Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cohen on Gore (and Bush)

I haven't seen Gore's documentary, but Cohen's spot on about the comparison between Gore and Bush in this piece. (HT: Sociology Beth)

It's hard to believe that anyone could vote for Bush over Gore. But, oddly, the fact that elements of the right continue to revere the former and deride the latter provides something of an explanation. Given that Bush has turned out to be a worse president than anyone could reasonably have predicted, the fact that some righties still prefer him to Gore seems to show that their position may not have been based on facts anyway. You could basically pull a name out of the phonebook and get a better president than Bush. At least a randomly-selected person would have finished the war in Afghanistan, finished off OBL, and never invaded Iraq. And only the most benighted could possible believe that a Gore presidency--however bad they might think it would be--is in any way likely to be half as bad as the Bush presidency has been. The Bush presidency has been defined by its errors, and there is no reason to think that Gore would have made those errors, nor any even half as disastrous.

Cohen says things that have been said often enough before, but they apparently haven't been said enough. Gore couldn't campaign, but there is every reason to believe that he would have goverend well. Bush campaigned well but he is demonstrably incapable of running the country in an even semi-competent manner.

There are many reasons for this, but--as Cohen points out--much of it is attributable to their very different intellectual characters. Gore, in essence, thinks like a scientist. He realizes that facts are hard things that mere wishing can't change. Through hard work he's made himself an expert on many subjects (the MX, technology policy, global warming), he thinks hard about them, and lets the facts guide his thinking. Bush thinks like...well...he just doesn't think much at all. As Cohen points out, he apparently has contempt for the life of the mind, hard intellectual work, and anything even vaguely resembling education, formal or informal. He apparently doesn't see the value in actually learning things, thinking hard about them, and drawing conclusions in a responsible manner. He seems to think that his untutored immediate reactions (e.g. Iraq did it!) are more valuable than the careful conclusions of someone who actually knows what he's talking about.

In the end, Bush rather reminds me of my dumb-ass uncle--a truly despicable character--who told me semi-seriously when he heard that I was going to college: "If yer really smart, ya don't hafta go ta school."

Now, I'm all too cognizant of my own intellectual limitations. I may not be the kind of guy you want running the country.

But I'd be a better choice than my dumb-ass uncle.


Blogger Alexander Wolfe said...

Not only that, but the public is beginning to realize that global warming is a real, serious issue, and Bush and his ilk are likly to be on the outside looking in on this issue in the next few years without quite realizing how they got there. As it is, it's heart-warming to read right-wing bloggers arguing global warming doesn't exist, only to find that they're years behind the debate.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Azael said...

I agree with the general sentiment, but I would like to point out that Gore didn't lose because he was a bad campaigner. He won an admittedly close election in the popular vote. Where he lost was when the Supreme Court decided that GW would be irreparably harmed if Florida were to actually carry out its duty as a state. Gore had a lot of problems he was fighting - chief among them was the devastating effect that the whole impeachment process had on the democratic party. Given all of this, I believe it is highly misleading to frame the issue in the way Cohen - and by extension, you - have. Gore entered into the 2000 race with a lot of liabilities - almost all of them were not of his doing, nor were they his fault. He actually campaigned brilliantly, given these impediments. He actually won the popular vote. And if the Supreme Court didn't step in and swing the election to Bush, he would have won.

I believe, when viewed in this way - which I believe is the correct way of looking at it - your premise simply evaporates. Bush won because of a 10 year long, brutal campaign by the Republicans to drag down democrats in any way possible using - ultimately - impeachment itself. They distorted character flaws into constitutional issues - issues, btw, that were civil, not criminal issues, and only let in through another Supreme Court decision which allowed a civil law suit against a sitting president. Something without precedent.

So, I agree with your characterization of the scientific mindset and such. I also agree with your characterization of Bush. But please don't buy into and certainly don't propagate the idea that Bush won because Gore couldn't campaign. The facts say otherwise. I know we all like to frame the democrats as geeky, intellectual losers. But it simply is not the case and continuing the transmission of the meme is hamstringing any possibility of recovery from the last 15 years of crap.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Good points, A. Never thought of it that way.

9:59 AM  

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