From Pine View Farm

Sound and Futility (Updated) 0

I have often wondered, though not at this location, why, when the current Federal Administration announces a “new initiative” on something, that new initiative usually turns out to be a round of speechifying.

Those new initiatives do not include new legislative or policy strategies, new proposals, moves towards inclusion of or compromise with new or different viewpoints.

No, they are speecifying.

Or, if implimented, the result would be the exact opposite of the announced goals.

This, for example, turns into this. And another new initiative turned into this.

Statements promising action lead to . . .

. . . nothing, or, at least, not much of anything.

What brought these thoughts back to me was this post, excerpted below, by Matthew Iglesias:

In particular, the centrality of 9/11 to Bush’s political persona has always struck me as under-analyzed. It’s a strange thing primarily because Bush didn’t really do anything on 9/11 or its immediate aftermath.


Rather, the good vibes about 9/11 Bush all, in essence, relate to a series of speeches he gave in the days following the event (his immediate evening-of speech was poorly receieved). And I think they were good speeches. The rubble/bullhorn event was a good event. The address to a joint session of congress was great, too. But what does that all really amount to?

Not nothing. Providing inspirational rhetorical leadership in a time of panic is legitimately part of the president’s job. But it still doesn’t add up to very much.


The main goal, in essence, is to do things that signify the adoption of an appropriate attitude toward hostile elements in the world rather than to evaluate possible courses of action in terms of their effects.

The debate on Iraq is just awash in this. The war gets discussed as if it’s a metaphor of some kind. A good opportunity to demonstrate resolve or commitment, or else the lack thereof. A place where our stick-to-it-iveness will show how strongly we feel that democracy is good. A shadow theater wherein we send messages to al-Qaeda or Iran or what have you have. But, of course, Iraq is a real place. The soldiers and civilians in that country are real people. They shoot real bullets and detonate real explosives. And so the question has to be, what, actually, is being achieved? What more might realistically be achieved? What are the consequences — not intentions, not desires, not hopes, but consequences — of our policies?

As I have said here in another context, the way to maintain a clear view of the current Federal Administration is to attend to their actions, not their words.

It’s easy to talk the game.

While, on the playing field, losing (or even throwing*) the game.

Addendum, 8/29/2006: I rest my case.



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