Things are getting bad for President Bush. Even Peggy Noonan seems to be having her doubts. For the uninitiated, Peggy Noonan’s spent the last six years responding to every Bush appearance by rolling over, waving her paws in the air and wetting herself in an orgy of submissiveness.
He is talking a lot lately, out there in America, and in the Oval Office. People don’t say as often as they used to, “You watch Bush’s speech last night?” Or they don’t ask it with the same anticipation and interest.
Yeah. Most of us noticed that about two months after the last election, Peg. While you were still fantasizing about the day George would take you in his arms and plant a lipless kiss on your eager, upturned mouth.
I think that Americans have pretty much stopped listening to him. One reason is that you don’t have to listen to get a sense of what’s going on. He does not appear to rethink things based on new data. You don’t have to tune in to see how he’s shifting emphasis to address a trend, or tacking to accommodate new winds. For him there is no new data, only determination.
Nice way to try and spin your slavish devotion, Peg. It’s all about his shiver-my-loins “determination.” Sweetie, Bush is “determined” in much the same way that a person in a persistent vegetative state is “determined.” Lack of thought, lack of analysis, lack of adaptation, that’s not determination so much as a flatline on the old EEG.
He repeats old arguments because he believes they are right, because he has no choice–in for a penny, in for a pound–and because his people believe in the dogma of the magic of repetition: Say it, say it, to break through the clutter.
There’s another reason people don’t listen to Mr. Bush as much as they did. It is that in some fundamental way they know they have already fully absorbed him. He’s burned his brand into the American hide.
“Burn your brand into me,” Peggy said huskily, drawing him close. “I’m yours, mark me with your hot brand.” The rough leather of his chaps against her naked thighs made her insides churn. She pressed her mouth to his ear and in a fierce, urgent whisper said, “Clear my brush. Clear my brush now.”
What is polarizing about him is the response he elicits from Americans just by being himself. They have deep questions about him, even as he is vivid to them.
“Vivid, so vivid, yes, yes, yes, you’re so vivid, yes. My questions about you are so . . . deep. So . . . deeply vivid.”
Americans don’t really know, deep down in their heads, whether this president, in his post-9/11 decisions, is a great man or a catastrophe, a visionary or wholly out of his depth.
Um. What? That’s kind of a buzz kill isn’t it, Peg? Surely you will go on to answer this question with a ringing endorsement of Mr. Bush’s vivid determination to brand you deeply. Won’t you?
What they increasingly sense is that he’s one thing or the other. And this is not a pleasant thing to sense. The stakes are so high. If you woke most Americans up at 3:00 in the morning and said, “Tell me, looking back, what would you have liked in an American president after 9/11?” most of them would answer, “I was just hoping for a good man who did moderately good things.” Who caught Osama, cleaned out Afghanistan, made it proof of the possibility of change and of the price to be paid by those who choose terror as a tactic. Not this historical drama queen, this good witch or bad.
The one thing I think America agrees on is that George Bush and his presidency have been enormously consequential. He has made decisions that will shape the future we’ll inhabit. It’s never “We must do this” with Mr. Bush. It’s always “the concentrated work of generations.” He doesn’t declare, he commits; and when you back him, you’re never making a discrete and specific decision, you’re always making a long-term investment.
This can be exhausting.
Well, yes, Peg, all that enormousness, when you consider the depth and all, and the vividness of his branding and whatnot, yeah, that can be exhausting. Would you like a cigarette now?
But wait, what was that about him being a drama queen? A drama queen? Interesting choice of words, isn’t it?
Lie back on the couch now, Peg, and let’s talk this over. What I hear you telling me is that the vividness in the relationship was great. That part was fine. But when you woke up the next morning and had to go to work wearing the same thing you had on when you left the night before, you began to have doubts about whether this man, this impossible, determined, brutish, overwhelming, domineering, masterful, penetrating, oh God, oh God, oh God, so . . . so . . . penetrating man, might not be the guy who was really right for you. Long term.
Maybe, just maybe you’d have been better off with someone who actually thought. You know, maybe had a little less manly determination and a little more cerebral activity.
And yet: You know he means it when he says he is trying to protect America. You know his heart is in it. You know he means it when he says there are bad guys and we will stop them. And that has meaning.
Ah, what a cruel put-down. He means well. He absolutely meant to call you, he just forgot. He meant to capture Osama . . . but he didn’t. He was well-inentioned. That’s what he was: manly and determined . . . and well-intentioned.
Was it a Cialis kind of thing, Peg? Was that it? Was he unable to rise to the situation? Is that what left you cooling rather than heating up? Or is it that five years after he said “Dead or alive,” and got you all worked up he still hasn’t gotten around to cleaning out the garage or taking out the garbage? Is he kind of unreliable? Have you begun to notice that all that manly determination just seems to involve marching in circles in a swamp?
With all this polarity, this drama, this added layer Mr. Bush brings to a nation already worn by the daily demands of modern individual life, the political alternative, the Democrats, should roar in six weeks from now, right? And return us to normalcy?
Well, that’s not what I sense.
And here we see Peg putting on her make-up, doing her hair, choosing the dress that’s hot but not really slutty, and trolling for a new man to replace George. Oh, she’s disappointed with what she sees standing at the bar, but she’s looking.
One of the oldest clichÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â©s in politics is, “You can’t beat something with nothing.” It’s a clichÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â© because it’s true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine.
Mr. Bush’s White House loves what the Democrats are doing. They want the focus on him. That’s why he’s out there talking, saying Look at me.
The end of the affair. George out there banging on the glass wearing his cowboy boots and his great big, big, belt buckle and saying, “Look at me. Look at meeee.”
You can’t beat something with nothing, and Democrats? You can’t put your vivid brand on Peggy Noonan’s hide until you have belief and a program. You’re going to have to stop reminding Peg of Mr. Bush, and help her to forget . . . forget . . .
So, you’ll need a belief. And a program. Also a cowboy costume.
(Cross-posted from Sideways Mencken.)