Wednesday, September 03, 2003

The Radical President

INTEL DUMP: The post-modern presidency of George W. Bush

I remember Bush's campaign rhetoric seemed pretty radical to me; it was the US media that insisted on portraying him as moderate. Josh Marshall captures something very important about the way Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the other neocons think (emphasis mine):
Almost all of Bush's deceptions have been deployed when he has tried to pass off his preexisting agenda items as solutions to particular problems with which, for the most part, they have no real connection. That's when the unverifiable assertion comes in handy. Many of the administration's policy arguments have amounted to predictions--tax cuts will promote job growth, Saddam is close to having nukes, Iraq can be occupied with a minimum of U.S. manpower--that most experts believed to be wrong, but which couldn't be definitely disproven until events played out in the future. In the midst of getting those policies passed, the administration's main obstacle has been the experts themselves--the economists who didn't trust the budget projections, the generals who didn't buy the troop estimates, intelligence analysts who questioned the existence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iraq. That has created a strong incentive to delegitimize the experts--a task that comes particularly easy to the revisionists who drive Bush administration policy. They tend to see experts as guardians of the status quo, who seek to block any and all change, no matter how necessary, and whose views are influenced and corrupted by the agendas and mindsets of their agencies. Like orthodox Marxists who pick apart mainstream economics and anthropology as the creations of 'bourgeois ideology' or Frenchified academic post-modernists who 'deconstruct' knowledge in a similar fashion, revisionist ideologues seek to expose "the facts" as nothing more than the spin of experts blinded by their own unacknowledged biases. The Bush administration's betes noir aren't patriarchy, racism, and homophobia, but establishmentarianism, big-government liberalism, and what they see as pervasive foreign policy namby-pambyism. For them, ignoring the experts and their 'facts' is not only necessary to advance their agenda, but a virtuous effort in the service of a higher cause.

Bush's central values are values of faith, not of reasoning. He is not stupid (unfortunately), but he is said to be very unimaginative. He believes what he believes, and empiricism is not a part of that. He's post-modern in that "facts" are very fluid things, yet also medieval in his rejection of empiricism. He reminds me of some advocates of alternative medicine; a movement that often rejects conventional methods of proof and disproof.

Experts are very often wrong and people who reject empiricism can be correct. So far, however, Bush has an impressive record of failure -- at least as far as anyone can match his promises to outcomes.

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