George Will has said pretty much the same thing, but in a fashion more appropriate to the op-ed page of the Washington Post: "What is troubling to Republicans who have plighted their troth to this man is not that they think he is a coarse or cruel man. Rather it is that Carlson's profile suggests an atmosphere of adolescence, a lack of gravitas -- a carelessness, even a recklessness, perhaps born of things having gone a bit too easily so far." We agree, if Will means "so far" in George's life. The difference between our reading and Will's is that we have seen this "atmosphere of adolescence" in the public Bush for many years. (Three years ago when he attended a mock presidential nomination dinner, he told the assembled Washington politically elite that if he were to be elected President he would install a 119 phone number for dyslexics.) We don't think George's adolescent behavior is anything new. It's part of the package, it will remain part of the package, and it remains to be seen if a majority of the voters find his "atmosphere of adolescence" appropriate for the President of the United States of America.
Although Bush has been working at getting elected to one office or the other since 1978 and his active work towards the presidency began at least three years ago, he would have us believe that "the thought only occurred to him about a year ago....Bush wants to let voters know that he's not desperate for their approval...he doesn't have a compelling psychological need to be elected. Politics, Bush often says, is a career he stumbled into. He could stumble out anytime." Carlson calls this scenario by the "wildly competitive" Bush a "story" and he's "stuck to it." Yet, Carlson asks, if this were true, why doesn't this "Zen-master level of self-acceptance" come out in his actions? For example, last year Karla Baye Tucker, a double murderess was executed. Under Bush, Texas has held an execution on the average of one every two and a half weeks. George tells Carlson that he watched the Larry King interview with Tucker while she was on death row. Bush says, "(King) asked her real difficult questions like, 'What would you say to Governor Bush?'" "What was her answer?" Carlson asks. Bush "whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation....Please...don't kill me," Bush says, pretending to be Karla Baye Tucker. "I must (have) looked shocked," Carlson writes, "ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush--because he immediately stops smirking." Rather than suggesting that George is showing off for the reporter, Carlson explains his behavior by noting that Tucker accused Bush of playing politics with her life during the Larry King interview. "Bush never forgot it. He has a long memory for slights....Which is part of the problem with Bush's presentation of himself as a man so 'comfortable in my soul' that he hardly cares whether he wins or loses....It's still pretty easy to get a rise out of Bush." And when a specific group, rather than an individual, disagrees with George, he's capable of withdrawing in a sulk and saying, "'I don't care. I really don't care. Does anyone ever say, 'Fuck you?' I don't care if they do,' he barks." (more Monday) 8/13-15/99
POLITEX: CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM, GEORGE ! (PART TWO) Another busy day in California for our George. He moves quickly from a fund raiser to a park where he meets up with Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, a day camp full of kids, and the usual bevy of reporters, cameramen, and media types. Dubya picks up a football. "Bush has a pretty good arm," reporter Tucker Carlson writes, "except that all the passes appear to be aimed at the gaggle of reporters watching him from the sidelines. A Fox News correspondent looks up just in time to save his pearly caps from a particularly clean spiral. Bush laughs and cocks his arm again. A newspaper reporter turns out to have slower reflexes. The ball hits him square in the chest, almost knocking him down. Bush throws another, even harder. This one beans a cameraman. It's clear that Bush is doing this on purpose....Bush is trotting around the grass with a demented look on his face." Any reader who has had anything to do with male teens knows that this is pretty typical adolescent, passive-agressive behavior. Their girlfriends look away, pretending to be shocked, but you know that some of them think it's "cool." Carlson notes that, "for some reason no one in the press pool seems offended, perhaps because Bush is obviously having so much fun." Don't encourage him, folks, he'll just get worse.
In his recent critique of Bush as presented in the Carlson Talk piece, George Will calls him "an amiable fraternity boy, but a boy." The Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe, who has an equally long history of observing such behavior by the Guv, has a more complex interpretation of Junior's personality. Ratcliffe thinks that there are three George Bushes: "What the Talk reporter saw, and (George) Will (saw) vicariously, was Bush's inner child. Reporters who cover Bush regularly know there are three distinct Bush personalities. First there is the affable Bush. This is the guy most people meet at campaign rallies. He memorizes people's names and the names of their children. He calls on reporters by name. There is the serious Bush. This is the somber man who said he had prayed over the issue of Karla Faye Tucker before refusing to grant her a stay of execution and wrestled with his religion's call to public service. And then there is the cocky Bush, who as a young man can be seen in a widely circulated family photograph wearing an 'I'm-so-cool' smirk on his face and a cigarette in his hand. Richards captured this side of Bush's personality in their 1994 campaign when she complained that seeking the governorship was not a beauty contest: She said you can't wake up one morning, look in the mirror and say, `Hmm, Hmm, I think you're so cute I think you ought to run for governor.' These days, the self-possessed Bush allows his cocky side to manifest itself as smart-alecky remarks at news conferences. Since Bush's days as a hard-drinking National Guard fighter pilot-turned oilman, Bush has quit drinking, quit smoking and married former public school librarian Laura Welch. But that cocky Bush still shows up. This is the same kind of cockiness that got his father bad publicity in 1984 when the self-assured elder Bush emerged from his vice presidential debate with Democrat Geraldine Ferraro and popped off that he had 'kicked a little ass.' The cocky Gov. Bush who makes flippant comments shows up on days when he is feeling good about himself." We can only add that George must feel good about himself a lot, since the cocky adolescent persona appears in the Talk story over a period of many weeks. Further, this is an explanation for bad behavior, and hardly an excuse. To repeat what we have said earlier, it's up to the voters to decided if this man in his fifties whose adolescent behavior is a salient part of his personality is the best candidate for President of the United States of America.
A possible source of Bush's cocky adolescent persona is what he learned to do in childhood and adolescence to channel his anger and frustrations. If, like his friendly manner and his joking personality, Dubya's temper was inherited from his strong-willed mother, it did not particularly stand out in the world of jousting and joking that made up his all-guy universe that George was a part of from the time he started elementary school to 1965, when he graduated from Andover at age 16. Austin reporter Patrick Beach quotes classmate Tom Seligson as saying, "I organize the (Andover) reunions, and it's like going back to a prison reunion." Beach tells us that the attitude held by the Andover administration, which, one suspects, is typical of exclusive male schools of that time, is that "these young men had gotten into the most prestigious academy in the United States, and they were going to be punished for it....Fear, intimidation, and humiliation were trusted teaching tools." (AAS 6/13/99) Bush was able to control his anger and survive in such a setting by being the fun guy, the jokester, the life of the party, and, since that attitude was antithetical to the school's view of learning by punishing, he simultaneously became the anti-authoritarian leader and reinforced his dislike of learning for its own sake, which he has to this day. (To be continued.) 8/16-19/99