The Cult of Bush Hate

I think someone spiked by Diet Pepsi. It’s gotta be that or something else, perhaps all the insecticide we sprayed in the office earlier upon discovering a cockroach roughly the size of a fist hiding away in one of my coworker’s drawers.

There has to be some sort of chemically induced explanation because frankly, I don’t know if I can wrap my head around columnist and former Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan sounding like a liberal.

It’s been a slow week in a hot era. I found myself Thursday watching President Bush’s news conference and thinking about what it is about him, real or perceived, that makes people who used to smile at the mention of his name now grit their teeth. I mean what it is apart from the huge and obvious issues on which they might disagree with him.

I’m not referring to what used to be called Bush Derangement Syndrome. That phrase suggested that to passionately dislike the president was to be somewhat unhinged. No one thinks that anymore. I received an email before the news conference from as rock-ribbed a Republican as you can find, a Georgia woman (middle-aged, entrepreneurial) who’d previously supported him. She said she’d had it. “I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.” I was startled by her vehemence only because she is, as I said, rock-ribbed. Her email reminded me of another, one a friend received some months ago: “I took the W off my car today,” it said on the subject line. It sounded like a country western song, like a great lament.

As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president’s seemingly effortless high spirits. He’s in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn’t seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn’t Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president’s since polling began. He’s in a good mood. Discuss.

It’s insane. Here’s a woman who would go on Hannity and Colmes about once a month and wax poetic about our big powerful leader, and now she’s… criticizing him? His flaws are “obvious”? Our president, President George W. Bush, is a romantic lacking in a firm grasp of reality?

Perhaps even more unsettling is that this isn’t an article written in shock, or even realization or resignation. There’s an almost cool, ambivalent metaphysical quality to the piece as though the coping mechanisms have already taken their toll, and Noonan is firmly in the camp of people who are living with the fact that this President is an abomination.

I do wonder particularly why we “can’t fire the president” but aside from this, with great personal detachment, Noonan almost comes off as a lefty.

I must be in Bizzarro world.

So while Peggy stumbles through an explanation, the truth is that the real reason people don’t like this president is for the same vast myriad of reasons that we on the left could not stand him all along.

Spearheading her argument is the assertion that he just doesn’t seem to care. He’s accomplished nothing throughout his presidency, his policies in Iraq were a collective failure of astronomic proportions, and yet he’s still out there ribbing folks, chuckling, and carrying on like it doesn’t matter. Indeed, this goes back to reports of inner circle meetings between Bush and his advisors wherein when evidence was first cropping up in Iraq that maybe they were wrong about WMD’s, Bush seemed particularly unconcerned.

But again, we knew this. Bush simply doesn’t care, and I have been hard pressed to find a more eloquent expression of this sentiment than that presented by author E. L. Doctorow:

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn’t the mind for it. You see him joking with the press, peering under the table for the weapons of mass destruction he can’t seem to find, you see him at rallies strutting up to the stage in shirt sleeves to the roar of the carefully screened crowd, smiling and waving, triumphal, a he-man.

He does not mourn. He doesn’t understand why he should mourn. He is satisfied during the course of a speech written for him to look solemn for a moment and speak of the brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
But you study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be.

They come to his desk not as youngsters with mothers and fathers or wives and children who will suffer to the end of their days a terribly torn fabric of familial relationships and the inconsolable remembrance of aborted life . . . they come to his desk as a political liability, which is why the press is not permitted to photograph the arrival of their coffins from Iraq.

So while LBJ was beaten down by the Vietnam War, while Nixon realized that the only decent thing to do was to resign, even while Clinton let show his personal frustration and regret in cabinet meetings during the Lewinsky scandal, this president is incapable of understand his own fallibility. This is one of the reasons why we on the Left could never stand him, and now our friends and enemies on the Right, are finally following suit.

During both the 2000 and 2004 elections, we on the Left would try with all our might to make it clear that competence is a key. As one analogy has it, if you’ve got a stomach ache, you go to the kindly old village doctor who cures you with a coke and a smile. When you’re lying out on the operating table, hemmoraging blood at a deadly rate, and suffering from severe complications, kick that old kindly doctor out the OR, and get the guy who knows everything in.

Those on the Right wanted someone they could have a beer with. We on the Left could never sit down at a football party with Bush, and now that he’s severely damaged this country in so many ways, it seems some of our friends and enemies on the Right are again following suit.

As Noonan points out at the beginning of her article, we critics of this President were oft accused of, “Bush Derangement Syndrome. That phrase suggested that to passionately dislike the president was to be somewhat unhinged.” Any criticism was met with, “Oh you just hate the man.”

Oh yes, we did. But this wasn’t without reason. I can not stand to listen to him talk; if I absolutely MUST know about the words that come out of his mouth, I intentionally eschew the video clips and start digging out transcripts. His voice, his accent, his face, all put together combine to form a sort of multi-faceted dragging of nails across the chalkboard, but why? Because virtually every idea he has championed I have found offensive, because I was boggled by the fact that someone so willingly ignorant, someone so opposed to intellectual curiosity could be running our country. I hated because I trusted the man about as far as I could throw him, and with Secret Service agents there to body tackle me if I even tried, that equates to roughly zero.

So, now Righties are hopping on the bandwagon we built with our own hands. The only shock I can express is in how long it took for everyone else to catch on, and the only thing I can say is, “Welcome Aboard.”

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