Saturday, March 21, 2009

Intellectual arrogance : Should We Talk Like This?

Medeshi March 21, 2009
From the archives
Should We Talk Like This?
by Charley Reese
A habit of conversation conducted as a form of Twenty Questions is becoming a fad in Washington. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is probably the most famous user of the Twenty Questions style of talking.
(Photo: Rumsfeld pointing "The US has not run out of targets to bomb. Afghanistan has run out of targets. Ha, Ha, Ha!")
You've probably heard him say something like: "Do we know where Bin Laden is? No. Are we searching for him? Yes. Will we eventually find him? You bet. But do I wake up every morning worrying about where Bin Laden may or may not be? No."
Maybe all Americans should adopt this habit. Imagine going to a restaurant, and the waitress says, "What'll you have?"
And you reply: "Do I want fried chicken? No. Do I like fried fish? No. Would I prefer to have a plain steak and baked potato? You bet."
Then the waitress says, "And what would you like to drink?"
You reply: "Should I drink coffee this late in the day? No. Does Coke have a lot of caffeine in it, too? Yes. Would I prefer just a plain glass of water? I think so."
And the waitress would say: "When I return with your order, will I dump it on your head? Wait and see."
I much prefer the old-fashioned way of direct speech, such as, "We don't know where Bin Laden is, but we'll find him eventually, and in the meantime, I have more important things to think about."
The Twenty Questions style seems patronizing to me, as if the person believes his audience is so ignorant that everything has to be explained to them in kindergarten language. Rumsfeld is by no means the only political figure to use this technique, but behind his facade of affability and humor, he is an arrogant man. It does no credit to the Washington press corps members that they like Rumsfeld just because he knows how to refuse to answer their questions and to make them laugh at the same time.
Years ago, I covered a politician who had a different style of dealing with questions. Suppose I asked him a simple question: "Are you going to vote for or against the road bill?" This guy, who was earnest sincerity personified, would begin with the history of road building just before the Roman Empire, carry you forward to the 19th century, then start to talk about Indian trails and early road-building efforts in the North American wilderness. Finally, he would arrive at the 20th century, after which he discussed previously passed laws about road building, carefully dissecting each law into pros and cons. By this time, your eyes had glazed over, and you were trying not to topple over, fall on the floor and snore. You dreaded asking him another question, and before you could regain full consciousness, he was gone. It usually took a few minutes to figure out he had never answered the question.
We need to pay more attention to language, how our leaders use it, how journalists use it, and how we use it. Human civilization literally rests on three pillars — the ability to communicate, knowledge, and the ethic of telling the truth. If even one of those pillars rots, then the civilization will collapse. Most empires die of their own corruption. Ours is not exactly what any careful observer would call in perfect health.
I cannot think, for example, what a politician could do that would cause his constituents to vote him out of office, short of child murder. Lying and cheating and thinking nothing of it seems to be on the increase. Simple good manners seem to be vanishing.
Hasn't America always produced great leaders to get us out of the soup? No. Can people lower their own standards so much that they can't recognize greatness? Yes. Will they lose the ability to recognize even mediocrity? You bet. Where do people led by mediocrity end up? On the trash heap of history.
Gazette's Commentary: Is Donald Rumsfeld an arrogant jerk? Yes.
Bush Scandals List
Hugh Makes a List
because there are just too many scandals to remember
Bush Scandals List
A Table of Contents is available here for the complete list, or by category via the category links. Hugh's List of Bush Scandals was written primarily during the last two years of the Bush Administration. For more information, please see Hugh's diary The Bush Scandals List as Bush Leaves Office.Updated 2/6/09, recent changes in red. Please contact us with corrections and additions. -->
Scandal No: 35 : Marginalization of the UN

Marginalization of the UN. Neocons hate the UN.

It doesn’t do what neocons tell it to do.
It is multilateral and neocons think only unilateral action by the US is effective.
It does not opt for military force as a first resort.

So, of course, on August 1, 2005, Bush named UN hating neocon John Bolton as UN Ambassador in a recess appointment. Bolton famously stated in a 1994 speech that “If the U.N. building in New York lost its top 10 stories it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The top floors are where highest ranking UN officials have their offices. His thinking has not moderated since.

Of course, the Administration has not hesitated to use the UN when it has suited its purposes. It cited Security Council resolutions from the First Gulf War in its AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Force against Iraq) (see item 128). It would have gone for a Chapter 7 UN resolution authorizing military force for the 2003 invasion of Iraq if it thought it could get one. That wasn’t in the cards. This explains why, despite the incongruity, resolutions from the First Gulf War were used to give a patina of international legitimacy to the Second Gulf War. Later on June 8, 2004 as the CPA was coming to a close, the Administration sought and obtained Security Council Resolution 1546 which sanctioned the presence of American forces in Iraq for a limited time subject to update. This permission was most recently updated in Resolution 1790 on December 18, 2006 which extends the American mandate in Iraq to December 31, 2008.

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