The Unreality-based Community (10/16/04)

December 29, 2006

Ron Suskind, whose book The Price of Loyalty was the opening salvo in the nonstop torrent of tomes about Bush, has a summation of Bush’s character and the way it colors his administration in the New York Times.

While some of the points Suskind makes are,if anything, old hat — the way his religious faith has mixed with his love of certainty to harden into something unshakeably dense, for example. But there’s a passage that perfectly conveys the bottomless arrogance of the Bush gang: “In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure , and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.

“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore, ‘ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’

“Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community? Many of the other elected officials in Washington, it would seem. A group of Democratic and Republican members of Congress were called in to discuss Iraq sometime before the October 2002 vote authorizing Bush to move forward. A Republican senator recently told Time Magazine that the president walked in and said: ‘Look, I want your vote. I’m not going to debate it with you.’ When one of the senators began to ask a question, Bush snapped, ‘Look, I’m not going to debate it with you.’

“The 9/11 commission did not directly address the question of whether Bush exerted influence over the intelligence community about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. That question will be investigated after the election, but if no tangible evidence of undue pressure is found, few officials or alumni of the administration whom I spoke to are likely to be surprised. ‘If you operate in a certain way — by saying this is how I want to justify what I’ve already decided to do, and I don’t care how you pull it off — you guarantee that you’ll get faulty, one-sided information,’ Paul O’Neill, who was asked to resign his post of treasury secretary in December 2002, said when we had dinner a few weeks ago. ‘You don’t have to issue an edict, or twist arms, or be overt.'”

I love that: Bush people speaking disdainfully of “the reality-based community.” Which we can take to mean that Bushco represents “the unreality based-community,” which certainly describes the planners of the Iraq quagmire. I guess the soldiers who’ve mutinied in Iraq figured out that they are the mercy of “history’s actors,” and decided to do some acting of their own.

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