Sunday, January 04, 2009

A President Forgotten but Not Gone -

WE like our failed presidents to be Shakespearean, or at least large enough to inspire Oscar-worthy performances from magnificent tragedians like Frank Langella. So here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He’s the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.
I've thought a lot about Bush since I saw W. a few weeks ago. I was struck at the time by the fact that I emerged from it not hating him the way I used to. Partly that is because I don't hate him that way any more: since his power evaporated, hatred has given way to resignation and weariness as I wait for him to leave office.

In W., the man we see is too small to be wirthy of our hatred. We can see that he is responsible for the calamities he has caused. But we can also see to what an extent such a small man could never have done those things on his own. We can not turn our attention away from the people who made Bush. In the movie, we have Cheney, manipulating things, provoking the President with just the right words at just the right time. Cheney is a stand-in for all the brokers who operated behind bush. They were one part of the equation.

But the conservative apparatus as a whole in the United States was the bigger part. Who were these people who were so contemptuous of Al Gore, who so confidently assured us that their man was not just fit to be President, but far more so than his opponent? We can not forget that a large portion of the United States population, both common ordinary conservatives and power elites, not only backed this man, but insisted on having him in power. The Supreme Court even gave a 'one-off' decision to move him over the top.

Let us also never forget the large mass of middling, indifferent voters who were persuaded. These were the people who, asked about specific policies whether taxes, abortion rights, the environment, came down consistently on the side of Gore, but who voted for Bush anyway because he was the one they would 'rather have a beer with'. Bush himself is not grand enough to be tragic. The tragedy is on a far larger scale. How do you make a play about the blindness of a whole people?

Op-Ed Columnist - A President Forgotten but Not Gone -
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