April 22, 2002


Lying, then and now : What you can learn about a president from how he chooses to deceive you (Michael Kinsley, April 18, 2002, SLATE.COM)
If the truth was too precious to waste on politics for Bush I and a challenge to overcome for Clinton, for our current George Bush it is simply boring and uncool. Bush II administration lies are often so laughably obvious that you wonder why they bother. Until you realize: They haven't bothered. If telling the truth was less bother, they'd try that too. The characteristic Bush II form of dishonesty is to construct an alternative reality on some topic and to regard anyone who objects to it as a sniveling dweeb obsessed with "nuance," which the president of this class, I mean of the United States, has more important things to do than worry about. [...]

Alternative reality can be simple and sleek. That's one thing our Bush du jour likes about it. And simplicity is a genuine virtue in, for example, mobilizing a nation for war. It was quite effective for a while when Bush declared, after Sept. 11, that we were engaged in a Manichaean struggle with a single overarching enemy called terrorism. If anyone had told him it might be more complicated than that, Bush would have smelled nuance and sent the fellow on his way. But then Reality Classic intrudes. Ariel Sharon says: Hey, I'm fighting an all-out war against terrorism, too. You got a problem with that? And the answer is, yes, we do. But it's hard to say what our problem is without admitting that we're not engaged in a Manichaean
struggle with terrorism. American interests and values are more varied and complicated than that. Another inconvenience of traditional reality is that there can only be one of them at a time. There is no such limit on alternative realities. You can stash them around the house for use as needed, like six-packs in the good old days. So Bush can have one reality where battling terrorism is paramount and another reality where Israel must negotiate and compromise with the sponsors of suicide bombers. And if he can really juggle all these realities in his head without their bumping up against each other (in a condition known as "irony"), maybe it doesn't even count as dishonest.

It seems hard to believe that someone as supposedly intelligent as Michael Kinsley can really be this confused, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it is merely confusion rather than disingenuousness. He at least pretends here not to be able to reconcile the fact that we can consider Yassar Arafat evil yet still deal with him. There are of course plenty of evil nations that we have dealt with--the USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, France, etc.--and I don't recall Mr. Kinsley getting too worked up about it.

If Arafat can bring peace between Israel and Palestine, we'll deal with him. If he can't, he'll be dealt with. (That latter is actually the point at which Mr. Sharon will declare all out war. Israel right now is engaged in little more than a police action.) Regardless of which happens, Arafat will still be an evil man.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2002 1:27 PM
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