Describing Bush

It is too often accepted as a given that any officeholder wishes to project an image of himself better than he generally is. 


We may all be biased in our own favor, as fallible human beings.  The bias in favor of “dear self,” as one of Jane Austen’s most idealistic and thoroughly good characters says self-critically, may be a universal.


Self-criticism, that is enlightened and principled self-criticism, is also a universal ability.  But a universal is not a constant.  Face it:  some people were brought up better than others.  Some of us were brought up to think of others rather than just of ourselves.  Some of us were brought up to think about long-term self-interest rather than just short-term self-interest.  Some of us were brought up to think.


None of these groups seem to number George W. Bush among their members.


Admittedly, any class of elementary schoolers assigned the short essay, “Describe George W. Bush,” would have to do the assignment by the seats of their small pants, with little help in accuracy or focus from major media outlets.  Any reasoned effort to evaluate Bush as a person in highest office has to proceed from connecting the dots, so to speak.


However, reasoning has its own universals.  Reasoning on or trying to figure out any topic one is not already immersed in begins with what we already know.  To find out what we don’t know, begin with what we do:  known facts; givens; universals.


Here’s part of what we know regarding Bush and his team.  Never before in American history have we had a president start a war that his relatives profited from financially.  Never before has a U.S. president appointed two relatives and a college chum as ambassadors (Stapleton and Walker to the CzechRepublic and Hungary, Ashe to Poland). 


Never before have a U.S. president’s close relatives been involved in the security industry; never before have they had financial ties to military contractors; never before have they been engaged in off-shoring.  Never have a president’s brothers so engaged in dealings with foreign businesses and foreign governments.


Always before, invading another country has been considered the abomination it is.  Even the Reagan and previous Bush administrations refrained from invading a country that had not attacked us.


By all accounts, this White House extends a more intense grasp over the news media than any other administration in history.  By all accounts, it is intensifying – literally, daily intensifying – its grasp on the Intelligence Community.  Its grasp on the GOP-dominated Congress is unquestionable.


An underreported fact is the way the White House coordinates its policy campaigns with Republicans in individual states.  Look at Ehrlich in Maryland and Rick Perry in Texas for two examples.  A reasonable conclusion would be that this is the most anti-federalist administration in U.S. history.


Bush’s performance in the three debates confirms key hints from the slight reporting about Bush that we get:  he has segregated himself from news reports, analysis or opinion that he wouldn’t like, he literally refuses to deal with or even to hear any challenge, and he extends that self-segregation to all matters that affect the public weal including the Iraq occupation.


On every international occasion that he might have chosen to present a better face to the world, he has muffed, most recently with regard to the tsunami.  That initial response of $400,000, given by a lowly staffer, was not a first step.  It was Bush’s response, or rather non-response.  Why?  Because it simply didn’t occur to him that better would be better than worse.


Like his comrades in arms – Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Dick Cheney, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, Condoleezza Rice – George W. Bush’s main concern is never to figure out what is better and do it.  His main concern is to figure out what advantages him, or his key interests, and pursue that. 


Sometimes, as with the tsunami disaster, he genuinely doesn’t recognize the difference between better and worse.  More often, he at least vaguely recognizes the difference, but also perceives it as a threat to him.  Remember when John Kerry made the offhanded point that a policy should meet a “global test” of rationality or constructiveness or beneficiality?  Bush reacted EXACTLY like an underperforming college kid to news that HE was going to have to “pass a test.”  That wasn’t just lying – although probably Bush’s handlers quickly set him straight, afterward.  That was genuine resentment, the genuine, heartfelt resentment of a hopelessly underqualified and overpromoted man, at the barest mention of any possibility, any mere suggestion, of something better.


Anything better, of course – accuracy and fearlessness in the news media; kindness and generosity or even enlightened self-interest in our economy; tolerance in religion or in the larger world; ability and erudition or even self-discipline in professions including law, medicine, and college teaching; honesty and modesty in business and finance – is unfailingly represented as “liberal.” 


(Quite probably, anyone in the news media who uses, or even knows, the words “bicameral legislature” is suspect on that ground alone to the team in the White House.)


Worse yet, anything better is ruthlessly combated by the current White House, with help from rightwing-funded pseudo-media who work directly with White House personnel, GOP officeholders, and lobbyists.  They make the better cause appear the worse, as John Milton put it.  Milton knew a phony-populist pseudo-leader when he saw one (he was not “of the devil’s party,” contrary to Romantic speculation) and if this crew has its way, fewer and fewer individuals will be able to read Milton over the next generation, or to read him with any understanding.


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