« Parkinson's Disease | Main | Irony? »

January 05, 2005

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? (Good-News-Only Department)

Atrios reports:

Eschaton: Ben Wikler provides us with a choice excerpt from the Nelson report, a long running insider tipsheet generally considered to be quite reliable:

There is rising concern amongst senior officials that President Bush does not grasp the increasingly grim reality of the security situation in Iraq because he refuses to listen to that type of information. Our sources say that attempts to brief Bush on various grim realities have been personally rebuffed by the President, who actually says that he does not want to hear "bad news."

Rather, Bush makes clear that all he wants are progress reports, where they exist, and those facts which seem to support his declared mission in Iraq...building democracy. "That's all he wants to hear about," we have been told. So "in" are the latest totals on school openings, and "out" are reports from senior US military commanders (and those intelligence experts still on the job) that they see an insurgency becoming increasingly effective, and their projection that "it will just get worse."

Our sources are firm in that they conclude this "good news only" directive comes from Bush himself; that is, it is not a trap or cocoon thrown around the President by National Security Advisor Rice, Vice President Cheney, and DOD Secretary Rumsfeld. In any event, whether self-imposed, or due to manipulation by irresponsible subordinates, the information/intelligence vacuum at the highest levels of the White House increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message.

Posted by DeLong at January 5, 2005 07:56 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


If this were the 1st century AD and Bush the Emperor, this would be the time when the senior advisors would be amassing their armies and jockeying for position; the Praetorian guards would be moving soon. How do things work in 21st century America?

Posted by: Chris Lovell at January 5, 2005 08:03 PM

I think that this is very good news. Imagine how bad things would be if Bush actually tried to react to events.

Posted by: Rich Puchalsky at January 5, 2005 08:06 PM

Bush is going to ignore the problem until it becomes painfully obvious, then he is going to overeact and bomb the hell out Iraq. Or rather, bomb the hell into Iraq. On the bright side, at least they will be Christian bombs killing brown people, so it's ok in the end. USA USA USA

Posted by: Troy McClure at January 5, 2005 08:12 PM

No. They're going to bomb Syria. They'd rather bomb Iran, but they have nukes.

Posted by: Pudentilla at January 5, 2005 08:19 PM

"Intelligence vacuum". Nicely put. And they are going to bomb Venezuela, not Syria. More oil.

Oh, and Bush is going to blame the CIA for keeping information from him...

Posted by: idook at January 5, 2005 08:28 PM

Of course he doesn't listen to the bad news! Seriously, this is no suprise if you've read The Price of Loyalty (Paul O'Neill's tell-all)...

Posted by: Jim Texan at January 5, 2005 08:31 PM

Jim Texan: The news here is not that Bush doesn't listen to bad news. You're right, we've known for a long time that Bush doesn't pay attention to any information that doesn't fit into his preconceived picture of the world.

The news here is that "senior officials" are talking about it. I wonder who these officials are, and how senior they are? Is this more stuff coming out of State, or are other folks realizing how screwed up things are?

Posted by: Chris Lovell at January 5, 2005 08:40 PM

No, no, this is all a plot by the librul media to discredit dear leader and give comfort to our enemies. Things are going very well in Iraq. All the photos of dead people you've been seeing are from the tsunami, which actually happened two years ago, but was covered up by the media. And doesn't the name "Ben Nelson" sound suspeciously French to you?

Posted by: Tom DC/VA at January 5, 2005 08:44 PM

Readers (or viewers) of I, Claudius know what will come next. The Emperor Shrub will lead his troops down to the sea, and win a great victory over the waves.

Posted by: Billmon at January 5, 2005 08:54 PM

I forgot about this one:

"Albert Speer, in charge of armament production, drew up a memorandum to Hitler on January 20 - the twelfth anniversary of Hitler's coming to power - pointing out the significance of the loss of Silesia. 'The war is lost,' his report began, and he went on in his cool and objective manner to explain why...

"The Fuehrer, Guderian later related, glanced at Speer's report, read the first sentence and then ordered it filed away in his safe. He refused to see Speer alone, saying to Guderian: 'He always has something unpleasant to say to me. I can't bear that.'"

William L. Shirer
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Posted by: Billmon at January 5, 2005 09:06 PM

"increasingly frightens those officials interested in objective assessment, and not just selling a political message."

There are peole like this left? I thought everybody with any sort of independnt thinking process had already been forced out. These people will not have gov't jobs for long, if they even really exist, I mean c'mon, objective assessment over political message, thats sooooo 90's.

Posted by: philip at January 5, 2005 09:26 PM

Chris Lovell writes:
> The news here is that "senior officials" are
> talking about it. I wonder who these officials
> are, and how senior they are? Is this more stuff
> coming out of State, or are other folks realizing
> how screwed up things are?

The real puzzle isn't who is doing the leaking, but what they hope to accomplish by it. If Bush doesn't listen to the bad news, publicizing the fact that he's not listening is an attempt to do what, exactly? I'm serious about this. Are the president's advisors going to come up to him and say "the news is out that you won't listen to bad news" and thereby change that behavior? The only ideas I can come up with here are that the leak is designed to inform people down the food chain either that there is no point in reporting bad news, or that they cannot expect the White House to do anything about the situation, so that they should take the situation into their own hands.

The situation now is so depressing because the future news is (in broad outline) so predictable. Massive and increasing amounts of violence in Iraq leading up to the scheduled election. Then either the election occurs (with even more violence) or it doesn't. The latter possibility is a catastrophe. If the election does occur, it either elects a government we could work with, or it doesn't. The latter possibility is also a disaster. So if the election does lead to a government we can work with, there's then the question of whether enough of the vote was done fairly enough for most Iraqis to have confidence in the government. No confidence would be a disaster. So then the best of the best of the best case scenarios is that we are now engaged in nation-building in Iraq for the foreseeable future, but I don't see anybody now who suggests this will lead to a large reduction in our force committed there, and only the most hopeful people think casualties on both sides will decrease substantially.


Posted by: Jonathan W. King at January 5, 2005 09:28 PM

What news or external events have damaged Bush so far? Have cut his effectiveness or forced him to change his agenda? He has done his job and gotten re-elected, now those under him are required to do theirs.

Remember this "no bad news" and "positive attitude" comes at the very beginning. "Can you achieve democracy and peace/prosperity in Iraq with the resources I have given you?" The answer better be yes, or he will find someone who will do the job.

Posted by: bob mcmanus at January 5, 2005 09:46 PM

Jonathan King,
I think your analysis is exactly correct. Didn't we just see this played out in the Kerik nomination?

Posted by: marky at January 5, 2005 10:02 PM

The first and foremost responsibility of the President is Commander-In-Chief....not Commander-Of-Social-Security...not Commander-Of-Make-The-Tax-Code-More-Simple...not Commander-Of-Tort-Reform.

Fact of the matter, these things can wait a few years.

Someone needs to shake this guy real hard by the neck and say:

"Mr. President, Right now you have one job and one job only ! To do whatever you can to ensure that this situation doesn't bring us all down !"


Posted by: bloomes at January 6, 2005 12:48 AM

Doesn't anyone here remember Reagan, or not know the high regard in which he's still held, notwithstanding the senility he demonstrated while president?

Reagan didn't only demonstrate that deficits don't matter. Neither does competence. A good imitation of a cowboy hero wins half the country.

Posted by: bad Jim at January 6, 2005 12:54 AM

Those must be some short briefings. Do they also cut the articles out of the newspapers before he sees them lest he get agitated. Bush is a great president in his own mind.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope at January 6, 2005 03:43 AM

Does this mean that the the impeach Dubya scenario---always an unlikely one--should be replaced by the "here come the men in the White Coats" scenario? Bush's cognitive dissonance is proving hazardous to his mental health--and to the fate of our country. This looks like a job for super shrink!

Posted by: Sylny at January 6, 2005 07:01 AM

A good imitation of a cowboy hero wins half the country.

bad jim, you just made me sick all over again reminding me how stupid 59 million people can be.

Posted by: me at January 6, 2005 07:23 AM

"overeact and bomb the hell out Iraq"

Isn't that what we did in Falluja about two months ago? Excerpted from the BBC 12/24/04:

"I was there, inside the city - about 60% to 70% of the homes and buildings are completely crushed and damaged, and not ready to inhabit at the moment.

Of the 30% still left standing, I don't think there is a single one that has not been exposed to some damage.

One of my colleagues... went to see his home, and saw that it is almost completely collapsed and everything is burnt inside.

When he went to his neighbours' home, he found a relative of his was dead and a dog had eaten the meat off him.

I think we will see many things like this, because the US forces have cleared the dead people from the streets, but not from inside the homes.
There is no water, no electricity, no sewage system - there is nothing inside the city, except a very small amount of medical supplies that have come from Falluja hospital by two ambulances."

Do the schools destroyed in Falluja (and elsewhere) have to be subtracted from the "schools opened" report that Bush sees?

I previewed this post, and it shows all the text jumbled togetehr with no newlines - how do you insert them?

Posted by: Pouncer at January 6, 2005 07:26 AM

See Kershaw, Toland, Corelli Barnett's "Hitler's Generals" on the dynamics of delusionary leadership--as things get worse, the decisions get worse, and the gap between the real world and the world inside the leader's mind gets wider and wider. I'll wager one of Rumsfeld's talents is telling W just what he wants to hear.

Will this war hit $1 trillion?


Posted by: Nicholas Mycroft at January 6, 2005 08:00 AM

CEO management again. Many CEOs have a marvelous talent for hearing only the news they want to hear. To make this management style work, though, you need subordinates who are energetic, talented, self- starters. This doesn't describe anybody in Bush's cabinet.

Posted by: lightning at January 6, 2005 08:37 AM

"I previewed this post, and it shows all the text jumbled togetehr with no newlines - how do you insert them?"---Pouncer---

Brad, until you resolve this problem perhaps you could rename the Preview button to something more accurate like Fauxview.

Posted by: Dubblblind at January 6, 2005 09:17 AM

Funny how invading Iraq was supposed to be about making America safer from Terra but now the discourse is about democratization. What bothers me is how little real work has been done in terms of making America safer and how Bushthink is actually taking us backwards in that area. Take, for instance, what Goss (or should that be floss) is up to with the sanitizing of information for Dear Leader at the CIA.

Posted by: Dubblblind at January 6, 2005 09:44 AM

In 1974 a group of GOP leaders (Hugh Scott,
Goldwater?) went to see Nixon to tell him the
jog was up; and he saw the light and quit.

Today, if a similar group were to warn aWol about
Iraq, he would blow them off and cry for Karen.
It's just sad...

Posted by: SEC Overreach at January 6, 2005 10:26 AM

Over at "Today in Iraq" is a report that the Kuwait govt has detected and derailed a plot to attack "foreign troops in Kuwait." Is this in the briefing? In the NYT?

Posted by: sm at January 6, 2005 10:32 AM

Can we tie a few other strands into this?

1: Bush has a 20 YEAR record as an alcoholic; I've known a lot of alcoholics and former alcoholics, and most of the ones with a history this long are cognitively impaired to an observable degree. Again, he has also been pretty solidly identified as a "dry drunk," meaning he still thinks in the very short-term and self-centered fashion of the alcoholic.

2: He also has a significant if not admitted history as a cocaine addict, probably for a similar time frame. There's plenty of evidence of alteration in brain function in chronic cocaine users, and a predilection towards violence.

3: He has heart and/or circulation problems that cause him to black out- recall his several "unexplained injuries" and his "pretzel" incident. These blackouts can result in brain damage. And he now wears a defibrillator, which he wouldn't if his heart was in good shape.

4: It is painfully obvious to anyone who has seen them before that he has had minor strokes or TIA incidents- recall his appearance, with one side of his face sagging, in the final debate with Kerry. He did not look like that earlier. This is yet more evidence of brain damage.

5: There is evidence of Bush's deterioration over time; I lived in Texas during the early years of his governorship, saw him speaking on TV more than once, and though he was never articulate I do not recall him having anywhere near the trouble speaking he does now. If there are videos available of Bush from then or before, say during his first gubernatorial race, it might be worth taking a look to confirm this.

So: we have a president who is literally brain-damaged, and who may not be able physically to react in a rational manner, or to deal with negative information constructively.

The cumulative effects of Bush's deterioration might be the force behind the leaks that gave rise to Wilker's report.

Posted by: JohnDL at January 6, 2005 10:36 AM

SEC Overreach writes:
> In 1974 a group of GOP leaders (Hugh Scott,
> Goldwater?) went to see Nixon to tell him the
> jog was up; and he saw the light and quit.
> Today, if a similar group were to warn aWol
> about Iraq, he would blow them off and cry for
> Karen. It's just sad...

The "jog was up"? :-)

More seriously, Nixon did resign when Goldwater told him that he had went around and found out how many votes Nixon could count on in his impeachment trial. I can't remember exactly how many that was, but I think it was in the single digits.

I mean, it's not like Nixon didn't hang on delusionally past the bitter end of good taste or anything, because he did. But he did realize that Goldwater wasn't screwing around when he told him that we totally beat, with no saving throw possible.

There is no way that Bush will ever be impeached, so we can never know what he would do if given the Goldwater-to-Nixon talk. As I speak, Bush's approval rating is still hovering around or just below 50%. I think any bad news or scandal will be enough to send his stock plummeting, and that is exactly why he wants to get his agenda done right away. Next September is probably already too late, given the possibility of indictments in the Plame affair.

But I should point out that I *think* there has recently been a case where Bush listened to bad news recently. There was floated a particularly grandiose plan about tax reform about 6 weeks ago (the one that you could call the "Screw the Blue" plan). That one has disappeared without a trace, I believe because 7 or 8 Blue state Republican senators told the powers that be that if this were introduced, they would join Senator Jeffords for his morning coffee, and Bush could then write off getting *anything* done for the remainder of his term. Did anybody else get that sense?


Posted by: Jonathan.W.King at January 6, 2005 01:05 PM

> In 1974 a group of GOP leaders (Hugh Scott,
> Goldwater?) went to see Nixon to tell him the
> jog was up; and he saw the light and quit.
> Today, if a similar group were to warn aWol
> about Iraq, he would blow them off and cry for
> Karen. It's just sad...

Nixon didn't exactly admit defeat in Vietnam. He just bombed the hell out of it when defeat was inevitable and called it a victory. Or something like that.

If you consider Vietnam precedent, then the course would be to bomb Syria, realise all is lost and then bomb Iraq as a going away present.

And all without loosing the support of the American people.

Missing tapes and stained dresses are the things that are dangerous to the wellbeing of a president.

But my impression is that the genereal disinterest in Iraq in the US will lead to a situation of continued "low level" conflict, slow improvements in Iraqi self governance, and a retreat of US forces when that is politically feasible. As long as the neoconmen can be prevented from starting yet another war there isn't much Bush can or will do on the Iraqi front.

Posted by: Luc at January 7, 2005 02:26 AM


Where is this improvement on the ground in Iraq going to come from? Do you, too, have a source of good news not available to the rest of us?

Posted by: sm at January 7, 2005 08:33 AM

Post a comment

Remember Me?