Saturday, April 11, 2009


I'm not going to be the only person who reads this Washington Post story about the Bushes' post-White House life and thinks that George W. Bush is living in a Truman Show in which he's somehow both the mastermind and the unwitting center of attention in a manufactured artificial world. Other bubble boys come to mind as well: Elvis, Howard Hughes, Michael Jackson, Chuck Berry, all of whom hunkered down in compounds and set up their lives so they'd have as little contact as possible with anything or anyone they might not like. Eli Saslow, who wrote the Post profile, makes no effort to conceal what's going on:

... Bush left Washington on Jan. 20 with two-thirds of Americans disapproving of his job performance....

He lives squarely in the remaining 33 percent.

Bush works with a dozen aides from his administration, socializes with friends he has known for decades and lives in a conservative neighborhood that voted for him -- both times -- by a ratio greater than 2 to 1....

His security is maintained by a daily routine that, intentionally or not, barricades him from the disapproving two-thirds of the nation. The 43rd president spends most weekends with his wife at their isolated ranch in Crawford, Tex., where he likes to wake up early, roam the 1,600 acres with a chainsaw and cut new bike trails. Most of his weekdays are spent 95 miles north, in Preston Hollow, an upper-class section of Dallas where he lived for seven years before becoming governor of Texas in 1995. He has declined to give interviews, except to discuss baseball or his book, and neighbors remain silent so as not to violate his privacy.

About once each week, Bush travels to give a speech or raise money for his $300 million presidential center, but he always moves inside an insulated bubble. On a trip to Calgary, Alberta, last month, he flew into town on a private jet and ate in a private room at a restaurant with three friends and the Secret Service. Eighty police officers provided extra security and closed streets for his motorcade so that he could cruise through downtown to a luncheon where 1,500 guests had paid $400 to hear him talk about "eight momentous years in the Oval Office," according to the invitation. The 250 protesters who waited to catch a glimpse of Bush instead settled for hurling their shoes at his picture....

But Saslow, I think, may have missed the significance of one detail.

Keep in mind what we're told about Bush's forthcoming book:

Bush will focus on writing a book that explains his presidency in detail. He thinks his two terms will ultimately be judged on a series of major decisions.... His book, scheduled for release in 2010 by Crown, will focus on about a dozen major choices and the reasoning behind them, aides said.

Near the end of the article, Saslow tells us about a Bush appearance before some Southern Methodist University students, "most of whom had described themselves as conservative on a class questionnaire at the beginning of the semester." Saslow writes:

One student raised a hand.

How did you make your decisions in office?

Was this question set up? Remember the nature of Bush's public appearances before (carefully selected) ordinary citizens during his presidency. With a Washington Post reporter in tow, would there be a process to ensure that Bush was asked the very question that structures his forthcoming book?

You be the judge.


UPDATE: I just saw this in yet another story about Bush, this one in The New York Times:

At [Bush's presidential] library, instead of a chronological format, he plans to present his presidency through 20 consequential decisions, most notably his decision to invade Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein. And instead of a full biography, his book will focus on a dozen key moments in his life, from quitting drinking to picking Mr. Cheney as his vice president.

The idea, aides said, is to put the reader or visitor in Mr. Bush's shoes.

"People may conclude that they would have made a different decision, or maybe they'll conclude they would have made the same decision," said Mark Langdale, a longtime friend and president of the George W. Bush Foundation.

Got it? The key word is "decisions" -- at the library as well as in the memoir. The Bushies are branding W. with the word "decisions." (Bet the library will sell "DECIDER" T-shirts in the gift shop, depicting Bush giving the thumbs-up in his flight suit.) Isn't it amazing that that SMU questioner just so happened to ask about decisions when a big-cheese reporter was around?

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