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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bush still at bat--but barely

Sunday, January 27, 2008

On the NBC Evening News of Jan. 24, there was a short film clip of our President slightly slumped against his fancy chair, visibly snoozing while a high-up dignitary was delivering a sermon last Sunday. NBC wasn't the only venue where this notable gaff could be seen; all you had to do was consult any newspaper in the U.S. to find the same photo. It was hard for me to avoid contrasting the photo of Bush to the photos of Franklin D. Roosevelt, during his presidency, during which there was a tacit agreement among all photographers that none of them would take a picture of FDR's legs--crippled by polio. The difference? It's commonly said that, in those days of extreme crisis (the Great Depression followed by World War II), it could demoralize the American public, and thus the free world, to see their leader in such tenuous physical shape. And that's probably true. But perhaps it was also true that Roosevelt commanded a respect that today's photographers simply don't have for our George Bush.

The Jan. 29, 2008, issue of Newsweek contains a 5-page excerpt from Jacob Wenburg's new study, The Bush Tragedy, a fascinating if perhaps too simplistic analysis of the ways our current leader has mismanaged his country's (and ours) fortunes for nearly a decade. It's well worth reading and re-reading, just to make sure our generation doesn't make the same mistakes ever again.

Our country, to whom FDR spoke before committing the United States' men and materiel to a long (though not as long as our current war in Iraq) World War II, has been converted by Mr. George W.Bush into a personal dictatorship, although we scarcely admit it to ourselves. Junior sent troops into Iraq because, Wenberg explains, American intelligence had told him that Saddam Hussein planned to blow up his father and his whole family on a trip to Iraq. Although "considerable doubt has since arisen around the incident Bush was referring to," young Bush began the Iraq war to avenge his father and to placate his nervous family.

Second reason for the president's declaring war on Iraq was the anthrax attacks on New York and Washington, in October of 2001. First, a Florida man had been stricken with anthrax, then, on October 22, "anthrax was found on an automated slitter used to open letters at a Secret Service facility in an undisclosed facility some miles away "(from the White House). These incidents, according to all observers, really unhinged Bush and Dick Cheney and "Scooter" Libby, who all let their imaginations construct a disaster that would make the Twin Tower fiasco look like a day in the park by comparison. "Without the anthrax attacks," Wenberg avers, "Bush probably would not have invaded Iraq." Who, in fact, was really responsible for the anthrax attacks and might've been responsible for carrying out Dick Cheney's plan to vaccinate the whole U.S. population (which would have cost a few hundred lives and made "thousands seriously ill.")?

No one knows, still. George W. regarded his father as a failed leader whose big mistake was to have had no "grand doctrine" during his tenure as president. Ever-conscious of his own stature vis-a-vis his father in histories-to-come, he determined that he would lead his country to victory over, and thus democratize, the whole Middle East. "Democratizing the Arab world was a clear moral goal," writes Wenberg, "the ambitious work of a consequential presidency." Maybe this ultimate goal would put off his mother's constant nagging and his father's disapproval. Oh, dear reader, we're in a psychological snake pit now, a tangle of jealousies, insecurities, longings and hatreds that could easily furnish a blood-soaked Shakespearean tragedy!

Bush has identified democracy as God's gift to man, even though "there is no theological basis for democracy as God's chosen instrument of government." George W. Bush is not only ignorant and arrogantly smug in his ignorance. He continues to be criminally "spoiled," the only word I can find that fits his behavior as head of the world's mightiest democracy, a form of government in which every citizen's thoughts are said to be of value. "At a temperamental level, the president has almost no ability to accept blame or learn from mistakes," and as more pressure is loaded on him, the more he digs in and stays the course. Sheer childishness and mulishness.

The contradictoriness of his behavior would be ludicrous and laughable, if it weren't so sad. Bush poses as a champion of civil liberties, but he has long followed Cheney's advice "on keeping Guantanamo open, allowing torture, and listening in on phone conversations by American citizens." If you gave George W. Bush a test on the U.S. constitution, he'd flunk it cold.

Don't you wonder why the reputation of George Bush, the father of this enfant terrible, is enjoying a rather impressive resurgence? I don't.