Know what real men do? They admit their mistakes. Know what real people do in
times of great stress and strife and economic downturn? They seek help, understand
they don't know all the answers, realize they might not've been asking the right
questions in the first place.
Know what great leaders, great nations do at times of war and fracture and
massive bludgeoning debt? All of the above, all the time, with great intelligence
and humility and grace and awareness and shared humanity. Or they die.
But not BushCo. This is the hilarious thing. This is the appalling thing, still.
How can this man remain so blindly, staggeringly resolute? How can he be so
appallingly ignorant of fact, of truth, of evidence, of deep thought? In short,
what the hell is wrong with George W. Bush?
Here it is, another bumbling, barely articulate press conference by Dubya,
one of few he ever gives because he clearly hates the things and is deeply troubled
by them, hates reporters who ask complicated questions and hates people who
dare doubt his simple mindset, his effectiveness, his policies, his lopsided
myopic one-way black/white good/evil worldview.
Bush hates press conferences because can't speak extemporaneously and can't
form a complete sentence without mashing up the language like a five-year-old
and can't express a complex idea to save his life and somewhere deep down, he
knows it, and he knows we know it, and it makes him mumble and stutter and wish
he could be somewhere else, anywhere else, like sittin' on the back porch in
Texas eatin' ribs and dreamin' 'bout baseball. Ahhh, there now. That's better.
But here he is, instead, stuck like a pinned bug in the Rose Garden, struggling
to answer tricky, multisyllabic questions from the godforsaken press. Go ahead,
read the Q&A, linked above. It's sort of staggering. It's also very impressive,
in a soul-stabbing, nauseating way.
Bush is, to be sure and in a word, unyielding. Determined. Immovable. Also,
deeply confused. Myopic as hell. Frighteningly narrow minded. Weirdly random.
Childish in a way that would make any good parent seriously question whether
it might be time to get their child some Ritalin and an emetic.
Unlike you or me or any human anywhere who happens to be in possession of humility
or subtlety of mind, Bush, to this day, admits zero mistakes. He refuses help,
rejects suggestions that everything is not dandy and swell. He is confounded
by questions that dare suggest he might be somewhat inept, or failing. And he
absolutely insists that America exists in some sort of bizarre utopian vacuum,
isolated and virtuous and towering like a mad hobbled king over our enemies
and allies alike.
He is, in other words, our downfall.
Iraq? Going smoothly, Bush says, happy with the progress there, despite huge
surges in insurgent violence and endless uptick of the U.S. death toll and the
utter wasteland we've made of that poor, shredded nation.
Iran, North Korea and Egypt? Just dandy. No serious problems at all. Gotta
talk more with that "North Korean" guy though, sort out the "nukuler"
problem. Sneering thug John Bolton for U.N. ambassador? You betcha, still on
track, a good man, despite what everybody -- and I do mean everybody -- says.
Overhaul Social Security, despite an enormous lack of support from Dems and
Repubs and the vast majority of the American people? "Just a matter of
time," Bush mutters, completely blinded to the fact that it's an enormous
mistake. His deeply hypocritical stance on stem-cell research that kow-tows
to the deeply ignorant Christian Right? No real answer there. Doesn't compute.
Just shrug that sucker right off.
Notice, when you read: There is no eloquent, deeply felt defense of ideas.
There is no intellectual breakdown of opinion, no multifaceted explanation,
no passionate clarification. And there is certainly no reference to outside
ideas, a confession that we might need help, input, wisdom from our neighbors,
from science, from the wise and the experienced.
It's a fact we've known all along but which keeps hammering at us like a drunk
gorilla hammers at a dead mouse: Bush is able to speak only at one level, to
one level. The level of a child. The level of a simpleton. The level of a sweet,
bumbling, small-town mayor, addressing a PTA meeting, everyone in soft plaids
and everyone drinking light beer and everyone wondering about just what the
heck to do about the rusty swing sets and the busted stoplight.
Bush is, of course, not talking to you or me or anyone with a remotely active
imagination when he speaks at press conferences, or at his staged, pre-screened,
sycophant-rich "town hall" meetings, so full of plain, everyday folk
hand-selected for their blind love of Shrub and lack of ability to ask hard
questions (read this transcript of a recent town hall on Social Security, and
come away stupefied at the man's shocking ability to appear just exactly as
gullible and uneducated as his questioners).
He is not even speaking to conservative Democrats or moderate Republicans.
He's certainly not speaking to highly educated people who harbor a sincere curiousity
for and tenuous understanding of the complexities of the world.
Bush is, of course, speaking to children. He is speaking to babies. It is a
decidedly shallow and hollow and oddly deflated type of language that offers
not a single nutritious or substantive thought to the political or cultural
dialogue, other than to expand his staggering collection of embarrassing Bushisms.
It's all merely a crayon drawing, an intellectual wading pool, a big messy
cartoon world populated by manly white good guys and fanged dark evil guys and
we are good and They are evil and that's all there is to it so please stop asking
weird tricky polysyllabic questions.
Maybe this is appropriate. Maybe this is as it should be. After all, we are,
by and large, a nation that refuses to grow up, refuses to take responsibility
for our gluttony and its global effects, refuses to see the world as it is now,
a mad tangle of interconnected humanity, a global marketplace, a hodgepodge
of variegated religions all stemming from the same source and which therefore
all require a nimble and nuanced and deeply intelligent leadership, to navigate.
Qualities which our current leadership has, well, not at all.
The U.S. still behaves, when all is said and done, like one of those scared
wild monkeys, clinging desperately to a shiny object despite the trap closing
in all around us, unable to let go of this old, silly, faux-cowboy mentality
of boom boom kill kill God is your daddy now sit down and shut up.
What causes the downfall of empires? What causes the implosion of leadership,
the slide of great nations into the deep muck of recession and war and mediocrity
and numb irrelevance? That's easy. Stagnation. Refusal to change. Refusal to
adapt, to progress. Refusal to grow the hell up, to take responsibility for
our shortcomings and failures, as well as our successes.
Indeed, George W. Bush would make a great small-town mayor, somewhere deep in
a dusty, forgotten part of Texas. His still-appalling inability to speak with
any depth or resonance, coupled with his brand of personable, aww-shucks, none-too-bright
simpleton worldview is perfect for some cute, redneck, tiny burg. It really
But for a major world power caught in the throes of a desperate need to change
and grow and evolve, he is, of course, imminent death, leading us deeper into
a regressive ideological tar pit from which we may never emerge.