Friday, May 4, 2007

It's Bush's Turn (Finally?)

Regular readers may remember that, in the middle of last month, I gave my reasons for why Jean-Marie Le Pen beat out George W. Bush for the Chutzpah of the Week award. This happened to have been a week that was positively rife with chutzpah, and the President was definitely a serious contender. However, Le Pen ultimately walked off with the award (along with the suggestion that he might deserve a "Lifetime Achievement Award") on grounds of "multiple-chutzpah." Nevertheless, since both Rice and Wolfowitz already have their awards, I have gotten a few questions about whether or not Bush would ever get his turn.

Well, on the basis of the report that Eugene Robinson has filed on Truthdig, I would say that this is definitely the President's week! This may be due, in part, to his adoption of a new persona. Robinson picked up on a speech that Bush gave to the Associated General Contractors of America on Wednesday that did not received very much media coverage; but, at the very least, we should acknowledge it as the occasion on which Bush assigned himself a new epithet. Apparently, he is no longer the "Decider;" he is now "the Commander Guy!"

This, of course, is not where the chutzpah lies. One has to now examine the context, which, of course, was the question of who makes decisions regarding the number of troops in Iraq. This was a question from the floor at the Contractors speech, and the epithet was the answer. Actually, in the interest of context, I should reproduce the entire sentence in which he summed up the justification of his veto:

And as you know, my position is clear—I’m the Commander Guy.

The chutzpah began to emerge, though, when we try to tease out just what it means to be the Commander Guy. This turned out to be the crux of the research behind Robinson's article. On the basis of Robinson's account, this seems to be the answer:

Maybe there were further clues to the president’s decision-making style in the rambling talk he gave a couple of weeks ago at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio. He recalled that just before his inauguration in 2001, the head usher at the White House called and asked what color rug he wanted in the Oval Office. He delegated the task of designing a new presidential rug to his wife Laura.

“But I said, I want it to say something—the president has got to be a strategic thinker and I said to her, make sure the rug says ‘optimistic person comes to work.’ Because you can’t make decisions unless you’re optimistic that the decisions you make will lead to a better tomorrow.” The result, he said, is “this fantastic rug that looks like the sun. And it just sets the tone for the Oval Office.”

While discussing the situation in Iraq, Bush told the Tipp City audience that “I happen to think there will be an additional dividend when we succeed—remember the rug?”

In other words the logic that is now costing American lives in Iraq is basically the same logic behind choosing the rug in the Oval Office, and that is where the chutzpah rears its head. It is clearly not the hubris of the noble! Also, like Le Pen, Bush managed to get on a roll in Tipp City. Here is another one of Robinson's paragraphs:

Those in the crowd at Tipp City also learned from the president that Iraq is definitely not another Vietnam. But the president added, “There are some similarities, of course—death is terrible.”

Perhaps this is also meant to give us a better understanding of just what it means to be the Commander Guy.

In a way it really comes down to the fact that, as Commander in Chief, the President is the "voice" that speaks to both the rest of the government and the general public about the "state of the union," not just once a year but with every public communication. The Commander Guy, on the other hand, assumes that he can say any damned thing he pleases, totally disregarding the responsibilities assigned to that "voice." In that respect the "voice" begins to sound a lot like Le Pen's; so I suppose it is the "voice" that has earned the President his award.

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