Monday, October 03, 2005

A president's thoughts

Andrew Sullivan says Bush appointed his legal counsel to the Supreme Court for the same reason Clinton got a blow-job in the Oval Office: because he could. I'm not sure that's true.

When I consider who Bush is as a person, I can only think of him as opaque. When I look at almost any public figure involved in a controversial area, I can see distinct principles behind what they say. I'll even grant this for Ann Coulter, even though I sometimes tell myself an obsession with superficial labels can't count as a core principle. I'm going to make an inductive leap here and guess Bush has thoughts in his head like all these other figures, even if they aren't very bright ones. But I have no idea what those thoughts are.

Does he think that permanent deficits are the way to prosperity, or that they're a temporary measure until we win the war on terror next year, or does he go to bed thinking, "those bastards in Congress will just override any budget veto I sign"? Does he think that roughing up prisoners is a necessary evil in the war on terror, or that it's just a few bad apples, and Uzbekistan means it when they say they don't torture people? Did he once believe Iraqi WMDs posed a major threat to America, or did he think of it as a cover for the first step in liberating the Middle East? Does he believe that the insurgency is in its last throes, or that he just to pretend to be cheery if we're going to win eventually?

I don't know any of these things.

I suspect, though, this is a side effect of what presidential administrations have become. On the one side, presidents are no longer allowed to speak freely to the American people, but must read focus-group tested lines of teleprompters. These lines break down to "can't that moron see his speech writer is wrong?" and "good line, too bad the president didn't write it." Result: we don't know what they think. With this president though, there's another side: because he doesn't read papers or confront angry constituents, all his information is filtered through loyalists. Result: he doesn't know what we think, and can't have any thoughts in response to public criticisms. But I don't know. He's too opaque.

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