November 05, 2003

Ah! If Only the Czar Knew What the Cossacks Were Doing!

Michael Froomkin is bemused to discover that Nicholas Kristof thinks that Bush and Cheney are not liars, but rather are being deceived by unworthy henchmen: Nicholas Kristof Thinks 'Bush Lies' Is the Rosy Scenario: Nicholas D. Kristof... blames the evil courtiers and partly exonerates the evil bosses duped by their henchmen. In "Death by Optimism" he recounts the following story: "Mr. Cheney has cited a Zogby International poll to back his claim that there is 'very positive news' in Iraq. But the pollster, John Zogby, told me, 'I was floored to see the spin that was put on it; some of the numbers were not my numbers at all.' Mr. Cheney claimed that Iraqis chose the U.S. as their model for democracy 'hands down,'? and he and other officials say that a majority want American troops to stay at least another year. In fact, Mr. Zogby said, only 23 percent favor the U.S.democratic model, and 65 percent want the U.S. to leave in a year or less. 'I am not willing to say they lied,' Mr. Zogby said. 'But they used a very tight process of selective screening, and when they didn't get what they wanted they were willing to manufacture some results. . . . There was almost nothing in that poll to give them comfort.""

Mr. Kristof is concerned by this. Not because a fish rots from the head, or because he thinks that this sort of behavior has been the G.W. Bush M.O. since at least his governorship, if not his career as a military deserter. No, Mr. Kristof thinks the Evil Courtiers are misleading that nice Mr. Bush and that clever Mr. Cheney, feeding them bad data and thus leading them down the path of self-delusion...

Yes. Nick Kristof would, back in the Old Country, have been one of the people standing around watching his village burn and saying, "Ah! If only the Czar knew what the cossacks were doing! The Little Father would protect us!"

The cossacks work for the Czar.

Posted by DeLong at November 5, 2003 07:59 AM | TrackBack


Agreed, but if Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Perle all got canned, I would breathe a lot easier. Scapegoating does have its function.

Posted by: Zizka on November 5, 2003 08:50 AM


Kristof is arguing for the case of "incestual amplification" rather than outright fraud, basically the high-ups want a result (let's invade), and the selective process of only listening to the affirmative and ignoring the negative causes the reasoning loop to have a feedback which is amplified by only listening to the desired voices.

Probably the MOST generous hypothesys which actually explains things: gross incompetence rather than malice. And as such, it actually is rather attractive. Unfortuntaly, I don't think this is the case as there is too much evidence of malice in the rest of the administration.

Posted by: Nicholas Weaver on November 5, 2003 08:56 AM


"Probably the MOST generous hypothesys which actually explains things: gross incompetence rather than malice"

True enough. It will make a hell of a campaign slogan. "Bush/Cheney:, Not malicious, just incompetent".

Posted by: Chuck Nolan on November 5, 2003 09:21 AM


Does it make a lick of difference whether Bush is intentionally deceitful or whether he is, himself, deluded? Who really knows? Who cares? In either case, the problem for us is that we cannot trust that what he says has any correspondence with actual reality.

Posted by: joe on November 5, 2003 09:32 AM


Nice dig.

You've got Kristof's number.

Posted by: MK. Hackensack on November 5, 2003 09:34 AM


Note, by the way, that "I am not willing to say they lied" is not the same as "They did not lie" or even "I don't think they lied".

Posted by: Matt on November 5, 2003 10:19 AM


Arguing about whether Bush lied is utterly futile - there is no practical way to prove his guilty knowledge. It is also utterly pointless. No matter what evidence is proffered, Bush apologists will go to their graves believing in his sincerity.

I suggest: Do not attempt to prove that Bush intentionally lies; simply show that anyone who relies on what he says is likely to be misled.

Posted by: joe on November 5, 2003 10:49 AM


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