last Friday:

"Fewer jobs were created in the US in the entire month of July than the number of people who will be inside Madison Square Garden for the GOP convention at the end of August."