The most famous thing Suskind wrote about the Bush administration was a passage in an article he published in the New York Times Magazine, quoting an anonymous Bush “aide”:
“The aide said that guys like me were ‘in what we call the reality-based community,’ which he defined as people who ‘believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.’ I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ‘That’s not the way the world really works anymore,’ he continued. ‘We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.’ “
This became one of the most quoted lines about the Bush years, repeated thousands of times as evidence of his administration’s willful dishonestly about everything from Iraq’s WMD to the budget. “Reality-based” turned into a liberal slogan of the era, printed on T-shirts and bumper stickers. How could it not, given the deliciousness of the quote? But did anyone in the Bush administration ever say these words to Ron Suskind? He has never given us any reason to believe that anyone did. And given the unacceptable liberties he takes with quotes from named sources—see below—I have my doubts.
Let’s count them, shall we?
- First off, there’s the entertaining way that Jacob Weisberg – author of Bushisms – has to attack Suskind’s past reporting on Bush in order to attack Suskind’s current reporting on Obama. I mention this because Weisberg’s attitude that “There’s no journalist who sets off my bullsh*t alarm like Ron Suskind” seems to be notably absent in this 2008 Slate Dialogue that Weisberg had with Suskind, Stone, & Woodword. You’d think that he’d have mentioned that, particularly since the central issue in that Dialogue was largely about how accurate these three were being about George W Bush. In point of fact, as far as I can tell Weisberg doesn’t criticize Suskind’s take on the former President… at all.
- Then there’s the irony of watching the ‘reality based community’ line itself get criticized. The Left loved that line, or more accurately its mangling (see below). The thought that it might have been made up completely by a dirty, dirty traitor-to-progressivism like Ron Suskind will probably have netrooters growling for the rest of the week. Mind you, half of them will be growling at Weisberg for calling into question their self-identity.
- But the best irony of all? Re-read that quote. It’s perfectly correct in its description of the Left, including most decidedly the Online Left. They are the passive observers and would-be students who look on while their betters actually do things. And, honestly, that’s what they want to be. Acting on your principles is a test of faith: if you fail, it may mean that your principles were not up to the challenge. Better to sit, and watch, and complain.
So, read the whole thing. It’s very entertaining, for all the wrong reasons. Or, perhaps, the right ones.
Moe Lane (crosspost)