Unraveling before our eyes

This morning’s press conference was one of the scariest public events of the last few years. Bush appears to be crumbling before our eyes; I can’t believe they let him out in the condition he displayed. His responses were rambling and unfocused, stringing together irrelevant bromides and half-thoughts, the discourse of someone not getting any sleep. His response styles were even more alarming, bouncing from whining about all the hard decisions he has to make; to a sort of sneering impatient condescension, with which he explained simple falsehoods as though to children and as though they were obviously true; to the recital of incompletely rehearsed talking points, cut up into phrases and reassembled at random; to his familiar fake-macho pronouncing style. There was a round of joking about reporters’ clothes that just made him appear clueless about the importance of the North Korean bomb and the collapse of his party’s electoral prospects, completely tineared in the context of the event. One response after another headlined a simple unexplained and unembroidered refusal to hear facts, from poll results to the new estimates of Iraqi deaths. And the word unacceptable apparently means “if it continues, I will say it’s unacceptable, but louder, so watch out!”

Bush has always been a man who knows a few simple things, to assert if not to act on coherently, and who is not in the business of increasing this stock. Now those are one-by-one turning out to be silly, bad guidance, or just vacuous, and his handlers are coming up empty giving him lines and tricks to get through the week. The man is not only in desperate straits but, what is new for him, beginning to recognize it. It was a really chilling spectacle; we’re all in a bad situation here. It’s not good for anyone that the president becomes a humiliating occasion for ridicule, a midget drum major prancing on the sidelines, beating out a rhythm no-one else is keeping, while the band breaks up into chaos on the field.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall seems to have seen the event similarly.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

9 thoughts on “Unraveling before our eyes”

  1. Do you think he was clean an sober? Not that it makes any difference, since his handlers really run the show….

  2. "It's not good for anyone that the president becomes a humiliating occasion for ridicule, a midget drum major prancing on the sidelines, beating out a rhythm no-one else is keeping, while the band breaks up into chaos on the field."
    I disagree. It's good for EVERYONE, because it hastens his exit and that of his party. It also shows the truth about this worthless regime to the entire world, which, in the long run, might encourage other Western countries to take a stronger role in world affairs and not just leave it to the powerful Americans. No country should have this much power or influence, just as no political party should in our own country. Bush is a prime example of why the world needs checks and balances, which effectively it does not have. He is the wake-up call the US and the world has needed for over 60 years.

  3. I don't think we want another terrorist attack or full-blown war with Korea in the next two years. It might not be so good for our democracy. So, it's bad that Bush is unravelling.

  4. Except that the Emporor's New Clothes reality-distortion field seems to still be in full operation; I would wager a fair amount that not a single mention of Bush's incoherence will be made in any traditional media outlet. In fact they will edit the clips to make him sound much more coherent than he actually was.

  5. "…the recital of incompletely rehearsed talking points, cut up into phrases and reassembled at random…"
    Perhaps you are inadvertently quoting Mr. Spock's analysis of the pseudo-Nazi leader's speech from the Star Trek episode "Patterns of Force":
    "Captain, the speech follows no logical pattern.
    Random sentences strung together."
    Of course, the speaker in question was drugged and manipulated by other forces behind the throne. He also thought Nazism was a keen way to get a society organized.

  6. …actually I was channelling Tristan Tzara (the character in Travesties, not the real one) 🙂

  7. I'm beginning to wonder if Bush will have to be literally dragged out of the White House kicking and screaming when his time is up.

  8. It has been long forgotten that when the Republicans were looking for a candidate for President in 2000 and GWB was suggested many Republican leaders were outraged that the party would even think of running such a light weight who's only virtue was his name. They could not believe that their party would be that cynical. The rest, as is said, is history. When, if ever, will we ever understand that we have become a society of perception over substance? Remember Tom Peters "Perception is everything"

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