Be of Reasonably Good Cheer

For your late night reading enjoyment — John Dickerson on the potential impact of Woodward’s book

State of Denial is a significant blow to the president both politically and strategically. Politically it comes after the 9/11 anniversary restored some of Bush’s popularity and improved voters’ feelings about his administration’s competency. Democrats jumped on the new revelations, holding a press conference Friday on Capitol Hill to talk about the book before it had even come out, proving that press conferences—like many book reviews—do not require actually reading the book.

As a policy matter, the book undermines Bush’s attempts to strengthen the national will for the long and drawn-out fight ahead. For the last year, the administration has been unsuccessfully trying to get the mix in the president’s public statements right: enough candor to show people Bush is aware of what’s really going on in Iraq but enough optimism to keep Americans behind the fight. “There is a clear distinction between having confidence in your strategy and that ultimate success is achievable while also recognizing it will be extremely difficult to get there,” says a senior White House official. “The president’s speeches during the last year have struck that balance. What was Churchill saying during the middle of the blitz—’have no fear, we’re losing and things won’t get better?’ Hell no; he was honest about the predicament, but confident that they would succeed. By no means am I saying the president is Churchillian, but there is a long history of war-time leaders being optimistic even during the darkest days.”

Woodward’s book undermines the effort to make this pitch. He charges the president has not been straight with the American people about how bad things are in Iraq and how much worse it’s going to get. But his most damning claim—screaming at you right there in the title—is not that Bush is deceitful; it’s that he’s clueless. People many not care if Bush admits reality to the public, but they hope he’s admitting reality to himself. …

… Woodward isn’t going to change minds, but he’ll do something more dangerous: He will confirm the doubts about Bush that a majority of Americans already have.

See also Dan Froomkin.

Righties are dismissing Woodward’s new opus, of course. The Flopping Ace, just to choose one, simultaneously calls the work a “gossip novel” and a retelling of old news. But I have a question about what else the Ace said —

Isn’t funny how just a few days ago we heard all over the news that Al-Qaeda was crying about getting their asses kicked from one side of Iraq to another?

All over which news? Does anyone have a clue what the boy is talking about? Or is this Nooz from the Alternate Universe?

21 thoughts on “Be of Reasonably Good Cheer

  1. Does anyone have a clue what the boy is talking about? Or is this Nooz from the Alternate Universe?

    I think it is in regard to the statement by al-Qaida that 4 thousand foreign fighters have died fighting jihad in Iraq. It’s not exactly an admission of getting their asses kicked all over Iraq, but more of a boast, because the greater the numbers killed fighting the infidels, the greater their cause. It is the equivalent in advertising as… Come to Iraq and be all you can be.

  2. It’s been a damn depressing week, and this book, and the mondo big publicity behind it somewhat redeems it. I’ll hoist a glass to Bob Woodward. Looks like he’s redeemed himself with this effort.

    …the greater the numbers killed fighting the infidels, the greater their cause. It is the equivalent in advertising as… Come to Iraq and be all you can be.

    Well put. Leave it to righties to get this completely backwards.

    I signed up for a screening of Iraq For Sale, another Robert Greenwald production. If you’re inclined, you can help spread the word by attending or hosting a screening yourself.

  3. On the topic of what can we do, I belatedly found this at Orcinus. In a nutshell, Mrs Robinson says, “When it comes to the left, the mainstream media have exactly two all-purpose storylines going. We will always be portrayed as either spineless wussies, or angry loonies. The only choice we have here is to decide which one we’re going to play to.

    Given that choice, I’ll go for angry loony every day of the week. ”

    The Daily Howler thinks Clinton would have been more effective if he hadn’t gotten angry, but I think Mrs R is right in saying that passion connects. Remember Dukakis and the ‘how would you feel if your wife were raped’?

    After all, the basic rap on the Dem’s is that they don’t really stand for anything. If the Dem’s start showing more passion, as well as arguing from the facts, people will pay more attention and the Dem’s image will change.

  4. … Woodward isn’t going to change minds, but he’ll do something more dangerous: He will confirm the doubts about Bush that a majority of Americans already have.

    And perhaps remind them of how they used to regard some of the supporting cast as well … Rumsfeld was a self-aggrandizing mediocrity in the Ford White House, as a congressmen and as a CEO. Cheney, too. Now, tragically, the two of them have wrecked Iraq and are looking ahead to Iran.

    Talk about the blind leading the blind: We’re ruled by delusional ideologues, and their followers are even worse. If you’re that far out of touch with reality, you need extraordinary powers just to keep one step ahead of the law. Thursday, BushCo’s congressional enablers — a Roll Call Hall of Shame — were quick to oblige.

    But you’re right, Woodward’s book may mark a turning point. You know things are bad when the court stenographer starts to bite the hand that has been feeding him. The question is, what do we do with his report?

  5. People have already made up their minds? Dickerson is about the fourth or fifth person who’s said that this week. Are undecideds just people who don’t want to declare who they’re voting for or aren’t at least a few of them truly undecideds?

    Anyway, the issues involved are generational. We’re talking several election cycles down the road to cover the issues not covered very well in the last five years (or is it 25?). Whatever happens in 2006, there’s 2008, then 2010 and so on. The more people understand that there are consequences when we allow the process of decision-making in Washington to break down and be dominated by people who can’t be bothered with what everybody else has always regarded as somewhat useful: the facts (or at least a view of the facts that’s in a recognizable universe).

    Woodward’s book will make a small difference, as will the next book that comes out, as well as coverage of more and more of what right wing Republicans have so thorough botched or corrupted in the last five years. And Olbermann will make a difference. And Josh Marshall will make a difference. And Mahablog will make a difference and so on. It’s called dialogue and it’s been missing for too many years in this country.

  6. In Froomkin’s piece, he describes how Bush says he will stay the course in Iraq even if only Laura and Barney support him, then Froomkin links to and includes a delicious point made by a blogger:

    ‘And blogger Brendan Nyhan notes some unintentional irony in a Bush speech yesterday. Said Bush: “We are a nation at war. I wish I could report differently, but you need to have a President who sees the world the way it is, not the way somebody would hope it would be.”‘

    Oops, this is our unreality-based President at his finest! Thanks to Nyhan for catching that Bush utterance and demonstrating once again Bush’s state of denial.

    Being in America right now sort of feels like riding in a car driven by a high-on-himself near-sighted person who thinks his rose-colored glasses will make the road safe.

  7. I don’t put much faith in a single cultural object having a decisive impact – not because it’s not possible – but because other literary/cultural bombshells (Fahrenheit 9/11; Against All Enemies) failed to have the big effects I anticipated. That might say more about my unrealistic expectations than anything else. I think the Woodward book might reach well outside of the preaching-to-the-choir audience. It’s currently the #1 emailed story on the NYT right now. I tend to agree with Craig that all of these voices have an important cumulative influence.

    Few people read books anymore (present virtual company excluded), but everyone is drawn to a creepy sex scandal. I think the Mark Foley situation could have considerable influence in the coming weeks, perhaps especially in the minds of independents and evangelicals. What story more jarringly contrasts with righties’ faith and values rhetoric? The story is not going away either. Boehner reportedly knew about the emails and didn’t do anything. And appointing Foley as Co-Chair of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus is almost like making an Arabian horse expert in charge of federal disaster response.

    RE: Froomkin — Another shocking thing in the Froomkin piece (the Barney line was a jaw-dropper) was the reemergence of Henry Kissinger and the idea that he’s working out his Vietnam issues by influencing the administration’s policy in Iraq. How often can someone be wrong – like, totally and utterly wrong in ways that costs thousands of lives – and still retain credibility? Why is *anyone* listening to *anything* that man has to say!?

    Donna, I completely share your sensation/metaphor of being in a car with a reckless driver. I especially feel that way with regard to the administration’s war plans for Iran and after reading the scary Sy Hersh piece about that last April, I put this together:

  8. You know what I’d like see put to bed as “old news” ? ANY comment on Clinton that is the first thing out of a righties mouth when you mention any current situation we are deling with.

  9. My feeling about Bob Woodward is that he is a mouthpiece for the administration; unwitting perhaps, but one nonetheless. The penchant for this administration to hide everything makes one wonder–marvel–at the degree of access that Woodward claims to have. Bushies would not give Woodward any access at all if they weren’t using him to put out their own slanted view of things. I have not read his latest book yet, but I will and as I do I will ask what is it the Bushies are trying to convey through the medium of Bob Woodward?

  10. Preston, Woody said what the newspapers say he said, then he is not acting as a mouthpiece of the Bushies this time. The only way the Bushies could make this work for them is if Woody breaks down on 60 Minutes and confesses he made it all up/

    IMO Woodward was never a mouthpiece for the Bush White House as much as he is an opportunist who blows with the current wind and writes what he thinks people want to read. He’s enough of an institution (and a legend in his own mind) that he probably considers himself to exist on a higher plane than the Bushies.

  11. Excellent points, Maha. When I read Woodward’s earlier books, it just seemed that he had too much access, more than others, and it seemed that he was writing what the administration wanted him to write. I still wonder what he’s up to, however. Of course, Woodward likes to have his name in lights.

  12. I actually thought the Woodward of Watergate died and someone had been impersonating him these past years.

    I think something that needs to be recognized is the average Americans who are voting for rightwingers and their agenda are brainwashed. A person cannot listen to Limbaugh, Fox news, O’Reilly, etc., day after day after day without it seeping into the brain. And, my psychology readings haven’t so far extended to how to unwash the brainwashed. Maybe Maha knows.

  13. The strong prevailing winds, i.e. trusting in Bush and Republicans, were blowing against the prescient messages of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Against All Enemies……so, at that time, only the folks who were already very centered in themselves had the ability to stand buffeted by that wind and yet think deeply about those messages.

    Today, the strong prevailing winds are blowing the other direction….so, at this time, Woodward’s book, State of Denial, will not only by welcomed by those already centered in themselves, but will be appreciated by the many who once centered themselves in dear leader Bush, but who have lost faith in him.

    But I agree that the MARK FOLEY news may have a greater impact on all those family-oriented ‘values’ voters.

    Instead of hiding in his safe office wanting to ‘strengthening the national will’ over the Iraq war, I think Bush should strengthen his own will over the Iraq war. I would consider it proof of his strengthened will to fight the war if, for example, he himself would go lead in IRAQ instead of sending others to fight and die.

  14. Bonnie:

    It’s not easy, but if you go to Orcinus and read Mrs Robinson’s series
    “Cracks in the Wall” and “Tunnels and Bridges” (first post here),you can find one strategy, albeit a slow one.

  15. I don’t put much faith in a single cultural object having a decisive impact – not because it’s not possible – but because other literary/cultural bombshells (Fahrenheit 9/11; Against All Enemies) failed to have the big effects I anticipated.

    The rising Pedogate scandal might just finally crack their armor and allow the myriad of littler things, that would otherwise bounce off, to do damage. “Values” is their last bastion – if they get busted covering for a child predator it will be damaging.

  16. the wingnuts are even turning up on Amazon. I pre-ordered the book and expect it on monday. I went to Amazon tonight to see if anyone had read it and what the average person has to say in the reviews. 2 wingers who obviously have not even read the book are posting the most negative reviews in hopes of dissuading people from reading the book. It would have been plausable if they actually read it and posted an honest review instead of wingnuttery.
    But, it shows how the bushbots are out there in force trying to scramble for Dear Leader.

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