October 31, 2004

Why Can't Bush Admit Mistakes?

Yevgeny Vilensky sends in some cogitations on the issue here. Soundbite--the positively poisonous political climate plays a hand in Bush's retinence to do so too (particularly stemming from the aftermath of the 2000 election and concommitant attacks on Bush's very legitimacy as President). Look, Bush's stubborness and 'bubble' mentality is the bigger factor here and it would be good to get more of a Truman-like sense of the 'buck stops here' out of him (as Vilensky himself points out). But Vilensky's post is worth throwing in the mix too--particularly his musings about the impact of attacks on Bush's very legitimacy.

Another Gore-style contestation of the election, just on the heels of the last go-around, would prove quite harmful to American democracy. I hope either campaign thinks long and hard before contesting election results this time--unless there are truly legitimate reasons to cry foul. We are in danger of being over-lawyered at the very core of our most important political processes. Wouldn't it be ironic if our polity--a thriving democracy guaranteed by the most sophisticated legal regime in the world--were in danger of being consumed by legions of lawyers? We need more statesmanship from our senior lawyers if, say, Ohio is 4,000 votes apart and the electoral grievances appear more by way of 'hell let's give it a try to get our guy in'--rather than fundamental irregularities that have resulted in scuttling the people's vote materially. If the voting public begins to detect a pattern (fairly or unfairly) that their sovereignty is being denied them through judicial processes--one of the costs will be an increase in the noxiousness aimed at our leaders--stemming from an increasingly widespread belief that the power they wield is not legitimate. This is a dangerous phenemenon if it begins to become routinized. Party eminences--to the extent there are any that have broader civic horizons beyond rapacious partisanship--need to keep this in mind too early Wednesday morning if the election looks close.

Posted by Gregory at October 31, 2004 12:00 PM

Your point is well taken. We need less rancor and a good clean match. We've got a war on!

I think the other similarity to election 2000 is the weakness of both candidates. Jeff Jarvis had a list of things Bush coulda shoulda woulda done to put this election out of reach. And Kerry could have worked much harder to be credible on terrorism.

Posted by: gaw3 at October 31, 2004 01:37 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Greg, Bush rarely admits mistakes in public, but he corrects them anyway in private without calling attention to it.

Examples include the dismissal of Jay Garner, advancing the scheduled transfer of sovereignty to Iraq to a much earlier date, on de-Baathification, on the issue of Iraq's elections etc. etc...

Posted by: john marzan at October 31, 2004 01:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush doesn't admit mistakes in public for a very good reason: if he did the press would beat him over the head forever with any admissions. John has it exactly right, he and the rest of his administration corrects course if you watch what's happening not what they say. The press, being creatures of the keyboard not men of action (or any kind of ability) don't understand this. If any of these wordsmiths had ever spent some time doing something real, like fixing cars or building a house, they'd understand that changing the world is a lot more difficult than just changing a few words in an essay.

Posted by: Paul at October 31, 2004 01:50 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree, it's tough to admit mistakes when the partisan MSM and the angry democrats are after your neck and will use whatever admissions/ammunition you provide back at you.

If drezner and adesnik are that smart, they'd realize that too.

Posted by: john marzan at October 31, 2004 01:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Two words: troop levels. All else is window dressing.

Posted by: praktike at October 31, 2004 03:01 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Re: the legal wrangling over election results
Dear B.D.:
I would like you to consider the scenario, entirely plausible in my view, that a substantial number of citizens are denied their right to vote either directly (lost absentee ballots, registrations challenged) or indirectly (intimidation outside the polling places, challenges slowing the polling places). In that case, legal redress is necessary for protecting the democratic process, indeed is an intrinsic part of it. It will be a shame if such challenges are routinized, but is there an alternate remedy if tactics for disenfranchisement are widespread and themselves routine? My larger point: We should beware of arguments about legitimacy and partisanship -- about appearances and their effects -- when those arguments obscure more serious challenges to the democratic process. Your readers know how left-leaning bloggers feel about this question. How does a reasonable and civic-minded right-leaning blogger think about this issue in its wholeness?

Posted by: Peter at October 31, 2004 04:38 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm going to try very, very, very hard to stop posting comments on the internet -- but after this one, as drug addicts like to say.

So far it looks like I was completely wrong about the political impact of the UBL tape. I thought it would help the President's campaign, but the polls indicate otherwise. My political "instincts" are off, so it's a good thing I don't work in the field.

Predictions for Tuesday's outcome vary widely, which is understandable, because the data are conflicting so the outcome is unpredictable.

My personal prediction (for whatever it's worth, which is not much) is that President Bush will win about 49% of the popular vote, while Senator Kerry will win about 48% of the popular vote.

However, I also think that Senator Kerry will win about 273 electoral votes, while President Bush will win about 265 electoral votes.

This is also my favored outcome. I'll be very happy if Mr. Kerry loses the popular vote while winning the Electoral College vote and the U.S. Presidency, because all of the left-wing whining on the New York Times editorial pages -- "Our democracy is in danger!" and "Life isn't fair!" -- will suddenly come to an end.

Posted by: Arjun at October 31, 2004 06:00 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Many in this generation embrace Tantrum Politics and it is ripping society to pieces. These spoiled, irresponsible punks believe they have a right to whatever they want and absolutely refuse to consider any compromise. We see this behavior in the home, the workplace and in public. Divorce, lousy work ethics and coarse behavior are just a few manifestations of how low American ethics have truly become. Much of America is a Jerry Springer show.

The past four years and this election are a mirror of American society and it will get worse. How can a leader lead when many citizens refuse to be responsible or compromise? How can we debate issues when we revile the speaker? Admitting any mistake is like handing your attacker a bigger club to bludgeon you senseless.

American society is breaking apart and lawyers aren't helping. In too many cases, the crime is no longer the issue; the case is decided by the skin color of the defendent or the behavior of the victim. Right and wrong, good and evil or the requirements of civil society are irrelevant. Elections are now fair game for selfish, spoiled punks who believe they have a right to everything. Scream loud enough and mommy and daddy will let you have your way.

Half of America is unruleable...and it will get worse unless the adults start taking the punks to the woodshed.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at October 31, 2004 08:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

praktike, re: your two words, "troop levels". point well taken. tell me, however, not that we've all had a chance to learn from that mistake--what is john kerry proposing to do on troop levels in iraq? raise them? of course not. it would infuriate the wide dean-moore-kucinich wings of the party. we can be angry that dubya never sent in enough--but he is likelier to at least maintain adequate (if barely) levels now. if it weren't so, why is elite liberal iraqi opinion hoping for a bush victory (see larry kaplan's excellent piece in the WSJ).

Posted by: greg at October 31, 2004 09:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

subsitute "now" for "not" in comment above. thax

Posted by: greg at October 31, 2004 11:28 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Kerry has an official plan to add 40,000 to the army --- of course, I'm not sure how he's going to manage that given falling recruitment levels. But, at least that's his official stance.

Here's one Kerry supporter who was opposed to the war who thinks Kerry should probably increase troop levels in Iraq in the short term.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 1, 2004 01:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I'm fairly contemptuous of arm-chair generals and Kerry for pretending to know what the military needs, how the military is prosecuting the war and frankly using the military for partisan political purposes. We have the most professional military the world has ever known and for civilians to claim that the military either doesn't have enough troops or is not not using the correct strategies is disrespectful and ignorant. If you want to be a general either join the military or get a video game.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at November 1, 2004 01:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>>>Kerry has an official plan to add 40,000 to the army

But he said he doesn't plan to send them to iraq...

Posted by: john marzan at November 1, 2004 01:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>the most professional military

I'm a great admirer of how well the military bounced back after the debacle of Vietnam; it was generals like Powell and his colleagues who led the charge to rebuild the military and devise a new strategic posture which served us very well in the 90's. Our spectacular military successes were do in no small part to those principles. Among those principles were the Powell Doctrine, which states, in part, always go in with overwhelming force. We failed to do so in this conflict.

>join the military

Puh-leeze. Our current military strategy was designed primarily by civilians who never served in the military. I'd be more than happy if the civilians had gotten out of the way of the military brass who wanted to use more troops and take longer to prepare. I thought that was the right strategy in 1991 and we failed to follow it the second time around.

>how the military is prosecuting the war

The logic of your statement is that civilians should never criticize the military, no matter what it does. So, how are we, as citizens, to evaluate the military performance of our government? By your logic, we ought to not bother to evaluate it at all.

But the fact is, what we're evaluating is primarily the civilian leadership far less that the military leadership. In Vietnam the civilians micromanaged the military, and here too, civilians have done the same, again. If only we'd followed the Powell Doctrine before getting ourselves into this conflict.

But I am not making a partisan critique. I supported the first Gulf War (though I think we should have taken out Saddam then ... the situation had changed so radically that I disagreed with the second attempt). I believe Bush Sr. was better at foreign policy than Clinton. Etc. I am willing to see flaws in people on "my" side and virtues in people on the "other" side. Are you?

If you only think military people have a right to critique military strategy (which, to me, strikes against the whole point of a civilian-led military and a democratic society), then what about the opinion of, say, General Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said the we should "never go to war without a comprehensive plan for how to secure the peace once military victory has been won." Or Air Force General Merrill "Tony" McPeak, who said, "It's not that I'm against war. I'm against stupidity. We couldn't have sat around the kitchen table and said, 'Let's do this in a more stupid way.' "

Posted by: Mitsu at November 1, 2004 03:13 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>But he said he doesn't plan to send them to iraq...

Yeah, that's what he says now, but personally, I think he should send them. It's not clear to me that the "anti-war" crowd would necessarily ditch Kerry if he did it. I mean, Kerry would, I think, politically, have a much easier time of doing that than Bush would if he were reelected. The Kucinich crowd is a relatively small fraction of his base, and he's got four years to make them happy -- stabilizing Iraq now is a higher priority.

Once he gets into office he's going to clean house at the Pentagon and get some real advice from serious generals --- and I think some of them are going to tell him that they need more troops. In which case, maybe he'll flip-flop yet again and decide to send more to Iraq. He may not have a choice, if instability continues at current levels.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 1, 2004 03:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, Greg, but round 1 was already soundly one by the "other side" of the voting integrity issue: motor voter and similar things that make actually verifying that someone is a legitimate votor difficult. How can we not have electoral chaos in such an enviroment?

Posted by: Kirk Parker at November 1, 2004 03:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "debacle" of Vietnam can be squarely laid on the doorstep of Leftist media and a Democratic Congress (as well as self-serving traitors like John Forbes Kerry).

OIF was not "designed", it was planned by military staff who requested and got what it asked for (unless of course YOU are prepared to call General Tommy Franks a liar).

I don't believe I am qualified to evaluate the prosecution of the war and I doubt you are either. Neither of us are trained....get it? Got a beef....write your Congressman.

And how....pray tell...did "the situation change so radically" that you feel that Saddam should not be "taken out"? Did Saddam comply with the ceasefire terms? Or do you just have a "thing" against GW Bush?

The retired Generals Shalikashvili and McPeak are entitled to their opinions. But they are no longer in charge. Most of the "old Army" were so reluctant to do anything, short of deploying the entire armed forces of the US, that we missed chances of killing Bin Laden and friends under the Clinton debauchery.

One side note with regard to General Shalikashvili's quote. In the words to General Patton, you don't go to war to win peace, "you go to war to kill the enemy". Peace comes when you have killed enough of the enemy and we aren't done.

Kerry will be defeated and if he did win the presidency he wouldn't get to do what he wants because Al Qaida defines the game. He can either fight them or run away. John blows whichever way the wind blows, so it all depends who yells loudest on any given day.

Cutest Democrat martial quote in 2004 on any blog, anywhere:

"clean house at the Pentagon and get some real advice from serious generals"

Er...son...I can guarantee you that ALL of the generals are serious professionals who give...er...real advice.

Bush will be re-elected with 280 or there-abouts electoral votes. God bless the President, his staff, our most excellent military professionals and America.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at November 1, 2004 04:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

>Tommy Franks

The reason Tommy Franks "designed" the battle plan was because Rumsfeld hand-picked him as he was sympathetic to Rumsfeld's preconceived ideas. The war plan was Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz's baby from the beginning; he just found someone willing to fill in the details. Yes, we all know the plan worked in the initial phase of the war. The problems were afterwards.

Of course things always go wrong in war. But things did not have to go this wrong. Consider this:



The White House knew all along, for example, that enormous quantities of dangerous nuclear materials were at the Tuwaitha nuclear storage facility near Baghdad, sealed and accounted for by the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency. Soon after the war began, the IAEA warned the White House that it should strive to secure the facility quickly. When word of looting at the site began to leak out through the international media, the IAEA again warned the White House.

The looting, however, went on for more than two weeks before the U.S. took any action. When the site was finally secured and U.S. authorities permitted a brief inspection by IAEA officials, the inspectors were inexplicably forbidden to check the status of highly radioactive materials that could be used in dirty bombs. Many of these materials are now unaccounted for. What the inspectors were allowed to verify is how much uranium is now missing: at least 22 pounds.

Other looted nuclear sites include the Baghdad Nuclear Research Center, where significant quantities of partially enriched uranium, cesium, strontium and cobalt were stored. U.S. survey teams have not been able to determine how many of those materials are missing.

Small amount, huge effect

It takes only a small amount of such materials to arm a dirty bomb. The 22 pounds of missing uranium, for example, could arm a device that could shut down Capitol Hill or the New York Stock Exchange for weeks, if not months.

Properly built and encased with radioactive materials, a dirty bomb can kill thousands and render large areas uninhabitable for months or years. While their destructive capacity pales in comparison to that of actual nuclear bombs, a dirty bomb's capacity to inflict terror should never be underestimated.

[end quote]

>do you just have a "thing" against GW Bush?

I fail to see why some of you seem to think that any criticism of the President must come from some sort of bias. Doesn't the fact that I just said I admired the foreign policy instincts of Bush Sr. mean that I don't simply judge presidents on the basis of party affiliation? What about the parade of thoughtful former Bush supporters who have turned against the president?

No, the facts are quite enough to lead me to evaluate the president and the civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 1, 2004 05:56 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Er....quote from Brett Wagner's CSSS mission statement:

"While gay and lesbian human rights violations have long been a topic of interest among gay-related groups and various human rights organizations, never has a project been attempted at the strategic level to help bring about a definitive change in U.S. foreign policy by actually developing, formulating, and helping to implement a more "gay-friendly" foreign policy. Until now."

You're quoting the DEMOCRAT, running for Congress, who wants a "gay-friendly foreign policy". That should scare the hell out of both Saddam and Al Qaida....what does he propose? Queer eye for straight Islamic fascist?

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at November 1, 2004 06:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


Ok....I recovered from the Wagner/CCSS foreign policy thing now....couldn't think from laughing so hard.

Now wait a minute...what's it gonna be...first you say there was no reason to invade (because no WMD) then you condemn the US because the WMD wasn't secured??? Unless you're John Kerry, you can't have it both ways....was there WMD or not? If so, why did Al Baradei leave nuclear material there? Are you trying to say that the Evil-Chimp is trying to get us all killed? Bush ordered the troops to stay away from WMD sites so they would intentionally be looted? So Al Qaida would get imaginary stuff that was never there to kill Americans? On purpose? Le Horror. This reads like a Michel Moore script. I'm confused.

Posted by: lugh lampfhota at November 1, 2004 07:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

That is a total irrelevant non-sequitur.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 1, 2004 07:08 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Just to clarify, the "non-sequitur" was referring to the CCSS post; your last post slipped in.

I've outlined my general arguments regarding the strategic wisdom of going into Iraq in another comments thread; I won't elaborate here on that, except to briefly say that my reasons for opposing the war in Iraq are primarily related to my belief that Saddam was adequately contained by inspections and he had little or no reason to give nuclear material, WMDs, or anything else to terrorists, and many reasons not to (for example, being afraid they'd use them against him.) More importantly, I have never argued that Saddam was no threat at all, but rather that he was a relatively minor threat compared to others, in particular North Korea, and we should have focused on other threats first.

So yes, before, when we had inspections, the nuclear material, etc., was contained.

But, regardless of whether or not you agree with the decision to go to war... IF you're going to go to war, you sure as hell better secure the major sites that the IAEA had under surveillance. It's rather absurd to go to war to prevent WMDs from falling into terrorist hands, and then leave known sites unguarded for weeks. Maybe that seems logical to you --- it doesn't to me.

Posted by: Mitsu at November 1, 2004 07:15 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush did admit a mistake once: the infamous 16 words in the SOTU address. His emenies in politics and the press then proceeded to mercilessly beat him about the head with it for weeks on end.

He's not stupid, so he didn't do it again.

If his enemies are going to respond to a good-faith admission with bad-faith exploitation then he just cannot permit them another opportunity, if only for the sake of keeping a reasonably well-functioning administration.

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