Sunday, February 3, 2008

Understanding Shrub

Peter Sagel, host of Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me I radio quiz show that I love, has read Jacob Weisberg's The Bush Tragedy and and writes that it casts a light into the psyche of the Decider.
Some light on this may be shed by a new book I’m enjoying immensely, Jacob Weisberg’s The Bush Tragedy. It’s an audacious attempt to explain the President’s political career, and presidency, via an analysis of his personality, mainly, as you might have already read, his supposedly fierce Oedipal rivalry with his father. (Thanks to Tom Lehrer and others, we primarily think of Oedipus as someone who married his mother — let’s say it together, Yuck! — but remember, before he did that, he killed his father.)

There are some great anecdotes in the book — we’re related one of them on the show already, and might bring you some more — but there’s also, along the way, an astute analysis of President Bush’s appeal, particularly to his loyalists. Karl Rove is depicted as having practically a man-crush on his patron, the love of the school nerd for the quarterback (think Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mark Wahlberg in “Boogie Nights,” without, so far as we know, the attempted kiss.)

Essentially, the diagnosis is this: George W. Bush could give a damn what anyone else thinks. He has his opinions, he has his principles, and he’s going to stick to them, no matter what. Now, Bush’s critics think of this as blind, willful stubbornness, a defiance of plain facts. But his admirers see it as a different, admirable kind of defiance: a rebuke to and rebellion against the judgment of others (particularly, you know, those Eastern Elities, and snobby hobnobs, like, say, me.) For those of us who are constantly worried about what Jefferson called “the opinion of mankind” this can be extremely compelling. Most people, especially us writers and performers, are desperate to please. To meet someone who is utterly free of that compulsion would be an amazing thing.

I've always tried to understand Bush, so does this mean I need to read the book? I'm not sure, honestly, like most Americans, I am just about ready to stop thinking about this era.


politics watch said...

this sounds like what some /psychiatrist author I can't remember wrote in "Bush On The Couch".
Also, I recommend listening to Harry Shearer's "Le Show" or at least the weekly conversations between "43" and "41" that he does every other week or so, if you can find them.

sockrateaser said...

I remember hearing an interview with the author of "Bush on the Couch". If I recall, he thought Bush was pretty dangerous.

PeterDS said...

Thanks for the link and the quote, which I appreciate (and which showed up on my own blogging software... thanks, Wordpress!) But just so you know, it's spelled "Sagal." The address is

Many thanks,

Peter Sagal