An intellectual freedom blog with an emphasis on libraries and technology

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

No Decision Points in Decision Points

In Bush Meets Foucault, Eliot Weinberger gives us a critique of Decision Points as a post-modernist work. The entire review of Bush's new autobiography in the London Review of Books is well worth reading in its entirety. Weinberger makes reference to Michel Foucault's approach to literary criticism which focuses on questions such as 'who is the author?' and 'Is it really he and not someone else?' In the case of a book "by" George W. Bush, the answers to such questions, to paraphrase Colin Powell, are blindingly obvious inasmuch as the answer can not be "George W. Bush." Most amusingly, decision points "is business-speak for a list of factors, usually marked by a bullet in PowerPoint presentations, that should be considered before making a decision. There are no decision points in Decision Points."

My favorite passage follows, in which Weinberger lists much of what's missing from the book, 'points' far more significant than anything in the book:

This is a chronicle of the Bush Era with no colour-coded Terror Alerts; no Freedom Fries; no Halliburton; no Healthy Forests Initiative (which opened up wilderness areas to logging); no Clear Skies Act (which reduced air pollution standards); no New Freedom Initiative (which proposed testing all Americans, beginning with schoolchildren, for mental illness); no pamphlets sold by the National Parks Service explaining that the Grand Canyon was created by the Flood; no research by the National Institutes of Health on whether prayer can cure cancer (‘imperative’, because poor people have limited access to healthcare); no cover-up of the death of football star Pat Tillman by ‘friendly fire’ in Afghanistan; no ‘Total Information Awareness’ from the Information Awareness Office; no Project for the New American Century; no invented heroic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch; no Fox News; no hundreds of millions spent on ‘abstinence education’. It does not deal with the Cheney theory of the ‘unitary executive’ – essentially that neither the Congress nor the courts can tell the president what to do – or Bush’s frequent use of ‘signing statements’ to indicate that he would completely ignore a bill that the Congress had just passed.

I also really enjoyed reading the passage that starts with "Decision Points flaunts its postmodernity by blurring the distinction between fiction and non-fiction. That is to say, the parts that are not outright lies – particularly the accounts of Hurricane Katrina and the lead-up to the Iraq War – are the sunnier halves of half-truths."

Then follows a comparison/constrast between the confirmed facts of the Bush Administration, on the one hand, and the restatement of the biggest lies printed in Decision Points on the other. The review contains too much detail to quote here. Most of it is just stuff you already know. I find breathtaking the degree to which the ghost writers and Bush insult our intelligence.

The more important insight, one which I realized from the start back in 2001, but still bears repeating, comes when Weinberger analyzes the bizarre statement in Decision Points that Bush considered the worst moment of his presidency the time that Kayne West said Bush did not care about black people. Weinberger does not consider Bush to be at all racist. No, racism does not explain Bush's behavior. "It wasn’t that he didn’t care about black people. Outside of his family, he didn’t care about people."

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