Sunday, August 28, 2005

Maybe GW Bush Isn't a Nice Guy?

The other day, I was riding in the car with daughter Bridget, and we passed a car with a John Kerry bumpersticker. Bridget asked me if I was sad that John Kerry lost. I said that I was. Bridget then added, sagely: "George Bush is a good man, he's just not a good President."

Obviously, she didn't invent this distinction. She either heard me or Connie say it, or else she generalized from the Wizard of Oz movie: "I'm a very good man. I'm just a very bad wizard."

I work really hard at not personally disliking those I disagree with politically. My take on George W. Bush has always been that he is just a man out of his depths. He doesn't have the vision to lead a country, and doesn't have the mental rigor to think through the consequences of his policies. But he isn't a bad guy.

Every once in a while, though, tidbits in the news provide little glimpses into his soul, and I wonder if maybe he really is a nasty guy.

The biggest one, of course, was his attitude towards those he put to death as governor of Texas:
Bush went further when he joked about Karla Faye Tucker's desperate plea for life, which had been aired on Larry King Live. During an interview with Talk Magazine, Bush mocked Karla Faye, whimpering "Please, don't kill me" in an imitation of her voice.

More recently, a recent article by Doug Tompson of Capitol Hill Blue details Bush's temper and intolerance. Some quotes:

  • “I’m not meeting again with that goddamned bitch,” Bush screamed at aides who suggested he meet again with Cindy Sheehan...

  • Bush, administration aides confide, frequently explodes into tirades over those who protest the war, calling them “motherfucking traitors.”

  • “Who gives a flying fuck what the polls say,” he screamed at a recent strategy meeting. “I’m the President and I’ll do whatever I goddamned please. They don’t know shit.”

Of course, this kind of nastiness is not unheard of in politics. LBJ in particular was equally foul-tempered and foul-mouthed. Of course, LBJ had the decency not to run for re-election.


Anonymous Rich said...

"Therefore a prince, so long as he keeps his subjects united and loyal, ought not to mind the reproach of cruelty; because with a few examples he will be more merciful than those who, through too much mercy, allow disorders to arise, from which follow murders or robberies; for these are wont to injure the whole people, whilst those executions which originate with a prince offend the individual only."

-- Chapter XVII, The Prince, Niccolò Machiavelli

Though he does grant a little bit later that a ruler ought to avoid being hated.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Daryl McCullough said...

In the one political science course I ever took, we read "The Leviathon" by Hobbes (or was it Calvin?) in which the author argues in favor of a sovereign with absolute power. His reasoning was that when a ruler has limited powers, he'll spend his time trying to get more power, to eliminate his opponents, etc. In contrast, an absolute ruler may occasionally commit some cruelty (killing someone for a trivial offense) but has no need to practice the wholesale slaughter of someone scheming to get or hold on to power.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Rich said...

I never took any PS at Northwestern at all.

I suppose that this is a possible argument in favor of absolute rule if everything else is equal. But when things are awry, it can be very bad to have an absolute ruler at the top, say if you happen to live in Mordor rather than Lothlorien. Plus, if you have enough power to hire a loyal henchperson (your very own Karl Rove), couldn't you just get that person to do your dirty work for you while you run the state?

Besides in the limit where the sovereign has extremely little power (such as the monarch of the UK), one could extend Hobbes's argument that such a person would also need to spend zero time eliminating pretenders, since nobody else really would be after such a weak job, and one could spend all one's time attending horse races, christening ships, and chopping wood instead. So that's a second solution, perhaps one inconceivable in the author's time.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

Shoot. Blogger ate my homework.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

Back during the 2000 campaign, Bush ran as "a uniter not a divider," at the same time that he pledged to "restore" honor and dignity to the White House. That was when I first realized that, if he had an ounce of characer, he'd stuff it in his pants to make himself look bigger.

10:52 PM  

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