Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I want to juxtapose two quotations. You be the judge of whether they're truly related.

First, from Charlie Gibson's interview of President Bush, part of which aired on ABC last night:

GIBSON: Let's talk a little bit about eight years as being President. What don't the American people know about being President? What would surprise them the most?

BUSH: That's an interesting question. I think, at least from my administration, I think they'd be surprised at how our team has worked so closely together. Some days we're not so happy, some days happy; every day has been pretty joyous, though -- that when you have a purpose in life, that no matter what it may look like from afar, that we're a highly motivated group of people that are honored to serve.

In other words, I think people look at the White House and say, oh, man, what a miserable experience it is to be President. You know, there's a lot of noise, a lot of criticism, a lot of name-calling, a lot of this, a lot of that. But I think people would be surprised when they walked in the Oval Office and the White House to see a highly motivated group of people that really enjoy what we're doing.

... GIBSON: That's the second time I've heard you use the word "joyful" about the presidency, and that might take people by surprise. Even in really tough times?

BUSH: Oh, yes. As I said, some times are happy, some not happy. I don't want people to misconstrue. It's not -- I don't feel joyful when somebody loses their life, nor do I feel joyful from somebody loses a job. That concerns me. And the President ends up carrying a lot of people's grief in his soul during a presidency. One of the things about the presidency is you deal with a lot of tragedy -- whether it be hurricanes, or tornadoes, or fires, or death -- and you spend time being the Comforter-in-Chief. But the idea of being able to serve a nation you love is -- has been joyful. In other words, my spirits have never been down. I have been sad, but the spirits are up.

And now this, from a New York Times article about Democrats involved in the presidential transition (hat tip Atrios):

... But several say that their biggest surprise came when they learned more about how President Bush spends his day, and how he gets his information.

... they have been surprised to see the degree of tactical detail about two wars and a handful of insurgencies -- from the tribal areas of Pakistan to Sudan and the Congo -- that surrounds him. Partly this is because the high-tech makeover of the Situation Room, completed about two years ago, makes instantaneous conversation with field commanders easier than ever.

Both the transition officials and some White House insiders say it may make this communication too easy, sucking the commander-in-chief into a situation in which real-time, straight-from-the-battlefield discussions of tactics masquerade as a conversation about strategy.

...One recently departed National Security Council official noted earlier this year that in his view, the problem is that the system is largely in the hands of war-fighters; only on a rare day, and only toward the end of his presidency, did members of Provincial Reconstruction Teams and other aid workers involved in nation-building pop up on Mr. Bush's screen....

I don't know about the staffers who, according to Bush, share his bliss, but do you suppose that this is a principal source of Bush's joy -- the fact that he spends long stretches mainlining war news pumped in directly from multiple theaters of conflict? You think it's the heavy doses of strategy (and very little of that icky nation-building) that keep him in tiptop spirits? Do you think he'd be grumpy and sulky without the opportunity to experience all that risk and bravery vicariously?

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