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Saturday, May 24, 2003

Perks ... bad neckties ...

Lexington Greene at Chicagoboyz has a post on the question whether Bush is "personalizing" things by not talking to Schroeder.
...As to lost networking opportunities, that is not much of a price to pay. If someone has something they want to bring to the attention of the United States government, there are avenues by which to do that. A visit to Bush's ranch or a convivial lunch with Powell is not absolutely necessary. Such perks must be earned. Bush loses nothing by not talking to Fischer on the phone, and he sends a useful message to others...

... We're still not used to the Bush era. We got used to 8 years of Clinton. Clinton was a "68er", though he did not have the guts to actually be in a riot like Fischer did, or even inhale. Still that is his origin: He's a hippie. Clinton was comfortable with people, leftists, anywhere in the world, who instinctively hated the United States. Also, he was uncomfortable with formality, dignity or the symbolic and monarchic aspects of the Presidency. His incredibly bad neckties showed this. He had to goof on all that stuff, like dressing appropriately, to show that he was really cool. This matter of "tone" is one of the unspoken reasons Conservatives loathed him but true-blue Lefties loved him, despite the fact that his Administration did not really do much of anything substantively. These attitudes were also a big part of why Clinton was a horrible Commander in Chief -- he just couldn't handle the fact that he actually was the Commander in Chief. He probably wasn't sure that there even should be a Comander in Chief. To Clinton, a guy who shits on America or its institutions is a rebel, an outsider, a radical, and hence at some level a soulmate and a good guy...And the world took advantage of this, and got used to it.

Bush is a whole 'nother smoke. Bush is a manager. Bush does not value process for its own sake. Bush knows there are people it is a waste of time to talk to. Like Arafat. And, apparently, Schroeder too. Bush decides on a small number of important things he wants to do and he sets about doing them, relentlessly. Bush does not care if you like him. Bush does not need to be loved. Bush has no time for people who instinctively hate the United States. Bush does not think that he has to win the heart and mind of everyone in the world. Bush is comfortable asserting the basic decency and value of America and its institutions, and vigorously opposing and imposing costs on those who assert otherwise...
Bush is a manager. There is a story told about Alfred Sloan, who created General Motors. A clever scheme was presented. He said something like, "find out what Joe thinks of it." (Joe being a not-very-bright fellow.) Joe couldn't understand the plan, and Sloan said "This plan won't work, because it's people like Joe that actually have to put it into operation."

That's how managers (and military officers) think—they try to have clear and simple plans and statements that even the privates and corporals can grasp. Which is why they are looked down on by professors and journalists and clergymen.

I think things like snubbing Schroeder are bits of political theater that ordinary people, ordinary voters, can understand. This drives elitists crazy. Sometimes they say that Bush is a pathological liar. But when they give examples of the "lies," it's often some complicated issue rendered in a simplified way that simple folk can relate to.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003


Patrick Belton at OxBlog has written a long, fascinating post on Dearborn, Michigan:
LETTER FROM DEARBORN: For the last several days, I've been avoiding my OxBlogging duties off in the burgeoning Arab and Muslim capital of the United States, the southwestern Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan. I came here to do interviews for a series of articles I've been commissioned to write, which may turn into a book about Dearborn and what it tells us about the future of the Arab and Islamic communities in the U.S...

...Quite simply, I fell in love with Dearborn. The largest concentration of Arabs or Muslims in the United States, it's a study in contrasts — in between miles upon miles of depopulated Detroit blocks now filled only with commercialized sex — Dearborn appears, a small thriving colony of Middle Eastern hustle, entrepreneurship, and colour. Where everything around them is bleak, they've created blocks upon blocks of Lebanese restaurants, social service organizations, Arabic newspapers, small businesses, the practices of Lebanese- and British-educated physicians, lawyers, and accountants. Its colour, its bustlingness, its creativity and entrepreneurship are hard to overstate...

Sunday, May 18, 2003

"Don't believe what the media say..."

I read this in Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus:
Dear Mr. Nordlinger: A couple of weeks ago, my son called here at home from somewhere near downtown Baghdad. It was in the middle of the night and I was a bit groggy. My boy is a 2LT and a Tank Commander in the 3-7 Cav. He told me, 'Pop, no matter what you hear or read in the media, remember this one thing: The Iraqi people are ecstatic to have us here.'
And the other day I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and a woman called and said she had just talked to her son, a Marine in Iraq. She said he told her, "Don't believe what the media say. The people here are all glad to see us. The children crowd around wherever we go. We had a flat tire in one little town, and some teenage boys insisted on changing it. We didn't have anything to give them, so I gave one of them my sunglasses..."

I keep encountering little stories like this. The Internet (and Talk Radio) allows truth to route around obstructions. Route around poisonous little journalists who would gag if they were forced to admit that the United States has done something noble and admirable...

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We do not remember days,
We remember moments.
--Cesare Pavese