Fealty

When the next Shakespeare pens an Oedipus Rex or Richard III, his largest problem might be picking our president’s central, tragic flaw. Would he choose the epic lack of intellectual curiosity?* It would be sorely tempting to pick the overdeveloped messiah complex which blocks out the faintest hint of self-doubt. Merely separating phenomena (the oedipal masculinity gap between himself and poppy, and probably Barb as well) from epiphenomena (pathological fixation on knocking over Saddam) will take entire PhD theses. It might be easier to rewrite the rules of drama than pick a single pathology. Still, in a pinch it’s hard to disagree with this:

A prominent conservative complains: “With this White House, there is loyalty not to an idea, but to a person. When Republicans talked about someone in the Reagan administration being ‘loyal,’ they didn’t mean to Ronald Reagan but to the conservative movement.”

The president is psychologically incapable of examining an issue in depth, but he is also unable to tell disagreement from betrayal. Add together the ideological reflexivity and the gilded class demand of fealty in the place of what most of us would have called loyalty, and you have somebody who is both unable to make the right decision and incapable of revisiting it.

But then the tragedy of our last eight years probably won’t star an actor playing the president. More likely the guy taking the last bow at the end of the night will have just finished showing just how much damage a vice president can do with enough skill to exploit the president’s personal faults to the hilt, along with an almost unprecedented lack of scruples and judgment. Like one of those binary explosives A combines with B to make something that you would never have guessed by looking at either one alone.

***

(*) Pedant alert – yes, I know that Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex. Next time I will write clearer.






52 replies
  1. 1
    srv says:

    Our children will look at us in the future the way we look to our parents dancing to the inklots. Or to my peers who bought BeeGee albums.

    Whenever you meet a ‘Republican’ in public, point at them, and scream “OMG! YOU VOTED FOR BUSH!” These people need to be treated as the moral equivalents of pedophiles.

    Remind them. Every time. Until they die.

    I will do my part. I’ve pissed on Bob Bullocks grave once, and I’ll be back to do it again.

  2. 2
    jake says:

    When Republicans talked about someone in the Reagan administration being ‘loyal,’ they didn’t mean to Ronald Reagan but to the conservative movement.”

    I detect a rat scurrying away from the Cult of Personality it helped create. Person before Party wasn’t such a huge clusterfuck with Reagan for a number of reasons. I’m still not certain Reagan believed his own hype. Not so with Bush43. He believes it, he expects it, he craves it.

    how much damage a vice president can do with enough skill to exploit the president’s personal faults to the hilt but an almost unprecedented lack of scruples or judgment.

    Isn’t this the plot of Othello? Or

    [Actors avert your eyes]

    Macbeth if you cast Dick as Lady M.

  3. 3
    Jackmormon says:

    I can’t wait to see how Bush handles post-Presidential life. I fully expect him to dispatch minions to attack critics of his war and legacy for some years to come, although I can’t imagine that he will make many appearances himself. For one thing, he’s not going to be able to travel abroad so much.

  4. 4
    Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I can’t imagine that he will make many appearances himself. For one thing, he’s not going to be able to travel abroad so much.

    Two days ago, a poll of Arizonans was released, showing Bush’s approval rating here had slipped to an all-time low of 36 percent. My thought was, He’s running out of safe havens.

  5. 5
    David says:

    Reading this, I wondered how a democracy managed to elect a man so completely ill-suited to lead a superpower. Then I remembered that we RE-elected the same man.

    Bush and his team are too one-dimensional to be the protagonist of a tragedy. The tragic flaw in this mess was the gullibility of the electorate.

  6. 6
    sglover says:

    Whenever you meet a ‘Republican’ in public, point at them, and scream “OMG! YOU VOTED FOR BUSH!” These people need to be treated as the moral equivalents of pedophiles.

    Spot fucking on.

    As for Bush’s messianic complex — I don’t think he really fits the bill. What I mean is, I don’t believe he’s one of those guys who is truly blessed (or cursed) with complete self-confidence and unwavering conviction. I see something pretty close to the opposite: A guy who really doesn’t, deep down, believe in himself, because he’s never had to face a consequence in his life. It’s because of this that he needs to surround himself with people who’ll tell him absolutely nothing that he doesn’t want to hear.

  7. 7
    Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    A guy who really doesn’t, deep down, believe in himself

    Abso-fucking-lutely.
    You could see it in his eyes on Sept. 12, 2001. The man knew he was in over his head.

  8. 8
    Tulkinghorn says:

    I don’t think an interesting or worthy drama can be written about W himself, as he just is not an interesting character. He has been a deluded, asinine, malevolent schmuck his whole life, and while his political fortunes have revealed this, there never was enough of an interesting or worthwhile character to W that could make its destruction dramatically interesting. He is just a cipher, a pure asshole, with no capacity for dramatic tension.

    Cheney may be another story. People who have known him for decades conclude at some point in the last 20 years he has become a different person – secretive, intellectually dishonest, in betrayal of the values that exemplified his early life. There is at least some sort of dramatic arc there, unlike W, which is more like the playing out of a bad artificial intelligence scenario.

    Like Jake suggested above, Cheney is like Lady McBeth, and while W shares McBeth’s lack of personality other than ambition, it does McBeth (a faithful military hero before his choosing regicide as a carrer plan) a disservice to compare him to W.

  9. 9
    steve says:

    Only an Aristophanes could do justice to this goofitopia.

  10. 10
    Ekim says:

    *) Pedant alert – yes, I know that Sophocles wrote Oedipus Rex. Next time I will write clearer.

    Or “more clearly”?

  11. 11
    RSA says:

    I think Jake and Tulkinghorn are exactly right: Bush isn’t interesting enough to carry a tragedy alone, and Macbeth would be a better model. My first thought was something more along the lines of All the King’s Men, but it’s not clear that a Jack Burden wouldn’t be eliminated in the first scene. Given the cast of characters currently in the White House, a Forrest Gump approach is more plausible, I think.

  12. 12
    Face says:

    The president is psychologically incapable of examining an issue in depth, but he is also unable to tell disagreement from betrayal.

    His personality has so many characteristics of someone in their early to mid-teens, that most of his actions must be viewed in this light. His regal arrogance and smug cockiness are common to the teenager that thinks nothing bad will ever befall them. His WH cliques and tight inner circle (belying greater insecurity) is part and parcel of a high schooler’s drive to be “liked” and “popular”.

    He displays almost no traits associated with maturity, intellectual curiosity, and most importantly, responsibility. Everything is always someone else’s fault. We truly have a inner 14 year-old running this country.

  13. 13
    Pb says:

    We truly have a inner 14 year-old running this country.

    You’re giving him far too much credit–most 14 year-olds could have done a much better job. And just consider, a 14 year-old elected in 2000 would be 21 by now!

  14. 14
    Barry says:

    I’ve heard it said that alcoholics are frequently emotionally stunted. Combined with the cocaine use, a bizarre family situation, not having to face up to the consequences of his actions, and a twisted form of Christianity, Bush has been in a f*cked-up place for the last several decades.

    And he’s had several decades where the major rule of life was that his f*ck-ups didn’t matter, because they didn’t hurt him or any of his peers (schmucks like us don’t count,of course).

  15. 15
    Tom Hilton says:

    Yeah, I don’t think he’s an interesting enough character to be the protagonist of a great drama. This tragedy has an ensemble cast.

  16. 16
    searp says:

    I agree with SRV wholeheartedly, and I have made this point over and over again. W’s background made him laughably unfit to be President – my line is that I wouldn’t have voted for him to be mayor of my modest city – but that didn’t prevent a near plurality of voters from trooping out and making him President.

    What would drive people to do this? Inability to view elections as anything other than a big American Idol voting opportunity? Forget the conspiracy theories – regardless of how W became the candidate of the Republicans, his complete lack of qualification for the office was in full view, and even touted sotto voce as a “feature”.

    At any rate, W is the agent of the feckless American people, at least those who, for unfathomable reasons, voted for him. There are a LOT of those people out there, including some of my relatives.

  17. 17
    tballou says:

    * We all knew exactly what you meant, and anyone that says otherwise is obviously no Einstein!

  18. 18

    Well, you couldn’t expect a good outcome from being raised by #41 and Babs. Their spawn are all grifters, and each has learned how to fool the rubes who in turn allow them to screw the country over again and again.

    I find Dubya’s personal development to be very much like (and I know I get a demerit for this) Hitler’s in that he had a very bad relationship with his Poppy AND is very probably gay and has hated himself for it. He was able to project his self-loathing to others. His cruelty is only redirected self-hate. This kind of compartmentalization of those places of his mind he won’t admit to is what is needed for the kind of leadership that Bush has given. Bush is able to be cruel because he wants to exterminate those parts of him he cannot admit.

    Now this kind of psychosis is great for the Republican agenda because the essence of the Republican agenda is to accumulate wealth for its core constituency and screw the rest of us. In order to rip off the rest of humanity you have to have a great ability to blame the results of your greed on others.

    People often get fooled by silly ideas like patriotism. George Bush doesn’t really care about America. In fact, the quaint idea of national borders is only a tool to make certain groups of people fight against their own interests in order to make their lords richer. Bush’s real love is for the money made by the people he represents. Does anyone think that Halliburton cares about what happens to the U.S.? What flag does Exxon or BP or Chevron salute?

    We will get a parade of hucksters running for the 2008 Republican nomination for President who will chant variations of the same crap that every Republican gives us. We’ll get some patriotism shit, we’ll get sanctity of life bullshit, we’ll free market horsehit, we’ll get God is on our side crap, and it’s all about extracting wealth from the masses for the few. The difference between a McCain or a Giuliani and a genuine Bush is that the former are just toilers in the vineyards whereas with the Bushes we got a glimpse of the oligarchy’s royalty. Sometimes the real thing just isn’t very pretty. That’s why all the Republicans are sighing and wishing we were back with Ronnie Reagan in the White House. He was the best. He was a fucking actor! He’d been pimping for GE for years. Reagan could make the jamokes out there feel good about death squads killing people over the price of bananas and coffee beans. That’s why some Repubs are yipping for a constitutional amendment to get Arnie qualified to run for President. It’s all a psychotic fantasy. Dreamtime. Man, wouldn’t the Governator look good in a flight suit! And he wouldn’t have to pretend to like girls either.

    So where’s the tragedy? They’re charging three and a half bucks per gallon for gasoline out here in Cali. Dubya’s audience is clapping. It’s another feel-good story.

  19. 19
    Zifnab says:

    What would drive people to do this? Inability to view elections as anything other than a big American Idol voting opportunity? Forget the conspiracy theories – regardless of how W became the candidate of the Republicans, his complete lack of qualification for the office was in full view, and even touted sotto voce as a “feature”.

    He was picked by the Republicans specifically because he was an empty husk of a human being. GW was going to be the puppet king, the Maximillion to Cheney’s Napoleon as it were. He was pliable and gulliable, so he made the perfect candidate. All the neo-con/Republithugs had to do from there was turn on the right-wing smear machine, add in a liberal dose of voter suppression, and spend a shit-ton of money. One Presidential Candidate looked alot like another in 2000 – one of the primary complaints about that election – and it wasn’t hard to get 49% of the US plus five SCOTUS judges to pick the candidate they wanted.

  20. 20

    Oh yeah? Well at least Bush hasn’t gotten a blowjob in the Oval Office.* Take that, moonbats!

    * Or anywhere else, ever, quite possibly. There are allegations he gave a few in college, but it’s hard to discern how credible they are.

  21. 21
    Rome Again says:

    But then the tragedy of our last eight years probably won’t star an actor playing the president.

    Our last eight years? Is it over finally? Can I come back out from under my rock again? Oh, no… sorry, we still have another year and a half to go.

  22. 22
    RSA says:

    We’re gonna need a bigger rock.

  23. 23
    Tsulagi says:

    You could see it in his eyes on Sept. 12, 2001. The man knew he was in over his head.

    Earlier. When he was told of the second plane hitting the Towers while reading My Pet Goat. Instantly had a deer-in-the-headlights look that continued continuously for the next 7 minutes with his ass glued to the chair while the country was under attack on its own soil.

    Then since daddy didn’t appear to rescue him, he ran for the remainder of the day.

  24. 24

    Then since daddy didn’t appear to rescue him, he ran for the remainder of the day.

    That was the part that pissed me off the most. He ran off to Nebraska to hide, then somehow revionists started portraying him as some heroic leader dodging kamikaze jets. The fact of the matter is, Giuliani was pretty much the American President on 9/11. He was the one in the trenches, while our nominal President was freaking out about Iraq.

    Not that I like Giuliani, mind you. But on 9/11, he was a Hell of a lot more Presidential than Bush has ever been, before, during, or since.

  25. 25

    Then since daddy didn’t appear to rescue him, he ran for the remainder of the day.

    That was the part that pissed me off the most. He ran off to Nebraska to hide, then somehow revionists started portraying him as some heroic leader dodging kamikaze jets. The fact of the matter is, Giuliani was pretty much the American President on 9/11. He was the one in the trenches, while our nominal President was freaking out about Iraq.

    Not that I like Giuliani, mind you. But on 9/11, he was a Hell of a lot more Presidential than Bush has ever been, before, during, or since.

  26. 26

    Sorry that showed up twice. Fucking computers!

  27. 27
    Jake says:

    I’ve heard it said that alcoholics are frequently always emotionally stunted.

    Don’t get me wrong, addicts who take their recovery seriously are some of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. However, they’ve all do fuck of a lot more than thumb through a Bible for half an hour and say a prayer. They’ve also had to go through some crisis caused by their addiction that nothing and no one could fix for them. (The fabled Bottom.) Has that happened to the Demander-in-Chief yet? Nuh-uh. And it probably never will, ergo a big stinking mess for everyone around him (us).

    I’d be willing to bet that psych professors are already being bombarded by term papers with the following hypothesis: Power + Addiction = Cluster Fuck par excellence.

  28. 28
    Rome Again says:

    They’ve also had to go through some crisis caused by their addiction that nothing and no one could fix for them. (The fabled Bottom.) Has that happened to the Demander-in-Chief yet? Nuh-uh. And it probably never will, ergo a big stinking mess for everyone around him (us).

    No, because he’s being enabled by Mommy, Daddy, his handlers, his staff and his crazy 28%ers. There is no recovery while enabling is in play. He will probably NEVER recover.

  29. 29
    Tsulagi says:

    That was the part that pissed me off the most. He ran off to Nebraska to hide

    Don’t forget Louisiana! After the Great Decider churned the air in circles, he first went to LA. Needed fuel, show us he was okay so we could breathe easier, let us know the country was under attack in case we missed it, but not to worry, he was bugging out. Our national treasure, GWB, would be safe.

    No need to look for intricate, complex oedipal or messiah rationales to explain GWB’s behavior. Sometimes a sack of shit is just a sack of shit.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    sglover says:

    That was the part that pissed me off the most. He ran off to Nebraska to hide, then somehow revionists started portraying him as some heroic leader dodging kamikaze jets. The fact of the matter is, Giuliani was pretty much the American President on 9/11. He was the one in the trenches, while our nominal President was freaking out about Iraq.

    I yield to nobody in Bush loathing, but I’ve always thought this attack is unfair. Presidents have been swaddled in a multi-layered security cocoon for decades, now. I think that in the event of a similar crisis, any President who was away from DC would be hustled off to some secure communications facility.

  32. 32
    Pb says:

    They’ve also had to go through some crisis caused by their addiction that nothing and no one could fix for them.

    Iraq?

  33. 33
    ThymeZone says:

    IJG, thanks for posting that link.

  34. 34
    Jake says:

    Iraq?

    Hasn’t affected him directly. Drooping poll numbers and voiciferous war opponents can be ignored or will make him dig in his heels (La la la I can’t heaaaaar youoooo!)

    Maybe if Laura and Barney left him.

  35. 35
    Tulkinghorn says:

    I yield to nobody in Bush loathing, but I’ve always thought this attack is unfair. Presidents have been swaddled in a multi-layered security cocoon for decades, now. I think that in the event of a similar crisis, any President who was away from DC would be hustled off to some secure communications facility.

    Then why was Cheney sent to deep undercover, too? As long as the Veep is safe, the President should be free to step up and lead when needed. Otherwise, why take the effing job, to be hider-in-chief?

    The layers of security are there to protect the president, but the whole point is that the president should know when to let down his guard and take a position of leadership and visibility. Once they had jets in the air around DC, he was safe in the White House, unless they had some reason to think that people who hijack airliners might have cruise missiles, too.

    Only one conclusion: chickenshit.

  36. 36
    Randolph Fritz says:

    A lack of honor.

  37. 37
    Chad N. Freude says:

    I yield to nobody in Bush loathing, but I’ve always thought this attack is unfair. Presidents have been swaddled in a multi-layered security cocoon for decades, now. I think that in the event of a similar crisis, any President who was away from DC would be hustled off to some secure communications facility.

    And yet, I can imagine a President saying “No, in an emergency like this it’s essential that the President appear before the nation, to console and inspire, and to demonstrate the strength of the nation in the face of a terrible tragedy. Turn this plane to Washington!”

    Well, I can imagine it. Just not this particular president. Roosevelt, maybe, or Kennedy, or even, God help us, Nixon.

  38. 38
    Tsulagi says:

    but I’ve always thought this attack is unfair.

    I don’t.

    During the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK was told by CIA there was a strong possibility one of more of the nuke ICBMs were operational. After the fall of the Soviet Union and some looking through KGB files, it seems they were likely correct.

    Washington was in range. While he could have gone to a secure location and been safe, or decided it was time to visit Nebraska or Hawaii, he chose to stay in the WH. Trying to keep the country as calm as it could be, that its leader was in charge, and to show resolve to nation friends and enemies that you can’t make an American president run. He was a president.

    No fan of Rumsfeld, but on 9/11 when his security people wanted to get him away from the Pentagon, he said he would be damned if terrorists would chase him from his office. Good on him.

    Contrast Tony Blair’s actions after the London train bombings with GWB’s Profile in Courage on 9/11. Told of the bombings while at a G8 conference, Blair immediately flies to London. He addresses his nation coherently. Then he flies back to the G8 to conduct his nation’s business. All within the span of about three hours. That’s a prime minister.

    A big part of the reason the Constitution and later the Presidential Succession Act spells out a long line of succession is a message to those who would attack. You may get this guy, but there will be another, and another, and… There is no king to checkmate.

    Crazy-ass Founding Fathers thought the nation’s treasure was its principles and people, not its president/king. Obviously they were not Bush Republicans.

  39. 39
    jh says:

    Well, I can imagine it. Just not this particular president. Roosevelt, maybe, or Kennedy, or even, God help us, Nixon.

    Nobody has done more for the rehabilitation of Nixon’s image than GWB.

    Imagine that.

  40. 40
    sglover says:

    Nobody has done more for the rehabilitation of Nixon’s image than GWB.

    Imagine that.

    Hell, Bush has made Iraqis nostalgic for Saddam. Imagine that!

  41. 41
    ThymeZone says:

    Hell, Bush has made Iraqis nostalgic for Saddam. Imagine that!

    Not only funny, but exactly true, and tragic.

  42. 42

    “While [JFK] could have gone to a secure location and been safe, or decided it was time to visit Nebraska or Hawaii, he chose to stay in the WH.”

    But while he was facing down the Russians and the Cubans, he should have paid more attention to the Oil Party. Shot him dead in downtown Dallas and they’ve been running the country ever since.

    Three-fifty a gallon out here in Cali.

  43. 43
    merlallen says:

    His running and hiding on 9/11 and becoming a hero to the mouth breathers pisses me off too. I remember some manly looking woman going on TV and saying “Don’t worry, YOUR president is safe”. Goddamnit. Like I gave a rat’s ass about that coward. I was worried about my wife, not that faggot pussy.

  44. 44
    bernarda says:

    It is past time to perhaps re-evaluate Dumbya. Maybe he is just a psychopath. If he had been born to a broken family without powerful people to continually call him back into line, what are the chances that he wouldn’t be in prison for some violent crimes, maybe as a serial killer?

    Since he became president, he seems to think that he made it on his (in)ability and doesn’t owe anything to anyone, after all, now he is “the decider” who “decides”. What does he decide? To kill people on the flimsiest of pretexts.

  45. 45

    His running and hiding on 9/11 and becoming a hero to the mouth breathers pisses me off too. I remember some manly looking woman going on TV and saying “Don’t worry, YOUR president is safe”. Goddamnit. Like I gave a rat’s ass about that coward. I was worried about my wife, not that faggot pussy

    Maybe she was talking about Gore. He was MY President, not the cowardly little usurper racing off to some bunker in Nebraska like a rat scurrying down a hole.

    How was your wife? Did she work in the WTC or something?

    It is past time to perhaps re-evaluate Dumbya. Maybe he is just a psychopath. If he had been born to a broken family without powerful people to continually call him back into line, what are the chances that he wouldn’t be in prison for some violent crimes, maybe as a serial killer?

    He would’ve flunked out of college and had his ass shipped to Vietnam, at the very least. Maybe he wouldn’t even have completed high school. Vietnam, either way. After that, who knows?

    Since he became president, he seems to think that he made it on his (in)ability and doesn’t owe anything to anyone, after all, now he is “the decider” who “decides”. What does he decide? To kill people on the flimsiest of pretexts.

    Lots of people hear voices telling them they’re from God. He gets to decide that the voice he hears is the actual Almighty. God told him to whack Saddam, you know.

  46. 46
    Tim F. says:

    what are the chances that he wouldn’t be in prison for some violent crimes, maybe as a serial killer?

    Being a serial killer takes patience, planning and skill. At best he would be a wife-beating drunk.

  47. 47
    The Kat says:

    The Bushies bought over 100,000 acres in Paraguay, which is where they’ll probably hole up, assuming he isn’t assassinated or impeached – highly unlikely for the latter.

    Here’s the Paraguay story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1928928,00.html

    And here’s my story that also contained the link: http://dailysnarl.com/2007/04/.....-billions/

    I really like your blog and the commenters. I’ll be back. Thanks!

  48. 48

    Being a serial killer takes patience, planning and skill. At best he would be a wife-beating drunk.

    And if he killed her, he’d be on death row. In Texas. Consider the irony, Parallel-Universe Death-House Resident Dubya!

  49. 49
    louisms says:

    I take some comfort in knowing- just knowing -that no state, town, or municipality, not even in Texas is ever gonna name an airport, municipal center, highway, or even an alley after WGB. Only in infamy will his name live on.

  50. 50

    […] Tim F. posed an interesting question the other day: What the heck is wrong with George Bush? […]

  51. 51

    I take some comfort in knowing- just knowing -that no state, town, or municipality, not even in Texas is ever gonna name an airport, municipal center, highway, or even an alley after WGB. Only in infamy will his name live on.

    He might get a death row or a sewage treatment plant named after him, though.

    Actually, come to think of it even naming a sewage treatment plant after him would be kind of an insult to all those Iraqis who’ve been wallowing in muck for the last 4 years of their “liberation.”

  52. 52

    […] Hilzoy expands on something that I mused about the other day – what the heck is wrong with George W. Bush? One lifetime Republican comments in a quoted article: […]

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