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February 28, 2006


Muddled speaking, muddled thinking. It sounds to me as if he skipped a few words here, a few lines there originally included by whomever wrote the speech. Or maybe he chose, as Bill Clinton did so often, to speak extemporaneously, even though he's surely been warned against it a zillion times.

Translation: Saddam repressed the Iraqis and this pushed 19 Iraqi hijackers to blow up America.

I cannot decipher that paragraph.
It is not a true paragraph, with leading sentence and explanations following.
It's muddled thinking. I use the term thinking loosely.
The answer to your question "Is he saying anything that's coherent? " is NO.
I hope I'm seeing a mental process revealed here.
He's (in my opinion) trying to come to terms with the outcome of his actions. He's trying to blend together all the suggestions his advisors are throwing to him, as to why Mission Accomplished NOT, and why Bring It On, did indeed bring it on.
I wonder if he finally begins to see failures and wonders about a now certainly different future than what he was so sure would result from regime change in the Middle East.

Shorter Bush: an elected government--the hallmark of a democracy--is a Good Thing. Yes, it happens from time to time that elections take an unhappy turn, as we've seen recently in Palestine. But this recent and unfortunately radical turn of events is still an improvement over the procedures of business-as-usual that prevailed during the previous thirty years, when, "beneath the surface that appeared placid, the policymakers, was resentment and hatred and planning and plotting," bad things giving rise to 9/11.

That floater, "the policymakers," is an appositive to "the surface that appeared placid," and I suppose it refers to unelected leaders like Arafat.

Bush, it seems, has recently developed an informed taste for elections, and he invites his fellow oligarchs to do the same. He's trying to say that they didn't see something in earlier days, viz., "we didn't see, kind of, the turmoil that happens with elections meant we were safe". The sentence would be clearer if Bush had said "means we are safe, this is what is always means, this is what it meant in earlier days".

It seems that planning and plotting are Bad Things, to be expected of unelected Arabs like Osama Bin Laden....

Or is he saying that elections in repressive states with corrupt governments will often result in strong showings by radical parties

That's it. And he's arguing that it's really ok. Here's the argument, as I read it:

1. Radical parties were empowered by the status quo
1a. it may not have looked that way, but hey, Sept. 11
2. Ergo, if we disrupt the status quo, we will disempower radical parties.
3. Ergo, even if it SEEMS like radical parties are winning elections, they not REALLY in power, because we disrupted the status quo, and they were ALSO in power under it.
3a. and we're just noticing it more now because there are elections. But they're not really more in power. (It's an illusion of better detection not higher incidence.)

Needless to say this is total whackjob reasoning. There are a lot of ways to debunk it but the simplest is that he argues A = B and C ≠ A so therefore B ≠ A. That is, status quo = power and elections ≠ status quo so therefore radicals aren't in power after the elections. And there is no one behind that curtain.

I heard a really terrific speech by Naomi Klein on WBAI this morning. It looks like mp3 of it is here (scan around a little, probably starts around 15 min in.) She talks about the Iraqi elections, and how it's sort of a downer that they voted all the anti-U.S. candidates into office but how Bush tries to spin this as not important, that what's important is the act of voting -- that it was all a new kind of performance art. She's really brilliant in it.

She tells two great stories. The first is about her nearsighted grandmother having to give up her car keys and stop driving. She protests, "but people are so friendly! Everywhere I drive they are waving at me." and is asked, "are you sure they're waving with their whole hand?" The Iraqi elections she says are being seen as a big friendly wave at the U.S. but they're only waving with their middle fingers.

The second story is about whether it is coincidence that the Iraq War came during the age of reality makeover shows. She says these shows are the American dream gone insane, and the message is essentially "everything about you sucks, let's start over." And the theme of these shows is that the make-over-ee is totally passive and a group of experts come in and give the person certain tasks to do, and their success is gauged by how well they follow the instructions. She makes a devastating parallel to the way we designed the Iraqi elections. Absolutely worth a listen if you have time.

The speech was on wake-up call on WBAI the local pacifica station during a fundraising drive.

This reminds me of an issue of Harpers from about 1988 or 1989, before it was confirmed that Reagan was suffering from Alzheimers. In the Readings section they printed a diagram of one of the sentences he spoke in response to a question about Iran-Contra. (A linguistics professor had assigned it to his students.) That diagram was more complicated than a family tree of the Hapsburgs. Then, about three months later, there were letters to the editor arguing that this or that part of it was was inaccurate.

"Do elections cause radicalism or empower radicals? My answer is, the status quo empowered radicals."

READ: He's saying that the elections didn't cause radicalism, they just made the radicalism that was already there, visible.

"This notion that somehow the Middle East was a safe place for the last 30 years -- because we didn't see, kind of, the turmoil that happens with elections meant we were safe."

READ:Some people mistook the placid appearance of stable tyrannies for an absence of dangerous, anti-American sentiment in the middle east.

"I just totally disagree with that, kind of the -- beneath the surface that appeared placid, the policymakers, was resentment and hatred and planning and plotting, all of which came home on September the 11th."

READ: Since the radicals were always there, repressed and invisible, we were never safe, even with a seemingly friendly, repressed, middle east.

Bush doesn't finish of the argument (its one I've heard before, I think from Jimmy Carter). The end of the argument is that that the lack of democracy and freedom actually creates radicalism. Elections, on the other hand, lance a wound that has been allowed to fester. Elections temporarily embolden radicals and make them visible. But in the long run, a responsive political process will decrease radicalism.

Did I do good?

I think you cleared up what was most confusing to me:

"This notion that somehow the Middle East was a safe place for the last 30 years -- because we didn't see, kind of, the turmoil that happens with elections meant we were safe."

NOW I get it. Someone whose native language was English might convey that thought with a verb. In fact, they might even say something like:

"For 30 years there was a notion that the Middle East was a safe place--[um, yeah, thanks for the strawman argument]--because the turmoil in those states and societies only becomes visible when there are elections."

Now of course that's complete garbage, as anyone knows if they've ever heard of the Iranian revolution, the massacre in Hama, the Algerian civil war, the rise of Islamist movements patterned on the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the asassination of Anwar Sadat, the Lebanese Civil War, the wars in Yemen, what's happened in Sudan, and on and on and on...

And yes, I realize Algeria and Sudan aren't in the Middle East, and that Iran isn't an Arab country. I guess it's just hard because much of what happens in the "Middle East" involves the Iranians, while there are also some common developments and themes that can be traced in Arab countries and societies in North Africa beyond Egypt.

Anyone think Bush has it really firmly grasped that Iranians aren't Arabs?

Say what you will, he sticks the landing: 9/11!

His thoughts are out of order so it appears as nonsense. Elections are not to blame for empowering the radicals. Instead the status quo (others) is to blame. The notion (what his enemies think because the threat was masked because of no elections) is that we were safe for the last 30 years. He disagrees we were safe, his evidence; 9-11. So don’t blame him for empowering the radicals with elections he insisted upon. It was the status quo (not him) that empowered the radicals.

I think he's sying, "When things are quiet, that's when you really gotta worry."

I think there is also a subtext of: "Elections cause turmoil, so don't worry if you see turmoil going on over there cause shit happens and that's a good thing cause it keeps things from getting too quiet and giving us reason to worry."

PS, I'm sorta ashamed to admit I understand what he's saying. Understanding is not agreeing, though.

Libby, why are you a Republican? You must be if you understand Bush. Why do you hate America?

I think the teleprompter went a little haywire on him and somebody needs to hit ALT-CONTROL-DELETE and try again.

The paragraph makes no sense.

Moreover, W is not allowed to offer original thoughts in this administration (nor does he care to). Karl Rove has had him "on message" since 1994. The few times he strayed, Karl let him have it.

Simply put, the man's words should just be ignored. His actions, appointments, Executive Orders, and distribution of the purse, unfortunately, are another matter, but that does not mean that he thought any of them up.

As an aside, has anybody asked Bush a question in Spanish in a while? I am still more than a little suspect that the dude cannot speak Spanish at all. SOmebody please ask him a substantive question in Spanish about Iraq so that we may: 1) draw from him exactly what we want him to say, and 2) make him look like a jackass who falsely proclaimed he could speak Spanish.

The world may be going to hell but that is no reason we all can't have a little fun at his expense, and maybe further take him down.

I thought it made more or less sense, in the way mmimika and Libby interpreted it. "Some people thing electiosn create radicalism. They think under the (repressive) status quo in many countries (such as my good friends the Saudis and Dubaidis) there was tranquility, because the turmoil wasn't visible. But the repressive status quo created the radicalism that we saw in 9/11. So if these folks elect radicals when they are finally given the vote, it isn't my fault because it was the previous repressive regime that created the radicalism." He seems to think that democracy is good even if it leads to Islamic or other radicalism, but he can't bring himself to quite reach that logical conclusion,

Good lord, I am NOT a Republican! Sorry if I confused you. But I really do think I've parsed what Bush is saying correctly.

I'm with Mimikatz--mmimika and Libby win the prize.

I'd add just one thing. I suspect this is so garbled (in addition to the obvious reasons, like he's a fucking moron and, no DH, he doesn't know that any of those countries aren't in the ME and/or aren't Arab) because he's really trying to address conflict within his close associates. You've got Fukuyama bailing on the militarism of Neoconism. You've got Buckley declaring the war a failure. SO he's got to find some way to tell these guys (who of course are both worlds smarter than he is) that we need to stay the course of (sometimes) militarized democratization.

I suppose the Financial Times has to report this material, given its likely economic import in the UK and other places in Europe. In addition to the grammarian and pedagogic expert distillations offered, above; my take:
The slip was mentioning leaders, because that voyeurism is what caused a lot of irascibility in the region when he was in his first nine months after election. Presidents lead and if the rhetoric halts the thought simply redirects to cover what was uttered as best possible. In this instance he knew the leaders mention was, perhaps his view, but less diplomatic than stating it in terms of characterizing other undercurrents in a very complicated part of the world. I think some innate sense tells the president his country is new compared to Arab lands, and is viewed as somewhat of a neophyte civilization when observed from Middle East residents' perspectives. He has surrounded himself with a lot of Reagan key people; I wonder if EW is attuned to who the speechwriters are. It is a classic problem for leaders who have a fairly insulated coterie. But he has a Western spirit of raucous personal freedom, at least in my view; I avoid media and have heard only a very few words recorded from this president's oratory and other speech and sloganeering. A lot of the utterances are audience specific. One hidden message in the cited paragraph, but which hinges on similar parts of his administration's policies for which he has received criticism at this governors' conference, is reliance on national guard in lieu of conscripts; it was a natural fit, as armies are notoriously ill disposed to treat civil unrest equitably, whereas national guard is much more patient and observant of what the boundaries of acceptable civil wildness and decorum need to be in order to round up the convoy and head 'em out, onto the transport planes, back home, to forget the problem ridden region. I hope Bush enjoys India right now, as that is where he is scheduled traveling at present; what a different world for him, who, when elected, had traveled outside the US only a little.

Relax Libby, I was teasing. ;-)

EW, I would discount most of WHB,Jr.,'s views, besides, his is a lexicon that needs translation, even though he went to Yale. In some way I think Bush is sticking with the patchwork plan and the cobbled-together second administration troupe, because he holds out some hope that despite its pain it put the front back where the plan intended to place it, in the Middle East. The fine points are for the diplomats and actual lawyers; WHB actually is an Esq., I believe; though one recalls his apologia for George Schultz fairly clearly.

DHinMI's citation would make more sense if it included the sentences immediately preceding. As thus:

"I know one of the debates about the freedom agenda is, well, elections cause certain things to happen that you may not want to happen. No, elections are only the beginning of the process, they're not the end. Elections, plus a focused foreign policy effort that helps build the institutions of democracy, is what is going to be necessary to ultimately defeat the hateful ideology of those who would do our country harm.

"It's an interesting debate that's going to take place here in Washington, or is taking place in Washington: Do elections cause radicalism or empower radicals? My answer is, the status quo empowered radicals. This notion that somehow the Middle East was a safe place for the last 30 years -- because we didn't see, kind of, the turmoil that happens with elections meant we were safe. I just totally disagree with that, kind of the -- beneath the surface that appeared placid, the policymakers, was resentment and hatred and planning and plotting, all of which came home on September the 11th."

The man argues in favor of elections as the hallmark of "the freedom agenda," and argues his point by concession: yes, he says, elections may cause problems, but they don't "cause radicalism or empower radicals" (meaning, for instance, that Hamas didn't originate through elections, and their election won't "empower them" since they already had it before the electoral process took effect).

Attempting some nuance, Bush argues that an absence of the very turmoil occasioned by elections--an absence of turmoil due to an absence of elections--merely serves to conceal violence underlying a "placid surface". Introduce elections, and some partying's bound to occur....

The possiblilty that a Western-style "representative Democracy," governed by officials chosen through an electoral process, may have little pertinence for most of the people on the planet, has yet to cross the mind of Mr. Bush (but then it hasn't crossed a lot of other minds either, some with a secure command of language).... And the idea that "representative democracy", wherever we happen to find it, may not be "democratic" in even the most favorable of circumstances, will never, never, cross his cross-eyed mind.

like he said,


Did we have radicals before the elections? Do we have radicals because of the elections? Classic chicken and egg problem.

My answer is we had the radicals before the elections. The radicals were there resenting and hating and planning and plotting, but we felt safe, because we didn’t look beneath the surface. Or read the PDBs. Or pay attention to the CIA.

Now we're having this debate because the free elections in Iraq, and in Palestine (or what would be Palestine if there was a Palestine) elected people who don’t like the US, or what’s worse, they do like our enemies. We thought the Iraqis would be our new best friends, but Iran is their new best friend. (Really! After all we did for Iraq.) But we’re not jealous. Not jealous. Because this is just the beginning. We’ll have a foreign policy that will make them love us, just as soon as we figure out how.

(Here is a shameless plug for my blog whatbushreallymeant.com, where I parse lots of lies and senseless things Bush says.)

Bush is saying "It ain't my fault."

"What we're doing is tough but it's the right thing."

"The Middle East has been a threat to the US for a long time. And yes, 'engaging' over there has made this more apparent. But engagement is the long-term solution. (And when I say "long term" I mean I don't want this war to Ever be over.)"

What's scary is the man has a teensy weensy point beneath all the self-justifying gibberish - though it's not the most profound point in the word: Yes, societies can seem placid, but only because the people lack an outlet to express their real feelings; democratic elections allow them to express their real feelings; and after decades or generations of repression, sometimes those real feelings aren't what we might wish them to be.

Well, duh.

He sounds like a college freshperson who has just learned about the Marxist-Hegelian Dialectic and hasn't yet figured out how it fits into his own preconceived, totally ignorant, notions. Yet, this might rank as some kind of epiphany for him, since he had swallowed, hook line and sinker, the NPAC notion that invading Iraq and "giving it democracy" would spontaneously lead to a pro-Western, pro-American government and society.

sozzy gets the prize...

I heard him say today that if he had any doubt that the Dubai deal would weaken America he'd be against it, which seems to translate to Since I'm sure that the Dubai deal will weaken America I'm all for it!

"It's an interesting debate that's going to take place here in Washington, or is taking place in Washington: Do elections cause radicalism or empower radicals? My answer is, the status quo empowered radicals. This notion that somehow the Middle East was a safe place for the last 30 years -- because we didn't see, kind of, the turmoil that happens with elections meant we were safe. I just totally disagree with that, kind of the -- beneath the surface that appeared placid, the policymakers, was resentment and hatred and planning and plotting, all of which came home on September the 11th."

This has a very specific meaning. It means, "Anyone who is critical of what I have done is wrong."

Write that one down. It is also the specific meaning of almost everything else he's said. It's fairly remarkable that he actually has the inate ability to know his critics are wrong, even when he doesn't understand what they are saying. Uncanny, how he's able to know that...

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