George Bush, simply stated, is who he is. I believe he acts sincerely within his personal view of the world. He promotes certain values that fit his very limited concept of right and wrong. He's probably a nice enough guy, one you might want to invite over for dinner.
I agree with some of his values. I respect his office. But too many of his assertions, actions, and evident attitudes do not deserve my respect. I often disagree with his stances; obviously I reject many of his positions. I will clearly challenge what I perceive as his agenda, much of which most strongly offends me in my perspective as a Christian. I will speak my criticisms frankly but not deliberately insultingly.
Given the tremendous emotional baggage in all these issues, I can understand how some parties, especially those who still live in fear, vengefulness, grief, or other fallout from 9/11 and other more recent events, may censor any discussion of any data that could be construed as Mr. Bush's flaws and failures. Understandably so: Some facts shatter certain illusions that people strongly want to believe, and may desperately need to believe, regardless of harsh realities. In some aspects many might rather deny that Mr. Bush is who he is; they would idealize him as some noble, almost (or outright) spiritualized, fiction. Some persons will adamantly reject any truths that prove unpleasant, awkward, perhaps incriminating, or outright damning about President Bush and even his recent ancestors.
Some facts show that the President has no clothes.
On the simply shallow and insipid level that at least does not entail invasion: What did Mr. Bush exhort the American public to do as we recovered from September Eleven? Did he remind everyone of the victory gardens, rationing, and genuine sacrifices that some people now in their 70's and older may recall making during WWII? Did he encourage us in that spirit to, say, conserve fuel, to drive more responsibly, thereby in the long run reducing our dependence on the intricate petrol-fueled connections that Mr. Bush's own family and associates have long enjoyed with, and profited handsomely from, for example, the Saudis? Did he encourage cutting back? Re-evaluating our gluttonous and thoughtless waste of natural resources?
Not at all. Whereas many of our aged veterans and those of that generation can recall significant behavior change to support the war effort, Mr. Bush made no such bold and decisive call for mature, diligent cooperation. His challenge:
Go shop. Buy something. Consume
Do you consider this "courageous"? "Patriotism"? "Leadership"?
Our President did not ask us to do anything of substance; he showed no grasp of the value of, nor political backbone for, exhorting us in any way to deprive ourselves of DVD's, shoes, computers, filet mignon—especially nothing related to fossil fuels—or whatever comparable measures might in fact call for banding together in any way more concrete than waving flags. This mindset—Buy! Wal-Mart! Buy! Sears! Buy! Gap! Buy!—dominated his initial major response.
Denial will not help. We need uncompromisingly thorough scrutiny of assumptions and premises, critical analysis of claims and rhetoric, and diligent examination of relevant data. I see too many cases of the Bush administration vigorously and self-righteously opposing all such basic tools of reason and democracy.
• From the outset, President Bush resisted even considering a commission to investigate the background of events leading to 9/11. Only when honest and decent people demanded it, the Bush administration flip-flopped, grudgingly consenting to the procedures it should have not only supported, but initiated.
• Then the Bush administration adamantly opposed exposing Condoleeza Rice to examination. Again he capitulated only when responsible thinking people rightly denounced our President's secrecy; again he flip-flopped and grudgingly consented to what he should have vigorously promoted before anyone else.
• Bush himself adamantly resisted appearing before the commission; again only facing the indignation of sincerely concerned citizens and elected officials of both sides of the aisle did he let others drag him into the Oval Office to speak informally to some members. And he refused to go under oath. Why? He refused to have a record of the testimony. Why? If Mr. Clinton had resisted such inquiries for so many months, and had finally given only this flimsy token response, would not Mr. Bush's supporters have rightly objected? The same objections and implications rightly impugn Mr. Bush and undermine his claims of honor and integrity. (Again, Mr. Clinton's duplicity in his personal, private failings did not lead to mandating a war, and certainly not any military action that the majority of the civilized world opposed.)
• After that concessionary meeting, Mr. Bush came out and gave these remarks: they'd had a "good discussion." He "wanted them to see our [his and Cheney's] body language." And "It was — [pause] — important."
Yes. And water is wet. Could Mr. Bush have said anything more trite and vapid?
He is who he is.
Mr. Bush has never been known for intellectual insight or eloquence; this insipid dismissal of what should have been a momentous conference strikes me as a typical and valid reflection of his shallow perceptions, and his snide resistance of the investigative process all along. I believe he fears knowledge coming forth to the public (he certainly acts to prevent it), because many truths may in fact judge and condemn him for some things, as they should. One may reasonably suspect that this links to his effort to unravel the Presidential Records Act. In this and other serious concerns, Bush seems to consider himself and his administration as somehow above the citizenry. He affects the tone of inherited royalty, the untalented and illiterate son of a genuine ruler; George W. Bush acts insulted when honest peasants hold him accountable.
A few of his well-meaning followers do vocally subscribe to an ironically anti-democratic, totalitarian notion that we must all speak only supportively. I can especially appreciate the sentiments of veterans, who partly as a result of solid military training insist on only respect to the Commander in Chief, regardless of personal beliefs and values. Many good people, including many who have put their own lives on the line, for a complex matrix of values and emotional habit, truly perceive any disagreement as inexcusable and shameful.
I can understand and appreciate that emotional, non-rational perception; still I side with Theodore Roosevelt on this. Our refusal to speak honestly and candidly, even regarding our leaders constitutes the greater treason. I suggest that genuinely patriotic and courageous people should expose the underbelly of pretentious self-righteousness wherever we find it.
Did Richard Nixon deserve our suspicion and our scorn for Watergate? Yes. Did Bill Clinton's adultery and lying deserve it? Yes. Does George W. Bush's smug self-righteousness and political dogmatism deserve it?
Bush spoke of restoring integrity to the White House; do his supporters consider his avoiding accountability a hallmark of integrity?
Like you and me, Mr. Bush obviously doesn't have all the answers; unfortunately, apparently his concept of "leadership" forbids acknowledging this truth. He seems to prefer maintaining a pretense that never backing down, nor facing his failings honestly, at least not in public, constitutes "bold" and "decisive" action. Peter Sellers' character Chance in Being There knew little of the outside world other than what he learned through television. Likewise, Mr. Bush's view of "leadership" strikes me as limited to the one- or occasionally two-dimensional essence of a Hollywood old-west macho-John Wayne script.
more than certitude.
Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Also like you and me, Mr. Bush has other flaws. For one, he's shown that if he thinks you can't hear him, he can be petty, vindictive, and just plain vulgar. With that in mind I have some serious concerns about other tell-tale signs of his evident real personality, words and deeds and principles that contradict the image that Karl Rove and others have apparently helped craft for him, and perhaps the basically otherwise decent persona (perhaps also a genuine part of his identity) that he sometimes displays.
I honestly say this as sincerely tactfully as possible regarding President Bush's apparent inadequacy with English as a primary language. Particularly when he does not read directly and accurately from a script prepared by professional writers, I don't know if his frequent evident confusion and word-scramblings are merely an act; it does help foster the endearing "good ol' boy" image, which probably does get him some votes. However disturbing and embarrassing I find his verbal clumsiness for whatever reason, that disturbs me nowhere near as much as certain content he still often manages to convey.
Granted, under pressure, even professional speakers sometimes falter, and the office of the presidency surely brings far more pressure than most of us can imagine. I do not expect perfection. Yet Mr. Bush's evident verbal stumblings, especially when he has to think on the spot, give all Americans legitimate cause for concern. If he were simply a small-town council member, or just another local businessman addressing a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, his ineptitude would have no significance. But his messages go out around the world. His decisions and his attitude have tremendous influence. So his performance matters tremendously.
• Language deficiencies or whatever else,
your flaws and mine don't alienate many of the "civilized" nations
we have long counted as allies; Mr. Bush's flaws and choices,
simply because he is who he is, have done so.