June 15, 2006

George W. Bush - Annoyed When Not Worshiped

This raises so many issues for me - and none of them reflect well on the president - the insecure, bullying, rude president.

Posted by armand at June 15, 2006 08:22 AM | TrackBack | Posted to Politics


i'm sorry, but i think coming down on bush for this is pretty ridiculous. anyone who speaks a lot, anyone who prides himself on being quick with a joke, puts his foot in his mouth from time to time. in the CNN coverage of this, which i read before finding the post, i thought it clear that bush was being his typical, jovial self, that he was suitably mortified and apologetic, and that the person who has the best perspective of all is the reporter, who cut short bush's apology as unnecessary in light of the fact that no one on the bush side of the fence knew anything about his condition.

to find in this -- or the cited wheelchair episode -- anything other than unfortunate verbal gaffes, the likes of which we see from bush in many many contexts, or to infer from it evidence of some overarching insecurity (there are so many other more obvious and consequential indicators of this; why focus on something so trivial), just strikes me as unbecoming of the commentariat.

Posted by: moon at June 15, 2006 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

What I see here is a sort of passive agressive behavior that is doing what it can to seem jovial - while at the same time seeming to upbraid an individual for not giving the president the respect that he seems to think he merits from every man, woman and child in the country - and of course a possible tendency to never for a second let it cross his mind that there's a perfectly good reason for why a person might not be standing up. To me it conveys self-righteousness, self-adoration, and a clear sense of propriety about demeaning those who don't share a viewpoint that he thinks is perfecly obvious.

So sure I don't think this should be put in the same category as complaint against the White House re: Karl Rove still having a security clearance. But I think it's an indicative example of some of the president's weaknesses as a decision maker (and arguably a person), and a deserved indictment of the notion that whether or not someone might be jovial and fun to have a beer with has anything to do with whether or not they should be working in the Oval Office.

At least he apologized - I'll give him that. Nice to know he learned SOMETHING from his father.

Posted by: Armand at June 15, 2006 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Nobody's perfect, Armand. Clinton famously used to scream at George S every morning, and I'm sure Nixon and Carter and Reagan and even Bush 41 had their bad moments. I've never met a senior executive type in business who didn't have some sort of annoying or belittling habit, and I've met some heavy hitters who really should have known better. Bush apologized with a fair amount of grace, which is more than the guy would have gotten from most executive types. Case closed, as far as I'm concerned. I think your analysis says a lot more about you and your biases than it does about the president.

Posted by: jacflash at June 15, 2006 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and one other thing: people who aren't insecure don't seek prominent positions of power, except under extraordinary circumstances. Can you name a president -- or a recent candidate -- who wasn't insecure?

Posted by: jacflash at June 15, 2006 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I think it says less about my biases that I notice this than it does about the president's constant preening, in a whole variety of settings, making the depth of his insecurity sooooooo - pathetic? Is that the right word? I mean this kind of stuff, his discussions with his aides and Bob Woodward about how much he can bench press or how long he can clear brush, the belittling of aides who got better grades than he did - but somehow they didn't become president and he did (of course their fathers weren't president or vice president, but be that as it may).

And I think this really does matter because it likely does affect how he runs the White House (there's a sizeable lit on the links between personality and decision-making styles) - I mean all of this for example fits perfectly with a man who doesn't want to hear bad news or a man who constantly feels a need to show off and really show how macho he is. And those inclinations can lead to decision making in ways that are harmful to the national interest (b/c it's entirely clear he doesn't want certain things said, or certain types of options presented - therefore our choices are unnecessarily constrained and the best options might not even get a hearing).

If this didn't have an effect on policymaking I wouldn't care so much and put it down to the fact that he's another powerful, bully (like, say, Rumsfeld), but since he does seem to affect the White House's decision-making - it matters.

And you are of course entirely right that there are other powerful people who are hopelessly insecure (Nixon is the most obvious example, the LBJ had some of that too) - but there are matters of degree to it - and if it's harmfully affecting decision making, or leading to dangerous policies and behaviors, I think it merits discussion.

Posted by: Armand at June 15, 2006 02:56 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds to me like he's calling attention to what seems out of place. Most people stand, so when someone doesn't, it's out of place. Most people don't wear sunglasses inside, so when someone does, it's out of place. Somehow I think it's not the first or even the hundredth time this reporter had this brought to his attention. Other staffers got better grades and he didn't, yet he's President; it's out of place. Having one's attention drawn by what seems out of place is in itself nothing more than being analytical. Now, you're right in that he may well have an inferiority complex; his father ran the CIA, then became President. 99.9% of the people in the world if put in that position would probably develop something like an inferiority complex, and he may be one of them. To draw attention to the fact that he notices what's out of place says nothing pathological or mean spirited about the President. He makes jokes about what doesn't seem to fit. Name a stand up comedian worth listening to who doesn't. Of course, most stand up comedians have an inferiority complex, but having one in itself isn't such a bad thing; it's only how it's resolved that can make it problematic, so perhaps focus on that in your future posts. I know you're real criticism is about his decision making style, which of course is different from what you espouse, but that of course doesn't make it pathological. It only appears that way if things become difficult for the country, when in fact difficulty is often what is necessary for things to get better.

Posted by: Morris at June 15, 2006 07:58 PM | PERMALINK

1. Who determines what's out of place?

2. Why does it have to have attention called to it?

Posted by: binky at June 15, 2006 08:15 PM | PERMALINK

Actually I think Binky's second point is really interesting - if there's anything to Morris's point. B/c if there is something to Morris's point it would seem that Bush is REALLY easily perplexed and has to stop and comment on EVERYTHING tha doesn't mesh with what he expects which might suggest someone who REALLY shouldn't be put in a position where he might have to deal with the unexpected in a very short period of time (and yes here's where you insert a joke about him hanging out with the kindergarteners in Florida when - according to his interiews with Bob Woodward, he'd just decided to declare war in the midst of an unprecedented attack on the United States).

And there might not be anything to any of that - but if you go down the road Morris seems to be suggesting ...

And yes Morris, getting back to my point - there's a pretty extensive literature on how personality traits and cognitive characteristics affect decision-making styles - and these incidents seem to illustrate a number of characteristics that would seem to make this president unusually likely to make the kinds of mistakes we've seen all too often in the last few years (lack of tolerance for dissent, the festering of intra-administration disputes, key alternative options never being presented, etc.).

Posted by: Armand at June 15, 2006 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Look at Escher and tell me what's figure and what's ground. Whoever is observing determines what the focus is and determines what's out of place. Maybe there is some greater consciousness of which I am simply a vessel that thinks we'd all go insane if things stayed in their place all the time. If this were a human behavior to always be in our place, then from where did the love for tragedy come? Of course attention doesn't have to be called to it, but what would conversations be like if it wasn't? I assume you've discovered that sycophants aren't the greatest at conversation, and a world full of people who saw everything the same way would be like talking to a world of yes-people (I made it gender neutral just for you). The only thing worse than everybody being so different from one another is if everybody were exactly the same as one another.

Posted by: Morris at June 15, 2006 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Which is it? Is he always perplexed, or does he always have to comment on everything? If he's perplexed, then he doesn't have the faculties to comment on everything. If he comments on everything, then this presumes he's connecting with the scenario in question and analyzes it from a certain point of view, though of course one with which you'd disagree. Strangely enough, being perplexed (nonconscious thought) is better at solving unfamiliar problems than thinking deliberately about them, that is it tends to find solutions faster than applying a cognitive schema that doesn't account for unknown variables. Check out Lewicki's experiments related to this if you want some interesting reading.

Posted by: Morris at June 15, 2006 11:25 PM | PERMALINK

As to your note - I was just riffing on a possibility that seems entirely possible if YOUR take was right. But you and I see this differently.

As to your note to Binky I think you sort of miss the point of Escher - and if you don't like sychophants you should hate this White House with a bloody passion. Blind loyalty, and studied avoidance of all kinds of important points are central hallmarks of the Bush administration - moreso than any other White House in decades.

Posted by: Armand at June 16, 2006 07:15 AM | PERMALINK
Post a comment

Remember personal info?