Theater of the Absurd
As I write this I am watching the President's teleconference with a dozen hand-picked troops in Iraq. It's painful.
Before the conference began CNN White House correspondent, Bob Franken, said he knew the event would start soon because he could hear the assembled soldiers "practicing their impromptu responses to the President's impromptu questions."
Even the old Soviet leaders were not this obvious or ham-handed. If this had been a high school presentation it would have deserved a D grade. After one trooper delivered his lines, George looked down at his notes and replied, "Hmm, that's interesting."
Yes George, if war is anything, it's interesting.
Of course, all the soldier's comments were positive. None of the soldiers had any bad news to deliver to their Commander-in-Chief because, as we all know, nothing bad ever happens in Iraq.
They even threw in a token Iraqi soldier whose only line was, "Mr. President, I like you." To which President George replied, "Well, I like you too." (Awww, how sweet, but remember George -- "Don't ask, don't tell.")
The whole reason for this morning's dog and pony show was to show George W. Bush "engaged," as a "hands-on" kind leader. That's also why he's been down to Louisiana so many times lately he may have to pay state taxes there.
The flaw in this new PR strategy is that Bush's handlers have decided to make him look in charge at the very time growing numbers of Americans would prefer he be anything but.
Nevertheless George W. Bush, who at the height of his popularity made almost no effort to get involved in the nitty gritty of governance, is suddenly everywhere. I expect any day now will begin tagging buildings in cities he visits with "George Was Here."
It's pure, unadulterated, painfully obvious desperation. Because today George is living his worst nightmare. His entire adult life has been a quest to avoid being unmasked as mediocre – or worse. It must remind him of his first few months in office. I recall those early days clearly. Bush had an expression on his face back then that said, "Oh, oh. Now I've done it. They want me to actually do stuff."
Then 9/11 saved him. Suddenly he could play to his only strength – pretending. He had fooled everyone for in the past by pretending, pretending he actually served in the Air National Guard, pretending he was a fighter pilot, then pretending he was self-made businessman. But in those charades his father was both his producer and stage manager. When Junior finally finagled his way into the world's top job there were no more strings Dad could pull to make him look successful when he failed. Nor was there enough money in the Bush Family Trust to buy him out the enormous jams he could get into as President of the United States.
That dawned on George about a week after he arrived in the Oval Office. And he was scared. If you go back and look at video from that period the expression on his face looked eerily like that of Michael "Brownie" Brown's a week after Katrina. ("Who am I. Why am here?")
Then terrorist killed 3000 Americans and saved Junior. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 allowed George W. to do what he did best again, pretend. Many still wonder what he thinking during those long painful minutes he read The Goat to little children after being told of the attacks? Something along these lines I suspect:
"Hmmm.. should I do a John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood?.... I want to say stuff like, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive," and 'Go ahead, make my day," show I'm not scared, 'bring-em on....' That kinda stuff."
And so it came to pass. George W. Bush, the empty vessel, filled himself with the character of a swaggering Texas cowboy. He started walking slightly bow-legged and moseyed on over to Ground Zero to strut his phony stuff. The sad part is, it worked for him – again.
But four year later that character has lost it's appeal and George suddenly finds himself back where he was before 9/11 – directionless valueless and utterly clueless. He's in way over his head, and knows it. Dad can't help and neither can his theatrical agent, Karl Rove. His substitute father figure, Dick Cheney, is reportedly sick and tired of picking up after Junior and apparently decided to just let him stew in the problems he creates, like Harriet Miers.
Alone and on his own -- it's the most terrifying set of circumstances imaginable to George. Worse yet, it comes at a time when nothing seems to be going right. The war in Iraq has become the war in Vietnam. The phony recovery he bought with tax cuts and borrowed money is headed for deep trouble. His stubborn dependence on antiquated, finite and ecologically harmful fossil fuels has come home to roost - with a vengence. And, after lying to them, leaders around the world no longer believe a word that comes out of his mouth.
So we get pathetic displays like this morning's Orwellian teleconference. No longer able to govern, his poll numbers plumbing new depths, his most trusted aides heading for court and/or jail, his Supreme Court nominee wandering the halls of congress bugging reluctant Senators like a Jehovah Witness – it's all coming apart. The audience is walking out on him.
Now comes the death watch -- a political and emotional death of a thousand cuts. A slow-motion train wreck, televised. For the next three years we will have to watch George W. Bush stumble from character to character in search of a persona able to mask his utter vacuousness and again attract admiring crowds.
Today's character was "hands on Commander-in-Chief." His supporting actors were real soldiers, who delivered them about as well as one would expect of troops on active duty in a combat zone.
Who's the President of the United States going to be next week? Charlton Heston? Billy Graham? Maxwell Smart? Gomer Pile?
Check your program guide.
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