Bush rejects thought, makes decisions by instinct, backed by faith
long article about President Bush in the October 17 New York Times Magazine
, “Without a Doubt,”
helps explain why this president’s policies often make no sense at all or blatantly contradict each other, why he is so abysmally poor at explaining his policies (or rather why he doesn’t try to explain them at all beyond the same endlessly repeated boilerplate), and why there has been so little internal as well as external debate about various administration measures, including its post-war plans and policies for Iraq. As the article makes alarmingly clear, Bush, who is very much aware of and sensitive about his lack of knowledge, eschews analysis and does everything by “gut,” “instinct,” and “faith.” Here are some excerpts:
Forty democratic senators were gathered for a lunch in March just off the Senate floor. I was there as a guest speaker. Joe Biden was telling a story, a story about the president. “I was in the Oval Office a few months after we swept into Baghdad,” he began, “and I was telling the president of my many concerns”—concerns about growing problems winning the peace, the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanding of the Iraqi Army and problems securing the oil fields. Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. “‘Mr. President,’ I finally said, ‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?”’
Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand on the senator’s shoulder. “My instincts,” he said. “My instincts.”
Biden paused and shook his head, recalling it all as the room grew quiet. “I said, ‘Mr. President, your instincts aren’t good enough!”’
… The Delaware senator was, in fact, hearing what Bush’s top deputies—from cabinet members like Paul O’Neill, Christine Todd Whitman and Colin Powell to generals fighting in Iraq—have been told for years when they requested explanations for many of the president’s decisions, policies that often seemed to collide with accepted facts. The president would say that he relied on his “gut” or his “instinct” to guide the ship of state, and then he “prayed over it.” The old pro Bartlett, a deliberative, fact-based wonk, is finally hearing a tune that has been hummed quietly by evangelicals (so as not to trouble the secular) for years as they gazed upon President George W. Bush. This evangelical group—the core of the energetic “base” that may well usher Bush to victory—believes that their leader is a messenger from God.
… The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush’s intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now. A writ of infallibility—a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains—is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House. As Whitman told me on the day in May 2003 that she announced her resignation as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: “In meetings, I’d ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!” (Whitman, whose faith in Bush has since been renewed, denies making these remarks and is now a leader of the president’s re-election effort in New Jersey.)
… Still others, like Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, a Democrat, are worried about something other than his native intelligence. “He’s plenty smart enough to do the job,” Levin said. “It’s his lack of curiosity about complex issues which troubles me.” But more than anything else, I heard expressions of awe at the president’s preternatural certainty and wonderment about its source.
Here’s a Bush I can like:
Moments after the ceremony, Bush saw Wallis. He bounded over and grabbed the cheeks of his face, one in each hand, and squeezed. “Jim, how ya doin’, how ya doin’!” he exclaimed. Wallis was taken aback. Bush excitedly said that his massage therapist had given him Wallis’s book, “Faith Works.” His joy at seeing Wallis, as Wallis and others remember it, was palpable—a president, wrestling with faith and its role at a time of peril, seeing that rare bird: an independent counselor. Wallis recalls telling Bush he was doing fine, “‘but in the State of the Union address a few days before, you said that unless we devote all our energies, our focus, our resources on this war on terrorism, we’re going to lose.’ I said, ‘Mr. President, if we don’t devote our energy, our focus and our time on also overcoming global poverty and desperation, we will lose not only the war on poverty, but we’ll lose the war on terrorism.”’
Bush replied that that was why America needed the leadership of Wallis and other members of the clergy.
“No, Mr. President,” Wallis says he told Bush, “We need your leadership on this question, and all of us will then commit to support you. Unless we drain the swamp of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we’ll never defeat the threat of terrorism.”
Bush looked quizzically at the minister, Wallis recalls. They never spoke again after that.
But now read this, which is literally unbelievable:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend—but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
Every few months, a report surfaces of the president using strikingly Messianic language, only to be dismissed by the White House. Three months ago, for instance, in a private meeting with Amish farmers in Lancaster County, Pa., Bush was reported to have said, “I trust God speaks through me.” In this ongoing game of winks and nods, a White House spokesman denied the president had specifically spoken those words, but noted that “his faith helps him in his service to people.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 21, 2004 11:17 AM | Send
A word about GWB’s reliance on his “gut instincts.” This wouldn’t be a bad thing if Bush was a man of great learning, experience, and a talent for seeking out important information. But these are qualities that GWB doesn’t appear to have.
Has GWB ever studied the voting patterns of hispanics? Did he notice that ex-Congressman Dornan lost his seat (to take one example) when his district became majority-hispanic? Did he consult military and political experts who would give him opinions contrary to his main advisers on the problems of an occupation of Iraq?
At last, a way in which Jorge W. Bush really does resemble Adolf Hitler!