Kaus: SoTU lacked “cool logic”

Kaus was overly-impressed with the SoTU.
Well, okay, neither was I, actually. But I think the Mickster, though his wisdom has been proven to be superior to mine, may be slightly off base in the particular target for his critique [Wisdom proven superior? How? – Ed He gets paid for blogging; I do it for free. Q.E.D. Oh, and there’s also something about a Lear].
Mickey teams up with Peggy Noonan (odd mental image there) to berate the President for overselling his case:
It’s not just that, as Peggy Noonan wrote before the speech, Bush’s passion hurts his Iraq case because it makes him seem “too hot, too quick on the draw, too personal.” It also (in the absence of insider evidence) makes him seem too paranoid. Everything the president said about Iraq’s threat seemed true, but inflated by a factor of about 20 percent — an impression his intensity only reinforced. Where cool logic might have undercut such doubts and carried the day, Bush substituted hot rhetoric, as Noonan had feared. (I suspect Karen Hughes deserves the blame.)…
…the most difficult case for Bush to make isn’t the legal case for war, or the moral case for war, but the prudential case for war. It’s one thing to say Saddam is in “material breach” and invasion is justified under U.N. resolutions, just as you can say Saddam is evil and overthrowing him would be a form of justice. But the hard question is the cruder question: Do the rewards of the operation for the U.S. outweigh the risks…

All rather sensible. But there is one major problem with suggesting that Bush address the rewards-versus-risks equation: it’s a complete swamp. We don’t know what the true risks are on either side of the equation: we can only guess. Even assuming that our boys and girls at the CIA, NSA, and elsewhere are at the top of their game, we can’t possibly be sure we know of every nasty surprise Hussein has waiting for us in Iraq — or in our own cities. Nor can we put a precise timetable on exactly how long it is safe to wait before he decides to unleash the weapons he has — or is about to complete developing — through a proxy force like Al Qaeda.
This is not the kind of stuff that a President puts in his SoTU. Uncertain and full of doubt bad: resolute and full of conviction good.
Instead, Bush focused on what we do know. We know Hussein is evil (hence the discussion of his treatment and torture of his own people). We know Hussein is a liar (hence the discussion of his repeated violation of past promises and U.N. resolutions.) And we know he is dangerous (hence discussion of his past and continuing development of WMDs) .
“Evil + Liar + Dangerous” makes a nice, simple equation for the American Peepul, and one that everyone can understand. It adds up to “this guy has got to go.”
Now, to be clear: my analysis here is from a purely political standpoint. We most definitely should talk about the risks and uncertainty involved in attacking Iraq versus waiting; the public should be educated as to the dangers of each course.
But I don’t think the place for that level of detail and doubt is the SoTU. The President is there to make the broad argument for action: and in this case, I think he did pretty well and laying out the high-level case. And I fully expect that over the next few weeks, we’ll get the details from Powell and others. Time will tell…