Published on Friday, September 24, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
Rip Van Winkle had nothing on the Boy in the Bubble
by Rosa Maria Pegueros
Perhaps the most astonishing pronouncement of the inarticulate President of the United States is that he doesn’t read. George W. Bush says that his advisers tell him what he needs to know. What an amazing thing for the husband of Laura the librarian and the son of Barbara Bush, campaigner for literacy, to say! But more than that, it is deeply disturbing that the president of the dominant global power, the leader of the free world, the most powerful man in the world, would choose to have his perceptions of the world censored and spoon-fed to him by his underlings. It is simply unfathomable.
However, it does help one to understand how Bush could honestly say, as he did in a recent interview with Larry King on CNN, “I don't have a sense that there's a lot of anger [towards me].” *
If Bush reads nothing and his campaign workers screen all the members of the audiences at his campaign stops and require them to sign a loyalty oath promising to vote for him, how could he perceive anger towards him? If his critics are described to him as the usual pot-smoking, hippie malcontents that he expects them to be, can he know that protestors against the war in Iraq cut across age, race, and class lines?
As he makes his proclamations about creating an ownership society, does he have any idea that many working-class people are living without medical insurance, without drug coverage, and the terrifying prospects that catastrophic illness, disability and old age pose to them? Such elaborate lengths to insulate him can only result in a clueless leader who ambles along, convinced that he is universally admired.
The massive demonstrations against the G.O.P. during its convention in New York should have forced Bush to confront the real anger against him in the United States but if his speech before the United Nations is any measure, he is in deep denial about his image in the eyes of the world. Did no one tell him about the millions who protested against the war in the capitals of Europe before it started? Would it have given him pause to see the photographs of the tide of humanity surging through Madrid, Paris, and Rome?
President Lyndon Baines Johnson was so tortured by the lists of American casualties and his inability to win the war in Vietnam that he chose not to run for a second term. President Richard M. Nixons entanglement with Vietnam led him to create an enemies list and to look for excuses to exclude protestors from Lafayette Park located across from the White House. He would have been happy with the barricades that now protect his former residence. Neither president, however, was oblivious to the critics and demonstrators against his presidency the way Bush is.
Apparently, Bush is unaware that the newspapers and broadcast media report on his every hiccup. How can he stand before the diplomats of the world, uttering platitudes and offering meaningless compliments to the United Nations while he does nothing but insult the august body when he is on the campaign trail? On the stump he makes a point of saying that he will not allow the foreigners or the United Nations to dictate American foreign policy; it is a line guaranteed to draw cheers and applause from his specially-selected Republican audiences.
I hate to tell you, George, but the newspapers have been reporting those remarks in every major newspaper in the world. Just because YOU don't read the newspapers doesn't mean that everybody else ignores them as well.
Has anyone told the president that retired generals, diplomats, and intelligence officers as well as sitting Republican leaders question not only his conduct of the war but his judgment itself? We are not surprised that maverick Republican senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island has stated publicly that he will write in a candidate rather than vote for the president. But Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, John McCain of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, G.O.P. stalwarts who are far more conservative than Chafee, have publicly expressed their qualms about his judgment, a breach with the Republican dogma that one does not criticize a sitting Republican president.
Even extreme right-winger Patrick Buchanan has taken Bush to task, saying that he has abandoned the conservatives. Of course, he, like the other G.O.P. critics of the president except for Chafee, plans to vote to re-elect Bush. A bird in the hand, after all. . .
Is W. so arrogant that the misgivings of the most esteemed members of his party fail to shake him? Does he care? Or is he protected from knowing about those doubts by his handlers?
Bush may be crazy like a fox but with the election only six weeks away, we can hope that he slumbers peacefully until November 3 when he will finally awake to news that will shock him and delight the rest of us.
Dr. Rosa Maria Pegueros is an Associate Professor of Latin American History and Women’s Studies at the University of Rhode Island. To contact her, write to firstname.lastname@example.org