Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Message: I Care."

Only because I can resist anything but temptation:

"My son is an honest man," Bush told members of the audience harshly criticized the current U.S. leader's foreign policy.

"We do not respect your son. We do not respect what he's doing all over the world," a woman in the audience bluntly told Bush after his speech.

Bush, 82, appeared stunned as others in the audience whooped and whistled in approval.

A college student told Bush his belief that U.S. wars were aimed at opening markets for American companies and said globalization was contrived for America's benefit at the expense of the rest of the world. Bush was having none of it.

"I think that's weird and it's nuts," Bush said. "To suggest that everything we do is because we're hungry for money, I think that's crazy. I think you need to go back to school."

The hostile comments came during a quesion-and-answer session after Bush finished a folksy address on leadership by telling the audience how deeply hurt he feels when his presidential son is criticized.

"This son is not going to back away," Bush said, his voice quivering. "He's not going to change his view because some poll says this or some poll says that, or some heartfelt comments from the lady who feels deeply in her heart about something. You can't be president of the United States and conduct yourself if you're going to cut and run. This is going to work out in Iraq. I understand the anxiety. It's not easy."
I'm tempted to dismiss this as Bush's "I am not a crook" moment. I'm not sure criticism of foreign policy is the equivalent of saying the President is dishonest. He may be perfectly honest in his opinions about Iraq. That doesn't make him right, however; nor does it foreclose explanations based on greed.

If so much of the world didn't seem to agree with this, though, I'd say the elder Bush was simply delusional:

"He is working hard for peace. It takes a lot of guts to get up and tell a father about his son in those terms when I just told you the thing that matters in my heart is my family," he said. "How come everybody wants to come to the United States if the United States is so bad?"
Guts? Well, maybe. But especially when speaking directly to the people most affected by the President's "honesty," that statement has the ring of the soldier's line about Patton, 'Ol' Blood 'n' Guts:' "Our blood, his guts." I'm not sure these people were courageous so much as honest; a quality usually admired in the abstract, and derided in the concrete.

The interesting part, however, is the piercing of the bubble, and how poorly Bush responds to it, rhetorically. The cliche about "everybody wants to come to America" is bad enough; but the flat out denial, especially for a man of Bush's wealth, and for a foreign policy that has so singularly served Halliburton, among other US companies, so well, is simply farcical. Still, there is that quiver in his voice, which comes up when he defends his son for being "a real man," for not being a coward who would "cut and run." If this were Greek tragedy it would be a minor one, but this would be the point when the Chorus realized it's hero had feet of clay, and maybe it was time to ask the gods for a little help, because they can see how this is going to end, and it's not going to be pretty.

"This is going to work out in Iraq." Like saying his son his honest, that's not exactly a statement you can quarrel with; but it's also not the question. Surely someday, things will work out in Iraq. Despite the pessimism of the Greeks that gave rise to such beautiful and dreadful tragedies, chaos is not a constant of nations, or of peoples. So, yes, "this is going to work out in Iraq." But not soon; and not without even more needless death. Their blood; our guts.

Imagine living in such a bubble of power and prosperity you have the nerve to stand in a room full of people on the receiving end of your country's military might, and speaking to them as Poppy did. That's a little frightening, too.

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