There are 293,655,404 worried people in the United States -- minus one. "I
don't worry about anything here in Washington, D.C.," Bush said Tuesday with
his usual air of pixilation.
At least he finally said something you can put in the bank. Finally, some truth.
Still, nothing less than stunning was that a sitting president in, or rather
a president sitting in, the midst of so much pain, anguish and looming disaster
-- thousands dying in Iraq, 45 million at home with no health care, a generations-crushing
deficit -- could utter such a disconnected inanity. It made Herbert Hoover look
like a combustive activist.
To be fair, Bush is accustomed to not worrying because he’s never had
to. He’s always had his own private welfare system, a coterie of political
nannies to hold him and clean up after him, and his emotional abyss precludes
empathy for others who were born silver-spoonless. Folks like Robert F. Kennedy
possessed the same privileges, but were capable of growth. There was something
Nevertheless the What, me-worry? line this week was a refreshingly honest moment
during what the press still charitably calls a “news” conference.
Other than that one aside, we got the same old diversions and ducks and deceit,
as expected. Yet Bush’s Me-worry? attitude is causing a lot of worry for
his congressional minions. They’re reading some nasty electoral graffiti
on the wall.
"There is a growing sense of frustration with the president and the White
House, quite frankly," said a Republican member of Congress. "The
term I hear most often is tin ear.”
And he’s not hearing it from just Democratic constituents. “In
the most recent Washington Post poll, taken last month, 47 percent of Americans
[other polls as low as 43 percent] approved of Bush's performance, tying the
lowest marks he ever received in that survey, back in mid-2004 when Democrats
were airing tens of millions of dollars in campaign attack ads,” observes
the Seattle Times.
Bush has it all: the (literal) bully pulpit, the media dogs, a somnambulant
opposition -- yet the nation’s majority are growing leery of him. Really
Yes it’s history, but I tire not of pointing out that many more would
have grown leery long before Bush’s 2000 Immaculate Ascension had they
been awake. For instance, while researching a few foreign policy topics from
two campaigns past I was struck anew by how aloof, incomplete and evasive Bush
was as a candidate. Sure there were occasions such as presidential debates when
he had to say something, though that something was often a fairy tale. My favorite:
"If we are an arrogant nation, they will resent us. If we're a humble nation,
but strong, they'll welcome us," he said in the second debate. And "I'm
not so sure the role of the United States is to go around the world and say,
‘This is the way it's got to be.’” I’ll let that one
pass. It’s too easy.
But given a choice, Bush dodged free-wheeling inquiry with unctuous devotion.
For instance on October 30 of that election year the New York Times noted in
an expansive analysis of the two candidates’ positions: “Mr. Gore
is always eager to … analyze international events; he granted an hour-long
interview for this article. Mr. Bush took four weeks to consider repeated invitations
to be interviewed on his foreign policy views. In the end he declined.”
The Times was reduced to relying on secondary sources.
Earlier in the year and in another paper’s “Where the Candidates
Stand” article, the pack leaders were asked to elaborate on one of the
greatest and lasting controversies in American history. The question was this:
“Fifty-eight thousand Americans, 223,000 South Vietnamese and, by Hanoi's
estimate, 660,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers were killed in Vietnam….
Do you believe that war served America's interests?” Bill Bradley, Al
Gore and John McCain all gave rehearsed, but reasonably complete, answers. What
issued forth from candidate George W. Bush? “No response” (Columbus
Dispatch, February 27, 2000).
He didn’t care enough to ponder a million lives lost in Vietnam. Why
should we expect him to care about mere thousands in Iraq? Or anything else?
We shouldn’t. Even George would say so, and did.