Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What a waste of electrons.

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent, and he seems to be doing his level best to drag Slate down to the worst of its print competitors. Today's column is subtitled, "Bush's brilliant new Iraq strategy," from which one might think that it would contain some hint that the White House has a new idea about how to turn the tide there. One would be wrong. The entire piece is notable for being completely devoid of any content about Iraq policy. Rather, Dickerson marvels that Bush has found a new "tone and . . . energy." He's "energized." "He moved off the talking points to emote about his gut instincts . . . ."

One of the ground rules of contemporary politics is that while journalists like Dickerson and politicians like Bush have no interest in policy, they believe they must at least talk about it a little, if only as a vehicle for the Dickersons of the world to write about the "tone" and "energy" of the Bushes of the world. In this piece, Dickerson doesn't bother to hide his complete disinterest for the tedious subject of what our government actually is doing:
[T]he substance of what Bush had to say was unusually boring. He talked about the Iraqi ministries, energy policy, the "new rule of law initiative," "reconciliation committee," "hydrocarbon law," "public finance system," and an "economic framework that promotes growth and job creation and opportunity"—were we suddenly in Brussels? Parts of the press conference felt like a tedious ministerial meeting at the European Commission. The president was this close to talking about plenary sessions. To make matters worse, then the president went on to delineate all the different Cabinet agency officials who will be making field trips to Iraq. Throughout the summer and fall we're going to have to hear about Commerce, State, Energy, and Agriculture teams slogging over there to meet with their Iraqi counterparts. The only thing more boring than bureaucrats visiting bureaucrats is hearing plans about how bureaucrats are going to interface and dialogue with bureaucrats.
Bush and Dickerson together -- at least I hope Dickerson is in on the conceit, because the alternative is even more depressing -- have figured out that you can pretend to be saying something wonky without saying anything at all if simply say it without any verbs. Just nouns. That way, it sounds like policy wonkery, but there is no hint that anyone is actually doing anything.

Americans and Iraqis are getting killed every day in Iraq. Apparently their deaths are not germane to what a "chief political correspondent" does.

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