Adventures in Reading

Must-read editorial in today’s New York Times:

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The rest of the editorial goes over ground already covered by The Mahablog, but read it anyway. It’s a first-rate synopsis of the ongoing atrocity known as “the Bush Administration’s justification for warrantless wiretapping.”

When you are done with the editorial, head on over to Newsweek for “Palace Revolt” by Daniel Klaidman, Stuart Taylor Jr. and Evan Thomas. This provides new insight in how the above-mentioned ongoing atrocity came into being, and how some Justice Department attorneys — conservative Bush appointees, no less — stood their ground against the infamous “torture memo” and the White House’s circumvention of FISA.

Then, still at Newsweek, see Jonathan Alter’s “The Political Power of Truth.” A pinch:

For four and a half years, Bush has politicized 9/11. His political motto has been “The only thing we have to use is fear itself.” He was at it again last week, claiming with zero evidence that congressional scrutiny of the illegal NSA wiretapping would “give the enemy a heads-up on what we’re doing.” The media and the Democrats have both been intimidated by this devastatingly effective political strategy. It won the 2002 and 2004 elections for the Republicans and will continue to be their game plan for this November.

At first glance, making the Democrats seem soft on “terrorist surveillance” looks like another winner for the GOP. For Democrats to explain that they don’t oppose all eavesdropping but object to the way it was done is a two-step answer that’s too complicated to fly. A better approach would be to argue that Bush’s NSA program has been a failure because it has threatened civil liberties and violated the law without doing anything to catch Osama bin Laden. The NSA obviously hasn’t been eavesdropping on the right suspects.

This would fit with the Democrats’ idea of fighting fear with failure—Bush’s failure. New polls show his approval ratings in the dismal low 40s, with strong majorities believing he has failed on every score except keeping the country safe. (A majority of those polled not surprisingly support Bush on eavesdropping on terror suspects domestically. So do I. But when the constitutional questions are raised, his numbers drop.) To confront the security issue, Wesley Clark is chairing a PAC to help the nine Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans running for Congress as Democrats (versus one as a Republican). The idea is to adopt the Rovean strategy of attacking your opponent’s strength.

Will it work? In recent years, failure and incompetence have been trounced by fear at the ballot box. The former is based on reason and an examination of the facts; the latter on emotion, with 9/11 as a trump card. But now reality may be making a comeback, as Bush’s authority breaks into a million little pieces.

This sounds like a plan. General Clark’s WesPAC is doing a lot of good stuff and deserves more attention, IMO.

Another Rightie Myth Debunked

Diana Jean Schemo, New York Times:

A large-scale government-financed study has concluded that when it comes to math, students in regular public schools do as well as or significantly better than comparable students in private schools. …

… Though private school students have long scored higher on the national assessment, commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card,” the new study used advanced statistical techniques to adjust for the effects of income, school and home circumstances. The researchers said they compared math scores, not reading ones, because math was considered a clearer measure of a school’s overall effectiveness.

The study found that while the raw scores of fourth graders in Roman Catholic schools, for example, were 14.3 points higher than those in public schools, when adjustments were made for student backgrounds, those in Catholic schools scored 3.4 points lower than those in public schools. A spokeswoman for the National Catholic Education Association did not respond to requests for comment.

Now, for how many years has conventional wisdom been telling us that private schools are better than public schools? That the way to “save” public education was to give kids vouchers to pay for private schools? That parochial schools in particular were better because they could educate kids with lower per-pupil costs?

That last part always was a howler, because parochial schools generally don’t provide special education, and public ones must, and special ed programs are expensive. (Years ago I worked with a woman who had sent her children to Catholic schools, and only after her daughter had graduated high school did she learn that public schools would have worked with the girl to correct her speech impediment. Catholic schools didn’t bother. Boy, was she mad.) Also, parochial schools can bounce kids with behavioral problems, and as a rule public schools can’t until the little darlings get sentenced to juvenile detention.

Kevin Drum writes,

The study analyzed only the math portion of the NAEP test, and the results from the 4th grade test are shown below. The red line shows the average public school score, and the raw scores for most types of private schools (the black bars on the graph) are higher than the public school average. However, much of this difference is due to the fact that private schools attract better kids in the first place, not because the schools themselves are better.

So what would happen if both types of schools had similar student bodies? Those results are shown for private schools in the gray bars in the graph, where test scores are controlled for demographics, and they’re considerably lower than the public school average. In other words, if you took two similar kids and sent one to a public school and one to a private school, the kid in the private school would probably do a little worse than his public school twin. (Note that a difference of 10 points is roughly equal to one grade level.)

The 8th grade results are better, with most private schools scoring about the same as public schools. The only exception is the conservative Christian schools, which continue to score considerably lower than public schools — although the sample size is small enough that the results aren’t conclusive.

Worth bookmarking, I say.

Parallax View

Partly following up the last post, “Why We Blog” — Take a look at this WaPo headline on an article by Jim VandeHei: “Blogs Attack From Left as Democrats Reach for Center.”

And then take in this first paragraph:

Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.

My revision:

    “Blogs Demand that Democrats Be Democrats”

    Democrats are being put on notice that they can no longer ignore their base to appeal to right-of-center “swing” voters. Fiery liberals are raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups to tell elected officials that in trying to appeal to a “broader” audience, the party is in danger of losing all definition and becoming an amorphous, unidentifiable blob.

Some of what VandeHei claims is going on in liberal blogoland is a bit, um, wrong. “First, liberal Web logs went after Democrats for selecting Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine to deliver the response to Bush’s speech next Tuesday,” writes VandeHei. Really? I hadn’t noticed, and I’m here pretty much all the time. But if you keep reading, you find that “liberal Web logs” is Arianna Huffington. I like her, but she’s hardly the entire liberal blogosphere.

VandeHei’s article describes a war between wild-eyed, far-leftist ideological commandos against the sober, realistic Democratic Party establishment professionals. If the Dems cater too much to us whackjobs, they risk alienating centrist voters.

Yeah, right. This is the same conventional “wisdom” that tells Dems they’d better be careful about criticizing Bush’s handling of the Iraq War, even though adults nationwide disapprove of Bush’s handling of the war by 58 to 39 percent (CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted Jan. 20-22, 2006). And this is the same conventional wisdom telling Dems to back away from Roe v. Wade, even though 66 percent of adults nationwide say they don’t want it overturned (ibid.).

But the fact is that our problems with the establishment Dems aren’t really about ideology. I agree with Scott Shields at MyDD:

To be fair, there is some tension between the Democratic Party and the progressive blogosphere. Unlike the rightist blogosphere, we tend to be a bit more independent and suspicious of power. But to pretend that we’re in an all-out war is silly. If that were the case, I doubt the majority of us would still consider ourselves Democrats. Some of our favorite Democrats are people like Jack Murtha, the pro-life Harry Reid, and Russ Feingold, who voted to confirm Chief Justice Roberts. As Markos has pointed out time and again, the tension doesn’t stem from ideology. It’s all about entrenched power and reform.

What we really want is for Dems to work with the liberal blogosphere and with progressive organizations like Moveon to form an effective liberal/progressive coalition to counter the Right. In other words, we in the blogosphere want to work with the party to form a Daou power triangle. The Republican Party uses rightie bloggers to get their message out; much of the Democratic Party runs away from us, screaming. But just exactly who these Dems expect to vote for them — if not people looking for an alternative to the GOP — is a mystery to me. As Peter Daou wrote,

Unfortunately for the progressive netroots, the intricate interplay of Republican persuasion tactics, media story-telling, and 21st century information flow seems beyond the ken of most Democratic strategists and leaders. The hellish reality progressive bloggers have acknowledged and internalized is still alien to the party establishment. Dem strategy is still two parts hackneyed sloganeering and one part befuddlement over the stifling of their message.

Maybe the Democratic establishment wants it so, maybe they don’t know better, but progressive bloggers and activists are starting to see the bitter reality of their isolation: the triangle is broken and they’re on their own until further notice.

Back to VandeHei:

“The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. “The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left.”

We may or may not be representative of the majority the Dems need to win elections now, but what the Dems need to do is work with us to educate and persuade people that the GOP way of governing the country isn’t the only way.

How in the world did the extremist whackjob Right get itself framed as the “center,” after all? VandeHei provides a clue:

The closest historic parallel would be the talk-radio phenomenon of the early 1980s, when conservatives — like liberals now — felt powerless and certain they did not have a way to voice their views because the mainstream media and many of their own leaders considered them out of touch. Through talk radio, often aired in rural parts of the country on the AM dial, conservatives pushed the party to the right on social issues and tax cuts.

And we know, even if VandeHei doesn’t say so, that those 1980s righties were not howling in the wilderness, but were being mentored and funded and promoted by big bucks donors and right-wing think tanks. And pretty soon the only message most people heard though the allegedly liberal “MSM” was the rightie message. Thus, the Right runs everything now.

You’d think that would be a clue.

VandeHei again:

The question Democrats will debate over the next few years is whether the prevailing views of liberal activists on the war, the role of religion in politics and budget policies will help or hinder efforts to recapture the presidency and Congress.

In fact, the prevailing views of liberal activists on these matters are the views of a large part of the American public. Like most Americans we think the war was a mistake (although there are diverse views about how to get out), most of us support the separation of church and state as Thomas Jefferson described it, and we’d like to go back to the dear departed days of budget surpluses that we enjoyed in the Clinton Administration. In other words — this is not radical stuff. We are not trying to turn America into a socialist utopia. We’re just trying to pull the government away from the extreme Right and back toward the center. And we’d like to live in a nation in which progressive policy views can get a fair hearing in public, and are not shouted down by rightie goons.

I honestly believe that if most Americans could hear what we had to say, they’d realize we’re mostly right. And the Dems could help themselves in the long run by helping us.

Even if they disagree with their positions, Democratic candidates recognize from the Dean experience the power of the activists to raise money and infuse a campaign with their energy. On the flip side, the Alito and Kaine episodes serve as a cautionary tales of what can happen to politicians when they spurn the blogs.

Once again, there was not a Kaine “episode”; most of us were thrilled when Kaine won the Virginia gubernatorial race in November, and I for one look forward to what he has to say next week. But what really worries the establishment Dems is whether we’ll continue to let them use us as campaign ATM machines if they’re afraid to be seen with us in public.

Why We Blog

I started blogging in 2002 out of frustration with the shallowness, sloppiness, and bias coming out of what’s loosely called “news media” in this country. Although professional standards had been slipping for some time, coverage of the 2000 election made me fully realize the clowns were running the circus, as it were. By 2002 I had figured out how to use technology to publish a web page, and I decided it was time to stop mumbling to myself and start communicating.*

Now, the clowns are having to reckon with us bloggers.

If you haven’t been following the recent snarking between theWashington Post ombudsperson, Deborah Howell, and the liberal blogosphere — in a nutshell, Howell wrote in one of her columns that Jack Abramoff had given tainted money to Democrats as well as Republicans, which is not true. When that bit of sloppiness raised a firestorm of irate mail, she “corrected” herself — “I should have said he directed his client Indian tribes to make campaign contributions to members of Congress from both parties.”

What can one say, but — aaaargh.

Jane Hamsher:

No. What you should have said was that although Abramoff’s victims, the Indian tribes, gave money to Democrats it was much less than they did before Abramoff appeared on the scene and there is no indication that there was anything quid-pro-quo about it. Unlike the Republicans, who are up to their eyeballs in shit over this. To say anything else provides improper context and implies that legitimate contributions and illegal influence peddling are one, which they most certainly are not.

See also “Abramoff Clients Shifted Money to GOP” by Scott Shields at MyDD.

Anyway, discussion on the WaPo blog became so heated that comments were shut off because, said executive editor Jim Brady, too many comments contained profanity and other hate speech. (This started some crowing on the Right Blogosphere because, you know, righties never engage in profanity and hate speech. Cough.) Further, the nasty comments were being posted too quickly for WaPo staffers to read and delete them. So comments had to be turned off.**

Jukeboxgrad of Daily Kos posted analysis that shows this claim was bullshit. Among other things, Jukeboxgrad retrieved deleted messages that contained no profanity or personal attacks. He also explains why it wouldn’t have been difficult, much less impossible, for a WaPo staffer to “keep up” with messages as they were posted.

Thursday (I believe) there was an actual close encounter between Howell and bloggers at a National Press Club luncheon, which you can read about here on the Blogometer. “To summarize both sides’ point of view,” writes William Beutler, “the bloggers in attendance implored the press to ‘do your job’ while the establishment journalists argued that their mistakes did not warrant the harsh response.”

Except that their “mistakes” are hurting America, as Jon Stewart said. And it’s not just one mistake. It’s all the “mistakes,” the sloppiness, the pulling back from plain truth about the Right because of some skewed idea of “balance”; reporters obviously writing from GOP handouts (you can tell by the “framing”); reporters who plainly take dictation from White House officials; covering election campaigns like a horse race in lieu of providing meaningful information about the candidates; and giving George W. Bush’s serial bleep-ups one pass after another (except for Katrina; I guess even the blow-dried brigades can’t ignore dead bodies).

I’ve worked in print media for many years, and it’s a fact that everybody gets something wrong now and then, and mistakes will be made even by the careful. But we’re talking about a pattern here. And we’re sick of it.

You can take any political story that’s more complicated than man-bites-dog, and you’ll find that completely accurate, objective reporting is the exception rather than the rule. I don’t believe any single cable news reporter has ever gotten the Plamegate saga right, for example, and the print reporters aren’t much better. Some of them are, in fact, worse.

When I was in Wales and England last summer, I met a few natives who were baffled why Americans had chosen (as if) George W. Bush to be our leader. “You do know he’s an idiot?” one lady, gently, asked. There was anxiety in her voice, as if she thought mention of Bush’s name might cause us Yanks to transform from rational beings into beasts with claws and snouts that would dig up her garden.

Well, yes, we said. Lots of Americans realize that. But it’s … complicated. But it isn’t, really. The biggest reason we’ve got a pack of hard right extremists in charge of our government is that the American people aren’t being told the truth about them. And the Right has gotten wonderfully good at using media to scare the stuffing out of enough people to keep them in line.

In the words of the soc-psych study I cited here, Americans are being exposed “to a wide-ranging multidimensional mortality salience induction.” And the “MSM” is complicit.

But let’s go back to Deborah Howell. Jane Hamsher writes,

Matt Stoller and John Aravosis had a Deborah Howell encounter yesterday at the Washington Press Club. The Hotline Blogometer recounts the affair where after an hour and a half of listening to Howell and others describe her experience like she was the sole survivor of the Bismark, Matt Stoller grabbed the microphone and said “The antagonism here is coming from you guys….Nothing happened to you!” Aravosis says Stoller went on for a bit more — “You’re fine…it’s not like you were hit by a car…you’re sitting here, eating a nice meal” or words to that effect.

Atrios points out that the pros aren’t accustomed to anything like the instant feedback of the Blogosophere. “Boo hoo. People were mean. Welcome to my world.”

See also Steve Gilliard and Digby.

In other MSM v. bloggers news, NBC smeared Arianna Huffington because of Huffington’s criticisms of Tim Russert (like this). I say Russert is one of the most overrated hacks on television. (There are worse hacks, but Russert has a “rep” for being a real journalist and tough interviewer, which he is not.) “Personality” journalists in particular have been able to operate in their own protective bubble for far too long; they desperately need the kind of critical razzing the Blogosphere can provide. It would do them good; force them to work harder to get their facts right and to think about what they are presenting to news consumers. If the lords and ladies of the press stop getting the vapors for being criticized, maybe we can learn to work together to everyone’s benefit.

But, bottom line — this is why I blog. To get the facts straight and to get the truth out. If the “MSM” ever straightens itself up and does its job properly, I will retire.

(Click “more” for footnotes.) Continue reading

Call Your Senators Now!

I just got an email from Moveon saying the Alito filibuster has begun. Frist is going to call for cloture on Monday. The Dems need to at least put up a fight.

I haven’t been able to reach my senators’ Washington offices — the lines are busy! — so I tried the local district offices (find your senators’ here). Those lines are busy, too. Then I sent faxes, which are probably stuck in a fax queue. I’m going to keep trying the phones. I suppose emails wouldn’t hurt.

Do what you can!

Update: Found this at (click for more): Continue reading

Bush and the Cultivation of Fear

An editorial in today’s Washington Post:

THE BUSH administration’s distortion, for political purposes, of the Democratic position on warrantless surveillance is loathsome. Despite the best efforts of Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff, and Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman, to make it seem otherwise, Democrats are not opposed to vigorous, effective surveillance that could uncover terrorist activity. Nor are the concerns that they are expressing unique to their party. Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Arlen Specter (Pa.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) have expressed legal doubts about the surveillance program. Do they, too, have a “pre-9/11 worldview,” as Mr. Rove said of the Democrats?

Believing there should be constraints on unchecked executive power is not the same as being weak-kneed about the war against terrorism. Critics are suggesting that President Bush should have gone through normal procedures for conducting such surveillance or asked Congress to provide clear legal authority for the National Security Agency activity. They are not contending that such surveillance shouldn’t be conducted at all. No leading Democrat has argued for barring this kind of potentially useful technique.

But you wouldn’t know that to listen to the GOP spin. “Let me be as clear as I can be — President Bush believes if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they’re calling and why,” Mr. Rove said at the Republican National Committee winter meeting last week. “Some important Democrats clearly disagree.” Mr. Mehlman named names. “Do Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean really think that when the NSA is listening in on terrorists planning attacks on America, they need to hang up when those terrorists dial their sleeper cells inside the United States?” he asked.

This editorial isn’t as bold as might seem at first glance. I realized it doesn’t blame President Bush himself for any of this fear mongering, even though he’s been playing the same games. On the other hand, for once, WaPo doesn’t claim Dems are just as guilty. It’s a start.

Also in Wapo, Eugene Robinson — who deserves more attention from us liberals, btw — writes,

Once upon a time we had a great wartime president who told Americans they had nothing to fear but fear itself. Now we have George W. Bush, who uses fear as a tool of executive power and as a political weapon against his opponents.

Franklin D. Roosevelt tried his best to allay his nation’s fears in the midst of an epic struggle against fascism. Bush, as he leads the country in a war whose nature he is constantly redefining, keeps fear alive because it has been so useful. His political grand vizier, Karl Rove, was perfectly transparent the other day when he emerged from wherever he’s been hiding the past few months — consulting omens, reading entrails — and gave the Republican National Committee its positioning statement for the fall elections: Vote for us or die.

[Update: Several people have noted that FDR spoke the “nothing we have to fear” line in 1933, about the Great Depression. But FDR spoke about fear and freedom from fear in many other speeches, such as in the “four freedoms” speech from 1941. Since he didn’t use quotation marks I don’t believe Robinson was claiming FDR delivered that exact line about facism, but was just recalling it as a theme FDR used in speeches throughout his presidency.]

Recently a kind person forwarded to me a social psychology paper called “American Roulette: The Effect of Reminders of Death on Support for George W. Bush in the 2004 Presidential Election.” The authors are Florette Cohen and Daniel M. Ogilvie of Rutgers University; Sheldon Solomon of Skidmore College; Jeff Greenberg of the University of Arizona; and Tom Pyszczynski of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. This paper is not online, but if you want a copy call Blackwell Publishing at (781) 388-8448.

The authors argue that in the 2004 election, the late October taped appearance of Osama bin Laden had the effect of swinging votes to Bush.

… a week before the election Senator John Kerry was reported to have a slight edge. On Friday, October 29, Osama Bin Laden’s videotaped threat reminded Americans of the death and destruction of 9/11. Americans once again became anxious as the Terror Alert was raised and the Bush administration relentlessly raised the specter of death should John Kerry be elected President. On November 3 Bush was declared the winner of the election by a margin of 3.5 million popular votes. From a terror management perspective, the United States’ electorate was exposed to a wide-ranging multidimensional mortality salience induction. Bush’s rise in popularity after September 11, 2001 and eventual victory in the 2004 presidential election seems highly likely to have been influenced by the appeal of his leadership style (i.e., proclaiming himself divinely ordained to rid the world of evil) to an electorate that was continually reminded of the trauma of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

(I love the part about how “the United States’ electorate was exposed to a wide-ranging multidimensional mortality salience induction.” There’s something about soc-psych jargon that just makes my heart go pitty-pat.)

The study involves lots of chi-squares and p values, and N = diverse numbers. But to explain very plainly and crudely, Cohen et al. found that test subjects were more likely to support Bush after being reminded they might die in a terrorist attack. The authors also cited other studies that showed people gravitate to charismatic leaders when they are afraid. And they wrote,

Allegiance to charismatic leaders may be one particularly effective mode of terror management. In Escape from Freedom, Eric Fromm (1941) proposed that loyalty to charismatic leaders results from a defensive need to feel a part of a larger whole, and surrendering one’s freedom to a larger-than-life leader can serve as a source of self-worth and meaning in life. Ernest Becker (The Denial of Death, 1973) posited that when mainstream worldviews are not serving people’s need for psychological security, concerns about mortality impel people to devote their psychological resources to following charismatic leaders who bolster their selfworth by making them feel that they are valued participants in a great mission to heroically triumph over evil.

Sound familiar?

This paragraph inspired me to google for Fromm. I dimly remember Fromm from college required reading lists, but I’m sorry to say I don’t retain a lot from those days. I remember going to college, but exactly what I did there is a bit hazy. It’s been a lot of years.

In any event, the googling brought me to this. To condense, Fromm argued that freedom causes anxiety and a sense of aloneness in some people. Coping mechanisms for this condition include automaton conformity, authoritarianism, destructiveness, and individuation. Taking these one at a time —

Automaton conformity: Fearful people can gain a sense of power by acting like everyone else, holding the same beliefs and values, purchasing the same products, and believing in the same morals. They give up much of their individuality, but they feel more secure.

Along these lines, have you ever noticed how righties believe with an absolute, pure faith that their beliefs and values are the beliefs and values of the majority, even when polls say otherwise? I noticed a long time ago that being one of the herd is terribly important to righties. If you argue them into a corner, they nearly always fall back on “most people agree with me, not you looney lefties.”

Authoritarianism contains a paradox — by giving up power to the powerful, the powerless feel more powerful. Put another way, we submit to a leader by submerging our individual identity with the identity of the leader, and thus become powerful like the leader. The more slavishly devoted to the leader we are, the more powerful we think we become. Or at least that’s what it feels like.

Destructiveness refers to destroying people we think keep power away from us. Thus the Right’s obsession with a powerful “liberal elite” that controls society in spite of the fact that it doesn’t exist.

This is the pathology that is contemporary American “conservatism” — great masses of Americans are afraid — of the world, of modernity, of diversity — and to cope with their fears they have submerged themselves in a cult of personality organized around George W. Bush. Righties want to see themselves as part of a powerful army of righteousness that stands united against perceived enemies, such as Islamic terrorists or liberals. And the more fearful they become, the deeper they submerge themselves into the cult. Until, at last, anything approximating “objective reality” is a distant memory.

Oh, that last thing Fromm talked about, individuation, is the ability to be yourself and enjoy true freedom. People at this stage don’t need a personality cult.

Let’s go back to Eugene Robinson. “While Bush gives off none of Rove’s Sith-lord menace,” Robinson writes, “he has made the cultivation of fear a hallmark of his governance.”

You got that right, Eugene. And fear is what rallies the faithful. How else to explain so many people blind to such staggering incompetence?

When the most recent Osama bin Laden tape emerged, I watched some cable TV bobbleheads schmooze about how this would help Bush’s popularity ratings. And why would that be? Why wouldn’t the appearance of the guy Bush vowed to get “dead or alive” more than four years ago remind us of what a flopping incompetent Bush is? Could it be that we are a nation of sheep? Is rallying to Bush some kind of conditioned fear response? Must be, because it sure as hell isn’t rational.

“A great wartime leader rallies his citizens by informing them and inspiring them,” writes Robinson. “He certainly doesn’t use threats to our national security for political gain. He doesn’t just point at a map and say ‘Boo.'”

That’s right. But a great wartime leader ain’t what we got. What we got, is Bush. And what we need, to be freed from his incompetence and his culties, is the mother of all interventions.