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Bush Recalibration

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mike whatley
12:28 PM ET (US)

Relax. Recall Jon Katz's essay in Wired a few years ago? "The Post Political Digital Elite". Reread it.

If you are to be depressed for the next 4 years then it is indeed your own self-induced problem. Fact is, George Bush will not fundamentally change your affluent life. Oh yes, you'll get a tax break, and maybe the air won't be quite as clean as before, but 'fundamentally' your life will not change due to actions by George Bush.

The social issues that people expend sooooo much energy on matter not to the Digital elite of which you are a Gold Card carrying member. Your writings espouse the egalitarianism that technology age gives us .....but the Web is really a place for the educated elites. And the elite are not really impacted by Presidential transistions.

I enjoy your messages (and yes this 'digital elitism' concept is a bit harsh) I'll have to work the rest of it out to make it more palatable for the touchy feely crowd.

Mike Whatley (who is stealing the graphical resume 'metaphor' idea from your site and using it on my own.)
Jeff Martin
02:05 PM ET (US)
Dear friends,
I'm prepared for you all to just write me off as another non-thinking right winger. But seriously, if you are concerned for the republic just because we now have a republican in the white house, if we can survive 8 years of Clinton, we can expect to survuve Bush as well. At least we don't have to parse every syllable he utters. So the refrain "just get over it" comes to mind.
Jonathan Peterson
04:55 PM ET (US)
I don't know that anyone is enamored of Bush. Republican masses liked him because he wasn't Clinton, Republican big-wigs liked him because he was electable and controllable.

1) He isn't very good at facts and details
Neither are voters

2) He doesn't know very much about the issues
see 1.

3) He doesn't read anything he doesn't have to and may be functionally illiterate
see 1.

4) He has done nothing in his career that wasn't self centered until he ran for governor (and there are doubts about how altruistic that was)
Public office may often start with altruism, but by the time time one is in a position of high office, it's about power. Bush's short public life would be an advantage, if he were not likely heavily influence by his silver spoon background.

5) He has an oil man's view of the environment
as does the republican party.

6) He has no record of support of the bill of rights, especially the parts the religious right doesn't like
Both parties seem to have forgotten about civil rights. Arguably, Clinton was the worst civil right president ever, outdoing Reagan. Bush will just pick different rights to ignore.

7) He is further to the right than he let on during the race against Gore, and gave a true-er picture of his beliefs during the Republican primaries
Any presidential catidate's _real_ feelings are somewhere between the poles shown in the primary and general campaigns, this has always been the case.

8) He did everything he could to prevent a recount because he believed there was an excellent chance he would lose
I wouldn't expect anything else from either cantidate. Gore didn't give up until it was obvious he was in danger of causing lasting harm to himself and his party by continued challenges. Our election system has always been one of statistics rather than exactitude. This one just finished inside the margin of error. Maybe more voters will realize that their votes DO count.

9) He will nominate extremist, marginally qualified Justices, as per his comment that the two he most admires now are Scalia and Thomas (!)
This is my greatest concern with Bush as a president. His moves attacking the ABA make it likely that this will be the battleground of his presidency. He cannot select someone too far right unless the economy improves.

10) He has no record of integrity (e.g., sacrifice, taking unpopular stands, etc.) before he was 40 and none, really, after 40
Sadly, this hardly makes him unique among national political figures, now does it?

Republicans largely like Bush because he isn't Clinton. The religious right likes him because so far he hasn't snubbed them. If he does, he will be stabbed in the back by his own party in much the same way Carter was.

Bush will not be re-elected, and the Republican party will likely learn not to cater to it's far right in the same way that Clinton showed Democrats the way back to center after _their_ left wing destroyed Carter.

The only real questions are:
How much money will we throw away on the military in the next 4 years, and
How many and how right will his court appointments be? (Remember that Clinton left many lower court openings unfilled because of Republican foot-dragging.)

Bush may keep his right wing at bey with rar-right lower court appointments and more centrist supremes.
Tom Wilson
09:29 AM ET (US)
Dear Dave:
Can't attempt recalibration from this side of the Atlantic, I'm afraid and the general feeling here is one of numbness that such a whacko is in the White House. There was an entertaining little article in the New Statesman weekly political journal a couple of weeks ago after Cheney's heart check (apols for the hideous URL):

Briefly, it suggests that you don't need worry too much, since Dick is in charge - he briefs George once a week at lunch. One of the funniest bits from the author (Andrew Stephen) was:

"It was a telling moment last month when a disturbed man opened fire near the White House in mid-morning. Boy George, the nation was solemnly assured, was safely inside the White House at the time - "working out" in the gym - while Dick Cheney was hard at work at his desk."

Now that may not be much of an encouragement to you - but if you are worried, think how much closer Europe is to the firing line :-)

Take care.
Walter Chick
05:41 PM ET (US)
In my opinion it boiled down to Abortions (no), Guns (by all means), and
Handjobs in the Oval Office (enviable but a definite no-no to get caught). I
personally am for leaving abortion legal, having much tighter controls on
weapons, and couldn't care less what consenting adults do in private (I
would have hoped that Bill would have told Hillary that he was going to
involved in extracurricular activities and they could have dealt with
whatever was going on between them in the open (maybe they did?), but I
guess I'm from a totally different planet on that one, one where there never
were any Puritans around and about.

Again, personally, I'm am less affected by the abortion and gun issues at
this point in my life (talk to me again when my kids get a little older) and
in this part of the country. I feel bad for those in less fortunate
circumstances if there are any real policy changes in these areas (or no
policy changes regarding guns I guess) during the Bush years.

Sorry I didn't help you recalibrate...
Sean Kelly
05:40 PM ET (US)

Dear Dave,

Let me offer a different perspective on the election thing and try to make
you feel better. I'm a Canadian living in England, mercifully distant from
the...excitement. Basically, I think you are focusing on the negatives in
the situation. Yes, there is a marginally qualified, arguably right wing
nutter on the throne, er, in the Whitehouse, with a questionable mandate.
The important thing to focus on is that the president is likely to be a
figurehead in this administration, I mean more than usual. For him to
convince (almost) a majority of Americans that he is qualified to lead, his
handlers must be God's. He apparently knows how to take advice from
others - he didn't get elected with his own intellect. So basically, you
shouldn't be scared of Bush, you should be very, very afraid of his
advisors. Hmmmmm, that's not a lot better, is it?? Sorry I tried - there
are some other pretty cool countries out there, maybe seeking political
asylum, instead of living in one??

Heartfelt Sympathies,
Sean Kelly
Aaron Spencer
05:40 PM ET (US)
Happy Holidays, David!

First a preliminary note: I voted for Harry Browne, the Libertarian Party
Candidate, so my response to your plea for recalibration is slanted by my
views on the federal government (a necessary evil).
The ten concerns you list about the President-elect strike me as odd. Most
of the concerns you list about the President-elect could be expressed about
a significant portion of the citizenry of this country, regardless of
political label.

How many Americans don't read anything that they don't have to these days?
How many people on the left (since you singled out the religious right)
warmly embrace the second amendment, or the bits about rights reserved for
the people and powers reserved by the States (Ninth and Tenth Amendments)?
Who doesn't maneuver their career to the best benefit to themselves? I'll
plead guilty to thinking of myself first in regards to my career, the rest
of the world is tangential.

Your objections about President Elect Bush's ignorance of the issues, facts
and details are kind of amusing. The President has a Cabinet, has a whole
branch of the government to provide facts and details about the issues. If
he knew every last detail about an issue, say, Medicare, the American
people would consider him a policy wonk. In fact, Vice President Gore came
off rather wonkishly at times during the campaign and the media assembled
focus groups found that to be a "turn-off." Nobody likes a know it all.

I think that the President-Elect was elected because he is an individual
that most Americans feel comfortable with. Vice President Gore can be
rather scary. The fact that the citizenry would rather have a President
that they feel can feel comfortable with, no matter how dim witted he may
be, rather than someone who may be more qualified etc. may say something
scary about the state of American life, but that's a whole other issue.
(See Morris Berman's excellent book, The Twilight of the American Culture
for a discussion)

Bottom line is that the Federal government is coasting. Congress is fairly
evenly split, the Democrats will pick up seats in Congress in 2002, and
this administration's not going to be able to do much that's to the far

Again, happy holidays. Happy new year to you and yours.

Aaron Spencer
Clint Glenn
05:39 PM ET (US)
I'm a card carrying Republican and all I can say is that you may as well
forget about getting recalibrated. The best candidate(s) lost out in the
primaries due to overwhelming stupidity on the part of the voting public and
left us with two non-choices.

Long live John McCain and Bill Bradley!!

Clint Glenn
05:39 PM ET (US)
"One must never miss an opportunity of quoting things by others which are
always more interesting than those one thinks up oneself." - Marcel Proust

In that spirit, I leave you a third party's opinions of George W.

(From: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,96942,00.html)


Saturday, February 3, 2001

How I Learned Not to Underestimate George W. Bush

As then-editor of Texas Monthly, TIME Inc. editor at large Gregory Curtis
met a certain wannabe governor. He was not impressed. He came to change his


The evening of the inauguration we went to the Texas-Wyoming ball where a
lounge act from Austin named Mr. Fabulous played. We saw many friends from
Austin, for the most part people like us whose children were about the same
age as the Bush daughters and had grown up with them. Except for the small
detail of thousands of strangers milling around, it was almost like being at
one of their graduation parties. Indeed we weren't there because of
political ties but because this mingling of friends and the presidency was
too improbable to ignore. In time the President and his wife appeared on the
bandstand. He made a few jaunty remarks and clowned a bit as he danced with
Laura. In a few moments they were gone. After a while, there wasn't much
left to do but pick up our commemorative champagne flutes and walk through
snow and sleet back to our hotel.

For the six years that George W. Bush was governor of Texas I was editor of
Texas Monthly, a position that allowed me to watch the stages of his
political metamorphosis. I first met him when Karl Rove, who would later run
Bush's campaign for president and is now a Bush adviser in the White House,
called to say that Bush was going to run for governor and wanted to talk
with me. He was still with the Texas Rangers baseball team then, and we met
in his office in Dallas. It was filled, as his governor's office would be,
with baseball memorabilia. After we had introduced ourselves I asked a
question and then said hardly another word for 90 minutes as Bush talked
rapid-fire about whatever seemed to pop into his head. I don't remember a
thing he said. In fact I didn't remember anything even as I left his office.
I do remember asking myself, "What was that all about?"

>From wooden to winning

During the campaign, when it was hardly a certainty that he would beat the
incumbent Ann Richards, he had four issues juvenile justice reform, tort
reform, education and welfare reform. He was coached to talk about those
four issues and that was all he did talk about. He had become the precise
opposite of the rambling scatter-shooter I had met in his office. He was
somewhat wooden, but he stuck to the four issues relentlessly and it proved
to be a winning strategy. In fact he was so wooden and so programmed that I
don't think anyone was prepared for what happened next.

>From the moment Bush arrived in Austin, he was the man in charge. It was as
if everyone had underestimated him and by the time they wised up he was in
control. This isn't easy to do in Texas, where the governor's office is
weak, as Bush's opponents never tired of pointing out as they tried to
diminish his experience as governor. In fact, this criticism should be
turned on its head. That Bush took charge despite the inherent weakness of
his office is something no other governor has been able to do since John
Connally in the early '60s. Bush wooed the Democratic leader of the Senate
and the Democratic Speaker of the House. It was Bush's legislative agenda
that occupied the energy of both houses. He got the state excited about
education again, and continued to press until the legislature passed the
reforms he wanted. His appointments were good, his ideas were good, his
relations with the legislature were good. He rarely blundered (I can think
of only three real missteps in six years) and his popularity in the state
soared. He didn't get everything he wanted he couldn't change the
structure of property taxes in Texas, for instance but it didn't matter.
His ascendancy and his popularity never faltered. As governor of Texas, from
the first moment to the last, he had perfect pitch. When he ran for
reelection he got about two thirds of the vote.

A unity of Texas spirit

None of his success had been preordained. Bush made it happen. He didn't
succeed by diligent study. He did it by political instinct, by force of
personality, by clearly stating his goals and repeating them again and
again, and by exhibiting no other motive for his actions than the good of
Texas. He maintained a unity of spirit in Texas politics that also had not
been seen since Connally. And the minute he left, it vanished. The
legislature convened early this month with the leadership bickering and
suspicious of one another, and with many ready to lead while few are ready
to follow.

When he began to campaign for president, he faltered badly. In Texas it was
easy to see that the person campaigning was not the person we had known as
governor. Suddenly, the man with perfect pitch was completely off-key. He
seemed to revert to the haphazard rambler I had met in his office. But he
found his bearings, began to emphasize certain issues especially
education, where he is well versed and once again it was good enough,
barely, to win.

I attended his inaugurations in Texas. They were nice affairs at the
Capitol. They seemed grand at the time, but of course the presidential
inauguration dwarfed the Texas ones. It wasn't just the crowds and all the
hoopla and the metal detectors and the legions of tense security forces. It
was the complexity of all the loci of power represented on the podium. It
seemed impossible that anyone's ear could be tuned to so much dissonance,
much less, I have to admit, someone you were used to seeing at the
parent-teacher night at the local high school.

Revels in the rituals of everyday life

Of course, it's good, I think, to have a president who has been to the
parent-teacher night at the local high school. Despite his family name and
his privileged education, Bush revels in the rituals of everyday life. When
he said his farewell in the Texas senate, he said he is and will always be a
Texan and broke into tears. Much of America may be conflicted about who he
is, but he is not. His talent, as it's now easy to see looking back past the
election to his years in Texas, is not campaigning but leadership. Just as
he didn't think he was weak when he assumed the supposedly weak office of
governor of Texas, he doesn't think he is weak now. He will try to set the
agenda with a few legislative programs, as he has with education. And he
will mention them every time he speaks. It may well prove to his advantage
if everyone on the platform as he was sworn in is underestimating him just
as we did in Texas when he first took office.

The difference is that as president you can't choose to lead with only your
own issues. The world will always force things into prominence. How well he
does then will be his real test. Bush is the first president since
Eisenhower who did not have a long life in politics before assuming office.
Standing in the crowd with these guys from Austin Tim and Layton and Billy
G. it was strange and unnerving to see another guy from Austin up there
with one hand raised and the other on the Bible. Bush makes you wonder this
if you're smart (and, yes he is) and if you know how to lead (which he
does), does ordinary life prepare you to run the country? We'll know the
answer soon.
J. Thomas Vincent
05:38 PM ET (US)
Okay so you have a base line to understand my pov. I am a 30yr old policy
person in DC, I vote and come from a Republican background, I can't say I
am really a strong Bush supporter, but I like him better than the
tyranical nature I suspect of Gore, don't get me started it gets ugly,
let's just hit at Tipper and Censorship issues.

But let's be honest this is not what you wanted to hear, you want
responses to your 10 points and I'll do the best I can...

1# He isn't very good at facts and details

Top of the food chain, I don't expect him to get into too deeply if does
he'll micromanage and never get anything i.e. Carter, which I think is a
great individual, but a losey President.

2# He doesn't know very much about the issues

People made the same arguement of Reagan in 80 and Clinton in 92, find
good advisors who know the issues and let them go to work under your
leadership, I just honestly wish internationally Clinton had done a better
job of picki8ng people, that is a big part of the reason the middle east
peace hasn't advanced, but granted, their were limits in what he could do,
but they, I suspect rightly, had the pov in the Middle East that Clinton
was doing it for legacy issues and not real desire for peace as Carter did
in the 70's. Once again I am Republican, but I'll give credit as it is

3# He doesn't read anything he doesn't have to and may be functionally

Media age sucks in certain thing I'll agree

4# He has done nothing in his career that wasn't self centered until he
ran for governor (and there are doubts about how altruistic that was)

Alot of business people have been giving that wrap, I don't know what he
did in his private time to help others.

5# He has an oil man's view of the environment

So I honestly doubt in this culture a person at the Presidency is going to
push people away from oil, it's like in your book clue train, the people
in the conversation need to wise up and realise oil sucks and then go do
something about, they need to move the conversation, not top down. BTW-
Like I said 30 and I have yet to own a car, and I grew up out West, where
there is no public transit.

6# He has no record of support of the bill of rights, especially the parts
the religious right doesn't like.

Gore is as bad if not worse if you look at things he has supported, the
man doesn't like freedom of speech, and his wife is a speech Nazi. He also
wants to tell you how you should travel, eliminate internal combustion
motor. The man scares me with the fatherly, I will protect you, rather
than just leaving me alone, Bush will ignore me and I can ignore him.
As for crumbling to the RR, I worked for a member of congress in that
group and the Chief of Staff for the member said point blank a year ago,
that he would sell out the right and that he was more of his father than
their camp and it was only a question of when not if they would sell the
RR out.

7# He is further to the right than he let on during the race against Gore,
and gave a true-er picture of his beliefs during the Republican primaries

See previous comment, he is mainstream and the far right knows it, your
perception he is not is one instilled from the media. If he was really to
the right he would have appointed 7-8 cabnient positions who were hard
right instead of 2.

8# He did everything he could to prevent a recount because he believed
there was an excellent chance he would lose

Read the Posts series from the last week, I didn't have that
impression. But that may just be pov.

9# He will nominate extremist, marginally qualified Justices, as per his
comment that the two he most admires now are Scalia and Thomas (!)

Make up of the Senate at 50/50 and the points they pushed on Ashcroft
disproove that, when he has to make appointments, it will come back to
those arguements that is the real reason the vote was close on Ashcroft,
was to warn him suck choices won't fly, watch and see...

10# He has no record of integrity (e.g., sacrifice, taking unpopular
stands, etc.) before he was 40 and none, really, after 40

And Clinton did? I know that doesn't answer the question ,but most
politicans don't who want to win office on a national level, it doesn't
play nation wide.


I know I probably didn't answer everything in a neat tidy box, but like I
said, I also did work for the campaign, I did hope I clarified a few thing
on the fact that he is far more mainstream than he is given credit.

Regardless, I like the site and best wishes in the future,

   J. Thomas Vincent
Traveler, Brewmeister, and sometimes Writer.

  ********* ***** **
 *************************.* "Once and for all, there is a great deal
****** *********** ** *******o I do _not_ want to know.---
******* ********* **** ****`- Wisdom sets bounds even to knowledge."
******* ********* *****
 ****** ********** **** Friedrich Nietzsche
## ***** ***** ## ****
### ***** ### ****
  #,,, ***,,, ##,,, **,,,
Rick Franklin
05:35 PM ET (US)
Your charges 1-3 were also leveled against Ronald Reagan. President Bush certainly doesn't know as much about the issues as his predecessor, but so what? In my opinion he doesn't need to be an expert on everything if he has good general knowledge in vital areas, surrounds himself with experts who do know the details, and relies upon them for advice and direction. If you want to criticize his intellectual capabilities, I suggest you learn how to spell "grown-up" and "truer".
Your claim that he may be functionally illiterate cannot be true. Are you saying he cannot read a newspaper, fill out a job application, interpret an airline schedule or balance a checkbook? These are the sort of tasks that functionally illiterate people cannot perform.
I don't know enough about the man to comment on item 4.
Item 5: He may have a background in the oil industry, but he must (and does) recognize the importance the rule of law, and that there are numerous environmental laws which must take priority over the needs of the oil industry.
Item 6: I believe he is an ardent supporter of the second amendment. I know that he took an oath to defend the Constitution, and that he tries to be a man of his word. Beyond that, I'm not familiar enough with his record in Texas to comment.
Item 7: Are you saying that people weren't paying attention during the primaries or that they were paying attention but then forgot? Anyone with that short an attention span should abstain from voting.
Item 8: That may be true. But he didn't attempt to break the law.
Item 9: You don't seriously think that Antonin Scalia is marginally qualified, do you? He is highly qualified. As to being extremist, that's a matter of opinion. People on the left think Ted Kennedy is a moderate and Gary Bauer is an extremist. On the right, we think John Ashcroft is right in line with what this country needs, and that Barney Frank is an extremist. The real test is whether a justice will uphold the Constitution, something you obviously care about.
Item 10: I'm not familiar enough with his record.
You say you are looking for a reason not to be depressed for the next four years. Look at the caliber of the members of his Cabinet. The man has an MBA and tends to be more of a manager than a do-it-yourselfer.
If you're depressed because you disagree with his philosophy, I can only suggest that you change your point of view. But you're probably not interested in doing so.
You've raised some interesting points, and presented them well. In truth, anyone who allows themselves to be placed in nomination for the presidency is going to have some defects show up in the scrutiny of such a race, and George W. Bush is no exception.
I hope the last three months have improved your opinion or the president.
David Weinberger
05:32 PM ET (US)
Sorry if I didn't make clear the nature of my comments about Bush. I wasn't arguing for those positions, merely stating that that's how I see him. I'm wondering how pro-Bush voters see him. What you've written helps, although (not surprisingly) I disagree with many things you say.
Paula Thornton
05:29 PM ET (US)

I could take many of the statements you made in your plea for understanding and apply them as attributes of many successful presidents that we've had. I noticed that many (if not most) of your metrics were focused on "who" Bush is rather than what he accomplishes.

While I'll admit to having my own prejudices, when I look at either Clinton or Gore, I have a physical tension that builds up in my body that causes slight nausea...this is a literal reaction, not just my response to my measures of them. I didn't used to have this reaction to Gore; I still had respect for him. That all went away when I saw how he conducted himself in the campaign and how his "plastic" words of "nothingness" were so readily absorbed by the people who supported him. He was following the success that made Bill.

I found that many people who were looking to make a choice between the two candidates, and who were really evaluating them based on what they thought was their ability to restore confidence in the Office of President, and their ability to perform the types of things they felt needed to be accomplished, voted for Bush.

That said, just imagine what a disarray our economy would be in if employees were allowed to vote for their CEO!

It's an imperfect system with a good dose of checks and balances to protect us from ourselves. Unfortunately, there wasn't the foresight to build in safeguards to protect the office from the one who held it. Lesson learned.

But let's look at a couple of your points (since I know you will be expecting me to),

"He has an oil man's view of the environment." I would argue that a more accurate statement is that "He respects an oil man's view of the environment." Heck, Dick Cheney has the same issue, but he was probably one of the most effective people in government. The problem that I see typically with both "sides" (meaning parties) is that they only see sides. Progress comes from the fruit of compromise. The point is that there is never a "right" answer, there is only an "optimal" answer, because "right" is relative to the recipient -- what's right to one makes it wrong to another. I have seen nothing in Bush's action to show that he does not consider both sides. And his record as a governor shows that he has been extremely successful at being a leader rather than a politician (with partisan agendas -- and I'm not a Texan; only been here for 2 years -- it was my exposure to a more local perspective of him that helped me value his potential).

Many of your other statements were not supported with any evidence that lead me to understand how you came to those conclusions.

With a person of your "connectedness", why don't you consider asking him these questions yourself? My guess is that the questions would be different and that you'd think differently about how to posture them (meaning you'd have specific examples to qualify a concern). Had this same tone been used in the questions you posted, I would have had an easier time responding myself.

By the way, I often read your postings in KM World. With your ability to sensibly look at issues, I'm very surprised by your posture on this topic.

Paula Thornton
Senior Consultant / Information Architect
Luminant Worldwide, Dallas