George and George "When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President. Now I'm beginning to believe it." —Clarence Darrow, 1857-1938

Anybody can be president

Bring 'em on

The US presidency is not hereditary, but in the history of the republic there have been two father-son presidents:

  • Both sons became President in disputed elections
  • One son had been an accomplished diplomat and proposed an ambitious program for national development
  • One son owned a baseball team, was governor of Texas, and proposes programs that enrich the rich, impoverish the poor, alienate our allies, and are detrimental to our environment

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I guess we should be thankful that the progeny of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton have shown little interest in political careers. However, the possibility of a president spouse of a president warrants vigilance.

The problem I have with Dubya is that deep character flaws make him unsuitable and dangerous as a president, and he has used the things he's good at to hi-jack the country in pursuit of policies that take us down a wrong path. In my humble opinion, of course.

Jingoistic. Dubya's latest episode of presidential trash-talk illustrates why so many people in the rest of the world find the Shrub a greater threat to the world than many acknowledged bad guys. When schoolboys on the playground or athletes on the field engage is such taunts and braggadocio, about the worst that can happen is someone gets a bloody nose or a black eye. When it's the President of the United States dishing out macho bombast, it's an entirely different matter. In addition to being "conduct unbecoming" a president, it's thoughtless and provocative. There's a word for Bush's attitude, and all by himself he has brought the term jingoism back into vogue.

Unfortunately, this same tendency is part of the Shrub's appeal for many people. It makes them feel he's accessible, a regular guy, the sort you might have a beer with in the neighborhood bar.

Pigheaded. It's clear that Dubya just doesn't know the difference between being resolute and determined, on the one hand, and being pigheaded on the other. It's a good thing to be decisive. It's a good thing to be determined. But clinging to a decision or a plan when it's clearly not working is pigheaded. How many more American men and women have to be picked off on the streets of Iraq before the Shrub acknowledges that the "post-war" effort in Iraq isn't really "post" and ask for the help of the United Nations and NATO?

Fat chance, for that would mean admitting that the elaborately orchestrated show on the USS Lincoln was premature.

Bush on aircraft carrier, as released by White House Bush arrives on the USS Lincoln, photo as released by the White House
Bush on aircraft carrier, as he actually looked How the scene really looked

Fictional reality. The Bush administration is extremely skillful at creating and maintaining fictions. For example, he got the whole world to talk about his "coalition" to conduct the Iraq war, when in fact the boots on the ground were mostly Americans, some British, and a few Australians. In testimony before Congress this week, Rumsfeld insisted that 19 nations were contributing forces to post-war Iraq, that 19 more had promised forces, and that discussions were underway with 11 more (NYTimes, 10-Jul-03). Name 'em. Show us some pictures, Don!

For example, Bush talks about how his tax cuts will create jobs, but the reality is that the economy has lost 2.5 million jobs since Bush took office.

For example, Dubya will claim that he is trying to "save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare" when in reality he wants to "privatize" them (turn them over to big business). He will say he is trying to protect the environment, when in fact his policy is to drill in the Arctic refuge, build roads and log the national forests, and set up a trading economy for polluters. "Leave no child behind" is a concept that enlists universal support, but without funding it is an empty slogan.

The Bush administration is masterful at defining a controlled vocabulary to frame public dialogue. There's obviously a list of preferred and approved (probably mandatory) words and phrases. Watch Dubya give a speech, or in a press conference. A self-satisfied smirk forms on his lips every time he manages to slip one of the codewords into his comments.

People in organization development talk about "organization fictions," things that organizations talk about as if they were true, but really aren't. Standards of business conduct may be organization fictions, as was the case at Enron. Organization fictions are generally benign and make people feel good, but Bush's fictions are genuine wolves in sheep's clothing.

Moral certainty. Bush is absolutely convinced he knows what's right and what's wrong, and that he's right. There's a religious fervor to it. Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof describes the Bush White House as having an "overdose" of moral clarity:

Mr. Bush always exudes a sense that the issues are crystal clear and that anyone who disagrees with him is playing political games. This fervor worked fine in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and in proper doses, moral clarity is admirable. But too much hobbles policy-makiing and insults our intelligence. (NY Times, 8-Jul-03)

Bush seems to be colorblind when it comes to gray. Right now, those who dare to suggest that there might be a problem with having made a false claim in the state of the union speech about Iraq trying to buy uranium from Africa are being labeled as "revisionists" trying to "re-write history."

Non-reflective. The Shrub is simply not the sort of person to sit around and think about a problem. His bias is to action. That can be a positive quality in a leader, provided there's complementary mode of reflection and analysis. When the capacity or will to reflect is missing, there's a tendency to go off half-cocked, without thinking through the implications or having a long-range plan.

In his NY Times article, Kristof says of Bush, "He's less interested in ideas than perhaps anybody I've ever interviewed, and his intelligence is all practical and not a bit intellectual. Nuance isn't his natural state..." (NY Times, 8-July-03)

Thus, we invade Iraq without any coherent idea of what to do when the bombing stops. Thus, Bush is untroubled by the inconsistency between his rhetoric and reality.

Despite the many jokes to the contrary, it's not that Bush is stupid. He has outfoxed the Democrat party on almost every issue. He has snookered a large percentage of Americans into thinking he's doing a good job.

Part of the problem is that the Democrat party is completely ineffectual and in total disarray. The only thing that unites them is a visceral dislike of Bush. They know who they are against, but they don't know what they are for.


An aircraft is about to crash. There are five passengers on board, but unfortunately only 4 parachutes.

The first passenger says, "I'm Shaquille O'Neill, the best NBA basketball player. The Lakers need me, it would be unfair to them if I died". So he takes the first parachute and jumps.

The second passenger, Hillary Clinton, says "I am the wife of the former President of the United States. I am also a Senator in New York and potentially America's future President." She takes one of the parachutes and jumps.

The third passenger, George W. Bush, says "I am the President of The United States of America. I lead the only world superpower. I have a responsibility to my People not to die." So he takes a parachute and jumps.

The fourth passenger, the Pope, says to the fifth passenger, a ten-year old schoolboy, "I am already old; I have already lived my life. As a good person and a priest, I will give you the last parachute."

The boy replies, "No problem, there is also a parachute for you. America's President has jumped with my schoolbag."

Dubya using binoculars (Click picture for detail)
Dubya reading (Click picture for detail)