Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Bush’s character, his common touch

Richard Bookhiser writes a nice piece on the President. The President’s trip to Iraq for Thanksgiving forces him to reflect: "The trip also played to a particular strength of Mr. Bush’s, which can only be called his common touch. However wayward Mr. Bush’s relationship with the English language, his command of body language and gesture does not desert him when he is with people in the trenches. The first notable example was his visit to Ground Zero two days after 9/11; when he stood on the ash heap and told the rescue workers that the world would soon hear them, he suddenly seemed ready for the long road ahead. They had inspired him, which allowed him to inspire them. He enacted the same rite of communion in Iraq." It is partly because the people understand this about Bush’s common touch that right after the Baghdad trip the overall approval of the president’s handling of his job went from 56 to 61 percent, while disapproval went from 41 to 36 percent.

Michael Novak takes a broader view and considers Bush’s wonderful speeches and the fact that he continues to be underestimated, and what that means. "Before any key event, press commentary on the upcoming performance of George W. Bush is nearly always dismissive. The president’s supposed faults are caricatured. Gloom about how poorly he will do is widespread. Then, virtually always, if the event is important enough, the president steps to the plate, gets a solid extra-base hit, and drives in a few more runs." This happened again in London.

I add my own reflections on Bush’s character by comparing him with Clinton’s personality. I was reminded of the difference by having seen Clinton strut his personality on stage at the Kennedy Center. "Watching him reminded me of the difference between personality and character. He was a giant on that large Kennedy Center stage. He filled all the space there was and then extended himself to fill the very air of the place, as the air seemed to move to give his reach more room. He spoke and his words were fluent, his large hands proving useful as physical expressions emphasizing the mood his words were meant to convey. The theatrical effect was perfect. I noticed these things. I also noticed—some minutes into his sanctimony—that I had no idea what he was talking about because I was so overtaken by his persona. I listened harder and discovered that he was talking about America’s role in the world. I listened even more and discovered that he wasn’t saying much of anything interesting or thoughtful, that he was talking without content. He was talking about his own role in the world."

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