Policy or palaver?:

Policy or palaver?

: I applauded what George Bush said about supporting democratic movements and setting a goal and a mission of spreading freedom in the world.

I said so on Air America’s Morning Sedition yesterday — though I also quoted Zephyr Teachout when she told me that she liked what Bush said but wasn’t sure he was the president to do it.

Still, this seemed to be a speech with vision, a doctrine with courage. I was eager to see how he carried it out with North Korea, Saudi Arabia… you name the undemocratic nation.

Yet already, there’s spin from the White House — the kind of spin you see when somebody tries to pedal backwards. Howard Kurtz captures it:

You might think that calling on the United States to spread freedom around the globe and stand against tyranny might have consequences.

It was a statement of ideals.

But what does the president plan to do to carry out those ideals?

There will be no change in administration policy.

But how can Bush call for action against regimes that oppress their people and still do business with the dictators of China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

The goals the president set forth can only be met over a generation, not in a year or two.

Then was the speech just meaningless rhetoric?

It was an attempt to lay out his strategic vision about moral choices.

So we shouldn’t take his words seriously?

The president believes in bold action to advance the cause of freedom.

But if he doesn’t take any practical steps, won’t he have failed to clear the bar he set for himself?

It was a statement of ideals.

And what are you going to do about it?

: UPDATE: Zephyr clarifies/amplifies in the comments:

I wasn’t nearly as optimistic as you. More precisely, I said I agreed with the spirit and goals and content of most of the speech, the kind of international, civic democratic focus that I’d like to see our country do more of — but Bush was EXACTLY the wrong person to give it. Postmodern the way CLEAR SKIES is postmodern — and then these postmodern responses reinforce it. Uggh.