Family fun

November 12, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

Patti Davis wrote in Newsweek the other day about George W. Bush's daddy issues. If anyone understands that topic, it would be Patti. Ronald Reagan's prodigal daughter has spent most of her adult life struggling with her father's legacy. Haven't we all?

Davis is one among many to cite the apparent Oedipal relationship of Family Bush. Junior, the consummate, lifelong screw-up, has ever and always hoped to garner Daddy's approval, and ever and always, he has fallen short. Sometimes way short. Junior's presidency is the most damning and public of his self-fueled failures. Not only has he not met Daddy's expectations, he has been nationally (yea, globally) humiliated. And now he must cry "uncle," and call in daddy's old pals to try to bail him out of his execrable mess.

Do I feel sorry for Junior? Oh, lordy, no, I do not. But he is a tragic figure of sorts, isn't he? Here is a man who is constitutionally incapable (no pun intended) of learning from his mistakes. He may even be the guy who generated this little goodie: "Mistakes? Of course. Why, there was that one time I thought I was wrong!"

Some of us like to say, "My momma didn't raise no fool." Well, Junior's mother did.

Which brings me to the remaining third of the Oedipal triad. Much has been made of the troubled relationship between Father George and his feckless son. But what about Barbara, the gray-haired matriarch with the pearl-bedecked neck and eyes of steel? Where was she in George's formative years, I wonder? I haven't read details about George's boyhood. For the most part, I don't give a rip. But I am a tad curious about her part in George's personal pathology.

When husbands are consumed by the demands and the siren song of their careers and attendant perks (and sometimes perkettes), some mothers became uniparents by default. I don't know what it's like to raise kids alone when you come from great wealth and privilege. I'm guessing Barbara Bush had a bit of help along the way. The end justifies the means, I guess.

I'm guessing George was the kind of kid that generated a boatload of incoming phone calls, all with barely controlled voices saying, "Mrs. Bush???" And Barbara's spine would firm up, ready for the answer to her unspoken question: "What has he done now?"

George the Son rarely misses an opportunity to tweak his mother in public about her iron matron role in his family of origin. She throws back her head and laughs heartily. In public. I can't help wondering what the dynamic really is between Barbara and her boy-child in private, and how she must be feeling about her little scamp right now.

It seems clear, in retrospect, that the consequences for George's acting-out episodes must have been infrequent and mild. Somehow that kid grew up believing his feces had no odor and that his bad behavior was dang cute. Somehow, an alarming number of Americans picked up on that and gave the man a free pass up to, but not including, the 2006 mid-term elections.

Summary. We have in the White House a man who is the product of complex parenting. He is a man-child perpetually trying to impress his father, and attempting to prove to his mother that he is not a hopeless screw-up after all. Yeah, well . . . .

Unlike other screw-ups, George's failures are now measurable (think Iraq war deaths for starters.) His numbers are plastered all over the front pages and on TV screens (some of them humongous so you don't miss the fine print).

George's failure is reflected in his own dismal approval ratings and in the mandate that Tuesday's election results reflect. (And by the way, a mandate, I just read, is "an authoritative command or instruction" that has no reference to particular percentages.)

By the numbers and by every other possible measure, Bush's presidency is a bust.

If I were his father, I would send in my A-team. If I were his mother, I suppose I'd hug him. But then I'm thinking they ought to make a little circle and kick each other's butts!

UPDATE: This snippet is part of a
2004 interview with Bob Woodward
, aired on CBS' 60 Minutes:

(prior to the Iraq War) Did Mr. Bush ask his father for any advice? "I asked the president about this. And President Bush said, 'Well, no,' and then he got defensive about it," says Woodward. "Then he said something that really struck me. He said of his father, 'He is the wrong father to appeal to for advice. The wrong father to go to, to appeal to in terms of strength.' And then he said, 'There's a higher Father that I appeal to.'"

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