Falsifiability

The Bull Moose’s proposal for a national unity cabinet is a good one. Let the strategy of partisan opposition to Bush’s Iran policy stand or fall on whether Bush adopts it.

I just ran across The Bull Moose’s entry taking partisans such as me to task for letting our distrust of our President get in the way of our willingness to defend national security and stand up to Iran. (Hat tip: Tom Hilton.)

The ratio of clichés to analysis in the post is pretty high: “the security of the country is in the balance”; lefties consider “regime change” in Washington more important than fighting our enemies abroad; the “ongoing war on terror” should silence “petty and irresponsible partisanship” (“the partisanship of fools,” in Wittmann’s original formulation) because, after all, “this is a dangerous world.” And of course the fact that Iran’s leader spouts genocidal propaganda gives us good reason to fear his ability to carry it out: crazy leaders have never been known for delusions of grandeur. Meanwhile, I’ve still heard no clear explanation of why a country with an unknown future regime, hypothetically armed with a fraction of the weapons held by the nuclear powers that surround it, is such a profound security risk to one of the few big countries not within range of any missile it’s likely to have for decades that we need to threaten as soon as possible to kill thousands of its citizens.

One of Wittmann’s suggestions is genuinely interesting:

For the sake of the country and the ongoing war on terror, the President should form a genuine government of national unity. A thorough house-cleaning should be followed by appointments of Democrats and Independents for important cabinet and sub-cabinet positions. Far more is at stake here than the fates of political parties – the security of the country is in the balance and it demands credible, bi-partisan leadership.

Even we fools have a duty to identify some factual events that would challenge our beliefs. This is one of them.

Bush would provide powerful evidence that he considers Iran a truly enormous national security threat—more important than his partisan goals and domestic agenda—if he publicly asked Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Chao to resign and encouraged Congress to follow him in putting, say, John Kerry, Wesley Clark, Patrick Leahy, and Andy Stern in their places. If these candidates balked, Bush could keep on naming prominent Democrats until some agreed to serve. This national unity strategy would indeed demonstrate Bush’s dead-serious, nonpartisan attachment to national security, as Churchill did in choosing Attlee as his effective deputy in his War Cabinet. (Note that I’ve even let Bush keep a big majority of Republicans in top posts—though on second thought I might hold out for Dems at OMB and Interior too, thanks.)

Yes, if Bush did this I’d question my partisan dismissal of his motives and priorities, and admit that he’s ready to put the country first. And when he does, I’ll be a wombat. A four-ton, aquamarine, man-eating wombat.

Wittman’s ultra-DLC attitude—by no means shared by the average New Democrat—has always struck me as amounting to “Democrats should immediately make real, and large, concessions because it would be nice if Republicans someday made small, hypothetical concessions, though I’ll admit that they probably won’t.” If Democrats aspire to national unity while Republicans show no sign of abandoning ideological frenzy, which partisans, precisely, will be the fools?

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

8 thoughts on “Falsifiability”

  1. What Wittman proposes is actually the best idea yet and should be expanded to the top jobs as well. Oh wait… that's called an election.
    What Wittman is witless about something that Coleen Rowley put pretty well:
    "Bush's defenders will argue that now is not the time for pointing fingers, and that Democrats should offer solutions instead. Here's my solution: Democratic control of Congress.
    Those who cry out I'm exploiting a threat to our nation's security for political gain have it exactly backwards. I'm running for Congress because Republican control of government is a threat to our national security!"

  2. The Bull Moose worked for Lieberman, didn't he? The one Dem senator on whom the GOP could always rely so that they could say 'bipartisan'.

  3. I think I'm just going to identify his positioning by another employer just down his c.v: ultra-Christian Coalition-attitude.
    Remember: referring to one's pseudonym in the third person is like a lizard's inflated neck-sac. It means STAY AWAY.

  4. The point is, that regardless of your take on Iran, there are issues that transcend the Bush Administration and partisan politics. (Granted, Bush doesn't necessarily see the distinction.) Like it or not, the GOP is going to be running the country for another two years and you can't just ignore real problems just because you don't trust Bush to do it right.
    I don't think Dems need to make huge concessions, but they have to take responsibility for seeing that the country actually functions, not just fixating on Bush. That means thinking about solutions to real problems like Iran and North Korea.
    And please don't accuse me of being a Bush apologist, which is what I suspect is coming next.

  5. I'd re-think the situation if your conditions are met. But, really, Bullmoose is such a quivering sissy–totally loses it at the slightest hint of a potential threat. Too skittish to be entrusted with a blog in my opinion.

  6. Of course it won't happen.
    But if Bush did announce that he wanted a government of national unity, I'd be scared. If important Democrats joined, we'd go from one flabby and nervous opposition party to none. It would be an admission that Bush crisis-mongering is for real. What future would the Democratic Party have? Remember, the "war" on terror has no definite end in sight, no VE Day.

  7. Like it or not, the GOP is going to be running the country for another two years….
    …Dems…have to take responsibility for seeing that the country actually functions….
    Seems to me only one of the above can be true.

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