There are reasons why President George Bush continues to dance a minuet around his harshest critics: They are not nearly as bright as he is.
No one knows for certain where or when the “Bush is stupid” fallacy began, probably among media commentators infested with self importance who think too highly of their own intelligence. Bush’s abuse of the language, his slurring of words – and, of course, that famous smug grin on display whenever he found himself in front of a camera – gave color to the notion, eagerly adopted by his partisan critics, that the president was not up on his Proust.
It came as a shock to some of them when they learned, just recently, that Bush’s grades at Yale were slightly better than those of Sen. John Kerry, whom he bested in the last presidential campaign. Apparently, both presidential candidates were indifferent students.
Bush’s critics have vastly underestimated him, and they continue their folly – to their peril.
Just now, the “Bush is a dummy” crowd is delighting in the discomfiture of Bush’s “brain,” Karl Rove, even though it would be more beneficial strategically to assume that Bush is Rove’s brain, rather than the other way around; for if the president is an intellectually empty vessel, a mere prop in the hands of some master intelligence, then he simply is not responsible – for anything!
Mythologies that bear little relationship to the truth often develop around powerful men. The truth is that Bush possesses a masterful political intelligence, usually attributed by his critics to his handlers. He’s a natural -- like Huey Long and Teddy Roosevelt, both politicians very much underestimated by the political cognoscenti of their day.
The mythology surrounding Bush – very subtlety propounded here in the Northeast, where modern gnostics shape the political discussion – is fascinating. The notion that Bush is “other-directed” by superior handlers is only part of it.
The gnostics were the original “know-it-alls.” The nature of the universe and its progress depend on the mastery of a secret knowledge, a gnosis, in the possession of a priestly class: That is the essence of gnosticism. It is not possible to account for the overrated influence wielded by third rate political thinkers and the ubiquitous pollsters that infest modern campaigns without understanding the gnostic temptation.
This is the way it plays out in the present instance: Bush’s critics assert the president is a mindless dunce who dances to tunes piped by his handlers. But reality, wending its way into this fantasy, forces the gnostics to acknowledge the president’s successes, if only to condemn them: Bush did, after all, win the presidency twice, although his critics continue to insist that the first term was a “gimme” made possible by a friendly U.S. Supreme Court decision.
How to explain – or rather, explain away – Bush’s second presidential campaign victory? The gnostics are working on it. No doubt it has something to do with a flawed presidential candidate who was insufficiently liberal, a fatal misstep corrected when a real liberal, John Dean, was chosen as the new fresh face of the Democratic Party.
The reality is that Bush is a president who has displaced the ruling powers in two countries. And in the off term election, with considerable help from a mindless presidential puppet, Republicans won majorities in both houses of Congress, an astonishing accomplishment.
How do the gnostics handle the incongruities? By what alchemy can these apparent successes be transformed into evident failures?
Some of them have resorted to Orwellian misdirection: Winning is losing, losing is winning; down is up, up is down. And, in a crunch, there are always Iranian “insurgents” to provide uplift when the gnostics crash into a reality wall.
That wall has become most evident recently in England, where British “insurgents,” the spiritual heirs of Iraqi “insurgent” Abu Musab Zarqawi, have blown up trains and busses. “We are not afraid,” the heirs of Winston Churchill proclaimed on their coffee mugs. Of course, Zarqawi, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, is not an insurgent; he is a foreign terrorist whom the Iraqis will dispose of when nationalism comes home to roost in their hearts. And even Bush’s most virulent critics might admit, if they could be caught with their hand on a Bible, that the murder of civilians is not very sporting of terrorists -- not insurgents -- who operate outside the boundaries established by the Geneva conventions.
Bush’s response to terrorists – “Get’em” – has not changed since the “insurgents” blew up the World Trade Center towers. The response of the gnostics to terrorism is, to put it charitably, more subtle.