Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bush logic

This article reports of the following statement by President Bush:

"If Bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush."

This is of the argument form "If Bin Laden doesn't want X to happen, then X must be good." I don't think this is true--presumably there are lots of things that Bin Laden doesn't want to happen that would be bad. Plus, the Bush team would have spun anything in any Bin Laden tape to their advantage, just as the Kerry team would have.

Anyway, in the CNN.com survey attached to this article, an overwhelming majority of people thought that the Bin Laden tape had helped Bush get re-elected. What do you all think? I don't think so at all. I think the Bush campaign ran like a well-oiled machine, and that Bush began winning people over (whether he should have or not) as soon as he took the presidency. While he didn't win in a landslide or with a mandate, his 3 million more votes than Kerry's were impressive. Americans are attracted to his charisma, his faith, his policies, and I think most of all to his certainty, and he began winning people over way before most Americans had heard of the lanky Saudi murderer.

Thoughts?

30 Comments:

At 5:14 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

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At 5:19 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

I think I agree with your synopsis. The media and most people anywhere left of the right like to get angry at Bush's failure to ever admit a mistake or a failure -- Bush's team even tried to make Hariett Miers's withdrawl from the SCOTUS nomination look like it was not a bad idea to begin with. I myself often wonder at this strategy, it seems fairly disingenuous. However, after the malestrom of anger at his response passes he remains looking confident and unphased, and I think that people like that. I think the number main reason Bush won in 2004 was deep partisan division which lead to unprecedented voter turn out, especially on the right (obviously). However, right behind that is his image -- like it or not there is a lot of uncertainty in world and domestic politics today and people see Bush as someone constant and confident. Kerrey got branded -- and really played right into it -- as someone unstable who changes his mind often and never gives straight answers. The social and political climate in the US in 2004 demanded that the leader be someone who inspires trust and confidence, not a supercilious yuppie who can't make up his mind. The only thing about the Bin Laden tapes that affected the election, in my opinion, were the candidates' responses to them, which were portrayed as fitting the mold I've outlined above.

Furthermore, although Bin Laden may have originally miscalculated American response (or maybe he just wants us to think he did?) he is an intelligent man. I would have to think that he would have known by 2003 how his remarks would affect politics in the US. Maybe he really wanted Bush to be elected? We would expect some amature like Al Sadr to think that direct threats could change the politics of the US. Bin Laden, on the other hand, may well have correctly estimated that his threats would make Bush's election even more certain. Not that that means Bush was necessarily a bad choice -- I don't think so -- but it's certainly something to consider when trying to ascertain what Bin Laden's master plan may be (assuming that he has one and is not just running and hiding to stay alive. I'd love to believe that he is, but its better to expect the worst than the best)

 
At 9:32 PM, Anonymous m.p. said...

Bush's "charisma", Charles? You mean the distracted, why-should-I-be-doing-this look he got in the first presidential debate against Kerry? The deer in the headlights look he gets when he takes an unscripted question? The smug look when he is in front of one of his carefully screened audiences? The blank look ABC news has just reported him having when he was being briefed on the coming destruction from hurricane Katrina?

Bush's current approval rating is 34%. A very large minority of American voters knew last fall that's where it would be headed. Just not quite large enough.

I think standingout is correct about the deep partisan division and the huge turnout. There's something about right-wing anger. A lot of people voting for Kerry were voting against Bush. But a lot of people voting for Bush were voting against gay people, against intellectuals, against Viet Nam war protestors, against Bill Clinton and Al Gore, you name it. Right wing anger had a lot more targets last year than left wing anger, but it all pulled the same voting lever, for Bush; and Kerry still almost won.

How's that for an out of left field analysis?

All that said, Bush's comment about bin Laden is a logical fallacy, as you suggest. Kind of dumb, too. As if Kerry would have welcomed bin Laden's endorsement. We're all in this together against Al Qaeda, folks. Those weren't all Democrats or all Republicans who died on 9-11.

Bin Laden despised Saddam Hussein. He is getting a twofer now that we have deposed Saddam and are also bogged down in Iraq ourselves. It may indeed be that bin Laden wanted Bush elected--hard to say. But surely he is happy now that he was.

 
At 9:45 PM, Anonymous cranky old liberal said...

As for your crack that the Kerry team would have spun the bin Laden tape to their advantage if they could have, the fact is, they refrained from doing so. The very existence of the tape demonstrated that Bush had not made good on his vow to bring bin Laden to justice, and Kerry and his people deliberately did NOT say that.

I'm not saying they should have. It would have seemed like a cheap shot. But still. The spin possibility was right there, and he didn't take it. Give him some credit.

 
At 12:08 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

Come on - Kerry's not above cheap shots. He's no noble saint boldly staying away from the muck and mire that lesser politicians thrive on. Let's be honest - he's a botox laden power grubbing attention hungry flip flopping politician no different than 90% of the rest in all respects other than he has the distinguishing characteristic of having run for president.

On your post, Charles, I think you're right that Bush was clearly exaggerating, but I don't think that's any startling revelation. Way to break down the argument into X's, however. I'll agree that the binladen tape didn't help to the extent that CNN is implying, but it certainly didn't hurt. If nothing else, it gave him an enemy to ralley people around, and a face and voice to put on terrorism in general. I think unity and direct decision against terrorism was one thing that made Bush more attractive than the waffling and wimpish Kerry, and I don't think this aspect of the campaign would have made the same impact without the Bin Laden tape.

 
At 8:23 AM, Anonymous c.o.l. said...

I'll agree, redhurt, to this extent: Kerry didn't make the obvious point about the bin Laden tape partly because of the potential blowback, the ACCUSATION that he had taken a cheap shot that would have spouted in flames from Fox, Rush, and the usual conservative dragons. He would have been roasted like a marshmallow.

So much of American politics has turned out to be about name calling. It's like grammar school. "That was a cheap shot! You didn't play fair! Nyah, nyah, you're a waffler." It's not exactly a policy discussion, is it?

 
At 8:29 AM, Anonymous c.o.l. said...

Some more folks for the list above, of those voted AGAINST when voting for Bush: feminists, environmentalists, Greenpeace, the ACLU, pro-choicers, those who want sensible gun laws, those who don't want mandatory prayer in school, supercilious yuppies, botox users, Michael Moore, Europe....

So many targets for right wing rage, and only one presidential voting lever for them all to pull last fall.

 
At 9:20 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

"'you're a waffler.' It's not exactly a policy discussion, is it?"

No, it's not. However, elections aren't just policy referendums, if they were we wouldn't need candidates. It's a choice between leaders, and shiftiness and "waffling" have never been desirable leadership traits- especially in life or death situations, which is how this election was successfully framed by the Bush team.

M.P.- If you really want to push the idea that the right and left take equally hardnosed stances against terrorism, I think you're going to have a tough time of it. It's hard to legitimize the left as strong on defense when formal presidential candidates like AlGore are over in Saudi Arabia pandering to our enemies with some opportunistic America bashing...

 
At 9:41 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

Several things:

mp, I disagree with you--there's nothing uniquely intense or partisan about right-wing anger. It's just like left-wing anger--it's anger. There is no case to be made that Republicans are angrier or more emotional than Democrats, or conservatives than liberals. Fox news and talk radio don't "represent" the heart and soul of Republicanism and conservatism in this country because there isn't one--the right is a coalition of libertarians, evangelicals, unreconstructed atheistic Randians, neocons, and paleocons, just as the left is a coalition of the equivalent on the other side. Whether or not there's an actual left equivalent of Rush or a right equivalent of Dean is irrelevant. What's relevant is whether or not their positions on policy are correct or not.

jackscolon: I think it's naive of you to believe that the left is "soft" on terror just because Al Gore makes speeches in Saudi Arabia and Bush clears brush at a ranch in Texas. I don't think any of our political leaders, right or left, is particularly concerned with "terrorism" or Al Qaeda itself. Most of the important work has been done behind the scenes, in non-partisan ways, as the NSA and the CIA and the Army and other special forces scramble to shift from fighting the cold war to fighting against Islamic fundamentalism. For there never to be another 9/11, we don't need Bush's war in Iraq; neither do we need Howard Dean or any of the irrelevant pandering and posturing. We need translators fluent in Arabic and Farsi; we need good will volunteers; we need political leaders who will shift funding to the right places; we need to stabilize Afghanistan. If you've bought the twin notions that (1) we're doing everything we can to "fight" "terrorism" and (2) the right is "stronger" on terrorism than the left then I don't know where we should start talking.

redhurt: you're right that it's not startling; that's why the point of the post was the poll and not Bush's statement. I couldn't let a chance to use logic pass me by, though!

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

I'm not trying to prove that the left is soft on terrorism or that either side really cares, my point is more that the things the left does gives the perception that it is softER on terrorism than the right. An example other than America bashing by Gore and Jimmy Carter and the like would be the general stance toward Palestine, a (would-be) nation that overwhelmingly supports terrorism and using it on women and children. The left falls over each other in the race to support Palestine and undermine Israel, while the right is the opposite. These are the types of things the left needs to reduce if it wants to be perceived at least as equally tough on terror as the right.

Also, I've only bought the second notion.

 
At 10:45 AM, Anonymous m.p. said...

I don't think right wing anger IS just like left wing anger, Charles. Anger and fear define the contemporary American right wing hegemony project in a way that just isn't true for liberals. Some of them actually feel them, some only use them as a tool--as when Cheney made speeches about mushroom clouds over American cities if we didn't invade Iraq.

Liberals operate on the premise that there are lots of people in the world who aren't all that much like us, and we're going to have to get along with most of them somehow. Is that really a tenet of the right? That's not a rhetorical question, maybe it is.

 
At 10:48 AM, Anonymous c.o.l. said...

jack, show me where Jimmy Carter has bashed America. Give me a web link to it.

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

m.p., it looks like we're really talking about 3 different groups of people here: rank-and file American Republicans; Cheney and other fear-mongering political leaders; and talk radio and Sean Hannity. Talk radio is really the anger factory there; I think Cheney comes off as dark and fear-mongering, but not angry. Bush can come off as smug or aloof, but usually not angry.

jackscolon is right to point out that the American public THINKS that Gore, Dean, Carter et al are "America-bashers" (that's a cute phrase!) and that the left is soft on defense. So, make sure you two know what you're arguing about.

If jacks says "These are the types of things the left needs to reduce if it wants to be perceived at least as equally tough on terror as the right," he's right in one sense. I'd rather change the American people so they see Carter or Gore as a more viable leader than Bush or Cheney, but the bottom line is that the Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the presidency. Whoever is wrong or right, the Republicans are getting through to voters.

 
At 11:28 AM, Anonymous cranky said...

jacks named Carter as an American basher, not as a perceived America basher. Let him cite chapter and verse. Bring it on, jacks!

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous m.p. said...

In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote. He didn't get through to voters. 9-11 gave him a pony to ride all the way through last year's presidential election.

But it's true that Democrats have no idea in the world, not a clue, of how to get through to voters. The attempted pandering by She-who-must-not-be-named to the right is a recent pathetic example.

 
At 11:48 AM, Blogger GMack said...

I am pretty sure that Ben Laden doesn't want malaria...and I am pretty sure that malaria isn't good, so I agree with your logic.

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger Jackscolon said...

http://www.nationalreview.com/flashback/flashback-nordlinger101102.asp

http://www.nationalreview.com/impromptus/impromptus022003.asp

A couple of National Review pieces illustrating the various ways Jimmy Carter buddies up to communist dictators, subverts American presidents (Clinton with Haiti in '94, and Bush and Reagan whenever possible), legitimizes Palestinian terrorism, and the like...

However, this isn't really about Jimmy Carter, with the exception that he is a perfect example of a mainstream democrat with no defense cred because of his consistent alliances with organizations viewed by mainstream America as radical.

 
At 12:56 PM, Anonymous still cranky said...

Thanks, jacks. Those links didn't work for me, for some reason.

Maybe this is splitting hairs, but I don't think Carter is ever an "America basher." What he does, meeting the people you don't approve of him meeting, is in the service of his own vision of what America is and should be. Maybe not your vision. I'm not going to try to say if it's mine, right now. But "America bashing"? It just isn't.

The "lack of defense cred" line is odd. Okay, Carter lacks "defense cred" because he met with Palestinians. I guess that's one point you're making. Hmmm. In what way are Palestinians a threat to the US, that it takes away defense cred to talk to them?

Now, if someone made an ally of Pakistan, and it turned our Pakistan gave nuclear technology to North Korea, maybe that someone would lack defense cred. Ooops. That would be Bush.

Again, sorry I can't read the links, but name a couple of organizations Carter is "allied" with, that are "radical"? He's not "allied" with the PLO, for example.

"Mainstream America"? Look back at standingoutinthecold's first post and his point about partisan division. The mainstream is split almost completely evenly in two, so politically--is there a mainstream?

 
At 1:04 PM, Anonymous c said...

Carter is allied with Habitat for Humanity, the Baptist church, and Sunday School teachers. Those are pretty radical.

 
At 1:19 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

jacks, those links didn't work for me either.

"He is a perfect example of a mainstream democrat with no defense cred."

No defense cred with exactly half the country, as still cranky said. Bush, Clinton, Bush I, Reagan, Carter--who is "objective" or consistent in foreign policy? There's that great picture floating around on the net of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.

So, I STILL agree with your point about perception--I just want you to realize that it's not a perception that's shared by everyone. In my book, fighting a war doesn't automatically make you "strong on defense." Is Carter inconsistent? Probably--so what?

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

standingout, redhurt, j. morgan? Anyone else with any insights as to how we can narrow this debate?

 
At 1:29 PM, Anonymous still cranky said...

I meant "turned OUT Pakistan gave nuclear BOMB technology to North Korea." Sorry about the quick fingers.

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger J. Morgan Caler said...

A few things:

1) I agree with standingoutinthecold: the tape had little to do with the election results compared to the deep partisan divides in America right now,
2) I agree with Charles that Bush is popular with the right and unpopular with the left because he is a take-charge, shoot from the hip, brush-clearing leader,
3) I think that further confirms the partisan divide in America,
4) We should be more clear what we mean by “no defense cred.” What that means is not who you shake hands with, but your rationale for doing so. If you think – like Jimmy Carter – that by meeting PLO leaders you are going to end violence and have some big hippy flower-weaving orgy, then you have no defense cred. Carter is a dove. If on the other hand you are like Rummy, then you will shake anyone’s hand because you are willing to lie and cheat and backstab anyone so long as you can bomb the hell out of them when they object. He is a hawk and has plenty of defense cred. Carter thinks that talk and love can end violence, Rummy thinks that war is good for business and so wants to bomb the hell out of anyone who doesn’t like hotdogs, square dancing, and “Bonanza” reruns.

 
At 2:44 PM, Anonymous still cranky said...

Good points, JMC. But, on on point 2, I think it's more what Bush has DONE than his style per se. If he were some kind of consensus, managerial leader who had done the things he's done, I and my fellow old-school, bleeding heart liberals would dislike those things just as much.

Seriously, I think "take charge" gets equivocated with "pulling the trigger on decisions no small group of rational people would ever reach a consensus to do"--if you get my drift. It's a mass media mantra that we use to avoid facing the horror of it all. "Well, over 2000 Americans are dead in Iraq (plus untold numbers of Iraqis), and that country is right on the edge of bloody civil war; but Bush sure took charge, didn't he?"

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I don't have much defense cred either, so I'm not sure if there's anything I can add here. What's the question again? Is Jimmy Carter an America-basher? (probably not) Is Howard Dean the worst leader of the democratic party ever? (probably) Is the right clearly in control, while the left runs around screaming fire at everything, both forest blazes and marshmellow roasts alike? (without a doubt.) Could the right be doing a much better job? (yes.) Is Bush my favorite president ever? (no.) Did I eat a doughnut this morning? (yes - it was free.)

Could you maybe narrow the question/topic? I'm not sure what we're talking about right now. But the doughnut was great.

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

THERE'S A MARSHMALLOW ON FIRE IN THE KITCHEN! LET'S RAISE TAXES!

 
At 4:55 PM, Anonymous cranky old liberal said...

The smoke rising from that marshmallow will be a mushroom cloud unless we invade the kitchen. There is no doubt the residents of the kitchen will welcome us as liberators. Freedom is on the march.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

I'm just amazed that for days I checked this post and no one else had commented, and then today there are 27 comments. Usually when I feel like I missed a conversation its cause I don't check the blog often enough, but now I really feel cheated because I checked this one several times a day and I still missed it. Charles, if you want to have real discussion about a specific topic you're probably going to have to make a new post. Everyone here is too lost in all the tangents and partisan political sarcasm. And I think that secretly you're probably a bunch of supercilious yuppies (I don't mind making them lose in an election, by the way)

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger CharlesPeirce said...

I bet if you wrote a book, and you used the term "partisan political sarcasm," Amazon.com would flag it as a SIP (statistically improbable phrase.)

Maybe I will make a new post! What would you do then?

 
At 8:33 PM, Blogger StandingOutInTheCold said...

What can I say? I'm a statistically improbable kind of guy. If you start a new post, then I will probably comment on it. Whether or not my comment will be relevant, I cannot say at this point in time.

 

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