Fair Warning

by Kieran Healy on June 14, 2004

When I am President, those people who think they are so clever and such savvy travelers for using the parents’ room instead of the regular bathroom—because it’s quieter and cleaner and they read about this handy trick in a “Travel Tips” column once, even though they do not have, say, an unhappy five-month-old in their arms who needs a change and a feed—had better watch out. I will have the Justice Department and a team of Military Lawyers by my side, together with a bag of bamboo splinters, a Leatherman Crunch, a Camping Stove and a copy of the Constitution of the United States for kindling. And who would stop me? For one thing, a War on Irritating Frequent Flyers would command widespread popular support, and I would be willing to consider opening New Fronts in this war, e.g., on People Who Cut Me Off In Traffic, or Bloggers Who Do Not Link To My Posts. Besides, in the words of President George W. Bush, “I am the commander, see? I do not need to explain why I say things. — That’s the interesting thing about being the President. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”[1]

fn1. Previously thought to be mere managerial bravado but subsequently discovered by Administration lawyers to be a valid constitutional argument licensing the use of torture against unspecified numbers of persons.

{ 20 comments }

1

Walt Pohl 06.14.04 at 11:19 pm

I think the most surprising thing about all this is that I wake up each morning and Bush is still President. Don’t we get to say “ollie-ollie-ox-in-free” by now or something?

2

liberal japonicus 06.15.04 at 12:11 am

I dunno, something about ‘our long national nightmare’ or something, I guess…

3

Matt 06.15.04 at 12:21 am

What’s “the parents’s room”? For a minute I thought you had guests who were going to the bathroom in your bedroom, or showering in there or something, rather than in the main bathroom, but I suppose you mean something on a plane- I’ve never seen it, or noticed it. I guess I’m not really a frequent flyer, though, more of an occasional one. Please do let me in on the story. (Then again, those w/ a 5-month old in need of a change and a feed on a plane often fall in to the irritating traveler category, too, especially when the wailing starts.)

4

me2i81 06.15.04 at 12:23 am

Almost as clever as the women who read in some savvy magazine that they should squat above the toilet seat so that their precious haunches don’t touch the icky plastic, thereby spraying the entire thing with urine.

5

pseudosophist 06.15.04 at 12:34 am

George W. Bush is loathsome, and he’s got to go. But I don’t think the opponents of Bush should stoop to the low road, so well travelled by the right, and take quotes out of context. I followed the link to Bush’s quote, and the context makes it less offensive. He’s merely saying that in the context of a meeting with his staff, he sometimes makes comments intending to be deliberately provocative, and in those situations he doesn’t believe he needs to tell people that that is what he is doing. And I might be willing to concede that point to him (although I have doubts about whether he is smart enough to know when he is being deliberately provocative).

This is a quote that I have heard before, and thought it pretty damning. Now that I see it in context, however, it doesn’t seem so. When those opposed to Bush use these out-of-context quotes to put Bush down, it just opens us up to accusations of misleading people. And as we well know, the SCLM is much more willing to point it out when the left commits this offense than when the right does it. There are so many more legitimate criticisms of Bush that we can make, there’s no need to resort to this type of quotation.

6

jayarbee 06.15.04 at 12:41 am

KIERAN: I will have the Justice Department and a team of Military Lawyers by my side, together with a bag of bamboo splinters, a Leatherman Crunch, a Camping Stove and a copy of the Constitution of the United States for kindling. And who would stop me?

No one. Not if you were a Republican, that is. Mainly, that is because, few would know. The press would not tell anyone. You quoted Bush from Woodward’s Bush at War. Coincidentally, I also remarked on those words earlier today (here and here) on how his statement relates to the torture memo. When Woodward’s book was released that quote did appear in print and online in a few outlets. But think about it. This was the President of the United States talking, asserting that he doesn’t “owe anybody an explanation.” These are words we might expect from a dictator. From someone who expects his actions to be unquestioned. From someone who would think himself free to do anything, including torture. Why weren’t such telling words of the president in the headlines across the country? Why wasn’t his claim of absolute power the lead story on all the networks? As a president, Bush is a failure, to be sure. But it is the media which have enabled him, thus betraying their duty to inform the people and our privilege (and theirs) to be free.

7

ArC 06.15.04 at 1:19 am

He’s merely saying that in the context of a meeting with his staff, he sometimes makes comments intending to be deliberately provocative, and in those situations he doesn’t believe he needs to tell people that that is what he is doing.

So he picked the one of the worst parts of “The West Wing” to emulate?

8

Kieran Healy 06.15.04 at 1:26 am

He’s merely saying that in the context of a meeting with his staff, he sometimes makes comments intending to be deliberately provocative, and in those situations he doesn’t believe he needs to tell people that that is what he is doing.

Pseud, that’s the point of the footnote, and the joke: Previously thought to be an offhand comment about confrontational management style within the Whitehouse, now elevated by Adminstration lawyers to a bit of constitutional interpretation designed to legitimate torture. We’ve come a long way in the last two and a half years.

And, as you say, the full context for the original comment is linked to in my post. So what’s not to like?

9

pseudosophist 06.15.04 at 2:12 am

Sorry, I missed the footnote (an unhealthy aversion to small print, perhaps?). My bad.

10

RD 06.15.04 at 2:16 am

You’re little joy ride with hysterics has already happened. A man named Hussein and his charming sons have already tried it. It doesn’t work. No matter how much you try to make bad guys out of the good guys, you and your impressionable ilk will lose. That just tortures you, doesn’t it. Keep ranting though, that means our system is still working. You’re kind of the canary in the tunnel. Mwah!

11

Ophelia Benson 06.15.04 at 2:34 am

Well, and this is pretty scary stuff too. Not news, not surprising, not anything other than common knowledge, but still pretty scary and repulsive.

“Clearly transformed by Sept. 11, the President makes a point of projecting strength, confidence, and determination.

President Bush: “A president has got to be the calcium in the backbone. — If I weaken, the whole team weakens. — If I’m doubtful, I can assure you there will be a lot of doubt.”

And Mr. Bush wants strength, not doubt, in his cabinet.

“In the midst of tough times I don’t need people around me who are not steady,” Bush tells Woodward. “And if there’s a kind of a hand-wringing attitude going on when times are tough, I don’t like it.”

No doubt, no hand-wringing – meaning, you know, no thought, no reflection, no considering implications, no weighing alternatives, no imagination, no scruples. Just – pick a plan, quick, and then by gum stick to it no matter what. Calcium, back bone; strength, confidence and determination.

12

Walt Pohl 06.15.04 at 3:26 am

Wow, rd has tapped into some vein of wignuttery so dark that he doesn’t even begin to make sense anymore. This is probably an example of a Pareto improvement.

13

q 06.15.04 at 5:13 am

Explanations are required where decisions of granting of power is being made: Bush will require an explanation and a vision in November, Kerry just requires the vision. Even breast-beating visions require a foundation of facts, logic and argument to succeed, and a great leader needs all 4. I have seen nothing in either vision so far that will prevent another attack on a similar or worse scale to the WTC attack on September-11 – In that nothingness lies a problem, and millions of lives put at risk – that nothingness deserves an explanation (with a vision that works).

14

gildo 06.15.04 at 7:39 am

John Updike on frequent flyers:

THE OVERHEAD RACK

Worst of all, and most hated by me
as I sit docilely crammed in my seat,
crammed and strapped like a psychotic in restraints,
are these bland-faced complacent graduates
of business schools, trained to give each other
and the rest of the poor world the business,
who attempt to stuff their not one but two folding bags
big enough to hold an army of business suits
into the overhead rack, already crammed
with traveling crap like a constipated ox’s
intestine. The blonde doors cannot lower,
the hats and bags of earlier arrivals
are crushed. Why don’t the smug smooth bastards check
proliferating printouts, sheaf on sheaf,
at the ticket counter, or, better yet,
stay home and attend to their neglected wives
and morose, TV-mesmerized offspring
instead of crowding their slick and swollen bags
and egos onto my airplane, my tube in space, my
clean shot home? Like slats of a chicken coop
overrunning with dung are the overhead racks.
If we crash, thus overloaded, the world
will yield up a grateful sigh at the headlines:
one less batch of entrepreneurs to dread.
Oh, kill, kill, kill, I think, watching the filth
strap itself in, exhaling airport beer
and nasal exchanges of professional dirt,
those fat corpuscles in the nation’s bloodstream:
Oh, would I were a flying macrophage!

- John Updike
From the Ontario Review, No. 42, Spring/Summer 1995.

15

RD 06.15.04 at 10:54 am

q. “Even breast-beating visions require a foundation of facts, logic and argument to succeed, and a great leader needs all 4.”

I only count 3. What is the 4th thing a vision requires? Do visions require visions? Do you see things q.? Hear voices? If you peel the onion, I would think Kerry encompasses everything you hate. You just cannot support him as an individual. I don’t believe you.

16

q 06.15.04 at 11:45 am

rd-
A great leader needs all 4 of vision, facts, logic and argument.

17

pepi 06.15.04 at 1:13 pm

Kieran, you forgot the part on _how_ you become President.

How do you plan to get elected? Is your father a former President? Do you have a brother in Florida? Are you a former alcoholic and cocaine addict saved by the Bible? How about Vietnam, did you find a way to avoid going? Are you in good terms with the Reverend Moon? Did you work in the oil industry? And most importantly, did you do good business with the bin Ladens?

If the answer is “no”, sorry, I see no chance for you. Which is a real pity, cos your holy war on irritating habits sounds so cool.

18

RD 06.15.04 at 1:47 pm

Hey pepi, we could be the next Hannity and Colms! Now turn your “How do you plan to get elected?” criteria to the Democratic candidate. I’m betting a person of your wit could make it sound equally unattractive. Of course, you might stimulate a debate concerning the quality of choices our two point one party system offers us voters these days. I’d prefer that debate over “my horse shit candidate is better than what I think of your horse shit candidate.” It seems that’s what we’ve sunk to.

19

Simon Kinahan 06.15.04 at 4:12 pm

Could you also include “People With Carry On Luggage So Stuffed They Can Barely Support Its Weight”, and “Short People Sitting in the Seats with Extra Leg Room” ?

20

dj 06.16.04 at 12:16 am

The difference between this exchange and less leftist exchanges is sriking.

Many visit; few return.

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