RON SUSKIND LANDS THE BEST INDICTMENT YET of the Bush Administration’s hostility to reasoned, sensible and empirically-grounded policy making.
The nation’s founders, smarting still from the punitive pieties of Europe’s state religions, were adamant about erecting a wall between organized religion and political authority. But suddenly, that seems like a long time ago. George W. Bush — both captive and creator of this moment — has steadily, inexorably, changed the office itself. He has created the faith-based presidency.
I have been surprised that the Bush team invested so heavily in trying to make Bush’s life in his early years look so impressive, when we know that he was a screw-up. I had written in the past about the infallibility project of the Bush team, and Ron Suskind captures this nicely:
The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions.
Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush’s intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility — a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains — is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House.
Suskind gets Reagan conservative Bruce Bartlett to comment:
“Just in the past few months,” Bartlett said, “I think a light has gone off for people who’ve spent time up close to Bush: that this instinct he’s always talking about is this sort of weird, Messianic idea of what he thinks God has told him to do.” Bartlett, a 53-year-old columnist and self-described libertarian Republican who has lately been a champion for traditional Republicans concerned about Bush’s governance, went on to say: “This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about Al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can’t be persuaded, that they’re extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them, because he’s just like them. . . .”
“This is why he dispenses with people who confront him with inconvenient facts,” Bartlett went on to say. “He truly believes he’s on a mission from God. Absolute faith like that overwhelms a need for analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence.” Bartlett paused, then said, “But you can’t run the world on faith.”
Writing about an exchange between Senator Joe Biden and Bush, Suskind recounts:
Joe Biden was telling a story, a story about the president. “I was in the Oval Office a few months after we swept into Baghdad,” he began, “and I was telling the president of my many concerns” — concerns about growing problems winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the oil fields. Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. “‘Mr. President,’ I finally said, ‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?'”
Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand on the senator’s shoulder. “My instincts,” he said. “My instincts.”
Biden paused and shook his head, recalling it all as the room grew quiet. “I said, ‘Mr. President, your instincts aren’t good enough!'”
Read this article today. It says it all. This election is increasingly about not letting Medievalism conquer the Enlightenment. It’s a head-to-head contest between rationality and dogma.
Electoral-Vote.com has the electoral college race today with Kerry at 253, Bush at 247, and 38 votes are up for grabs in states that are exactly tied — and those are Florida, New Hampshire and Iowa.
Does the nation really want someone who values instincts and faith above rationality and thinking through credible policy options for the country.
We deserve better than a by-the-seat-of-his-pants President.
— Steve Clemons