Maureen Dowd on the Realists vs. Idealists


(President George and Laura Bush at casket of President Ronald Reagan)
Ms. Dowd has a strong, smart piece on the battle between Bush administration insider realists and idealists and juxtaposes Bush’s inflexibility with Reagan’s dramatic turns.
Read the whole thing, but here’s the best:

Bush junior cast himself as the Reagan heir. But as President Reagan showed in Lebanon, when he pulled out troops after 241 servicemen were blown up, and in Reykjavik negotiating with Mikhail Gorbachev on nuclear arms, he was incredibly flexible — an effective contrast with his inflexible rhetoric. He pursued openings and even radical diplomacy.
If the Gipper was wood, the Decider is stone.
Voters rejected W.’s black-and-white, good-and-evil, incompetent foreign policy last week. The president got the message that some shades of gray were desirable and brought in the family fixer with the bright green ties, who is perfectly positioned to come up with a solution that will fly in Washington and flop in Baghdad.
As the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr taught, morality without realism is naïvite or worse, and realism without morality is cynicism or worse. Morality should open your eyes, not close them.

Let’s hope the President gets to reading the papers today.

— Steve Clemons


12 comments on “Maureen Dowd on the Realists vs. Idealists

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  4. Louisa Arndt says:

    Re: “The president got the message that some shades of gray were desirable”–shades of gray are really just alternating black and white dots, so let’s think in terms of COLOR. We live in a world of color, blue sky, green grass, pink flamingos. Our choices are not between either crows or egrets.


  5. Edward Nashton says:

    Good piece by Dowd…The only thing is that she ought to delve out a bit more credit when she steals comparisons made by Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman in their new book.


  6. David Noziglia says:

    What’s missing from the commentary on the situation in Iraq — and Rita Hauser got close but didn’t get there — is that the terms of the debate are framed in the wrong tense.
    Bush wants us to keep talking about how “we cannot fail in Iraq.” As if failure were a state of the future. That way, after continuing to throw money and lives down a rat hole for two more years, Bush and the Republicans can blame the next president for “Losing Iraq” when that person recognizes reality — something no one can accuse Bush of ever doing — and pulls out.
    The fact is, the verbs should be in the past tense. We have already “lost” in Iraq. It has already become a failure of historic proportions. And the responsibility for that failure rests solely and intirely on Bush and his cabal (Cheney, Rummie, Condie, Wolfie, etc. — has there ever been a more immature and delusional group in charge of our country?).


  7. Zathras says:

    I’d never cite the Lebanon adventure as an example of Reagan’s flexibility, not in a positive way in any event. The truth is, he got stampeded into a multinational peacekeeping mission in an Arab country with many bloody-minded factions not nearly ready for peace. After a disaster brought on in part by rules of engagement reflective of the mission’s confusion, Reagan did bail out. But he never should have authorized the deployment to Lebanon in the first place, and the whole episode was one of the least creditable of his entire Presidency.
    A better example of Reagan’s flexibility would be his yielding to pressure, including pressure from Congress, to withdraw support from Philippine President Marcos, something he resisted and resented having to do but did anyway, ultimately subordinating sentiment to a sense of priorities.


  8. weldon berger says:

    It seems to me the money quotes are “The president got the message that some shades of gray were desirable and brought in the family fixer with the bright green ties, who is perfectly positioned to come up with a solution that will fly in Washington and flop in Baghdad,” and “morality without realism is naivite or worse, and realism without morality is cynicism or worse.”
    Aside from the dubious proposition that Bush actually drew any conclusion from the elections other than that American voters are too stupid to grasp his brilliance, what exactly are we celebrating here? The return of amoral realism? Cool. Maybe when we’re done screwing the Iraqis to death, we can invade Grenada again to make ourselves feel all better.


  9. trip says:

    “the family fixer with the bright green ties” Bwaaahhhaa! LOVE HER.


  10. karenk says:

    Interesting take. I never voted for W mainly because he ran 2 businesses into the ground.May sound simpleminded but to me, if you can’t hold a business together how can you run a country? You’ve got to be pretty lame to be unable to keep a business going that’s been handed to you. As well, I voted for Bloomberg for Mayor of NYC because he was a successful self made businessperson. If you’re successful in running a business you created, at least you won’t run the city into the red! And he’s done pretty well…


  11. David Noziglia says:

    So here’s the thing.
    When Bush was running in 2000, my dad would go on about how if it weren’t for Dad’s help, junior would have been a failure, or a nothing.
    Pappy got him into Yale, and into all his other schools. Had his father been anyone else, W would not have qualified for study at Podunk State.
    Pappy got him into the Texas Air National Guard, when normal people were looking at the draft, and Viet Nam. When he got bored with that, it was understood that the rules did not apply to Pappy’s son, and he was able to blow off the Guard, when had anyone else done that, they would have been on a C-140 to Da Nang the next day.
    Junior had fun in the oil business, and when the company ran aground, Pappy’s friends bailed him out.
    Junior had fun in the baseball business, and when he got bored, Pappy’s friends bought him out, and he became a wealthy man, for no real reason.
    As governor of Texas, the work was easy, and the ideas nonexistant. He had people like Rove, Gonzales, and what’s-her-name to protect him from reality, and suddenly got the idea to run for president.
    When he lost the election, a combination of official incompetance and Pappy’s fix-it man rescued that, and the Supreme Court handed him the country as a plaything.
    Now that he’s broken the military, endangered the country, damaged the working government as an instution, corrupted politics and the media in general, and destroyed the integrity of public life and the economy, Pappy sends the usual suspects to straight it all back up again.
    Same script, only the damage done this time is thousands of lives lost, hundreds of thousands of lives ruined, billions of dollars squandered, years of history down the tubes. I doubt that even Jim Baker can fix all that.
    It’s sad, really. Even sadder, are the many benighted souls who still don’t recognize the tragic/comedy they’ve been a part of, and the harm they have done by putting this clown and his henchmen in the White House. Give them all a Medal of Freedom.


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