Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy bubble syndrome

I was struck by the emptiness of National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley when he described the interaction of President Bush with the citizens of Vietnam during the Presidents visit.
"If you'd been part of the president's motorcade as we've shuttled back and forth," he said, reporters would have seen that "the president has been doing a lot of waving and getting a lot of waving and smiles."
So Hadley seriously wants to convey the message that the Presidents motorcade excursion through the streets of Hanoi should be viewed as a triumph for American outreach. Just like my assertion that this post on my obscure little political blog is bound to have the same literary impact on the world as War and Peace. Because it will you know... I'm saying it!

This reminds me of the Presidents initial outreach to the gulf region after Hurricane Katrina hit. You may remember after Katrina hit and the President ate cake with John McCain, and strummed a guitar in San Diego, how he hopped on Air Force One and overflew the gulf region. The pictures of the President peering at the devastation through the pexiglass at 30,000 feet were meant to convey a sense that he was on the job and felt the pain of the people as they suffered on a scale of biblical proportions... But that message was not what America perceived... and Bush had to work hard with repeated trips to ground level in order to try to turn the perception around. The President never really succeeded in conveying what he wanted to in this regard, in large part because the initial impression caused by his actions immediately following Katrina were, in fact, accurate.

Outreach and public interaction for this administration involves carefully constructed and stage managed events intended to convey a positive message regarding the subject at hand. The administration is desperate to convey all things they are involved with as being good and positive, even when the policy at issue is a manifest disaster. Thus we see the President declaring mission accomplished, followed by an endless series of corners turned and watershed landmarks all intended to show how wonderful things are going in Iraq. Thus we hear the President exclaim heckuvajob Brownie even as masses of American citizens fester in squalor and disease scant miles from the scene of that declaration. The administration must not be shown to have made bad policy, and in order to carry this illusion to fruition the President MUST live in his bubble. To be exposed to truth in these matters is to come face to face with the failings of your policy... a scenario that frankly no one, least of all Bush, can imagine.

Piercing this happy bubble with an unpleasant dose of reality can result in a bad experience for the bearer of truth. Administration officials had to compile a dvd of various news accounts from the gulf coast after Katrina to wake the President to the true nature of the emergency at hand. As the Newsweek story linked above details, there simply was no one willing to tell the President the plain and awful truth.

Many times the results of the Bush happy bubble syndrome is simply embarrassing when considered objectively. Heckuvajob Brownie? Please! The chief of staff right then and there ought to have ordered somebody to shake the President out of his stupor... there is work to do! Unfortunately the impact of the happy bubble is deadly as well. The obvious disconnect with reality on Iraq dating back to mission accomplished is sad proof of this. I think the Presidents recent nonsensical pronouncement that the lesson of Vietnam as applied to Iraq is "we'll succeed if we don't quit" is another embarrasing example of happy bubble syndrome. He said this from Hanoi! Was this just before or just after greeting the Vietnamese delegation under the looming bust of Ho Chi Minh? That statement is postively breathtaking with it's various misconceptions and rewriting of history. It must be the result of the Presidents happy bubble.

The sad fact is that this President is supremely insulated. Only administration toadies, pre selected audience members and the occasional world leader is able to reach the President. The notion that this man would mingle in any meaningful way with the rabble of Hanoi is preposterous. Waving from the tinted windows of his armored limo as the convoy whisked him from point A to point B is what the Vietnamese ought to have expected from this man. Why should they expect better than the American people get?

Hey BHFRIK...totally off topic, but I just wanted to pop by and wish you and your's a Happy Thanksgiving!
Hey Kvatch... Thanks for dropping by and I hope your thanksgiving was great.
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