Tuesday, August 22, 2006


MSNBC: "Is Bush an Idiot?"

[Thanks to Selkie for correcting me on the Fox/MSNBC thing. Silly — the WaPo article clearly says "MSNBC", but I somehow had Fox in my mind anyway.]

This blog has always had the utmost disrespect for the Chimp in Chief. Still, even when I saw the Fox NewsMSNBC video on crooksandliars.com last week, I decided not to talk about it here. That is, until it was picked up by the WaPo. A segment on Joe Scarborough's show on FoxMSNBC last week was titled, "Is Bush an Idiot?", and featured two commentators in addition to Mr Scarborough — one saying that yes, he is an idiot, the other saying that he's inarticulate, but not actually an idiot.

The distinction's a fine line, in any case, and both commentators agreed that he comes across as an idiot, whether or not he actually is one. And, of course, we're talking "idiot" colloquially, here; there've been "official" definitions of idiocy over the years, covering levels of mental retardation, and I don't think anyone's suggesting that George actually qualifies there. He's just a dope.

That this aired on Fox NewsMSNBC is telling, and fits with British MP John Prescott's characterization of Bush's policies as "crap". There's not only an erosion of support from all quarters, but an erosion of respect — even from his islands of support, such as Fox NewsMSNBC. It's a well deserved erosion, I dare say, but it's interesting to follow: many have said that regardless of the person in the office, the office of the presidency commands respect, per se. And yet even many who once said that are now acknowledging how hard it is to hold respect for... an idiot.

Read the article, find the video on the Internet. Here's a search to get you started.

Meanwhile, I want to digress for a moment to talk about the word "idiot", because I think it's interesting. It comes from Greek root "idios", which means "private", and the original sense of "idiot" was of a selfish person. It took some time for the meaning to shift from selfishness to stupidity and foolishness.

When I was on Santorini a few years ago, I came across a hand-lettered sign hung from a rope across a small parking area. The sign said (transliterated into English letters here):

Idiotikos xoros! Men parakete sten eisodo! Meze.
I'd picked up a few words of Greek by then, and figured out that it basically said, "Don't park in the entrance! Thanks." But I didn't know what "xoros" meant, and wondered whom they were calling "idiotic". "Idiotic foreigner," maybe? "Idiotic driver"?

When I got back to the US, I asked a Greek colleague at work, "What does 'xoros' mean?" "Area," he said. Well, that didn't make sense, "idiotic area". I told him the whole thing, and he said, "Sure, that makes sense. 'Private area.'" Well, of course; I'd assumed that "idiotikos" meant "idiotic", but I'd failed to go back to the linguistic root.

Doh! I'm such an idiot!


Andy said...

I think you've discovered something here. My first reaction to your post was to disagree. I do not blame the village idiot for the things he does; I am tolerant and even forgiving of the village idiot because he cannot do any better. Applying a similar sentiment to President Bush excuses the gross incompetence as beyond him. He must be tolerated and forgiven, for we can expect no better from an idiot. Thus calling President Bush an idiot is to give him a release from responsibility for his actions.

But I believe W is quite clear in his own mind. He can do better - but he chooses not to. He makes his decisions the best way he chooses to. As they used to say in school, he is not performing to his full ability. In this, he is responsible. In some cases, he uses different criteria than I, so I might be inclined to say that reasonable people can disagree reasonably. But that is rare. Most of the time, he is either lazy or selfishly ignorant.

Thus, I think you have hit on it. Bush is an idiot in the sense of selfishness and self-centeredness. He is responsible for many sad, careless, misbegotten, and tragic decisions. We must hold him responsible.

Selkie said...

I hate to burst your bubble, Barry, but Joe Scarborough is on MSNBC, not Fox. Nonetheless, he is a moderate Republican, and tends to stick up for the party line most of the time. I happened to have watched the show you mention, and I was pretty surprised at how little the conservatives on the show were willing to stick up for Bush.

Sadly, I doubt that anyone from Fox News, save perhaps Shepard Smith, would be willing to admit that GWB is any less of a statesman than Lincoln himself.

Barry Leiba said...

"Doh!" again... Thanks for the correction. I've corrected the entry.

Barry Leiba said...


I don't think it's quite the same. The village idiot does not purport to run the village. If he did, I don't think we'd smile politely and accept it tolerantly.

On the other hand, I think you're somewhat right, in that the media are largely tolerating the National Idiot, and, while many of us are demanding that he be held responsible for what he does, the media have mostly abandoned us in that regard.

I think the media are cowed. The Bushies have threatened the media with excommunication for being too challenging to the regime, and the media have backed off to avoid it. They've come an unfortunately long way from their days as the "nattering nabobs of negativism."

Soldier (pointing at a dead soldier off-screen): He was from my village. He was the village idiot.
Boris: Yeah? What did you do, place?

—— from "Love and Death", by Woody Allen