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March 14, 2008

He still finds ways to surprise me
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Seriously, I can't believe that after seven years George Bush still manages to do things that just leave me stunned.  I thought I'd seen it all, but...

In a video conference with military personnel in Afghanistan Bush stated:

"I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

Instead he's going to retire and go back to his ranch, while our troops keep dealing with this.


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Ronald Reagan comes up a lot these days in discussions among Republicans, perhaps especially because John McCain chooses to identify himself as a "foot soldier in the Reagan revolution," gliding over the two Republican Presidents not named Reagan we've had since the Gipper made his last flight back to California.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and a lot of Republican politicians have laid claim to Reagan's legacy while campaigning on behalf of causes Reagan would not have recognized, from federally-mandated testing of all schoolchildren, to an underfunded prescription drug addition to Medicare, to bridges to nowhere. But in Bush's case there is at least one other glaring difference between the way he conducts himself and the way Reagan did.

George Bush embraces bad taste; Reagan recoiled from it. Confident that a certain percentage of Americans (and a considerably higher percentage of people working in the White House) will endorse virtually anything he says on any subject, Bush does not know how to address audiences not so motivated. He doesn't care, either. His idea of encouraging Americans engaged in a difficult and dangerous mission in Afghanistan is to flatter them with the thought that what they were doing would be worthy of him -- were he but a little younger and not otherwise engaged.

I imagine that this particular audience might be willing to overlook boorishness of this kind if it thought that the details of its report were registering with the President of the United States. They almost certainly did not. In a similar situation, Reagan might not have absorbed all the details either -- that was one of his weaknesses as a head of government. As a head of state, though, charged with conveying to Americans doing their countries business overseas that their work was important to and honored by the whole country, Reagan would never have responded in the way Bush did.

Reagan was a product of an earlier time, before the era of the Me Generation Presidency we've been enduring for so many years. I wonder how much longer it will last.