One more thing about Bush. (He’s not so dumb).

January 23, 2009 | By | 2 Replies More

I promise I won’t muse any more about Bush for quite a while- unless something really juicy happens. Right now, though, I can’t resist. After a year or more of Bush keeping himself entirely mum and dull, his demise has sparked a mini-flurry of consideration- for me, anyway. 

Has everyone seen Bush’s final press conference? Has everyone noticed how different this man is from the bumbling, cutesy elf we’ve gotten accustomed to? This Bush reflects on his failures with some consideration, and throws away the pall of confidence that every politician uses when justifying past behavior.

It strikes me as weird to hear this man chew on long-held criticisms of Katrina, “Mission Accomplished” and the like- and to learn that he actually gets it. He knows that he has done things decidely unpolitic, rude and wrong. This man shakes his head sadly before saying that “not having weapons of mass destruction” was a major disappointment. I actually feel for this guy.

Note, too, the seeming improvement in Bush’s language. This incarnation strings together longer, more complex sentences than I recall from before, and without as many smirks and pauses. He uses words like “expedite” and “envision”; he crafts sentences like “I strongly disagree with [your] assessment.”   He talks about his emotions,  and creates a coherent timeline in his personal journey, from 9/11 all the way to how he imagines his future self. He touches on his alcoholism! Bizarre.

In the light of this “ultimate exit interview”, I would like to formally withdraw any speculation that Bush has presenile dementia.  His drawling, meandering speech did not signal decline. It was a ruse. A cute marketing trick, a gimmick to fall back on in moments of difficulty. This interview, along with the revelation that Bush apparently reads 50-60 books a year, makes me think that the Bush Administration took us all on a lark. We laughed at him, but his ditzy behavior got the better of us.

I’ll allow the possibility that Bush’s reading list does not reflect reality, that his people fabricated it to create a favorable appearance; I’ll accept that, perhaps, his press conference does not represent his usual cognitive functioning. But right now, I doubt both of those things. To me, it seems far more likely that Bush has distracted us all with his fake cowboyism, baiting critics to draw a little attention away from discussion of policy or leadership style.  All the while, beneath the veneer, Bush was a complex, moderately reflective, and moderately intelligent man. This of course means he knew exactly what terrible things he was doing. No wonder he looks so sad.

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Category: American Culture, Current Events, Politics

About the Author ()

Erika is a PhD student in Social Psychology living in Chicago. Here on DI she most often writes about current events, psychology, skepticism, media and internet culture.

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  1. TheThinkingMan says:

    Erika, I am loathe to admit that what you assess might actually be very close to the truth. Though I do not believe Bush to be a significantly pensive or intelligent man by any means (given his educational history and Southern Cowboy attitude), however I am quite sure that he has been putting on a ruse to the American people.

    I had thought this even when he was running for President in 2000. I figured that he had to play to his Southern, Blue-Collar, Evangelical Republican base. He wanted to be one of the "good ol' boys" he wanted the uneducated lower-middle class Caucasian Americans to relate to him, and they did.

    I live in the South, and a remarkable amount of men and women down here relate to Bush, and truly believed in him, and truly saw themselves in him. Whether or not he was playing to these people the entire time considering his policy decisions or whether he himself was being hoodwinked by others in his administration is not sure, however. In any case, I'm glad it is all done with.

  2. Erika,

    I saw that interview as well. I don't think he does "get it." Oh, he knows he screwed up, but he clearly didn't seem to understand how. He only knows people don't like him.

    He prevaricated, copped to a degree of responsibility while whining about the atmosphere in D.C., and seemed not to have understood that his tax stand, his cronyism, his adherence to a cowboy persona, and his basic front-loading on decision with an attitude of "This is what I want to do, so let's figure out how to sell it!" have all led to one of the most failed administrations since Hoover.

    I ain't cuttin' him any slack. If as president you don't understand something, your job is to find the people who do understand it and act accordingly. Instead, he tended to fire those people because they disagreed with him. Moron by accident or moron by policy choice, either way…moron.

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