September 08, 2005
Cult of Personality
Matt on the CBS poll:
58 percent disapprove of Bush's handling of the hurricane, and just 38 percent approve. But consider this -- only 20 percent say the federal government's handling of the disaster was adequate, while 77 percent say it wasn't. 24 percent say FEMA's response was adequate and 70 percent disagree. How is it, then, that Bush is rated so much better than the federal government he heads, and the disaster agency run by his appointee, the much-beloved "Brownie?" This is part-and-parcel of a very frightening cult of personality that's been erected around the person of George W. Bush ever since 9/11 with the effective complicity of the rightwing media.
He goes on to list a couple more instances where otherwise bright right-wingers seemed to lose their senses and rush to dump blame wherever Bush isn't in a desperate attempt to keep their honored leader morally pristine. The whole protocol reminds me of something a British Financial Times reporter said in "Journeys With George". When asked what's surprised him on the campaign trail he said, paraphrased, that:
I am simply shocked at how much Americans don't like politics. You walk into a room at 4am filled with screaming supporters and you ask them why they back this man and they don't give you a single policy, a single program, a single anything other than: "I like him. I think he's a great man."
That's reflected itself in polling in a rather interesting way. For the past couple of years, Americans have banished the Bush administration into the nether regions of public opinion on most every issue -- they don't like him on health care, on Iraq, on education, on the economy, on the environment, on much of anything. The only thing they do like him on is terrorism. Terrorism, of course, is the only policy initiative they've no effective way to evaluate. You can see how schools are doing, hear what teachers think, track your premiums, look up the number of uninsured, watch the news out of Iraq, and generally make judgments on what you see. Terrorism offers no similar benchmarks, the idea that a lack of domestic attacks matters is to say that we were doing great fighting terrorism on 9/10/2001. So, in the absence of any data that could make up their minds, they tend to assume Bush is doing a superb job on the most weighty issue of the day, even as they judge him a failure in every other aspect.
It is a cult of personality. Bush has managed to create a heuristic of himself that in no way accords to his policy performance, and what he's proven is that a good heuristic is significantly stronger than all but the most undeniable dose of reality. Americans know what they think of Bush on most issues, but till now, those judgments haven't infiltrated their general opinion of the man. Maybe that's changing. If the CBS Poll is to be believed, though, it's not changing that much.
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Tracked on May 3, 2006 11:17:43 PM
Bush has managed to create a heuristic of himself that in no way accords to his policy performance...
Either Bush is stupid or Bush is cunning...which is it today?
Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 8, 2005 12:37:14 PM
Stupid on policy, cunning on PR, Fred. As always.
Anyway, 38% is about as low as one can possibly expect on any poll question that contains the words "Bush" and "approve." His loyal supporters, and the I-support-our-leader respondents, are always going to approve of him, even if they don't necessarily approve of his decision to eat a baby on live television.
Bill Kristol made a statement to that effect earlier this week.
Posted by: PapaJijo | Sep 8, 2005 12:58:07 PM
Bush is the political embodiment of 'immaculate conception'. When things are fucked up, he is nowhere to be found. When there's credit to be taken he's right there with a photo op. Nothing bad is ever laid at the feet of his administration, it is always the Dems, the terrorists, the UN, the europeans, local or state government.
How does he do it? Minister of Propaganda Rove takes care of all of this.
Fred Jones asks whether Bush is stupid or cunning. Bush is both stupid and cunning.
He cares not about being informed, and for the POTUS that is stupid. He bends his work to whatever Rove and Cheney tell him to do, and for Bush that is cunning. He is also cunning in believing that the best defense is a good offense, even if that means endless lies, withholding information, and photo-ops instead of real action.
Bush is like the oft-remarked Oakland CA. There is no there, there.
Although the media doesn't portray it now, history will record that George W. Bush is THE WORST PRESIDENT, EVER.
Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Sep 8, 2005 1:00:52 PM
Hey Ezra -- Howie the Whore mentions you in his column in today's Pravda.
Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Sep 8, 2005 1:49:36 PM
There is an infamous story that Karl Rove tells about the first time he met The Chimp and he says that right away he knew that chimp was a specimen that "comes along once in a lifetime". At this point Chimp had accomplished nothing notable in his life, he was just a priveledged class frat dude. And chimp certainly didn't do anything soon afterward to dignify himself - a Nam dodge, a couple of monsterous fuck ups in some business ventures his family tried to fix him up with, chronic drug abuse and such. What Rove really means with his story is that Chimp is prime material for this cult-of-personality thing. You don't have to look very far to see that Rove is completely right on this. Chimp has blundered through some of the worst policy decisions in our history and has become one of the most unpopular figures in the world, but there is a cult of devout followers here that will never let go of him.
Posted by: sprockethome | Sep 8, 2005 2:43:48 PM
What mystifies me is that no one in the entire Republican party noticed or pointed out that they were creating this cult of personality around a moron. Didn't they realize that it was very likely that he'd never be able to keep up the pretense of being a great leader forever . . . and when the curtain was eventually pulled back on the Great and Powerful Shrub that they'd all look like idiots?
Their Potemkin President is finally being revealed, and they have no one to blame but themselves.
Posted by: Greg VA | Sep 8, 2005 3:55:10 PM
. and when the curtain was eventually pulled back on the Great and Powerful Shrub that they'd all look like idiots?
In a country where Velveeta is cheerfully bought and sold sold as cheese, the day when the curtain is eventually pulled back is far, far, in the future.
We'll never live to see it.
Posted by: Davis X. Machina | Sep 8, 2005 10:03:01 PM
38% voted for his old man. i think 35-40% is the wingnut/old blue haired/amoral greedy repub base. so on this issue, even though many of the stooges in this group get it, they aren't blaming "dear leader". but below 40% for el dublay won't make it come 11/06.
Posted by: trrwv | Sep 8, 2005 10:59:35 PM
a lot has been said on the web about how the aftermath of new orleans looks like the aftermath of a terrorist attack. fema was in fact rolled into the dept of homeland security. democrats could make the argument that if this is the response we can expect to another attack on american soil then we're screwed.
of course the majority of the red states have no beaches.
Posted by: james richardson | Sep 9, 2005 3:35:13 AM
What mystifies me is that no one in the entire Republican party noticed or pointed out that they were creating this cult of personality around a moron.
One day Bush is a moron and then the next, he is the cunning fox utilizing every advantage to screw the _____________________(pick one: poor, Dems, his own).
Man, which way is it? Stupid when it suits your rant and smart when you have no other explanation other than conspiracy?
Posted by: Fred Jones | Sep 9, 2005 9:02:01 AM
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