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July 13, 2006

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This explanation seems a little bit sophistic. In particular, to say that "While the discipline lacks useful models of presidential communication strategy, we can certainly conclude that the administration's behavior is rational in a strategic sense." is almost a non-statement. I say this because, rational actor theory can "explain" ("I disagree that political scientists lack "rational actor" theories that explain the administration's behavior") anything after the fact. It is predicated on understanding an individuals utility function, which we cannot, even with regard to ourselves, and thus your proposed utility function for ths administration is just as fallacious and un-falsifiable as my own. We can claim that this all makes sense and is predictable, but come on... any attempts to scientifically address the actions of this or any administration are pure postulation (maybe informed, maybe not), and not really science in the manner that political scientists purport to be pursuing.

Josh makes a good point - I was too glib. Rational actor models are essentially non-falsifiable - if you do something, it is tautologically in your self-interest. From a journalistic perspective, I think we can conclude that the Bush administration's PR strategy is rational. But from a scientific perspective, we can't really evaluate it as such.

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