You’ll never guess who wrote this:
Perhaps the most irksome characteristic of the Bush administration has been the Rio Grande-wide gap between rhetoric and action.
The president has consistently talked a good game when it comes to democracy promotion, stopping weapons proliferation and other important goals, but his actions have just as consistently fallen short. Inaction is defensible — because there is always a good case to be made for caution in international affairs. But why then has his rhetoric been so incautious? The combination leads to the suspicion that there is no underlying strategy, merely a disconnect between what the White House speechwriters churn out and what the rest of the government actually does.
The combination leads to the suspicion that there is no underlying strategy, merely a disconnect between what the White House speechwriters churn out and what the rest of the government actually does. This has been the Bush Administration from the get-go. I dimly remember writing a blog post in the Mahablog’s early days in which I said the Bush Administration is not so much a presidency as it is a pageant. It’s all staging and props. Nobody actually does anything, or at least, anything legal or normal.
Put another way, the Bush Administration all along has been a political machine dressed up to look like an administration. But I wonder if some of the major players, particularly Bush and Karl Rove, actually know the difference.
I sincerely believe the biggest reason Bush resorts to underhanded methods like signing statements to get what he wants from Congress is that he lacks either the ability, or the inclination, or both, to actually do the job of president and play the role presidents normally play in relation to Congress. It’s not so much that he wants to destroy the separation of powers and the Constitution; it’s just that he doesn’t know any other way to function in the job.
But also, one of my biggest early frustrations as a blogger was that righties were always taking Bush at his word, whereas I was judging him by what he actually did. These two factors were never in the same continent, much less the same ball park.
Here’s a post I wrote on this subject back in October 2005. It holds up, I think. Bush sometimes (not always, of course) makes speeches that are perfectly reasonable speeches, and in his speeches he promotes values and ideals that are also my values and ideals. However, his actions in office undermine those same values and ideals he promotes in his speeches. And righties, on the whole, have been too thick to see it. They embraced his rhetoric as if his words represented what he was actually doing in office.
Among other things in the October 2005 post, for example:
You can still find righties who get all misty-eyed about the “bullhorn moment” but are not at all bothered by the fact that Osama bin Laden was never brought to justice. It’s as if the rhetoric itself is all that matters, and reality is just an inconvenient minor detail.
In the final days of his Administration, the propaganda machine is churning out the notion that “victory” has been won in Iraq, and all that’s left is the mopping up. But they could have held the same pageant a year ago, or two years ago, or five years ago. Again, war supporters are too thick to see how they are being played. But I think all they ever really wanted was the pageant, the victory parade. What actually happens to Iraq is just an inconvenient minor detail. As soon as they can declare we “won,” they will utterly lose interest in what we actually did in Iraq.
Here’s another little glimmer of reality from the writer quoted above:
The “freedom agenda” has suffered as much as Bush’s anti-proliferation efforts. His claims to be “pressing nations around the world” on reform will come as news to dissidents like Ayman Nour, who had the temerity to run against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s 2005 presidential election and has been rotting in jail ever since, even as the U.S. continues to give Mubarak $2 billion a year in aid.
Bush’s entire administration has been one long mockery of the word “freedom.” The writer I’m quoting hasn’t come to grips with the full range of Bush’s mockery, but at least this one little piece of light broke through the fog. But here the writer demonstrates that he is still pretty foggy:
Bush has not felt the need to ratchet down his promises to bring them into closer alignment with what his own administration has been able to achieve.
Why would we expect him to? He’s done nothing from the beginning but say one thing and do something else. The only policy he has been rock-hard consistent about is tax cutting, and even then he has been nothing but duplicitous in his rhetoric about which taxes actually were being cut.
The writer is Max Boot, by the way. I’m not holding my breath waiting for Boot to measure the gap between his own rhetoric and reality.