Friday, March 28, 2008

Duplicity, Delusion, and Cognitive Dissonance

Checking out the news this evening from Amsterdam, I couldn't help but chuckle at Bill Clinton's latest explanation of Hillary's path to victory:
Right now, among all the primary states, believe it or not, Hillary's only 16 votes behind in pledged delegates, and she's gonna wind up with the lead in the popular vote in the primary states. She's gonna wind up with the lead in the delegates [from the primary states. It's the caucuses that have been killing us.

I thought, well, sure, if the caucus states aren't working out for you, by all means, let's just ignore them! Why should you have to account for inconvenient contrary facts when you're trying to paint a sunny picture of success?

Turning to CNN, I learned "Baghdad on Lockdown as Rockets, Bombs Fly."
Baghdad was on virtual lockdown Friday as a tough new curfew ordered everyone off the streets of the Iraqi capital and five other cities until 5 p.m. Sunday.

That restriction didn't stop someone from firing rockets and mortar rounds into the capital's heavily fortified International Zone, commonly known as the Green Zone. One slammed into the office of one of Iraq's vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, killing two guards.

And then I read President Bush's speech from Dayton, Ohio, in which he did an avoidance and distortion dance that would have made the Clintons proud, explaining why not just in spite, but because of renewed violence, "normalcy is returning back to Iraq."

Finally, I read Peggy Noonan's take on what at this point is going on in Hillary Clinton's mind:
What, really, is Mrs. Clinton doing? She is having the worst case of cognitive dissonance in the history of modern politics. She cannot come up with a credible, realistic path to the nomination. She can't trace the line from "this moment's difficulties" to "my triumphant end." But she cannot admit to herself that she can lose. Because Clintons don't lose. She can't figure out how to win, and she can't accept the idea of not winning. She cannot accept that this nobody from nowhere could have beaten her, quietly and silently, every day. (She cannot accept that she still doesn't know how he did it!)

Substitute "President Bush" for "Mrs. Clinton" in the paragraph above and "victory in Iraq" for "nomination" and you'll see that Noonan's only mistake was to call Hillary's cognitive dissonance the worst case in the history of modern politics. In fact, I would argue that despite her game attempts, she's been outdone on the cognitive dissonance front by the president.

The difference is that very soon, reality will end the Clintons' cognitive dissonance, and at little cost to the nation. President Bush, on the other hand, has successfully maneuvered Iraq into the lap of his successor, and will now be able to indulge his own cognitive dissonance permanently, at great cost to the nation indeed.

But because Bush's successor will inherit the president's disasters, the psychologies of Bush the president and Clinton the candidate must be considered together. After all, do you trust someone whose campaign narrative is as duplicitous and delusional as Hillary Clinton's to morph suddenly into a clear-eyed realist when it comes to ending the war in Iraq, a war which she herself voted to authorize? Maybe this is what Hillary means when she argues you'd be better off with McCain.


Kate Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I agree as well. I would also like to add that this practice extends to the the general public. This form of conflict with reality and things as we know it is beginning to surface at the global level. Our involvement in the social political and economic aspect of the global society has help to facilitate and perpetuate the heirarchical structure of the world. I am waiting for the day when people must come to terms with the inequality in the global structure and our responsiblity for these inequalities. Our country has done a pretty good job of jusifying the internal inequalities by using theories like "blaming the victim" and the "culture of poverty." The next leader of the U.S. will be crucial. The next leader can help put an end to our culture's incessant need to conquer and then justify.

Anonymous said...

can't say I'm surprised. in the media frenzy world of today, you're not allowed to point out that things aren't going well, because people will beleive you. you say that everything's fine and only some people don't beleieve you. it's a lot easier to deny reality than admit it might have something to do with anything ;)

Anonymous said...

oh how true a Clinton always wins and there is something stonger then Clintons that also wins that being humility truely quite the teacher of life.although she might be humbled and pride of it
cyndi sue

Big Bo Daddy-O said...

classic rhetorical to close hooah!

Ada [The Duchess] said...

Can I shake your hand?

zztopdog said...

Amen! Excellent comments!

Anonymous said...

It strikes me as imprecise to the point of error to say that Hillary voted to authorize the war. Read her own statements at the time of the vote to get a clearer view on what she voted for. One can have an opinion that what she said was not what she was actually thinking, but on principle, I object to that sort of guesswork.

Obama also said he didn't know how he would have voted if he'd been in the Senate and been given the same intel that Hillary received (though I've read, but don't know if this is true, that she didn't read the intel). Now, since the war is so unpopular, that comment is never brought out and only his criticism of the war is allowed play. His criticism at the time that it mattered was pretty mild.

Anyway, I just came across your blog from a mention by Glenn Greenwald, and I liked what you say you intend here, especially your criticism of polemicists. I would not say, however, that there's an equivalency between Ann Coulter and Michael Moore or Al Franken (particularly the latter), since Ms. Coulter seems never to tell the truth (in her books especially, virtually everything she wrote was a distortion or outright lie, starting on page one).

I'll read somewhat anonymously here to see if I wish to get one of those IDs and post that way.

--Ron Robertson

Barry Eisler said...

Ron, thanks for coming by -- always a pleasure to meet another reader of Glenn's blog.

I'm familiar with Clinton's arguments about what she really meant in voting for "Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002," but I'm not persuaded. Voting for a resolution with a title like that one while issuing a statement about how you don't intend the authorization to be used strikes me as an obvious attempt to have it both ways -- a hawkish vote to shore up your flank with the right; a soft-sounding "signing statement" to appease the left.

I've also read Obama's statement about not knowing how he would have voted had he been a US senator at the time. This strikes me simply as a fair-minded (and indeed, rather generous to Clinton) statement of fact. After all, what would the alternative be? "I would have voted against the resolution no matter what the intel said"?

I can't agree that Obama's "criticism at the time that it mattered was pretty mild". Here are his remarks from Oct 30, 2002.

That's a fair point about the difference between Coulter and Al Franken. I meant the comparison to apply to tone -- particularly to insults -- but you're right, there's more going on than just tone.

Thanks again for coming by and hope to see more of you.

-- Barry