September 13, 2007

President Drymouth Advances to the Podium

I'll certainly tune in tonight to listen to George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States of America, lay it out for us on this whole Iraq situation. I'm a loyal citizen, after all, taught in my civics or social studies or whatever we called them classes in elementary school about the demands of citizenship. I need to be informed, and the man who is briefed daily on this obviously critical situation in Iraq is clearly the guy who can fill me in. So I'll watch, trying my best to ignore all the incredibly irritating tics, mannerisms, mispronunciations and affected sincerity which we've come to expect from our Chief Executive.

My main question is probably also your question: why is he giving this speech? Put another way, who is the audience? It can't be the American people, as I usually think about those 300 million souls. George W. Bush long ago stopped caring about the American people, if he ever cared. If you think about his life, its main focus is to avoid all real contact with us. He lives inside multiple layers of insulation, and his announced goals, upon retirement, are to retreat inside various fortresses, such as the Crawford "ranch," and to reduce his interaction with the American people to the vanishing point. People bug George. He doesn't like them. He likes riding his bike and going fishing with Barney. All his "friends" have left the White House now, and it must seem increasingly bizarre to him that he goes on being President, month after month, year after year, with the end still so far away.

So he's not talking to us. We all know what he's going to say anyway. The surge has begun to work, but there is still much to be done. President Maliki is making slow but steady progress toward political cooperation, but he needs more breathing room to put together a functional coalition government. Conditions have improved, and if they remain on this track, he can foresee a draw-down of perhaps 30,000 American troops by next spring. He'll remind us that he's aware of the pain and sacrifice endured by America's brave men and women in Iraq, that he's grateful for their service, but that we must be patient while we complete the mission in Iraq, the central front in the global war on terror. We must not forget that the world is a dangerous place and America has many enemies who would do us harm if we are not vigilant...I wonder if at about this point, his own mind wanders off and he finds, on coming to, that he has been reading from the TelePrompter for 5 or 10 minutes without realizing it. You've had that happen to you many times, right? You're in a conversation, or in class, and you realize you haven't been consciously present long has it been? It's weird, isn't it? I'll bet it can happen during a Presidential address too. I'll bet it happens tonight. Let's look for it!

I don't think Bush is addressing his fellow Republicans. This war could be the end of their political careers, and they don't believe his Panglossian evaluations for a minute. The Saudis? There's a chance, but he talks to them privately all the time. He doesn't need TV for that. So it's not us, it's not the Republicans, it's not the Saudis. The Iraqis? No, I don't think so; why would they listen to this guy who's never really been to Iraq?

Okay, so is there is no audience. Why's he doing this? Because it's what Presidents do? Because he's bored? Because he's....? Okay, so we've reached a new milestone in George's presidency. He's now doing things for no reason whatsoever. He's doing them to do them. It makes the time go faster. Something is solipsistic about this, isn't it? George has completely personalized the office. He's going to do things now, not to get anything done, not to accomplish missions (he can't get anything done anymore), but to pass the time. To get from here to sometime in January, 2009. He can't spend the whole time on vacation; he's already broken the record for that. At a certain point, a President who is always on vacation begins to disconcert an already very nervous populace, even if we're glad he's away. When he's in a foreign country, though, really weird things start happening, such as calling the Australians Austrians. Early in his Presidency, he thought the Swiss Guard were Swedish. He walks into doors, or off the sheer drop of a stage, or runs his bicycle into a group of Scottish policemen. So we need to keep him around where we can keep an eye on him. So that's the answer to tonight's riddle: we'll know where he is, what he's doing, and it won't do any harm because it doesn't mean anything at all. That's why I'll watch: to relax.

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