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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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Tim

A link that might interest, from a different POV (YMMV): The Scapegoats Among Us

Political particulars aside, the ubiquity of that word "denial" is worth pausing over. It connotes that we live in an era of unreality, perhaps even surreality, in which what is said in public is at odds with what is true -- a shortfall invoked now more or less constantly as a feature of political discussion. And so to the obvious question: Why do so many Americans apparently share the sense that we are all being misled, one way and another, about political reality -- and not only about reality in Iraq, but about politics more generally?

I believe the answer to that question is the obvious one: because in some deep sense, it is true. This is not meant to affirm that every current charge of "denial" now circulating is a valid one. It's rather to suggest that the sheer volume of such charges reflects a deeper, underlying truth about the untethering of some current political ideas from firm reality. This is the deeper territory that the ubiquity of that term "denial" invites us to plumb.

Tim

Random thoughts divided into two comments to avoid comment spam firewall:

I consider the "bubble" president and "reality denial" two of the reliable Master Narratives in political reporting. I've heard or read this about every President in my lifetime, in hundreds of news stories and dozens of books, particularly concerning economics and foreign policy issues.

Since Clinton (and the WWW), it's easier to research and document these Master Narratives "extended over many Administrations, and proven flexible, efficient, understandable to audiences, plausible to editors, easy to transmit to newcomers on the beat, 'safe' enough for everyday use..."

David Maraniss:

The repetitive patterns of Clinton's personality become apparent starting with his childhood in a troubled family in small-town Arkansas. The traits that first surfaced then include his tendency to block things out, to compartmentalize different aspects of his life, to deny reality at times, to keep going no matter what obstacles face him, and to feel a constant hunger for affirmation. Other traits are more familiar to historians and psychiatrists as the generic characteristics of many powerful and ambitious men. These include an enormous appetite for life, a powerful sex drive, the ready availability of sexual partners attracted to power, a lack of normal standards of self-control, an addiction to the privileges of public office and a reliance on aides to shield him from public scrutiny of private behavior.
Richard Lowery:
It was Dick Morris's insight that the traditional powers of the Presidency have diminished, but in the age of mass media, the public-relations power of the White House has dramatically increased. This, then, becomes the chief instrument of policy, a way to shape reality: e.g., health-care costs will go down if you just talk about them going down. It's the primacy of the Big Message, which needn't be wedded to the Big Lie, but in this White House often is. So, to "preserving and protecting Medicare" and "blowing a hole in the deficit," add "getting back to work for the American people."
Is it ironic to describe the "head-splitting work to replace a master narrative" using an outworn narrative?

Tim

Testing the penalty for ignoring the press is not innovative, IMHO. For decades, administrations (especially early in their term) test the penalties for deceiving and ignoring the press. In the past there's generally been one. The ability to impose a penalty is directly related to the relationship the press has with the people and the "triangular relationship among journalists, the Administration and the public."

Tim

How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader

Ronald Reagan "is the most dangerous person ever to come close to the Presidency," warned The Nation. "He is a menace to the human race." His "confrontational style," yelped Anthony Lewis in the New York Times, was "terribly dangerous." "In the real world . . . there is no escape from the hard work of relating to the Soviet Union."

The Soviet Union, declared Seweryn Bailer in a 1982 Foreign Affairs essay, "is not now, nor will it be during the next decade, in the throes of a true economic crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability."

"Those in the U.S. who think the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse," cautioned Arthur Schlesinger Jr., are "wishful thinkers" merely "kidding themselves."

The President, said Time's Strobe Talbot (who now heads up Russia policy for the Clinton State Department), "is counting on American technological and economic performance to prevail in the end." This was foolish, for if the Soviets were in any kind of crisis "it is a permanent, institutionalized crisis with which the USSR has learned to live."
Reagan's critics
"Nobody heard what you said."
Saint Ronald

Tim

Apparently Rosen's post didn't take over here either.

For lurkers, if you liked "Bush the innovator", I'd also recommend reading There's Signal in That Noise: The White House, the Reality Principle and the Press

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