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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Mixing Up Sweden and Switzerland

When the Yankees batting practice became too much to watch, I turned to the equally disturbing Ron Suskind article in the NYT Magazine, which, among many other things, contains this excellent story:

"I don't know why you're talking about Sweden," Bush said. "They're the neutral one. They don't have an army."

Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: "Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They're the ones that are historically neutral, without an army." Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.

Bush held to his view. "No, no, it's Sweden that has no army."

The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.

A few weeks later, members of Congress and their spouses gathered with administration officials and other dignitaries for the White House Christmas party. The president saw Lantos and grabbed him by the shoulder. "You were right," he said, with bonhomie. "Sweden does have an army."

The discussion of whether the president's being dumb really matters has happened many times before. Still, regardless of where you come down on the need for presidential smarts, isn't there some bare minimum of knowledge one needs to function? I mean, I've know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland since elementary school.

Also, on the NYT Kerry endorsement: why does so much of the darn thing have to focus on George Bush's time in office? There's plenty of time to do the case against Bush, and I know anti-Bush sentiment drives a lot of Kerry's support, of course, I just feel like an endorsement should consist of affirmative reasons to vote for someone.