The President Speaks

As George W. Bush stumbled, mumbled, and grumbled his way through a special edition of Meet the Press with Tim Russert, an unspoken question kept rising above his droning voice: is this stammering dolt really the President of the United States?

On the Missing WMD Commission:

“There is a lot of investigations going on about the intelligence service, particularly in the Congress, and that’s good as well. The Congress has got the capacity to look at the intelligence gathering without giving away state secrets, and I look forward to all the investigations and looks.”

Naturally, he never answered Russert’s question, which was why was he so reluctant to appoint this commission in the first place. Bush also evaded the question of whether he might himself testify before this commission, or the 9/11 commission. “Perhaps” is all Russert got out of him. And the President’s answer to at least ten questions was, essentially, a single word: “Yeah.”

Is this how a President talks?

On the missing WMD:

“… There’s theories as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we’ll find out. That’s what the Iraqi survey group let me let me finish here….

One “theory,” advanced by Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, which the President doesn’t address, is that the weapons, such as they were, had been destroyed after Gulf War I. But that would be too simple and logical an explanation for the Frat Boy in the Oval Office: better to posit that they were taken aboard UFOs by aliens from Betelgeuse.

“But David Kay did report to the American people that Saddam had the capacity to make weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with weapons. Saddam Hussein was dangerous with the ability to make weapons. He was a dangerous man in the dangerous part of the world. And I made the decision to go to the United Nations….”

Does the President really believe that sheer repetition of the word “dangerous” is going to convince the American people that his policies make sense? No one, but no one is won over by this nonsense – not even his staunchest supporters. Here’s John Derbyshire in National Review Online’s “The Corner” blog:

“I thought it was a pretty dismal performance. I’ll be voting for GWB in November, but let’s face it, the Great Communicator he ain’t. The tongue-tied blather was coming thick and fast. At times, he looked like Al Sharpton on the Federal Reserve.

“Russert: ‘Why didn’t you establish the intelligence commission earlier?’
GWB: ‘Blather blather blather. No answer.’

“Russert: ‘Will you yourself testify before the commission?’
GWB: ‘Blather blather blather. No answer.’

“Russert: ‘Why was Saddam Hussein a threat to the US?”
GWB: ‘He had the capacity to make weapons… a madman…'”

“This stuff isn’t going to convince anyone, and will probably turn off some supporters. The best defense of the Iraq war I have yet seen was given by Alan Keyes on FNC last week. Crisp, clear, and convincing. POTUS should hire Keyes as a speechwriter, at any salary he asks for.”

Hiring Keyes isn’t going to solve the problem. Maybe a brain transplant is the answer.

NRO blogger Rod Dreher is equally morose about the President’s performance:

” I kept wincing as the president bobbled his answers. Even when he gave what on paper is a decent enough answer, he looked nervous, stumbly and intellectually unsure. He did himself no favors with this interview. I know Bush is not known for being eloquent, but it did strike me that we should be able to expect better than this from the President of the United States, at least after three years in office.

“…He had better get his act together. I found myself watching him slouch and skitter through the Russert interview, and thought how fortunate we are that the president will probably be running against a liberal Democrat from Massa-gay-marriage-chusetts this fall.”

Neocons are characteristically nasty, with not a loyal bone in their bodies, and the ones over at National Review are a particularly back-stabbing, snarky bunch. Here Bush has kowtowed to their every whim, mouthed their Democratist platitudes, and launched a war that may bring down his presidency and his party along with it, and what kind of thanks does he get? None. Instead, these keyboard commandos – sounding curiously like their ideological antonyms over at Democratic Underground – arrogantly order him to “get his act together”!

Have they ever considered the possibility that the President’s policies – which they authored, cheered on, and declared a momentous success – are indefensible? Of course not.

It has to be admitted, though, that Bush really lost it at a certain point in the interview. Asked if 530-plus casualties and 3.000 wounded in the Iraq war was worth it, the President squirmed in his chair like a schoolboy:

“For the parents of the soldiers who have fallen who are listening, David Kay, the weapons inspector, came back and said, ‘In many ways Iraq was more dangerous than we thought.’ It’s we are in a war against these terrorists who will bring great harm to America, and I’ve asked these young ones to sacrifice for that.”

These parents will have no doubt read the headlines about Kay’s statement, upon resigning as chief U.S. weapons inspector, that “we were almost all wrong” about WMD in Iraq. So why did their sons and daughters have to die? Here is the President’s answer:

“A free Iraq will change the world. It’s historic times. A free Iraq will make it easier for other children in our own country to grow up in a safer world because in the Middle East is where you find the hatred and violence that enables the enemy to recruit its killers.”

Your child is dead because “it’s historic times.” Oh, and, by the way, it’s not just Iraq: we’re going after the entire Middle East. We’re out to “change the world.” Remember, it’s for the children. Just not your children. Hardly a convincing line to hand out to the parents of the fallen.

Yet it’s a fairly accurate albeit crude rendition of the neocon line, which is that their dreams of empire are worth almost any number of casualties. Someone like, say, Max Boot can complain, in print, about the lack of American casualties in Afghanistan from the safety of his study, but a President has no such option. He must, instead, speak in generalities, such as the following:

“And, Tim, as you can tell, I’ve got a foreign policy that is one that believes America has a responsibility in this world to lead, a responsibility to lead in the war against terror, a responsibility to speak clearly about the threats that we all face, a responsibility to promote freedom, to free people from the clutches of barbaric people such as Saddam Hussein who tortured, mutilated there were mass graves that we have found a responsibility to fight AIDS, the pandemic of AIDS, and to feed the hungry. We have a responsibility. To me that is history’s call to America. I accept the call and will continue to lead in that direction.”

George W. Bush as communicator operates on a purely perceptual level of consciousness: In the Bushian narrative, certain key words, practically bereft of any connective tissue, are meant to communicate images rather than concepts:.

“Barbaric – tortured – mutilated – mass graves – AIDS

– feed the hungry

– heed the call.”

What AIDS has to do with anything is anybody’s guess. One long ago gave up expecting this President to make sense, but is basic coherence too much to ask?

Unfiltered by speechwriters and spin-meisters, Bush’s rhetorical style is, literally, Orwellian. George Orwell, in his classic novel, 1984, coined the term “duckspeak” to mean the tendency of political language to consist of stringing together words in a stream-of-consciousness that winds up sounding much like the quacking of a duck.

George W. Bush may not be the most articulate advocate of the neo-imperialist vision, but his basic approach sets the tone for the War Party, and fairly represents its program. A few more performances like that, and Bush 43 may quack himself out of a job.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

The limitations of the President were once thought to be counterbalanced by the wisdom and experience of Dick Cheney – although not by me – but that has completely turned around now, even in Republican circles, where the whispering is getting louder by the minute. The Vice President, they say, is a drag on the ticket, and if this business of his chief of staff being involved in the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame is anywhere near true, he’ll have to be dumped in favor of – who else but Rudy Giuliani? With the GOP convention in New York City, this will be the perfect backdrop for the launching of the Republican drive to break the Democratic stranglehold on New York state. “I’m a war President,” averred Bush in the Russert interview, and in that we are hearing the overarching theme of the Bush reelection campaign. New York voters remember all too well where the first shots of that war were fired.

Cheney has recently come out of the shadows to make a few public appearances, but this is surely a mistake. They didn’t stick him in an Undisclosed Location for nothing. He has a long history of contradicting the White House, and the Vice President’s office has increasingly acted as a kind of rogue opeeration. For example, Cheney stuck with the Mohammed Atta-in-Prague story long after it ceased to be credible. And his fellows in the elites don’t like him much, either. Here’s Orville Schell on Cheney at Davos:

“Hermetically sealed inside his bubble, Cheney for a short moment entered the larger bubble of the World Economic Forum. But like a missionary in a heathen land, his only urge was to deliver a message, to evangelize for his faith. Missing was any desire, perhaps even the ability, to learn something meaningful about the world he had entered. Indeed, the Bush bubble reflects a spirit deeply evangelical, more concerned with justifying and converting than questioning and learning. In its embunkered certainty, the administration’s belief system is strangely akin in spirit to the party discipline of Leninism.”

As the President hails “the global democratic revolution” and proclaims that we’re out to “change the world,” one hears the strains of “The Internationale” rising in ghostly refrain, reminding us of vanquished tyrants who met a well-deserved end – not, however, before some 60 million were slaughtered. How many the neo-Leninists take before they, too, go down with all the rest of the would-be world-conquerors, is anybody’s guess. The neocons, like their Leninist forebears, are a criminal conspiracy. The idea is to nip it in the bud – before it gets a chance to do any more damage.

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Read more by Justin Raimondo

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].