Newsweek’s Alter Slams Cheney, Says Bush Has Been ‘Tagged as an Incompetent’

Newsweek’s senior editor Jonathan Alter was Keith Olbermann’s guest on Wednesday’s “Countdown,” and, as could be expected, the two engaged in quite a Bush Bash (hat tip to Crooks and Liars with video link to follow). First, Alter suggested that the administration has changed Franklin Roosevelt’s famous depression phrase of “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” into “The only thing we have to use is fear itself.” As a result, in Alter’s view, “what you could see coming up on these midterm elections is them trying to use fear to restore their political position.” Of course, neither of them addressed the likelihood that candidates on the other side of the aisle will use the fear of losing abortion rights or losing Social Security or Medicare benefits to scare women and seniors into voting for them as has happened in every election for decades.

Sadly, the best was yet to come. After Olbermann mentioned the president’s poll numbers, Alter replied “there are not a lot of people who expect him to move very much in the polls. And once you`re tagged as an incompetent, that`s pretty hard to recover from.” I guess that's why folks like Olbermann and Alter continue to reiterate such a view, a delicious irony that seems lost on these two intellectual heavyweights.

Of course, Alter didn’t just attack the president, for Cheney was next on the hit parade: “I mean, you`ve got a situation now where, you know, in workplaces across America, if somebody says, He`s a real Dick Cheney, what they mean is, a guy who sounds like he has a lot of gravitas in those meetings at your company, and looks the part, but is actually, you know, kind of full of it and can`t get the job done when it comes to making a profit.”

That’s interesting, Jon, for I have been in some pretty high-powered meetings at some large corporations around the country the past couple of months and haven’t heard that expression. Moreover, a Google search of the phrase “He’s a real Dick Cheney” only produced three results, all links to what appears to be a deceased message board in Missoula. Regardless, Alter continued with his attacks:

“Their credibility for getting the job done has been eroded, I think largely because they surround themselves with these yes-men, the truth doesn`t get up the chain of command, as we saw with these trailers. So they -- because people feel like if they tell them the truth, they`re just going to get their heads bitten off. And as a result, your batting average on decisions goes down, down, down, your competence level goes down, down, down, because you`re not making well-informed decisions.”

And this guy is a senior editor of one of America’s leading magazines. No bias there.

What follows is a full transcript of this segment, and a video link courtesy of Crooks and Liars. 

ALTER: Now, you mentioned this book about Franklin Roosevelt. Well, everybody remembers that he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It sometimes seems, with the Bush crowd, that their motto is, The only thing we have to use is fear itself. So I think what you could see coming up on these midterm elections is them trying to use fear to restore their political position.

OLBERMANN: But even in that context, other historical examples, President Reagan rebounded from Iran-contra, and President Clinton rebounded after the impeachment. But Harry Truman did not shake off Korea while troops were still in Korea, and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon certainly didn`t shake off Vietnam while troops were there. Are not the president`s poll numbers, and, to a large degree, his presidency now, absolutely indivisible from our continuing presence in Iraq?

ALTER: Yes, I think pretty much, which is why there are not a lot of people who expect him to move very much in the polls. And once you`re tagged as an incompetent, that`s pretty hard to recover from.

I mean, you`ve got a situation now where, you know, in workplaces across America, if somebody says, He`s a real Dick Cheney, what they mean is, a guy who sounds like he has a lot of gravitas in those meetings at your company, and looks the part, but is actually, you know, kind of full of it and can`t get the job done when it comes to making a profit.

And so that`s where these guys are now. Their credibility for getting the job done has been eroded, I think largely because they surround themselves with these yes-men, the truth doesn`t get up the chain of command, as we saw with these trailers. So they -- because people feel like if they tell them the truth, they`re just going to get their heads bitten off. And as a result, your batting average on decisions goes down, down, down, your competence level goes down, down, down, because you`re not making well-informed decisions.
  

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Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.