What makes me really nervous about Bush is not what he has done, but the question:
What would he do in a second term?
Since he wouldn’t need to worry about getting re-elected, the sky’s the limit.
One thing he said he would do is lower Social Security benefits and increase government costs by around $2 trillion, "moving quickly" in his next term. (Story links open in new windows)
But that may not be the worst of it.
From watching clips of him in his revivalist-style, invitation-only tent meetings as he travels around the country, I think he may be getting ready for something big.
The problem with that is that he seems to get an idea in his head (god knows where from since he’s not big on input) and sticks with it in the face of reality.
The Ron Suskind article Without a Doubt in the NY Times over the weekend has examples of the kind of behavior I’m talking about. Here are a few excerpts:
‘Bush, Biden recalled, just looked at him, unflappably sure that the United States was on the right course and that all was well. ”’Mr. President,’ I finally said, ‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?”’
‘Biden said that Bush stood up and put his hand on the senator’s shoulder. ”My instincts,” he said. ”My instincts.”’
”’I don’t know why you’re talking about Sweden,” Bush said. ”They’re the neutral one. They don’t have an army.”
‘Lantos paused, a little shocked, and offered a gentlemanly reply: ”Mr. President, you may have thought that I said Switzerland. They’re the ones that are historically neutral, without an army.” Then Lantos mentioned, in a gracious aside, that the Swiss do have a tough national guard to protect the country in the event of invasion.
‘Bush held to his view. ”No, no, it’s Sweden that has no army.”
‘The room went silent, until someone changed the subject.’
‘The disdainful smirks and grimaces that many viewers were surprised to see in the first presidential debate are familiar expressions to those in the administration or in Congress who have simply asked the president to explain his positions. Since 9/11, those requests have grown scarce; Bush’s intolerance of doubters has, if anything, increased, and few dare to question him now.
‘A writ of infallibility — a premise beneath the powerful Bushian certainty that has, in many ways, moved mountains — is not just for public consumption: it has guided the inner life of the White House.’
You can find similar accounts in a variety of sources, including those favorable to Bush (like Bob Woodward’s books).
Suskind adds one of his own experiences:
‘In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
‘The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.”
‘I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off.
”’That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”’
It makes me very nervous.
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