06 October 2004

All hat and no cattle

For readers' convenience, I've created an index of the Kevin letters so you can see the full progress of the dialogue
Dear Kevin:

Thanks for dropping by and commenting on my post about Bush's "hard work" comments during the first debate. You're the first Bush supporter to come counter one of my political posts, and I'd like to take that as an invitation to dialogue. I dropped by your blog Strategy Revolutions, and figure that anyone wise enough to write a post grounded in the observation that pirates are cool is worth talking to.

I thought I heard a tone of puzzlement in your comment on my post --- how could I have misread the character of Bush and Kerry so badly? Since I feel equally puzzled by your reading of their character, perhaps we can reach better understanding of each other's perspectives, if not an actual agreement.

Let's talk about how we see things differently ...

There are a couple of posts on your blog which I thought were relevant to my "hard work" post. One makes a point that I think is worth making, though I don't take it as a very big criticism of Kerry per se. The other is simply astonishing to me.

Your post Why Should I Hire You? makes the worthwhile point.

This last year, Senator Kerry has not been a very good employee, if I showed up for work as little as he did, I would have already been looking for a job. The people of Massachusetts hired him, but all Americans pay his salary and I say that he needs to pay his salary back. He has been using our time to look for another job.
Point taken. This is a bit troubling. But this points to something strange about the American political process, rather than to a failing of Kerry's.

We tend to see candidates as much more credible if they currently hold elective office. But running for elective office is time-consuming, expensive ... and time-consuming because it is so expensive, since anyone running a serious major campaign has to spend a lot of time raising money. As a result, we are a nation full of mayors and state representatives running for governor, city supervisors running for US congress, US senators running for president, and so on. All of them neglect the jobs they've been elected to do. They are accountable to their current constituencies, but when they lose in a bid for higher office, they typically win reëlection to the lower office.

It's weird, and it's not quite right, for exactly the reason you say. But it's hard for me to fault John Kerry in particular for this; it's just the way things are done in this country.

Your post The Cowboy vs. The Professor, on the other hand, does a reading of the personal character of the candidates that I find amazingly inconsistent with the things I know about both men.

What John Kerry doesn't know and what the President does know is that being the President, a leader, is hard work. The President has even said so several times during the debate. Maybe John Kerry hasn't realized this yet.
Bush the hardworking cowboy?

It doesn't look to me like Bush recognizes that the presidency is hard work. Prior to 9/11, he skipped work on 42% of his days in office. Since Michael Moore pointed out this statistic in Farenheit 9/11, Moore's conservative critics have been good enough to fact-check that statistic, and it's true. Now that figure does include time off for weekends --- so Bush only missed 13% of his work days. I myself would like to get 33 paid vacation days a year; I cannot resist pointing out that it sounds sort of French. Since 9/11, Bush hasn't scaled back his vacation time much. As of April of this year, the Washington Post reports

He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.
Bush taking it easy in office matches what I know about Bush the man before he took office. By his own admission, Bush didn't really grow up and get serious with his life until around his 40th birthday.

His business career doesn't inspire any confidence that he knows how to work hard or get things done. Thanks to family connections, he served at the top of a series of failed oil companies: Arbusto, Spectrum 7, and Harken Energy. Fortunately, he had family cronies to bail him out each time his companies went bankrupt, and his father was conveniently President of the United States when the SEC decided to call off the investigation of him making money on insider trading at Harken. His greatest acheivement was using his name to help to get the government to build a nice new stadium for the Texas Rangers, netting him fifteen million dollars as a partner in the deal to sell the Rangers afterward.

And let's not forget that Bush wriggled out of service in Vietnam by staying stateside in the Air National Guard --- and that the best evidence available is that he did not even serve that lighter and safer duty in full.

I'll grant that Bush's personal affinity for the cowboy style is probably mostly authentic. But is this the career of a hardworking cowboy, or a well-connected patrician, enjoying three-martini lunches? Remember, that this is a guy who was head cheerleader at the tony Philips Academy Andover prep school. I read Bush as cowboy on the surface, maybe, but patrician at the core.

To those of us who are critics of Bush, it's puzzling that his handlers have made the earthy cowboy image stick. Digby has a long, vigorous rant which sums up how we feel.

George W. Bush is a man with two faces --- a public image of manly strength and a private reality of childish weakness. His verbal miscues and malapropisms are the natural consequence of a man struggling with internal contradictions and a lack of self-knowledge. He can’t keep track of what he is supposed to think and say in public.

There is no doubt that whether it's a cowboy hat or a crotch hugging flightsuit , George W. Bush enjoys wearing the mantle of American archetypal warriors. But when he goes behind the curtain and sheds the costume, a flinty, thin-skinned, immature man who has never taken responsibility for his mistakes emerges. The strong compassionate leader is revealed as a flimsy paper tiger.

Are a few photo ops of Bush clearing brush at his ranch and giving manly hugs to firefighters who do real work actually enough to convince you that Bush is that hardworking cowboy? Are a few silly stories about manicures --- that seem, to me, to sound suspiciously similar in tone to other fabrications --- enough to convince you that Kerry actually doesn't care about the American people?

What have I missed?


Kevin said...

Thanks for reading my blog and making a comment, I really do appreciate your position and respectfully disagree. I try only to post one political post a week on my blog. I'm much more interested in social, business, and economic trends.

I am just as puzzled as you. Although my puzzlement comes when I see apparently intelligent, well educated people who can't see beyond the facade that the Kerry/Edwards ticket has put up. It may be because I'm no pretty boy and when I smile it is usually a belly laugh.

There is an old saw, "The Devil you know is better that the Devil that you don't know." Although this might explain why people will vote for President Bush, I am confused about Senator Kerry.

Although Senator Kerry has said that his position is consistent, he has vacillilated with the political winds. He has said that he will do something about education, yet doesn't do something when he has the chance. He will cut the deficit, doesn't do something when he has the chance and even proposes more spending.
In my opinion Governor Dean would have a least stood for something, and Ralph Nader, although a little out in left field, at least I agree that there needs to more political parties in this Country.

Conversely, the President has at least done something. He has passed a education bill and medicare supplement bill. Although I'm not thrilled about either candidate, I will go with the devil I know.

Having spent time in the Military, the global test really bothers me. In one sentence Senator Kerry said that he would give no foreign country a veto, but there must be some type of global test. What does that mean? He has taken two dialectic opposing positions in the same sentence.

I have the feeling that Senator Kerry doesn't care about me or you, only about getting elected. If the Senator cared, he may have actually come to Pensacola, the only person from that campaign to have come down here was Elizabeth Edwards, immediately after the Vice President candidate selection, who might have been a better candidate than either Senator.

Hollyberry said...

I just wanted to comment in on this conversation which I have happened upon. It intrigues me as well, as you both seem to be fairly educated people who can make decisions that seem at least somewhat rational.

Now, my input is that "Miniver Cheevy" makes an excellent point about the american political system. I find it preposterous that there are Americans who actually try and blame Kerry for the work that he's missed due to his campaign, and this is for the same reasons that "Miniver Cheevy" explained, so there's no reason to further that statement. My only additional comment is that I watched on TV a news anchor talk about a recent vote in the senate, and make a point of saying that Kerry and Edwards were both absent from the vote. Well of course they were absent, this system doesn't allow them to campaign for Presidency and still have time to be in the Senate.

I agree with everything Miniver Cheevy says. Just wanted to let you know.

Anonymous said...

Moreover, it really doesn't matter whether they were there or not. The GOP holds the majority in the Senate and has been very disciplined about holding down defections. Had Kerry and Edwards been there, the Democrat's margin of defeat on any given bill would have been two closer, but the end result would have been the same. The notion that this is reflective of anybody's work habits is just silly.