Wednesday, November 01, 2006

To whom it may concern, Dick Cheney is not a nice guy

For Kathy Flake who by this time may not remember that she urged me to write this one months ago.

Dear whatever members of the Media Elite are still inclined to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt and label those of us who don't think the country can survive much more of George being given the benefit of the doubt,

I don't hate the guy. Honest to God.

I'm mad at him. I've been mad at him for a while now. I was mad at him for stealing the Presidency. But I'd have gotten over it if the first thing he did when he became President hadn't been to set about emptying the Treasury. And I might have gotten over that if he hadn't gone and used 9/11 as cover for destroying his political opponents and lying us into a war we didn't need to fight and he had no idea how to win. I might even have gotten over that if he hadn't tried to parlay his supposed "mandate" from squeaking out a win in 2004, a win that's quite possibly as illegitimate as his first one, to try to dismantle Social Security. And I might even have let that one slide if he hadn't then gone and played air guitar while New Orleans and great chunks of Mississippi were drowning.

So, forgive me, I'm a little bit cheesed at the guy. I know that in your clubhouses in Washington disasterous failure is excusable as long as it isn't the work of Democrats, there's no sex involved, and it doesn't cause you any personal inconvenience, and that a private plane straying over the Lincoln Memorial frightens you more than the possibility that the Bush Administration's gearing up to nuke Iran, and by your lights losing one's cool over "politics" is a sign of rank amateurism. But I am a rank amateur---outside of the Beltway we rank amateurs are known by another name. Citizens. And it used to be expected of citizens that they get upset when they see their country being ruined by dishonest and incompetent leaders.

But, I swear, I don't hate the guy.

I actually have some sympathy for him.

As the less than brilliant first-born son of a brilliant, hyperachieving, and super-competent father, I know what it's like to grow up feeling that nothing you do measures up, that whatever you manage to achieve will be overshadowed by what the old man is up to or compared to what he did when he was your age or judged by whether or not it shows you are on your way to becoming a chip off the old block, that whatever your talents are and whichever path your heart is whispering you to you to follow, you should be following in his footsteps and hurrying, hurrying to keep up.

I know what it's like to know in your bones you're just not good enough, that you were born already a failure. The President and I have a lot in common that way and we should do group together after he leaves office.

Furthermore, I know how I was luckier than he was. I had a mother who loved me for who I was and not for the version of my father she expected be to grow up to be, and while my father couldn't always hide his disappointment, and his perplexity, at the obvious signs I was not going to turn out to be his mini-me, Pop Mannion never really expected me to be anything other than myself, he never made me feel I had to compete with him, and he did not make me feel like an idiot when I did not measure up---I did that to myself.

So along with sympathizing with the guy, I've sometimes felt a little bit sorry for him.

But there's a difference between us---besides the obvious one that he's President of the United States and I'm a blogger, and if anybody's going to feel sorry for anybody, it's him for me, but I'll take a check instead of pity, if that's all right with him---and that difference is that while I was growing up thinking I should be more like my old man and berating myself because I wasn't, I was paying attention to what made him what he was.

I saw that he was talented in areas I wasn't, that he had an ability to organize and execute that I didn't begin to possess, that he wasn't just smarter than me, he was smarter than just about every other adult I knew, that he had far more energy, patience, and endurance than most every other adult I knew. The few adults who matched him were like him, high-achieving leaders in their fields.

But the most important thing I noticed about my father and those other high-achieving leaders is that they worked like demons.

They earned their places as leaders.

Whatever bad you can say against George Herbert Walker Bush, and there's a lot, you can't look at the man's biography and think, Wow, what a lazy underachieving slacker. How in the world did he get to be President?

So it's never been that I've hated George W. Bush. It's that he has always filled me with disgust and contempt, disgust and contempt that is motivated by patriotism.

The obvious lesson George W. Bush should have learned as the son of George Herbert Walker Bush was that he wasn't his father. He wasn't cut out to have as his own career a repeat of his old man's.

But if George W. Bush learned any lessons from observing his father while growing up, it was simply this: My dad is a king, as his son that makes me a prince, and as a prince I am entitled to the rewards of his successes and achievements.

No one who sees himself or herself as a form of royalty has any business running for any office in a democracy.

Please. Don't give me the Kennedys or Al Gore. Whatever sense of entitlement they were imbued with came along with a lesson that not only did they still have to work for whatever they got, they had to work harder than everybody else. Not every Kennedy has lived up to this ideal, but the ones who have counted have, and Gore certainly has.

And I will give George Herbert Walker this: it's an ideal he accepted and lived out. It's just too bad he was able to impart it to only one of his sons, the one who is now governor of Florida, the one most like his old man, and the one who ought to have been the son who ran for President and who now most likely never will get to because his older brother got in his way and ruined it for him.

Jeb Bush is the reason that, while I am disgusted by George Bush, I really do hate Dick Cheney.

Several very smart, very talented, extremely competent men found upon becoming President that they weren't cut out for the job. It seems to be finally dawning upon people in Washington that George W. Bush isn't just not cut out for the job, not just not up to it, but temperamentally geared to be a bad President.

Not simply a failed President, but a destructive one.

The man even seems to define success as destruction.

For anyone who is still in doubt, Alan Wolfe spells it out. George Bush, Wolfe explains, "is a remarkably weak man."

Good to have that pointed out. But it's not news.

Thanks to Maha for the link to Wolfe's essay. Maha follows up with some insight of her own, laying out her reasons for believing that "Emotionally, George Bush appears to be a man who never quite made it through adolescence."

What George W. Bush is he has been for a long time. What he is is obvious to anyone who's ever read the man's resume. I've known what he is for a long time, but then I've always read Molly Ivins.

She warned us about him back when he was governor of Texas.

I have enough residual sympathy for him, and enough pop-psych in my brain, to think that the reason George Bush is such a destructive force is that he's a self-destructive man. When he decided that he should be his father, or at least recapitulate for himself his father's career, he started a war upon himself the fallout from which everybody around him has always had to duck.

When he decided to run for President, I was appalled. My pride as an American in the Presidency was shaken. As far as I'm concerned, President of the United States is George Washington's job and everyone who's come after him has been holding his coat. This means that I think that everyone who decides to run for the office should be honestly able to point to things about himself or herself that shows they are worthy of George Washington's trust.

There has never been a man in the office so unworthy. It appalled me that George W. Bush looked over his own life, looked over his father's, looked over the list of men who had been President and said to himself, Yeah, I'm as good as they are, I can do what they did.

Then I realized that isn't what happen. He never did the comparisons. He never thought to. He assumed he should be President because he was born to it. That's when I became disgusted with him.

Since he became President, I have learned some things as a father that have revived some of my sympathy for him. I truly believe that there is something not quite right with him.

What I used to think of as monstrous vanity and arrogance I now suspect is actually delusion. Wolfe writes that for Bush believing a thing to be true is as good as its being true. Reality for him is what's inside his head. Wolfe seems to attribute this to a combination of Bush's own character flaws with the tendency of the sycophants and machiavellians around him to keep him isolated. He's trapped inside a bubble of his own and his aide's making and he is too vain and too stubborn, and too weak, to see it or want to break out of it.

But I can't help thinking that he was born trapped inside that bubble. There is a clinical term for people who live inside their own heads, who can't interact completely and normally with other people, who seem to have no empathy with others and no sense that what they think is going on might not be what in fact is going on, who get angry and act out when the reality intrudes and they are forced to choose between the world inside their heads and the world outside.

That word begins with an A.

And I'm not thinking of alcoholic, although Bush's behavior is in many ways that of one still, even though he has supposedly sobered up. The dry drunk syndrome is an established fact.

And this again is why I hate Dick Cheney.

End of Part One.


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