Sunday, August 14, 2005

From the Teflon President to the Tone-deaf President

I've been avoiding this whole Cindy Sheehan thing because, frankly, I find the whole thing too sad to wish to spend what's been limited blogging time writing about. But then I read this post by Digby, and I'm once again confronted with what I think is the central reality of George W. Bush: the man is frighteningly, stunningly tone-deaf, and the only reason he's secured two terms as President is by virtue of the Democrats managing to find, in two consecutive elections, a guy just slightly more tone-deaf than him as an opponent. Here's what Bush said:

(W)hether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides.

Good God, that man is just an absolute clod. "Yeah, you're hurting, but man, you're draggin' me down!"

The weird thing is that Bush could pretty much defuse this thing pretty easily, or he could have done so, by simply coming out with his Secret Service detail and a few reporters to meet with Cindy Sheehan. In a very short meeting, he could have simply said something like this:

"The worst part of being President is sending Americans to what is their death. Every President has done it, and as far as I'm aware, no President has hated any part of their job more than that one. Your son didn't have to die, but he did die in service to this country, and I honor him for that. If you disagree with my reasons for sending our soldiers to war, and if you hate me for leading this country into the war that took your son's life, I completely respect that. All I can say is that I thank your son for his service, as I do that of all the sons and daughters who didn't come home."

And then, end of meeting. That would have ended it, right then and there. It would have treated this hurting mother with respect, and it didn't need to refight the whole debate over the war in the first place. It would have made Bush look like the better person.

But no. The real George W. Bush is someone who will not suffer dissent in his presence. This is a President who wants desperately to believe that dissent is something that maybe should be technically allowed, but never paid attention to. Dissenters rank even lower than children: they should be neither seen nor heard. Every proclamation of the President's should be greeted with Hossanah's from the faithful, and don't worry about the non-faithful, because God will have his way with them in the end.

"It's important that I be able to go on with my life"?! Saying this in reference to the mother whose son no longer even has a life? And then going out on a damn bike ride?

If you wanted a balanced life, Mr. Bush, you should never have run for President. Presidents don't get to have normal, balanced lives. Presidents don't get to be the normal guy. You gave that right up when you took the Oath of Office, and when you decided to pursue actions that would deny any life at all to over a thousand American soldiers. You wanted the power to wage war; you insisted on exercising that power, for good or ill. Don't complain now because the dark underbelly of exercising that power interferes with your month-long vacation.

Show me a President who is trying to enjoy a balanced life, and I'll show you a President who is sleeping at the rudder of the Ship of State.

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