The Essential President Bush
Posted by ssbg on May 23, 2006
A much-esteemed, long-neglected friend sent an email this morning, which was delightful to recieve. At one point he mentioned this post from yesterday and wrote: I think (President Bush) has lost his bearings. but then, so did Moses from time to time, it’s quite understandable.
That made me wonder a little – has President Bush lost his bearings, or have we? Is it President Bush who has broken faith with “his base” or have they?
When I read my friend’s line, I thought of a line from Pride and Prejudice, in which Elizabeth Bennett says in new appreciation of Mr. Darcy, “In essentials, I believe, he is very much what he ever was.”
Perhaps I am a dim bulb, but President Bush has never surprised me, and that is probably why I have never felt let down or “betrayed” by him. He is, in essentials, precisely whom he has ever been. He did not surprise me when he managed, in August of 2001, to find a morally workable solution in the matter of Embryonic Stem Cells. He did not surprise me when, a month later, he stood on a pile of rubble and lifted a broken city from its knees. When my NYFD friends told me of the enormous consolation and strength he brought to his meetings with grieving families, I was not surprised. When the World Series opened in New York City and the President was invited to throw the first pitch, there was no surprise in his throwing (while wearing body armor) a perfect strike.
He did not surprise me when he spoke eloquently from the National Cathedral, or again before the Joint Houses of Congress, when he laid out the Bush Doctrine. He did not surprise me when he did it again at West Point, or when he went visionary at Whitehall (don’t try to find a tape of it, honey, that was ONE SPEECH C-Span never re-ran and the press quickly tried to move along from).
There were no surprises in President Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan to battle AlQaeda. There were no surprises when he went after an Iraq which everyone believed had WMD, an Iraq that had tried to assassinate an American President, an Iraq whose NYC consul did not lower its flag to half-mast after 9/11.
Actually, there was one surprise. He did surprise me by going back to the UN, and back to the UN, in that mythical “rush to war” we heard so much about. But then again, the effort in Iraq was never as “unilateral” as it had been painted.
President Bush did not surprise me when, faced with the scorn of “the world community” and those ever-ready A.N.S.W.E.R. marches which sprang up condemning him and Tony Blair, he stood firm. A lesser man, a mere politician, would have folded under such enormous pressure. I was not surprised when Bush did not. (Aside – it’s funny how they just can’t get a good-sized crowd together for those protests these days, innit? Everything about Iraq was “wrong” and everything about Iraq is “failure and quagmire” and yet, somehow, we all breathe a sigh of relief that the job is done, that Saddam is out of power and that Iraq, save a very small piece of troubled land, is – in remarkably short order (and despite the wild pronouncements of John Murtha) – tasting its first morsels of democracy and liberty, and showing promise.)
It never surprised me that Yassar Arafat, formerly the “most welcomed” foreign “Head of State” in the Clinton White House was not welcomed – ever – to the Bush White House.
I wasn’t surprised by the, not one, but two tax cuts he got passed through congress, or the roaring economy – and jobs – those tax cuts created. I wasn’t surprised when he killed the unending farce that is the Kyoto treaty (remember, the thing Al Gore and the Senate unanimously voted down under Clinton?), or when he killed U.S. involvement in the International Criminal Court, or when he told the UN they risked becoming irrelevent, or when he told the Congress and the world, “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” Not surprising.
I wasn’t surprised at all to watch him – in a foreign and hostile land – go rescue the Secret Service agent who was being detained and kept from protecting him. Or to see him shoot his cuffs, afterwards, and greet his host with a smile.
I was never surprised that he tried to “change the tone” or tried reaching across the aisle to invite onesuch as Ted Kennedy to help draft education reform, something none of his predecessors dared touch. Just as they never dared to try to reform social security or our energy policies. The feckless ones in Congress wouldn’t get the jobs done, unfortunately, but he is a president who at least tried to get something going on those “dangerous” issues. His senior prescription plan was unsurprising and it is helping lots of people.
I was not at all to surprised to see President Bush forego the “trembling lip photo-op” moment in which most world-leaders indulged after the Christmas Tsunami of 2004 in order to get real work done, to bring immediate help to that area by co-ordinating our own military (particularly our Naval support) with Australia and Japan. Stupid, stingy American. I was surprised, actually, to see him dance with free Georgians. I didn’t think he danced.
Let me tell you what has surprised me about George W. Bush. I have been surprised by his ability to keep from attacking-in-kind the “public servants” in Washington who – for five years – have not been able to speak of the American President with the respect he is due, by virtue of both his office and his humanity, because they are entralled with hate and owned by opportunism. I have been surprised that he has kept his committment to “changing the tone” even when it has long been clear that the only way the tone in Washington will ever change is if everyone named Bush or Clinton or Kennedy is cleared out and “career politicians” are shown the door and – it must be said – every university “School of Journalism” is converted to a daisy garden, maaaan. We are stardust. We are golden.
I wasn’t surprised when President Bush thought that New Orleans had dodged a bullet after Hurricane Katrina, and therefore let down his guard. After all, we all thought NOLA had done so. I wasn’t surprised that he had – similarly to his actions the year before, re Hurricane Charlie – asked the Democrat Governor of Louisiana (and the Mayor) to order evacuations and suggested to her that she put the issue under Fed control to speed up processes (she did not, btw for a long while). But I was surprised that, when the press picked and choosed their stories while launching an unprecedented, emotion-charged, often completely inaccurate (10,000 bodies!) attack on the President – the rising waters were all his fault and he was suddenly “the uncaring racist attempting genocide by indifference” the President did not fight back against the sea of made-up news and boilerplate, fantastic charges against him.
I was surprised, and what surprised me was the sense I had that Bush’s heart was broken. That he had done everything he could to keep faith with the nation, and that he could not believe that in a time of such terrible need, all some people could think of was, “how do we use this politically, how do we break Bush with this?” It can’t have helped that some of the hysteria was coming from the right as well as the left. Things changed after that, didn’t they? The press and the left doubled up their attacks, the far-right went very smug, and President Bush never has seemed to have regrouped his spirit.
A month later, I wasn’t surprised (although some – mostly the hard-right “I’m a Conservative before I’m anything and he’d better serve me” types – clearly were) when he nominated Harriett Miers to the SCOTUS. In fact, I’d predicted it. Up until that moment, every person President Bush had nominated to pretty much any position had won accolades from the beamish far-right, but Miers did not. She wasn’t one of their guys or gals. She wasn’t Luttig, she wasn’t Rogers-Brown. Harriet Miers? Damn that Bush! The denouncements came fast and furious and suddenly “the base” with which George W. Bush had not broken faith…broke faith with him. Suddenly they were as willing to call him a moron and an idiot as any KozKid.
Imagine that. Imagine being the guy who has given his base one splendid nominee after another, in all manner of posts, make a nomination he thinks appropriate only to find that “base” coming out with both guns, defaming his nominee and directing all manner of insult at himself. President Bush is nothing if not loyal; his loyalty is often his downfall. When he asked for a little trust (which he had surely earned) a little loyalty and a little faith, from “the base,” he got kicked in the groin, over and over again, for daring to think differently, for falling out of lockstep with his policy-wonk “betters.”
That had to be bitter, for him. At that point Bush, unchanged in essentials, might have wondered if his conservative “base” had become a bit over-confident and loose-hipped, so cock-sure of their majority (not that congress used it) so certain of their own brilliance that they were beginning to believe they didn’t need him; that he wasn’t conservative enough, after all, and that the next president was going to be the solid, “uncompassionate” conservative they’d really wanted all along. The president who had delivered one gift after another to his base asked them to trust him, and his base sneered.
Then of course, the DPW debacle was launched and once again the far-right, his “base” went beserk, again, for very dubious reasons. Buster was the one who pointed out to me, then, that in this matter President Bush was being entirely consistent with who he had always been and that his defense of the sale was not unsound, nor unprecedented. The right didn’t care! They stomped their feet and went DU again. Even Rush Limbaugh couldn’t control them. The left, on the other hand, which should have supported the president – they would have had he been anyone else – simply exploited what they could of it.
And now, the Great Big Immigration Imbroglio of ‘06 has turned “the base” quite vicious. President Bush is no longer simply a moron or an idiot to his base, he is a bad man. He is a bad American. He is a bad president. Everything he does now, is wrong. As yesterday’s WSJ pointed out, Bush is closer to the deified Ronald Reagan on this issue than anyone on the right wants to admit. And they’d never do to Reagan what they are doing to Bush. Let’s look at a few Reagan quotes on the nature of those “far-right” conservatives, mmkay?
‘When I began entering into the give and take of legislative bargaining in Sacramento, a lot of the most radical conservatives who had supported me during the election didn’t like it.
‘Compromise was a dirty word to them and they wouldn’t face the fact that we couldn’t get all of what we wanted today. They wanted all or nothing and they wanted it all at once. If you don’t get it all, some said, don’t take anything.
‘I’d learned while negotiating union contracts that you seldom got everything you asked for. And I agreed with FDR, who said in 1933: ‘I have no expectations of making a hit every time I come to bat. What I seek is the highest possible batting average.’
‘If you got seventy-five or eighty percent of what you were asking for, I say, you take it and fight for the rest later, and that’s what I told these radical conservatives who never got used to it.’
Mr. Reagan, I salute you. I did not vote for you. Twice. I came too late to appreciation of you. But sir, some of us have been saying the same thing to “the base” for a few weeks now. They’re still not listening. They won’t, I imagine, until they absolutely must. And perhaps it will take a staggering defeat for that to happen.
President Bush’s immigration policies have not changed materially since he was Governor of Texas. You folks knew that when you elected him, twice. He has not changed, cannot change, because his policies arise not from his poll numbers but from his convictions and his conscience. You used to love that about him. Can everything, everything that needs to be done BE done, and all as you would have it done, in the real world, a world of bitter bipartisanship and a corrupted press?
Some say that the GOP should consider “losing in ‘06 to win in ‘08.” Some conservatives say that they’re going to not vote – to sit out an election or vote for a third party candidate to “teach the GOP a lesson.”
The far-right gwwwwarks like a cracker-obsessed parrot: Bush has abandoned the base, he’s abandoned the base, he’s abandoned the base.
Ever stop to think maybe the president feels his base has abandoned him, that uncontent with 75%, they’ve simply moved beyond reason? Ever stop to think that while you’re calling the president every despicable name in the book and demanding his fealty or you’ll “teach him a lesson,” that perhaps there is a lesson you need to learn? That a good man, disinterested in merely laughing or crying for the camera for 8 years and looking to do a difficult job in the face of unprecedented hate, unprecedent speed of communication, unprecedented global instability, unprecedented backstabbing from within his own CIA, deserves some loyalty and the benefit of a doubt as he tries to bring you the 75% you so callously spit back at him as insufficient?
We do not know everything we think we know. Nothing is static; everything is in flux, and it is very likely that more is at work here, on many levels, than any of us can dream. There are things seen and unseen. Think about it.
Here is a question, and I’ll be writing on it some more during the week, but start thinking about it, now: HOW DO YOU RECEIVE A GOOD?
How you receive a good has a lot to do with whether any more “good” comes your way. The Conservatives got a “good” in 2000 and 2004; they’re receiving it very badly, indeed. I think the throwing-under-the-bus-of-George-W-Bush by “the base” is one of the most shameful things I have ever witnessed in all my years of watching politics, from both sides of the political spectrum. How do you receive a good?
President Bush has never surprised me. He is, in essentials, the man he ever was. It does not surprise me that he is a Christian man living a creed before he is a President, that he is a President before he is a Conservative. It seems to me precisely the right order of things.
You “base” have received a great good. You’ve forgotten it. Continue to do so at your – at all our – great peril.
Related: Ed Morrissey, commenting on this WaPo piece I hadn’t even seen, echos a similiar thought about the unchanging Bush. Rick Moran is on the same wavelength with a good piece Alexandra has a sound piece up which reminds us of what Natan Sharansky thinks of President Bush. Bruce Kesler still thinks it’s fatigue. Mr. Tapscott remains unconvinced.Called as Seen has a series of related posts looking at what this is doing to the right and he is very rough indeed, on some of us. Much more so than me…I just glitter! The gang at Oh, How I Love Jesus has some more Reagan quotes you’ll want to go look at.
Bernard, unsurprisingly, disagrees with me and finds that this immigration issue trumps all else, but he does it in his characteristically generous and gentlemanly way. Prof. Bainbridge prepares to be blamed for a November disaster. I am inclined to ask, once more time, that my far-right conservative friends pull back from a hoary edge.