Eugene Volokh gives the Bushies the benefit of the doubt

Skepticism is good. If we all engaged in less promiscuous believing, there would be less falsehood inside our heads. That’s especially true about believing ill of others.

So I’m naturally inclined to agree with a paragraph headed “I’m a bit skeptical,” which is Eugene Volokh’s headline about the reports (on which I comment here) that various U.S. officials, including the President, are threatening reprisals against Mexican-Americans if Mexico doesn’t vote our way on Iraq at the UN.

In this case, though, as Eugene notes, one of two things must be true: either the Bush Administration is in fact making such threats, or the usually reliable, responsible, and pro-Bush Economist badly misreported a story. Eugene doesn’t explain how Bush’s own remarks, made after the story appeared, are to be squared with the theory that no threats are being made. He merely points out, reasonably, that threatening Mexican-Americans would be inconsistent with Bush’s drive to win Mexican-American votes.

But if we assume that Eugene’s preferred interpretation is right — that the diplomat’s reported comment was never made, or didn’t represent the Administration’s thinking, and that Bush’s words were unartful rather than spiteful — then why no letter-to-the-editor to The Economist from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City disclaiming the threat?

So far, Bush has been fortunate not to have this turn into a domestic flap. But I’d give any odds that the Mexican political elite is well aware of it. Just as we’re discovering now the true cost of the systematic campaign of affront Bush directed at Gerhard Schroeder after he’d won his election, we may discover a year or two from how that we need Mexican cooperation on something and can’t get it because people there are still seething about this.

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: