Black swan Dep’t

Hurrah! George Bush said something that *wasn’t* stupid. For once.

Hearty congratulations to Tim Blair, who has succeeded in finding a George W. Bush comment that wasn’t terminally stupid.

And while we’re at it, Dan Quayle didn’t actually say that he wished he’d studied Latin in school so he could communicate with all the folks in Latin America.

Actually, I agree that it’s bad manners to misrepresent what your political opponents say in a way that unfairly makes them look silly. (For example, claiming that Al Gore said he invented the Internet, as opposed to the true thing he actually said, which is that it was his legislative initiative that catalyzed the transformation of ARPAnet into the Internet as we now know it.) And I don’t doubt that some of the people attacking Bush over the “Mandela” comment know perfectly well what he was trying to say.

Still, I don’t want to carry moral equivalence too far here.

First, I’d seen explanations that Bush’s “gaffe” wasn’t really a gaffe from at least two liberal blogs (Jonathan Zasloff here at the RBC and Steve Benen at the Carpetbagger Report) before I saw Blair’s rant. And so had he. That’s approximately two more defenses of someone on the other side than I’ve seen from right-bloggers in five years. When’s the last time Tim Blair defended a liberal from abusive misrepresentation? And Blair, instead of giving Steve and Jonathan credit for honesty and generosity, just says “Some on the Left aren’t quite as insane.” Feh.

Second, it isn’t entirely unreasonable to approach every comment by GWB with a presumption of idiocy. When you hear hoofbeats, expect horses, not zebras.

Footnote For those who missed this foofaraw, Bush said that the reason there’s no Iraqi Mandela is that “Mandela’s dead. Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.” He’s being unfairly quoted as having said that the actual person named Nelson Mandela is dead.

Second footnote If GWB thinks so highly of Mandela, why did Bush diss the man by not seeing him the one time he went to Africa?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com