Thursday, November 30, 2006

"I blame the media for this"

Digby on the scope of this administration's failures:

I blame the media for this. After 9/11 they lost their minds and became unthinking hagiographers and adminstration cheerleaders to an absurd extent. The man's halting, incoherent first press conference after 9/11 scared me more than the attacks and yet the press corps behaved as if they were in the presence of a God whose stuttering, meandering gibberish were words uttered from on high. He was called a genius and compared to Winston Churchill. Paeans to his greatness were turned into best sellers. His "gut" was infallible. It was patently obvious that he was in over his head and yet this bizarre, almost hallucinogenic image of the man emerged in the media that actually made me question my sanity at times. It took years for this trance to wear off with a majority of the public and even longer in the media. It was one of the strangest phenomenons I've ever observed.

Until recently, however, I was never quite sure if Bush himself believed it. It appears that he did. Big time. And that belief in his own hype created a completely dysfunctional organization. I suspect that what started out as a shield by Cheney and Rove to narrow the influences upon him may have morphed into a bubble designed to keep him from completely spinning out of control. But it couldn't keep him from making decisions, and make them he did, without thought or analysis or knowledge. His belief in his "gut" and God's anointment has been leading this nation since 9/11. Combined with Cheney's megalomaniacal belief in untrammelled executive power it has been a disaster. (In fact, Cheney could not have chosen a better subject to more thoroughly discredit his theory than Junior.)

I understand that it is difficult to know in advance what constitutes a real leader. A resume isn't enough to make one (although it's certainly better than not having one at all) and depending on personality or symbols isn't enough either. I don't know what the magic formula is. I do know that when someone speaks like a fool and acts like a spoiled child and appears to be "intellectually uncurious" and has never done anything in life that would give you a clue that he knows how to govern or lead -- well, it's not a good idea to make that person the most powerful person on the planet. If we've learned nothing else, I hope we have learned that.

The president matters. But whether or not we want to have a beer with him or whether or not we approve of his private life is not what matters about him or her. These are false hueristics and they don't add up to leadership any more than years of political experience translates into great political skills. Citizens need to think a little bit harder about this choice, look a little deeper, ask some serious questions. Part of the job is certainly PR and a president does have to be the star of the national TV show for four years. But it's a lot more than that and Americans need to rediscover a healthy sense of the requirements of this particular job.

Most importantly, the people who work in politics and the media need to take this more seriously. Presidential politics isn't American Idol, it's a contest for the leadership of the United States of America and putting together an "electable" package cannot be the only focus. And it goes without saying that this kewl kidz and mean girls nonsense from the press has to stop. The past six years have been a tragedy and we desperately need some thoughtful, intelligent, competent leadership to set this right.

Amen. And it was millions of like-minded citizens questioning their own sanity that led to the fellowship of the netroots and the rise of a new democracy.

Mike and I are headed off to St. Louis in January for the FreePress conference on media reform. We need to fix this piece of our republic, too.

1 comment:

Matthew Katinsky said...

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