Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Little Stupid, Big Stupid

This afternoon I was listening to a podcast of yesterday's Al Franken Show, which featured an hour-long interview with Peter W. Galbraith, son of the revered economist John Kenneth Galbraith, a Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control & Nonproliferation, former US Ambassador to Croatia during the Bosnia conflict, and now author of the new book, The End of Iraq : How American Incompetence Created a War Without End.

It's a bit lazy, I think, simply to dismiss the Current Occupant as box-of-rocks dumb. The stumbling, clumsy language, the frat-boy snigger, the nauseating, phony folksiness -- these traits disarm, they disguise, they even excuse the frightful moral defects that the man possesses. One's reminded how Ronald Reagan's lumbering, bovine stupidity was explained away by his apologists as a Management Style: Sure, he's as thick as an oak plank, but he hires the right people, don't you know, lets them do their jobs. Doesn't interfere. Gotta admire a good manager.

So when fresh evidence of the man's appalling intellectual shortcomings comes to light, a kind of conflict is set up in the head. You remember how comedic ridicule of his casual inarticulacy serves to call attention away from the frank evil that he commits: In many minds, the Little Stupid of "I'm the Decider" serves to overshadow the Big Stupid of the occupation of Iraq. It's when Big Stupid and Little Stupid declare themselves simultaneously that it becomes horrifyingly clear just how deep is the shit we're in.

Here's the exchange that triggers this thought:
Franken: I want to get to this story that you tell. Why don't you tell it? It's three Iraqi Americans [visiting the White House in January 2003] -- are they all exiles...?

Galbraith: They are all exiles, and they include Hatam Muqlis [sp?], who's a lawyer from Indianapolis, it includes Kanan Makiya, a terrific guy who wrote one of the very first exposés of the crimes of the Saddam Hussein regime, called The Republic of Fear, and Rend Rahim Francke, who later became the first Iraqi ambassador -- or, technically, representative -- to the United States after Saddam was overthrown.

Anyhow, they're gathered in the White House in January of 2003 [...] and Bush has asked them to tell their stories, and they do, and then what begins is a discussion of what is Iraq going to be like after Saddam is overthrown. And they start talking as anybody would, about the Sunnis and the Shi'ites. And it becomes clear to them that Bush has no clue what they're talking about, and eventually he says, at least according to one of them, "Sunnis? Shi'ites? I thought the Iraqis were Muslims."
OK, let's unpack that, as they say. The son of George Herbert Walker Bush -- who encouraged the Shi'ite uprising against Saddam in 1991 following the first Gulf War and who stood idly by as that uprising was brutally crushed by Saddam (a Sunni), resulting in the deaths of literally hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites, men, women and children as our troops were ordered to stand by within earshot of the slaughter -- was so intellectually disengaged at this crucial turning point in his country's history as to be utterly ignorant of the recent bloody history of a country that he intended to unilaterally invade six weeks thence, unable to discern between -- no, unable to even identify -- two of the three primary religio-ethnic groups that made up that country.

His own father. He couldn't even be bothered to read the newspaper during the presidency of his own goddamned father.

Little Stupid, meet Big Stupid.

Lazy-rich-guy-who-finds-homework-beneath-him, meet Worst President in the History of the United States of America.


helmut said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
helmut said...

Sorry - deleted the first one for incomprehsenible typos....

Nice post, Ned.

I agree. The problem with the moron-Bush claim is that it deflects criticism of what are heinous actions, and sets aside his moral responsibility for the deep shit we're in. The belief that humans are Forrest Gump-like characters where one is either basically good or not regardless of one's actions doesn't wash in ethics. It's an implicit mystical anti-intellectual claim that morality and ethics are not about serious deliberation and the cultivation of appropriate moral habits (which requires constant deliberation). That view is precisely what lets Bush off the hook.

The guy is anti-intellectual, uncurious, and foolish, but he's also rotten to the core.

Linkmeister said...

I could live with "rotten to the core" except that he's bought into the worldview of several others (Cheney/Rumsfeld) who are equally rotten, and that worldview is going to have a lasting effect on this country for the next fifty to one hundred years.

helmut said...

Oh, I'll gladly say that others are rotten to the core. Cheney is the dark side incarnate.

But it also takes Bush off the hook to say he's a puppet of others' evil plans. The guy makes decisions, he's the decider, and we ought to hold him to that.

And... one should wear knee-high socks so as not to get those grztyx on oneself.

MichaelBains said...

As you say early on, Neddy, can he really be that dumb???

Methinks, yes.

Otherwise he is more Evil than ... sheesh..! It's just too hard to tell.

Regardless, Helmut and LM are spot on that he and his handlers are despicable examples of UnEnlightened Self-Interest at its worst.

Kevin Wolf said...

Didn't something about this White House incident come out in the press (or somewhere, anywhere) at the time? It sounds mighty familiar.

The Reagan comparison is apt. Was it not Reagan who was asked his reaction to an article in Foreign Policy only to have it revealed that he had no idea what that was? A publication, you say? Really?

As in the case of the Gipper, Junior is being let off the hook for his crimes because, aw shucks, he don't pay no mind to all them details - he don't have to.

Our downward spiral started in 1980. May Bush burn in whatever hell Reagan surely ended up in.

The Viscount LaCarte said...

American culture is anti-intellectual - My daddy didn't need no book learnin'! I believe that this is not only recognized by the plutocracy, I think it is cultivated and exploited by them - hence "Little Big Stupid."

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken

David Harmon said...

He's benefited greatly from liberal "courtesy", often expressed as: "never attribute to malice what can adequately be explained by stupidity".

But as I've said elsewhere, the ShrubCo administration has inspired me to coin a new phrase in response to that: "Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is *indistinguishable* from malice".

Decatur Dem said...

"Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is *indistinguishable* from malice".
Especially in combination with an absolute certainty that one's view is not only right, it is the only view that is to be discussed. This certainty is usually associated with religious zealotry or ideological fervor, which absolve the zealot of any obligation to think through, or re-think, one's decisions and their consequences. Indeed, analytical thought and reflection are usually discouraged. As the bumper sticker has it, "God Said It, I Believe It, And That Settles It!"

Devil's Rancher said...

Let it be known that the Oak Planks take umbrage with the smearing, by association, of their density. I'd like to apologize to all Oak Planks who read this post for unfaily equating them to Our Leader.