Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where we are now with That Man

The two poles: George W. Bush and how the American public now thinks of George W. Bush.

No matter how deep the polled disapproval of el Presidente, how clear the message sent this past Election Day, or how the new Democratic House and Senate may be willing and able to counter his awfulness, this guy is never going to change.

You can give him all the evidence you like on his "listening tour," but he's the enemy of reason, the enemy of liberal democracy, the enemy of withdrawal from the colossal mistake that will forever brand his Presidency and be linked with his name. He's not the guy you need to convince; he's the guy you need to argue against. If only there were some other Decider to before whom to present your arguments.

El Presidente George W. Bush is, essentially, a brick wall. As such, it is a waste of time to consider him further.

On the other hand, that psychotheraputic patient in a permanent state of clinical transference, the U.S. electorate's relationship to the country's Presidency, has taken a rather heartening turn towards what the first term Bush aides so smugly referred to as "the reality-based community."

TX Unmuzzled writes on Daily Kos about a Meet the Press interview with David Brooks and Thomas Friedman, both of The New York Times op-ed page, both supporters of the Iraq War during the lead-up and quite a bit into it (Brooks much farther than Friedman, but since he already writes the "conservative" column Brooks is in some ways less egregious than Friedman for having given that support).

The surprise to TX was that the MTP guests were:
...talking logically and agreeing on formerly very partisan (republican lies), with the fog lifted, and were really calling out this failed administration and its failed war, with dire warnings about them not facing reality. Brooks said the "Republican elite" in Washington will not allow the president to "destroy their party over this war." They "do not want to face another election ['08] like this last one again." That's an understatement.

Brooks admitted he wasn't "facing reality" a "year or two ago" when he also was "blaming the media" for biased coverage of Iraq - in direct contradiction to the White House defense and first lady's ridiculous interview this week.

It's Bush, Cheney and assorted asshole cronies vs. EVERYONE ELSE.

For a perceptive analysis of why this has (finally) happened, I highly recommend a short piece by Christopher Caldwell in this Sunday's NYT Magazine entitled, "The Vanishing". It's all the more interesting that Caldwell is a senior editor at the rightwing/neocon The Weekly Standard. The set up:
This latest landslide is different. The losers seem to believe they got what was coming to them. In Washington, leaving aside those legislators and staff members whose oxen have been gored most directly, there is little discontent. You can sit at a table full of Republican journalists and consultants and hear them describe feelings ranging from "relieved" to "“giddy."” You might reasonably assume that this reaction is more pronounced the farther you get from Washington. What makes the country so unanimously content with its new leaders?

The argument he develops is that the way politicians sell themselves changed as the '60's generation came to power, bringing with it that particular narcissism and appeal to self -- i.e. the idea that Bush beat Gore and Kerry because he was more of a buddy figure:
The recent election feels like something more intimate than a personnel change. It feels like the beginnings of an escape from a twisted relationship. The episodes that the most fed-up people cite against Bush are extraordinarily personal. Those angry at his failure to manage last year'’s floods in New Orleans will always mention his testimonial to the head of FEMA, Michael Brown, "“Brownie, you'’re doing a heck of a job."” You get the impression that the president's chipper tone bugs people as much as the mistaken assessment. More recently, Bush asked incoming Senator Webb how his son, a Marine fighting in Iraq, was faring. "“I'’d like to get them out of Iraq,"” Webb said.

"“That's not what I asked you. How'’s your boy?"

"That'’s between me and my boy, Mr. President."

This testy but perfectly proper exchange between ideological adversaries made newspapers all over the country.

Why are opinions so personal when it comes to President Bush? Because he has frequently sought, like the child of the 1960s that he is, to blur the line between the personal and the political. Posing as an amiable guy rather than a partisan politician has great advantages in democratic power politics. Even if not all of them vote for you, most Americans want to believe that their president is a jolly good fellow. But when a politician makes likability a substitute for authority, his opponents make hatred a substitute for opposition. Some people marveled at Clinton'’s empathy. But the people who hated it, hated it. His claim to "“feel your pain"” enraged many.

Caldwell argument is that for those among the President's previous supporters who have turned have turned against him, it's personal. I can only hope that means no backsliding, because for the next two years it'll take all the king's horses to restrain the Bush/Cheney duo from, in my humble estimation, plunging us into WWIII.

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