Monday, January 05, 2009

Notable Frank Rich Lines from Yesterday’s NYT

New York Times Op/Ed columnist Frank Rich said it all yesterday when he described George W. Bush as “smaller than life”. Noting that Americans like their failed presidents to be close to Shakespearean in their tragedy, Rich said, “Here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He’s the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.” Rich cites the White House Website and its effort to inflate Bush’s woeful terms as president with something like adequacy: ”A booklet recounting ‘highlights’ of the administration’s ‘accomplishments and results’ (has) big type, much white space, children’s-book-like trivia boxes titled ‘Did You Know?’ and lots of color photos of the Bushes posing with blacks and troops...this document is the literary correlative to ‘Mission Accomplished.’” Rich goes on to say, “But the brazenness of Bush’s alternative-reality history is itself revelatory. The audacity of its hype helps clear up the mystery of how someone so slight could inflict so much damage. So do his many print and television exit interviews. The man who emerges is a narcissist with no self-awareness whatsoever. It’s that arrogance that allowed him to tune out even the most calamitous of realities, freeing him to compound them without missing a step. The president who famously couldn’t name a single mistake of his presidency at a press conference in 2004 still can’t. The crowning personality tic revealed by Bush’s final propaganda push is his bottomless capacity for self-pity. ‘I was a wartime president, and war is very exhausting,’ he told C-Span.” And to heal himself, Bush goes to military hospitals. Once again, it’s all about George W. Bush. As Rich points out, “incredibly enough, it’s his own healing he is concerned about, not that of the grievously wounded men and women he sent to war on false pretenses. It’s ‘the comforter in chief’ who ‘gets comforted,’ he explained (to Charles Gibson) by ‘the character of the American people.’ The American people are surely relieved to hear it. With this level of self-regard, it’s no wonder that Bush could remain undeterred as he drove the country off a cliff,” Rich said. During the GWB tenure in the White House, we heard many times about the president’s belief in God, about how God guided him, about his faith. But as Frank Rich says, “This presidency was not about Him. Bush failed because in the end it was all about him.”

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