Sunday, February 20, 2005

Bush lets his hair down--and guess what?....

....he's pretty much the same in private as in public, even according to the NY Times (linked article requires registration).

Let's see--so, he's insightful and relatively articulate (even without evil puppeteer Rove feeding him the words), loving towards his family, warm and jokey with friends, genuinely religious, resolute about his principles, unbigoted towards gays personally, upfront about his wild youth but more interested in talking about what he's learned from it. What a surprise.

Hard to take issue with that--unless, of course, you think Bush is an idiot. Then, it must be like that old Saturday Night Live skit about Reagan--expect this time, it's not so funny. You know, the one where Reagan is a doddering old fool in public and then, as soon as all the strangers leave the room and he's alone with his aides in the Oval Office, he's sharp as a tack and quick as a whip. I used to get a big bang out of that skit back when I was a liberal Democrat.


At 4:53 PM, February 20, 2005, Blogger $eth said...

I'm not sure that I entirely agree with your take on this article as indicating that Bush is "resolute about his principles."

Most importantly, I did not find these tapes to be revealing of Bush's private beliefs. The sense that I got was that he was already practicing his lines on them. Being as successful a politician as he is requires taking your political stances very seriously, and the NYT article seemed to indicate stances more than deeply held beliefs.

The portrait that I take from the article is more one of a person very driven to be president and very willing to work at gaining power. But it is a very calculated image, filled with lines to appease special interest groups, bitterness towards his rivals (notice that he makes no note of a common cause with other republicans, but simply views them as enemies, dismisses John McCain out of hand, and expresses his intention to punish Steve Forbes in the event of a loss). He clearly wants power, and I didn't read anything to suggest that he wants it for any particular moral goal.

The biggest surprise of the article for me was the shadow that it cast on his Christian beliefs. Bush was quoted as saying:

As you said, there are some code words. There are some proper ways to say things, and some improper ways." He added, "I am going to say that I've accepted Christ into my life. And that's a true statement."

After hearing this I asked asked around, and was told that in an interview with This American Life, Bush had a great deal of trouble recalling any particular passage from the bible that was meaningful to him. I believe that the audio of this recording is available here (, but I can't listen to it at the library where I'm writing from. Still, this makes me question the role of religion in his life, which I had previously thought to be a rather prominent one. Personally I would prefer a more secular Bush, but it casts a shadow on his rhetoric of honesty, straightforwardness, and Christian Values.

The whole thing seems like a pretty interesting study in how the two of us can read the same article and bring our own biases towards it. And of course these are filtered by the biases of our friendly NYT reporter, David D. Kirkpatrick, and Doug Wead himself, who only choose to release some of the tapes. From what I read I did not find enough evidence to change my opinion of Bush particularly, although I certainly can find evidence to support my own biases.

Perhaps with more information we could learn more, but I suspect that we will not find it in these tapes. We need to remember that although these were personal conversations, they were with a man helping him to create his public persona and to shape his image. What reason do we really have to think that he would tell this man anything incriminating? And why would we think that the details of this conversation would reveal anything about his deeply held personal beliefs, just because he didn't know that he was being recorded?

At 8:25 PM, February 20, 2005, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Beauty, of course, is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

I wouldn't be so naive as to think that this article would change the mind of a confirmed Bush-hater (not that I'm lumping you in with that particular camp--but, certainly, you're far from a Bush-lover, as one of my good friends once incorrectly accused me of being, with a teasing twist in her voice). And I am in total agreement that Bush is a consummate politician, and as such is absolutely strategic in many of his statements, even the ones in this interview. After all, although he wasn't aware that he was being recorded, I don't think there's any indication that he thought the interview was off the record.

But what I was attempting to express here was the idea that it must be hard for people who think Bush is an incredibly stupid and brainless puppet of some other incredibly intelligent Republican operative to deny the fact that Bush sounds like a person of some intelligence in this interview--which isn't to say they can't, and won't, deny it. But it's a stretch, IMHO.

As far as his religious sincerity goes--I disagree with you there. He's talking about how to frame it, and how to present it, for sure, but I don't see anything in the interview that casts serious doubt on the depth of his actual beliefs. After all, he says, "And that's a true statement." The fact that it's a strategic one as well doesn't make it false.

I think the most interesting thing about the interview and his religious beliefs is that his beliefs seem to occur in the context of humility (he's a "sinner," too) and a refusal to pander to the most extreme and rigid elements of his base.

At 7:59 AM, February 21, 2005, Blogger Mike Power said...

It's amazing what some over-analysis can do. There is nothing in these interviews to single out Bush as a world leader. You don't have to be a Bush-hater to accept the obvious. Bush spent his formative years as a drunk with no interest in politics, the world, literature, the arts, philosophy or anything else beyond booze and sport. He would'nt hold down a middle management job for five minutes in the real world and, quite frankly, the fact that he is the best that the US can come up with as leader disappoints me only slightly less than the fact that Kerry was the second best that the US could come up with.

At 7:34 PM, April 23, 2005, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The taping shows a quality to Bush that many other pundits or politicians do not have. Bush has been weeded out in a manner similar to Plato demanded for the leaders of a Republic, in his Critias.

You have plenty of examples where people say things that eventually come back to haunt them when they are major players. People like O'Reilly that had to settle a sexual harassment case because of telephone calls that were presumably recorded. You have people like Senate Majorty Leader, forgot his name, that got ousted as Leader once he made some comments in Thurmond's birthday party.

And it brings to mind the possibilities. How many politicians, regardless of stripe, would not have been ruined if something they said wayyy back in their political career was recorded and played back in the present?

1? 3? 10?

In any case, the numbers approach minimals.

Bush, surprisingly, is one of them. As a Bush supporter, you cannot help but feel some "doom" over hearing that Bush's comments from his younger days was recorded. Just as a Bush-hater, you cannot restrain from feeling some "joy".

It didn't turn out as bad as it could have been, which is a surprise in these political times. But what it also did, was show us how disciplined Bush really is. It is a personal discipline devoid of machinations or political plotting or even ingenous cunning.

It is a simple virtue, that of discipline over yourself and your words and actions.

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