Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Saturday, October 02, 2004
 
Speeches in Coral Gables, Bullets in Samarra
(Please click on Permalink/Full Post below to read the whole thing.)

Listening to NPR's All Things Considered, yesterday I was (predictably) somewhat annoyed by the mild-mannered David Brooks:
". . .I was looking thruogh [the transcripts of the debate] trying to figure out who said which thing, and it's very easy. If someone talked about logistics or a nine point plan or 'I've got a long list of proposals'--that's Kerry.If somebody is talking about duty, honor living upto your word, sort of more moralistic language, that tends to be Bush. And that exercise showed me what diffferent mentalities the two men really have. Kerry really [has] a very 'how do we get this done, what do we want to do,' mentality, Bush much more personal, much more 'this is the right thing to do,' much more moralistic mentality. And those two languages were sort of on display."

Brooks, of course, carefully avoided making an emphatic judgement on this, but if listen to the whole thing, and know who he is, it's pretty obvious which brand he prefers. A lot of commentators (and, apparently, voters) give Bush character points because he talks about duty and morality a lot. The bulk of his renomination acceptance speeech was talking about the amount of "heart" he puts into such standard presidential duties as comforting the bereaved.

It is, of course, the fault of the American people that listing one's detailed policy plans is considered bad form for a candidate. But saying that the is somehow preferable is really reprehensible. We should simply talk about how important duty is, rather than actually explaining how we plan to implement it and then actually doing it?! That makes no sense. If you're in the public square and you're voting and you're paying attention, I think we can all assume that you pay lip-service to the idea that those running the Republic better do their duty, and better do it honorably. You're not going to get anything more than lip-service from listening to a stump speech, or even a good debate. The purpose of having a public square and a public conversation about the Republic is so that we can discuss how we run it.

This point came to mind today as I was wondering how to get a succint low-down on this new Samarra Operation (see Today's Washington Post). As usual, Phil Carter at Intel-Dump does not dissappoint. After summarizing the evidence for the fact that things are, indeed, getting worse in Iraq ("We don't face an opposing army in Iraq. But if you imagine a spectrum with ragtag rebels on one end and an army on the other, the enemy in Iraq is steadily creeping closer and closer towards becoming an organized, professionalized, well-resourced, lethal and effective fighting force.") he concludes with an obvious yet profound point:
If you're going to judge this president on his wartime record, it matters. This administration, though a series of major miscalculations, has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Our best hope in Iraq is to leave some sort of lasting democratic government there and to set up the Iraqis as best we can to manage their own security mess. But hope is not a method, and this will be a gamble.[Emphasis mine.]

That's right. Speechifying about hope is not a method. The Commander-in-Chief Job is not about being Cheerleader-in-Chief, though that's helpful bonus. It's about deciding on the best course of action and hiring the best people to efficiently and competently implement that course of action. It requires 9-point plans and logistics and the ability to change your mind. It requires walking the walk even more than talking the talk.
 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Steprous (Bear)
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Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
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Yglesias:Tpmcafe
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Ethan Zuckerman
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