The latest from Joe Klein at TIME pisses me off a lot. Joe shows a startling lack of insight into the process of forming coherent policy. Sample:
It should come as no great revelation that George W. Bush is a wantonly decisive President. He decides Ariel Sharon is good and Yasser Arafat is evil, even though seasoned diplomats tell him it is not wise to make such sweeping judgments. He decides that Social Security needs to be transformed and that private investment accounts are the way to do it, even though the experts say there is no great crisis and his way won't solve anything. He decides to invade Iraq, with minimal contingency planning. He decides to cut taxes drastically and then to spend an outlandish sum on a Medicare prescription-drug benefit. His presidency has been exhilarating and nerve-racking, imprudent and visionary—and now we learn that it is another thing as well: it is a prime example of the latest fad.
I'm not a Bush apologist. The shit that he gets wrong, I will call him out on. The stuff he gets right, I'll applaud. What Klein (and quoted Gladwell) call the "blink", the fast, seemingly instinctive decision, is something they really don't understand at all.
A friend of mine bitched during a heated argument a couple of years ago that when we argue I have a quick answer for just about everything. It gets to the point where it pisses him off; he says it seems like I've prepared ahead of time, have rehearsed arguing with him.
But the fact is - and I've told him this - I don't prepare for arguments. Not explicitly. But that doesn't mean I'm unprepared. In all of that downtime (ha!) between classes and (formerly) working and the gajillions of things I do, I do a lot of something perhaps not everyone does: thinking. I don't have to rehearse and memorize responses to each and every question that anyone could ever ask me. I start with fundamentals, layer on some general categoricals, and from there, it's usually pretty damn easy to figure out what my stance would be on just about anything.
So easy, in fact, that it might strike some as instinctive. Instinct, though, is a dangerous animal. It's completely contextual, with no fundamental core or direction. But they look the same, outwardly. How, then, do we tell when someone is basing decisions on synthesis of strong core understandings, as opposed to instinct?
Simple: consistency. Seemingly instinctive behavior that is more or less entirely consistent probably isn't coming from no-where. Recognize, Klein. That deliberation and so-called expertise you admire so much in Kerry is just compassless meandering - the lack of central ideals masquerading as attentiveness.
As the tag-line for American Beauty says: Look closer.