I think this is a pretty good article that points out 5 aspects of Bush that make him different from the typical kind of politician that has inhabited the White House for a second term in the last few decades.
Agree or disagree with the President's agenda, I think there is a lot of merit to these observations by Fred Barnes. I think this could be a good starting point for a useful debate on these 5 aspects, instead of the usual pro/anti-Bush arguments.....
.....than again we it could also turn into just another of the many "Bush is dumb/evil -- No he's not" threads.
quote: They Still Haven't Figured Him Out From the December 13, 2004 issue: Bush's unexpected qualities. by Fred Barnes 12/13/2004, Volume 010, Issue 13
A DEMOCRATIC SENATOR who attended a special screening of the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 was asked what he thought was the most revealing part about President Bush. The senator pondered a moment, then said it was the episode where Bush, in close-up, continues to talk to a grade-school class in Sarasota, Florida, for six or seven minutes after he's learned that planes had flown into the World Trade Center. What did it reveal? The senator couldn't say.
My impression, as Bush begins his second term in the White House, is that many in the political community, including the press, still haven't figured him out. One reason is the Bush presidency has emerged quite differently from what was expected. So here are five things about the president that help explain why he does what he does. They aren't the only five aspects of his presidency, but they're five important ones.
* ACTIVIST. The label is usually applied to liberal politicians, rarely conservatives. In Bush's case, it means he has a lengthy agenda and is impatient about enacting it. And it's an agenda--Social Security reform, altering the balance on the Supreme Court, tax reform, reversing cultural trends, a crusade for democracy around the globe--for change. Bush didn't get his activist streak from his father. George H.W. Bush was a caretaker president, dealing with items as they arrived in his in-basket. He lost his bid for reelection in 1992 partly because he didn't have much on his mind for a second term. Bush has a lot, and
it's not trivial. One of his most stinging criticisms is to label a proposal "smallball"--in other words, not big or bold enough for serious presidential attention.
* OUTSIDER. Bush is an alien inside the Beltway. His election was the equivalent of getting a green card to work in Washington. He's not part of the social whirl. Nor has he made many close friends on Capitol Hill or around town. What separates him from the Washington crowd? More than anything else, it's religion. Bush is the first president who's a product of the modern evangelical movement, which means his Christian faith is personal, intense, and all-encompassing. It's not a part-time, Sunday-only thing. Leave Washington and you frequently encounter people who say of the president, "He's one of us." You don't hear that in Washington. A Texas friend recently sent the president a copy of Natan Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy. Bush read most of it and asked Sharansky to meet with him at the White House. Bush praised Sharansky for his years as a dissident in the Soviet Union. To which Sharansky replied, "Now you are the chief dissident of the world."
* PRESS-BASHER. Bush has not made peace with the press, far from it. He views most reporters as political opponents eager to pepper him with gotcha questions. In Colombia last month, he appeared before reporters with President Alvaro Uribe. Bush didn't like the first question about a scuffle two days earlier involving the Secret Service. "This is a question?" he said, and gave a curt answer. Uribe said, "Do you want to get in one more [question]?" Bush said, "That's plenty. No. Thank you," ending the press conference prematurely.
Bush believes, correctly, that the Washington press corps favored John Kerry in the election. "Ninety percent for Kerry" is what White House aides say. Coverage of Bush reflected this. The Center for Media and Public Affairs found that coverage of Kerry was the most favorable for any presidential candidate since it began examining campaigns in 1988, while Bush's was mostly negative. Reporters complain they get little information from the White House. Chances are they'll get even less in the second term. Bush's calculation is that spending more time with the press would be time poorly spent.
* SURPRISER. Bush likes to defy the conventional wisdom. He often does it without even trying. I recently asked a leading supporter of Israel if he had known Bush would become the most pro-Israel president ever. He hadn't. Bush was expected to govern as a moderate conservative, but on most issues he's become hard core. He was expected to relax after November 2. Instead, he's plotting for next year. Presidents, indeed most politicians, are disinclined to give aides credit for their success. But Bush surprised Washington on the day after his reelection by calling Karl Rove "the architect" of his victory. The conventional wisdom is that Bush endorsed a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage to help win reelection but won't actually push it. The surprise of his second term may be that he pushes it aggressively.
* VISIONARY. Really. True, the word just doesn't seem to go with the Bush persona, or at least with the popular notion of Bush, the swaggering Texan. But in speech after speech, Bush has laid out a vision of democratizing the Middle East, then the world. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, last week, he pretended Canada shares his "great commitment . . . to enhance our own security by promoting freedom and hope and democracy in the broader Middle East." Most of Europe and Bush's own State Department disagree with this effort. But Bush is adamant. "It is cultural condescension to claim that some peoples or some cultures or some religions are destined to despotism and unsuited for self-government," he said in Halifax. With little fanfare, Bush also changed America's national security strategy from containment to preemption.
So where does all this leave us in understanding Bush? The first step is to abandon the original preconception of President Bush. He's different. The second step is to accept that he's attempting big things. And the third, as a result, is to get ready for a second presidential term like few we've seen.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.
Activist- He certainly does have an agenda. Shame he didn't get started on it during his first term in office. Or is invading Iraq part of this agenda?
Outsider- Are you kidding?? This guy's dad was the President and you're telling me he doesn't have a lot of Washington ties? I'll give you this, though: I think he's probably closer to oil interests than Beltway interests...
Press Basher- I think that it is at least partially his fault that the press doesn't like him. I mean, dating back to the primarys, it was him (poor speaker, easy target, generally didn't talk to the press) vs. Strait Talk Express McCain. So right there, the press was "against" him. And my guess is it snowballed from there. He resented the press and it showed when he talked with them and thus they didn't like him more, etc., etc. Also, I get the impression that Bush doesn't like being challenged more than some people, and the press challenges him often, so there's some more tension there.
Surpriser- Okay, I'll just skip this one rather than take a cheap shot.
Visionary- Well, I won't argue that he has his own vision for the world (and of the world as it is now), even if I don't necessarily agree with it. But would you rather have someone who wasn't particularly committed to anything, or someone committed to something you thought was bad?
EDIT because my computer posted this while I was half-way done.
[ December 07, 2004, 03:55 PM: Message edited by: Ivan ]
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Well Ivan, I think this observation "He views most reporters as political opponents eager to pepper him with gotcha questions," is pretty accurate. I know many people would like to argue that they would act differently in the same situation he is in regularly, but I think no one can really say how they would act unless they've been their and done that.
And I really don't think it's strictly on Bush - their was a lot of reporters that gave Clinton gotcha questions. I think Watergate changed the very base of the relationship between the Pres and the Press forever....but I do think the gave Clinton a lot less of it than they do give to Bush - simply because they by and large supported Clinton and voted for him overwhelmingly, while we all know how that goes with Bush.
I think having that adverserial relationship with the Press lends itself to some pretty funny moments as well...like he and Cheney referring to Clymer as a "big time a-hole".
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Visionary and Activist go hand-in-hand, unless you are a dreamer or an anarchist. I'd say that part is clearly accurate.
Press-Basher? Definitely. He and the media are caught in a feedback loop, where he avoids and disdains them - and they lampoon him personally and disparage his policies. Couldn't say who started it, I'd probably have to go back to Texas. But his unique ability to make gross verbal blunders played into it big-time.
Outsider? Yes... and no. His administration has a lot of folks who spent a great deal of time in Washington. But that neo-con crowd is generally at arms-length from the legislature.
Surpriser? Only in the sense that he is defying a lot of traditional conservative values. Massive farm bill, NCLB, fiscal responsibility. There are a lot of planks in his "vision" that cross established boundaries. This is related, in my opinion, to his aloof relationship with the Congress and press. By the way, a lot of those breaks got him re-elected.
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As a "conservative" (although the term is starting to get to me) and someone who actually made a last-minute decision to go with Bush rather than the tinfoil-hat anarchist running on the Libertarian ticket, here's my take:
Bush really is a man with an agenda. He's obviously got it in for a number of people. He develops strong feelings about people and acts on them, so often that he requires some restraint. He's a personal president and judges people by personal relationships. If you haven't met him personally, and you haven't done something he saw as noteworthy, he'd just as soon not know your name. But when he *does* meet people, he's clearly a very warm person. If people do something a bit nasty to him, he remembers it. For a long long time. And jsut wait til you see his party-building, faith-based, democratizing agenda for the next four years. Some of you are going to pack up and head to Canada, I swear. Supreme Court Justices? We already know what kind of people he's looking at, it's plain as day. Those pesky trial lawyers? Tort reform time, buddy. AARP? The new Social Security's about to throw them into left field. Unions? Time for "right to work" laws, have a nice day. Democracy in the world? Well, we've all been speculating about that. We might have 2 more democracies in the world come 2008. Maybe more. We're already mobilized. Debt? It's going up. Dollar? It's going down... which may be a really *really* good thing. Euro? It's going up... which also may be a really *really* good thing. Now if only we could deal with Japan's mess, we'd have ourselves a party. Military spending? You better believe it's going up. I'll be curious to see what this "ownership society" does. Immigration? We're finally facing reality, but it may be painful to do so out loud. Abortion? Please.
He does indeed seem to give a damn about democracy and freedom, not in the sense of our last two presidents though. Clinton had a vague wish for people to be free but was unwilling to accomplish it through risky acts. Dubyah's father was in love with the idea of the West's ideals being better than those of the Evil Empire, but he was attached at the hip to the regular Cold War world. He didn't know what direction he was headed when the wall came down, and he was too busy trying not to spit on Gorbachev to dance a jig on the falling Soviets. He didn't want to gloat, and he didn't want to "make people free" in some activist role.
He is indeed not a fan of the press. That one's easy, everyone should know it. Clinton knew how to make an image when it counted to mark symbolically what was going on in the world, to make himself part of the progress. He liked being there when hands were shaken and walking hand in hand with people to symbolize partnership. After eight years of Clinton, they get Bush. Bush doesn't take round criticism anything less than personally. He doesn't want to read newspapers. He wants to get his hands on the pulse of what makes an issue tick and bludgeon it into his desired form.
As for being a surpriser, that one's a hot topic. Yeah, he's definitely "surprised" people. It's especially easy to surprise people when they insulate themselves while they build up expectations, and especially easy when you're not polling people to find out what time of day they think it is. Clinton/Gore were easy to predict because even though most people didn't know precisely where they stood, there was always a poll out asking you to decide what color tie they needed to wear. If Clinton issuesd a stern warning, nothing was gonig to happen to you. If the press started getting REALLY itchy and bashing him, you knew action was just around the corner. My favorite line to show this: Clinton wouldn't get into Bosnia until the coverage got so bad that he said "We're getting creamed!"
Visionary: Well, duh. A reactionary doesn't go into Iraq and label two other conutries part of the Axis of Evil after Osama blows up a few buildings. These countries were the Axis of Evil in his mind before 9/11 ever happened, and everyone knows it. A reactionary doesn't propose a multi-trillion-dollar Social Security reform. A reactionary doesn't call for an "ownership society" and mean it. A reactionary doesn't throw people for a loop and stress community colleges -- even though he gets zero recognition for knowing their extremely important place in our economy. He wasn't looking for press coverage; he was looking to change how things are done.
And Ivan - I always prefer to see "leaders" committed to some brand of progress rather than wishy-washy and unprincipled, even if they're committed to some things I hate. They make the world interesting. And they fall oh-so-very-hard when people reject them or their plans fail to live up to reality. Otherwise who would notice? For example, I despise Hillary Clinton, but TennCare (modeled precisely after HillaryCare) is such an abject failure sucking up so much of Tennessee's budget that everyone can learn a lesson from her failure. So some people suffered. That's how a lot of the most improtant lessons are learned. A leader should lead, not follow. They don't even have to lead from the front. But they should point in a general direction, at least.
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Daruma, what makes you believe that people don't recognize these things -- in broad strokes -- about Bush? Most liberals I know already paint him with these labels, but of course don't do so in a flattering way.
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I agree with Tom here. Some of these traits are just euphemisms for an arrogant, unilateral, religious extremist with a total disconnect from reality.
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