The Soft Bigotry of Lowered Expectations
The reviews are in, and with the notable exception of Juan Cole, almost nobody — conservatives included — agrees with my take. And that’s a good thing. Rooting for Bush’s Iraq policy or economic policy to go poorly is one thing (i.e., I’m against doing that), but rooting for a bad performance in an interview is perfectly fair game. I suppose I was expecting it to be really bad, when in fact it turned out to be somewhere between a somewhat bad and middling.
Andrew Sullivan: “BUSH IS OUT OF IT: On the budget, this president is frighteningly unaware of the reality of his own legacy and policies. That’s the only conclusion you can draw from his answers on Tim Russert. Either that, or he really is lying. Sully also links to a conservative blogger Josh Claybourn’s refutation of Bush’s statement about discretionary spending growth under Clinton and Bush. Clayborn has more numbers that support Kash’s earlier post (and clearly indicate that Bush was either wrong or lying.)
Brad DeLong has a bunch of excerpts from the conservatives at the National Review, all saying that Bush’s performance was weak. Brad himself doesn’t give his take (other than to, of course, laugh at the economic numbers Bush cites.) But he does give a nice critique of Russert.
CalPundit: “…Bush’s responses were uniformly labored and uninteresting. He sounded like he was addressing a class of sixth graders.”
Atrios: “Well, I’m not going to watch it. Some of you have already seen it, depending on where you live. From what I gather, Russert asked decent questions but no followups.”
Matt Yglesias: “Russert beat my (very low) initial expectations by offering some reasonable questions on the “imminent threat” issue.” Matt’s post also has a good list of questions not asked by Russert. No comment on Bush himself.
Pandagon’s Ezra K.: “It’s funny, I don’t think Bush did half as bad on Meet the Press as The Corner seems to. Bush came off as a man with strong values but not much else … The interview may have been a disappointment to some and a boon to others, but it’ll do little for either side.”
Pandagon’s Jesse Taylor: “I may be a partisan Democrat, but damn, that Bush/Russert interview was awful. The tenor of Bush’s presidency is, has been, and will be that nobody could possibly understand what America needs but him, and as such, either you’re an America, or you’re a partisan doubter of America’s resolve.”
Andrew Northrup (the Poor Man): Northrup gives Russert a B (“I think it’s the same interview Clinton would have gotten under similar circumstances” — I agree. Presidents do and should get more deference than candidates) and a C to C- to Bush. “When in doubt, he’d just repeat ‘Saddam was dangerous’ over and over, and perhaps throw in something about he’s the kind of leader who just does what he thinks is right, and ain’t nobody going to change what kind of man he is, by gum, and then give an inappropriate half-grin. Normally, this would be considered a disasterous answer, but it doesn’t vary significantly from what he’s been saying for three years now, and people find this charming, I’m led to understand.”
Susan M. (Suburban Guerilla) has a very provocative excerpt from Colin Powell’s book, My American Journey: “I [Powell] am angry that so many of the sons of the powerful and well-placed… managed to wangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units … Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to their country.” (Of course, you noted how Bush tried to conflate attacks based on him possibly failing to serve in the National Guard with attacks on the Guard itself.)
Josh Marshall only addressed the exchange on the AWOL issue: “Superficially, I think Bush came off okay [in the AWOL exchange], largely because Russert failed to press the president sufficiently on some deceptive responses.”
Juan Cole: “Overall, it was largely uneventful, but the president acquitted himself well enough. He came across as thoughtful and considered. And, while he was almost certainly prepared for hours by staff members, he didn’t appear to be giving the memorized speeches that one is accustomed to from politicians on these programs. Bush actually seemed to pause and consider his answers.” Finally, someone agrees with me, more or less.
Eric (The Hamster) reports that (1) Former Reagan speechwriter and hack columnist Peggy Noonan gives it a thumbs down. More substantively, Eric links to and excerpts a detailed refutation by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
Lambert (Corrente): “Anyone spot Bush wearing an earpiece? Readers? If the earpiece can’t be spotted, does analysis of the transcript itself yield any clues?” I take that as a roundabout way of saying Bush did well.
Blah3:”They must be one depressed bunch over at the White House today. They ran the pre-recorded Bush interview on MTP today, and while the videotape is still warm, the consensus seems to be that Bush pretty much sucked. [snip] My bold prediction – any bump in the polls they were hoping for is not going to materialize.”
Body and Soul: “I watched Bush on Meet the Press and then went immediately to the computer to see if the cool kids had the same reaction I did, which was that the interview was a smidge better than I expected.” By “a smidge better,” Jean means that it was a bit tougher on Bush than she expected, so count this as another in the “Bush did poorly” column.
A final note: The Center for American Progress has an Annotated Text of the President’s Interview, which is probably a much better read than the transcript itself.
Mark Kleiman: “A pair of awful performances, but Bush’s was even worse than Russert’s.”
Dave Neiwert: “I’m not sure why Tim Russert, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, has the reputation for being the bulldog interviewer that he has. Well, I know why: He’s very much the bulldog when it comes to Democrats and liberals. With conservatives, well, he has a long track record of letting them off the hook … And this Sunday’s interview with George W. Bush was perfectly consistent with this trend.”