Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I've just started to make my way through Vanity Fair's oral history of the Bush White House. Phil talked about it on Monday, noting, in particular,

how incredibly impressed the Bush loyalists tend to be by every display from the President of what, in most people, would count as a demonstration of basic decency.... A recurring theme goes something like, I wish those monsters, the ones who hold it against him that those people were left to die of sunstroke on their roofs or who blame him for the deaths of their sons in the military, could have been there when he gave my nephew a baseball cap or went to the veterans hospital and shook a double amputee's hand--then they'd know what a great, great man he is!

It's true. From the oral history:

Noelia Rodriguez [Laura Bush's press secretary]: I wish that more people could have seen the president the way I experienced him. Even if you don't agree with him or respect his opinions or his decisions -- strip that away, if you're able to -- he is a caring human being.

I brought my mom to the White House, to get a tour the day before Thanksgiving. The president came in and greeted her -- it was a total surprise. And on the spot he invited us to go to Camp David for Thanksgiving. Of course, we went, and it was Disneyland for adults. We went to chapel services before dinner. I remember we got there early. A few minutes later the president walks in with Mrs. Bush and the family, and you could see him looking around, and he sees my mom in the distance, and he literally shouts at her from across the chapel, "Grace, come sit over here with me." And at dinner, again, he sees her, and he says, "Grace, you're going to sit over here next to me." And he tilted the chair against the table so that nobody would take her place.

Ed Gillespie, campaign strategist and later counselor to the president: Picking up the phone, calling people who are visiting an ailing father in the hospital, personal notes to people whose child just had surgery. Things big and small. It's hard to describe it all, but they are the kinds of things that do inspire great loyalty -- and that's not why he does it, by the way.

Gillespie is right -- that's not why he does it. He doesn't want to "inspire great loyalty" because the reason you would want to inspire loyalty was in order to accomplish goals. Bush never really cared about accomplishing anything.

What he cared about was being a person who emotionally manipulated people so they'd praise him as caring, just as he went to war (and prolonged the state of war to the bitter end) in order to manipulated people into praising him as a warrior. It really is all about him.

As I've pointed out in the past, he doesn't even try to conceal this selfishness when he talks about himself as a wartime consoler. Here's what he said to ABC's Charlie Gibson a few weeks ago:

... I'll miss -- and it's going to sound strange to you -- I'll miss meeting with the families whose son or daughter have fallen in combat, because the meetings I've had with the families are so inspirational. They -- I mean, obviously, there's a lot of sadness, and we cry, and we hug, and we occasionally laugh. And we share -- I listen to stories. But the Comforter-in-Chief is always the comforted person.

And again, a couple of weeks later, to The Washington Times:'s amazing, the comforter in chief oftentimes is the comforted person - comforted because of their strength, comforted because of their devotion, comforted because of their love for their family member.

War was an ego trip for him. Mourning is an ego trip for him. Graciousness is an ego trip for him.

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