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"Civil War in the Republican Party on Nov. 3"

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/17BUSH.html?ex=1099017012&ei=1&en=17283874f709ba8c Without a Doubt By RON SUSKIND Published: October 17, 2004 Bruce
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 19, 2004
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      Without a Doubt
      Published: October 17, 2004
      Bruce Bartlett, a domestic policy adviser to
      Ronald Reagan and a
      treasury official for the first President Bush, told
      me recently that
      ''if Bush wins, there will be a civil war in the
      Republican Party
      starting on Nov. 3.'' The nature of that conflict, as
      Bartlett sees it?
      Essentially, the same as the one raging across much of
      the world: a battle
      between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists
      and true believers,
      reason and religion.

      ''Just in the past few months,'' Bartlett said,
      ''I think a light
      has gone off for people who've spent time up close to
      Bush: that this
      instinct he's always talking about is this sort of
      weird, Messianic idea
      of what he thinks God has told him to do.'' Bartlett,
      a 53-year-old
      columnist and self-described libertarian Republican
      who has lately been a
      champion for traditional Republicans concerned about
      Bush's governance,
      went on to say: ''This is why George W. Bush is so
      clear-eyed about Al
      Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He
      believes you have to
      kill them all. They can't be persuaded, that they're
      extremists, driven by
      a dark vision. He understands them, because he's just
      like them. . . .

      ''This is why he dispenses with people who
      confront him with
      inconvenient facts,'' Bartlett went on to say. ''He
      truly believes he's on
      a mission from God. Absolute faith like that
      overwhelms a need for
      analysis. The whole thing about faith is to believe
      things for which there
      is no empirical evidence.'' Bartlett paused, then
      said, ''But you can't
      run the world on faith.''

      Forty democratic senators were gathered for a
      lunch in March just
      off the Senate floor. I was there as a guest speaker.
      Joe Biden was
      telling a story, a story about the president. ''I was
      in the Oval Office a
      few months after we swept into Baghdad,'' he began,
      ''and I was telling
      the president of my many concerns'' -- concerns about
      growing problems
      winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and
      Sunni, the
      disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the
      oil fields. Bush, Biden
      recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that
      the United States
      was on the right course and that all was well. '''Mr.
      President,' I
      finally said, 'How can you be so sure when you know
      you don't know the

      Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand
      on the senator's
      shoulder. ''My instincts,'' he said. ''My instincts.''

      Biden paused and shook his head, recalling it
      all as the room
      grew quiet. ''I said, 'Mr. President, your instincts
      aren't good

      The democrat Biden and the Republican Bartlett
      are trying to make
      sense of the same thing -- a president who has been an
      blend of forcefulness and inscrutability, opacity and

      But lately, words and deeds are beginning to

      The Delaware senator was, in fact, hearing what
      Bush's top
      deputies -- from cabinet members like Paul O'Neill,
      Christine Todd Whitman
      and Colin Powell to generals fighting in Iraq -- have
      been told for years
      when they requested explanations for many of the
      president's decisions,
      policies that often seemed to collide with accepted
      facts. The
      president would say that he relied on his ''gut'' or
      his ''instinct'' to guide
      the ship of state, and then he ''prayed over it.'' The
      old pro
      Bartlett, a deliberative, fact-based wonk, is finally
      hearing a tune that has
      been hummed quietly by evangelicals (so as not to
      trouble the secular)
      for years as they gazed upon President George W. Bush.
      This evangelical
      group -- the core of the energetic ''base'' that may
      well usher Bush to
      victory -- believes that their leader is a messenger
      from God. And in
      the first presidential debate, many Americans heard
      the discursive John
      Kerry succinctly raise, for the first time, the issue
      of Bush's
      certainty -- the issue being, as Kerry put it, that
      ''you can be certain and
      be wrong.''

      What underlies Bush's certainty? And can it be
      assessed in the
      temporal realm of informed consent?

      All of this -- the ''gut'' and ''instincts,''
      the certainty and
      religiosity -connects to a single word, ''faith,'' and
      faith asserts its
      hold ever more on debates in this country and abroad.
      That a deep
      Christian faith illuminated the personal journey of
      George W. Bush is common
      knowledge. But faith has also shaped his presidency in
      nonreligious ways. The president has demanded
      unquestioning faith from his
      followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred
      in the Republican
      Party. Once he makes a decision -- often swiftly,
      based on a creed or
      moral position -- he expects complete faith in its

      The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many
      viewers were
      surprised to see in the first presidential debate are
      familiar expressions to
      those in the administration or in Congress who have
      simply asked the
      president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those
      requests have grown
      scarce; Bush's intolerance of doubters has, if
      anything, increased, and
      few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility
      -- a premise
      beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in
      many ways, moved
      mountains -- is not just for public consumption: it
      has guided the inner life
      of the White House. As Whitman told me on the day in
      May 2003 that she
      announced her resignation as administrator of the
      Protection Agency: ''In meetings, I'd ask if there
      were any facts to support
      our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!''
      (Whitman, whose
      faith in Bush has since been renewed, denies making
      these remarks and is
      now a leader of the president's re-election effort in
      New Jersey.)

      he nation's founders, smarting still from the
      punitive pieties of
      Europe's state religions, were adamant about erecting
      a wall between
      organized religion and political authority. But
      suddenly, that seems like
      a long time ago. George W. Bush -- both captive and
      creator of this
      moment -- has steadily, inexorably, changed the office
      itself. He has
      created the faith-based presidency.

      The faith-based presidency is a
      with-us-or-against-us model that
      has been enormously effective at, among other things,
      keeping the
      workings and temperament of the Bush White House a
      kind of state secret. The
      dome of silence cracked a bit in the late winter and
      spring, with
      revelations from the former counterterrorism czar
      Richard Clarke and also,
      in my book, from the former Bush treasury secretary
      Paul O'Neill. When I
      quoted O'Neill saying that Bush was like ''a blind man
      in a room full
      of deaf people,'' this did not endear me to the White
      House. But my
      phone did begin to ring, with Democrats and
      Republicans calling with
      similar impressions and anecdotes about Bush's faith
      and certainty. These are
      among the sources I relied upon for this article. Few
      were willing to
      talk on the record. Some were willing to talk because
      they said they
      thought George W. Bush might lose; others, out of fear
      of what might
      transpire if he wins. In either case, there seems to
      be a growing silence
      fatigue -- public servants, some with vast experience,
      who feel they have
      spent years being treated like Victorian-era children,
      seen but not
      heard, and are tired of it. But silence still reigns
      in the highest
      reaches of the White House. After many requests, Dan
      Bartlett, the White
      House communications director, said in a letter that
      the president and
      those around him would not be cooperating with this
      article in any way.

      Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.
      -Groucho Marx
    • Ram Lau
      From the article: I ve never lived around poor people, Wallis remembers Bush saying. I don t know what they think. I really don t know what they think. I m
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 20, 2004
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        From the article:
        "I've never lived around poor people," Wallis remembers Bush
        saying. "I don't know what they think. I really don't know what they
        think. I'm a white Republican guy who doesn't get it. How do I get
        it?" Wallis recalls replying, "You need to listen to the poor and
        those who live and work with poor people."

        Tragic. What more can I say. I've always wanted to read Suskind's "A
        Hope in the Unseen" but never got a chance. It's an awesome book.
        It's probably less dramatic than Finding Forrester, but it was still
        a happy ending story:

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