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The Age of Embarrassment
January 4, 2001 4:22 PM   Subscribe

The Age of Embarrassment "Bush’s cabinet choices are an assortment of right-wing ideologues, fat cats, has-beens, wannabees, and plain ol’ opportunists. There’s not a visionary in the bunch." Truth? Or liberal hysteria?
posted by owillis (14 comments total)

 
C'mon, kids, let's be fair: substitute "left-wing" for the hyphenated eighth word and you've got a pretty accurate assessment of President Clinton's cabinet... Who with the real talent and vision that the pundit seems to be looking for would even bother with such a thankless job? And besides, other than Ashcroft - about whom I am really undecided myself - there's no one in the whole group who could be even remotely considered "controversial" (no matter how much Rev Jackson goes on CNN and tries to mix it up with Christine Whitman...).
posted by m.polo at 4:36 PM on January 4, 2001


I'd say Condi Rice is a pretty controversial figure, to name one.
posted by snakey at 4:44 PM on January 4, 2001


From distant memory, Clinton had to reshuffle his cabinet after a year. This happens. New ministers/secretaries sometimes don't fit into their departments. In Britain, that's usually not a problem, since the civil servants keep things running in spite of the incompetants at their helm; my only worry would be that the transition in the US brings a more widespread change of personnel.

(And look, from experience: we've all worked with -- or rather, around -- managers whose leadership leaves something to be desired. Very rarely, things go pear-shaped, but normally not.)
posted by holgate at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2001


Bruce Babbitt was a pretty remarkable Clinton Cabinet member.

Among Bush's appointees, I think Gale Norton could be considered controversial, given her past association with James Watt and membership in numerous property-rights groups.
posted by rcade at 6:03 PM on January 4, 2001


John H. Fund is a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board...

Regardless of whether the supposed "left-wing hysteria" is justified, how can one take a member of the Wall St. Journal's editorial board seriously? In my mind, the editorial pages of the Wall St. Journal are about two steps away from being classified as deluded ravings.

I'll quote a 1998 editorial in Salon:
How did a great national newspaper allow its editorial pages to be hijacked, for many years now, by far-right propagandists? During the Clinton presidency, these propagandists have turned the Journal's pages over to some of the most noxious sludge that has ever been dredged up in American politics...
Or maybe Vince Foster's suicide note: "The Wall Street Journal's Editors lie without consequence."

So it's not surprising that he distorts Ronnie White's beliefs about the death penalty; to quote an (obviously biased, but factually accurate) Amnesty International report, "Judge White had affirmed the death sentence in 41 out of 59 capital cases that had come before him, and in 10 of the 18 cases in which he voted against the death sentence, he was in the company of a unanimous court." This is the man that John Ashcroft called "pro-criminal".

George W. Bush will probably get the cabinet he wants; I think that he should, in fact -- none of his nominees have approached the level of toxicity of an Ed Meese or a James Watt, much less Robert Bork, and I think that a President should be allowed the advisors he or she wants, barring incompetence or maleficence. And certainly, as with all things political, a lot of this is posturing. But to claim that liberals are once again crying wolf over nothing is self-serving and, I think, factually incorrect. (To say nothing of the irony of Republicans screaming about Democrats potentially playing politics with nominations after they squashed dozens of nominations to the federal bench.)
posted by snarkout at 6:10 PM on January 4, 2001


A lot of conservative Republicans aren't terribly happy with his appointments either. If he's pissing off extremists from both sides of the aisle equally, then I think that's a pretty good indication he's hitting the sweet spot.

And I should point out that there's a fair amount of irony inherent in Salon bashing the WSJ for producing "some of the most noxious sludge that has ever been dredged up in American politics." If you want divisive partisan bile bordering on slander, just read a couple of Gary Kamiya's recent editorials.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:25 PM on January 4, 2001


Yup, I second Condi Rice. Bush scores points for nominating a black woman... and it doesn't hurt that she's a Big Oil buddy who is so entrenched she actually has an oil tanker named after her. (The Condoleezza Rice)
posted by fleener at 7:46 PM on January 4, 2001


I think that a President should be allowed the advisors he or she wants, barring incompetence or maleficence

Absolutely. While personally I'm quite worried about what Gale Norton will do to the Interior department, I suppose that as long as Congress delegated that authority to the executive and that the bureaucracy is following Congress's rules, then that's how it should work, for better or worse.

My opinion is that unless the person is obviously unqualified or is criminally questionable, the Senate should approve the nominees. Same for federal judges.

I mean, the point is that the President gets to execute the laws. As long as he's following the rules set down by the legislature, fair is fair. That doesn't mean he'll make the right choice.
posted by daveadams at 9:42 PM on January 4, 2001


how can one take a member of the Wall St. Journal's editorial board seriously?

Because it's illogical and fallacious to do otherwise. The fact that person A is a member of a group B that you find distasteful, does not mean his/her ideas or statements are false. To believe so is called a "genetic fallacy."

You've got some of what's called "appealing to ridicule" in there as well. You can say their editorial page is "about two steps away from being classified as deluded ravings," but saying that does not give your opinion about members of the paper's editorial board any heft whatsoever.
posted by aaron at 11:08 PM on January 4, 2001



If he's pissing off extremists from both sides of the aisle equally, then I think that's a pretty good indication he's hitting the sweet spot. Acting as if politics involved arguments between contrary points of view – what do those damned extremists think they’re doing?

[S]ubstitute "left-wing" for the hyphenated eighth word and you've got a pretty accurate assessment of President Clinton's cabinet... Left-wing ideologues? In a Clinton cabinet? Come on!

I'd say Condi Rice is a pretty controversial figure... I’ll third that – the rest of the world is shitting bricks already.

posted by Mocata at 3:11 AM on January 5, 2001


I did say that "in my mind" the Journal's editorial boards are nearing complete dithering worthlessness. Unfortunately, I can't point to any examples of terrible Journal editorials, as the WSJ is a paid-subscription site. I'll point you to a FAIR piece, but I'm sure you won't take their word for it either.

Because it's illogical and fallacious to do otherwise... Why? Why is it fallacious to dismiss as unreliable the opinions of somebody who's been on the editorial board of an editorial page that spent months reaching at straws to convince us that there was something shady about Vince Foster's suicide? Why is it illogical to want to ignore Mr. Fund's writings, given that he's participated in what I see as Journal editorial page's decline? Why should I take him at his word when he ghostwrote the factually inaccurate The Way Things Ought to Be?

I'm trying not to engage in an ad hominem attack; there may well be some truth to the ideas that Mr. Fund is putting forth -- I think if you'll reread my post, you'll see that I'm at least partially in agreement with him. But I'm not going to take him seriously, especially after he distorted Judge White's record to make Ashcroft look better.

(And yeah, I'll freely admit that Salon runs some pretty bad stuff sometimes.)

Daveadams -- I disagree with you about the judges; as judges aren't serving in the executive branch under the President, I think there are reasons why one might wish to more closely scrutinize appointees to the federal bench.
posted by snarkout at 7:43 AM on January 5, 2001


Unfortunately, I can't point to any examples of terrible Journal editorials, as the WSJ is a paid-subscription site.

Not the editorials and columns -- they're published for free at OpinionJournal.Com. They're good for laughs, and Peggy Noonan occasionally makes a good point amid all of her syrupy sentiment. They also have a token liberal, Albert R. Hunt.
posted by rcade at 8:38 AM on January 5, 2001


I think it would be really cool if he would nominate ZZ TOP to his cabinet somehow.
posted by ooklah at 10:02 AM on January 5, 2001


Have mercy.
posted by kindall at 10:35 AM on January 5, 2001


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