With his poll numbers in free-fall and his party in panic at the prospect of a wipe-out in the November election, "the decider" is facing what must be the toughest and most gut-wrenching decision of his life so far. Proud of his lack of introspection and scornful of intellectual deliberation, our imperial president is in a trap other kings like Oedipus and Solomon would not envy. Facing the choice of digging in his heels, following his gut and staying the course, or reinventing himself as somebody his father's party wishes and the country wants, George W. Bush needs a shrink more than Tony Soprano.
The central project of the 43rd presidency is the Iraq war and although Poppy's people, Scowcroft and Powell, warned of W's Waterloo, he went full speed ahead into the quicksand because.??? At a recent White House press conference Bush broke his own ban and recognized Helen Thomas who prefaced the exchange by saying "you'll be sorry" then asked THE question, "why did you go to war?" Needless to say she did not get an answer, which amid the changing rationales and retreat into delusion and denial, should not be surprising. Sputtering discredited dogma as the strategic disaster unfolds and the tactical options narrow, Bush continues to fight reality, which, in spite of a gutless Press and a spineless Congress, is beginning to bite.
So why did W spill oil on the troubled waters of the Gulf against his father's advice? Clearly Cheney and Rumsfeld poured the Kool-Aid the neocons cooked up, but why did Bush drink it? Was it to clean up the perceived "mess" his father left behind by not finishing off the Iraqi dictator or to avenge the real attempt Saddam made 41's life? Both probably contributed to the tough-talkin' Texan's decision to pull the trigger, but it's hardly sufficient. Digging deeper, was junior trying to prove something to his dad, if so what?
Offering a public diagnosis without examining the patient is something to be left to Doctor Bill Frist, but whatever psychological baggage is closeted in the White House, it's safe to say that the incredibly shrinking president must be having another come-to-Jesus moment, but this time with his dad. Looking for a way out of the sand box, 41 has already offered adult supervision by dispatching his consigliore James Baker who 43 has allowed into the bubble. Could it be gentleman Jim is laying the groundwork for a house cleaning before regime change gives the opposition the subpoena power to really find out whether the cabal are not just incompetents but criminals too?
With Karl Rove about to be indicted and Cheney off the reservation starting more wars than even Rumsfeld can handle, the once fortunate son's political future looks more like a dead duck than a lame one. Having delivered him the Presidency in the first place, Jim Baker might just keep him on the job by bringing in a new old team. Colin Powell could replace Rumsfeld and the accountability-challenged but Press-popular Condi could get yet another promotion, this time upstairs to the second Exer-cycle where on-the-job training could prepare her for an impending match-up with Hillary in '08.
But the mind it a terrible thing to predict, and having stumbled in his father's footsteps and been bailed out before by his father's friends, is the boy man enough to rescue his Administration from himself? Walled behind a fragile psyche, our president refuses with such dogged pugnacity to admit a mistake, that it suggests any concession to reality will bring the house down. So will it be the born-again pragmatist or more bungling from the bunker, what's the bet? I think he'll dig deeper and take the rest of us down, which in spite of my yearning for regime change, makes me hope I'm wrong.