There are so many things about the current presidential administration I can’t stand that I could rant for days and days about it. (I just might, eventually.) But it’s not the war-mongering or privacy invasion or disregard for human rights or squandering of diplomatic goodwill with the world. No, the worst part is very simple.
It’s George W. Bush.
I have seen him do nothing in the three years of his presidency that would convince me he can express a cogent thought of his own. How many debates did Bush and Gore have in 2000? Bush’s more than willing to go on television and read prepared statements, but how often does he actually answer questions from the press? In the few situations where the political climate has demanded that he respond, he just responds to hardball questions by grabbing a handful of talking points and throwing them out like he’s feeding birds at the park. (If I hear “Saddam Hussein was an evil man” one more time, I’m going to explode.)
But that’s not the worst thing. Consider filmmaker Michael Moore’s take on Bush’s response to 9/11:
Conventional wisdom has it that the president was reading to schoolchildren when he got the news and quickly left the room.
The Moore version: He was informed of the first attack, went into the room anyway, was informed of the second attack, and remained with the students until a staff member suggested that he leave.
“The teacher in that Sarasota classroom happened to tape the whole event,” Moore told me. “We’d seen other footage from the networks, but it was all edited. She just left the camera running. She said nobody had ever asked her for the film. Bush didn’t instinctively jump up and go into action, but just stayed on autopilot until someone told him what to do.”
Now I understand that Moore’s hardly a nonpartisan observer. He’s got a very big axe to grind, which he does in an often heavy-handed manner. But he has this on videotape, for chrissakes!
I keep thinking back to what Robert Kennedy said the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Kennedy got up and informed the crowd of King’s death, than proceeded to say perhaps the most calming, the most moving, the most healing thing anyone could have said. I don’t know if Kennedy spoke extemporaneously, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine George W. Bush quoting Aeschylus. (I’m pretty sure Bush’s never heard of Aeschylus.)
And I realize that rhetorical skills alone aren’t sufficient to make a good president, but why aren’t they a requirement? Why is it wrong of us to wish that our leaders be capable of bringing us together, to speak eloquently about our collective pain or joy? Think about some of the other people who have been president: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy… It is nothing less than an insult to these great, eloquent men that George W. Bush is included in their number.