Bubble Boy

There’s a lot not to like about Newsweek’s latest cover story, “Bush in the Bubble,” not the least of which is its timing—three years too late, at least. But it does give further credence to the assumptions many hold about the president.


The chance that George W. Bush will give a top White House job to an establishment moderate (say, Brent Scowcroft, his father's national-security adviser) is about the same as that Texas will become a province of France.

What Bush actually hears and takes in, however, is not clear. And whether his advisers are quite as frank as they claim to be with the president is also questionable. Take Social Security, for example. One House Republican, who asked not to be identified for fear of offending the White House, recalls a summertime meeting with congressmen in the Roosevelt Room at which Bush enthusiastically talked up his Social Security reform plan. But the plan was already dead—as everyone except the president had acknowledged. Bush seemed to have no idea. "I got the sense that his staff was not telling him the bad news," says the lawmaker. "This was not a case of him thinking positive. He just didn't have any idea of the political realities there. It was like he wasn't briefed at all." (Bush was not clueless, says an aide, but pushing his historic mission.)

His close friends agree that Bush likes comfort and serenity; he does not like dissonance. He has long been mothered by strong women, including his mother and wife. A foreign diplomat who declined to be identified was startled when Secretary of State Rice warned him not to lay bad news on the president. "Don't upset him," she said.
Additional evidence of his infamous incuriosity, manipulativeness, self-isolation, and the remainder of the lexicon of unflattering traits associated with Bush is on full display as well. This guy is totally out to lunch.

I’m hard-pressed to think of a job that necessitates constant connectivity to a variety of opinions and sources as much as leading a country would, if the leader had even a passing interest in doing the job well, and yet Bush’s little bubble seems to become ever more restrictive, even as its dire consequences are increasingly obvious. He appears patently incapable of acknowledging that his hermetic existence is not the solution to many of his administration’s problems, but the cause. Someone get this guy some oxygen, because he’ll suffocate from his own stupidity and stubbornness before he crawls out of this box. One a bubble boy, always a bubble boy, I guess.

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