Hoisted from the Archives: Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Him Now
links for 2009-08-21

Nope. No Apology From Marc Ambinder...

Marc Ambinder digs himself in:

Liberals And Gut Hatred, Or, Why I'm Sorry I Wrote What I Wrote - The Atlantic Politics Channel: Both Glenn Greenwald and Marcy Wheeler have written posts eviscerating me for contending that Bush-hatred, not anything else, drove skepticism among liberals about the terrorist threat warnings.... I didn't spend enough time thinking about what I wanted to say.... [J]ournalists were right to be skeptical of the doubters [of the Bush administration's bona fides and competence]... were correct to question how they arrived at the beliefs they arrived at....

Ridge had the same suspicions as many liberals and libertarians. And Ridge, having access to most of the intelligence, had sound reasons to object. "Gut hatred" is way too strong a term -- it's the wrong term -- to describe why liberals doubted the fundamental capacity of the White House to be honest about anything. It was ideological and based on their intepretation of a pattern of facts that, in retrospect, seems much more reasonable than it did. The media's skepticism was warranted; our derision wasn't and mine isn't. Quite frankly, I don't think the triumphalism is any more attractive, either.

My hindsight bias is no less offensive than the bias I attribute to these liberals. It was wrong to use the phrase "gut hatred." Had I spent more time thinking about the post, I would have chosen a different phrase. And I should have.

Let me turn over the microphone to the chief among the "doubters," Ron Suskind, whose work throughout the first half of the 2000s was dismissed as the product of "Bush hatred":

Ron Suskind: George Walker Bush... in his conduct as president... behaved stupidly and badly. He was constrained by neither the standards of conduct common to the average professional nor the Constitution. This was not ignorance but a willful rejection on Bush's part, in the service of streamlining White House decision-making, eliminating complexity, and shutting out dissenting voices. This insular mind-set was and is dangerous. Rigorous thinking and hard-won expertise are both very good things, and our government for the past eight years has routinely debased and mocked these virtues.

President Bush was unmoved by any arguments that challenged his assumptions. Debate was silenced, expertise was punished, and diversity of opinion was anathema, so much so that his political opponents--other earnest Americans who want the best for their country--were, to him and his men, the moral equivalent of the enemy. It is important to note just how different such conduct has been from the conduct of other presidents from both parties.

Anyone who has drawn this sad conclusion has been dismissed as a "Bush hater" by those who defend the president.

I am not a "Bush hater." I am a reporter, and it is incumbent in the enterprise to scrutinize power and follow facts.

I began chronicling this administration for Esquire in late 2001, and have been compelled to write about nothing else since. Among many other things, I learned that the bright lines typical in a White House between policy-making and political operations had been obliterated in the Bush White House, abandoned in favor of political calculations routed through Karl Rove's office. In his critique of this troubling power dynamic, one of my sources, the former director of the president's faith-based initiative, John DiIulio, called Rove's swarming operatives the "Mayberry Machiavellis." That was in 2002. DiIulio couldn't have known then just how right he was.

I also learned from another source, Bush's first treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill, that at President Bush's very first National Security Council meeting, in January 2001, finding a rationale for overthrowing the regime of Saddam Hussein topped the agenda...

There were, Ron Suskind thought starting in 2001, lots of reasons--a pattern of facts--to reach very strong negative conclusions about the Bush administration. These were not "ideological"--although Ambinder claims that they were.

One interesting fact about Ambinder, at least in his writings for the Atlantic: