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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.