Should we call it Cal-istan or Iraqifornia?

by

I found this article very interesting. The author’s point is not to compare California to Iraq, but to demonstrate that the media has the power to shape our perception. He states:

So is California comparable to Iraq? Hardly. Yet it could easily be sketched by a reporter intent on doing so as a bank­rupt, crime-ridden den with murderous highways, tens of thousands of inmates, with wide-open borders.

Definitely something to think about. A lot of folks will credit the press with being a fourth “branch” of the government, a “watch dog” branch with no checks or balances to its power. And just like any watch dog that isn’t disciplined, it can turn on its master at any time.

My point? Be wary of what you read in the press. Remember that the newspaper that gets tossed on your front lawn is sometimes just about as worthless and stinks just much as something else a dog might leave on your lawn.

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60 Responses to “Should we call it Cal-istan or Iraqifornia?”

  1. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Taking a shot at DeJon’s career, huh?
    🙂

    It is an interesting article, and I think the call to perspective is valid. I’ll admit that I’ve thought of that sort of thing on occasion when I hear of “six people murdered in Iraq” and have wondered how many were killed in America that day.

    However (and feel free to enlighten me cuz I’m ignorant here), I’ve read (and this could be fact manipulation again) about anywhere from 35-40 thousand civilian deaths in Iraq since 2003 directly related to our military offensive. To me, that would be quite a story in California, and it seems odd that it doesn’t get more play in our media. I don’t understand why not.

    Oh, and I don’t advocate this self-centered position, but I suspect many anti-war folks could read the article you cited and ask why we’re in Iraq if their situation isn’t any worse than California.

  2. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Al,
    I think that those numbers on civilian casualties in Iraq are probably due to some data manipulation as you suggest. Why do I think this? Because if they were verifiable numbers, the media would be trumpeting from the rooftops and calling for Bush’s conviction as a war criminal. The problem with calculating numbers like that is that once the U.S. became occupiers, they became de facto caretakers of every single Iraqi citizen. Therefore the responsibility for every civilian death, be it from a fall down some stairs or from an IED, falls squarely on the shoulders of the U.S.

    To answer your last question… as a “military non-resident” resident of Cali for 9 of the last 12 years, I can say that the better question is, “Why aren’t we in California?” Just kidding of course. I have a love/hate relationship with California. It’s a fascinating and maddening place to live.

  3. Sandi Says:

    Um, I haven’t read the article, but I don’t think that the media would have been trumpeting those numbers from the rooftops at all. The media has been so cowed by the Bush administration for whatever reason (threats, maybe? and then the Joe Wilson incident). They have been incredibly solicitous of that idiot to an extent that would have inspired daily Rush Limbaugh rants during the Clinton administration.

  4. Sandi Says:

    Okay, read the article. I’m confused as to what the point is. There is crime in the U.S. and people are murdered and die in car accidents? And this is comparable to the situation in Iraq how exactly? Just seems like apples and oranges to me. I understand that it is disquieting to be a victim of crime — I’ve been through it to a lesser degree when I had a car stolen in law school. But living in California is so bad and scary you might as well be in Iraq? What the f**k ever. Cry me a river, buddy.

    Sorry for the snarky tone — I’ve been working all weekend and am sleep deprived. I suffer fools more gladly when I’m not so stressed out.

  5. Whitney Says:

    The media has been so cowed by the Bush administration for whatever reason (threats, maybe? and then the Joe Wilson incident). They have been incredibly solicitous of that idiot to an extent that would have inspired daily Rush Limbaugh rants during the Clinton administration.

    Sandi, we tend to get along quite well, and I also tend to agree with you on a lot of things, but that last statement was just plain bitterness. What good will bitterness do you?

    And you also must not watch the same news I do. My daily dose of CNN is plenty biased against Bush. They certainly aren’t objective and they voice their opinions fairly frequently. Just because they don’t hate him as blatantly as you and your Salon articles do doesn’t mean they’re kissing his feet. (By the way, and as I’ve stated before I think a lot of what’s posted on NRO and Salon are extreme(ist) crap with very little logical/reasonable thought behind it. Of course, I don’t regularly read either, so I’d be a poor judge.)

    And I’m in a pretty rotten mood today, too, so your final comment just plain pissed me off. Fools? Are you referring to Joe or the article’s author, or both? Either way, calling names isn’t exactly taking the high road.

  6. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Joe, Sandi,and Whitney.
    I normally try and steer clear of competive urination contests – and I’m certainly not going to jump in here – but I will add a personal experience.

    Back in the early ‘90s, I was riding on a tour bus in Belgium – going down through the Ardennes to see some Battle of the Bulge sites at Bastogne – and struck up a conversation with a Belgian fellow. There had recently been some terrorist attacks in Europe – someone threw a grenade and fired off some rounds in the airport at Frankfurt, I think. Puny things by today’s standards, but front page news all over the world at the time, and having a real impact on Europe’s tourist season that summer. This fellow and I talked about that, and I remarked that most folks back in America who had cancelled a vacation to Europe because of the news coverage were just ignorant of the real situation. The news coverage made it sound like, if you came to Germany or Italy or France that summer, you might run into bomb throwing radicals at every turn.
    “That’s true,” he said, “but it’s the same over here.” I ask what he meant, and he explained that many people he knew got almost all their information about American society for watching re runs of Miami Vice. They expected American streets to be littered with gunshot victims from gangland killings and drug deals going down on every corner.

    As a society, America is intellectually lazy. It’s too easy to pick up the remote and let some InfoDude or Babe tell us what events are important and what they should mean to us. Whether we are conservative or liberal, redneck country or cosmopolitan YUPPIE, Phd educated or intellectually challenged, it’s SOOOOO easy to rest in our own prejudices instead of getting up and seeing the real world.

    For most of us, perception IS reality. That’s why those with the power to shape our perception need to be held to a very high standard.

  7. DeJon Redd Says:

    Joe, your point is well taken. But only if you’re willing to extend your stinky metaphor describing an unstated percentage of journalism to also describe a similar ratio of military decisions and strategy.

    Its no secret the relationship between the American mass media and the military has been a begrudging one since Vietnam. But I now speak from personal experience. In seeing senior pentagon officials in mass media venues like “Meet the Press” and daily press clippings from the largest papers in the U.S. or in my daily adventures in the office, I see both sides.

    The underlying issues are deep, complicated and often vary form issue to issue.

    However, Joe, your vague yet harsh warning about the products delivered by American journalism have equal parallels in military leadership and decision making.

    Both sides suffer from the same laundry list of flaws
    – Contorting facts to make a point
    – Imbalanced perspective
    – Mudslinging and finger-pointing

    Both journalists and military leaders have a profound responsibility to the American public. Both have had colossal moments of fulfilling their duties and shirking them.

    It is not helpful nor healthy for military leaders to show their typically defensive position towards the media. This usually stems from a sever case of cognitive dissonance. The typical routine goes like this…

    – Reporter stumbles on an issue the military would rather they hadn’t
    – Reporter researches issue and contacts sources the military wishes they wouldn’t
    – Reporter publishes story
    – Military reacts with fury
    – Military discusses best way to get revenge or disparage reporter

    Too often the problem with the military’s circle-the-wagons mentality overlooks any thought of examining the issue to see if the reporter may be on to something.

    Granted the military can’t always let the media put military leadership in response mode. And often addressing the ignorance wrapped up in a journalist’s perspective requires more resources than its worth.

    Its just too easy for the military to cast stones at the profession of journalism with an elitist attitude that purports “we do our job with flawless execution!” … all the while telling the U.S. public … “the media is riddled with shysters and hucksters.”

    Neither is perfectly accurate and usually neither is the military leader’s mentality towards strategic communication.

  8. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Here’s the big difference Dejon.

    Those military leaders are out there defending their country.

    The journalists are out there trying to get the juiciest story they can for the sake of selling newspapers or ad time on their cable network.

    I have watched the military interaction with the press very closely from my vantage point in GTMO. It is apparent very early on when a journalist comes in with their own agenda. They don’t listen to the answers to the questions they ask. They pick and choose disingenuously from a grab bag of quotes. It’s almost comical, like they are playing with refrigerator magnets, rearranging the quotes to say whatever they want. I’ve heard what was actually said and then seen it printed, and it never ceases to amaze me how a writer can change the tone or meaning of a simple phrase with lead-in and other context. These people aren’t outright lying, Dejon, but they are shaping the truth.

    And they have the mouthpiece to shout their version of the truth. The military does not have the same voice to defend itself. And when it does get a voice, it is discounted immediately as propaganda. It’s a very uneven playing field.

  9. Michael Lasley Says:

    I really don’t have much to say that will add any insight. But whatever, here goes. I don’t really see the Bush administration scaring journalists, Sandi, as much as I see them just being arrogant towards and dismissive of the media. I don’t think too many journalists are too concerned about a small jail sentence — that’s the kind of thing a lot of journalists live for anyway (gets ’em big book deals and name recognition they wouldn’t get based just on their writing for a newspaper — even if they write for the NYT). And in the interest of disagreeing with everyone — Whitney, the media hasn’t always been unfavorable of Bush (think back when he was the most popular president in, like, forever). He has done a lot to distance himself and cause some unfavorable coverage (with the arrogance and dismissiveness), if that is what he is getting.

    As for Al’s question and Joe’s response about the rooftops: I think Al brought this up a couple of weeks ago and I think I responded to his question about casualities in Iraq. Bush himself admits to at least 30,000 civilian deaths. Some media reports have the count much higher — 80,000. I think Juvenal said something along the lines of — that doesn’t bother me too much because it just doesn’t register. I think that’s the case with me. That many deaths doesn’t register with me. It doesn’t seem real. (Sorry if I’m misquoting, Juvenal, it’s been a few weeks since that exchange.)

    Back to the article — it has some good points in it. We should all be more aware of what’s going on where we live, and we should all be more disturbed about the violence and corruption in California (or whatever other state). For those of us who can’t do much if anything about what’s going on in Iraq, we can start where we are. (That may be an overly generous reading of the article, but whatever.)

    Dejon — good insights. Capt — love the Miami Vice reference. I had a similar experience traveling in Europe a few years back. I was asked what it was like to live in such a violent country.

  10. Whitney Says:

    And in the interest of disagreeing with everyone — Whitney, the media hasn’t always been unfavorable of Bush (think back when he was the most popular president in, like, forever). He has done a lot to distance himself and cause some unfavorable coverage (with the arrogance and dismissiveness), if that is what he is getting.

    Mikey, I actually agree with you. I just meant recently. I don’t hear much in terms of Bush without thinly veiled sarcasm our outright disdain. But the administration has done a “kiss my butt” sort of thing that has probably only exacerbated the problem.

    I think you’re a great contributor to this particular conversation and look forward to hearing what else you have to say.

  11. Michael Lasley Says:

    Joe, I’m not sure I understand your argument. I have no doubt that there are a lot of self-serving journalists. (I actually don’t have the highest regard for journalists, Dejon excepted). But I don’t exactly feel sorry for the military for not having a mouthpiece. (I mean, historically, the media was their mouthpiece and they kind of misused it and now they have some trust issues with the public.) Is there a message they are wanting to give out that they don’t have an outlet for? (That’s actually a serious question, as I think there’d be a big audience for that.) There are live, daily press conferences, no? (If not by leaders in the military, then by spokespersons for the administration — which right now, deservedly or no, the two are conflated into the same thing.)

    Having said all of that, you have a good point about the cutting and pasting of quotations. That always bugs me when I read something, political or not, because I know the quote was given in response to a particular question that I’m not privy to and in a conversation that I don’t know much about. There’s not much readers can do other than understand that, though.

    And in the long run, I think Americans are better off with too much information (if people aren’t lazy, they can read a variety of sources and get a clearer picture of what’s goin’ on) than having no way to know what the military is doing.

  12. Michael Lasley Says:

    Thanks, Whitney. You’re too kind. As I really don’t have much to say. I just have all kinds of time on my hands since I’M FINISHED GRADING ESSAYS!!! and have finally recovered from the process.

  13. Sandi Says:

    Fools — author of article, not Joe. I thought that was clear by the context, although it did occur to me that that could be misinterpreted.

    Bitterness — deserved. (as in, if I’m bitter I deserve to be).

    Cowed — more before than now, yes, agreed. But that’s just because public opinion has turned. So maybe they were as cowed by the polls as by the administration.

    Idiot — he is one. Demonstrably. There’s not really a nice way to say it. And if he was just an idiot, that would be one thing. But I honestly, sincerely believe that he is a malicious person. So I can’t summon much sympathy.

    Urination — not intended, sorry if interpreted that way.

    NRO — what is that?

  14. Sandi Says:

    But to get back to the original point of the post, with respect to the media, I agree that the quality of the reporting out there is not as high as it should be. I found this out initially in high school, when as an aspiring journalist, I began to discover the kinds of external pressures that keep reporting from being truly illuminating most of the time. That, along with the predicted demise of print journalism (or its relegation to irrelevance) made me change my mind and decide to go to law school.

    The further decline in the quality of the media since then signals to me that I made the right decision. Which is not to say that there isn’t good reporting going on out there — you do see it occasionally — but that it’s definitely not just a quest for truth and enlightenment.

    Personally, though, I find tv and radio far more offensive in this vein (distortions, misrepresentations, oversimplifications, omissions, etc.) than print journalism. Those media seemed to have really dumbed down the public discourse to an unacceptable level.

    The other thing that Joe’s post hints at is the whole objectivity thing. I remember my high school American history teacher suggesting to us that there was no such thing as objectivity — that even the reporting of facts is colored, via use of language, sentence structure, inclusion of details, emphasis, etc., by our perspective. I’m not sure which philosopher’s work he was expressing, but I tend to agree. So does Lynne Cheney, which is why she and her folks are trying to remove all the dirty anti-American traitorous material from schools. 🙂

  15. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Idiot — he is one. Demonstrably.

    Please demonstrate. Hopefully you’ll cite something a bit more substantial than stumbling through phrases or mixing up words. If that’s what you’re basing your claim on, then lump me in with the 290 million other “idiots” in this country.

    But I honestly, sincerely believe that he is a malicious person.

    Again. Please demonstrate. And quoting Kanye West does not count as justification.

    Please show your work. There is no time limit for this exam. Filling up your blue book is not required. Well thought-out, supported answers are.

  16. Sandi Says:

    LOL. That Kanye West thing was funny, wasn’t it? I mean, it was sad, but it was funny. Just the look on Mike Myers’ face as he tried to hold it together …

    Anyway, I decline the invitation to fill a bluebook. I’m sure that any number of writers have put together documentary evidence that I could sift through and put one together if I chose, but I do have a day job. Although, I must say that the poor English is way over the top compared to what you would expect from someone who attended Yale, even if he did get C’s (and bragged about it in 2001 at the commencement I skipped).

    In a more general sense, the policies that he favors and the campaign tactics that he has either participated in or countenanced (the John McCain South Carolina incident, Swift Boat, etc.), as well as his general attitude — arrogant, contemptuous, cold — evidence someone to me who does not have a full deck in the empathy department. Then when you add in the dishonesty that has occurred during his presidency, particularly the lie about WMDs, and the great lengths to which he has gone to insulate himself from any kind of dissent or criticism, and probably numerous other things I’m not thinking of right this second, it all adds up to something that smells rotten to me. I know it is difficult to separate a President’s actions and opinions from those of his handlers and advisors, but ostensibly he is the decider, right?

    Oh, I know one other thing that suggested malice to me. The fact that he didn’t spend any time at all reviewing death sentences when he was governor of Texas, even when there was evidence of innocence. I don’t remember specific names, but I do remember hearing about more than one such case that he rubber-stamped.

    Am I alone in thinking that this President has not been honest or above board and that he lacks compassion? These seem like very basic conclusions at this point.

  17. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Interesting that it’s been six years since GWB killed a man in cold blood and not one of those cases with “evidence” of innocence has resurfaced.

    Swift Boat Vets? Hello pot, it’s me kettle. National Guard memos ring a bell? At least the SBV guys didn’t make up their stuff. This is American politics we’re talking about here. By your logic, every politician is malicious.

    And it always comes back to the “Big Lie” about WMD, doesn’t it? First off… (allow me to quote Rummy) absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Second… back in March 2003, everyone KNEW that Saddam had WMDs. The question wasn’t whether or not he had them, but what to do about it. It wasn’t just GWB and the neocons. It was the ENTIRE WESTERN WORLD.

    Except you, of course.

  18. Michael Lasley Says:

    I disagree, Joe, about the WMDs. It seems that the UN didn’t think Iraq had WMDs before the war. (Maybe I’m misremembering, but it seems like lots of people didn’t think Iraq had WMDs, hence, the lack of broad international support for the war when it began.) To which incident in 2003 are you referring to?

    Rumsfeld’s logic makes no sense. A lot of things could be argued using that logic. Plus, given the overwhelming evidence of WMDs, finding them shouldn’t have been difficult, especially after in interviews Rumsfeld said he knew exactly where they were. He even gave fairly specific locations. If we had the intelligence to tell us Iraq had weapons and where they were, it seems a little odd to use Rumsfeld’s logic: “well, this doesn’t mean they aren’t here.” To me, this goes to the argument that Bush isn’t a good administrator. There have been some pretty big goofs — WMDs being one of them, in my opinion — which shouldn’t have happened. A good administrator is responsible for the intelligence he or she receives. They are responsible for the decisions they make based on that intelligence.

    I don’t necessarily agree with Sandi’s assessment of Bush, but I think there are some very disturbing things about the administration. Thing #1 for me is the way he searched for ways around the Geneva Convention. I understand the logic behind needing to extract information from prisoners of war, but actively trying to find loop holes in international laws in order not abide by them is pretty indefensible to me.

    Joe, I actually would like to know why you trust Bush so much. I’m being serious. It’d help me understand things better, maybe. Do you think there were or are WMDs? Do you think he’s made some pretty big errors, like I do? Do you think he’s been honest with the American people? Again, those are sincere. I’m not setting you up or anything.

  19. Sandi Says:

    Not just except me. I think that there were a number of people who had reservations about acting so quickly and remained agnostic as to what would be found.

    The fact that the death penalty cases haven’t “resurfaced” (whatever that means) does not mean that (a) one or more innocent men were not executed; or (b) that Bush’s callous indifference to that possibility, made plain by his refusal to even take any time to review the evidence, does not signal that he is an individual who lacks basic empathy for fellow human beings.

    I, like many people, gave this man an honest chance to be “a uniter not a divider” and to seize the opportunity after 9/11 to examine the situation and attempt to make the world a better place. In every way and on every issue, he has been a disappointment — in part of course because of his preexisting views that I disagreed with at the time he was inaugurated in 2001, but in part because he talked a lot of moderation during the first campaign and then instituted something much more like scorched-earth.

    But more fundamentally, his presidency has really shaken my faith in the vitality of American democracy. The complete disregard for the principles of honesty and fair dealing that have become evident through the events that have unfolded make me worry for our future. Maybe it was always this bad, and I was just naive. Richard Nixon, Tammany Hall, Rutherford B. Hayes, blah blah blah. The 60 Minutes debacle was unfortunate, but my understanding is that that was a case of inadequate fact-checking, not a deliberate campaign of blatant untruths like Swift Boat. Which is not to say that no Democrat has ever told an untrue story — but I was asked about what Bush has done, and I’m just repeating what I can think of right now about him.

    So, you can make fun of me all you want, and be derisive, we all do it sometimes because these issues are frustrating. The crap that spewed forth about Bill Clinton on hate-wing radio (i.e., he killed Vince Foster) always got on my last nerve. But my “hatred” of Bush and his cronies comes from a place of wanting the best for this country and the world. If something I’ve said is factually inaccurate, then let’s talk about that. Justifying something by saying that other people do it too or said it too doesn’t erase the wrongness of what was done and said.

  20. Sandi Says:

    And I should hasten to add that, in fairness, he couldn’t have gotten away with all of this stuff without the complicity of a substantial number of the American people, not to mention the media (at least before this year), to go back to the initial topic. I find the people in the slippery middle who change their minds all the time to be very frustrating. I think it’s a great thing to reevaluate an opinion in light of new evidence, but these folks seem to lack basic principles rather than just waiting for the evidence to become exceedingly clear.

  21. Sandi Says:

    My understanding is that the SBV actually did make their stuff up.

    And what about the date for starting the war being penciled in on the calendar back when we were still supposedly giving Saddam a chance to let the UN inspectors do their jobs? Was that memo made up?

  22. DeJon Redd Says:

    A brief re-attack on my point … As long as the Pentagon brass or their tactical minions see the media as the enemy we fail.

    We fail to honor that dusty parchment we swore to protect.

    The metaphor I employ re: the media would be the weather. Military ops will continue as long as our flag waves. The media’s role in those operations is tantamount to the role of the weather. Sometimes its clear-and-a-million. Other times you’re in the muck. But the weather is not the enemy. And neither are the Dan Rathers, Rush Limbaughs or Arianna Huffingtons of the world.

    Forgetting that fact does every one a disservice.

  23. DeJon Redd Says:

    Joe says: Those military leaders are out there defending their country.

    It is all too likely the journalist would believe she is doing the same thing the military leader wants to do … defend her country. The commander must guard against the mindset that the only way to defend our great country is via typical military means.

    Joe says: The journalists are out there trying to get the juiciest story they can for the sake of selling newspapers or ad time on their cable network.

    Not all of them. And I beg you, my dear friend, be careful how broad the brush with which you paint.

  24. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’ll join the I-agree-with-Michael crowd. On several counts.

    Like him, I genuinely can’t figure out why so many people trust President Bush so much. He just hasn’t demonstrated much ability to get the job done. Whether that’s because of malice and low I.Q. or just a series of understandable mistakes is really beside the point, in terms of evaluating his job performance (as opposed to his character).

    I just can’t think of any problem or issue he’s moved the country substantially forward on.

    –Our intelligence services were (apparently) a wreck when he got there. They’re still a total wreck.

    –We were unprepared to respond to a major homeland disaster when 9/11 happened. We’re still totally unprepared.

    –Iraq, Iran, and North Korea presented some sort of danger to the U.S. when Bush took office. Iraq, Iran, and North Korea still present a major danger to the U.S.

    –The gap between the rich on the one hand and the poor and middle-class on the other was too large and growing in 2000. It’s still growing.

    –We had a budget surplus when Bush took office. Now we have the largest deficits in our history.

    One could go on. I honestly don’t understand what he’s done that people find so commendable. Even on the issues conservatives usually care about most, things have gotten worse under his management, not better: bigger deficits, bigger government programs, hugely more powerful government at home (vis-a-vis individual rights), considerably less powerful government abroad (in terms of American influence & stature), etc.

    Seriously, what has the Bush administration done that a conservative would point to and say, “Yeah, that’s what we needed. Now we’re better off.”? Is it just the judges, some extra money for faith-based initiatives, and all that empty rhetoric about values? Whatever it is, does it outweigh all that other stuff? Does it outweigh it enough to justify the kind of whole-hearted defense you’re giving him?

    On the WMD question, you’re absolutely right, Joe: other countries thought Iraq had them, too. But, so far as I know, holding the governments of those countries accountable for their mistakes is the job of the citizens of those countries, not Americans; we’re responsible for what our government does, and it’s the only one we can hold accountable. Besides, how many of those countries spend as much as we spend on intelligence (both civilian and military)? What are all those high income taxes buying us? Anything? And how many of those other countries have been occupying Iraq for years, and still can’t find any WMD? How many of them have spent $300 billion in Iraq, and still can’t find any WMD? How many of them have sent multiple teams of experts under multiple experts-in-chief, and had all those experts come back with nothing but a quizzical look on their face?

    Rumsfeld is 100% right (though not exactly original): absence of finding is not finding of absence. But absence of finding when you claimed to be absolutely certain they were there and even to know where they were is an abject, 100%, unqualified failure to get the job done, whatever the cause. And his saying, “Well those countries in Old Europe thought they had ’em, too!,” doesn’t get the job done any better. It’s an excuse and a lame attempt to shift blame. Either the WMD were there and we’ve failed to capture any of them, or they were not there and we — almost alone — have wasted a still unknowable amount of blood and money on a bureaucrat’s mistake.

    When it comes right down to it, while other countries may have said they thought Iraq had WMD, we’re the one that screamed to high heaven that we knew where they were, insisted on invading immediately, spent hundreds of billions of dollars, put its men and women in harm’s way, got thousands of people killed, have been occupying the country for years, and now can’t find any WMD or even figure out how to get our fingers out of the dike without drowning.

    To me, that looks, smells, walks, and brays like a failure, no matter what kind of European tail one tries to pin on it.

    As for the article’s point regarding reporting on Iraq vs. California, I would bet if I lived in California, I’d hear a lot more about the crime and corruption there. Could the national media give just as much attention to the deaths and corruption in California as they do in Iraq? Yes, but who’d watch/read/listen to it, other than Californians. Iraq is a national story. Crime in California is a California story. (Unless, of course, it involves the Juice.)

    All that said, I do think the casualty numbers out of Iraq have been extremely low for a war zone. However, they’re extremely high for an unnecessary war zone.

  25. Joe Longhorn Says:

    JU,
    I’ll agree with a lot of what you said. The intel wasn’t nearly as good as we thought. Happens all the time. But this is not the same as lying. The “Bush lied and people died” chorus is utter nonsense. That’s where my beef lies.

    I respect the fact that even though you don’t like the President or his policies, you give the benefit of the doubt with respect to the President’s motives. You don’t automatically paint him as an uncaring and malicious person.

    And to answer the question about this Administration’s successes… In the past five years this country has been subject to the worst terrorist attack in history on its own soil and experienced the single most costly natural disaster in its history. Yet here we are. Still standing. With the economy growing at a rate of nearly 5% last quarter. And there has not been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil or against U.S. interests since 9/11.

    Dejon,
    Of course there are exceptions. Not all journalists can be categorized as sensationalists. I’ve just seen too many instances of ankle-biting and gotcha games on the part of the press. How many times have you been misquoted Dejon?

    And I disagree with the weather metaphor, Dejon. That’s way too simplistic. The weather doesn’t ever have an agenda and it rains on both sides of the battle line. Are you telling me that Walter Cronkite didn’t have an impact more than that of the typical thunderstorm when he declared the Viet Nam war lost?

    I admire what you do, Bubba. Whether you realize it or not, you play with dynamite everyday. I don’t think commanders view the press as an adversary so much as a dangerous force that must be handled with care.

  26. Joe Longhorn Says:

    And JU, with the exception of the budget surplus (which was the doing of a republican congress), your description of issues that face our country fits for 1992 as well as 2000 and today. What the heck did that Clinton guy do for 8 years? (Other than sit on his hands after the embassy bombings and USS COLE, basically inviting the 9/11 attacks)

  27. Michael Lasley Says:

    According to Clinton, Joe, he did try to get Bin Laden a couple of times but didn’t because he would have also killed a lot of civilians. That’s something entirely different from the sitting on hands and inviting anything as much as making strategic decisions. Maybe he didn’t make the right decision (even he wonders about that — or at least did in his autobiography). But portraying him as sitting on his hands isn’t in any way representative of what Clinton did. Clinton had different priorities during his Presidency (much more concerned with domestic policies), and some of those priorities did contribute to intelligence and security issues. But sitting on the hands? Inviting?

    I don’t agree with everything Clinton did. And there was bi-partisan work on the budget. (Again, in his autobiography, Clinton praised Republicans for their work.) I’ll give props to the Republican Congress, although I wouldn’t say it was all them. Clinton was very invested in that and worked hard to achieve it.

    Sorry for digressing…I’d like to hear more from you about why you trust Bush. You really didn’t say, other than we are still here. Again, I’m being serious (I always feel the need to qualify, apologies). Do you think the war in Iraq was necessary? Do you think Bush had an adequate plan for carrying out the war? Do you think that the war has made us safer? Maybe I’m not asking very good questions, so feel free to ask some of your own. I ask them because I think they are questions that have to do with Bush’s leadership abilities. And I would really like to know what it is he’s doing that has earned your trust.

  28. juvenal_urbino Says:

    In the past five years this country has been subject to the worst terrorist attack in history on its own soil and experienced the single most costly natural disaster in its history. Yet here we are. Still standing.

    True, but I think the temperature of your rhetoric outruns the facts underlying it. I agree that 9/11 was the worst terrorist attack we’ve suffered on our soil, however: it wasn’t that much worse than the attack on the Murrah Federal Building, and, more to the point, as bad as it was, it still wasn’t very bad. A few buildings were destroyed, all in a tightly confined area (except the Pentagon, which was far from destroyed). If that attack had left us not “still standing,” it would’ve been testimony to our extraordinary frailty, not to the size and value of the attack. We survived it because America is a huge country, and only a tiny fraction of a percent of it was affected by the attack. So, I don’t think there’s really all that much credit to spread around for America surviving 9/11; even if Bush gets all of it (which is highly dubious), it’s not worth much.

    As for the natural disaster, I don’t think I’d bring that up in a defense of President Bush, if I could help it. I mean, seriously, if the [ongoing charlie-foxtrot of a] response to Katrina is half of your top-shelf argument for Bush’s competence and commendability as a chief executive, should that maybe tell you something about how far in a corner supporting him has forced you?

    With the economy growing at a rate of nearly 5% last quarter.

    But nearly all the benefit accruing to the wealthier segments of the population, while the working poor get working poorer (if they’re lucky enough to still be working).

    And there has not been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil or against U.S. interests since 9/11.

    This strikes me as a very wobbly argument, and not only because it’s entirely dependent on what hasn’t happened but any day might (cf., a certain argument about “absence of finding”). It’s wobbly, too, because it demonstrates no causality. It simply states that something hasn’t happened in a certain period, and that Bush was president during that period.

    What is it Bush has done that you think has prevented further attacks? It certainly isn’t that he’s pulled the intelligence services into shape, or appointed anyone who has (or could have). Is it the deposing of Saddam? The Patrot Act? Keeping those people locked down in Guantanamo? The heightened secrecy about executive branch activities? The use of torture or torture-equivalents and extraordinary rendition? Collecting records of Americans’ phone calls? Do you subscribe to the “fighting them in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them here” theory?

    Personally — and I would say this no matter who’d been in the White House since 9/11 — I think we’ve just been lucky. Either that or the people who attacked us on 9/11 are still setting up their next attack, and simply haven’t tripped the trigger yet.

  29. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Oh, and I’ll add that I think the war in Afghanistan did help prevent further attacks for a while.

  30. juvenal_urbino Says:

    And JU, with the exception of the budget surplus (which was the doing of a republican congress), your description of issues that face our country fits for 1992 as well as 2000 and today.

    Well, Joe, I believe I stated that all those other issues were issues when Bush took office. My question is: why the devoted support for a president who, at best, hasn’t improved on his devoutly-hated predecessor’s record?

    As for the budget surpluses of the 90s being the result of a Republican congress, that’s a pretty tough argument to make in light of the fact that all these deficits are also the result of a Republican congress (and WH). What happened? Did you guys pull the starters and go to your bench too soon?

    No. The budget surpluses were, as Mikey suggests, the result of the efforts of lots of people on both sides of the aisle, along with the help of a booming economy, for which nobody on either side can really take credit.

    Regardless of who did what to whom before 2000, Bush and a Republican House and a Republican Senate are deficit-spending at a historic pace, and for no good reason. 9/11 has not one thing to do with it.

    Other than sit on his hands after the embassy bombings and USS COLE, basically inviting the 9/11 attacks

    You mean like Bush41 invited 9/11 by not taking out Saddam the first time? Or like Reagan invited 9/11 by sitting on his hands after the Beirut bombing? Or invited the crisis with Iran by illegally selling arms to them? Or invited the horrors of Saddam by sending Don Rumsfeld to tell him how much we liked him, and selling him weapons (for money we pressured international banks into lending him) in contradiction of our supposed neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war? Or sowed the seeds of the Taliban in Afghanistan by aiding the mujahaddin during the Soviet occupation? (Okay, Carter helped with that one.)

    My point: 9/11 (and the Beirut bombing and the horrors of Saddam and our problems with Iran and the Cole and embassy bombings) was the result of decades of bad policy decisions by Democrats and Republicans, alike.

  31. Sandi Says:

    Well, since everyone is agreeing with Michael, I will pile on, with respect to this: the issue is trust. It was with Clinton, and it is with Bush. I would wager that Bill-haters presumed the worst about his character as I do with Bush because they fundamentally didn’t trust him. It would not surprise me, Joe, if you fit that description back in the day. That’s just a guess. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a Bill-hater who didn’t think that his character was lacking. (I don’t know about malicious).

    I don’t think that the judgment I have made about Bush’s character is unsupported by evidence. A lot of it is circumstantial evidence, but it’s evidence nonetheless. Based on it, I would be shocked to discover something different about him — but I will grant that it’s a pretty safe judgment because there is no chance I’ll ever be privy to any direct information about his character.

    And at some level, is it even possible to separate policy differences from discussions of character anyway?

    Feel free to continue ignoring me. I like talking to myself. 🙂

  32. Joe Longhorn Says:

    I disagree, Joe, about the WMDs. It seems that the UN didn’t think Iraq had WMDs before the war. (Maybe I’m misremembering, but it seems like lots of people didn’t think Iraq had WMDs, hence, the lack of broad international support for the war when it began.)

    You are misremembering. The UN’s reticence had nothing to do with doubts about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. It had everything to to with Russia, France, and other nations not wanting to lose the nice little cash cow they had going with the oil for food program. Not to mention that the U.N. doesn’t have the fortitude to back up its words with action.

    JU,
    Now the liberal line is that 9/11 wasn’t that bad after all? Heck, only about 3000 people died. The main effect of 9/11 was not the physical damage or the large loss of life. It was the psychological damage to our country. Bush led this country through that admirably.

    But to use your guidelines, JU, Katrina wasn’t that bad. Only a few thousand (maybe) dead. Significant property damage along only 150 miles of our thousands of miles of coastline. Not that bad really.

    You know I don’t believe what I just wrote, but it’s the same argument you just spit out about 9/11. And comparing it to the Murrah building attack? You are grasping straws there, my man. Less than 200 dead vs ~3000 dead. One relatively unknown building destroyed vs. two very visibile symbols of American economic strength destroyed and one very visible symbol of American military strength damaged. One rented U-haul filled with fertilizer and diesel vs. four commercial airliners filled with jet fuel and people. Yeah… I can see the parallel.

    Both 9/11 and Katrina were supposed to cripple our country and economy. (That is if you listen to the media.) They didn’t.

    Is it the deposing of Saddam? The Patrot Act? Keeping those people locked down in Guantanamo? The heightened secrecy about executive branch activities? The use of torture or torture-equivalents and extraordinary rendition? Collecting records of Americans’ phone calls? Do you subscribe to the “fighting them in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them here” theory?

    Deposing Saddamm? Yes. We are safer.

    Patriot Act? Yes. Safer.

    Heightened secrecy about E.B. activities? If you are referring to NSA programs and other intelligence gathering, then yes.

    Torture and torture-equivalents? Ah yes… the torture-equivalent qualifier. Since nothing we have done meets the traditional definition of torture, we have to come up with the new phrase “torture-equivalent”. From an intelligence gathering standpoint, other than the “ticking time bomb” scenario, placing the interviewee under duress does not yield results. Good rapport between the interviewer and interviewee does. We have learned this lesson, so the “torture” issue at this point in time is a red herring.

    Collecting records of phone calls? Yes. Safer. Read a little more before you throw this out as some civil rights violation. The government collected nothing about the content in the calls. They only used the records to determine calling patterns.

    Fight them there vs. here? Definitely in Afghanistan (by the way, we are still there). Somewhat less in Iraq. And yes, it has made us safer. AQ is significantly weakened and still on the defensive.

    So… I would attribute part of the fact that we haven’t been attacked in nearly five years (when in the ten years prior to 9/11 we averaged an AQ related attack every two years or less) to GWB’s policies.

  33. Michael Lasley Says:

    Sorry for misremembering.

    But, for someone crying about how reporters mis-quote people, you sure don’t mind mis-using other people’s ideas. JU’s “it wasn’t that bad” was said in context. You do a nice job of pulling it out of context and using it to say what you want.

  34. Joe Longhorn Says:

    How did I take JU out of context?

    I didn’t make any points other than to counter him saying the 9/11 “wasn’t that bad.” I didn’t push any agenda other than to point out the absurdity of his statement.

    I agree with him that we should be able to withstand a blow like that without collapsing. No matter who the President is. However, that doesn’t meant that “it wasn’t that bad.”

  35. Whitney Says:

    JU,

    If I read you right, you think it’s “dubious” that Bush gets “all” the credit for the aftermath of 9/11, but you think it’s just find that he catches all the flack for the response following Katrina? What logic is that?

    I don’t think he should get all the credit/blame for either.

    And Mikey, I don’t see how Joe took JU out of context either. I’m not being sarcastic, just curious, please explain why it is out of context. (Like you, I always feel the need to qualify my statements lest they be taken as harsher than I intend.)

    JU’s point was that in the grand scheme of things the 9/11 attacks just weren’t that bad and that we would’ve survived no matter who the president was. While I agree with the latter, JU’s point about how the attack’s could’ve been much worse does nothing to address the psychological impact 9/11 had on our country–which was much more profound than Murrah (and I was in Oklahoma then, so while it may have been pretty meaningless to the rest of you, at home we all knew someone in that building) and not even close to comparable. For the few hours we believed Murrah to be an international terrorist job, it may have been similar, but the militia component boiled Murrah down to some citizen crazies, not a huge international terror force that must be dealt with.

  36. Michael Lasley Says:

    I guess I think you used it out of context because he was making a point that 3,000 people out of 300,000,000 citizens isn’t significantly more (relatively speaking) than 300 (or however many were killed in OKC) out of 300,000,000. His “it wasn’t that bad” was in the context of your saying Bush was a good leader because America was still standing after the WTC attacks. (Point being, I think, that as terrible as the attacks were, there have been attacks before when others were president, those attacks were pretty bad, and America is still standing.) JU was trying to add a different perspective. In response to something you said specifically. You remove the context and say, oh, liberals are now saying 9/11 wasn’t that bad? To me, that’s misusing a quote. Although it is early here on the west coast, and I don’t do early very well.

    I’ll be honest here. I hate political arguments. I’m way guilty of letting my preconceived ideas prevent my learning anything. And I, for some reason, read hostility or dismissiveness into a lot of things you say, even if it’s not there. So I’m probably guilty of not giving all of your comments as fair of a read as I should (I do try, though). I actually do want to learn stuff from you, for the record, so I don’t dismiss your ideas as much as just read a tone into them that you may or may not intend.

    (Not only do I not read things well in the morning, I also don’t express my ideas clearly in the morning, so hopefully something I wrote makes sense.)

  37. Whitney Says:

    Mikey, Don’t worry it’s dead week (at least for me), which means professors can act dead, too. 🙂 You don’t have to be coherent.

    So far as tone goes, it is very difficult for me to read tone, too, and I have a tendency to automatically read sarcasm and hostility into what JU and Sandi post. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes I’m not good at it. I’ve learned to just ask, but if I’m wrong, they’ll definitely tell me. I’m lucky to know Joe well enought to know when he’s being sarcastic and when he’s not, and most of the time he’s not, he’s being honest. He is a very straightforward person and writes that way. But he isn’t by nature confrontational. He also sometimes makes jokes that no one really catches and they take him more seriously than he intended. Hope that helps.

    Hope your semester is winding down nicely, or has wound completely down. I have 80 essay exams to grade in two days next week so that I can get on a plane and be in DC in time to welcome my husband back to the states. The pressure I put on myself!!! I may actually pull an all-nighter…and those kids think we don’t do anything. Sheesh.

  38. Michael Lasley Says:

    Waking up is the most taxing thing I do each day, Whitney. We finished here two weeks ago.

  39. Whitney Says:

    You lucky dog.

  40. Joe Longhorn Says:

    Major’s a lucky dog.

  41. Whitney Says:

    AWWWW! Joe changed his picture to the cutest dog in the world.

    MY!! Dog.
    (Oh wait, I mean the dog that resides in my house under my care. In Cali, you can’t technically have ownership of a dog. Rather, I am his guardian.)

  42. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Now the liberal line is that 9/11 wasn’t that bad after all? Heck, only about 3000 people died.

    Yes, Joe. That’s right. I didn’t mean any of that. Nor did it have any substance. It was just a line. Just a shallow political tactic. That’s the kind of person I am, clearly. Anything to win an argument. Anything to criticize the president.

    Leaving aside your continued snarky attacks on my character (or is this that sense of humor Whitney told us you had?), I’ll make brief responses to your points. You’ll notice I manage to do it without impugning your motives or intellectual honesty.

    Yes. For a country the size of the U.S., 9/11 was a minor attack. It lasted less than one day, affected only 2 very small areas, damaged no infrastructure that affected the functioning of the nation as a whole, did no military or industrial damage, did only miniscule economic damage, caused no population displacement, and inflicted very low casualties relative to our population. (I shouldn’t have to make this request, but please recall I also said the casualties from Iraq have been quite low, given that it’s a war zone.) And yes, I do think all of that logically places the 9/11 attack in roughly the same class as the attack on the Murrah building.

    But to use your guidelines, JU, Katrina wasn’t that bad. Only a few thousand (maybe) dead. Significant property damage along only 150 miles of our thousands of miles of coastline.

    While Katrina produced roughly the same casualty numbers as 9/11, it was much worse in all other respects. It affected a much larger area, it did damage infrastructure that affects the functioning of the nation, did do industrial damage, caused major economic harm, displaced large numbers of people, and it did (or is doing) all those things over a fairly long term.

    Deposing Saddamm? Yes. We are safer.

    Are we? We’re safer with Iraq in the condition it’s in now than we were before we invaded?

    So far as I know, Iraq under Saddam never attacked America. They were on the “state sponsors of terrorism” list (except when Reagan took them off for a while), but nearly every state in that part of the world is on that list, and Iraq was on it not because it supported the Islamic terrorists who attacked us, but because it supported Palestinian nationalist groups.

    Patriot Act? Yes. Safer.

    Arguable, but I’ll go along for the sake of argument. However: safer at what cost? Was there a better way of accomplishing the same effect? By “better” I mean a way that treads less heavily on our traditions of individual liberty, open government, and freedom from unreasonable investigation — i.e., those things that make us America?

    If you are referring to NSA programs and other intelligence gathering, then yes.

    Same questions.

    Torture and torture-equivalents? Ah yes… the torture-equivalent qualifier. Since nothing we have done meets the traditional definition of torture, we have to come up with the new phrase “torture-equivalent”.

    Actually, you’ve gone off half-cocked. I threw in “torture-equivalent” as a courtesy to your point of view. The president insists — on specious legal grounds — that what we’re doing isn’t torture, and I was trying to be nice about it by not arguing the point.

    We have learned this lesson, so the “torture” issue at this point in time is a red herring.

    Who is “we?” Not the Bush administration at large, clearly. They continue to practice extraordinary rendition, and who-knows-what in various secretive prisons.

    Collecting records of phone calls? Yes. Safer. Read a little more before you throw this out as some civil rights violation. The government collected nothing about the content in the calls.

    I’m quite aware of that, thanks. It’s still a civil rights violation. (There’s another important point to be made here, but I’ll pass it over for now.)

    Fight them there vs. here? Definitely in Afghanistan (by the way, we are still there).

    Well, the troops and money that didn’t get diverted to invading and occupying Iraq are still there. Aside from that, I’ll agree (as I previously stated) that Afghanistan helped — seeing as how the people who attacked us actually were there.

    Somewhat less in Iraq.

    I think we’re actually less safe from Iraq than we were before. The lawlessness we’ve allowed to develop there has made it in reality what the Bush administration claimed it was before we invaded: a haven for terrorists and terrorist training.

  43. juvenal_urbino Says:

    If I read you right, you think it’s “dubious” that Bush gets “all” the credit for the aftermath of 9/11, but you think it’s just find that he catches all the flack for the response following Katrina? What logic is that?

    Well, not to put too fine a point on it, Whitney, but it’s the kind of logic I didn’t engage in. I never said Bush deserves all the blame for the response to Katrina. He deserves the blame for the [still ongoing] federal failures. Do you not think those are pretty dramatic, and reflect very poorly on his ability to perform the job of chief executive?

    Other than that, yes, you read me right.

    On your psychological argument, that’s something I’ve heard people assert over and over — that 9/11 caused tremendous trauma to the national psyche — but I haven’t heard anybody adduce any evidence for the assertion. I’m not saying it isn’t out there. It may be, for all I know. I’m just saying I’ve never heard anybody cite any.

    In the absence of it, I can only judge by my own experience of it, and that of the people I know. Based on that evidence, I see no national psychological trauma. People outside NYC (and its environs) and D.C. seemed to go right on about their business without missing a beat. It was something that happened way off in NYC or Washington, places they had no personal experience of and didn’t identify with at all.

    I lived in NYC for a year, and the thing that dominated the view from my bedroom window was the World Trade Center. It’s weird that they’re not there anymore, and the video of how they were destroyed is horrendous, but I can’t say my outlook or daily mindset has been in any way changed by it.

    Have you seen studies documenting a “9/11 effect” on the nation? (Not a rhetorical question. I’d be interested in seeing them.)

  44. Whitney Says:

    JU,
    After a very quick search in APA, most psychological journal articles related to 9/11 are about the acute impact of the attacks versus the long-term impact. I have a feeling these are still being studied or just now being put to press where they do exist. Overall, it seems the long term effects may be based on living with more fear and uncertainty than we have in the past. Other studies discuss resilience and how we fight back against such feelings. Basically, because we’re more afraid (in the broad sense) we get tougher. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing yet.

    Here is one article I stumble upon that looks perfect for this conversation. I can only post the title, abstract & citation.

    Agenda setting in a culture of fear: The lasting effects of September 11 on American politics and journalism.

    Abstract:
    Agenda setting has been developed, expanded, and employed in numerous studies as an analytical tool that affords an understanding of not only how our political reality is formulated but also how “realities” can be manufactured. However, as the authors argue, by grafting agenda setting and media systems dependency theory–two different traditions in mass communication theory–it is possible to better account for changes in the agenda-setting process because of shifts in the power relationships between all actors involved, especially under conditions of increased threat; conditions similar to those the American public has lived in since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Illustrations from Campaign 2004 complement this analysis. The authors suggest that it is critical to understand the dynamics of the making of “mediated realities” so as to alert readers of the importance in furthering critical media literacy skills necessary for the public to distinguish between facades and facts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

    Citation:
    Matsaganis, M.D., & Payne, J.G. (2005). genda setting in a culture of fear: The lasting effects of September 11 on American politics and journalism. American Behavioral Scientist, 49(3), 379-392.

    Going back, I still wonder how you think Bush deserves all the blame for the Federal response to Katrina. What are Federal Agencies for if they cannot be trusted by the administration to get things done correctly without the president being right in the middle of it? The president doesn’t have time to be the head of all Federal agencies. FEMA failed. (But the government of New Orelans & Louisiana failed even more miserably; they just weren’t prepared at home.) And yes, Bush should shoulder some of that responsibility. But all of it? Following that logic (which you said you don’t–I think is what you said), if Bush gets all the negative credit for the Federal response to Katrina, you should agree that he gets all the positive credit for the Federal response to 9/11. I still don’t see how you can have one and not the other.

    p.s. I’m NOT being rude here, so please don’t take it that way. You come off just as snarky as you think Joe is, but I’m sure you don’t think you are, just as I’m sure he doesn’t think he is. Joe is pretty much the minority here and we all tend to think people who don’t agree with us are being snarky (my new word) instead of just reading their comment in a positive, yet discussive/ debating tone. Don’t you think that sitting in a room discussing this could be quite different?

    And he didn’t call your character into question (from what I read), he drew a parralel with something you said so as to illustrate his point. Geesh. Why is everyone on here so sensitive!? (Don’t worry, I know I am, too, but I’m working on it.) Can’t we just give each other the benefit of the doubt? Can’t we assume a nice tone unless we’re told otherwise?

  45. Whitney Says:

    JU, I’m sorry if my last post didn’t make sense. I was trying, but not sure I got there.

  46. Whitney Says:

    DeJ,
    Looking back at that abstract, you should really make that your focus in grad school. You’d be GREAT at that kind of research. (Don’t you love how I suggest what you should work on?)

  47. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Thanks for the cite, Whitney. I’ll have to give that a think.

    I still wonder how you think Bush deserves all the blame for the Federal response to Katrina. What are Federal Agencies for if they cannot be trusted by the administration to get things done correctly without the president being right in the middle of it?

    You speak of “Federal Agencies” and “the administration” as if they’re 2 separate things. Those agencies, taken as a whole, together with the layer of elected/appointed officials at the top of them are the Bush administration. Just as they were the Clinton administration or the Eisenhower administration. Those agencies are what the president’s supposed to “administer”; without them, there is a “Bush presidency” and a “Bush White House,” but there is no “Bush administration.” (I’m not trying to be cute. That’s literally what “the ___ administration” refers to.) Administering those agencies is the president’s job as chief executive. Either he can do that job, or he can’t.

    One day in the late 90s, I was sitting in a restaurant in San Antonio, talking with my boss, who, like you and Joe, was a conservative — an ex-Marine, now in the DSS (we think). He was saying Clinton hadn’t gotten much done, and I said that was because he got no cooperation at all from the Congress. His response was that wrangling the Congress to get things done was part of the job. Either you could do the job, or you couldn’t, and Clinton couldn’t do it. I had to admit he was right. Being president ain’t an easy job, but if somebody signs up for it, we have a right to expect them to get it done.

    That’s why, when Joe asked what “that Clinton guy” had done for 8 years, I wanted to bring up a few things, but didn’t do it. The fact is, working the system to get things done was part of Clinton’s job and, whatever the reason, he didn’t get it done.

    This issue is no different. Either the current chief executive can do his job as chief executive, or he can’t. Given the record, I just don’t see how anyone can say this one has been good at his job.

    His agencies’ failures aren’t in the past. FEMA is still, to this day, coming up on a year after the fact, handling Katrina recovery like the cast of the Keystone Cops. The chief executive of that agency has done nothing to straighten it out. Those intelligence failures that the commander-in-chief says are at fault for his saying there were WMD where there weren’t any? The commander-in-chief needs to take those failures up with the chief executive of the intelligence agencies, hold him responsible, and encourage him to straighten out his agencies so it doesn’t happen again. Instead, like FEMA, those agencies are still just as screwed up today as they were when their failures damaged the nation, if not more so.

    if Bush gets all the negative credit for the Federal response to Katrina, you should agree that he gets all the positive credit for the Federal response to 9/11.

    Long story, short, I think there’s some confusion on this point and it’s my fault. I had a clarification all typed up, but it’d just launch another rabbit into the chase, so I deleted it. I’ll just stipulate that whatever credit there is to be had for the federal contribution to recovering from 9/11, Bush is entitled to.

    We can go further into that if you or Joe thinks its crucial to the point of contention, but otherwise, I’m just going to let it go and restate my original point: on the basic issue of competency — the ability to get the job done as chief executive — I just don’t see what it is in Bush’s record that warrants the praise and trust so many on the right honor him with.

  48. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Whitney asks why everyone here is “so sensitive” and why can’t we assume a “nice tone” in the comments. Well, I’d say that it’s mostly because people like DeJon go around saying “butt heads” while commenting on other, more recent, posts. If we could ever settle him down, I think we’d all be a little less touchy.
    🙂

    I’ll add one little thing and either kill this comment thread or launch it in a new direction (my two specialties). When I used to coach, I understood an unwritten rule of leadership: when your “team” does well, they get the credit, but when they perform poorly, it is always your fault. This is why, of course, coaches get fired after bad seasons.

    When it comes to the presidency, however, it is just the opposite. The president takes all the credit for the good, and blames everyone else for the bad. It was true for Bill, is true for George, and will be true for Hillary, too, I’m sure (smile!).

    Why is this?

    Since you all brought up Katrina with no prompting for me, I’ll have to add a related comment. New Orleans’ city government sucked, as did the Louisiana state government. Mississippi at the local and state levels didn’t make fools of themselves publicly, but as far as I know didn’t provide much help to anyone either. The federal government’s response was a disaster in and of itself. On the other hand, churches from everywhere responded wonderfully (including some of you personally in my direction – Joe, DeJon, Captain, others).

    But here’s the deal: The party line excuse coming from government officials was that this was an unprecedented disaster and no one could have been prepared for it. This is true, but what the heck has that got to do with them failing? Do they think churches sat around and prepared for this disaster beforehand? Of course not! Nonetheless, churches responded well, and government agencies did not. Why can’t they take the blame for dropping the ball?

    It dawned on me at City Hall at a meeting with the mayor and other religious leaders from our community that “we” were the major players at the table. The churches were the funnels of true relief to the people whose “general welfare” government is pledged to promote.

    Anyway, I think the federal government has dropped the ball in lots of ways in the past five years, and I rest assured that there will be no shortage of excuses offered. I’d love to see someone from ANY party become the type of person that would just admit it instead.

  49. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Now that I’ve had a little time to think through that abstract you posted, Whitney, I’m not sure I see how it bears on my question, which was about documenting the existence of a traumatic “9/11 effect” on the national psyche.

    This article appears to be more about how 9/11 has affected media coverage and political agendas. I can see how those alterations might have secondary psychological affects on the nation, but the article doesn’t sound like it documents such a connection or even attempts to. (BTW, I nevertheless see your point about the article being particularly relevant to Joe’s original post — creation of mediated realities, importance of critical consumption of media reports, and so forth.)

    most psychological journal articles related to 9/11 are about the acute impact of the attacks versus the long-term impact.

    Can you drop in a citation or two of those articles? They sound like they’re more what I’m talking about.

    Overall, it seems the long term effects may be based on living with more fear and uncertainty than we have in the past.

    I can’t speak to how the nation at large reacted to these things, but, personally, I found the Murrah attack much more alarming than the 9/11 attacks. It wasn’t as dramatic, but it was much more unsettling. Maybe that’s just me, though.

  50. juvenal_urbino Says:

    The federal government’s response was a disaster in and of itself.

    I heard somebody from New Orleans say Katrina was like 3 disasters, back to back to back. The hurricane, then the levees, then FEMA.

  51. Whitney Says:

    Juvenal,
    The article I cited was not intended to talk about the effects on society. I just saw it and it was relevant to Joe’s original post. That’s all.

    I’m sorry, but I am so tired right now and really am not in the mood to log back into APA and research the articles. You can search PsycInfo or PsycArticles w/ terms 9/11 or September 11 in the search field if you have access. You can probably also just google it and get sociological articles, too (which, now that I think about it, will probably be more informative of the psychological effects felt at the societal level). If I feel like it tomorrow, I’ll go back and get specific citations. I didn’t find anything that spoke specifically to long-term effects, so I just made a quick synopsis of titles I saw. I didn’t take notes, so I just don’t remember the cites (serious, not sniping at you.)

  52. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’ve never used it myself, but I think Google has a “scholar” search thingy that supposedly searches, well, scholarly stuff, I guess. Maybe that’d turn up something helpful, JU. I’m WAY too lazy to look stuff up. But you know that about me. Unless there’s a computer on the beach.

  53. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Thanks, Mikey. I haven’t had much luck with Google Scholar in the past, but I’ll give it a try.

  54. Michael Lasley Says:

    Al — I’m not sure if this thread is still alive or not, but I think you raise a really good point about churches coming through even though they weren’t prepared for this sort of thing. Part of that is, I have no idea how to phrase this, but part of it is that churches were able to focus on individuals. Politics, to me, don’t seem to be much about individuals. It’s more structural or systemic. It’s much harder for structures or systems to adapt or evolve quickly. But churches are about individuals, they are much smaller, and they can adapt much more quickly. I have no point, as usual.

  55. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Thanks, Mikey. I live in a predominantly Roman Catholic area, and they were by far the SLOWEST to respond. VERY slow.

    Now Mother Teresa and the gang reminds me that the RCC isn’t against helping people by a long shot, but the structural point you offer explains the slow response.

    Churches of Christ, on the other hand, were heroic (didn’t think I’d ever say that!). They just were. Much to do with hearts of compassion of course, but it also had much to do with that blasted nondenominational heritage!

    “You need help? What do you need? We’ll be there tomorrow.”

    So since no one is looking, I’ll become a Republican for a moment and say that an obvious lesson is that disaster response requires less “largeness” and more “smallness.”

    Okay, I can’t be Republican long, so I’ll add that you’d think that a federal government dominated by that particular political party would catch that lesson and do something with it, wouldn’t you?

  56. Michael Lasley Says:

    One would think, Al. But I don’t think the problems stemmed from a political party as much as a political system that isn’t all that concerned in individuals.

  57. juvenal_urbino Says:

    “You need help? What do you need? We’ll be there tomorrow.”

    Not to be a party-pooper or anything, but . . . CsofC have always been good at helping their own, whether on a large scale like this, or on a small scale like a family illness. What they’ve historically not done well (when they’ve done it at all) is help anybody else. In your Katrina recovery experience, did you find that pattern being broken? If so, do you think it will last, or was it a temporary response to the special circumstances of Katrina?

    So since no one is looking, I’ll become a Republican for a moment and say that an obvious lesson is that disaster response requires less “largeness” and more “smallness.”

    Ideally, would “smallness” on a large scale not be called for?

  58. Al Sturgeon Says:

    There were definitely evidences of pattern-breaking here post-Katrina.

    I did have one phone call in relation to relief requesting my relationship to Rubel Shelly, plus one relief worker chiding me for allowing the New International Version as pew Bibles, but those were isolated events. For the most part, people sent probably millions of dollars worth of supplies, labor, and money with the vast majority having the attitude of “here, do with it what you feel best,” including lots of props for reaching out to our neighbors/community, etc.

    I will never forget the wistful expressions of the faces of several people who came from all over the globe when they saw our auditorium filled to overflow with relief supplies for whomever walked in the door and needed them, with the statements, “Now this is what a church should look like.”

    And, I know this is small change on the ecumenical scene, but we’ve had repeated support (in terms of work trips, money, supplies) from Christian Church folks. We made the front page of The Christian Standard in that respect.

    What I would offer to your thought is that “yes, helping their own” may be the historical modus operandi, but that is a wonderful first step. There were lots of religious folks around here that were wishing their tribes helped their own folks a little more. And in relation to the governmental perspective, there’s once again a wish that they would help their own first, too.

    So to poop back at ya a bit, comparatively speaking, Churches of Christ from my vantage point here were still heroic, even if there wasn’t a desire to reach beyond helping their own. But for the most part, the attitude was couched in that repeated verse, “do good to all men, but especially those who belong to the household of faith.” You know most folks see the latter part of that phrase in sectarian fashion, but whether that was the case or not, the first part of the phrase was maintained.

    Now was that due to special circumstances? Probably. So I don’t have the highest of hopes that it will last, but I think there were some steps forward, and for that I am happy.

    And as to political party stuff, “smallness on a large scale” is exactly what I think is called for…

  59. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I did have one phone call in relation to relief requesting my relationship to Rubel Shelly

    Hee. Did they want to know if you were gender-neutral?

    “Now this is what a church should look like.”

    Ahhhh. That’s the ticket.

  60. Al Sturgeon Says:

    No, my gender-neutrality status is well-known and scientifically documented.

    Actually, the Rubel Shelly call was kind of funny in a weird way. Most of you know I’m a pretty easygoing sort of guy (people that work too close to me, or, say, are married to me, know that’s not the whole picture of me, but…). Anyway, this hurricane was the least bit taxing to even my patience. Two million phone calls a day asking the same question, “So how’s it going down there?”

    When I got this specific phone call, I was a bit tense. I didn’t necessarily go off on the guy, but let’s just say I used my FEMA tone with him. Then I felt sort of bad, because he felt really bad, and he was just stuck in the situation where someone else was making him ask me – he really didn’t care.

    The thing was that someone did a little internet snooping (and ironically didn’t come across all the damning things available on this blog with my name spelled correctly for the entire world). Instead, they ran across my personal web page which is hosted on “faithsite.” Well, faithsite has a few permanent links that you can’t do anything about, one of those being a Rubel Shelly site – “faith matters” or something like that.

    This (you have to use your quotation mark fingers for this one) “concerned” someone, which prompted the phone call.

    No big deal in the end. But I was not in a pleasant mood that day!
    🙂

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