TITLE: I Do Not Like Him, Sam I Am
DATE: 3/01/2005 09:36:00 PM
An integral part of my newfound political exploration is, of course, a revisitation of my impressions of President Bush. He is, after all, the lightning rod for political consciousness at present; the embodiment of the dividing line between liberal and conservative, patriot and dissident.
I could go into all the ways I am abstractly impressed by Bush merely as a fictional character. There are many delicate layers of intrigue in his past and his persona, but I have come to consider my tendency to lapse into the abstract part of my political problem--I am able to look at things from a distance but not so much up close anymore. I'm not taking things personally. Maybe it's healthier, but to me it's disturbing. I feel as though I should be more involved.
So...is President Bush the root of all evil, as liberals insist? Is he the last great hope for decency, as conservatives will harangue you about? Tick-tock, tick-tock, the possibilities vascillate in my head.
Two years ago, I would have told you without question that Bush is the spawn of Satan. Now that the Iraq war seems to be succeeding where I was sure it would fail, the more I read of conservative opinion, the more I find myself saying, "Well...THAT'S reasonable."
But I can bring myself to agree with any number of--again, that word--abstract political viewpoints, or at least respect them, but I realized tonight that I simply cannot, no matter how hard I try to be neutral, bring myself to feel anything but disgust and antipathy when I encounter President Bush.
This was brought sharply to my attention tonight while I listened to the radio on my way to do a story. I find I like the radio on in the car more than my own CDs; it makes me feel connected in my highly solitary day-to-day lifestyle. I like listening to people talk, about sports, politics, news, humor...I guess I just like not having to talk to them just as much. Heh.
Sports radio has been dominated by basketball lately, a sport I can't really get interested in, so I was flipping around through news radio, and heard an audio clip of a speech by Bush about "Faith Based Initiatives", the very idea of which makes my skin crawl to begin with, but when I heard what he said and how he said it, I was just appalled.
Bush was explaining that "Faith-Based Initiatives", while religious in their administration, would still be secular in their application. And he said, and I quote: "If you're the Methodist church and you sponsor an alcohol treatment center, they can't say only Methodists, only Methodists who drink too much can come to our program. [Laughter.] All drunks are welcome, is what the sign ought to say. [Applause.]"
Granted, this is taken out of context, and on the tape there was uproarious laughter at what he said. I have a sense of humor. Really, I do. But this just struck me as hideous. Not the way a President should speak or act. Especially a President I am expected to trust with grave issues of international warfare.
Conservatives will say, lighten the fuck up. And maybe they're right. But I just can't. It's almost as if it's a personality conflict, between me and President Bush. I simply cannot warm up to him, cannot appreciate his good ol' boy talk. In the end, I could come up with all kinds of explanations for this, all kinds of impressions he gives me when he talks: on some occasions as if he simply lacks the verbal skills to communicate in a manner befitting the Leader of the Free World; other times as if he's giving a blatant, overt, and frankly insulting wink and nudge to others in power. He comes across as a combination of dull-witted and patronizing. And I hate it.
Maybe this sour taste in my mouth hearkens back to a dark moment for me in observing the 2000 Presidential race. It was the first Presidential election in which I could participate as a voter, and I took it extremely seriously. I watched debates, campaign coverage, read up on everything. And in the midst of it all came the airing of Bush's famous TV appearance in which he mocked Karla Faye Tucker, a Texas death-row inmate whose appeal he overturned.
This has got nothing to do with me opposing or not opposing the death penalty. Or questioning Bush's decision, as governor, not to pardon a woman convicted of killing two people in cold blood with an ice pick. It was the fact that he mocked her, and publicly--actually found it in his heart to make fun of a person he was putting to death, and whether or not Tucker deserved punishment is, for me, not the heart of the issue. Maybe many of us would join him in that mockery; maybe we feel as though Tucker deserved whatever she got. But should the man campaigning to lead our country, the man in charge of deciding who dies and who lives in many frighteningly real ways really get such a charge out of executing someone? Should he really display on such a broad stage just how callously he addresses the situation? As the executor and executioner, he should be above such behavior. Not pardoning Tucker is one thing; steadfastly avoiding the high road in doing so is quite another. Especially for someone who has twice campaigned on the basis of being a born-again Christian.
He bothers me. He unsettles me on an unconscious and seemingly involuntary level. I can no longer watch him speak; when he appears on television, I change the channel. At times I can tolerate him on the radio, but, as with tonight, I usually come away disturbed, even if every ounce of logic in the world can be mustered to explain his tone or his statements or his ideas. In other words, it's easy to agree with supporting Bush, sometimes, in the abstract--when other people far more intelligent and with far more integrity than he state his case for him. But when it comes to the man himself? I shudder. I'm sorry, but it's true, and I can't help it.
Conservatives are right about one thing: we should trust and support our President, especially in time of war. But this one? Sorry, I just can't.
Full text of Bush's speech