December 13, 2005

Bush in the Bubble

The cover says it all, read on for Bush's candid response to it!

The Newsweek cover story itself is a bit of a disappointment. It analyzes the problems with Bush's modus operandi, which "suggests a level of indifference, if not denial, that is dangerous for a president who seeks to transform the world."
Bush may be the most isolated president in modern history, at least since the late-stage Richard Nixon...

On the overriding issue facing the president—the war in Iraq—some reality has slowly crept in. Last spring Cheney was still whistling past the graveyard, describing the Iraqi insurgency as in its "last throes." Since then, Bush's ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, has tried to educate the president and his top advisers on some "ground truth"—that the new Iraqi Army and police are a long way from being able to defend their own country and nascent government. According to senior Pentagon officials who did not want to be identified discussing private meetings, in October Bush received an unusually unvarnished briefing on the military situation from the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace.

What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable. Take Social Security, for example. One House Republican, who asked not to be identified for fear of offending the White House, recalls a summertime meeting with congressmen in the Roosevelt Room at which Bush enthusiastically talked up his Social Security reform plan. But the plan was already dead—as everyone except the president had acknowledged. Bush seemed to have no idea. "I got the sense that his staff was not telling him the bad news," says the lawmaker. "This was not a case of him thinking positive. He just didn't have any idea of the political realities there. It was like he wasn't briefed at all." ...

Bush generally prefers short conversations—long on conclusion, short on reasoning. He likes popular history and presidential biography (Theodore Roosevelt, George Washington), but by all accounts, he is not intellectually curious. Occasional outsiders brought into the Bush Bubble have observed that faith, not evidence, is the basis for decision making. Psychobabblers have long had a field day with the fact that Bush quit drinking cold turkey and turned around his life by accepting God. His close friends agree that Bush likes comfort and serenity; he does not like dissonance. He has long been mothered by strong women, including his mother and wife. A foreign diplomat who declined to be identified was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. "Don't upset him," she said.
After reading the 5-page story, the one thing that sticks in my mind is how many of the reporters' sources did not want to be identified. Says a lot, doesn't it, when people are afraid to openly speak their minds.

Meanwhile, White House Spin Doctors are already working to dispel the "Bubble Boy" image. In a more informative article (with odd parallels to the Newseek one above), TIME says Bush is searching for a new groove, "trying to stop a second-term slump before it becomes a long slide to oblivion".
White House strategists believe they have ended the slide in Bush's approval ratings, which lately have been topping 40% again. "It's time for the Bush comeback story!" one coached TIME for this article. "The perfect storm has receded. We have better news in Iraq, oil prices are down, and Katrina has kind of fallen off the radar screen in terms of public concern."
Yeah, right...! Michael Moore posts a few good links to dispel that myth.

After dismissing the Bush 2006 agenda as light on substance, with key players like Rove and Cheney on the sidelines, the article then swings back the other way:
Bush still subscribes to Rove's long-held dream that his will be the transformational presidency that lays the groundwork for a Republican majority that can endure, as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal coalition did, for a half-century or more. Once he gets past the midterm elections, Bush plans to introduce a concept that, if anything, is even more ambitious than his failed Social Security plan: a grand overhaul that would include not only that program but Medicare and Medicaid as well.
In other words, if the Bush cabalists can get off the public accountablity hook, stay out of jail, pull the Iraqi rabbit out of a blood-soaked hat and somehow crawl back up the opinion polls, it will be back to business as usual in the creation of the Great GOP Global Fascist Empire.

Meanwhile, the unreal nonsense keeps spewing out of Bubble Boy's mouth:
In an interview with NBC's "Nightly News" program, Bush acknowledged the U.S. mission in Iraq has not gone as well as originally planned, when senior Bush officials had predicted U.S. troops would be welcomed as liberators.

"I think we are welcomed. But it was not a peaceful welcome," he said, while adding that a lot of Iraqis are glad the United States is there.

In another acknowledgment of a mistaken prediction, Bush admitted that Iraqi oil revenues were "not as great as we thought they'd be. Yet they're substantial."
That's from a Reuters story which, BTW, was edited as I blogged this to remove a description of several hundred demonstrators giving Bush the finger and shouting "Shame! Shame!" at Bush's fleeing motorcade. Here is a fragment of the original text:
A couple of hundred protesters waved antiwar signs and yelled across the street from the Philadelphia hotel where Bush spoke.
Given that Bush refuses to even go near the public these days, let alone protesters, you would think the media might at least give these protesters the attention they deserve. It's called Democracy, remember?

UPDATE: Wow. NBC news anchor Brian Williams actually showed Bush the Newsweek cover, and the TIME story:
Williams: "How do you wake up on a Monday morning -- I brought some visual aids, I have Newsweek and Time -- the cover of Newsweek, look what they've done to you. ' Bush's World; The Isolated President: Can He Change? '"

Bush chuckles.

Williams: "And inside Time, it says: ' Bush's Search for His New Groove .' Time Magazine says you're out there talking to people, and Newsweek says you're in here not talking to people. So what is the truth, Mr. President?"

Bush: "Well, I'm talking to you. You're a person."

Williams: "This says you're in a bubble, you have a very small circle of advisers now."

Bush: "Yeah."

Williams: "Is that true?"

Bush: "Uh."

Williams. "Do you feel in a bubble?"

Bush: "No, I don't feel in a bubble. I mean, you feel in a bubble in the sense that I can't go walking out the front gate and go shopping, like I'd love to do for my wife -- although I'm a man, I'm not going to tell you what I'm gonna buy her."

Williams: "I understand that."

Bush: "Look, I, I, uh, I feel like I'm getting really good advice from very capable people, and that people from all walks of life inform me and inform those who advise me. And I feel very comfortable that, that I'm very aware of what's going on.

"I just talked to the president-elect of Honduras. A lot of my job is foreign policy. And I spend an enormous amount of time with leaders from other countries, and they come right here in the Oval Office and tell me what's on their mind. And I tell them what's on my mind.

"And so -- you know, it's the first time I've seen those magazines, by the way."

Williams: "Do you read this kind of stuff?"

Bush: "No."

Williams: "You don't read the newsweeklies at all?"

Bush: "I really don't. I mean, I'm interested in the news, I'm not all that interested in the opinions."


That conversation comes to you courtesy of Dan Froomkin at WaPo, who is apparently too liberal (small L, I assume!) for his WaPo colleagues, who complain about being slandered by bloggers! Here's an eloquently semi-incoherant raging blogger response to that guff:
Number one, Dan Froomkin's column is often the only thing worth reading in the Washington Post, the one thing they're managed to do right as they crawl their way out of the 18th century amidst a series of spectacularly bad decisions that have blown their credibility and set them in lockstep with the wooly mammoth. So the reporters don't like the guff they're taking from bloggers? I fucking bet they don't. But that's what you get when you set the bar so low the only people who stick around are the ones who can limbo under it...

There are only a few outlets that receive leaks from official government sources, and the public must look to them for what meager information we are dribbled. That we become enraged at the obtuseness and opacity of the reporting is completely predictable, and I'm sorry we're not here to quietly applaud bimbo journalism that cares more about its own perpetuation than it does any responsibility it has as a fourth estate. If you long ago stopped caring about serving the public interest, fine, don't be surprised when the public grows contentious and turns on you.

What the WaPo writers are viewing through their Technorati tags is only a tiny crumb of a rage that threatens to sweep them into irrelevance. If they care about the preservation of superstar journalists and the politics of access above all else they blind themselves to the sea change that is taking place in how information is exchanged.

Dan Froomkin is the future. They say they want to balance him out by adding a conservative voice? That's great, just what the Mighty Wurlitzer needs, another outlet. As I've said before, this isn't about right vs. left, it's about people on both sides who are sick of the machine. One step forward, six steps back. Outside the fucking box, that lot.

It won't be long before the WaPo honchos wish they'd sent Bob Woodward and his embarrassing apologies packing before he dragged them down into 8-track tape anachronism. I dare them to take a look at the bulk of the last year's offerings on the CIA leak and do anything other than groan. The reporting is execrable and the dot connection worse. They've handed the keys to the kingdom to the village idiots and they shouldn't be stunned when bloggers merely point that out.
UPDATE 2: Wow again. Bush actually takes questions (a whole 4 of them, two of whom identified themselves as Bush supporters) from the press following his latest "Everything Is Still Going Great" speech. Some highlights:
Thank you. Sit down, please.

I've got a little extra time on my hands, so I thought I might answer some questions...

How many Iraqi citizens have died in this war? I would say 30,000, more or less, have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis... [sounds like he is using the Iraqi Body Count figure, which counts only casualties that have been publicly verified by two credible sources]


When we first got going, we said, `We'll train an army that will be able to deal with external threats and a civil defense corps that will be able to deal with internal threats.'

And the problem with that strategy was that the internal threats were a heck of a lot more severe than the external threats and the civilian corps we trained was not properly trained and equipped.

So we adjusted... [er, weren't the "terrrrrsts" considered an "external threat" in the beginning, before they started being a home-gronw one?]

And that's what - and so the strategy has been to - let me just say, we adjusted our strategy. And there's about 200,000-plus capable units.

Now, not all of them are ready to take the fight to the enemy. In order to have a division or a battalion ready to fight, you got to be able to communicate, you got to be able to move, you got to be able to have logistical supplies. But more and more the Iraqis are in the lead in the fight, and more and more Iraqis are being trained so they can hold the positions once we clear.

We haven't completed the job of training the Iraqis... [in other words, they are still not ready and NOT "capable"].


These are people that have got a totalitarian vision. They've got designs and ambitions. They've laid our their strategy and they explained their tactics. And we've got to listen to them and take them seriously.

And part of their tactics is to create vacuums so that their hateful ideology flows in.

Listen, the attack of September the 11th was a part of a broad strategy to get us to retreat from the world.

And people say, He's making it up, that they want to want to establish a totalitarian empire that stretches from Spain to Indonesia. I'm telling you what they said, not me. This is what Zawahiri has said, the number two man in al-Qaida.

It seems like, to me, we need to take it seriously when the enemy says something.


Look, I recognize we got an image issue, particularly when you got Arabic television stations that are constantly just pounding America, you know, saying, America is fighting Islam. Americans can't stand Muslims. This is a war against a religion. [see, he DID want to bomb AlJazeera!]

.. I mean, their propaganda machine is pretty darn intense. And so we're constantly sending out messages. We're constantly trying to reassure people. But we're also acting. [some are better actors than others]

And that's what's important for our citizens to realize. Our position in the world is such that I don't think we can retreat...

The long run in this war is going to require a change of governments in parts of the world.
A dangerous idiot.

UPDATE 3: More from Bush:
"I don't see a lot of the news. Every morning I look at the newspaper. I can't say I've read every single article in the newspaper. But I definitely know what's in the news. Occasionally, I watch television. I don't want to hurt your feelings, but it's occasionally. I'm working at that point, as are you.

"But I'm very aware of what's in the news. I'm aware because I see clips. I see summaries. I have people on my staff that walk in every morning and say, 'This is what's -- this is how I see it. This is what's brewing today,' on both the domestic and international side. Frankly, it is probably part of my own fault for needling people, but it's a myth to think I don't know what's going on. And it's a myth to think that I'm not aware that there is opinions that don't agree with mine. Because I'm fully aware of that. . . .

"I read the newspaper. I mean, I can tell you what the headlines are. I must confess, if I think the story is, like, not a fair appraisal, I'll move on. But I know what the story's about."
In other words, Bush knows which way the news is spinning, and he pays attention to that, but he doesn't even care about the substance of it.

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