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Wide of the Mark

My attention was caught by a pair of Op-Ed pieces in yesterday' Times. The first, "Conservative Compassion," by Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, is a fundamentally fatuous bit of self-promotion, in which the writer uses his own experience to justify the actions, or inactions, of President Bush. Having spent two days alongside Ronald Reagan at the White House, Mr Morris was overwhelmed by crush of new faces - faces that were new to the President as well. Mr Morris, accordingly, can well understand why Mr Bush is unwilling to meet again with Cindy Sheehan, whom he has already consoled, however unconsolingly, for the loss of her son in Iraq. The man needs his vacation.

As a comment on Mrs Sheehan's protest, Mr Morris's essay ought to be deleted. It completely fails to address the essence of Mrs Sheehan's challenge, which is almost transparently designed to show how deeply cocooned Dubya is. I suspect she knows that the meeting she demands will almost certainly never take place, and that, if it did, it would be meaningless. Our current president is like the Japanese emperors during the shogunate: a puppet maintained for ceremonial purposes only. He is the attractor of millions of voters to officials and policies that they would never choose directly. Information is systematically withheld from him - presumably at his own instruction - so that he can present himself with confidence and self-assurance. It is a mystery to me that the man appeals to anybody outside of his immediate family, but I have accepted the fact that he does appeal, and widely. He represents a further step in the structural shift undertaken by Reagan, and now the core Republican Party approach to politics: Nominate a charmer, and while he's in office get away with murder. Just don't tell him what you're doing.

Below the Morris piece appears Thomas Lynch's "Left Behind." Mr Lynch, the literary funeral director from Michigan, writes from his own vacation in Ireland, at the house his great-grandfather left "for a better life in America." Mr Lynch exhorts to the President to show at least a modicum of remorse for the harm that he has inflicted upon the nation, by firing up fanatical feelings and ugly hatreds,

for all of the intemperate speech, for the weapons of mass destruction that were not there, the "Mission Accomplished" that really wasn't, for the funerals he will not attend, the mothers of the dead he will not speak to, the bodies of the dead we are not allowed to see and all of the soldiers and civilians whose lives have been changed by his (and our) "Bring it On" bravado in a world made more perilous by such pronouncements.

While I agree with Mr Lynch's sentiments, I must say that I would regard any show of remorse by Mr Bush as a shocking obscenity. It would be impossible to convince me that the display was anything other than an opportune gesture, adopted for purposes of political salvage. Whatever the man is like in private life, Mr Bush has, as a public figure responsible for all that Mr Lynch charges him with and more, put himself beyond the pale of any possible public forgiveness. His callous disregard of Cindy Sheehan, his honest determination that it is "important for me to go on with my life," may be the only decent thing about the man.


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It's a shame that W cannot realize that because of his actions (or the actions that have taken place while he sat around as others pulled the strings) thousands of Americans (not to mention all the other nationalities affected) cannot go on with their lives as they once lived them.

It is so insensitive to ask so much of others and then refuse to push oneself to show the country what we can do.

Statements like "it's important for me to go on with my life" encourage others to cast aside responsibility. This is the time that W should realize that his life *is* not as it was before. If he isn't affected by this, he should leave office.

Thanks for pointing out the Lynch piece, which I missed. I have e mailed it to several people here, where the LIC is considered a great man. And you are so correct, RJ, in that he is being totally honest for once, in his summer vacation behavior. How his family can even look at him is a mystery to me......I certainly cannot.

As you point out, this is not the first time in our history that a man has been put up to be a "puppet" president. There is, sadly, a long history of this in the United States; Presidents Grant and Eisenhower coming to mind. I think, however, that Reagan was a canny, self-directed dupe when it suited his purpose until his medical problems caught up with him.

I can never excuse Bush's record yet I cannot help having the truly frightening feeling that he is totally unaware, and incapable of being aware, of what is going on, a true puppet in every sense, who would not understand the consequences of his actions (and inactions) if they were pointed out to him. When history examines this period, we will more likely refer to it as the Cheney years.

You have done the nearly impossible and found a way to characterize Dubbya as decent, amazing!

I am a kottke.org micropatron

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