Nicholas D. Kristof:
Mr. Bush did stretch the truth. The run-up to Iraq was all about exaggerations, but not flat-out lies. ...
Mr. Bush's central problem is not that he was lying about Iraq, but that he was overzealous and self-deluded. He surrounded himself with like-minded ideologues, and they all told one another that Saddam was a mortal threat to us. They deceived themselves along with the public — a more common problem in government than flat-out lying.
Fair enough. This is one of the problems analyzed by Surowiecki in The Wisdom of Crowds -- group homogeneity reinforces dumb confidence in insular perceptions. (More on Surowiecki's book here).
But is there some gain in level of complexity in the way Kristof concludes his piece?
It wasn't surprising when the right foamed at the mouth during the Clinton years, for conservatives have always been quick to detect evil empires. But liberals love subtlety and describe the world in a palette of grays — yet many have now dropped all nuance about this president.
or have we simply reconfigured the "exaggeration" so that we have simplified the world, "for the sake of argument," thusly?
In the rhetoric of closure, is there not always the exaggeration of simplification? ("Always" -- as in, is it possible to have closure without some moment of radical reduction? Is it possible to be a pundit without murdering truth?)
Which is one reason Surowiecki is right in suggesting we hold our own illusions at arm's length. (Well, he doesn't come right out and say that, but I do, simplifying his reasoning as I "make" this point about closure.)