I have not been one to buy into the arguments that Mr. Bush is stupid or is the sum of his “Bushisms” or is, as feverish Internet speculation periodically has it, secretly drinking again. I still don’t. But I have believed he is a cynic — that he could always distinguish between truth and fiction even as he and Karl Rove sold us their fictions. That’s why, when the president said that “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq before the midterms, I just figured it was more of the same: another expedient lie to further his partisan political ends.
Those who lead us, not just politicians but also journalists, scientists, clergy, etc., who define the symbols by which we understand our world, should be better educated than they generally are in the functioning of human beings. Mr. Rich should have been able to see that George W. Bush was not simply ‘cynical’, but profoundly sick.
Now to quibble a little about words. For practical purposes, in my opinion, we should call George W. Bush ‘stupid’. Would his IQ test at well below 100? No, most likely not; Bush has, for instance, learned to use adult-sized words and sentences. Nevertheless, for a person in his position, he functions at the level of a child, incapable of the more sophisticated functions of an ‘intelligent’ adult human. We should understand Bush as something like a precocious child who knows big words but cannot use them except in stereotypes.
But that election has come and gone, and Mr. Bush is more isolated from the real world than ever. That’s scary. Neither he nor his party has anything to gain politically by pretending that Iraq is not in crisis. Yet Mr. Bush clings to his delusions with a near-rage — watch him seethe in his press conference with Mr. Maliki — that can’t be explained away by sheer stubbornness or misguided principles or a pat psychological theory. Whatever the reason, he is slipping into the same zone as Woodrow Wilson did when refusing to face the rejection of the League of Nations, as a sleepless L.B.J. did when micromanaging bombing missions in Vietnam, as Ronald Reagan did when checking out during Iran-Contra.
Bush is much sicker than that. Ignore Woodrow Wilson, which is ancient history, but re-insert Richard Nixon, whom Rich mentioned at the beginning of the article. LBJ, I would think, was more or less ‘sane’ but caught in a cycle of ‘despair’. Narcissistic, depressed, anxious, etc., perhaps, but not bouncing off the walls. Nixon may have unraveled more completely, but it was his unstoppable descent to common criminal that did it, not something that he brought with him to the job, and I imagine it was a temporary thing, a binge of drug abuse and wacky behavior. He was and remained ‘weird’, of course. :) Ronald Reagan did check out during the Iran-Contra hearing scandal, but he had a physical, degenerative condition; he would have been checking out regardless of the scandal.
Bush, on the other hand, was and is sick in a way that ‘succeeding’ made him sicker. The aircraft carrier landing did him as much harm as anything during his squatteracy has done. The more he ‘succeeds’, the more he lives in a fantasy world in which he is, as I like to call him, ‘Jesus II’. Bush brought this condition with him to the White House, and he even sucked the nation into his delusional universe, but the collapse of the delusion for the relatively ‘sane’ US electorate has exposed, made visible to a great many people that Bush did and continues to live in a universe of delusion; he cannot leave it.