The weirdest thing about the speech last night was Bush's demeanor. We got Sincere, Earnest, Almost Contrite Bush; gone was Desperately Trying to Refrain from Calling Everyone Who Disagrees with Me an Idiot Bush, whom we saw in the press conference just before the war and, most recently, in a Labor Day speech defending his tax cuts.
You could say the speech had an Eddie Haskell quality, except that Eddie Haskell used to shift gears only to fool the Cleavers; Bush almost seemed to be fooling himself. Does he really think he's the nice guy he strained to be last night? If so, that's close to pathological.
He said "free" and "freedom" 21 times (in a speech of 2,276 words); he said "Osama" and "bin Laden" 0 times.
Bush was an oil man and his father was an oil man. What you do when you're an oil man is go for the big win, the huge strike that will make you not merely successful but wildly successful all at once, and until the time comes that you have that huge success you continually ask people for money so you can stay in the game.
As writers on Bush (Bill Minutaglio, Molly Ivins/Lou DuBose) have pointed out, oil men call the object of their quest an "elephant field" -- a stretch of land that provides gusher after gusher. Iraq was supposed to be an elephant field. A victory in Iraq was supposed to transform the region completely and almost instantly, producing one nice, compliant Middle East regime after another, as if by magic. It was a ridiculous, outlandish notion, but Bush was a second-generation oil man -- in his experience, mature, rational adults are supposed to believe in ridiculous, outlandish notions of instant transformation.
We have to pony up to keep him in the game, but I bet on some level he still thinks this will someday pay for itself, if not pay off big time -- after all, that's the way things work in Midland, Texas.