Barry SCHWARTZ (Barijo ŜVARC) (chemoelectric) wrote,

A portrait of the narcissist as an old bulldog

Sidney Blumenthal writing in Salon:

A deluded king and his court lickspittles

Cut off from reality and surrounded by flatterers like Rice and Cheney, Bush clings to grandiose illusions of heroism.

By Sidney Blumenthal

March 2, 2006 | Republicans representative of their permanent establishment have recently and quietly sent emissaries to President Bush, like diplomats to a foreign ruler isolated in his forbidden city, to probe whether he could be persuaded to become politically flexible.…In a gentle tone, he explained that many presidents had difficult second terms, but that by adapting their approaches they ended successfully, as President Reagan had. Bush instantly replied with a vehement blast. He would not change. He would stay the course. He would not follow the polls. The Republican wise man tried again. Oh, no, he didn't mean anything about polls. But Bush fortified his wall of self-defensiveness and let fly with another heated riposte that he would not change.…

Bush's immovability was previously perceived as the determination of a man of simple but clear convictions. But as his policies have unfolded as disastrous, his image has been turned inside out. Instead of being perceived as secure, he is seen as out of touch; instead of being acknowledged as a colossus striding events, he is viewed as driftwood carried away by the flood.

Within the sanctum of the White House, his aides often handle him with flattery. They tell him that he is among the greatest presidents, that his difficulties are testimony to his greatness, that his refusal to change is also a sign of his greatness. The more is he flattered, the more he approves of the flatterer. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has risen along with her current of flattery. She is expert at the handwritten little note extolling his historical radiance. Karen Hughes, now undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, was a pioneer of the flatterer's method. White House legal counsel Harriet Miers is also adept.

But it is Vice President Dick Cheney who has sought and gained the most through flattery. While Bush is constantly and lavishly complimented as supreme leader, Cheney runs the show.…

Tightly regulated by Cheney and Bush's own aides (who live in fear of Cheney), the president hears what he wishes to hear. They also know what particular flattery he wants to receive, and they ensure that he receives it.…

But when disturbing information manages to penetrate the carefully constructed net surrounding Bush, he instinctively rejects and condemns it. In July 2004, upon being briefed on the grim analysis of the growing Iraqi insurgency written by the CIA Baghdad station chief, Bush said, according to U.S. News & World Report, "What is he, some kind of defeatist?" Bush prefers to soak up the flattery. He responds only to praise of himself as the warrior-president at the battlements, fighting the enemies at the gates and the defeatists within.

In the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, Bush was flattered by the analogy that he was like Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, winning a world war and present at the creation of a new international order. However, since the election of 2004, a period during which the violence in Iraq has not diminished, Bush has been told he more closely resembles the beleaguered Abraham Lincoln. He is the Great Emancipator who has freed 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq but has not yet won the war. "It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people from tyranny," Bush declared on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2005. Enduring setbacks and suffering slings and arrows, he imagines himself enduring before inevitable and ultimate victory.…

The greater Bush's difficulties, the more precipitously he falls in the polls, the more he is beseeched by anxious Republicans, and the harsher the realities, the tighter he clings to his self-image. Cheney and the others encourage his illusions, at least partly because the more intensely Bush embraces the heroic conception of himself, the more he resists change and the firmer their grip.…

Bush is quoted as saying 'I read a lot of history, by the way.' That may not be as false as it seems; Bush probably is referring to the 1960s when he was a history major at Yale.

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