The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cracks in the facade

Years ago, Al Franken wrote about the inability of Rush Limbaugh to do his right-wing schtick without a stacked deck. Any time he appeared without a hand-picked audience, pre-screened questions, and the power to cut people's mics, he wound up being a stammering, sweating source of laughter. The very picture of a bully confronted, his tough exterior cracked wide open to reveal the cowardly babyman within.

Salon points out that Fearless Leader is having his own problems keeping his composure in the face of a mainstream press that no longer shies away from asking tough questions. In fact, there have been several examples of Bush expressing genuine shock and outrage that a mere journalist would treat him like anything less than an infallible monarch. (Remember him lighting into a journalist who accidentally addressed him as 'sir'? "Who're you talking to?")

The president isn't willing to acknowledge his low standing with the American public in public, but he clearly seemed beaten down by the reality he faces. When a reporter began to ask whether the public's attitude toward the president suggests the need for staff changes at the White House, Bush interrupted: "Wait a minute," he said. "Is this a personal attack launching over here?" Asked about the "political capital" of which he once boasted, he said he's spending it on the war in Iraq. Social Security reform? "It didn't get done." Bush's face turned sour when he was told about a supporter in Cleveland who said that he'd lost her over the war. He grew testy with reporters -- not just with the combative Thomas but also with USA Today's easygoing David Jackson. He bristled at the notion that anyone -- let alone reporters -- would "stand up and say to the president, 'Here's what you ought to be doing.'" At one point, looking down a list of reporters' names, he mumbled randomly, "Let's see ... They've told me what to say."

The president stumbled and stammered like a schoolboy on quiz day as he tried to lay out a vision for the universality of liberty. Trying to explain the difference between tyranny and democracy, Bush suggested that the Taliban probably never had a press conference like this one. When the next round of polls comes out, he may wish that he hadn't, either.

"They told me what to say." The proud legacy of George W. Bush.