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May 08, 2006

Bush's Think Tank

You just can't make this stuff up. George W. Bush reportedly wants to start a think tank once he leaves office, dedicated to "the spread of democracy and Alexis de Tocqueville's vision of America as a nation made better by its "associations," or community groups." Sigh. Truth is, I think I'd rather bowl alone than bowl with Bush.

Tocqueville, of course, was concerned about the atomization of American society. Our individualistic strain, while good in moderation, could tear us apart, and associations and community groups were one way to retain protective social links. It's the exact opposite of the vision pushed by Bush's "ownership society," what with its fetishism of individualism and its inherent tendency towards yawning inequality.

Additionally, Tocqueville was writing for a French audience, attempting to explain that the aristocracy would crumble, and hierarchies would weaken, a process that was advancing in the United States. "In an aristocratic family," he wrote, "as in aristocratic society generally, every place is marked. Not only does the father occupy a distinct rank and enjoy immense privileges, but children are not equal to one another. Age and sex irrevocably fix the rank and determine the prerogatives of each child. Democracy overturns or lowers most of these barriers." Well, Bush sure proved that wrong. And he certainly would've threatened Tocqueville's conception of nobles, who he thought "despite the vast distance that separated them from the people, took a benevolent and tranquil interest in their fate, much as the shepherd concerns himself with the fate of his flock. Without regarding the poor as equals, they watched over the destiny of those whose welfare had been entrusted to them by Providence.” That or fleeced them for tax breaks.

May 8, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Why yes, the fact that George W. Bush became president proves we live in an aristocratic society! Thanks for that rigorous bit of logic.

On a serious note, this post really just reflects the divide between the left-wing vs. right-wing view of the individual's role in society. When right-wingers talk about "community", they're generally talking about social gatherings, church-going, etc. When left-wingers talk about "community", they're usually talking about economic issues - the responsibility that government has to take care of the poor, and the aspiration towards some kind of economic equality. Thus, you hear about de Tocqueville and you immediately think about taxation and stock ownership. There's nothing contradictory about Bush's view, it just reflects a different view of society than your own.

Posted by: Floyd | May 8, 2006 11:18:04 AM

One could understand Bush setting up a "Center for Dividing, Not Uniting, the Country", or a "Center for Bringing '1984' to the 21st Century", or a "Center for Study of Ideology as a substitute for policy", or a "Imperial Presidency Institute", or a "Bush Endowment for Discrediting Democracy through Imperial Overreach". [There's almost no limit to whacky ideas that would be appropriate for Bush].

The biggest laugh is really the idea of any 'think' tank being proposed by Bush. Second biggest laugh is to contemplate all their tree-friendly formal reports being confined to one page so Bush would accept reviewing what they do.

For a guy who claims his biggest accomplishment in his presidential years is catching a 5 pound perch in his own lake, Bush can't be beat for narrow-guage thought.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | May 8, 2006 11:30:57 AM

Very well put, Floyd.
I always hear the word "community" used by the left to describe perceived political divisions such as the homosexual community, the black community, the Hispanic community, etc. and these people don't even know each other.

Posted by: Fred Jones | May 8, 2006 11:35:14 AM

Why yes, the fact that George W. Bush became president proves we live in an aristocratic society! Thanks for that rigorous bit of logic.

Ezra's sentence read:

[quoting from de Tocqueville] "Not only does the father occupy a distinct rank and enjoy immense privileges, but children are not equal to one another. Age and sex irrevocably fix the rank and determine the prerogatives of each child. Democracy overturns or lowers most of these barriers." Well, Bush sure proved that wrong."

Seems you missed the snarky point being made.

When right-wingers talk about "community", they're generally talking about social gatherings, church-going, etc. When left-wingers talk about "community", they're usually talking about economic issues - the responsibility that government has to take care of the poor

Perhaps you should think about whether there's some sort of connection between how much citizens participate in "community groups" and what their views on government policy and government's role are.

Also, your statement trivializes the concept of community to the point where it has no meaning. The guy living in the tract home development with no sidewalks who never meets his neighbors would not feel "alienated" from his community by that standard, since he went to church, hung out with his friends, etc. By any objective standard, of course, he is alienated from his local community. "Community is the people you hang out with" is a trivial statement. If we look at it that way, only a recluse would be disconnected from his community.

The biggest laugh is really the idea of any 'think' tank being proposed by Bush

Considering that "think tank" has become synonymous with "right wing farm to provide conservative college students with paying jobs," I don't find it laughable at all. This is exactly the sort of thing I can see him getting involved in.

Posted by: Constantine | May 8, 2006 11:53:34 AM

When right-wingers talk about "community", they're generally talking about social gatherings, church-going, etc.

Exactly right. But do you mind if I unpack that just a little bit? What these 'communities' all have in common is exclusivity based upon the idea of homogeneity. That is, congregations, country clubs, hobby clubs, and other social gatherings are generally composed of like-minded people, in similar economic situations, and they usually have very little racial variation. What you're saying, Floyd, is that to right-wingers, community means associating with people just like me.

Contrary to what you and Fred think, however, left-wingers do not put 'community' solely in the economic sphere. Rather, left-wingers see 'community' as an entire town, or city, perhaps a state, even a country or the community of nations on the entire planet. Left-wingers see community on a much broader scale, recognizing that in spite of the most frenzied attempts of the right-wingers, we all still live on the same planet and still have to deal with one another, so we might as well try and find ways to make our shared existence a decent one.

Posted by: Stephen | May 8, 2006 12:27:05 PM

I am completely in favor of Dubya's very own think tank club. He should totally suck down a hefty annual stipend from the general wingnut welfare fund, take in huge donations from right wing benefactors and spend them the very same way he has burned through the nation's treasury. His think tank/brush clearing/nap taking club could be an endless siphon off of the wingnut welfare money pool for years to come.

Posted by: sprocket | May 8, 2006 12:35:40 PM

By any objective standard, of course, he is alienated from his local community

Says who? If you're poor, you can't feel like part of a community?

congregations, country clubs, hobby clubs, and other social gatherings are generally composed of like-minded people, in similar economic situations, and they usually have very little racial variation.

I don't think that's quite true (ever seen a little league game?), but let's say that it is: certainly throughout history and in every culture people have tended to spend their social time with people generally like themselves. Fine. If you have a problem with that, then what you really have a problem with is the standard concept of "community". You want to replace that, as I guess many left-wingers do, with the concept of a national or global community. That's fine, but unless you spend your days backpacking around the world and meeting your fellow "community-members", what does that amount to in practice? Usually nothing more than a call for a host of economic and environmental regulations. You can't chum it up with Francois or Mobutu after work, they're thousands of miles away.

Posted by: Floyd | May 8, 2006 12:51:26 PM

"His think tank/brush clearing/nap taking club could be an endless siphon off of the wingnut welfare money pool for years to come"

Brilliant, sprocket! I can just imagine the young Liberty University graduates sitting at the knee of former-pres George II as he reads "My Pet Goat". I see lifetime employment for Jenna, notJenna, Jeb's crackhead daughter, Neil Bush and all the other Bush family slackers.

Posted by: CParis | May 8, 2006 2:24:47 PM

The reason I find this funny is not the notion of GWB starting anything with the word "think" in the title. The reason I find this hilarious is that I expect this to be a miserable failure on the level of Arbusto, trading Sammy Sosa, and most of his presidency. There are plenty of neoconservative think tanks already in existence, and though a new one could probably make it, I strongly suspect that once Bush is out of office, all conservatives plan to wash their hands of him. After all - would YOU take political advice from a guy who's nearing 30 percent approval 2 years before leaving office?

Posted by: Jon O. | May 8, 2006 4:14:53 PM

Jon O. - I don't know, would you take advice from Harry Truman? 2 years before leaving office, he was at a rousing 23%.

Approval ratings have very little meaning.

Posted by: Floyd | May 8, 2006 5:04:16 PM

George Bush doesn't show any interest in brainstorming policy now and he's the president of the United States. Do you really picture him sitting in around having philosophical debates about the nature of democracy in the 21st century? He'll never create a think tank. At least not one that actually does any substantive work.

Posted by: Mike | May 8, 2006 9:31:51 PM

Eh, the difficulty for President Bush is that the only source I can see for a turnaround in his approval ratings is if Iraq suddenly turns into the happiest place on Earth.

The only other means by which he could drum up support is probably by vetoing a spending bill - and the effects of that don't seem particularly potent at this late stage.

I know what you're saying regarding Harry Truman. But the political situation in the US is very different today than it was at that point - hell, very different from just about every election year. Given the Republican Congress' precarious position, it is important for the President to have a decent approval rating if he wants any help in executing his agenda.

Posted by: Jon O. | May 9, 2006 11:42:51 AM

the only source I can see for a turnaround in his approval ratings is if Iraq suddenly turns into the happiest place on Earth.

Actually, the only thing driving Bush's approval ratings in either direction is gas prices. It's quite a direct correlation.

Posted by: Floyd | May 9, 2006 12:48:10 PM

I don't know, would you take advice from Harry Truman? 2 years before leaving office, he was at a rousing 23%.
Approval ratings have very little meaning.
Posted by: Floyd | May 8, 2006 2:04:16 PM

All the more reason I say for you right wing institutions to give generously to Dubya's Crawford Ranch Think Tank Club. Obviously he is going to need a fat yearly personal stipend and lots of expensive ego stroking - can't have him getting back on the sauce, ya know, he could get a little too loquacious, if ya know what I mean - and of course Jenna and Not Jenna will need to get "jobs" at some point, and they are gonna need big salaries too. There's alot of thinking to do, it's hard work! So give give give, wingnut foundations.

Posted by: sprocket | May 9, 2006 12:57:21 PM

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