I'm overall a fan of Atrios'. He's concise, direct, dilligent, casts a wide net, and has a wide influence on both his audience and the independent political landscape. And damned if 500 people didn't wander over from that landscape to Torrid's World one day when he alone--among the larger sites, including Sullivan--linked back to my effort to catalogue the Multnomah same sex marriage licensing issue. So i have full respect on that.
Which makes the tenor of this piece on the Bush/Blair conference somewhat disappointing:
Q: (Egyptian President) Hosni Mubarak is saying the new U.S. policy on the West Bank could escalate violence. How do you respond to his concerns?
BUSH: Yes, I think this is a fantastic opportunity.
This certainly sounds bizarre, and almost as if he is saying he is delighted at the prospect of heightened tensions on another battle front of the Middle East. And of course that's what Atrios wants you to begin supposing, as far as I'm concerned. He says "I'd like to think that there's some context that's missing from the transcript, but I can't imagine what it would be," further suggesting to me that he wants you to read that essentially verbatim and draw your own conclusions.
I don't know that I'd have a problem with reproducing the quote as he did it, because Bush did end the sentence there. However, he immediately went on to say,
You know, the fact that (Israeli Prime Minister) Ariel Sharon said, We're going to withdraw from territory, is a historic moment. And it creates a chance for the world to come together to help develop a Palestinian state based upon a solid foundation, a foundation where the institutions are bigger than the people, just like our respective governments are founded.
So clearly there's a dissonance here. We find ourselves asking that oft-required question of Bush, "what the fuck is he trying to say?" Atrios' readers offer the likely explanation: in these situations, Bush is obviously briefed on what he's likely to be asked. Surely, everyone including Bush knew a West Bank question was coming, so he prepped out a good answer. Unfortunately, it was not an open-ended question that would allow him to spiel on how great the opportunity was for a real Palestinian state to emerge from this eventually, it was a negative question asking, what if this makes things worse? But he had the prep done, so all he could do was run out the prepped answer, which began, "I think it's a fantastic opportunity."
I think the dustup over Kos' "screw them" comment was (or should have been) a warning shot across the bow. Not to stifle rhetoric that may indeed be true however harshly put, but to stay vigilant about what you say and how you put things, knowing they will be read, and are meant to be read. Your audience is always imagined (as opposed to imaginary, which I also have some experience with); you can imagine it large or small, friendly or full of potential stalkers. And if you want to have a big audience, you should already be acting as if you have one. If you don't want a big audience, and I'm ambivalent, it's less important.
But Atrios already HAS a big audience. Once you have it, it's hard to remain ambivalent. I can say fuck in my posts, and heck, so can Atrios. Self-important as the blogosphere may be, Eschaton is not the Wall Street Journal. But at worst, my mom tells me to stop swearing on my blog. Eschaton's influence means he has to cut visible financial ties to the Kerry campaign, solely on the basis of worry that worst case, something he says will overshadow Kerry's candidacy and endanger Bush's defeat.
So maybe he went silent on Kerry fundraising so that he could spin to his heart's content. But when he looked at the press conference transcript, he knew what followed. I think he had to know Bush wasn't really trying to say escalation was fantastic. But it feeds the beast. And you've got to be careful when you feed the beast. I'm by no means perfect at it, but again--the pressure is not on me quite as hard. I should still try for it, but less is at stake on my effort.
Besides, Kerry has had two days to learn to say "Brahimi," and he can't do it. And if you want a Bush quote that is full of belly-laugh parsing challenges, how about this one?
"If they [the Iraqis] believe that we'll cut and run, in other words, if times get tough, we'll just say, 'See you later,' nobody is going to take a stand for freedom and liberty."
Had the link earlier, now I can't find it. You'll have to trust me for now. How unprofessional! Small-audience thinking, I know.