As Obi-wan tells Luke, most things depend on your point of view.
I'd built my post around a single complimentary paragraph in a what I thought was on the whole a very crititical article by Thomas, How Bush Blew It. Thomas called Bush's supposed "doggedness" admirable, and I said (shorter Lance Mannion): Phooey.
But Greg thought I might have been picking on Thomas for a typo that very likely wasn't even his fault.
While the media have apparently turned from their fawning behavior to acting more as jackals, they have not really relinquished their previous subservience to anyone willing to talk to them, especially from within the halls of power, so it's turning out to be a big ask to expect anything consistently worthwhile to come out in any major media organ. Nevertheless, I think the paragraph you quoted represents a different failure - a failure of language skills, rather than in understanding. The third sentence should read "His doggedness is often admired," in which case it would say something true, if widely understood already. I blame the editor as much as the journalist.
If that's the case and admirable should have been changed to admired, then the sentence is true (although still gratuitous), but as I wrote to Greg, I think Thomas is too good a writer and too good an editor to have made the mistake himself and I can't see any junior copyeditor messing with the Assistant Managing Editor's copy without checking with him first. Plus, I've read other things by Thomas that have made me think that Thomas himself sees, or used to see, Bush's doggedness as an admirable quality in the man. (I didn't write this to Greg, but Thomas' use of the passive voice in that sentence would be a slip by a good writer, but it's the sort of construction that many journalists routinely use when they're trying to pass off their own opinion as the general consensus on an issue.) Greg and I can't settle which it was unless somebody from Newsweek turns up in the comments to set us straight. But I think we agree that the article was for the most part not helpful to the image of George W. Bush.
Newsweek = Newspeak
I guess I'm pretty cynical towards the media in general. But that article was feel-good "Dear Leader" Bushie propaganda at its best.
This surprised me. For one thing, next to me, Agi T. is about as cynical as SpongeBob. If he saw the article as Bushie propaganda and I didn't, I figured I must have missed something. So I went back and re-read the story.
It's not the hit job I thought it was the first time. To be fair, a lot more has come out since Thomas did his reporting for his article that has shown that the Feds screwed the pooch even more egregiously than we thought and his story does seem a little soft in comparison. But it's still not going to get a link from the RNC website. The headline nails Thomas' main point. Bush blew it. And I don't think Thomas tries to pass the President's failure off as an inexplicable laspe of focus or a case where Bush was victimized by his aides or the bureaucracy. He shows that Bush's failure was due to the way the White House does business and it does it the way Bush wants it to.
There is, though, another very curiously fawning paragraph like the admirable one I picked on. Writing about accusations that Bush failed to save New Orleans because the people there who most needed saving were black, Thomas says:
Liberals will say [Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and other top aides and advisors] were indifferent to the plight of poor African-Americans. It is true that Katrina laid bare society's massive neglect of its least fortunate. The inner thoughts and motivations of Bush and his top advisers are impossible to know for certain. Though it seems abstract at a time of such suffering, high-minded considerations about the balance of power between state and federal government were clearly at play. It's also possible that after at least four years of more or less constant crisis, Bush and his team are numb.
Ok, there's that cheap shot use of "Liberals." "Liberals will say...and we know they'll say anything and everything nasty that comes to their minds about the President, so we don't need to listen to them." "Liberals" aren't the only ones saying it. Black people are saying it. And so are a large number of white people who watched all those black people trapped on their rooftops and suffering in the Superdome and forgotten at the Convention Center and held at gunpoint in pens and on the roadways out of the city while the President and his men moseyed out to help, sort of. Americans are saying it!
"The inner thoughts and motivations of Bush and his top advisers are impossible to know for certain," Thomas writes, and then he goes on to make some pretty certain sounding statements about the inner thoughts and motivations of Bush and his gang. And what were they thinking? What were their motivations?
They were worried about the terrorists, of course! They were focused on the war!
Thomas doesn't use the words, but what other crises have the Bush people been dealing with constantly over the last four years? They sure aren't worried about the budget or the economy or the environment. Getting Bush re-elected was a crisis, I suppose. Mr Popular President came very close to being a one-termer. But I'm pretty sure Thomas didn't mean that. He meant that Bush and his co-presidents have worn themselves out saving us from the terrorists.
Except that one of the things we've learned from the Bush Leaguers' response to Katrina is that they haven't been worrying about the terrorists at all.
War doesn't seem to be much on their minds either.
They've been telling us they've been worrying about. They've been insisting that we all should do much more worrying about it too---and the way to show how much we're worried is to vote Republican, of course. But if they have been worried, it's clear they haven't been worried enough to actually prepare for a terrorist attack or even bother to capture Osama bin Laden, so I don't see how they can be even a little bit numb from all their worrying, let alone numb enough to let a whole city drown before their eyes.
That graph is not just dumb, it's weird. It doesn't fit with anything that Thomas writes anywhere else in the article---except for the graph about Bush's admirable doggedness.
There he goes again.
(I just did my awesome Ronald Reagan impression. Pretty good, huh?)
Neither of those two paragraphs fits with the portrayal of Bush the bungler in the rest of the article. But both fit with the great, outside narrative that the Media have been telling us about Bush for years:
George Bush, the simple man of the people, the unpretentious regular guy you'd enjoy having a beer with, came to office bringing a refreshing sincerity and lack of intellectual dithering, a reliable gut instinct (and admirable doggedness), and brought back honor and integrity to the White House Bill Clinton's Arky hillbilly gang trashed. Sure Bush was a bit callow and inexperienced, but all he needed was a national crisis to bring out the hidden hero, and when the terrorists struck on 9/11, Bush responded with greatness. He grew at once into the job and has led us ever since with grit, determination, and cool courage, one of our great War Presidents (if you don't count Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, which we don't because that would muddy the narrative and Karl Rove wouldn't like it).
That was the story up until Katrina hit. The question is will it become the story again? Will the Media forget what they saw over the last two weeks or have they given up covering Bush as the President with the Bullhorn and from here on cover him as the President with the Guitar?
The fact that Thomas lapsed and reverted to writing about the President with the Bullhorn in the middle of describing the bungling by the President with the Guitar makes me think they're going to have a hard time giving up the Great Narrative.
After all, all writers love their own creations, and Bush the War President is their creation as much as he's the creature of Karl Rove.
And that reminds me that I never finished the point I was driving towards in Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?... and It's always been about Whitewater. Not that I think any of you have been holding your breath in anticipation. But a lot has come out over the last couple of weeks that has convinced me that I was more right than I knew, and my vanity just won't allow me to let it go. I'll post it tomorrow so you can all ignore it over the weekend.
Sheepish update: Ok. Like I'm the first writer to blow a deadline. I'll post Part 3 Monday.