Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Non-Personal Reaction to Our Wreck-in-Chief

The following statements are culled from a recent BBC interview with George W. Bush conducted by Matt Frei (via):

Frei: But, do you regret, rather, I should say that you didn't listen to your - some of your commanders earlier, to send more troops to Iraq to achieve the kind of results that we're seeing now?

Mr Bush: You know, my commanders didn't tell me that early. My commanders said, "We got the right level of troops."
This is patently false, of course, but Bush is just getting warmed up with the self-serving lies and prevarications. From the same interview:
Frei: But, given Guantanamo Bay, given also Abu Ghraib, given renditions, does this not send the wrong signal to the world?

Mr Bush: It should send a signal that America is going to respect law. But, it's gonna take actions necessary to protect ourselves and find information that may protect others. Unless, of course, people say, "Well, there's no threat. They're just making up the threat. These people aren't problematic." But, I don't see how you can say that in Great Britain after people came and, you know, blew up bombs in subways. I suspect the families of those victims are - understand the nature of killers. And, so, what people gotta understand is that we'll make decisions based upon law. We're a nation of law [...]

Frei: Can you honestly say, Mr President, that today America still occupies the moral high ground?

Mr Bush: Absolutely - absolutely. We believe in human rights and human dignity. We believe in the human condition. We believe in freedom. And we're willing to take the lead.
Sigh. It's hard to read the words without imagining Bush making that exasperated little grunt noise he makes in the rare instances when he steps out his bubble of fawning advisors long enough to speak to an unreceptive audience. That aside, even to classify these statements as rationalization is an insult to the human art of self-justification, which I've seen more adroitly done by below-average preteens.

I prefer to avoid the embarrassed-by-my-president trope since it validates the hyperpersonalization of politics, whereas I think what politicians do matters infinitely more than what sort of persons they are. I can see being embarrassed by (or proud of) a sibling, parent, neighbor, friend, etc., but we don't have that kind of relationship with the president, and it's silly to pretend we do.

No, it's a lot worse than silly: the emphasis on personal characteristics feeds and is fed by lazy journalism and lazy thinking about the real consequences of politics, leading, for example, to a president with whom lots of people claim they want to have a beer but who can barely complete a valid English sentence and who has made a shocking ruin of everything he's touched in the realm of public policy, including Iraq, but going well beyond. The best he can say for himself -- petulantly -- is that "leadership is hard," or words to that effect, and "folks in the future will appreciate my decisions," or words to that effect. More often, he just asserts things that his own presidential deeds undercut: "we don't torture" and "we believe in human rights and human dignity."

Bush is a distant figure to us, someone who occupies the tee-vee screen and the column inches, someone who might as well be a fictional character for most purposes. There are severe limits to what it can mean for me or anyone to like or dislike him; he's the POTUS, not a babysitter. I am not embarrassed by or ashamed of George W. Bush in any way that matters. That's not the point. He has been stunningly incompetent as president and depressingly thin as a thinker, and his deeds have wrecked lives and a lot more.

This is cross-posted at the Out of Iraq Bloggers Caucus. (direct link)

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