Monday, October 11, 2004

Everything you wanted to know about Bush...

Forget Michael Moore. There's no evidence that Bush is in the game for self-enrichment. And forget that line of argument I espoused earlier, which suggested that Bush is a zealot who filters the world through ideology rather than reality. Well, the diagnosis of the symptoms were correct -- it's true Bush is completely blind to reality, but his blinders aren't ideological. He's not much of a true believer, more opportunistic and cynical in his governance than stridently ideological the way Gingrich was. He's not really an ideologue. But if that's the case, what's the explanation for the Chimp's deluded decisionmaking?

The answer can be found in Noam Scheiber's piece in The New Republic (the third part of TNR's winning "Case Against Bush" series -- they can almost be forgiven for endorsing Joe-mentum). Relying on both Woodward's Plan of Attack and Suskind's The Price of Loyalty, the two great insider accounts of the Bush regime, Scheiber examines Bush's decision-making process to conclude that for Dubya, it's really all about self-mythology.

The other piece, even better, comes from The Atlantic Monthly. It's James Fallows' third part of a series that analyzes the Iraq War, called "Bush's Lost Year." Unfortunately, the online version is for subscribers only, but you can find an extremely condensed version here. Fallows runs with what has always been the most compelling anti-Iraq war argument -- that we've botched a major opportunity by devoting our resources and credibility towards a marginal threat rather than serious and immediate ones like al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea, etc. -- and makes it just about airtight. Along with Sy Hersh's Abu Ghraib investigation, Fallows' three-parter is the single most important piece of political journalism in the mainstream this year.

Short debate thoughts: I only caught the debate on radio. But I thought Kerry mauled Bush for the first hour, slicing and dicing him with crisp, short answers delivered with authority. Too bad he lapsed into incoherence towards the end, when the topic turned towards social issues. Electorally, Kerry's strategy of playing to the swing voters is probably smarter than Bush's get-out-the-base rhetoric. However, that strategy leads to the kind of feckless pandering on economic and social issues that, let's face it, fits right into everyone's worst conception of Kerry the political opportunist. As for Bush, the guy should stop shouting. And he shouldn't make it so obvious he has no answers for Kerry's attacks on his record. I thought Kerry won decisively, except for the few opportunities he missed to deal a knockout blow, especially in response to Bush's refusal to admit mistakes.

The pundits had called it a draw, but now the latest poll showing that voters, by a decent margin, thought Kerry won. And Kerry's now up 50-48 among likely voters over Bush in this notoriously GOP-friendly poll. (Ruy Teixeira has a good post explaining why registered voters, rather than likely voters, serves as a better model.) Kerry's back in control, and it goes without saying that I wasn't worried for even a minute. Why just yesterday, I put my Nov. 3 one-way ticket to Vancouver on hold.

On another note: went to see the Cal-USC thriller on Saturday, a game where my beloved Bears were one short catch away from vaulting to being No. 2 in the nation. Scary sight at the game: thousands of University of Spoiled Children students with Bush/Cheney 04 stickers pasted on their menstrual red football t's.