November 20, 2002

Coherence Gap: Radio Free E...

Coherence Gap: Radio Free Europe Interviewed George Bush Monday in the run-up to the NATO expansion summit in Prague. Check out his rambling, interesting, and occasionally incoherent response to an important question about, as I put it in the National Post last month, doing deals with the devil:

RFE: Central Asia -- we broadcast to Central Asia. And many experts say that the authoritarian regimes in that region are actually fueling terrorism because their people feel helpless and unable to effect change. Do you think there are any dangers in the U.S. aligning itself closely with those governments that are --

THE PRESIDENT: I think any time the United States aligns itself with a government that we never forget the basic premises of our existence, and that is freedom is important, the human condition for all are important. We value every life, everybody counts. And in my judgment, the more people relate to the United States and work with the United States, the more likely it is they will work to improve the human condition. And that's what we spend a lot of time doing. One of the great things about our country is that we embrace freedom, first and foremost.

It's one of my concerns about Iraq. Listen, we've got people living in Iraq that are tortured and brutalized in order to keep this man in power. I weep for those who suffer. And so the great cause of the United States is freedom. I tell these countries, they talk about freedom -- I say freedom isn't America's gift to the world. It's God-given. Everybody counts.

And it is with that spirit of recognizing the values of freedom I think will help improve people, no matter where. And you're right, there's some leaders there that need work with, and we're prepared to work with them. But I will tell you, people -- poverty is a tool for recruitment amongst these global terrorists. It's a way for them to recruit, perhaps. But poverty doesn't cause killers to exist. And it's an important distinction to make.

These global terrorists are, some of them are rich, monetarily. They're obviously poor in spirit. They have no regard for human life. They claim they're religious, and they kill in the name of religion. And there are some breeding grounds, no question about it. And therefore, we hope that prosperity spreads out from central government to help people. But I hope people don't confuse the mentality of the terrorist leaders and economic plight, because these people are plenty comfortable. They just kill. And we're going to get them before they get us.

And that's what the world needs to know about the United States.

Posted by at November 20, 2002 04:35 PM

I think perhaps this bad answer might be a combination of two things:

1. Diplomacy. He can't very well say bad things about Uzbekistan or Khazhakstan (I know those aren't spelled right). It's true that those places are repressive dictatorships, but most of our supplies are going into Afghanistan via rail and road from the north. There is no way he can insult those regimes - not yet, anyway.

2. Staying on message. Bush will do this, and it's frustrating to watch. I can't watch his press conferences, because he'll repeat the same lines over and over. He did that all through his presidential campaign, too. It makes him look stupid, but he gets his point across.

If you read closely, I think he does answer the question, albeit obliquely:

"And you're right, there's some leaders there that need work with, and we're prepared to work with them."

I think that ought to read: '...that we need to work with,' And by work with, I think he's referring back to the first paragraph, where he talks about freedom.

I agree that the second to last paragraph is very lousy. I can see his line of thought, but his syntax is garbled. Here you see him try to combine his canned answer on Iraq, combine it with the freedom question, while trying to avoid diplomatic land mines, and he doesn't pull it off.

Posted by: Pete S. at November 20, 2002 07:17 PM

W sounds like a disobedient child caught with his hands in the cookie jar; grasping, deflecting, and transparently disingenuous.

Face up to it - putting sugar on the hypocrisy is not this oaf's strong suit.

In a good God fearing home (that would be the "It's God-given." God of course, the one that gives the freedom, and I believe he is referring to that God - his own Christian God - not our American; all purpose, multi-cultural, multi-theistic, "In God we trust God" that we have on our dollars.) the little boy would be spanked and sent to do pennance in his room.
And that is what we really have to worry about - the Bush & Co. spanking!

'You kick the dog you own the bite! Treat him right and he's a real delight.'
A lesson MEpublicans have yet to learn!

National Post Article was excellent!

Posted by: Warren Celli at November 21, 2002 04:43 AM

Warren's comment is even more incoherent! Oh, well. When the critics are less coherent than those they criticize we are really in trouble.
For those of us who frequently deal with stroke victim aphasics, Bush's language difficulty is not really that bad. You might think that the rough and tumble world of verbal sparring in politics would have eliminated GW before now. The fact that he is still in there fighting indicates that there is more to him than the critics have so far discovered.

It is the "staying with the message" while not saying too much, that gets him in trouble, as Pete says. It is truly painful to listen to him struggling to express an idea sometimes.

Posted by: RB at November 21, 2002 09:32 AM

Growing up in an isolated, rural area (local joke is most of us have 6 toes on each foot, webbed) and having day-to-day contact with a wide variety of speaking styles, it came to me early that not all slick talkers had anything to say, and that not all garbled speakers were dim bulbs.

In an earlier career as a salesman, I once worked with a guy with multiple speech impediments. He was a top salesman. I asked him how, given his halting, sometimes disconnected, stuttering speech he could be so successful. His answer was, "have something useful to say, look them in the eye, repeat it until they get it. They'll listen." The proof truly is in the pudding.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at November 21, 2002 10:18 PM

His answer was very clear, if the way he said it was not. Stop automatically assuming he is a retarded monkey, or whatever you think, and read it again.

Posted by: Steve at November 22, 2002 10:11 AM

Steve -- That's really really funny, what you wrote. I suggest you read it again. To which I might respond, "stop automatically assuming that I am a drooling three-legged simp, or whatever you think." You actually don't know what I think, clearly, so it's odd to tell me to knock it off.

This isn't presented to make fun of Dubya's syntax. The question of realpolitik, geopolitical pragmatism, moralism and hypocrisy are among the most difficult yet pressing to answer (I have written about this topic several times in the past), and I think his response reflects the challenge.

Posted by: Matt Welch at November 22, 2002 11:57 AM

An unanswered question remains from the above comments: How did George W. get where he is and accomplish what he has when he has trouble stringing together a coherent sentence sometimes? Not every rich kid winds up President. Why just look at that nice Al Gore. The answer is that he believes in what he's doing and people respond. I just hope he's right, because I've been disappointed so many times. But I'd rather have him up there than an empty suit like Clinton who didn't know what to believe in except winning and fame and mockery.

Posted by: Robert Speirs at November 22, 2002 01:27 PM

Maybe, just maybe now - this is only a guess - W got "where he is" through daddy connections and daddy pressure (I honestly believe he would rather be bird hunting in Texas) and he owes his accomplishments, (arguable, the word suggests positive achievement) to being plugged into the pre written MEpublican script.
The sad part is that the MEpublicans couldn't find and cast a more polished actor.
Maybe the role; being pragmatic and genuine, while overseeing an ever increasing mountain of corruptly legislated and protectionist law is just too difficult.
It all seems to make W's brain a wee bit mushy once in a while.
America deserves a lot better!

Posted by: Warren Celli at November 22, 2002 05:05 PM

W. Celli:

"MEpublican" -- what does that even mean?

There is no doubt that G.W. Bush is a son of privilage. Bush is where he is because he is a Bush. But I would ask, is this legitimate grounds for criticism? p;Post " />

m a bad president, either. There are deeply religious men who do terrible things, but there are religious men who do wonderful things as well.

I believe it's the same with the circumstances of his birth. Highborn, lowborn -- doesn't matter. It's about what he *does*.

Mr Welch, You've nailed it, once again. This answer is a reflection of Bush's cognitive dissonance. He knows terrorism is (in part) a symptom of tyrrany. But in order to fight tyrrany, we must align with other tyrants.

Some hard-core realpolikers might simply say "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" and be done with it. Churchill said something like "If Hitler invaded Hell, I would give the Devil at least a favorable mention on the floor of the Commons" (Not an exact quote.) The fact that Bush has trouble with the question is very encouraging I think. He's aware of the paradox.

Optimists among us might even say that this answer presages democratic reforms after some immediate threats are removed. But we're not mind-readers here. Only time will tell.

Posted by: Pete S. at November 23, 2002 12:37 AM

Seemed pretty clear on this point: "These global terrorists are, some of them are rich, monetarily. They're obviously poor in spirit. They have no regard for human life. They claim they're religious, and they kill in the name of religion. . . . But I hope people don't confuse the mentality of the terrorist leaders and economic plight, because these people are plenty comfortable. They just kill. And we're going to get them before they get us."

The boys who flew the planes on 9/11 were not poor, except in spirit. They were not led by a poor man. They're trying to kill us. Bush understands that. He's effecting change in the way that region does business, but it has to be done slowly, with as much cooperation as he can muster, and he needs to rely on allies who have blood on their hands, and he's taking shit from every monkey who's got "Boy President's failed unpward until the Supreme Court gave him the presidency" on a function key to insert in every angry essay.

He may have inheirited his father's way with words, but his thinking's clear, and that's where it counts.

Posted by: Bill Peschel at November 24, 2002 05:07 PM
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