Monday, December 29, 2008

Some interesting end-of-an-era reading from Vanity Fair, of all places: "An Oral History of the Bush Administration". Not a lot that counts as news, but it's arranged as a chronological record, and I found it fascinating to go back to the start of it all, to the days when the most pressing concern inside the Bush White House was deciding just how openly the President and his abettors should be allowed to show their contempt for the people they'd have to work with, through the whole terrible timeline.

One thing that sneaks through, almost as a subtext to the big events going down, is 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. From a distance, it's hard to say whether this is because he really, really plays it up when he's deigning to play the caring soul or if it's because they find his swaggering, swinging-dick tough guy act to be so awesome that they can scarcely believe it when he turns that off and acts halfway human. But whatever it is, they tend to think that the time he was introduced to their mother and didn't knee her in the crotch is a much truer gauge of his real character, and so matters much more, than the time he kept shoveling peanuts into his mouth while glued to ESPN for three days before permitting his aides to show him a TV news report about what had been going on in New Orleans since Katrina hit. 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 makes (again) for an interesting contrast with Bill Clinton, who was famous, if not infamous, for appearing to connect intellectually with people in one-to-one situations on a very deep level, convincing them that he knew just where they coming from and agreed with them completely and would go all the way in favor of whatever they were pitching--to the point that, when they saw him connecting to that same degree with somebody else, they felt betrayed. Bush only connects with people on an emotional level, and in most cases it seems to be a mushy, Lassie, Come Home kind of level. He can afford to be more more promiscuous with it than Clinton could get away with in his mind-melds, and it seems that once someone has felt that connection with him over anything at all, that's it: they'll follow him forever come hell or high water, and never held any failing or misstep against him--nothing he does wrong matters as much as that time they saw him get the sniffles while watching Bambi. It's a good thing the President's shows of tender feeling have been limited by the protective bubble he in which he agreed to be cocooned; if he'd just blown off even appearing to govern a little and just spent the past four years driving from small town to small town, giving everyone he saw a puppy, he might be getting ready to begin his third term.

No comments: