Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Bush Syndrome in Living Color

The Bush Syndrome in Living Color
Justin Frank
Huffington Post

Some pictures are worth a thousand words, but this one of George W. Bush delivering his highly touted "Plan for Victory" speech at the U.S. Naval Academy on November 30 is worth ten thousand. And this speech had lots of words, lasting from 9:45 AM to 10:32. The speech and its attendant PR are clear evidence of the "Bush Syndrome" in all its glory.

The "Bush Syndrome" is about opposites: he says the opposite of what he does. Here is a grand photo of a small man with a small plan -- a plan offering nothing new. He gets it backwards even when trying to emulate his heroes (like Teddy Roosevelt), as this picture is of a man who speaks loudly but carries a soft stick.

Throughout his presidency, Bush's photo essays convey force and decisiveness. It is clear from his speech today that he continues to confuse certainty with truth, consistency with power. I'm put in mind of Oscar Wilde who said "consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative." He is not only without imagination, he is impervious to input, to facts about how the war is proceeding.

The "Bush Syndrome" has always included the overt dismissal of father in favor of what he told Bob Woodward in 2003 was a "higher father." But this photo is more peculiar and more grandiose than all his others -- from Mount Rushmore to Mission Accomplished -- and is reminiscent of Berlin in the 1930s. As the earlier photo essays involve role playing, so too does this one. Only the role depicted here isn't evocative of Jesus or even of a democratically elected president.

The Bush Syndrome is also about avoiding responsibility, which to him means avoiding shame. This photo depicts the massive efforts to which Bush will go to avoid shame. For him, changing his mind admits having made a mistake, and that is humiliating. For this reason alone his speech was no surprise. He cannot change because he cannot be at the mercy of all those ghosts of his past who mocked and belittled him - starting with his parents.

It is ever so clear that this president is too incompetent to govern, too frozen in a defensive idea of himself as never wrong. He has excessive fears of being shamed which contribute to his inability to change courses or to admit failure. To paraphrase President Kennedy - someone who is most likely not one of Bush's heroes - it is essential to admit mistakes when they happen to prevent them from becoming failures. We have a failed presidency. We have a destructive president who will continue letting our troops die just so he can save face.