If you use RH, you can do it all by editing text files if you want to. You don't have to use any of the custom tools they provide, whether X or curses based. If you want to run a server for a serious purpose, you're remiss if you don't do this anyway.
But unbloating a system with lots of useless bits tends to be dirtier and more effortsome than the other way around.
I can't say how true this is for the configuration tools of RedHat, but I can attest that the SuSE stuff (that distro is much more widespread in Germany) are a pain to get rid of, work around or live with. And there's still startup scripts and default configurations left to be winnowed down.
So why not start with a distribution that does a the minimum I have to, without getting in my way?
the mere fact that something takes longer to install doesn't make it better. The mere fact that it takes more knowledge to install doesn't make it better either.
Depending on whether you count the winnowing down into the installation effort, then RedHat doesn't necessarily take any less time for a knowledgeable admin to set up than a Debian box. Actually in those circumstances I'd put my money on the Debian guy getting his system going faster.
Where did I say it has to be difficult? Have you tried the Knoppix distro I referred to? You boot off of CD and boom, instant Linux KDE3 desktop. With all your hardware detected. Even Windows can't dream of getting close to this. And we're talking about an honest-to-god Debian system that's merely prepackaged.
Good does not have to be hard. Don't be misled by the conviction I seem to voice my opinions with. I am well aware there are flaws in everything, and I don't echo common consensus without informing myself. Which is actually why I sound so convinced. It doesn't mean I'm deaf; if you can argue a dent into my reasoning, rest assured I'm not going to ignore it.
I generally find that too many efforts in the Linux world try to emulate Windows in one way or other, which I find a huge mistake. Already too many people think of Linux as a "better Windows" (or worse, depending on who you ask, obviously).
But it's not, and shouldn't be shoehorned into that form. We can invent something better than Windows, something easier to use, and something technically superior. (Heck, here at PerlMonks, hubris even is our business.)
I say it without a hint of elitism, because it is true: Windows sucks. And though inevitably to a much lesser degree since they're built on a solid foundation, so do RedHat, SuSE and friends. I submit that they're thought of as easy, but they're not. They hide things from you, but they don't make anything any easier - in fact, can make things a whole lot harder.
That doesn't mean I'm saying Debian, Gentoo, Slackware or anything else is the be all end all. They all have their strengths, but I have gripes with all of them to some degree - package managers, especially, are a chapter unto themselves, and I don't think anyone has gotten one right yet. Gentoo made a very useable and valiant attempt to improve on the BSD ports system, but IMO failed in the bottom line.
I could go on all day telling you why this is so or that is that. The point I am making is that I am not blind to the issues with any of the distributions, or operating systems in general. To paraphrase what mutt's author says about mutt himself, all of them suck, some just suck less. (And one has to note that few things suck, period, most everything sucks more or sucks less for specific purposes.) Or to put it with a positive tone, "have room for improvement".
Apple's MacOS X and Aqua have shown that Unix needn't equate to difficult and that there's much, much room left in the desktop metaphor. Knoppix shows there's a lot to be done with Linux to reduce user headaches. Do you remember BeOS? It's a shame it died - it broke new ground in several areas. The future is bright, but we need to move forwards, no get stuck rehashing moldy ideas with variations.
Makeshifts last the longest.