esmaspäev, märts 22, 2004

The Next Ten Words

This is the part of the Washington Post article on the Clarke book that struck me the most:

In his experience, Clarke writes, Bush's description by critics as "a dumb, lazy rich kid" is "somewhat off the mark." Bush has "a results-oriented mind, but he looked for the simple solution, the bumper sticker description of the problem."

This, fundamentally, seems to be the biggest difference between Bush and, well, anyone with a moderately firm grasp on the issues facing this country. It is also probably the starkest contrast between him and Kerry. Serious, intelligent people don’t think in sound bites. Taxes, terrorism, health care, gay rights, free trade—none of these issues can be resolved on a bumper sticker. Which may be why none of them actually have been resolved in the last four years. What Bush supporters seem to see as refreshing straightforwardness is really just a complete lack of intellectual curiosity that betrays a very weak understanding of the issues at hand.

When Bush talks about how the economy works and how his tax cuts are creating jobs, I always wonder if he would be capable of explaining that dynamic beyond “People will want to buy things and other people will get jobs making those things.” I’m not expecting a dissertation or a graduate thesis here, but when he says things like “I’m going to buy some ribs and this woman’s going to make some money,” I’m terrified that he might really think the economy is that simple. And he has never given us any reason to believe that his understanding goes any deeper than that.

There was an episode of the West Wing early in its fourth season, when it was setting up the thinly veiled Gore v. Bush II metaphor, where Josh goes off on a rant about the “fortune cookie candidacy.” A few weeks later, the climax of the whole arc is this moment in the only debate where Gov. Ritchie (Bush) makes this statement: “The American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.”

How often do you hear that one coming out of Bush’s mouth?

This is followed by a response from Bartlett that encapsulates all of the frustration that people like me feel towards Bush and towards all of those voters who decided Gore was just too smart to like: “That's the ten-word answer my staff's been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They're the tip of the sword. Here's my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I'll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while... every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that's way too big for ten words.”

Generally speaking, I feel lazy quoting television to make my point for me, but right here, Aaron Sorkin says it a hell of a lot better than I would. Thing is, I don’t doubt for a second that Kerry knows the next ten words. But Bush, has he ever even been asked?

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