One of the most mystifying characteristics of the Bush administration is how the president, and a number of people in his administration, not only regularly escape blame for disastrous policy decision, but often end up winning an astounding degree of public sympathy. Today, Presstitutes (a great blog name if there ever was one) covers the new “Bush The Victim” narrative now emerging in the press after the Katrina debacle and the Miers nomination.
Now we are treated to an editorial by opinion-elder David Broder entitled Bush’s Fraying Presidency. Once again, the disaster that is the Bush presidency is defined within an implicit – and explicit – pro-Bush frame. Broder writes, “[Stephen Skowronek of Yale University], a presidential scholar, defined Bush as ”an orthodox innovator,“ meaning someone who inherits a governing doctrine from others — in his case, Ronald Reagan — but applies it in different circumstances and with different techniques…. Skowronek said that historically what leads to ultimate failure for orthodox innovator presidents is ”sectarian infighting.“
Wow. Impressive terms to skirt the fact that Bush is a callous, misguided, inept man, in way over his head, shredding America’s hard-earned credibility and moral standing.
It’s interesting, the recasting of Bush, because I’ve always thought of him as something of a bully; kinda like the kid on the school yard who’d bloody your nose and then take you to see the school nurse to get patched up, only to trip you up on . Remember how Molly Ivins — who went to high school with Bush — described him in her column entitled ”The Uncompassionate Conservative“?
On the few occasions when Bush does directly encounter the down-and-out, he seems to empathize. But then, in what is becoming a recurring, almost nightmare-type scenario, the minute he visits some constructive program and praises it (AmeriCorps, the Boys and Girls Club, job training), he turns around and cuts the budget for it. It’s the kiss of death if the president comes to praise your program. During the presidential debate in Boston in 2000, Bush said, ”First and foremost, we’ve got to make sure we fully fund LIHEAP [the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program], which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly here in the East, pay their high fuel bills.“ He then sliced $300 million out of that sucker, even as people were dying of hypothermia, or, to put it bluntly, freezing to death.
Sometimes he even cuts your program before he comes to praise it. In August 2002, Bush held a photo op with the Quecreek coal miners, the nine men whose rescue had thrilled the country. By then he had already cut the coal-safety budget at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which engineered the rescue, by 6 percent, and had named a coal-industry executive to run the agency.
Yet, somehow, he remains blameless for it all, only now beginning to lose support within his party. The Broder piece that Pressitutes is actually a study in the blamelessness of Bush, as a president brought low by circumstances beyond his control; referring, for example, to the Senate’s recent defiance of Bush on the issue of torture without mentioning that the roots of the rebellion go all the way back to Abu Grhaib and the Bush administration policies that made the abuses inevitable.
From renewed opposition to the war in Iraq to the religious conservative revolt over Miers, just about every problem plaguing the Bush administration is of it’s own making. How is it that Bush is portrayed as the hapless president buffeted by circumstances he seems to have little responsibility for?