Monday, March 20, 2006

Bush Fails To Defend His War In Iraq, His Party, His Administration And His Faith When Asked About "Radical Christianity" And Republicans. Why?

A most curious first question following President Bush's speech today in Cleveland:

Q Thank you for coming to Cleveland, Mr. President, and to the City Club. My question is that author and former Nixon administration official Kevin Phillips, in his latest book, American Theocracy, discusses what has been called radical Christianity and its growing involvement into government and politics. He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?

PRESIDENT BUSH: The answer is -- I haven't really thought of it that way. (Laughter.) Here's how I think of it. The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow. I vowed after September the 11th, that I would do everything I could to protect the American people. And my attitude, of course, was affected by the attacks. I knew we were at war. ...

Bush, as you can see from the above, failed to answer "no." Now ask yourself, why?

With a straightforward, or even defiant answer, Bush could have unequivocably defended Republicans, his administration, and supporters of the Iraq War and his handling of the war on terror.

"No," he could have said. "That's a ridiculous idea, and it saddens me to think that there are some Americans who feel that way about what we are trying to accomplish in Iraq and why."

Or he could have said, "I haven't read the book you're talking about, but if that's the argument the author is making, he's wrong. And I would think many Christians, myself included, would be offended by such an argument."

Instead, Bush pretends he's never heard this criticism before and then launches into a stump speech about the Bush philosophy on a post-September 11th universe. It's a politician's answer, using a linguistic trick that no doubt Bush's speechwriters have made clear to him -- when in doubt, quickly turn to the familiar.

***

Bush's failure to say "no" caught the attention of people on all sides of the political spectrum. No less than Michael Savage, hardly a left-winger, chastised Bush on his syndicated radio show this evening, questioning Bush's intelligence for failing to decisive distance himself from the theory proposed by Phillips, and in turn, the questioner in Cleveland.

Phillips, who helped craft President Nixon's successful Southern strategy in 1968 and wrote The Emerging Republican Majority a year later, has long since distanced himself from the current Republican party's modus operandi. He's clearly against the Bush family, and wrote a book, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush to say as much. In the current book, he takes on the ties between the Republican Party and the religious right.

In American Theocracy, Phillips devotes roughly one-third of his pages talking about the ties between the religious right and the Republican Party. With regard to so-called apocalyptic Christians, Time in its review says:

"(Regardless of why the Iraq War began), Bush was ensured a cheering section from those elements of the Christian right fascinated by 'end times' theology -- the belief in Christ's imminent return, and the prospect of Armageddon beginning in the Middle East -- popularized in brimstone best sellers like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' Left Behind novels. Phillips is convinced that many Americans underestimate the power of that idea among large parts of the electorate. ... (I)t's useful to point, as Phillips does, to polls suggesting that half of those who voted for Bush in 2004 believe in the word-for-word accuracy of the Bible."

Why didn't Bush say "no" when given the chance? Maybe because he knows his popularity is eroding among his party's base, and any slight against a pillar of the party -- the religious right -- can only increase the chances of Democrats taking over Congress in November, and decreasing the chances of him getting much of anything accomplished in his final two years in office.

Let's hope that's the reason. The alternative -- that Phillips is right and Bush was caught unprepared to discuss such things -- is too scary to consider.

17 Comments:

Anonymous LiberPaul said...

I don't doubt that Phillips was right. After all, Dear Leader told the Haaretz that he invaded Iraq because God told him to. I also thinnk Dear Leaders self-delusion is based upon the fact that he feels he is doing God's work and of course, God will not let him fail..... Be afraid! The 1/3 of the country that still supports Dear Leader are GENERALLY, right-wing xtians....

10:10 AM  
Anonymous MsAnthropy said...

He can't think on his feet and it wasn't in the script.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

it's why the town hall meetings are staged, scripted events.

if he had to answer real questions, he'd look like a moron. this way, he stays safely in his bubble.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous antifaschits said...

Good one. When Bush switched to Iran in his answer, he gave us all we need. there will be war in Iran shortly.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous spag68 said...

moron is too kind of a word to use on bush. he is obviously not a moron, but what he is is much worse.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous antifaschits said...

AWOL/moron

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Armstead said...

I'll actually defend Bush on this one......Sorta

I agree that the preferable and more principled response would have been to express himself clearly and honestly.

However, he is constrained by the same forces that constrain those on the our side. It's the dominance of Media Snarks and the Political Attack Squads that prevent politiians from being more forthcoming. It's the same crap that makes Howard Dean get portrayed as a rabid Marxist and that makes all politicians guard their words so carefully that they ultimately say nothing.

Whatever real answer Bush might have given would have been taken out of context and twisted by one side or the other.

Suppose he had said in all sincerity: "As a Christian, I do believe that the course of events is ultimately shaped and determined by God, and that at some point global issues will led to the prophecies being fulfilled. It is possible we are now living in the End Times, but I honestly don't know. So I try to follow my Christian principles and leave the ultimate outcome to God's hands."

He would have been pummeled by our side as Fundamentalist nutjob. Even though he didn't claim it, everything he does would be deceptively cast in lhgt of trying to bring about the end of the world. And the media Snarks would have talked about Bush "trying to placate his right-wing religious base, blah,blah,blah."

On the other hand, his words would have also been distorted if he had said: "I'm a Christian, but I believe God has put us in charge of our own destiny. So no I do not believe current events are the fulfillment of any prophecies, but are siply the result of our own actions and decisions."

Our side would be calling him a hypocrite who is trying to gloss over his real agenda. The Media Snarks would be sayng "Bush is trying to bolster his failing poll numbers by trying to move to a more moderate position....blah,blah,blah..'

In eitehr case, he loses by being honest, and his position will be twisted.

This straightjacket of distortion cuts both ways, unfortunately, and stifles real actual debate of issues and values that deviate even slightly from a phony narrow tunnel of acceptability.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous spag68 said...

honesty is hardly a word I would use to describe bush. It's just to hard for me to take much from your thesis as you assume that he has these traits at all.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Armstead said...

He's both a symptom and what some poeple see as a cure

What I'm talking about is the sound-byte nature of modern political discourse, in which tiny snippets of what a politician says is taken out of context and distorted. It makes it impossible for Americans to get a true picture of actual politicians and choices. intead, politicians say nothing, which is worse.

It's hard for me to be defending Bush, but in terms of what I said above, I do think his fundamental instincts are to at least be honest in his personal expression. At the same time, he's devious enough to let his handlers keep that instinct on a tight leash.

One of the reasons he was popular with a certain segment of the public was that he spoke directly at times, rther than in "politic speak." He also gets into trouble when he does it.

One of the resons he misleads is because he goes against his direct instincts plays the game though.

Personally I think we'd be better off if all politicians -- including the ones I disagree with -- were freer to honestly say what they really believe and what they really want to do in an unfiltered sense.

I would prefer to know what Bush's true view of the role of God to human events is, for example. I don't like the fact that by avoiding the quetion, America is in the dark as to whether is a mainstream Christian or if he does harbor the views of the more apocalyptic fringe sects.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure about radical Christian undertones and whether or not Bush attempts, with a cutesy laugh, to shrug off such suggestions as a clear implication of a lunatic conspiracy theory, etc.
The press conference was pathetic. Bush fumbled his way through it inserting Rove talking points at every turn. He is a talking wind-up toy and about half as smart.
When Bush talks about progress in Iraq, why don't the press corps hit him with hard numbers of increasing attacks on U.S. forces or increased unemployment and decreased electricity and oil production levels.
When Bush stutters that his only concern is protecting Americans from terrorists, why doesn't the press corps rebut with his failing grades from the 9-11 Commission, his approval of the Dubai ports deal without even having looked at it, or his administration's budget cuts for home land security.
If this press conference was any indication, Americans deserve this president.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous yellowcanine said...

Bush didn't want to try to pronounce apocalypse, let alone answer a question about it. To know something about it one would have to read books more difficult than "My Pet Goat" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar". Remember, he depends on briefing papers for his information. It is doubtful that "the apocolypse" shows up there either. That is actually a good thing. It might have been more scary if he had been able to answer the question.

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Ditto said...

Phillips' premise sounds sooo 'conspiracy theory-ish' that it probably puts-off alot of people immediately.

Unfortunately this is a very real, though largely underground, tacit effort on the part of radical Christian evangelicalism.

I urge everyone to Google the following word;

dispensationalism

6:45 PM  
Anonymous Jeffersons Ghost said...

it's all most likely scripted and he lied when he said "this is the first I've heard of this." Like all his comments that remark proves he's either so high on dope he's totally out of touch or a bare-faced liar.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous alias: "cutiepie" johnson said...

the problem isn't sound bytes

The problem is people drawing opinions based on opinions. If the MSM had criticized Bush saying "no," then conservative media would have played Bush's clip in full, and showed how it had been distorted.

The problem is that with what really happened, the opposite will occur. The MSM probably won't pay much attention to this particular exchange. The conservative media, however, could nonetheless lambaste people for criticizing Bush. To do so, they don't have to provide the original clip. They can just run a clip of the question, and then offer their opinion that Bush handled things just fine, and anyone criticizing Bush must hate Bush.

And then you have 25 million listeners/viewers who go, "Yeah, those stupid liberals hate Bush. He handled that ridiculous question perfectly." Except 99% of them won't know what Bush said -- other than through the filtered lens of the given conservative host.

That's why all this is dangerous. In the 2004 election, people generically agreed with Kerry on something like 57% of issues. But more often than not, conservatives didn't realize they were agreeing with Kerry. They mistakenly thought that they were agreeing with Bush. Why? Because they were relying too heavily on Fox News and conservative radio, and their relative levels of misinformaiton. Rather than actually reading facts in a newspaper, they were basing their opinions on opinions.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Armstead said...

That's my point

I don't like Bush, but I would much prefer to know what Bush really thinks aout a question like that, rather than the third hand and second rate sound clips that the pundits or politicos convey.

I would much prefer an environment in which questions and answrs are given in full as a matter of course -- or with minimal editing to remove redundencies and irrelevancies.

It's the same problem Howard Dean had in 2004. At his town hall meetings, Dean epleained his ideas and positions in detail, with nuance and intelligence. Unfortuinetely, none of that made it through the media filters. It was just his occsional off-the cuff gaffes and the infamous "Dean Scream" that were used to portray his as some radical wild man.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous rob of wilmington, del. said...

it won't happen, though because Bush is obviously incapable of spontaneous, intelligent comments. It's been said that before he sat down for an interview or a meeting, Clinton knew as much about a given subject as anyone. He could speak extemporaneously about hundreds of topics, because he had a curious mind.

Bush is the opposite. Don't confuse him with the facts. He knows what he knows, and don't tell him otherwise.

12:46 PM  
Anonymous butterfly77 said...

Everytime someone asks a question he brings it back to the war on terra or how he's protecting everyone or gives us a job description of U.S. presidents' and then goes on to make it sound like he is the first president there ever was in this country.

12:46 PM  

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