Revisiting False Populism

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I’d like to revisit the false populism issue from Bush’s State of the Union address the other night. Obviously, the Colombia Free Trade pact is hardly the most important thing in the world (Colombia’s just too small for this to make a big impact on the US economy one way or the other), but the claim that “If we fail to pass this agreement, we will embolden the purveyors of false populism in our hemisphere” is an excellent example of the complete lack of strategic thought that characterizes this administration. James Poulos, like me, didn’t understand how Hugo Chavez would be emboldened by our failure to ratify the agreement. Daniel Larison explains:

It’s like this, James: if you push for more neoliberal policies in Latin America, that will magically reduce the popularity of the “false populism” that has flourished on account of the backlash against the last round of neoliberal policies pushed by Washington, whereas if you don’t support those policies “false populism” will run wild. That’s clear, isn’t it?

That’s really it, though. In Bush world, first you set out to do something. Then if that thing seems to not be working out or causing problems, what you need to do is do it again harder. Anything else, after all, would only embolden the bad guys. It’s that simple and it’s that dumb.