Thursday, May 31, 2007

"I understand the problem. In other words, the problem is understood by me."

I really shouldn't bother linking Yglesias except on the rare occasion when I disagree with him... and it's mighty hard to argue against the proposition that the White House wants to be judged by its words and given a free pass on its deeds.

The administration, from Dubya on down, has a misfiring neuron when it comes to the connection between words and action, or words and intention. In some part of Dubya's brain he really believes that saying something makes it so, or announcing your intentions in a situation is the same as accomplishing those intentions.

My favorite Bush soundbites aren't the ones he mangles Norm Crosby-style. They are the absurdly amusing ones such as these (from memory, not verbatim):

  • In announcing his plan for a $50 billion anti-AIDS initiative in Africa, Bush says, emphatically, as if he's adding an innovative new wrinkle: "This money will be spent wisely."

  • In announcing Robert Zoellick as his choice to head the World Bank: "He understands the problem of Third World poverty."

These are trivial examples of a serious issue, a serious lack-of-seriousness, but it cracks me up when Bush says something that's instantly self-refuting. I mean, it didn't occur to me that Bush might embark on a plan to spend a lot of money unwisely, until he implanted that possibility by gravely assuring me he would be wise about it.

As for Zoellick, I was even starting to feel he might be an okay choice; he has a background in international finance, which Paul Wolfowitz certainly didn't. Then I hear Bush state what should be blindlingly obvious, that his World Bank chief understands the mission of the World Bank. Then I read via Josh Marshall that Bush and Rice respected Zoellick's work at State but his arrogant and pedantic style "drove them slightly bonkers....'Condi let's Bob do whatever he wants, so long as she doesn't have to talk to him about it.'" And now I'm grinning privately, and imagining Dubya at the podium, presidential as a heart attck, intoning: "There were other people who would have accepted this job offer. The World Bank is not, repeat not, a soft landing spot for all my inconvenient cronies."

This may be a too-roundabout way of saying that Bush is a dumb guy trying to play smart. I also enjoy Garry Trudeau's way of portraying Bush, e.g. "I find it curious that they would offer comfort to our enemies instead of to our warriors. In other words, offering comfort to our enemies instead of our warriors is something I find curious."

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