Saturday, June 03, 2006

Is Bush Becoming Rational?

One of the most important characteristics of rational inquirers is a willingness to recognized that we are all wrong much of the time. This recognition usually generates a willingness to listen to opposing opinions and, ideally, a willingness to admit when one is wrong.

Many have charged that President Bush is stupid when what they really seem to mean is that he is inarticulate. But Bush's intellectual weakness isn't really so much a lack of cognitive horsepower (it's hard to tell how much of that he's got), but, rather, a lack of curiosity coupled with an apparent unwillingness to admit he is or even might be wrong. Consequently he has not been willing to listen to or interact with those with whom he disagrees. This has set the intellectual tone of the administration, and generated the ideologically homogenous echo chamber of incestuous amplification and groupthink that drives the administration's disastrous foreign policy.

But, according to the Post, this may be changing. My two reactions to ths news are (a) well, it's about goddamn time and (b) thank God! (figuratively speaking). Bush's dogmatism and tendency to subordinate facts to ideology has been disastrous, and only someone strongly inclined toward intellectual insularity and what Peirce calls "the method of tenacity" in reasoning could have taken 5.5 years to recognize just how disastrous. Sooner would have been better, but later is better than never.

So go Dubya! Welcome to the reality-based community. Life's less comfortable here, but (as Peirce notes) everything of value costs us something. Seeing things a little more clearly is worth the discomfort.


Blogger John Callender said...

I'm glad you posed the title as a question, though the body of the piece seems a bit too credulous, given Bush's history. I'd be inclined to see this as election-year positioning, giving an appearance of reaching out in order to blunt the "Bush in a bubble" storyline that the Democrats will likely make the centerpiece of their midterm campaigns.

Bringing in a few advisors who have criticized him in the past (especially when we're making the case with people like Tony Snow, who criticized Bush mainly for not being ideological _enough_ on issues like the weakening of Social Security) doesn't really convince me at all. It's too easy for him to bring them in, and then just continue to do what he's always done.

The fact that he's listening to some alternatives, and maybe (in the case of Iran) actually making tentative steps away from the position he's been sticking to up until now, I would interpret more as a sign of desperation in the face of his foreign policies' abject failures. And again, I suspect mere window-dressing with an eye on the midterm elections, rather than any sincere engagement with the world of rational, grown-up policymaking.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, it's definitely a question...and I think your explanations are at least as good as the *he's becoming rational* explanation.

Of course I hope he IS starting to recognize the error of his ways...but I'm not all that optimistic about it.

9:05 AM  

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