Saturday, March 04, 2006

This just in

The president is a stupid, incurious man who cannot do his job.

John Dickerson just got the memo this past week, when he saw the videotapes of President Bush listening mutely to an ever-more frightening list of warnings from the Army Corps of Engineers, from FEMA, and from the National Hurricane Center. Bush asked no questions. For me, that's really all I need to hear. Bush asked no questions. A category five hurricane is heading towards a major city, a national treasure of a city with 1.2 million people living in it, but he asked no questions. A meteorologist warns him in detail of massive loss of life, yet Bush asked no questions. FEMA director Michael Brown, rarely the brightest person in any room, tells Bush and the others that he has a bad feeling about this hurricane, but Bush asked no questions.

It was a remarkable thing to many people when Michael Moore's movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, showed President Bush on the morning of 9/11/2001. The details were not widely known before the movie was released. As the clip starts, Bush knows that a plane has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. At that point, it appeared to be nothing more than an awful accident, and he continued his public appearance at the elementary school. As he sat there, listening to the teacher and the school children do their phonics lessons, the second plane crashed into World Trade Center. Andy Card, his chief of staff, walked over to him, and whispered into his ear, "A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack." Bush did nothing. He did nothing. For five minutes Bush did nothing. You can watch the video.

It was obvious to me in 1999 that George Bush was a boob. He knows as much about social policy and history and geopolitics as the drunken yahoo next to you on a bar stool who tells you he wants America to "fuck up that Saddam Hussein" and "get them lazy bastards off welfare". Bush was a useful front for very powerful forces in America, and he has served that role to an unimaginably perfect degree. His presidency has literally meant billions to different companies. Although the neconservative dream of making America the permanent international hegemon was a pipe dream, Bush did everything he was asked to do by the vulcans.

Bush is the ideal front man, because other than wanting to be popular, he simply doesn't care. People die, people live: he's ok. He runs on the treadmill, he makes a speech to a hand-picked, adoring crowd. Life is good. He is content to remain in his bubble. He's President Truman — President Truman Burbank, in a stomach-churning sequel to The Truman Show.

Who could have guessed, in the middle of 1999, that Bush would be able to fool so many in the press so thoroughly? Who could have dreamed that seemingly capable reporters like John Dickerson would buy into the president as CEO story, and ignore the plain evidence that should have been obvious to all? (Digby grumbles eloquently about this issue at greater length.)

From this column, Dickerson is not yet a member of the Ancient and Hermetic Order of the Shrill, and he will probably never be more than a junior member. But the press has a great deal to answer for in terms of Bush's popularity. Now that Bush has a 34% approval rating, the press feels it is safe to unleash videos like this, ones that they have had for six goddamn months without releasing. After two decades of endless, harass-the-umpire claims from the right-wing that the press is liberal, the press has completely internalized this abuse, to the extent that they do not release negative stories about Bush because it would seem, well, too negative of the press to mention, say, that the White House paid to have a gay hooker come into the White House so he could pretend to be a reporter and lob softball questions to the press secretary. The facts are biased, as The Daily Show first informed us.

How in the world did we reach this point? I didn't like the policies of Reagan, but when he had to, he fired people and changed his policies. Although a simpleton, he did read books and he talked to policy experts. Reagan's speeches read like Faulkner next to Bush's stammering explanations of what "evildoers" want. I didn't like George H.W. Bush, either; but he told Israel where to get off when the settlers got too aggressive, and he did actually coordinate a genuine international response to the Kuwait invasion.

What changed to make George W. Bush acceptable as a president? You, whoever you are (lecteur hypercritique, mon semblable?), you read more news than the President of the United States. You, whoever you are, would ask a question in any imaginable situation that threatened 1.2 million people's lives. You, whoever you are, would not sit quietly for five minutes listening to elementary school prattle after hearing of a terrorist attack from your top aide. Bush did nothing. He sat quietly and asked no questions in both instances, both times when American lives were at stake. He waited to be told what to do. The emperor has no clothes. Bush is surrounded by a highly capable group of people whose job is to make him look competent. He is not. He is a sad, dry drunk who preens in the middle of his bubble, while the world burns.

(Photos from CBS News and the Center for Cooperative Research.)


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