The dunces rule, OK : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

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The dunces rule, OK
Saturday 11 March 2000

THIS MONTH, two new men set out on their quest to rule their world. They are extraordinarily uncharted characters. The only certain thing about them is that their form is unpredictable.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush have that in common. Although they may be the pairing we must live with for the next few years, their international performance is as unfashioned in their own minds as it is in ours.

Against that miasmic background, Al Gore shines out as a beacon of global experience. It now looks more possible than it did at Christmas that he may be the next president. But the looming Putin-Bush duopoly invites us to make an anxious reconnaissance around the perimeter of the unknown.

Putin has risen from obscurity to a 30per cent lead over his nearest rival in the contest to be Russia's second president, on 26March. He spent most of his life in junior and unglamorous KGB work, before becoming a city administrator in St Petersburg and then, very briefly, head of the FSB, the KGB's successor as the domestic security agency. That is all.

An American official who saw him last year, when Putin was in that job, said recently he would have been crazy to predict Putin would become prime minister, and certifiable to say he'd be president. Yet that is what he will soon become.

There are some encouraging signs. Putin will be the first Russian leader since Lenin to speak a foreign language. He did KGB work in the German provinces for a few years, and has twice visited the US. This points to slightly more spacious horizons than Gorbachev or Yeltsin. Since he became acting President, he has received numerous foreign ministers from the West, reflecting the fact that he does not see Russia in the old way as an autarkist society and knows it must engage with the global economy.

So the burgeoning industry in Putin studies, hard at work in foreign offices everywhere, has concluded it will be good to do business with a Russian leader who is neither drunk nor (perhaps) corrupt. Putin's reputation so far gives him the benefit of the doubt on that account.

On the other hand, he is the war candidate. He wouldn't have the slightest chance of being president but for Chechnya, and has pursued the conflict there with a vote-winning brutality that is the primitive equivalent of a treasurer's giveaway budget. Everything is electoral, without necessarily being democratic.

The best informed view is that, having been elected, Putin will set about more serious economic reform than Yeltsin, but will be an unreliable custodian of the people's liberties. The revived police state will coexist, at best, with the beginnings of an honest market economy.

Moscow craves respect, which is partly why Chechnya is being crucified to the last rebel body. The contradictory message emerges of a man who, on the one hand, murmurs about Russia possibly joining NATO and, on the other, reaffirms the possibility of a nuclear response to a non-nuclear crisis.

Facing Putin could soon be a different breed of ingenu. Unlike the Russian, George W. Bush was born and reared to rule. He has belonged to the governing class from the beginning. His pedigree is far superior. But his approach to the world is that of the rank amateur, whose experience may be even narrower than the other guy's.

Bush makes little secret of his ignorance of foreign affairs, and the occasions of his unscripted interventions on the subject have produced a fair amount of embarrassment. Being tricked into showing he didn't know the names of obscure foreign leaders made him the victim of a poor TV stunt. But what should we make of this, from the Iowa caucus campaign? "When I was coming up," he said, "with what was a dangerous world, we knew exactly who the `they' were. It was `us' versus `them', and it was clear who the `them' were. Today, we are not so sure who the `they' are, but we know they're there."

Behind the syntactic bumbling, this paean of regret for the enemy-strewn simplicities of the old order could soon be ringing through the White House. The empty man has some capable people around him, alongside the mega-rich favor-seekers who have bought him the nomination. But the advisers all come with toughened-up Cold War credentials from the Reagan and Bush years, and take a harsher view of China and Russia than now prevails in Washington, not to mention an unreservedly bullish attitude to national missile defence.

Insofar as one can make sense of it, the Bush view of the world, in which he may become the most powerful man, is very awkwardly poised. Part of it seems to favor some American withdrawal. He has talked about a foreign policy that paid more attention to "the neighborhood", meaning Mexico and the rest of Latin America. His leading adviser said she thought that in Kosovo "it may be necessary for the US to have fewer troops or no troops at all".

But there is another trajectory, towards sharper-edged security involvements, with several advisers advocating outright withdrawal from the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Bush is the epitome of a modern American politician who expends more energy defending handguns and overseeing state executions than addressing the unmatched power and responsibility that have accrued to his country. If he wins, he will be starting a dialogue with someone groping with equal immaturity, and perhaps the same distracted indifference, to shape internationalism in the new era: for each, surely his most vital task.

The prospect is more disturbing than it is creatively exciting.



"When I was coming up," he said, "with what was a dangerous world, we knew exactly who the `they' were. It was `us' versus `them', and it was clear who the `them' were. Today, we are not so sure who the `they' are, but we know they're there."

It's astonishlingly chilling watching - the American political scene unfold. This above sentence was followed by;

Behind the syntactic bumbling, this paean of regret for the enemy-strewn simplicities of the old order could soon be ringing through the White House.

Underwhelmingly ambiguous leading me to ask - "Are American actually considering voting for such an illiberal?"

Regards from OZ,

-- Pieter (, March 10, 2000


So which dunce do you like best? The proven traitor/dunce on the left; or the probable traitor/dunce on the right? We're all on Flouride here Pieter; they put it in our drinking water. We have good teeth, and bad brains, and we choose the best looking one.

-- KoFE (your@town.USA), March 10, 2000.

As reported in our Advertiser Newspaper today, Saturday March 11

"Is he too dumb?"

George's words of wisdom

- On the need for a strong defence: "There is madmen in the world and there are terror."
- On trade: "If the terriers and bariffs (barriers and tariffs) are torn down, this economy will grow!"
- On sex and violence on TV: "Put the 'off' button on."
- On his wife: "If people judge me on the company I keep, they would judge me with keeping really good company with Laura."
- On education: "Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?"
- At a school where the theme of the month was 'perseverance': "This is preservation month. I appreciate preservation. It's what you do when you run for president. You've got to preserve."

The story continues about the presidential aspirant who was once overheard almost boasting to a wide-eyed fifth-grade student: "Some people say that I proved that if you get a C average, you can end up being successful in life."

What's so amazing watching from afar is the astonishing wealth of Americans who support such a candidate with $100 million in campaign donations. And you Americans then have the gall to consider yourself world-police. God help us.

-- Pieter (, March 10, 2000.


Not all Americans support this kind of bu!!$hit...

The whole "American" politic is rigged IMHO.

growlin' at the idiots on TV...

The Dog

-- The Dog (, March 10, 2000.

Howdy Big Dog,
It seems to me looking in from the outside that the most clubbable function of your system is to throw up constitutional vandals who are functionally illiterate. Of couse I apologise for sounding a bit loopy, coming from a country with bunyip aristocratic clots behaving like stunned mullets and who are mostly unrepresentative swill.

-- Pieter (, March 10, 2000.

Sorry, I mean "The Dog"....

-- Pieter (, March 10, 2000.


Surely you don't think those with the big money are uncomfortable with someone who doesn't think for himself very well? That's the whole point. Dumb people tend to stay bought, especially if they know what's good for them.

As far as platforms go, it was originally possible to piece together a fairly reasonable candidate with this plank from this one and that plank from that one. Not, of course, that they ever do what they say they support.

Some say that Clinton guided us through 8 years of prosperity (and a successful y2k transition), others say that he at least had sense not to mess with success, while yet others claim economic forces beyond government control overrode his bungling. The great thing is, nobody will ever know. Depends on who writes the history book most school boards adopt. Money again.

-- Flint (, March 10, 2000.

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