This week, many of us watched President Bush as he was interviewed by NBC's Brian Williams. Beyond the lies ("I didn't think about going to Iraq until after we were attacked!" and "I read three Shakespeares!") the president appears to be growing visibly more and more exhausted with his bothersome job, and his true personality is beginning to shine through Karl Rove's meticulous grooming. His artificial cowboy persona is beginning to peel away revealing the naked hull of the real President Bush -- a man we all knew lurked in the shallows. A frat boy bully who, as a failed chief executive, is presently seeking, if not outright begging us for our pity.
A truly tough human being, in my view, is measured by his or her ability to approach his or her station in life with honesty, moxy, sympathy, common sense and a touch of humble grace. But our president possesses none of these traits. Rather than owning up to his six year litany of mistakes and shortcomings and taking on his occupation with a kind of work ethic common in all nations and all walks of life, the president, appearing increasingly battered and bruised, is engaged in a sad and embarrassing attempt to attain the nation's sympathy. Listen carefully to his words and watch closely his body language. He's doing it. And it's a posture that's been snowballing for several years now.
During his re-election campaign, he famously enjoyed reminding us how his job is "hard work." He's always condescended to you and me about the superficial aspects of his job description, as if we're all inexplicably unfamiliar with our own expectations of the chief executive. Does he really believe that we'll listen to his whining from atop his charmed perch, a perch that comes complete with record-long vacations and ample free time, and suddenly we'll all feel bad for him?
Why should we? At every turn, he's condescended to us. He's lied to us. He's bullied us into believing that if we question him and his policies we're not real Americans. His gestures suggest that if he could personally scold each and every one of us who dares question him, he would. Instead, by proxy, when Brian Williams (the most recent reporter in the queue) challenged him on his policies, the president puffed his chest out -- his arms hovering a good foot away from his hips, reaching for invisible six-shooters. As he raised his voice beyond a conversational volume, he began to push forward towards Williams until he, what's the phrase? Got all up in Williams' shit, as if to intimidate the anchor. It was subtle but noticeable. And it's not the first time. To a much broader and more visible degree, he pulled the same stunt on Charlie Gibson in the second 2004 debate with Senator Kerry (the "rumors on the internets" debate) when he disregarded the rules and practically charged the moderator desk demanding to be heard. Of course, his outburst was of little substantive consequence -- something about Alexander Kwasniewski -- but it was the same brand of entitled bullying he's exhibited far too frequently with almost everyone who he considers to be an unfriendly.
Rather than naturally exhibiting the traits of a real leader, he replaces his lack of work ethic with an on-going lecture about the traits of a leader, i.e. "It's my job to [insert pitiable hardship here]." And our job, our "duty" in his perception of his subjects, is to superimpose these traits onto him simply because he says so. Then when we, via a reporter or otherwise, don't buy the smirking, too-loud civics lesson (a reaction more and more Americans are having these days) he's still the same ruffian -- but with a skinned knee. His job is hard work! He makes hard decisions! Pity him! Pity him! Why don't we understand his plight!? As he said to Williams, "[He's] totally exposed!" Whah! The spoiled rich heir with the 2,000 acre estate is exposed! Whah! But like any bully worth his salt, he refuses to admit that his own arrogance has, time after time, tangled his proverbial feet, sending him careening to the figurative concrete. Yet in his mind, his arrogance isn't the cause of any of his problems. The real causes are, for example, the bad apples at Abu Ghraib or Brownie or the Iraqi people who simply don't understand what we're trying to do for them -- just to name a few.
Perhaps if he were more humble, we'd back off a little and give him some benefit of the doubt. We've all done it in our day to day lives. But his arrogance has only bred contempt, and not just from those with opposing ideologies. Meanwhile, the remaining 35-some-odd percent of Americans -- those who somehow continue to endorse him at every turn have allowed themselves to become unwitting toadies -- the Woims to his Butch -- afraid of what might happen to them should they walk away. Change is scary. But the constant brainwashing of, "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists," has doubled their fear and blinded them to the realities of what sorts of people they're supporting. They'll tell us that we should support our president in a time of war, yet you can bet that when this president departs (a day that won't come soon enough) and, perhaps, a president with an opposing party affiliation takes office, that notion will fly briskly out the window.
Sure, he's not running for office again, and nothing short of an impeachment can change the fact that he'll be occupying the White House for another two-and-a-half years. But the behavior he's exhibiting is indicative of an entire movement aimed squarely at intimidating the electorate -- you and me -- into voting his way. His spokesmen: Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al, are engaged in the same sad, desperate bullying, blaming their incompetence on others while warning us that if we climb out of bed, the scary toe monsters will bite our feet. Similarly, his clones in Congress will take their orders and do the same. It's all the same game plan. And whether it's Santorum, Lieberman, Gerlach or Allen struggling to keep their jobs, the centerpiece will remain that wimp with the scolding tone and invisible six-shooters demanding our pity and sympathy -- the farting cowboy who doesn't pretend to feel our pain, but rather expects us to feel his pain.
Because that's his job and it's hard work.