The Jig Is Up

When Peggy Noonan refers to President Bush as “weird,” you know the wheels have come off the wagon.

As I watched the news conference, it occurred to me that one of the things that might leave people feeling somewhat disoriented is the president’s seemingly effortless high spirits. He’s in a good mood. There was the usual teasing, the partly aggressive, partly joshing humor, the certitude. He doesn’t seem to be suffering, which is jarring. Presidents in great enterprises that are going badly suffer: Lincoln, LBJ with his head in his hands. Why doesn’t Mr. Bush? Every major domestic initiative of his second term has been ill thought through and ended in failure. His Iraq leadership has failed. His standing is lower than any previous president’s since polling began. He’s in a good mood. Discuss.

Is it defiance? Denial? Is it that he’s right and you’re wrong, which is your problem? Is he faking a certain steely good cheer to show his foes from Washington to Baghdad that the American president is neither beaten nor bowed? Fair enough: Presidents can’t sit around and moan. But it doesn’t look like an act. People would feel better to know his lack of success sometimes gets to him. It gets to them.

His stock answer is that of course he feels the sadness of the families who’ve lost someone in Iraq. And of course he must. Beyond that his good humor seems to me disorienting, and strange.


Americans have always been somewhat romantic about the meaning of our country, and the beacon it can be for the world, and what the Founders did. But they like the president to be the cool-eyed realist, the tough customer who understands harsh realities.

With Mr. Bush it is the people who are forced to be cool-eyed and realistic. He’s the one who goes off on the toots. This is extremely irritating, and also unnatural. Actually it’s weird.

Okay, Peggy, if you’re so smart, now what do we do?

Reminder: This isn’t the first time the light has come on for Ms. Noonan.

Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.



Filed under 06_bobby

16 responses to “The Jig Is Up


    ARGH. I’m so tired of seeing shit we were saying five goddamned years ago being written by fucking conservatives as if it’s a new bloody idea!


  2. Well, as we used to say at Al-Anon, it doesn’t matter when you hit rock bottom — at least you hit it.

    In her case, it’s more like a face-plant.

  3. ARGH. I’m so tired of seeing shit we were saying five goddamned years ago being written by fucking conservatives as if it’s a new bloody idea!

    Given which talking heads end up on the TV – you know, winger after winger – smart move on their part. And then when support starts to crumble, jump on that train.

  4. oddjob

    If she really cared about character and all that she would have jumped on board this train, at the very latest, on the morning the Abu Ghraib atrocities were made public.

  5. Well of course he’s in a good mood. He’s probably shit-faced drunk.

  6. BlueUU

    Do any of you know what “off on the toots” means? I have never heard that before, and I’m an English professor, so I’ve seen a lot of, um, interesting expressions. I know it means he’s crazy by context, but does anyone have a more precise explanation?

  7. tomeck

    One obvious explanation is that he’s never had to suffer any consequences for bad behavior, whether it was the oil company of his that went bankrupt, all that coke he snorted in the National Guard, or trading Sammy Sosa. He doesn’t understand that just because HE’S not suffering, that doesn’t mean somebody else isn’t.

    And it should all be so painfully obvious. If Peggy Noonan can write that she doesn’t get it, is it that she really doesn’t get it or that she knows she can’t come out and say it.

  8. MikeInOhio

    From Glenn Greenwald’s “A Tragic Legacy”:

    “I just don’t believe it”-it being the mountains of empirical data showing that Americans would remove his political party from power because of their profound dissatisfaction with his job performance generally, and with the Iraq War specifically. To the President, his decisions are so plainly and indisputably right, his course objectively grounded in what is Good, that it was literally inconceivable to him that Americans opposed his policies and would repudiate his party-notwithstanding massive and compelling evidence that they would. As always, empirical evidence was no match for his certitude.


    ….the President himself repeatedly insisted that the Republicans would win the election despite all of the data to the contrary (just as he continuously insisted that the United States was making progress and even “winning” in Iraq for years despite abundant evidence negating such a claim) The President, like his zealous supporter, Hugh Hewitt, was not merely waxing optimistic. Rather, both decided that empirical evidence was meaningless, because it was unpleasant, because it conflicted with their convictions, and it therefore could not be real.
    Irritating???? Weird????
    Some would call it delusional.

  9. That is crazy talk. President Bush looks that way because everything he has done has gone as planned. The goofy smile is all he can do to keep from stroking himself at the podium.

    I think it does have to do with him having never had to really pay a price for any of his actions, and this will be no different. He will leave office and surround himself with friends who will say how he was a visionary and ahead of his time and people as ignorant as he is will talk about how the next president messed up everything he worked so hard on. He will pass all the loss and heartache onto the shoulders of others and go clear brush listening to the gods praise his name.

  10. As I recall from Woodward and Bernstein’s The Final Days, in public Richard Nixon was relentlessly upbeat in the final months of his Presidency. Especially in the final weeks, after it became clear the House would pass Articles of Impeachment.

    In private, Nixon was sleeplessly wandering the halls of the White House at night, arguing with the portraits of former Presidents and having tearful prayer sessions with Henry Kissinger. One wonders what this President is doing in private these days.

    Peggy Noonan is the cheerleader who has just realized that her team isn’t coming back from the 63-0 score with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter. You know that look, that cheerleaders get…

  11. “He’s in a good mood. Discuss.”

    I do believe we’ve been doing that around here for a few years now.

  12. LS

    He’s also the only president I can think of that doesn’t look like he’s aged dramatically over the course of his term(s). Clinton especially; you could see they were piling makeup on him for TV appearances so that he wouldn’t look so run-down. But if you compare photos of presidents at the beginning and end of their terms, they always look like they’ve aged at least twice as much as the true passage of time would indicate. No so Dubya. (Maybe all that drinking pickled him?)

  13. oddjob

    LS, his hair is turning white kind of quickly.

  14. cfrost

    So Noonan finally notices the the prep school cheerleader is as shallow as piss on a barstool. That’s swell, Peggy; what do they pay you for your astonishing acumen?

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