Reflections on a House Divided

The Hunting of the President:
some truths encapsulated in accidents and urban legends 

Part I

"THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, my first reaction, Brit, was not to think: I need to call the press. My first reaction is: My friend, Harry, has been shot and we've got to take care of him."

Episodes like those which emerged from the response of the Democrats and the MSM to the Vice President's recent hunting accident can be useful. They illustrate clearly - and all at once - several different aspects of the real nature of those in key positions among those who call themselves "liberals" or "progressives." Most of these facets: general cluelessness about hunting, rural life, and the outdoors, along with a willingness to use as fodder for political attack things they would find offensive if employed against one of their own, are hardly news - though they do bear repeating and illustration until the reality of their prevalence finally sinks in generally. One factor though that has also received a fair amount of attention, but which being more abstract requires particular attention, is the nature and meaning of the attitude shared by the Democratic leadership, the MSM, and the hard-left concerning the "Average Americans" whom they claim (and mostly believe) themselves to be the true advocates of. Fore what struck me about the whole incident - was the utter normality characteristic of the whole circumstance, including the responses of the Vice President and his aides - in contrast to those of the media and Opposition political leaders which followed, which were unworldly by comparison. But, what was - I believe - most telling about the reaction of the latter factions was not the cluelessness already noticed, but the air of mystified contempt that seems to ooze from the coverage which focused - unsurprisingly - on the story of the story - i.e. who was let in on this "affair" and when, and what were its possible political ramifications, rather than the human interest that would more normally be evoked: how was the injured man faring, had all things been done to aid him, and had proper hunting protocols been observed.

My own sense is that - in general as well as concerning the present circumstance - it is the very normality of the President and his administration which has driven much of the outrage of the Opposition party, the media, and the hard-left from the very beginning. To those factions, these simply are not the people who were "supposed" to be running things. And, that attitude goes far to explain the fact that - to those same persons - whatever the administration does is wrong - simply because it is they - and not their opponents - who have done them. Hence such bizarre incidents as when the NYT and others on the left seem to see no trouble in criticizing the incumbents for both taking, or not taking a given action - such as "racial profiling" - where they castigated them for not halting that practice before 911, and after, for failing to prevent that tragedy by employing racial-profiling with sufficient vigour and breadth. As William Kristol observed - in reference the political turmoil exhibited widely among the intellectuals of that same persuasion during the 1960s, that it was the feeling of being excluded from positions of power and influence thought rightfully to be there own that was at the root of the form of dissidence which so much of their politics took, and that therefore "...the American intellectual class actually has an interest in thwarting the evolution of any kind of responsible and coherent imperial policy [where "imperial" does not mean the same as "imperialist] "(Neo-Conservatism pp 87 middle- 89). The subjects if Mr. Kristol's remarks would undoubtedly object to this analysis - but as the assumption that  power and profit is fundamental to understanding all human motivation is at the heart of so much of their thinking, there is no apparent reason why they should be excepted from an analysis of that same kind. 

What I'm suggesting then is that - at base - the current leadership of the Democratic Party, a substantial proportion of members of the media elite, and most of those even further to the left, share a basic distain for the real "common people" they purport to champion. And, that much of their visceral rage at the current crop of Republican leaders stems from the fact that so much of that common people is reflected by those same said incumbents, cabinet members, and advisors - whom - as common Americans - those on the left believe to be unfit for leadership. And, among many other sources, the existence of said distain is revealed, and its - subtle - nature illustrated, by the observations made by blogger - Steve Benen - on President Bush, which were thought highly enough of by Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin to be quoted at length in an article mostly devoted to Mr. Cheney's current difficulties. The topic of that segment was some off-the-cuff remarks made by the President at an informal session he had called to talk about the controversy over warrantless searches. The session was held at a Republican retreat, and reporters had been already granted a question period and had then been ushered out. But, someone had left a microphone on. I found the President's remarks to be straight-forward, and commonsensical, expressing a leadership  style reflective of a good balance of goal-orientation, trust, responsibility,  and engagement - not to mention humility and candour. I could imagine Eisenhower saying much the same kind of thing to his immediate subordinates. Mr. Benen though seemed to think said remarks exhibited the fact that "..."The amiable-dunce act, unfortunately, is genuine."

But, then again, no one has ever accused either Mr. Bush, or myself, of being "Hip." And I for one am perfectly content with that fact, and for his part at least, I suspect the President is as well.

What the president said - while he thought no one else was listening was:

"I want to share some thoughts with you before I answer your questions. . . . First of all, I expect this conversation we're about to have to stay in the room. I know that's impossible in Washington.

"You've got to understand something about me. September the 11th changed the way I think. I told the people exactly what I felt at the time, and I still feel it, and that is, we must do everything in our power to protect the country.
I wake up every morning thinking about a future attack, and therefore, a lot of my thinking, and a lot of the decisions I make are based upon the attack that hurt us.

"So one of the things I like to do, is I like to ask the team around me -- I got a good team. If any of you are ever president, make sure you surround yourself with smart, capable people -- people smarter than you in my case, it wasn't all that hard to find.

"I talked to the people whose job it is to protect the American people, and I said, 'Are we doing everything we can to protect the people?'

"It's a question you want somebody to ask, isn't it? Somebody responsible for doing the job, of providing security for the country. You'd want somebody in my position to call in the people that have got key responsibilities, such as Mike Hayden at NSA.

"And I said Mike, are we doing everything we can to protect the people and if not, come up with a program so I can say to the people we're doing our job.

"The next question I asked, was is it legal? I didn't ask that to Hayden. I asked that to the lawyers. I asked the White House lawyers, and I asked it to the Justice Department lawyers.

"See like you, I take my oath of office seriously. I swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of the United States. And so we had the program analyzed legally.

"But I recognized that wasn't going to be enough. And so we put constant checks on the program . . . (feed cut)."
(she is kind of person who respondes to such - "unsophisticated" my reply to those who do not) of coverage.

To Be continued

(C) David Aronin 2006