After last weekend's 60 Minutes interview with the president, I thought perhaps someone somewhere in Washington would have informed our chief executive that grinning like a mental patient on television might not be the best way to express concern over the violence in Iraq (see my previous post about this topic here). And if someone did in fact mention it to him, he didn't listen. Or he forgot. I suppose it's easy to forget stuff when you're as psychologically vacant and disconnected as President Bush.
On PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, he was doing it again. A lot. But unlike the sly, giggly grinning in the 60 Minutes interview, the following NewsHour expressions more closely resemble a man who just finished watching a litter of puppies being fed ice cream by floating babies dressed in sunflower costumes.
The quote: "MR. LEHRER: Is there a little bit of a broken egg problem here, Mr. President, that there is instability and there is violence in Iraq - sectarian violence, Iraqis killing other Iraqis, and now the United States helped create the broken egg..." And the expression on the face of the President of the United States during Lehrer's question:
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he thought the word "egg" was hilarious. Yeah, it's a funny word. Egg. Right up there with words like "omelette" and "pants." However when it's presented as a metaphor for a horribly botched U.S. occupation and a bloody sectarian civil war in which 34,000 Iraqis were killed last year alone, it's not so funny. Nor is it delightful, yet the president looks quite delighted as if to say, "Aw. Isn't that sweet. Puppies eating ice cream and -- oh! Floating babies in sunflower costumes. Be still my heart!" There's more...
The quote: "PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, you know, that's an interesting question. I don't quite view it as the broken egg; I view it as the cracked egg... MR. LEHRER: Cracked egg?" And the president's face over Lehrer's "cracked egg?" reaction:
These guys realize their chat isn't literally about eggs, right? I'm sure Jim Lehrer knows it. At least, I hope Lehrer knows it. But the president looks like he thinks it's about eggs. When I watched the highlights on Countdown, I kept expecting the president to blurt out, "I like my eggs scramby style with some dill and orange smiles. If we send the Iraqis some orange smiles, we'll win this thing. And debaathification. Whatever the crap that is, we'll do that, too."
The quote: "PRESIDENT BUSH: If I didn't believe we could keep the egg from fully cracking, I wouldn't ask 21,000 kids -- additional kids to go into Iraq to reinforce those troops that are there." And... Oh goddamn it to hell:
And finally, the quote: "PRESIDENT BUSH: Now, here in Washington when I say, What do you mean by [sacrificing for the war effort]? They say, Well, why don't you raise their taxes; that'll cause there to be a sacrifice. I strongly oppose that." And the president's facial expression:
Whoops! Dag, broseph. That's no smile. See, forcing Vice President Cheney and Paris Hilton and Exxon-Mobil to give up their tax cuts and government subsidies as a means of sacrificing for the war -- that's serious fricking business to the president and he's opposed to that. Don't dick around with President Bush when it comes to protecting the super rich. Seriously. Just don't. Borrow the cash from the Saudis and the Chinese and let someone else explain to future Americans about our record deficits and crippling national debt. Just stay away from the wallets of those who are benefiting most from the war: the corporations and profiteers who are making billions from the blood and limbs of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians -- all so Vice President Cheney's friends can scurry away with the profits from 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. Stand back because the president isn't smiling. He has global warming to feed. He has money to make. A 21 SUV salute to our deadly serious chief executive! Honk honk!
It's no wonder that in the latest Fox News poll, the president is less popular than Vice President Cheney, who most everyone agrees is the real life Mr. Potter from It's A Wonderful Life. And it doesn't help the president's popularity when, in the same News Hour interview, he referred to the war on terror as the "war OF terror." That's right. War Of Terror. Just like Borat at the rodeo. Watch the interview highlights here. Timecode 2:28. You won't find it in the PBS transcript probably due to the influence of Ken Ferree, the Republican who controls the CPB, but the president clearly said it.
Admittedly, it's always been easy to pick apart President Bush's idiosyncrasies and doing so isn't new business. But it's always worth repeating, out of anger or for reinforcement, that the president's disrespectful and incomprehensible quirks reveal much about his true priorities. His grinning appears to tell us that he doesn't care whether Iraq is won or lost because as long as his political and financial obligations have been satisfied through the on-going misappropriation of his power, he's done his job and it'll be someone else's misfortune to clean up his mess. Meanwhile, his sober reaction to the notion of financial sacrifice offers a significant contrast, making his jocularity about Iraq seem even more grotesque.
Now I'm sure he believes that his upbeat mood will encourage the rest of us to be upbeat about Iraq as well. Find us something to be upbeat about that justifies the cost in lives, and maybe we'll follow suit. But dammit, show some respect for the death you created, Mr. President. Please. Another president who possessed a similarly psychotic attitude in an era of crisis was, of course, President Hoover. While dressed in his best coat and tails, Hoover repeatedly told millions of impoverished Americans that all was well. Conversely, when 25,000 war veterans marched on Washington demanding their bonuses, Hoover labeled them as communists and drove them off with cavalry and tear gas. Just like President Bush, Hoover's priorities were completely out of sync with the rest of America. And the Republican Party took the hit.
Ultimately, if President Bush refuses to take these matters seriously, I'm sure Congress can whip up something that'll smack the grin off his pointy mug. The Constitution doesn't say anything about the illegality of being a smiling knob, but as for the source of his perpetual delight... the Constitution says quite a bit about that.