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Posted by on Nov 26, 2008 in Politics | 14 comments

Klein: Bush Legacy Marred by ‘Intellectual Laziness’

Earlier today, a colleague forwarded a link to Joe Klein’s latest: a slightly premature post mortem on the Bush Presidency, in which Klein forces himself to acknowledge the good points of those eight years.

His position on immigration was admirable and courageous; he was right about the Dubai Ports deal and about free trade in general. He spoke well, in the abstract, about the importance of freedom. He is an impeccable classicist when it comes to baseball.

Klein quickly acknowledges “that just about does it for me” before he proceeds to be less kind. He concludes:

… it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad.

Now, that’s certainly not a moderate summation of Bush, but I tend to agree with Klein and admit it was the display of “intellectual laziness” that eventually turned me away from Bush and then McCain (via Palin). As I wrote in my op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch nearly two weeks ago:

I disagree with many of Obama’s stated positions, but I supported him largely because I think his intelligence, temperament and inclination to listen to others are far more important traits to value in our next president than alignment with my ideology.

Of course, in the same op-ed, I argued for a return to a more civil politics, and thus I’m obligated to admit that it is not civil to label any person “intellectually lazy,” no matter how accurate the label might be. And so — in the interest of at least attempting to practice what I preach — perhaps it would be more civil to say Bush and certain other (though not all) leading Republicans strike me as “incurious” — or “wholly satisfied with what they’ve been told to be true by others and not terribly interested in questioning what they’ve been told.”

The should-be-obvious irony here is that, no matter how careful we might be in our rhetoric, it’s nearly impossible to have a civil discussion with the “incurious” camp because they are often convinced they’re right and nothing about their opinion is worthy of challenge, no matter how persuasive the contrary evidence might be. In turn, such attitudes lead to an expansive “fundamental truth” mindset which ultimately fuels extremism. Don’t believe me? Try to have a civil discussion about embryonic stem cell research with an “incurious” pro-life advocate — or about the merits of Western society with an “incurious” terrorist.

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  • Silhouette

    Intellectual laziness….

    Or something else..

    A curious side-note of the G-20 Snub clip is that if you watch carefully, Bush’s body language is like that of a child…he seems incapable of controlling his reaction to snubbing. And equally incapable of connecting why he is being snubbed to what he and his gang of thugs have done. It’s like he’s surprised?

    Like it took him off guard.

    What I’m building up to here is my theory that he suffers from NPD. “Malignant narcissism” renders the suffer into a sort of basking sadist that on the one hand seems functional in that they often aspire to power and can organize their thoughts along that line of “shining in the eyes of the world”. But when it comes to very basic associations of “why is this person being mean to me?” they cannot see that even though they smacked them in the face with a 2 x 4 just minutes earlier, why that person would have an adverse reaction to the NPD sufferer?

    “Other” doesn’t exist. They literally lack the ability to join cause and effect and everything in their mind is filtered through one simple filter: “Either you adore me or you are the enemy of me, now in the moment, forever. And if you don’t adore me or let me have what I want, or if I anticipate you won’t adore me (they suffer from paranoia too) or let me have what I want, I will annihilate you and undermine you in any way I possibly can.” They see someone else with true admirable qualities as “competition” to shine and will therefore pick the nicest people to smear, defamate and ruin accordingly. It’s not personal, it’s business and the business of the narcissist is to outshine everyone, always..in their mind.

    And then you’re just supposed to stand there for the annihilation…or else it will get worse. Onlookers are stunned by their behavior. And that stunning keeps them in line too… lest anyone else get the wise idea of thwarting the narcissists demands and desires for adoration. It also serves to get attention…the mainstay of the NPD sufferer. They’ll settle for good or bad depending on what slant of NPD they follow…as long as *they* are the topic at hand.

    They are very childlike emotionally. They suffer from deep psychological wounds in their early years of development and have adopted NPD to compensate for those wounds, ironically becoming that which originally wounded them. And hence NPD can be a generational social disorder. Some have theorized that entire social structures can be remade and warped if a strong enough narcissist is at the forefront, to which they commonly aspire. Nazi Germany is a case in point. The republican party, another example. I am almost certain Ronald Reagan suffered from NPD as well..

    I’ve heard that you can make smoke come out of their ears by asking them “how do you think I feel about that?”. The word “I” doesn’t exist in reference to you. The only “I” that exists to a narcissist is them…always..

    Later, everyone is supposed to forget about everything the narcissist has done and accept them as an equal citizen worthy of adoration and respect. (Sarah Palin’s “I don’t have a rear-view mirror mantra) When that fails to happen (as with G-20 Snub) the narcissist looks utterly befuddled. They lock the shame for their behavior away in a vault so tightly that they cannot access it to make connections between trial and error and learning from one’s mistakes via the pain of social reprimands. In other words they’ve decided to circumvent social learning by bullying and staying on top no matter what. And this has disconnected them from making associations between their behavior and the consequences of that behavior.

    They have lost the ability to learn, socially.

    And this is our sitting (duck) president currently. I like to call the G-20 Snub, “The walk of the befuddled narcissist”. For that is what it really depicts.

    Here it is again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqVhjfZWKkU

  • DLS

    You have to filter out the leftist hatred for Bush that at times (though not always) surpassed that of Reagan and the misuse once again by Silhouette of (false) accusatory charges aimed at someone he or she doesn’t like, obviously (while ignoring the best-known actual narcissist of the ages, Bill Clinton), and other such baggage from the critics. Silhouette, simply regurgitating what you have read somewhere and misdirecting it where it obviously is misapplied doesn’t do you good. Neither Reagan nor Bush have exhibited narcissistic behavior or tendencies, whereas we all know how self-absorbed and toddler-like Bill Clinton has been. (Not to mention one or two thread starters on this site, on the far left of leftist “moderation” [sic].) Your theory is obviously mistaken, and remarkable not only for how widely you miss the mark but in your (ironic?) failure to identify Bill Clinton, incontrovertibly narcissistic and the most noteworthy example for years, as a (true) example of the behavior disorder.

    The most likely explanation about Bush if you step back and look at the “big picture” is that this was a governor who went into the White House already in the classic parking-place “Good-Time Charlie” role that governors largely have had before (which is why many have not occupied much of the history books). Don’t make waves, business as usual, let’s just enjoy ourselves. He is not merely wealthy but obviously well-connected and part of the Bush family dynasty. Jeb Bush is more ambitious and brighter than George W (and has not been narcissistic, either, in the way, say, other pretty-boy politicians who aren’t family dynasty material would more likely be).

  • jeff_pickens

    Joe Klein’s credibility is questioned in a post by Glenn Greenwald today: “Joe Klein’s Extreme Revisionism”
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/11/26/klein/index.html

    And for Clinton critics, here’s one from Christopher Hitchens that’ll remind us of a few Clinton sins: “Clinton at state? Bad Idea.”
    http://www.slate.com/id/2205323/

  • Brodiejr

    I have to agree, Republicans/Conservatives have an attitude that its their way or no way and refuse to listen and are quick to condemn anybody, often personally, when they question their positions which have a lot of conflicts. Yes, the Pro-Life Movement want the government to police all women of child bearing age and then abandon th government caring for these children once they are born. They’ll tell you that taxation is evil but want to wage war anywhere on Earth against anybody who would dare question American motives. I guess waging war is okay is you are using somebody else’s money and somebody else’s kids. They take pride in exclusion, ignorance, and a refusal to compromise. In short, they don’t have to work with people because they believe they don’t have to.

  • jchem

    That Salon piece that jeff_pickens posted gives me the impression that Klein was a cheerleader for awhile and is now trying to save any of his credibility by jumping on the bash Bush wagon. That wagon will be carrying on for as long as Obama will be president, and probably even for some time after. Just look at how often you hear the “But when Clinton was president” theme.

    “Try to have a civil discussion about embryonic stem cell research with an “incurious” pro-life advocate”

    I agree with you whole-heartedly here. But on the same token, try having a civil discussion about the merits of the pro-life position with an “incurious” pro-choice advocate. And as far as the Republicans/Conservatives and their “my way or the highway” mentality, the same can be said about Democrats/Liberals. It’s called gridlock, and I think it pretty well sums up the past two years of what’s been going on in Washington.

  • OK, admittedly off-topic, but…

    jchem, as a curious pro-choice advocate, I tried to steer the comment thread on jazz’s post earlier toward a consideration of Constitutional aspects (not religious) of the choice issue (or if you wish, the abortion issue). Maybe the thread just died of old age, but I’m still curious on that point, how anti-choice advocates justify elevating the constitutionally undefined rights of a potentially nonviable fetus above those of a living, adult American citizen.

    http://themoderatevoice.com/religion/christianity/religious-right/24605/how-foca-will-spell-the-end-of-the-universe/

  • I really don’t care for the “thug” talk — it’s pejorative, more so about Obama than Bush, but is still.

    While Greenwald is correct about Klein, I don’t see that as the point of this post.

    While I know there are some who actually hate Bush, there are others of us who lived under his governorship and are still paying the price of that to this day. Who could have known that Bush’s legacy would have been one of his fellow incompetents being gov of the state of Texas for a near (possible) record amount of time?

    Post election, what Bush has and hasn’t done, my god what’s he’s done and not done this entire election cycle has been the real Bush. Propped up by an attack on our country and a war of choice for so many years, as it all winds down, it becaomes clear to almost everyone (and I know there are still hold-outs) that these last eight years have been mostly a lot of energy spent with little or no results. If I could ask, are we better off as a planet now than we were eight years ago?

  • Looks like my comment was lost.

  • Great, when I commented, it was just ‘5 minutes’ after the last commenter, then my comment wasn’t there, now I see I’m several hours and OT at this point.

    Oh well.

  • DLS

    Klein can be safely ignored or dismissed with disdain, if not contempt.

    I was actually too kind (my normal practice; I’m a nice guy) about the misuse by Sil of his or her recently discovered and misapplied concept of narcissistic personality disorder, to be used to smear anything he or she doesn’t like. As for the association of this disorder with the Nazis and the GOP, and in lumping those two political parties and organizations together, justice would compel the tin foil hat that should be worn by people making such statements also to be formed into a tall cone. [scowl] And I’m _still_ being quite lenient and forgiving, in fact…

    Green Dreams: the correct and honest nomenclature always has been “abortion,” which is of course what is the object at issue. This has nothing to do with “choice,” which we engage in constantly throughout our waking moments. “Choice” is weasel language of the coward and at times the liar, so disproportionately found on the Left. It’s “abortion,” just as years earlier it was “contraception.” No doubt you know what the latter is. Both are related to “pregnancy,” on and from which legislative and related policy about the other two things are properly based.

  • Absolutely not true DLS. “Choice” IS at the heart of the issue, at least for me. It is about the right of an adult citizen to chart her own course of medical care.

    In conscience, I believe abortion should be the last choice, but that is MY belief, and it is NOT my right to impose it on others. If a female American citizen believes there is even a slight chance her life or health is jeopardized by an unplanned pregnancy (and face it, there ALWAYS is a risk to the mother), in the absence of *any defined constitutional rights for a potential citizen (fetus)* there is no constitutional justification for the federal government taking away her CHOICE. Where am I wrong, DLS? Show me the defined right of a potentially nonviable fetus to even the same rights as a citizen, let alone ELEVATED rights above a citizen.

    Your thesis is that the right of the potential citizen outweighs the rights of the living one. Very dangerous and radical concept. As I pointed out, and you know it’s true, there are over a hundred ways a pregnancy can fail, and the fetus never become a citizen. The woman ALREADY IS. She has rights. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Much more fundamental than right to “privacy”.

    Again, look at the next step. If the rights of the fetus outweigh the rights of the woman, why can she not be compelled to cease any medical treatment that might endanger her fetus? Chemo? Treatments for thyroid, hormonal imbalances, diabetes? There are MANY drugs that cross the placenta. If the fetus has greater rights than the female who bears it, why NOT restrict her rights in these areas too?

    And if you truly believe the federal government should be able to restrict YOUR medical decisions to “save a life” why not force you to give a kidney? If you don’t it’s murder. Right?

    Get the GD federal government out of the doctor’s office and the bedroom. This is the realm of creepy big government, big brother zealots! You claim not to be one of those, but I’m not buying it.

  • DLS

    You’re wrong, of course. The issue is abortion, whether people consider it right or wrong, and you go on to stumble into reality when you address the _related_ issue of abortion _rights_ or _liberties_, which has a correct name, not the cowardly-scum weasel word “choice.”

    You have no clue what “my thesis” is, but simply presume incorrectly, as so many lefties do (typically from lack of emotional control, as they are ruled by their emotions in place of reason, as you go on to demonstrate further here, along with typical misconstruction of the Constitution), what the position is of someone who has properly corrected you.

    This is not a federal issue, and is left for states and localities as they see fit to legislate based on what their peoples demand. Issue correctly described and closed.

  • Nonsense, and of course insulting as well. Individual freedoms (liberties) are federal, not state. It is not the right of states to restrict the liberties granted by the US Constitution, You think it is, prove it, oh rational one.

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