05/28/2004: Moral failing, or psychopathology?
Paul Krugman had some interesting things to say today:
Some news organizations, including The New York Times, are currently engaged in self-criticism over the run-up to the Iraq war. They are asking, as they should, why poorly documented claims of a dire threat received prominent, uncritical coverage, while contrary evidence was either ignored or played down.It's in times like this that I really wish I'd gone into clinical psychology.
But it's not just Iraq, and it's not just The Times. Many journalists seem to be having regrets about the broader context in which Iraq coverage was embedded: a climate in which the press wasn't willing to report negative information about George Bush.
People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.
But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?
The answer, of course, is that the straight shooter never existed. He was a fictitious character that the press, for various reasons, presented as reality.
The truth is that the character flaws that currently have even conservative pundits fuming have been visible all along. Mr. Bush's problems with the truth have long been apparent to anyone willing to check his budget arithmetic. His inability to admit mistakes has also been obvious for a long time. I first wrote about Mr. Bush's "infallibility complex" more than two years ago, and I wasn't being original. [my emphasis, of course --LRC]
Several times I've blogged about Bush's "spirituality" as being a function of the fact that the man is a recovering substance abuser. I'm beginning to wonder if Bush's problems with truth, and inability to admit error are also related to the fact that the man is a recovering substance abuser. If that's the case, though, I'm particularly disturbed. I have a close family member who is also a recovering substance abuser, and s/he's been very active in a 12 step program. In such a program, a number of the steps require the individual to be honest with him/herself, admit error, and make amends for such error:
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.Bush's trouble with recognizing and commiting himself to the truth, and his inability to admit error, casts serious doubt on the extent to which he has truly "recovered" from his addictions. At best, I fear he's probably substituted one addiction for another.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Len on 05.28.04 @ 12:41 PM CST