Friday, September 7, 2007

Bush, books and the endless debate

By Michael Hart
With Robert Draper's new book on the Bush presidency, "Dead Certain," now out and with Mr. Draper making the rounds on the talk shows (with Keith Olbermann on Wednesday night and Charlie Rose Thursday) I have been pondering the question about Dubya that has been asked continually since he became President: is he a dense clod or is he the canny politician with touches of Cheney/Rove evil in him?

I bring this up because although I agree that Dubya is definitely intellectually lazy, I may now have to side with the canny argument. Why? Because the more these writers like Mr. Draper and Bob Woodward come out with books on his administration, the more I think that Dubya has cleverly fooled them and a sizable segment of the population.

The authors leave the impression that Dubya is a contemplative, compassionate person -- but what is that based on? In both Mr. Woodward and Mr. Draper's cases, it is based on relatively short (Draper had six hour-long interviews with Bush I believe and Woodward was also on a similar schedule) interview sessions controlled by Bush. The authors talk for him a little while on tough subjects like war, and because he shows or feigns emotion to them (did they ever hear of acting?) they are quick to write that he has a lot of empathy about people's plights.

No, Dubya is not stupid in that he apparently knows how to manipulate writers to present him in a good light -- even his stubbornness and refusals to change his original positions based on developments are often portrayed as strengths, not liabilities.

Moreover, in these books about the Bush presidency, it seems to me that it is usually the supporting players who take the big hits, not Dubya. Again, who's the dummy? Also, don't the authors ever question the fact that most of Bush's staff will only say good things about him? I just watched Mr. Draper on with Charlie Rose and he was praising Bush's skills at policy meetings with his staff, saying Bush is a great editor. Again, does he think that whomever talked to him was going to say that Dubya just sat there and nodded? These authors are so desperate to get brief interviews with Dubya that it appears they will accept any conditions set by the Bushies. Those conditions, combined with Bush's charm (yes, I guess he has some) seem to blind them in my opinion.

These books are not like Carl Bernstein's Hillary Clinton book, "A Woman in Charge," where he followed her around for years, but are works based primarily on these short interviews. Are we really to believe they accurately give us a detailed look at Dubya?

The debate continues as to whether Dubya is smart or stupid, but I believe one thing: that Dubya comes out of those interview sessions with a big smile on his face that the authors do not see.

1 comment:

Tom Cross said...

Mr. Hart
It's quite amazing how you can see into the President's heart to see whether he actually feels certain emotions. All presidents and leaders for that matter are faced with life and death decisions and situations that test their emotions and mettle. This one is no different than others.