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January 22, 2005

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Fools? (Inauguation Speech Edition)

Matthew Yglesias writes:

Matthew Yglesias: The Trouble With Bullshitting...: is well captured by the headline writers at The Washington Post:

  • "Bush Speech Not Sign of Policy Shift, Officials Say"
  • "Arabs Say U.S. Rhetoric Rings Hollow"

Gee, I wonder why the words might ring hollow...

And Belle Waring gets medieval on that big fish in a very small barrel that is the pathetically obsequious David Brooks:

Crooked Timber: How To Ascribe Super-Powers To Words : What on earth is David Brooks talking about?

With that speech [i.e., the inaugural offering], President Bush’s foreign policy doctrine transcended the war on terror. He laid down a standard against which everything he and his successors do will be judged. When he goes to China, he will not be able to ignore the political prisoners there, because he called them the future leaders of their free nation. When he meets with dictators around the world... he will not be able to have warm relations with them, because he said no relations with tyrants can be successful.

His words will be thrown back at him and at future presidents. American diplomats have been sent a strong message. Political reform will always be on the table. Liberation and democratization will be the ghost present at every international meeting. Vladimir Putin will never again be the possessor of that fine soul; he will be the menace to democracy and rule of law....

It will be harder for future diplomats to sit on couches flattering dictators, the way we used to flatter Hafez al-Assad of Syria decade after decade. From now on, the borders established by any peace process will be less important than the character of the regimes in that process....

I mean, I love Austin as much as the next girl (well, OK, a lot more than the next girl), but it has always been my distinct impression that the scope of things you can do with words has been, hmm, let’s say, overstated by his would-be popularizers. Naming ships? Hell yeah. Transforming U.S. foriegn policy by shaking democracy-supporting fairy dust on everything? Not so much...

Posted by DeLong at January 22, 2005 05:17 PM

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The Speech Misheard Round the World

Cambridge, Mass. — SINCE 9/11, President Bush and his advisers have engaged in a series of arguments concerning the relation between freedom, tyranny and terrorism. The president's inaugural paean to freedom was the culmination of these arguments.

The stratagem began immediately after 9/11 with the president's claims that the terrorist attacks were a deliberate assault on America's freedom. The next stage of the argument came after no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, thus eliminating the reason for the war, and it took the form of a bogus syllogism: all terrorists are tyrants who hate freedom. Saddam Hussein is a tyrant who hates freedom. Therefore Saddam Hussein is a terrorist whose downfall was a victory in the war against terrorism.

When this bogus syllogism began to lose public appeal, it was shored up with another flawed argument that was repeated during the campaign: tyranny breeds terrorism. Freedom is opposed to tyranny. Therefore the promotion of freedom is the best means of fighting terrorism....

Posted by: anne at January 22, 2005 05:23 PM

The world has gone funny when I'm agreeing with Peggy Noonan.

His speech was yet another attempt to justify after the fact, the invastion of Iraq. He was spreading democracy, of course.

That speech was messianic. He'll now be able to declare any country he doesn't like an enemy of freedom and then ivade them.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope at January 22, 2005 06:42 PM

Is this Bush trying to throw back to Carter's Human Rights Policy?

Posted by: bakho at January 22, 2005 08:55 PM

Bush's challenge to tyranny seemed as trite and vapid as a Miss America contestant's declaration that she wants to work for world peace.

Posted by: JackM at January 22, 2005 09:45 PM

By Austin, she must mean Jane Austin — rumored to be Bush’s favorite author.

I loved Winchester Park and The Persuader, but most of all that great Western novel about the rancher-farmer wars, Fence and Fencibility.

Jane Austin's home page:

[No. She means the philosopher Austin: "How to Do Things with Words"

Posted by: L at January 23, 2005 09:43 AM

Fate the Sleeping Cat

Woke this morning to the angry sound of an ocean pounding
on the reef, the roar and surge of freeway traffic that once was
just a murmur, miles away, like some bathroom fan left on in
another room, now pulsing and churning the still morning air,
as it gently weeps a light sprinkle of rain.

Woke this morning to the angry sound of the seas pounding,
an ullulation of mindless chatter and laugh tracks and 5,000
murders of TV, tele-vangelism and tele-tubbies, tele-vice and
tele-comedy. A roaring Roman Coluseum in the family room,
always on, never sleeping, all-consuming.

The cat raises its head to look at me, stretches, and sleeps.
He knows I'm just laying here thinking. No brunch yet. Fate.

Of course, I should be up already, studying the stock market
for the coming week, the cuneiform ink blots, consulting the
oracles at Barron's and Bloomberg, planning my strategies.
What once was mundane, buy and hold and go long, is now
puts and calls, options and levers, churning up, then down,
like a rollie-coaster I want to get off, like a small boat tossed
in angry seas, you weep just to see a beacon of Break Even.

On the refrigerator there's a magnet, Poison Help, 1-800-
222-1222. It hasn't moved from that spot in years, haven't
needed it. Nobody gets poisoned sudden like that, fatally.
Instead we get poisoned slowly, incrementally, like litorral
drift of phytoplankton, snowing gently down in dark seas,
building huge drifts of benthic death, kilometers deep.

Instead we get freeway traffic like an M-1 battle tank, rumbling
and roaring and shaking the very ground beneath our feet,
vehicles weighing 3,000 pounds, then 6,000, then a half- ton,
here, in 2005, the pinnacle of Western industrial civilization.
A fully loaded Humvee2 at 10,300 pounds gets ten miles
per gallon. Or a V-12 pickup towing a 19,200 pound trailer,
gets under five miles per gallon.

Yet the global supply of oil is heading down! "The Party is
Over" by Richard Heinberg re-asserts Energy Information
Administration's dire warning. The US imports 70% of our
petroleum from overseas, and a half TRILLION cubic feet
of natural gas, primarily from Trinidad and Tobago.

[Europe imports most of their natural gas from Algeria and
Nigeria, and Indonesia supplies the vast bulk of the world's
remaining gas. Yet all of these exporters are considered
"3rd world". Can you feel me, player?]

Stats? You can find everything here: http://www.eia.doe.gov/

The party is over on television too. "The Media Party is Over"
by Howard Fineman on Friday's MSNBC re-asserts what
everyone knew already. Television has been pre-empted
by corporate socialism. CS. Domination of our society, such
as it is, by corporate interests. The Great Dumbing Down.
"And that's the way it was", Fineman ends his article, just
in time for roll theme, fade to commercial.

Somehow there's a connection there, I just haven't found it
yet, between this society being pushed to drive larger and
heavier vehicles, this society being pushed to build larger
and more energy intensive housing, the pinnacle and soon
imminent decline in the production of that energy, the stark
and abysmal poverty in those 3rd world energy producers,
the conquest of media and stock markets by Corporatism,
and the Administration of President Cheney ... ahh, Bush.

Hmmm. Just can't get it. The cat's getting annoyed. Have
to rise, feed the runt bastard, grind a cup, and watch the
humm and chatter of another day in Consumption Land.

"Whatever you do, don't stop shopping!" GWBush


Keep the fate!

Posted by: Tante Aime at January 23, 2005 09:46 AM

So, once again, we have Bush's clean-up crew scampering around to explain that what George said isn't what he meant. That indeed whatever words came dribbling out of his mouth in no way reflect US policy or even Bush's attitude.

To which we can only ask, "What the fuck?"

We might imagine that Bush's inaugural address was worked on for several months. We might believe that Bush had a strong hand in crafting its direction. But apparently we're wrong. Bush's handlers would have us believe instead that he didn't really know what was in the speech, did not speak with his speechwriters before hand, and evidently did not read the speech before stepping to the podium--and did not recognize what he was saying as he was saying it.

No, a more cogent explanation is that Bush's address was nothing more or less than him flinging feces at the crowd and red meat to his right-wing base, knowing full well that he and his government would have to backpedal from the entire speech within 72 hours.

One would hope that Americans at large would realize that the President of the United States stood before them at his inaugural and knowlingly lied.

One would hope in vain.

Posted by: Derelict at January 23, 2005 10:01 AM

“When he goes to China, he will not be able to ignore the political prisoners there, because he called them the future leaders of their free nation.”

If necessary he will ignore them. Governments are creatures of contradiction; no one with any sense takes presidential speeches seriously. The government tells me not to smoke; yet it provides subsidies to tobacco farmers. It pushes free enterprise and competition, yet it regulates the number of automobile dealerships. If you want to open a new Honda dealership in you hometown you have to prove it will not impact the business of existing dealers. In fact, a bunch of Los Alamos physicists started a company called “Science for Business” and they will help you do the proof. Don’t expect consistency in government policy, you’re not going to get it. What you will get are lame excuses.

Posted by: A. Zarkov at January 23, 2005 11:25 AM

L, take that back! Bush's favorite author is Jane Austen? Impossible. The author best known for subtle irony and the sane balancing of humor and intellect can't be appreciated by that psychopath.

Posted by: Emma Anne at January 23, 2005 12:03 PM

Good grief, Zarkov. There is an enormous difference between the actions of agencies with their varying agendas, and the executive, especially this one, with its ideological lockstep. This crew is trying to enforce its ideology at every level of government. Why should we not take them at their word?

Posted by: masaccio at January 23, 2005 02:26 PM

Because this is standard US government propaganda. Proclaiming support of freedom, while enthusiastically funding a large number or "he's our SOB" governments. Proclaim support of dissidents against tyranny, while helping to torture and kill those who dissent against "he's our SOB" governments.

I do believe that these guys have an ideology, but it isn't one of freedom and democracy. And the actions (e.g., invading Iraq) aren't driven by ideology, IMHO, just pure opportunism.

Posted by: Barry at January 23, 2005 02:47 PM

"no one with any sense takes presidential speeches seriously."

I would actually vastly prefer to believe that Dubya engaged in flight-deck chest-pounding hollow-ringing double-speak. But from the established history of this administration (i.e. implement dogma over common sense) I can't.

Posted by: ogmb at January 23, 2005 04:26 PM

Congrats to Zarkov for one of the few sensible comments on this thread.

Anyone burning time on close analysis of inaugural speeches needs to get a life, STAT.

Save time for more valuable uses -- believe nothing the Government (any Gov't) says until the second denial.

Most of the folks here should adjust your meds. Clinton's inaugural festivities were just as wild, almost as expensive excluding security costs (everything different since 9/11) considering their more decentralized structure. A summing of Presidential speeches over the past 50 years would come to a total of folly and idocy sufficient to disillusion Dr. Pangloss.

BTW, Emma Anne (cc to Brad) -- you are thinking of Jane Austen. "Sense and Sensibility", not "Fence and Fencibility." English Lit, not silly satire.

Posted by: L at January 23, 2005 04:32 PM

I meant to say, you're thinking of Jane Austen -- not Jane Austin.

Posted by: L at January 23, 2005 05:08 PM

I agree with what L says, last post. Tante, keep up the interesting writing. You made me think of our 16000lb, all up, truck, camper, horse trailer, horses rig and its 10 miles per gallon, whether going to Tahoe or taking a short run down to Coe Park in the flat. We could give that up and save just a few oz of fuel to keep the grandkids warm in the far future. It is the tragedy of the commons, we humans are like the grasshopper, we will burn up what ever is available and to hell with the future. Damm few common sensical ants around here including us.

Posted by: dilbert dogbert at January 23, 2005 05:10 PM

It was strangely unnerving to hear George Bush speak of “the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands”.

I was waiting for him to then tell us that “Ourland has always been at war with Otherlands”.

But his following assertion that “the best hope for peace in Ourworld is the expansion of freedom in Alltheworld” comes close enough to “War is Peace” for me.

Life and death in Bushworld. Four more years.

For an example of one of the thrilling rides at Bushworld see:




Posted by: Steve at January 23, 2005 11:23 PM

I missed the speech

Are we still going to Mars ?

Posted by: ed_finnerty at January 24, 2005 08:32 AM

My theory is that Bush and his speechwriters are now mocking us. I fully expect him to get up one day soon and say, word for word, "Blah blah blah freedom blah blah liberty whatever blah blah liberty freedom blah ya da blah blah ownership society." And then stand back to watch David Brooks to fall to his knees, weeping hot impassioned tears of idealistic neoconservative hero-worship.

Posted by: SqueakyRat at January 24, 2005 10:36 PM

I believe that our economy is only going to go down hill and Bush is tring to diguise his true intentions in his obscure and hippocratic speech.

Posted by: Julia Cooper at January 27, 2005 07:09 PM

[comment spam]

Posted by: at February 9, 2005 06:18 PM

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