< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: Update on Bush's Brain

Monday, November 28, 2005

Update on Bush's Brain

This review of the Blitzer-Hersh dialogue brings the issue of Bush's sanity back to center stage. The big picture is simple enough: Bush is portrayed as resolute--convinced he's on a divine mission to export democracy and confident of an ultimately (20 year's future) favorable historical verdict. Staff within the white house and the military are portrayed as increasingly fearful of the president's ability to hear evidence of failure or to accept sound advice on preventing it.

In this context, Juan Cole's post today is eloquent and true:

"I guarantee you, George, that historians are going to be unkind to you. You went into a major war over a non-existent nuclear weapons program. Presidents' reputations don't survive things like that. . . . . So forget about history and destiny and the divine will. You are at the helm of the Exxon Valdez and it is headed for the shoals. You can't afford to daydream about future decades."

That is the question for the day: "Can he correct his course? Can he even steer the ship at all?" That question transcends the smaller (but still severe) questions of lying, corruption, and torture: these assume the possibility of correction, by checks and balances imposed by the other two branches of government, and ultimately by the electorate. But today's deeper question is about the man himself--in particular, whether his own self control suffices for his control of the ship, i.e. whether the government itself, and the people, are in danger from this man.

It's going to take time and some good luck before we get a clear answer; while we wait, we might watch the signs and symptoms.

1. Persistent and uncorrected self-confidence in future outcomes is fatal. Human experience--whether political, economic, military, scientific, or religious--is unanimous that any course, however noble, requires corrections to accomodate newly perceived realities. "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead" is the rhetoric of fools--the few who survive attest to the many who drown in torpedoed wreckage. Survival in such circumstances is purely random; assuming otherwise is self-deception. So the more that W wears the mask of fatuously smiling self-confidence, the more we should worry.

2. Killing the messenger is the archetypal behavior of leaders at risk of falling--but having no messengers, or listening to none, is the sure sign that disaster is inevitable.

3. When the president's colleagues in the administration, the Congress, and the courts, attempt to impose a correction--as they already are attempting--then it's the equivalent of mutiny: a contest for control of the ship is inevitable, possibly with many casualties. It's a close call whether W is such a little boy that he gives up control to the adults, i.e. "a consensus presidency," or such a headstrong adolescent that he goes all out in rebellion against the adults.

Footnote to historians: Kissinger, who reveled in his description of Nixon's drunken psychoses, was a traitor for not blowing the whistle much sooner. We're only lucky to have survived that season of presidential

Footnote to Laura, Bar, and the other ladies who are described as the only ones who still have the president's ear: the sooner his colleagues blow the whistle on W, the better chance we have of surviving with our constitution, not to mention our national security, intact.