Gay? Conservative? My Hero!

by

Andrew Sullivan says in 12 words or less what I’ve been thinking for over a year, but haven’t been able to verbalize: “President Bush has a weak person’s idea of what strength is.”

Yes.  That.  Thank you.

28 Responses to “Gay? Conservative? My Hero!”

  1. michaellasley Says:

    That’s a nice little article, or whatever you’d call it. I love his line: “We should be developing an ideological alternative (or alternatives) to jihad and are instead alienating our allies.” I like that idea — developing an alternative to jihad.

  2. captmidknight Says:

    Michael said:
    I love his line: “We should be developing an ideological alternative (or alternatives) to jihad and are instead alienating our allies.” I like that idea — developing an alternative to jihad.
    _______
    Sorry, I seem to be unable to submit short comments – maybe therapy would help, or some instruction from our English professor on short, pithy replys? Anyway, now I’ve confessed, so here it is.
    _______

    “President Bush has a weak person’s idea of what strength is; and a dumb person’s idea of what intelligence is.”
    Obviously, Winnie isn’t the only one who’s good for an aphorism.

    It seems to me that pretty much ANY alternative to jihad would be a good thing. He’s right, of course, about there being much better (morally and politically as well as practically) ways to get reliable information than torture. As with everything, however, whoever gets to define the terms wins the argument. This fellow seems to be quite reasonable in his views, and I basically agree with him, but others come to this discussion already convinced that anything this administration does is wrong and possibly evil, and so define almost any attempt to get “actionable intelligence” as either mental or physical torture. They have political as well as moral agendas, but then, don’t we all?

    Although I don’t mean to suggest that we should measure our action by those of our enemies, it is still interesting to note that our current legal definitions of torture – and even those instances where some of our people have gone beyond the law – are absolutely laughable compared to the actual, documented policies of many of our adversaries, past and present. Read any of a host of personal accounts, starting with John McCain’s Viet Nam experiences.

    I would also suggest that, in most cases, torture – real torture now, not just mental stress or being physically uncomfortable – is not used to gain “actionable intelligence.” Real torture, whether you’re talking about the Gestapo or the Japanese or Viet Nam or Al Qaeda today, is usually used for propaganda or political reasons – either to break the individual so they can be used or to make some public point, like the taped executions – or simply out of personal revenge. The Gestapo didn’t like the Jews. The Japanese thought their Allied prisoners were a disgrace because they allowed themselves to be captured. Muslim extremists believe that, in torturing and killing infidels, they are doing God’s will. Whitney’s the psychologist. Maybe she can explain some of the motivation behind real torture.

    Not to suggest that it should be a prerequisite for commenting on the subject, but, just out of curiosity: have any of you ever been “tortured” – even in an academic, training environment?

    I don’t say any of this to condone torture or unlawful behavior – just to point out that perspective often gets lost in the heat of political battles.

    BTW, JU, I must have missed the “Gay, Conservative” reference. How does that come in?

    Finally, since the last thread finished before I had a chance to address Whitney’s interest in airline pilot psychology, I’ll just submit this question:

    Why is being an airline pilot such good training for being a husband?

  3. michaellasley Says:

    Nope. I’ve never been tortured.

    I agree that our enemies have often used methods much worse than waterboarding or sleep-deprivation. However, I don’t think this administration can *ever* complain about how a conversation is framed. They spent the entire first term successfully framing every conversation — anyone who questioned them was a friend of the enemy. I’d argue it’s how we got to where we are, as far as the lack of any real conversations taking place surrounding most issues.

    And, honestly, we don’t know we aren’t using worse methods — we simply have no idea what goes on in the secret prisons, or even in the non-secret prisons.

    If you’re right about the true uses of torture, then that makes our use of torture make no sense. I mean, if it’s used to gain actionable intelligence, I understand the argument for it. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I think that’s a valid argument.

    Look forward to the answer to the question.

  4. michaellasley Says:

    Oh….and I like long responses. And I like jokes. So see….I like your responses. You’d get an A in my class.

  5. Whitney Says:

    Again, with all jabs at the President aside, I am fascinated by a subject–torture–I really know little about. Let me begin by saying that I did not read the linked article and that I definitely think torture is wrong.

    I agree with you, though, Cap’n, that what people are screaming to be torture is not what is classically defined as such. But then again, I don’t really know what’s going on in our prison camps or behind enemy lines. Neither do the folks who are screaming “Bush is evil” about it. You and Joe are much more likely to know more about this on a militaristic level than I could ever suppose to know.

    AND, with the very little I do know about the social psychology of torture, all of us here are just as likely to succumb to the mindset that it is necessary or even the right thing to do given the correct situation and pressures, whether we like to admit it or not. So, I get reallllllly sick of this conversation because odds are the people who want to bash the administration because of it (1) don’t know the whole story and never will because they aren’t privy to the information of what exactly is going on and (2) are no better, morally, than the people they think are carrying out these acts and cannot say what they would do if in the same situation (they think they know, but it is unlikely they’ve ever been in that exact situation).

    I know my writing of that was horrible; hope it makes sense.

    So….airline pilot & good husband. It has to be something to do with pretending you’re paying attention when you’re not. Or the ability to NOT hear what you don’t want to hear.

  6. Whitney Says:

    BTW, I think we should all cast a write-in vote for Stephen Colbert next Fall.

  7. urbino Says:

    BTW, JU, I must have missed the “Gay, Conservative” reference. How does that come in?

    Andrew Sullivan is a conservative, and he’s gay. That’s the only tie-in.

    Just a couple of quick clarifications:

    First, the thing from the linked post that I particularly wanted to identify myself with was the one statement I quoted. Pres. Bush does have a weak person’s notion of strength. So does V.P. Cheney. So do virtually all of the neoconservatives.

    Second, the article that Sullivan’s post quoted was an op-ed in the Washington Post, written by a currently-serving military intelligence officer.

    I’ll try to say more later, when I have more time.

  8. captmidknight Says:

    Whitney said:
    I know my writing of that was horrible; hope it makes sense.

    So….airline pilot & good husband. It has to be something to do with pretending you’re paying attention when you’re not. Or the ability to NOT hear what you don’t want to hear.
    _____
    Never fear Whitney. You always make sense.

    I won’t leave you hanging about the pilot thing:
    The reason that being an airline pilot is such good training for being a husband is that, as an airline pilot, you already understand that whenever anything bad happens, no matter the real cause, it will ALWAYS be your fault.

    And for Michael:
    Seen on his and hers tee shirts.
    Why is a big dog better than a man/woman?

    Woman’s answer: A big dog actually likes to sleep on the couch.

    Man’s answer: A big dog never needs to “re-examine the relationship.”

  9. Whitney Says:

    🙂 🙂 🙂
    LOL

  10. Whitney Says:

    JU, guess I should actually read the article and sub-article then, huh? Thanks for the information.


    This is tangentially related:

    Did any of you ever see Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment video?
    I think you can see it here: http://www.prisonexp.org/

    Or some of the other things social psychology has done, like the Milgram Experiments (that were recreated on one of the news magazines recently)?

    These sorts of things are simply fascinating to me! It makes us realize how close most of us are to crossing the line to being monsters of our own or another’s making. It gives me the creeps.

    Unfortunately, these types of human phenomena aren’t related to any of the work I am currently doing. But I would just love to get to apply some of this stuff (the theory, not the evil behavior!) to my work.

    —-
    This is totally and completely unrelated:
    Does anyone else love Halloween TV? I can’t wait for the reality ghost hunting shows to come back on. I realize what a nerd that makes me. And has anyone seen the remake of “Halloween?” I can’t see how it could be a creepy as the original.

  11. urbino Says:

    As with everything, however, whoever gets to define the terms wins the argument.

    But we know “who” gets to define these terms: the law. I realize laws require interpretation, but some of what’s gone on — and, apparently, is still going on — is beyond the realm of any reasonable interpretation.

    . . . our current legal definitions of torture – and even those instances where some of our people have gone beyond the law – are absolutely laughable compared to the actual, documented policies of many of our adversaries, past and present. Read any of a host of personal accounts, starting with John McCain’s Viet Nam experiences.

    Yet John McCain says the things we’ve heard about (e.g., waterboarding, long-term confinement in strenuous positions, etc.) are torture.

    Real torture, whether you’re talking about the Gestapo or the Japanese or Viet Nam or Al Qaeda…

    Many of the methods we hear about are in Gestapo training manuals. Of course, they didn’t call them “torture.” They called them verschaerfte Vernehmung, which translates as “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which has an awfully familiar ring to it.

    So, I get reallllllly sick of this conversation because odds are the people who want to bash the administration because of it (1) don’t know the whole story and never will because they aren’t privy to the information of what exactly is going on and (2) are no better, morally, than the people they think are carrying out these acts and cannot say what they would do if in the same situation (they think they know, but it is unlikely they’ve ever been in that exact situation).

    I see your points, Whit, but:

    #1 is part of the problem with the current administration, ISTM, not a response to the problem.

    While I agree with your second point, about human psychology, it misses a larger point. You say the people complaining about Americans torturing prisoners don’t know what they would do if put in the same situation. My question is: what situation are you referring to?

    No American is in a situation where torture is not illegal. American law forbids torture by any American, anywhere, under any circumstances. So whatever else may be part of the situation our interrogators find themselves in, torture being allowed is not part of it. Nobody is in a moral dilemma, having to search their conscience and make a tough decision under extreme pressure. Unless, that is, they’ve already decided it might be okay to torture, even though it’s illegal, or their superior has told them to torture, even though it’s illegal.

    We have laws in this country to keep our people from getting trapped in those morally difficult situations. If somebody is finding themselves suddenly in them, it’s because the law is being skirted.

  12. michaellasley Says:

    Thank you, Capt. I thoroughly enjoyed both jokes.

    Whitney — I’ll confess complete and total ignorance about the social psychology of torture. It sounds interesting, but I really don’t know anything about social psychology. Is there some place where I could get a good introduction? And at the risk of completely embarassing myself….does social psychology study things on the level of governments? I mean, from the policy side of things?

  13. Whitney Says:

    Mikey, Why should you be embarrassed? SocPsy is not specifically related to policy, but many, if not most, of the principles of social psychology can be and have been applied to political behavior and government, such as prosocial behavior, negotiation & influence tactics. (You’re the book person, you should pick up Cialdini’s “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.” It is kind of technical, but interesting and I think there’s a new edition out.) I absolutely LOVED this subfield of psychology. It is all about how people influence each other. It was by far the most interesting of all psych courses I ever took, and believe me, there were a lot of them.

    I’m actually an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. We work to incorporate the principles of cognitive and social psychology with the principles of business operation and organization. Sounds complicated, but really makes a lot of sense when you get into it.

    A good sight for a very surface introduction would be http://www.socialpsychology.org and then click on “topics.” Also, if you want to read what’s current in the research now, you can likely access the “Journal of Personality & Social Psychology” or “Journal of Applied Social Psychology” via Pepperdine’s website. I’m not up on current research at all.

    Sorry this got sort of long. Good thing I’m not a preacher.

  14. babykangaroo Says:

    Calling one’s self a conservative does not make one conservative.

  15. Whitney Says:

    What about calling one’s self a cute little birdie?

  16. urbino Says:

    Saying someone isn’t a conservative doesn’t make them not a conservative, either. Likewise, saying, “We don’t torture,” doesn’t make what we’ve been doing not torture.

    Presumably, the empirical data have some role to play in all cases.

    I’m aware that a number of self-identified conservatives don’t think much of Sullivan. OTOH, a substantial number of others who self-identify as conservatives do recognize him as a conservative. He self-identifies as a conservative. His positions are, with few exceptions, conservative, and his justifications for them (even the exceptions) are always conservative. His political history is that of a conservative. His heroes are conservatives. His goals are conservative.

    To me, that’s enough data to make him a conservative.

    He’s not a neoconservative, certainly, or a religious conservative in the contemporary American sense (even though he is both religious and conservative). He’s a classic Edmund Burke/Adam Smith conservative. The kind that until recently comprised far and away the majority of American conservatives. (Bob Dole, for instance, would be another.)

    Like Sullivan, many of those old-school conservatives are not best pleased with how the G.W. Bush administration has played out. Indeed, they would make the same remark about Pres. Bush’s claim to be conservative as you made about Sullivan’s. Pres. Bush is a conservative, nonetheless, and so is Sullivan. They’re just different kinds of conservatives.

  17. urbino Says:

    There is probably a lot more that folks would like to say about the subject of torture and whether Bush and his administration are weak and/or stupid…

    You know, nobody here has said Pres. Bush or his administration are weak, and nobody here has said they are stupid. At no point have those claims been the subject of this thread.

    If I had thought for an instant somebody was mistaking “Pres. Bush has a weak person’s notion of strength” for “Pres. Bush is weak” — or if somebody had bothered to say, “Hey, JU, I don’t think Pres. Bush is weak at all. What do you mean?” — I would’ve clarified the difference.

    Honestly, sometimes I just lose all hope.

  18. babykangaroo Says:

    “You know, nobody here has said Pres. Bush or his administration are weak, and nobody here has said they are stupid. At no point have those claims been the subject of this thread.”

    Puh-leeze. The implication was obvious.

    But no worries. I have no problem with folks thinking the President is weak or stupid. They’re entitled to their position.

    I’m sure that LSU thought UK was weak and Rich Brooks was stupid before last week.

  19. michaellasley Says:

    Roo — could you point to a single comment in this thread that implied weakness or stupidity about Bush?

  20. urbino Says:

    The implication was obvious.

    Only in your head.

    This is why I sometimes lose hope. It seems to be impossible to write a sentence that will be read, rather than read into.

    Look, not everybody who says something critical about the current President is just an unreasoning Bush-hater. And I’m truly sorry if your mental filters have made it impossible for you to perceive the difference between “Pres. Bush has a weak person’s notion of strength” and “Pres. Bush is weak,” or to countenance the possibility that somebody might say the one and not mean the other.

    Someday, though, you’re just going to have to get used to the fact that not every statement critical of something or someone you support can be reduced to and dismissed as unreasoning partisanship.

    That kind of thinking is fun and easy, but it’s a lie. Not to mention unbelievably rude.

  21. Whitney Says:

    Honest question:
    Why, if you don’t believe President Bush is weak, did you post the initial comment? It seems that if you’re describing someone as have a characteristic of “X” person, then you would believe them to embody at least some degree of “X” characteristic.

    You know Roo and I don’t support everything the Prez does, nor do we hate everything he and his Administration do. We try to be critically supportive. But my first reaction to your comment the other day was that you were doing a finger-pointing, name-calling. I try to get past my first reactions to your posts though. 🙂

  22. babykangaroo Says:

    I understand the comment, and agree that, as written, it does not directly call the President weak or stupid. I also know the source of the comment, Andrew Sullivan. Based on his history, the implication is easily seen.

    Rude? OK… I shouldn’t have started out with “puh-leeze,” but it’s just as rude to say that my inarticulate ears aren’t sophisticated enough to detect the subtleties of Sullivan’s well-crafted thoughts.

  23. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’m not trying to argue here, but I really don’t see how *in this thread* there was any implication that Bush is weak or stupid. I read the initial post as a way to start a conversation. Since Pres. Bush consistently preaches that he is the strongest person, the best person, has the only plan that will protect American citizens, that limiting his powers will do nothing but weaken him and America….I don’t think this is an unfair line of thought. It’s not like Sullivan (about whom I know nothing) is just saying something out the blue to bash the President.

  24. Whitney Says:

    OK Mikey,
    You just did the same thing you got aggravated about Roo doing.
    Where, exactly, does Bush ever say, “I’m the strongest.” or “I’m the best person.” or “I have the only plan that will protect American citizens.” etc.
    You can’t get aggravated about someone drawing inferences and then do it yourself.

    (Albeit, I’m the first to admit that I get upset at people doing things that I do all the time, so I’m really just being preachy and throwing stones. (I used to to that to JU all the time. I don’t actually expect references.)

  25. Whitney Says:

    ARGH! I can’t get this to format correctly…

  26. urbino Says:

    I am now, quite literally, banging my head on my desk.

    Okay. Deep breath. In order…

    Why, if you don’t believe President Bush is weak, did you post the initial comment? It seems that if you’re describing someone as have a characteristic of “X” person, then you would believe them to embody at least some degree of “X” characteristic.

    One might say, “Whitney has a man’s interest in college football.” Surely one could say this — even be correct in saying it — without meaning by it — or even having it be heard as meaning — “Whitney is a man.” Surely the difference between the two statements is both obvious and meaningful.

    Not only did I not say, “Pres. Bush is weak,” I don’t even know what the statement, “Pres. Bush is weak,” would mean. Weak, how? He works out a lot, so presumably he’s not personally physically weak. He has accrued more power than any President in American history, so he isn’t weak as an executive. He has won nearly every election he’s been in, and wins nearly every battle with Congress, so he isn’t politically weak. He never changes his mind, so he isn’t weak-willed.

    Seriously: if you think I’ve been saying “Pres. Bush is weak,” what in the world did either of you (or Cap’n) think I meant by it?

    You know Roo and I don’t support everything the Prez does, nor do we hate everything he and his Administration do. We try to be critically supportive. But my first reaction to your comment the other day was that you were doing a finger-pointing, name-calling.

    Actually, I don’t know Roo at all. Or if I do, it’s news to me. And while I do know you don’t support everything Pres. Bush does, I also know — and I say this kindly — your first tendency is to hear criticism of him as just partisanship.

    You’ve been around here long enough to know I generally choose my words pretty carefully so that I’m saying precisely what I mean, and that I don’t do name-calling. On Pres. Bush, in particular, I have consistently said I think he means well, that he isn’t evil, that he’s generally sincere, etc. I’ve never made any personal attack on him, at all.

    I do think he’s demonstrably bad at his current job; that he’s incompetent. “Incompetent” doesn’t mean evil or phony or just generally a bad person. It means incompetent. And that’s all I mean by it. He’s just bad at his job. Unprecedentedly bad at his job, yes, but still just bad at his job. That doesn’t mean I hate him or feel free to criticize him willy-nilly. I’ve never done that. When I’ve criticized him, it’s been for specific policies, and I’ve offered my reasoning and evidence. I don’t do ad hominem.

    So when you say you read my initial post as “finger-pointing, name-calling,” I think I’m justified is saying that was a very unfair reading.

    I also know the source of the comment, Andrew Sullivan. Based on his history, the implication is easily seen.

    But nobody here — nobody — backed or repeated anything from Sullivan except the one statement: “President Bush has a weak person’s idea of what strength is.” I specifically singled out that one statement in my post. When Cap’n quoted and reacted to other statements from Sullivan’s post, I clarified that the only thing I was identifying myself with was the one statement I quoted.

    As a statement, I think it is not only an accurate description, but the most clear and concise description I’ve heard or read. That’s why I posted it (as I indicated in my post). I couldn’t care less what further inference might or might not justly be drawn when Sullivan says it. Here on this site, where I was the one saying it, it meant what it says, and no more.

    I shouldn’t have started out with “puh-leeze,” but it’s just as rude to say that my inarticulate ears aren’t sophisticated enough to detect the subtleties of Sullivan’s well-crafted thoughts.

    “Puh-leeze” wasn’t what I said was rude. What I said was rude was taking someone’s words (“Pres. Bush has a weak person’s notion of strength”), transforming them into something completely different (“Pres. Bush is weak”), thus reducing the person to a stereotype and dismissing what they say. The person, in this case, was me, since I was the one making the original statement.

  27. Whitney Says:

    Don’t give yourself a headache with all the banging. I understand you and where you’re coming from. Thank you for a good explanation of it. I think sometimes the blog atmosphere does more harm than good in these conversations.

    And thank you for not concluding I’m a man. Roo is very happy about that, I’m sure. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Roo = Joe. Yes, I’m outing him. (BabyKangaroo is a joke between us and came from an episode of friends where Joey signed a letter “Baby Kangaroo Tribbiani.”

    I wish I could chat more, but we are off to give friends a whirlwind tour of the northeast side of the Island.

  28. michaellasley Says:

    Whitney — wan’t that basically Bush’s platform in 2004? “I’m the strongest man for the job! I will do x,y,z to keep America safe? The Democrats are weak because they don’t want to do what I’m doing” I wasn’t trying mischaracterize Bush’s stance. I wasn’t trying to set up a strawman to knock down. I don’t even think Bush would think I’m mischaracterizing his stance. I was giving this as an explanation for why Urbino might have posted the article.

    If you’re happy with not being a man, I’m happy about it as well. I’m with you fellers!

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