Lowering the Bar

Matthew Yglesias laments that we do not live in a perfect world- because in a perfect world, books from O'Neill and Clarke would have damaged the president, but instead:

Sadly, though, we don't live in that world. Instead we live in the world where no one cares about expertise, the capital's premiere newspaper is edited by a man who doesn't believe in judging the credibility of his paper's sources, and small inconvenient realities like the disgust felt for Bush's policies by all the top Republican experts goes almost unnoticed.

I think the problem really has been that for the past 4 years, Democratic activists, partisans, and hacks, have to an individual constantly stayed on one particular message: "George Bush is an incompetent idiot." Among other characterizations, such as "Bush's policy is deranged", "Bush doesn't listen to people", "Bush is easily manipulated by evil people in his cabinet", etc.

Now, this may very well be true from a great many points of view[1], but when you work day and night to lower people's expectations to such a rock bottom level, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that when books come out saying exactly the same thing, in essence underlining the choir's refrain, that there isn't a big reaction. Information theory defines information as being unexpected. Books coming out that say Bush's policies are wack & incompetent are, well, expected at this point.

The Bush campaign and administration never really ran on a "superior cognitive" basis, but as an amiable folksy straight-shooter, a pose which does not requires much brainpower/wonkishness to maintain. So they let the slurs run off and in the end, in 2000, it became a dead heat based on personality (Gore the percieved fire-eating fabulist vs. the easy-going reformed frat boy who sat the the helm of Texas and nothing blew up as consequence). In 2000, it was a race for the status quo, and Gore blew it by promising change, while Bush offered little substantive policy at all- the anti-change change candidate. And he got elected with all of the chorus screaming "Bush is an incompetent idiot!!!!", to boot.

Thus then, as now, Bush isn't running on a superior policy basis (a lack of which didn't hurt him in 2000), but strictly on character perception. He's running on "I'm not a pussy" and painting Kerry (successfully) as being a big wuss who can't make up his mind and thinks too much(!!). Thus books on bad policy are unlikely to do much to Bush, but a book outing him as a dissembler and an un-reformed frat boy might (since that is the core of his campaign).


fn1. I don't think that Bush is incompetent, but rather he doesn't care about the details and what he does want is often really, really bad from a policy standpoint. I also think he's ruled too much by political concerns, and makes bad policy in the course of trying to buy votes.

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The best rumor I have seen

The best rumor I have seen about the Kitty Kelley book on the Bush family is that she has details on Laura Bush killing a classmate. The fact is, folks, we are electing a First Lady here. If they can discredit Laura Bush, they can beat George Bush.

Anyway, here is the Laura link: http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=en&article_id=262840
Note the photos and documentation.

Its been known that Laura

Its been known that Laura Bush, way back in the day as a teenager, had a car accident in which the car she was driving killed a classmate (not sure what the source of the driver error was, but Laura did it). I don't know if that's really a big deal, though, as it would tend to make Laura look more human (she didn't laugh it off and party like a Hilton sister afterwards, for example).

I certainly hope that wouldn't affect the race; Laura Bush, unlike Hillary Clinton's prior example, makes no pretense to political power except as the person who sleeps with the President. No "co president", no "task force leader", etc. We hardly see her, anyway. Why should/would joe sixpack care?