Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sympathy for the Dubya

I promise not to turn this into a political blog, but like many bloggers this morning, I just had to comment.

Full disclosure: I picked Obama as a winner (and the winner) quite some time ago, early in the Democratic nomination process when few would have given him odds (Heather can testify to this). And I'm no fan in any way, shape, or form of the current administration. But yesterday's (hopefully) sea-changing election, and its implied repudiation of the G. W. Bush White House, brought to mind a story that argues against making one's political enemies into cartoon villains. It also, possibly, argues in favor of our president-elect's call for humility among the victors last night.

I can't remember which White House correspondant told this story -- but it came from the dark, dark days immediately after 9/11, when the sky was indeed falling and nobody knew when the next attack might come. The correspondant told President Bush something along the lines of how he sympathized with the latter, because "nobody asks to lead under circumstances like these."

Bush's response was as revealing as it was (to many Democrats, at least) surprising: He shot back, "Some of us do ask for it."

Damn. Just when I had the guy comfortably cubbyholed as a lightweight, he says something, off the cuff (so that you know it wasn't scripted), that gets more profound every time I read it. Contrary to the broad parody that many of us (me included) have accepted for the man, there is clearly an intellect there, an ability for self-reflection I had no idea existed in the guy. There may be layers of rich-kid, frat-boy, and tough-guy-candidate covering it up, but this is in fact a guy who realizes he is fallible, and that his choices carry profound weight. Maybe his political career did not allow him to show that side of himself -- everybody else in his family is pretty sharp, and the best critiques of his intellect I've heard are not that he's not very bright, but that he's just incurious -- but it's there all the same.

So there it is; many of my fellow Dems will say it's precious little after eight years of rock-solid self-assurance in defiance of any contrary evidence. Many Republicans will bristle that I ever bought into the over-simplification. But the story speaks to me, somehow, way out of proportion to its place and time.

God bless America.

1 comment:

Barton Paul Levenson said...

You can probably remember me dismissing him c. 2001 as "just another mediocre American president." I really wanted to believe that he was just one more president, centrist despite his rhetoric, and that 4-8 years of him wouldn't be too bad. I had no idea how bad it would actually get.

Nonetheless, I agree about the man's intellect. He has an MBA from Yale; he can't be a total idiot. But dear God, he's done a rotten job as president. I used to dismiss the idea that he was the worst president ever as partisan hyperbole; I'm not so sure any more -- did Nixon, Harding, (Andrew) Johnson, Grant, do as poor a job?. I just hope Obama can undo some of the damage.