Is It OK To Hate Bush?
In which the president's carefully orchestrated dumb-guy shtick proves
hollow and dubious
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, June 7, 2002
Of course "hate" is too strong a word. You should not hate
anyone. Especially not jittery world leaders who are striving to justify
war and make it look all fierce and necessary.
Look, there they are, trying so hard. Especially Bush. Look at that
earnest, constipated, caught-in-the-headlights expression. Trying trying
trying. Please do not hate him.
GW Bush's image is extremely carefully managed, probably more intensely
than any president in recent history. He gives almost zero unscripted
talks, expresses minimal extemporaneous thoughts, still mispronounces
"nukuler" even when reading from a teleprompter.
He is protected from difficult questions, schooled in basic sentence
structure, makes sudden political maneuvers to deflect increasingly
troubling accusations that his administration had plenty of advance
warning of 9/11 and did little to prevent it. And please do not mention
his major ties to Enron at this time. Thank you.
Bush has undoubtedly been told to try and look less scared and squinty
on camera. He makes cute self-deprecating jokes about his horrible command
of the English language.
Rumor also has it that during a meeting with Brazil's President Cardoso,
Bush allegedly interrupted to ask, "Do you have blacks, too?"
Condi Rice, ever the trouper, visibly cringed before quickly informing
Dubya that Brazil is indeed home to more blacks than any country outside
Africa. White House Press corps coverage? None. Just too embarrassing.
This is the leader of the free world. Are you sure you want to know
this sort of thing?
Besides, Dubya has proven again and again and you read it just about
everywhere and the man has it tattooed on his thigh and it veritably
oozes from the pores of his happily myopic followers, he is indeed a
Very Nice Man with a Very Swell Disposition and Good Christian Manners
and gosh darn it, people like him so please quit being so mean.
Ashcroft has scowled about it and Rumsfeld has squinted angrily about
it and Cheney has shown twitching signs of life about it and it's been
made very clear again and again: You are not allowed to openly abhor
the president or his decisions because doing so clearly indicates traitorous
inclinations and this is wartime which is a Very Difficult Time for
If you insist on calling it wartime, that is. Which of course it's not,
given how we've killed untold thousands of barely armed Taliban and
untold numbers of innocent Afghan civilians and over a dozen of our
own soldiers and even some Canadian troops (whoops) and we have suffered
exactly two combat casualties. This is not a war. But you can't really
say that either.
So let's just go with it, the common wisdom: It is unpatriotic to criticize
the president and we need to rally and be strong now, united we stand,
especially in our collective misunderstanding of foreign policy and
oil stratagems and the deeper root causes of 9/11.
Or rather, you can criticize if you like, but Bush's image is now being
so carefully controlled you feel a little ashamed and slightly guilty
doing so, like that feeling you'd get if you teased, say, a quadriplegic.
Or a child. And this is exactly how they want you to feel.
It is a bizarre duality, a cleverly wrought irony: Bush is spun so he
appears rather plain and simpleminded and not really mentally agile
enough to be openly complicit in the coverup-related decisions he's
being accused of, a feeling that, aww shucks, he's still just a good
ol' daddy's boy from the oilier parts of Texas who don't know no better
and how dare you accuse this Very Nice Man of leveraging the horror
of 9/11 for political gain. Besides, that's Cheney's job.
Yet you can't believe Bush is truly a man of nuanced intelligence because
that implies that he probably did know something about the possibility
of a terrorist attack and how it could fortify his political career,
but you can't call him flagrantly stupid because that's unpatriotic
and un-American and embarrassing, and hence you're just left with this
feeling of unease and vague despondency about the nation's overall direction
and whatever happened to your civil liberties.
And then there are people like Lt. Col. Steve Butler of the Air Force
who openly bashed the president in print, called him a fool who let
9/11 happen to boost his stagnant presidency and that's very bad indeed,
can't be slamming the commander-in-chief when you're in the military,
understandably, but it certainly does get you thinking, maybe Bush really
is dumb as a post -- but in a rather sharp, deeply sinister way.
Better take the Dan Rather approach. There he was, America's anchorman,
with the odious Larry King, responding to a phone-in question asking
how he, Rather, would advise the president about possibly invading Iraq
and Rather replying, well caller, I'd probably say, Mr. President, whatever
decision you make in this very difficult matter I will support it because
you're the president and I'm a patriot and that's that, and he said
it with a straight melodramatic face you immediately wanted to slap.
And there it is. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is patriotism. We don't
want to believe the Bush administration could've done something to prevent
the horrors of 9/11, can't imagine Bush would use the tragedy to bolster
his re-election hopes while simultaneously pummeling Afghanistan into
docility in the name of oil pipelines and his friends in the military-industrial
complex. Increasing piles of evidence be damned. It's just too painful.
So then, please do not openly hate Mr. Bush or call him names or believe
his decisions are all too often terribly detrimental to the progress
of the human animal. He is too nice. He is too dumb. He is too nicely
dumb, in a really smart way. Clever, isn't it? Aww, shucks.