Am I the only one who blanched at President Bush’s speech at Coretta Scott King’s funeral today? I hope not. Granted I blanch a lot when this president talks. No one will ever accuse Bush of being eloquent. Three out of four Republicans would probably agree too: when Bush talks he sounds insipid and vapid. Like he is not quite there. I find it particularly irksome to hear him speak when he is trying to pretend that he shares values he clearly lacks. His sermon about this wonderful woman named Coretta Scott King was yet another high water mark of discontinuity. The words may have been lofty, but they were delivered in a voice that gave a much different speech. We all know what the speech said. However, here is what we picked up.
“You know, I just really don’t care about this woman. I’m sure she was a nice lady to these folks, but I don’t care because, well, she isn’t my kind. I am just here being nice and because it’s expected. I am the president. I really haven’t a clue how this woman motivated millions of these people. She sure didn’t motivate me. And the people here to say goodbye, goodness, what a sad and lost bunch of people. They just don’t get it. If she really wanted to help them, she’d have been getting them off welfare. These Negroes here, boy their values are all wacked. They need to follow ladies like Condoleeza. They gotta lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. If they act a lot like me I’ll hardly notice that they are black.”
In many ways Bush is a Martian. He does not experience the world you and I live in. He can mouth the words but he simply lacks the empathy (and consequently the ability) to make us believe that he believes them. He is a man comfortable being stage-managed. And why shouldn’t he be? This is the way his life has always been. He has always been told what to do and what to say. He doesn’t rebel when it happens. He likes it. The staff always keeps the riff raff out. Someone is always smoothing the path for him or taking the fall for him if necessary. In Bush’s world, this is normal. This is the way things work. There is always money to pay your rent, because even if I didn’t have any, Dad does. While he talks the talk about self-reliance, he has never been self-reliant himself. Instead, he relies on connections. Connections got him into Yale and the Texas Air National Guard. His father or his father’s friends set him up in the oil, baseball, and governor business.
Of course, he has never known poverty. In fact, he has never come close to it. His has lived a life of undeserved privilege. No wonder when he stands in front of a crowd of African Americans he hasn’t a clue where these people are coming from. No wonder he can go to a devastated New Orleans, make noble speeches about how the full resources of the federal government are going to bring it back to life, and then blithely forget it. Living to him is about being stage-managed. The butler lays out your clothes in the morning. The cook has a breakfast ready. That’s the way things are. No doing dishes ever. No need to take the car to get the oil changed. No need to figure out whether you will either pay your rent or buy your medicines this month. Days are merely events to get through. You follow the script and get many pats on the back from the many yes men around you. Then you go home. Bed by ten p.m. Your presidential pajamas will be laid out on your bed next to the chocolate on the presidential pillow. The staff will see to it. They’re good folks.
Lacking grounding in the real world, and because he only makes friends with those in similar situations, it is not surprising that he is hopelessly inept managing the government. Lacking any grounding in the real world, the otherworldly becomes routine. He is like The Buddha before he ventured outside his father’s estates. Tax cuts for the rich? Sure, why not? I can identify with rich people. Gosh, we pay too many taxes. Health care savings accounts? It works for me, so it will work for anyone. Surely poor people will put money into them too and then use it to shop around for their own doctors. After all, they may be poor, but they should have enough money left over from my tax cuts to throw a couple hundred a month into their MSA. War in Iraq? Everyone knows Saddam is guilty, so let just topple him and hang those prissies at the U.N. It won’t be a problem. After all Dick says we’ll be greeted as liberators. Global warming? It’s always hot on my ranch in the summer. I don’t see the problem and it’s no big deal anyhow. Most people hate winter anyhow. Deficits going out of sight? Cut more taxes and tax revenue will spout out of the ground like a Texas tea. Yee haw! Liquid gold; it will be more than enough to pay for costly new entitlement programs and keep more than a hundred thousand soldiers in Iraq for decades to come. Need to do some domestic wiretapping? The law is for gentlemen, not for us Texans. We do not wait for prissy politicians to pass bills giving us the authority. We go for it and never look back.
I can see the attraction of the presidency to Bush. It is the perfect job for him because win or lose reelection he gets to stay in the bubble for the rest of his life. The Secret Service will be there for the rest of his life too, even guarding him on his deathbed. The presidential pension will ensure he has health care for life. He will never have to drive a car again, unless it is for fun. In addition, he won’t have to account to anyone again either. It is the perfect retirement plan for a man whose life has always been on a silver plate.
The bubble is perfect for him. The bubble is home. In a few years, there will be no more of the tedium of attending funerals for people he does not care about. It will be nothing but clearing brush and mountain biking for the rest of his life, at taxpayer’s expense.
Ah, the joys of living the surreal life.