Nuance, what don't Republicans get it?
March 6, 2004 8:29 AM   Subscribe

He couldn't stand the complexity of the facts or the ambiguity of intelligence. William Saletan of Slate suggests an interesting strategy to oust Bush. Will it work? Should John Kerry take Saletan's advice? Republicans, what say you?
posted by Bag Man (25 comments total)

 
This post may very well be toast -- it's just a link to a current op-ed and a call for comments.

That said, the column is really just a way to spin the facts in a way that might be palable to swing voters who went with Bush last time. It's not, IMO, very accurate. The agenda that has so recklessly been pursued is not so much his as that of the cadre of advisers who really run the administration. Bush's failing is not that he's been singleminded in pursuit of his aims as that he's been mindless in following the directives of his backers. A President should own his actions, should have some of his own words and thoughts in his speeches -- should at least understand them.

He simply has no thought for consequences and no personal grasp of what goes on in the country and in the world; he's probably more of a figurehead and a front man than any President in living memory. Even with Reagan, actor that he was, gave a clear sense that the overall tenor and aims of his administration were his own, that he understood them at least in a general sense, took ownership of them and fed some of himself back into the great machine that is the Presidency. With Bush, it's clear not so much that the ship of state has a reckless driver at the helm as that the backseat drivers are completely in control and that he's doing what they say without so much as (if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor) looking at the road.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:05 AM on March 6, 2004


Cleverly written, and hard to disagree with, except tactically: calling someone too muchof a leader can reinforce the image of centrist Democrats as being wishy-washy internationalists.

If Kerry makes the election a referendum on Bush's honesty, Bush will win.

I'm just not so sure that giving up the tactic of pointing out Bush's lies is a good idea.
posted by kozad at 9:09 AM on March 6, 2004


How many simple photoshopped photos of John Kerry with a big, black letter "L" on his forehead will ruin him?

Most politics is not rocket science.

Edmund Muskie was derailed by someone calling him a "Dumb Polack" (a reference to the sitcom "All in the Family".)

When George Smathers beat Claude Pepper in Florida's 1950 Democratic senatorial primary, he did so in part by accusing his opponent of being the brother of a "thespian" who had "matriculated with coeds" while in college.

It always cracks me up when the media says the public disdain dirty campaigns. The public LOVES dirty campaigns. If they're done well.

Usually it is the politician who DOES have something to hide, where the attack ad is half-truthful, who complains the most about dirty campaigning. Use this fact as a guide.
When a politician really whines about dirty campaigning, assume that he actually *is* dirty.
posted by kablam at 9:22 AM on March 6, 2004


Not sure it will work. The point when conviction turns into pig-headedness is dependant on the viewer. You may think you've got an example of pig-headedness, but many people may think of this as courage of his conviction.

Bush could deflate the whole campaign with the phrase, "He seems to have an issue with people who stick to their guns"
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 9:25 AM on March 6, 2004


"I'm just not so sure that giving up the tactic of pointing out Bush's lies is a good idea."

Maybe so, but I've found such language (or perceived language, for that matter) have been met with knee-jerk reactions from moderates and conservatives.

There's so many things to point out in this election, I think there may well be something to pointing out that Bush can't handle this job. It's idiotic to point only to a disaster like 9-11 to justify whether he's a good president or not. (not touching on whether he did well or not in that moment. Short of crying on air, how could a president blow a moment like that?)

The fact that Enron scandals are getting vicariously avenged through 'small-time' players like Martha Stewart is shameful, and that Bush used the Enron jet to campaign for president carries no water, why? The fact that the company which became Enron had ties to the Bushes since 1985 means nothing?

I have a hard time allying myself with the Democrats, who can't seemingly get a single independent counsel called on matters which matter much more to the average person in this country (energy rates). Powerlessness isn't exactly the best position to ask for voters' help...
posted by Busithoth at 9:29 AM on March 6, 2004


I have a little strategy of my own. It involves Martha Stewart (scroll down to last section of comment and also further down thread for a couple more comment-addendum).
posted by troutfishing at 9:47 AM on March 6, 2004


I find it unpersuasive.
posted by rushmc at 10:30 AM on March 6, 2004


To me, it quite simply sums up what i've been thinking for for years. I've said so many times that I'm getting horse: Bush is incompetant. Having a vision, especially one as boldly offensive as his can be, does not make one a leader. He came into office with two objectives, and he has been resolute about them: Take down Saddam, and get reelected (the two things daddy couldn't do). Is this the steady leadership we want, when all things are changing around us? I think not.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:35 AM on March 6, 2004


I think it won't work. It's too complex of a message to digest -- this message is about complexity and a nuanced view of the world, while Bush's is simple and fits the first glance facts.

Kerry will face a tougher road than his primary victories imply. But I think if he sticks to some simple messages, he can do it:

(1) Defense: We didn't need to go to war, or if we did, Iraq wasn't the place we needed to do it. We need someone wise enough to pick the right conflicts. Someone who really understands what they're sending troops into. And when we do, we need an administration that's better at working with the international community. The current administration just thinks it can't be done because they can't do it.

(2) Economics: defensively, he will have to come up with a plausible line that suggests he's at least somewhat financially conservative. Other than that, run a populist campaign. Appeal to fiscal responsibility. Appeal to labor. Attack Bush where he avoided the free market -- like the steel tariffs and no-bid contracts for Iraqi reconstruction. Promise to keep tax cuts for labor. Promise to roll back tax cuts that only benefit the already priviledged.
posted by namespan at 11:45 AM on March 6, 2004


Here's my wild card strategy: Get some big-name Republican* to turn tailcoat and denounce the party of Bush. Put him on the ticket...Wildness ensues!!! Subliminal message? Look how bad Bush stinks-- even hardcore GOPs are abandoning ship.

*I can only really envision this with Guiliani. Dartgun, maybe?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 12:09 PM on March 6, 2004


What about this (and mind you, at this time I'm planning on voting for Bush, although he could change that...):

After 9/11, and after the intelligence failures WRT Iraq, not a single person of any high office was let go. Feel free to correct me, of course - and, if I'm wrong, I'm sure someone here will...

Aren't some of his mantras "accountability" and "responsibility"?

I'm not saying that he practices this, but the overall theme of his administration (versus the previous one) is "the adults are in charge again." Isn't one of the precepts of this theme that you are accountable if you screw up?

I know, I know - "He says these things and they have no meaning, they never intended to do that." But what I'm asking is if this could be used against him.

Mind you, I'm not saying this to get the bush-haters (or bush-lovers) frothing - I'm seriously asking the opinions of others here. Would this hold any traction if presented properly? And is Kerry and company capable of presenting this in a useful way?
posted by hadashi at 12:39 PM on March 6, 2004


My best guess: Nader will ltake some votes from Kerry but Kerry will win popular vote and then will lose to Bush because of electoral college. Arnie will say that first we change constitution to allow him to run and then perhaps change it to rid the nation of outdated electoral college, while Xtian right screams about a gay marriage prohibition in the constitution. And so it goes...
posted by Postroad at 1:22 PM on March 6, 2004


then will lose to Bush because of electoral college

/derail
If this is true, then the electoral college will actually be doing its job.

The electoral college doesn't need to be abolished. It could probably be significanlty improved, however, if states split their electoral votes in some way proportional to a population vote. This way, we come closer to popular representation while still preserving some of the balance that keeps less populated states from being totally marginalized.

Also, we need changes like approval voting probably more than we need this other stuff.
/end derail
posted by namespan at 1:44 PM on March 6, 2004


There's a problem here: Bush has no grand vision. I guess if you uncritically listen to his rhetoric you might think that, but I don't think his words have much to do with reality.

He has three cogs in his brain when policy comes up:

1. What will corporate America think?

2. What will my extremist religious base think?

3. What will the neo-cons think?

Exposing Bush as a fraud, a liar, a puppet, and as a very ignorant man who is not in charge of his own presidency is the way to go.
posted by skallas at 2:33 PM on March 6, 2004


Bush has no grand vision. I guess if you uncritically listen to his rhetoric you might think that, but I don't think his words have much to do with reality.

Just curious, but aside from winning in November, what exactly is Kerry's "grand vision" that you speak of?

Cause, so far all I have heard from John is how bad Bush is...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 3:47 PM on March 6, 2004


Well, all Bush has to do is talk about how much progress has been made in the fight against steriod abuse among athletes, and the presidency is a sure thing.

I just hope nobody brings it up.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:07 PM on March 6, 2004


i would like to see mccain turn on bush. i'd also love it if colin powell would finally have his nervous breakdown, oh, about september, and spill his guts. you know he's dying to.
posted by centrs at 8:29 PM on March 6, 2004


if states split their electoral votes in some way proportional to a population vote

How would that would be different from simply using the popular vote outright?
posted by 4easypayments at 9:08 PM on March 6, 2004


i'd also love it if colin powell would finally have his nervous breakdown, oh, about september, and spill his guts. you know he's dying to.

He's only dying his 722nd death, so he has a few to go.
posted by rushmc at 9:20 PM on March 6, 2004


Resident nutjob chiming in here . . .

I think this is absolutely out of line. Hey if we're going to play politics then let's get dirty. Don't stop telling about his lies, that's half the game. The other half is making up lies about Bush. That could be a good gambit that the democrats are unwilling to take.
posted by velacroix at 11:24 PM on March 6, 2004


How would that would be different from simply using the popular vote outright?

Every state gets a number of electoral votes equal to the number of senators + reps they have. For some of the smaller states (such as the one I grew up in), that effectively doubles their representation, though still a drop in the bucket compared to, say, California or New York.
posted by namespan at 11:25 PM on March 6, 2004


The smart thing would be for the Dems to do what the GOP already does: have the candidate stay above the fray as much as possible, but have other party members constantly sniping at the opposition candidate to keep him off balance.

Imagine if the Dems actually coordinated and appointed some senators and ex-candidates to harp on one issue each. Dean could be the "where are the WMDs?" guy. Edwards could be the "where are the jobs?" guy. McCleland could be the "Bush was AWOL" guy. Graham could be the "faith-based intelligence" guy. Add in people to harp on Cheney's energy commission, Valerie Plame, etc, and Bush would always, always, be playing defense, and unable to drive the hot issues or how they are perceived.
posted by adamrice at 11:46 AM on March 7, 2004


Every state gets a number of electoral votes equal to the number of senators + reps they have. For some of the smaller states (such as the one I grew up in), that effectively doubles their representation, though still a drop in the bucket compared to, say, California or New York.

Yeah, as a voter in California, I think it's only fair for voters in Wyoming (a state with ONE congressional district) to have nearly three-times the voice in the Presidential election than I have. And I'm so sorry I voted in the Super Tuesday Primary early, before the media decided that the Eastern States made California's results moot. Can I share a secret here? America does NOT have the world's best electoral system. And, while I expect the Homeland Security Department to come knocking on my door for saying this, we need to abolish the whole thing and start over.
posted by wendell at 1:14 PM on March 7, 2004


Just curious, but aside from winning in November, what exactly is Kerry's "grand vision" that you speak of?

The media has done a poor of coving Kerry's vision. My guess is that Republicans just won't let this info hit the airwaves. I'd check Kerry's website, which includes a comprehensive plan on national security. Guess my bias yet? Nonetheless, the media is not reporting on Kerry's plans, just his "Bush is bad" message.

Don't forget, that his election is about the job Bush has done. His job is up and don't think he should be rehired. What Kerry might do is only secondary.
posted by Bag Man at 12:22 PM on March 8, 2004


Yeah, as a voter in California, I think it's only fair for voters in Wyoming (a state with ONE congressional district) to have nearly three-times the voice in the Presidential election than I have.

I've beaten this issue with a dead horse several times in the past, but the reasons why this is good are well known and tied to the main reason we have a bicameral legislature in the first place: small states fear the tyranny of the majority, large states fear the tyranny of the minority. The system we've got is a compromise that gives Wyoming enough standing in the political system to be able to mount a serious resistance if enough populous states decide that's where the nuclear waste or missile silos should go whether they like it or not, or if Califonian's decide the rest of the non-coastal west is just what the Colorado flows through to get to them. Without something like this, it's easy to turn less populous areas into nothing but colonies for the more.
posted by namespan at 9:45 PM on March 8, 2004


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