(Page 2 of 2)
None of this kind of Washington reality — the serious reality that underlies the real battles in Washington — ever shows up in Vanity Fair. Mr. Purdum’s “story,” which purports to be a serious discussion of the “bunker” that is supposedly George Bush’s White House, is nothing more than a potpourri of Vanity Fair’s standard and deeply unimaginative left-wing cant of Bush Derangement Syndrome presented in the style of the high school paper. For a little buzz to titillate the unknowing masses it is served up against an over-dramatized background of the physical surroundings that are a reality for any modern president and have been, more or less, for decades.
One is not even sure that Mr. Purdum and Vanity Fair get the irony of their own presentation. Labeling Bush as “the Captain of a ship that even many of his once loyal crew think of as the U.S.S. Delusional” is a sentiment that is utterly unremarkable in terms of how Washington talked during past presidencies. To think that it is would make one, well, delusional. I read such stories about Ronald Reagan when I sat in the Reagan White House. You remember Reagan, don’t you? All those breathless stories revealing positively, according to some saddened ex-aide, that he was just a dummy who didn’t read books, who had this bizarre sense of optimism about what he insisted was the forthcoming collapse of the Soviet Union, who believed low taxes increased revenue and would ignite the economy? NOBODY in Washington believed this, or at least that’s what the journalists of the day were saying. Staff members were supposedly clucking behind his back about the “Old Man” and whether he even had the tiniest grip on reality. When it was known to the press that Reagan closeted himself for chunks of time every day writing handwritten notes to friends and average Americans who had written him, he was castigated as a sentimental old fool making a colossal waste of his allotted time as president.
ONE OF THE OLDEST Washington tricks going, a trick Purdum shamelessly employs, is to bring forth some recent presidential predecessor of the incumbent, especially if he is of the same party, to cast the current occupant of the job in an unfavorable light. Thus those carping criticisms I heard of Reagan using his time to handwrite those now-famous notes are lovingly recast as the actions of a wise president doing everything he could to remind himself “of the utter vastness of life outside.” Something, but of course, that George W. Bush simply can’t do. Just as the disgraced Nixon was resurrected to discredit Reagan (Nixon was so much smarter, we Reaganites were loftily assured), as the once dopey and dull Eisenhower was suddenly praised as a wise man to discredit Nixon and Reagan later praised to skewer George H.W.Bush, now it is both Reagan and Bush the father being used to do in Bush the son. Bush Sr.’s dependence on then-Secretary of State James Baker and national security adviser Brent Scowcroft is held up as the wisdom to consult “genuine peers” whose “unvarnished advice” Bush 41 trusted. Purdum stops there, without pondering that the advice of these two “genuine peers” both set up Iraq as a problem for the son over a full decade later — and also failed to re-elect the father.
Then there is the tired sleight-of-hand routine, a careless rehash of some event in the life of the administration that supposedly illustrates perfectly some perceived annoying trait of the incumbent. The trait Purdum picked is Bush’s supposed cockiness, the idea to illustrate exactly how such a trait got us all in deep doo-doo to begin with. Exhibit A here is the supposedly startling news that Bush received a briefing in August 2001 from a CIA analyst “about indications of an imminent threat from al-Qaeda” to which Bush responds by saying in his trademark cocky fashion: “All right. You’ve covered your ass now.” Implication? Smart-aleck, cocky Bush could have stopped 9/11 if he just wasn’t so cocky. Reality: the briefing, discussed in the 9/11 hearings, was utterly worthless, telling Bush nothing that neither he nor anybody who had seen Osama bin Ladin on CNN in the late 1990s didn’t already know. There was no date of attack mentioned, no target mentioned. Zip. It was a briefing designed to do exactly what Bush said — and of course, when made public, journalists like Purdum are around to take the bait. Needless to say, Bush’s tone (joking? stern? casual?) is conveniently left out altogether. But woven into the story thread of “WHAT an IDIOT!” it sounds, just, like, SO cool.
And what would a reference to Fox News be without appending “right-wing” in front of it? The logical — and as it happens correct response in the view of one heck of a lot of Americans is that if Fox News is “right-wing” that must mean Fox’s competitors like CNN and MSNBC are left-wing. Purdum, of course, wouldn’t dream of acknowledging that — or maybe he just genuinely doesn’t get it.
Like a fish that doesn’t understand the concept of “water,” it is perhaps no surprise that Mr. Purdum may simply not be psychologically equipped to recognize that the real bunker in Washington, D.C. is — Washington D.C. itself. And dominating that bunker is the high school mentality that the late Meg Greenfield so unerringly identified.
Fortunately for both the country and George Bush, the final verdict of history is never decided in high school, much less in the pages of Vanity Fair. But it is still interesting to note that in tiny print just to the reader’s left of Ms. Kidman’s exposed torso on the cover, the magazine has inscribed this proverb:
“A smooth sea never made a good sailor.”
By that token, George W. Bush is well on the way to greatness.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online