It might surprise you to know that I have a large, color photo of George W. Bush on my desk. It's propped up on a typing stand right next to my computer monitor. It's a temporary thing. I pulled it out of last week's Newsweek. Well, the one dated this week, actually, but it was delivered last week and was already out of date then. The photo wasn't a centerfold. FYI, it's page 24. I decided I ought to take a closer look at this man. Let me paint you a word picture. Read the rest.
Bush is wearing a navy blue suit. White shirt. Red tie with tiny geometric shapes in orderly, horizontal rows. His left suit lapel sports the omnipresent American flag pin. His silvering hair looks wiry and wanting desperately to curl. But it has been combed into submission.
It's a flattering photo in that the Bush ears that political cartoonists love to embellish la Alfred E. Neuman appear unexceptional. His face is tan and with or without the artist's art, there is little sign of five o'clock shadow. His face is generally lean, though there is sign of some softening and sagging. He's getting a tad jowly. I thought only aging women get the floppy wattle thing from chin to sternum. Not so.
Bush's forehead is striped with creases'"at least four of them, temple to temple. I don't remember how many he had when he took office. His long, aquiline nose points downward toward his mouth like a directional marker. His thin lips are pressed tightly closed.
His just-barely-tamed eyebrows are in neutral position, more or less, hovering over his eyes like well-groomed caterpillars. The eyes. Ah, the Putin Principle. Windows to Bush's soul. However long I look, I can't get there. Dark eyes they are. I suppose there's a metaphor there. It's not clear what he's looking at, but the camera has captured him in a peevish, possibly pre-peevish, moment. He is not happy with whatever is going on out of camera range. And there is something almost poignant (and disturbing) about the separateness of George Bush from the rest of the action, whatever it may be. It seems a poster photo for his isolation.
Thus do I take measure of the man whose demolition of my country dominates my day-thinking and sometimes disrupts my sleep. Not for the first time, I find myself wondering who George W. Bush really is. Who does Laura have to deal with in the privacy of the presidential boudoir?
You know the back story as well as I do. But here is what I want to know. Who does Bush see in the mirror when he shaves his neo-patrician face, combs the designer-cut hair, ties the tie and otherwise prepares himself to go out into the world? (Well, out into the Oval Office.) When your personal popularity has tanked, your presidency is in total disarray and the country you claim to love has morphed into an arrogant bully other nations love to hate, how do you gird your loins to go deal with that, or even to expend the energy required to not deal with it, day after day?
The easy answer is denial. And as we've seen, that seems to be hard-wired into The Bush Men and the Women Who Pose with Them. But surely there must come a time when, in the privacy of the privy at least, a man has to acknowledge that things are not going well and that maybe, just maybe, he has some responsibility for that. You reject my hypothesis? Me, too. Actually, before it ever hit the page.
We are dealing with a personal and systemic pathology hitherto unknown in this country. George Bush and his people have been outed. Whereas they have until recently scurried about in darkness and secrecy, now their misdeeds are being scrutinized in the full light of day. So far, they haven't been able to right themselves to reverse direction and spin a new story. They will, of course. It's what they do. Why not lie and lie again, even when a simple truth would do?
Here is my little daydream concerning George W. Bush.
For reasons that are unclear, given his aversion to Democrats and anyone else who sees things differently from him, I find myself face to face with him in the Oval Office. He looks puzzled about my presence, and really, so am I. Scrunching up his little eyes, he asks me what it is I want.
I reach for his suit lapel and remove his omnipresent American flag pin. I hold it in my hand, surprised by how small and cold it is. Then, without a word, I turn to leave.
"Wait a minute!" he shouts. "Come back here. That's mine!"
"Not any more," I say on my way out the door. "You don't deserve to have it. You never did."