This is the first of a series of analyses of President Bush's Saturday radio addresses to the nation.
Recently Administration critics and political commentators have started to apply psychological concepts to much of what Bush says -- the most common one being projection. Projection involves attributing an unwanted thought, motive, or character trait to someone else and disavowing that feeling in oneself. Moreover, people who project excessively often forcefully evacuate their own feelings into other people, making others feel what they are afraid to feel.
Spreading fear is not simply a tactic to stay in power, as so many critics of Bush think. It is a natural reaction of a person already afraid -- Bush has had to surround himself with people who exclusively see things his way in order to quell his mounting fears. He exercises and prays and runs to Crawford for the same reason. This week I expect he will again avoid Cindy Sheehan who continues to pressure him to explain to her the "noble cause" for which her son Casey died.
Despite people like David Brooks telling us to forget about Bush -- he said as much on Sunday (October 23) on ABC TV -- we need more than ever to pay attention to what Bush says and does and the gap between. It's hard to dismiss our president who has three more years to serve and who continues to promote people like Harriet to high positions. How can we "forget" about the President who has it within his power to bring our troops home from Iraq, to reverse massive deficit spending, to pay attention to the environment?
Psychoanalysts sometimes speak of listening with the third ear, of paying attention to meaning and feeling lurking beneath the manifest message. Now we all need to listen carefully -- not only to the discrepancies between what Bush says and does (Katrina relief being a recent example) but also to the illuminating power of attending to the undercurrents of his public appearances.
In his last Saturday's radio address to the nation (October 22) Bush focused on new immigration laws. Two statements in particular caught my eye. He said, "If an employer has a job that no American is willing to take, we need to find a way to fill that demand by matching willing employers with willing workers from foreign countries on a temporary and legal basis." All good and well, perhaps -- but I think that what lurks beneath is a plan to get illegal aliens to join the military since recruiting is down and a draft politically unthinkable.
The other statement is so self-revealing as to be laughable, given Fitzgerald and other investigations of Bush's circle. He said, "America is a country of laws: we must not allow dishonest employers to flout those laws." In Bush on the Couch I wrote, "This flagrant flouting of authority -- of the law -- took place before he essentially became the law, first as governor and then as president" (page 91).