Thanksgiving Is Ruined
April 13, 2004
Not a bad man, but a very bad wizard.
This was it.
This is the night Bush lost. You may not see it now, but you will.
Yes, he's become what he always aimed for: to be the Anti-Clinton. Remember how every time Clinton gave a speech, what was at stake was the total future of his Presidency, his complete legacy? His success turned on whatever address he was giving so many times that it felt like watching Little Nell tied to the train tracks. Could the hero possibly save her in time? Could Bill pull his career out of the burning pyre without becoming wrapped in flames himself?
Of course, Bill always did.
Bush, on the other hand, has the opposite, and deadening effect. He's never had the moments of crisis of faith in his Presidency. Instead, he has the long slow slide into the La Brea tarpits of doubt and disbelief.
Remember how his SOTU was going to "pull it out"? But he got no bounce there. Then his unnerving performance on MTP with Russert, which was supposed to be so bold and reassuring? Bush always gets that crinkle in his forehead, one eyebrow dipping down, when he's not certain that you're buying what he's selling and he can't understand why. Bush had that look a lot with Russert.
He wore that expression with every question tonight.
We were amused when we saw the headline for the news story of this press conference was "Bush to face press in prime time." I expected Bush to come out and climb into a ring in tights - it was such a WWF setup. The brave guy! Toe to toe with the Press! He'd never take this chance if he wasn't ready for a total rout!
But he was - well, pathetic, in that he inspired pathos. It was difficult to watch how he struggled to understand how this could be happening, what it was he was supposed to say, why everyone wasn't being properly defential to him. As long as the questions gave him an opportunity to launch into a bit of drilled prose, he could spew it out with the best of the mechanical devices. But when a question appeared that he truly had not memorized the answer for - "Have you made any mistakes?" - he was completely lost. He simply can't think on his feet.
It will be a pleasure to watch him debate Kerry, as long as he hasn't received the questions beforehand.
Bush knew that he didn't do well. The press knew that he didn't do well. 65% of the viewing public knew that he didn't do well. Rove is experiencing a terrible night, if he's half as bright as everyone thinks he is. Expect to see the 35% or so of the country that are Bush "deadenders" talk about how noble and swell he was. But the rest of the country just so that the White House is occupied by The Great and Powerful Bush. (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!)
Okay, so he didn't actually answer a single question. So he repeated his old truisms and cliches. So he seemed more uncomfortable and beleaguered the longer it went on. So he was obviously flummoxed by questions about whether he's made mistakes, whether he should apologize, whether he's failing as a communicator. The only thing that seemed absolutely clear is that he truly believes that God wants him to do what he's doing.
The fact that Bush cited what the Almighty wants, and what he feels, as certainty about our path in Iraq was probably the most unnerving to your general, non-evangelical viewer.
But finally, this press conference confirmed that he is a faker. He's like a student who really doesn't know the material and is trying to bluff his way through an oral exam. He doesn't even know what the terminology is - he hears someone else using the words, and repeats them because the person he heard them from sounds smart to him. (Paging Condi Rice....)
Bush's use of the term "stovepiped" is a great example. It's shown up in the 9/11 Commission hearings over the past few days, and Bush used it tonight, but incorrectly. He described how the intelligence services were operating separately, without sharing information. The word that he couldn't recall, but described, is "siloed". It's a term that moved from IT to general corporate structural analysis, systems that are inflexible and deal only with the realm with which they were originally associated. Separate types of feed, stored in separate siloes, never mixing.
"Stovepiped" information, as described by Seymour Hersh, is raw data that was fed directly to Cheney without being vetted, much as toxic fumes would go directly up a stovepipe.
After the Russert interview, even Noonan said that Bush didn't do well in one-on-one interviews, and should stick to speeches. (Presumably because he doesn't have to think on his feet in speeches.) Tomorrow, will we read that he shouldn't "do press conferences", either? He's becoming the robotic gunslinger in "Westworld" - effective only as long as he isn't put into spontanteous situations.
And Iraq is going to provide nothing but spontaneous situations, especially once we start bombing Najaf and Sistani calls down the whirlwind. Within two months, Bush's numbers are at 35%.
All Kerry has to do is show up, and he's the next President.