A chance to weep, anyway

After watching the evasions, filibuster speechmaking, & moonman demeanor that made up Bush’s much-ballyhooed prime-time press conference tonight, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a worse performance by a sitting president—hell, Richard Nixon’s farewell meltdown before the White House staff looked practically coherent by comparison. Bush’s incredible response “I wish you’d have given me this written question ahead of time so I could plan for it…I’m sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer,” his unadorned skedaddle from the question about his joint commission appearance w/Cheney, his frank admission that he still doesn’t know who we’re giving the car-keys to on 6/30, his hopeless inability to even conceive of himself making mistakes, the shot of a visibly distressed Condi Rice staring at him w/bugged-out eyes, all combined w/the lost, beseeching gaze he time & again directed to the heavens in mid-sentence…I mean, Jesus, this one took the cake.

You can sure tell who Bush’s old man is—even as his presidency resembles Senior’s more & more, so does his personality. Tonight’s exercise was one of those Reaganesque attempts to talk “directly to the people,” but if Bush appeared half as flustered, insincere, & occasionally flat-out frightened in America’s barrooms as he did on my TV, he botched the effort before he even got started. He had one intense moment, when he said that “nobody likes to see dead people on their television screens,” but printed transcripts of the press conference probably won’t convey how non-sequitorial & even slightly bizarre it felt when he described his meetings w/gold-star families as “a chance to hug and weep,” as if soldiers’ deaths are in reality a good thing because they give everyone a chance to pour out all their bottled-up feelings. Bush’s earliest evocations of the “comforting the families” theme were to be expected, but by the end his constant retreat behind it simply reeked of political expediency (it’s the dark flip-side to campaign-trail baby-kissing) & just another indication of how far removed he is from the chaos he’s created. I’m pretty darned sure that’s not what Karl Rove had in mind.

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