Tuesday, January 13, 2009


ABC News on yesterday's Bush press conference, contrasting two presidential moods that actually aren't different at all:

...At times, he used humor to character[ize] his tenure in the Oval Office. Dogged by persistently low approval ratings, he jokingly dismissed any suggestion that he felt had gotten some bad breaks.

"You know, it's kind of like, 'Why me? Oh, the burdens,' you know. 'Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch?'" he said in a mock whiny voice, winning some chuckles from reporters. "It's just pathetic, isn't it, self-pity?"

At other times, he was vintage aggressive Bush, as when he said he was at peace with the decisions he had made.

"I don't see how I can get back home in Texas and look in the mirror and be proud of what I see if I allowed the loud voices, the loud critics to prevent me from doing what I thought was necessary to protect this country," he said.

Maybe I'm making an obvious point, but it occurs to me that when Bush refers to "self-pity," he's actually talking not just about what you and I would call self-pity, but about feeling anything at all -- or at least anything that might be a reasonable human response to other people's pain. Yes, there's presidential self-pity that's merely self-pity, but feeling burdened by great national responsibilities can also be the result of understanding how much pain can result from a bad decision on your part, or from inaction.

It's easy to avoid that burdened feeling if you have no empathy whatsoever, if you really don't give a crap about anything other than pleasing yourself. A little self-pity on Bush's part, in other words, might have been healthy.


By the way, if you haven't seen that "mock whiny voice" clip, go watch. It's quite unpleasant to watch. And yes, the Karla Faye Tucker moment comes to mind.


UPDATE: The accompanying story could be harsher, but I like this front page:

And the News's "lamest duck ever?" photo gallery is either hilarious or more narcissism than a reasonable person can bear, I can't decide which.

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