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


Monday, July 02, 2007

I'm interested in (ignoring) the opinions of others.

Last week the Washington Post's devastating look at the many-tentacled Dick Cheney showed the man to be many things-- none of them good. Today they serve up a lengthy story on the flipside of the coin: the most feckless and out-of-touch president the nation has ever seen.

At the nadir of his presidency, George W. Bush is looking for answers. One at a time or in small groups, he summons leading authors, historians, philosophers and theologians to the White House to join him in the search.

Over sodas and sparkling water, he asks his questions: What is the nature of good and evil in the post-Sept. 11 world? What lessons does history have for a president facing the turmoil I'm facing? How will history judge what we've done? Why does the rest of the world seem to hate America? Or is it just me they hate?

The scariest part of all? "Bush has virtually given up on winning converts while in office and instead is counting on vindication after he is dead." The last refuge of the delusional, I suppose. After all, once you've convinced yourself that only future generations will recognize your unsung genius, you're not really responsible to anything or anyone. Just your own ego.

Sounds promising, right? Like maybe the enmity of the globe is actually sufficient to bring even this nimrod around to some introspection? Incoming irony on Runway 2....

Bush is fixated on Iraq, according to friends and advisers. One former aide went to see him recently to discuss various matters, only to find Bush turning the conversation back to Iraq again and again. He recognizes that his presidency hinges on whether Iraq can be turned around in 18 months. "Nothing matters except the war," said one person close to Bush. "That's all that matters. The whole thing rides on that."

And yet Bush does not come across like a man lamenting his plight. In public and in private, according to intimates, he exhibits an inexorable upbeat energy that defies the political storms. Even when he convenes philosophical discussions with scholars, he avoids second-guessing his actions. He still acts as if he were master of the universe, even if the rest of Washington no longer sees him that way.

"You don't get any feeling of somebody crouching down in the bunker," said Irwin M. Stelzer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute who was part of one group of scholars who met with Bush. "This is either extraordinary self-confidence or out of touch with reality. I can't tell you which."

So he's single-minded, mystifyingly confident, and ignoring everything but his desperation to secure a 'legacy.' Maybe someone could point out that he already has.