Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's not helpful for Democrats to fight this way

One of the reason’s I don’t personally blame Bush for every death in New Orleans is stuff like this:

The Naval Medical Center in San Diego's Balboa Park was shut down to accommodate a visit by President George W. Bush Aug. 30, RAW STORY has learned, forcing patients to cancel chemotherapy treatments and hundreds of scheduled patient visits.

"The pharmacy is closed. The emergency room is closed. Even chemotherapy patients will not be allowed on base," the daughter of one patient told RAW STORY shortly before the President's arrival. "My mother is a patient...She was contacted and told that her appointment had been canceled and would be rescheduled later…All civilian personnel and patients will not be allowed on base."


And this:

Firefighters say they want to brave the heat, the debris-littered roads, the poisonous cottonmouth snakes and fire ants and travel into pockets of Louisiana where many people have yet to receive emergency aid.
But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.


What exactly did you all want Bush to do on September 29th? Whether he stayed on vacation, looked out the window of an airplane, or personally visited, would the actions of this figurehead save one life?

Now in response to massive anger at Bush’s failure to “lead” we’ve got him visiting for tons of photo ops, and all the big heavy weights go down there (Bush I, Barbara Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice) and doing the photo ops they are oh so good at.

It was fun for Democrats to say Bush failed to lead, like he did after 9/11. As if his lack of symbolic action mattered. Well clearly Bush’s symbolic actions matter a great deal... to his poll numbers, but I encourage people not to think they actually make the world a better place.

11 Comments:

At 6:27 PM, Blogger wRog said...

so let me get this straight:

Bush, shamed into coming back to work and actually taking charge of this fiasco, schedules stupid photo-ops that cost lives/etc because that's (apparently) the only thing he knows how to do,

and you're blaming the Democrats for this?

 
At 9:19 PM, Anonymous Ed Mease said...

Do you typically pluralize a word by stupidly adding an apostrophe and an s to it, as you did in the very first sentence of this post? People who do this are inevitably poor writers.

 
At 10:03 PM, Blogger Rousseau said...

Wrog: what photo ops wouldn't cost lives/etc?

I don't like the politics of "leadership". I don't think when politicians demonstrate it (or rather do actions the media tells us are leaderlike) that it helps the world, and I don't think when they fail to do this it matters either.

Bush was on vacation when the hurricane hit. We Democrats made fun of him for it. Well when he got off his toosh, he just gummd things up with these photo-ops. I rather people - which to me means Democrats because I attribute more moral agency to them (just like we attribute more moral agency to America than Zarqawi) focus on the bad decisions that mattered (Brown, the levees) than superficial things that can be fixed easily and cause more harm than good.

Mease: Do you typically find blogs and comment on nothing but grammatical accidents and insult the author? People who do this are inevitably trolls.

But I am certainly humble enough to make the change you point out.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Rousseau said...

It's a case-in-point follow up to this post: http://rousseau.blogspot.com/200...ans-part- 2.html

 
At 3:12 AM, Anonymous Marc Lawrence said...

Bush hired Brown, who has no expertise in FEMA's area, to head FEMA, right? And Bush also cut taxes for rich folks, which led to cuts in the Army Corps of Engineers' budget for structural enhancements to the levees?

There is much ground for criticism of George W. Bush on this -- you're missing the point. Look at this in context.

 
At 7:18 AM, Blogger Rousseau said...

No, you're missing the point. There is so much ground for criticism of Bush, along the lines of what you mentioned, these superficial things - like he was on vacation, he first saw the hurricane damage by looking out an airplane window, condoleeza rice went shoe shopping, he doesn't have compassion and leadership for these people - are bad ideas.

 
At 7:54 AM, Anonymous StealthBadger said...

Gotta disagree.

I think that at this point, it's much like shutting down Al Capone in the 30's for tax evasion. There are so many things this administration have done that are illegal, but with a Republican Congress, there's little chance of being able to catch them at it.

They have, however, been caught red-handed at incompetence here (again), and each time they get caught, the story is getting harder and harder to sideline.

*AS LONG AS THE CHARGES ARE JUST AND FACTUALLY CORRECT, I don't understand what's wrong with continuing to address each and every obscene failure of skill, intellect, morality and ethics of this government until things start sticking.*

Stop? who said anything about stopping?

 
At 8:03 AM, Blogger Rousseau said...

Well, what's wrong with it is that criticisms for superficial actions and symbols is a) easy for them to counter (roll out the photo ops) and b) when they counter it costs manpower and time, potentially costing lives.

As I was trying to explain in general here, it really does make sense only to politically attack for things we actually believe in, and not just through around whatever might work and hope it sticks. If you're genuinely upset Bush hired a loser like Brown, get upset about that. But if you're just faking that you're angry Bush hasn't gone and demonstrated enough symbolic leadership, then it's probably not going to lead to results or responses you desire.

PS: Where are all these new commenters coming from?

 
At 12:14 PM, Blogger wRog said...

what photo ops wouldn't cost lives/etc?

color me naive, but is it really that hard to come up with a photo op that say, doesn't shut down ongoing rescue operations? A Commander-in-Chief ought to be able to suspend annoying Secret Service rules and put his sorry ass in a bit of jeopardy if he thinks there's a point to it -- sort of like what George VI did touring London during the Blitz (N.B. not all photo-ops are useless).

And if one badly needs a backdrop of firemen, is it really that hard to round up a few actors? (I would think Rove would have a whole casting agency on hand for just this purpose...) -- and maybe I'd give him shit for that too, but it's still a much lesser sin.

I don't like the politics of "leadership". I don't think when politicians demonstrate it (or rather do actions the media tells us are leaderlike) that it helps the world, and I don't think when they fail to do this it matters either.

I don't like it that people vote for "the guy they can have a beer with" over the guy who actually knows stuff. Fixing this sort of thing means changing the culture and that's not going to happen overnight. Never mind that in the case of crisis response, we're dealing with human needs that go a lot deeper (i.e., the reassurance that somebody is In Charge and Help is On The Way and all that) and will probably never change.

Bush was on vacation when the hurricane hit. We Democrats made fun of him for it.

I can't speak for all Democrats, but my issue is not that he was on vacation, but that he stayed on vacation until Wednesday, playing the guitar, cutting cake, etc.

Well when he got off his toosh, he just gummd things up with these photo-ops. I rather people - which to me means Democrats because I attribute more moral agency to them (just like we attribute more moral agency to America than Zarqawi) focus on the bad decisions that mattered (Brown, the levees) than superficial things that can be fixed easily and cause more harm than good.

Depends. If the "superficial things" reveal an underlying attitude (i.e., we just don't give a shit) and demonstrate just how badly out of it he is, it's politically stupid not to attempt to capitalize on that.

Hint: What would the right wing folks have done if this had happened under Clinton's watch?

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Rousseau said...

color me naive, but is it really that hard to come up with a photo op that say, doesn't shut down ongoing rescue operations? A Commander-in-Chief ought to be able to suspend annoying Secret Service rules and put his sorry ass in a bit of jeopardy if he thinks there's a point to it -- sort of like what George VI did touring London during the Blitz (N.B. not all photo-ops are useless).

Well asking that the President not have a massive security presence in this day and age seems pointless. It’s simply going to happen, and so at the very least I’d rather that massive presence not be around to get in the way.


I don't like it that people vote for "the guy they can have a beer with" over the guy who actually knows stuff. Fixing this sort of thing means changing the culture and that's not going to happen overnight. Never mind that in the case of crisis response, we're dealing with human needs that go a lot deeper (i.e., the reassurance that somebody is In Charge and Help is On The Way and all that) and will probably never change.

I rambled about this for a while in response to Neil the Ethical Werewolf, here. To make it short, yes we probably should make figureheads as well if only to make elections about issues instead of adulteries, but these things have costs and we should be aware of them.

I can't speak for all Democrats, but my issue is not that he was on vacation, but that he stayed on vacation until Wednesday, playing the guitar, cutting cake, etc.

Ok, my point still stands. Bush stayed on vacation and Democrats made fun of him for it. Well when he was on vacation he wasn’t delaying hospitals or rerouting firemen. I’d really rather he just stay out of the way.

It’s sad of course that the scenario where he messes up the rescue effort (intrusive photo ops) is the one that gives him better PR. But knowing that, we shouldn’t bully him into staging intrusive photo ops.

Depends. If the "superficial things" reveal an underlying attitude (i.e., we just don't give a shit) and demonstrate just how badly out of it he is, it's politically stupid not to attempt to capitalize on that.

Well it doesn’t seem a very effective tactic. Saying Bush is on vacation and doesn’t care enough to go to NOLA was very easily countered – he got off vacation and went to NOLA, and a week later the media forgot that meme of Bush the indifferent. Whereas a tactic of saying “why did levee money go to Iraq?” or “why did you hire Brown?” actually might help policy making for the better.

So if it doesn’t even help win elections, and encourages GOP to do actions that hurt lives, then abandon the tactic.


Hint: What would the right wing folks have done if this had happened under Clinton's watch?

They would have loved it and it would have come to define their political message for years. They’re shallow PR-focused hacks. Which is why they’re in the situation they are in, of being dominated by cynical and shallow interests. I think Democrats are the party to be with because they don’t do such cheap things, and they actually care about good policy and administration.



Let me be clear, since you think I want to defend Bush. I don’t, and if you read my archives it should be clear. But I really did not care that Bush stayed on vacation or that Rice was shoe shopping. It didn’t make the world a worse place that they did that. And it does make the world a worse place when they get involved.

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger wRog said...

Well, asking that the President not have a massive security presence in this day and age seems pointless. It’s simply going to happen, and so at the very least I’d rather that massive presence not be around to get in the way.

Various points in no particular order:

(*) It's not so long ago that Jimmy Carter was able to do an open-air inaugural walk.

(*) It may be that this President doesn't dare go anywhere without a massive security presence, but if so, then calling attention to that is decidedly not pointless.

(*) Seems to me if he goes in and out quickly, with no prior public announcement of his plans, the risk of attack from other air traffic would be negligible.

(*) There's a whole spectrum between "massive security presence" and "no security at all". One would think that experts who devote their lives to security issues -- some of whom, presumably, are employed by the Secret Service -- could figure out a way to pull off a photo-op that doesn't get in the way. Yes, it calls for imagination and flexibility. Why is it horrible to expect this of them?

(*) Or, if it's truly the case that what I'm talking about is impossible, then he should indeed stay in DC and no amount of baiting on my part should affect that (see below).

Ok, my point still stands. Bush stayed on vacation and Democrats made fun of him for it. Well when he was on vacation he wasn’t delaying hospitals or rerouting firemen. I’d really rather he just stay out of the way.

It’s sad of course that the scenario where he messes up the rescue effort (intrusive photo ops) is the one that gives him better PR. But knowing that, we shouldn’t bully him into staging intrusive photo ops.


False premises:

(*) that he's incapable of any kind of constructive action -- well okay, this might be true of GWB (the experience of his FEMA responding constructively to the Florida hurricanes of 2004 seems to belie this, but anyway...), but if we make this our line, i.e., "Yeah, you're useless, George; just stay on vacation," I think that might be perceived as,... well,... negative. Also keep in mind that we had turf battles going on between the state, the NG, the army, and a FEMA head that was fucking up ... exactly the sort of thing that needed high-level Presidential attention.

(*) that we're somehow in control or that we can truly anticipate what he's going to do --- let alone that anyone actually did so anticipate that he'd be doing destructive photo-ops. Whatever "bullying" we do, he's the President; he chooses his response. Thus, whatever the results, good or bad, he bears primary responsibility. Even if his stupidity is in response to our goading, he still deserves to be called on it.

...Just like when they did the fake security alert right after the 2004 Democratic convention and we "goaded" them into burning that Pakistani Al Quaeda mole. Not our fault.

Well it doesn’t seem a very effective tactic.

It's way too early yet to say this was or was not effective; the next real test will be November 2006.

Let me be clear, since you think I want to defend Bush....

The one post by itself did look that way, but having read more of your archives, I now see where you're coming from (I still disagree, but anyway...)

 

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