I haven’t brought up the “Ron Suskind article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html?oref=login&oref=login&pagewanted=all&position= because I didn’t have all that much new to say about it, but if you haven’t read it yet, do. It’s one of those pieces which will have some people shouting “liberal bias!” at the top of their lungs, and for once they’re probably right. But Suskind (as “Gary”:http://amygdalagf.blogspot.com/ notes) has a knack for getting people to talk to him who shouldn’t, and bias or no bias, their words speak for themselves. For those of you who don’t read other blogs, here’s the money quote:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
It’s an audacious quote, but I think Kevin Drum is right “when he says”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2004_10/004937.php that the sentiment behind it is simply “Bush is a doer, not an analyzer,” and that making much more of it than that might be making too much. Matthew Yglesias is also right “when he says”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2004/10/about_suskind.html that the core of the article — linking Bush’s mode of behavior to his faith — is quite weak. (As an aside, the “we make reality” attitude dovetails with conservatives’ great ability to shape the terms of debate — and thus dominate discourse — using language, in everything from “flip-flop” to “the war on terror” and “tax relief.” See “George Lakoff”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lakoff.)
But, all that said, it remains clear that the Bush Administration has operated with astounding arrogance, very often ignoring or trying to shout down what all us poor thinking types like to refer to as “reality.” If Suskind’s article only advances that observation a little, it does, in the above quote, provide us with a convenient rallying cry. Thanks to “Gene Healy”:http://www.affbrainwash.com/genehealy/archives/014963.php for pointing it out:
PROUD MEMBER, REALITY-BASED COMMUNITY
I’ll be getting me one of those t-shirts when they’re available, and changing the blog’s subtitle through election day or so.
Should we also work on a secret handshake or something?
UPDATE: Don’t miss Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s “take on Suskind’s piece and much more”:http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005631.html#005631.
UPDATE: Healy’s entry now has links to a couple different Cafepress t-shirt options. The first batch are missing the hyphen in “reality-based,” which is a small thing, but rubs me the wrong way. The logo on the second batch is simply too much. It will already be tricky to explain the t-shirt to people who aren’t familiar with the meme in question. How much more so with the Latin and the Escher? I think I’ll hold out for option #3, if and when it comes.